Last Updated on : Saturday, October 11, 2014
SUNDAY MORNING No. 23.
ASSEMBLED at this appointed weekly memorial of the breaking of bread, we are met around the only source of true comfort there is for the perishing sons of men. There is no other hope than Christ. Men may indulge in beautiful anticipations apart from him. They may paint to themselves bright visions of glory to come, lovely pictures of "cloudless summerlands," celestial worlds of progress, joy, friendship, perfection, in accordance with what may be their conceptions of what is desirable. But, apart from God's purpose in Christ, these are but the revels of the imagination -- hopes that will never come to pass -- expectations that will be extinguished in the quietness and darkness of the grave. In the proper sense of the term, such hopes are no hopes: they are delusions as baseless as the Indian's dream of hunting grounds in "spirit land."
The truth has taught us what men to be wise must recognize, but are most unwilling to learn -- that in the state of nature, we are totally without hope or comfort; that sin reigns unto death in every member of the human family; that judgment hath passed upon all men unto condemnation, and that in Christ alone can men be justified unto life eternal. We are by nature the children of wrath. We are born into a state of sin and under condemnation. We are made subject to vanity, though not willingly. We find ourselves mortal in spite of all aspirations after a higher state. We are feeble and corruptible, in spite of lingering traces of a god-like type and angelic powers of mind. Our abhorrence of death and our tenacious clinging to life, do not for a moment stay our progress towards the end of the living; mingle our bones with mother earth we must, love and study as we may. In Adam we are in the grip of an irrevocable destiny which makes us strangers in creation. We cannot contemplate the works of God as ours in any sense. The azure vault of heaven, with its resplendent sun in the daytime and the shining host at night, is magnificent; but not for us, for they fill the ages, while we flutter, like the morning insect, for a few moments, and are gone for ever. The broad and smiling face of the earth, with its countless beauties of land and water, in "ocean depths and spreading wood," is "a thing of beauty and a joy for ever"; but not to such as we -- dust and ashes, whose days on earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding. We raise our eyes to the measureless immensity of the splendid universe around, and think of the ineffable Being whose power, and wisdom, and love have evolved and sustained them all. But we have to confess, as natural men, we have no acquaintance with Him. We are far from Him; we have no relation to Him higher than the other works of His power -- menials in His great house -- here but a short time, unlike the Son who abideth ever.
In this unutterable orphanage which we inherit in Adam -- in the consuming dreariness of our abortive being, what joy surrounds this table; what blessedness belongs to the people who know the joyful sound which those symbols represent. They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of Thy countenance! Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God! No longer mere creatures, nor even servants, but sons -- elevated to the highest friendship with the Great Intelligence of the Universe -- brought into fellowship with the Eternal Power and wisdom which holds all things in the hollow of His hand! This is, indeed, a greater privilege than we at all times realize: yet it is simply what the heavenly calling means.
Jesus stands before us in the breaking of bread as the impersonation of this glory. He is the intelligence and love of the immeasurable Father focalized in a man, so to speak; reduced to a compass in which we can see and feel the grasp of love. Our fellowship is with the Father and His Son, but with the Father through the Son, in whom the Father comes nigh to us. The Son is the means and the pledge of the Eternal Father's friendship towards the children of men. God in him comes near, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. Oh, what unmeasured blessedness, which our dull eyes so feebly see. In him dwelleth all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. In him dwelleth all the fulness, of the Godhead bodily. To him is given a name above every name; angels and principalities and powers being made subject unto him. To him has been confided all power in heaven and in earth, that as the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son also quickeneth whom he will, and will release from death's cold grip all hearts attuned to his praise.
We have not seen him, but blessed be God, we believe in him, and love him, and repose in him, with a joy which in its ultimate realization is, unspeakable and full of glory. Having heard of him, we stand in him. Though we have heard no voice from heaven, we are where the apostolic work has placed us. The apostles preached, and we believe through their word; and are seeking now, in obedience, to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. As such, we have been the subject of the Lord's petition to his Father, wherein he said, "Neither pray I for these alone (the eleven), but for them also who shall believe on me through their word."
And now what wait we for? For his return: his reappearing in power and great glory. Blessed hope! We look for it: we love it: we pray for it: we live for it. The Gospel has called us to it. Before we knew the Gospel, we were content with the husks that the swine do eat. We were satisfied with the eating and drinking, buying and selling, marrying and giving in marriage, of this animal existence which has occupied the world of the ungodly for thousands of years. We were ignorant of the unsearchable riches of Christ. Our eye had not seen, neither our ears heard, nor had it entered into our hearts to conceive what God hath prepared for them that love Him. We were engrossed with the cares of the riches and the pleasures of this life. But now we have turned from these vanities to know the greatness of sonship to God, brotherhood to Christ, and heirship of the glory to be revealed. We strive to harmonize the life we live in the flesh with this faith of the Son of God. We seek to be followers of God, walking in love and purity as becometh saints, and in sobriety as those that have learnt the solemn judgments of God, which are far above, out of the sight of the foolish.
Yet mourn we sore as doves. We walk by faith and not by sight! And as the Son of God was a man of sorrows so it is with his brethren, who are now in the sorrows of their probation. Sight is all against us. All things continue as they were from the beginning. Vile men are exalted on every side. God speaks not, and men say, "Where is the promise of his coming?" Yet faith has its strong foundations, to which we cling. We see the Jews scattered; their land in desolation: God's purpose among the nations carried out. In existing facts, institutions and traditions, we have evidence of Christ's resurrection and first-century work, and in that marvel of literary compositions, the Bible, we have the highest tower of strength, an impregnable fortress, from whose walls the assaulting foe has ever been dashed to destruction among the rocks beneath. Though, therefore, all is night, and the wicked triumph, and the hope of the righteous is mocked, we hold on, looking for the light, watching for the daybreak, waiting for the shadows to flee away at the sun rising -- "looking for his appearing."
The graveyards fill, and the generations rush on, and the tale of vanity is told in a thousand mocking tones of woe. We hear an apostle say, "Ye have need of patience." In strenuous endurance, we say, "Yes; though spoken to the persecuted of the first century, it is no less applicable to the watchers of the nineteenth; who, amid a widespread travailing in pain, groan within themselves, waiting for the adoption." We hear another say, "Cast not away your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward"; and we may say, "Amen! Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!" And our sighs, and struggles, and prayers are not unheeded on high. Have we not a Father who pitieth His children, and guides their conflict with appointed travail, that they may be partakers of His holiness, which they could never know without the bitter cup? Have we not a High Priest who is touched with the feeling of our infirmity, and whose messages to the seven churches show that he watches and regulates the affairs of his chosen? Yes, yes. Our privileges are greater than we at all times remember. Our position is more blessed than weak nature will suffer us to realize. We see through a glass darkly. We yearn for the day of seeing him face to face. We know that when he shall appear, we shall see him as he is.
Blessed words This is what we agonize for --
"As a woman counts the days
We hunger and thirst after righteousness. We long to hear the High Priest come forth and pronounce our iniquity pardoned. We sigh to be delivered from this corruptible in which we groan, being burdened. We cry and lament for the prevailing abominations. We crave to taste of purity and power, and joy and immortality. We look for and hasten unto the day of the Lord, when tears shall be wiped from all faces, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. We pray for the earth's deliverance from its present misuse and prostitution. We cry that the wickedness of the wicked may come to an end, and the just be established, and the earth be filled with the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. We yearn to drink of Jehovah's [Yahweh's] gladness in the presence of His glorious Son. We have heard the Shepherd's voice, but like bleating lambs on the mountains, we seek him from hill to hill in vain, earnestly desiring to see his face and receive the comfort of his arms. We are dying in the intensity of our desire to rejoice in the pure joy of his glorious countenance, as the sun shining in his strength. We long to join in the anthem of his glorious praise, with his risen and perfected friends, knowing Him as we are known, seeing him as we are seen, delivered from the burden of groanings that cannot be uttered, emancipated from the stammering tongue and musicless perishing voice, glorified with the power, and freedom, and strength, and beauty of the angels; our vile body changed and made like to the glorious body of our blessed and beloved Christ. "Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, and strength, and dominion, and might, and praise be ascribed unto our God and unto the Lamb for ever and ever."
We have long pined in this gloomy wilderness, where the wolves howl and tempests roar with might -- a dry and parched land, wherein there is no water. Our flesh longs; our soul panteth after Thee '0 God. When shall we come unto the courts of our God? We have no rest. We have no continuing city. We seek one to come -- the city of our God, of which the Lord God and the Lamb are the light thereof. We are strangers and pilgrims as all the Fathers were. Our eyes run down with tears; our hearts fail for the waiting of the morning. We are sore broken in this place of dragons. We wait for the Lord. We remember his presence on earth 1,800 years ago. He said, "Do this in remembrance of me." We obey his command. We lift our hearts in gratitude to him in heaven, and strive in patience to wait all the days of our appointed time, as the bride, making ourselves ready, hoping soon to hear the silence of the night broken with the gladsome announcement: "The Lord is come!"