Last Updated on : Saturday, October 11, 2014
SUNDAY MORNING No. 48.
ONCE again assembled at the breaking of bread, we do this "till he come." It is in remembrance of him whom we have, heard, and of whom we are able to say, "Whom having not seen, we love." The love of Christ is not a mere phrase with the true saint; it is a reality -- the leading sentiment of his mind. He can say with Paul, "The love of Christ constraineth me." There is not a more powerful motive among men -- nay, I will say, that as regards enduring effort and inconquerable perseverance, there is no motive among men at all equal to the love of Christ. Nothing binds men so firmly together as a mutual and concurring love of Christ; and nothing divides them so effectually as difference in sentiment with regard to Christ.
The saint has every reason to love Christ. He is in all respects beautiful in himself to such as have learnt the first and the great commandment to "love (and fear) the Lord with all the soul, and mind and strength." By any other class his beauty is not appreciated. His beauty is not such as would answer to the world's ideal -- moral, artistic, or religious. It is not the beauty of a statue or of a "gentleman born." Christ is more than kind; he is holy. He is more than forgiving; he is just, and with wickedness angry. He is more than gentle; he is exacting of supreme affection. He is more than good; he is zealous of the Father. He is more than courteous, refined, and cultivated; he is the impartial judge according to each man's work, regarding not the persons of men, and speaking flattery to none. He is more than man; he is God manifest. The Lamb of God, he is yet the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. The healing Sun of Righteousness, he is yet the treader of the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. A right acquaintance with him will embrace all the features of his beauty, and will lead to the imitation of each of them in our own characters: for he is the example set us to copy. The omission of any causes defect. Some try to imitate his kindness while forgetting his zeal. Others copy his severity while failing to remember his gentleness. Others extol his placability and charity while overlooking his righteousness and jealousy of the Father's honour.
Let us remember all the elements of his perfect character. They are altogether lovely. They constitute the Lord Jesus one by himself in the history of the world. No such personage ever appeared before or since. No name comes near his in its glorious renown. Even now, in the present evil world, God hath given him a name which is above every name. It is the highest name in the world's mouth, in the world's hero roll. True, it is regarded superstitiously. Still, it is the most exalted and honourable in all their assemblies, in all their traditions and associations. Before him, the glory of other names pales like the yellow light of a candle before the sun. He is the object of universal homage, though it be the homage of ignorance and insincerity. He stands alone in the past in his towering dignity, his superhuman earnestness, his unapproachable beneficence, his unwearying patience, his immaculate righteousness, his spotless purity, his unostentatious condescension, his untainted disinterestedness, his perfect submission to the will of God. He has shed a great light upon the world already. Europe owes its civilization to him. By the mission he placed in the hands of the apostles, he abolished Paganism and humanized the Gothic hordes.
But above all, he is THE COMING MAN. The light of the past is but the token of the dawn, the first rays of the sun sent up from the horizon athwart the darkness of night. The light of the future is the brightness of meridian day. The future is filled with him. No other name is discernible but his. As the stars disappear as the sun rises, so his glory in the future blots out all other names that are named. When the dreary course of the present animal economy shall have run its appointed time, Christ on earth will be all in all. All present greatness (so- called) will have passed away like a dream. Mighty cities: London, Rome, Paris, New York, Berlin, Vienna, St. Petersburg, will be no more. The roaring commerce of a thousand markets will have ceased; the trade of a hundred ship-crowded seas, the business on all the marts and exchanges of the world will have dried up and vanished away. The present political personages who fill so large a place in the importance of the present hour, will be as effete as the mummies of Egypt. Kings and emperors will be remembered as blots; literary men, artists and academicians as deceptions; the teeming and all-important "public" as the horrid labyrinth of a huge nightmare passed away with the rise of the dawn -- never more to re-appear, while CHRIST will be the established institution of the earth -- established on foundations that cannot be moved. His kingdom will have no end. The earth will be filled with his glory. Nothing will be important but his people and his affairs.
Well may we choose him as our portion and inheritance. The present, which is all we have of our own, is a transitory dream of trouble; while the future, which is his, and ours in him, is an everlasting reign of glory.
Well may we prefer him and serve him. We have no hope apart from him. Without him human life is without light. There is nothing but clouds around and darkness ahead to the natural man. Decay works within; vanity attends on all external circumstances; the grave waits with open mouth at the end of the toilsome journey -- and you never know how near that end is. Bring Christ into the economy of human life, and you bring light, hope, joy, friendship with God and man, and an eternal inheritance in reserve. Some say they do not want an eternal inheritance. Some say the present life is quite long enough for them; that immortality would tire them. Such is the grunt of the sow, which knows no higher good than the mire and the wallow. They speak foolishly. They reason from present weakness and incapacity. Whence comes the sensation of "tire"? From the incapability of an animal nature to keep up the supply of energy which enjoyment consumes. No doubt a body such as we have would tire of living for ever; but it is not the present body that is to live for ever. The present body is to be changed: it is to be made a spiritual body; and the spiritual body is powerful where the animal body is weak. There will be no "tire" or satiety with the spirit body. Weariness belongs to weakness only, and comes in the ratio of weakness purely. A person in poor health tires sooner than one that is robust. One laid on a sick bed is tired as soon as he begins; one that is well can go on for hours, and enjoy what he is about. A spiritual body is strong, and incapable of fatigue. Therefore, endless days will be endless sweetness and joy; chiefly because heart and nature will be one with God, the inexhaustible fountain of sweetness, glory and joy.
These things are accessible to us in Christ, and in Christ only. Well may we meet at this table in honour of him and in remembrance of him. It is good for us to be here. It is to our profit to call him to memory. If we remember him, he will remember us in the day of his gladness. If we forget him, he cannot forget himself. He is in heaven, and at the appointed time will come, whether we on earth remember him or not. When that day comes, we shall realize how much it has been to our well-being to have been kept in the way of his commandments, and to have waited on the memorial of his name.
Every time we assemble round the table, he is brought to our minds. We act not as our own friends if we suffer any controllable cause to keep us away. Destructive indeed is the doctrine that we are not called upon to break bread in remembrance of him. The love of him will lead to it as a delight. We cannot recall his memory so distinctly as is desirable, without some objective exercise. Jesus, who "knew what was in man," knew this when he appointed this memorial supper. Designed for a purpose, it serves its purpose admirably. It brings him before us in the hour of his, humiliation, and introduces to notice the day of his glory. It connects the two in one act. It reminds us of what he accomplished in the days of his weakness as the foundation of the day of his glory. A guileless partaker of our common mortality in Adam, we see him herein offered in harmony with the working of an immutable Creator, that in raising him, the Father might provide us one in whom His law has been vindicated, that through him His grace might advance without the compromise of His justice. Perceiving this, we can unite in the adoration of the Designer of this arrangement of love. We ascribe glory to Him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb. This table of the Lord gives us a standing ground for the scriptural contemplation of the sufferings of Christ and the glory that shall follow. They help us to realize our entire dependence on him for all our hope of goodness in the ages to come; they help us to feel our position as his servants, his disciples, his brethren; they stir up, from first day to first day, our anxiety to be diligent to make our calling and election sure, by the doing of those things which he has commanded, obedience to which will alone command his favour in that day. To forsake the assembly of ourselves altogether, after the manner of some, is a species of wilful sinning which will cut us off from beneficial relation to that one sacrifice of sins, which was made by and in the Root and Offspring of David. It is a disobedience of one of the leading commandments, left by the Lord for the observance of his disciples, during his absence. The assembly of the saints at the table of the Lord, is one of the sweet resting-places provided by the Lord of the highway, for his weary pilgrims in their journey through this evil world.
At the same time, it is always possible, as at Corinth, to come together, "not for the better but for the worse." We must guard against this by the avoidance of those conditions that lead to such a result. A want of unity is fatal to edification. Union without unity is worse than worthless; it is pernicious; it tends to frustrate the objects of fellowship. The ecclesia is not the place at all for discussing the principles of the one faith. That belongs altogether to the outside. The plea of looking at both sides is plausible and looks candid, but it belongs only to those who are uncertain of the faith; and uncertainty is no feature of the full assurance of faith, without which it is impossible to please God. It is all very well for those who do not know the truth to talk in such a style; such are in no state to form constituents of a community whose function is to be the "pillar and ground of the truth." Agreement in the things of the Spirit is the first condition of ecclesial unity. The unity of the Spirit may be kept in the bond of peace; but the schism of the Spirit -- disagreement in the things of the Spirit -- renders peace impossible. Those who are indifferent can easily afford to ignore disagreement; and preach cordially of the virtue of "agreeing to differ." This is no characteristic of the church [ecclesia] of the living God. It contends for the faith once delivered to the saints, and obeys Paul's command (1 Tim. 6:5) to "turn away" from the perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds. The first characteristic of the true saint is zeal for the things of God. He is not content to cultivate friendship on the basis of "adhesiveness" or any other merely fleshly instinct. He stands "in God": God's ways and principles are the rule of his life, the measure of his aspirations, the standard of his friendship, the foundation of all his doings. The Laodicean attitude of indifference -- the readiness to agree to differ within the precincts of the ecclesia -- is impossible with him. He must have the faith first pure, knowing that peace will follow, and from peace edification, and the growth in every good thing that shall prepare the brethren for the coming of the Lord. A contrary condition produces every evil work. Unity in the Spirit will admit of growth to the stature of the perfect man in Christ. It will help us to dwell together in love and hope, striving together for the faith of the Gospel, abounding in the whole work of the Lord with thanksgiving.
Let us obey implicitly the advice of Paul, who counsels abstinence from strifes of words, foolish questions and contentions, which he declares to be "unprofitable and vain" (Titus 3:9). "Charge them before the Lord," he says, "that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers ... Shun profane and vain babblings" (2 Tim. 2:14-16). He instructed Titus to "AFFIRM CONSTANTLY" that believers should be careful to maintain good works, which were to their profit (Titus 3:8). Leaving perverse, uncandid, evasive and Jesuitical disputers, then, to themselves, let us be diligent in every good work, against the impending day of account, relieving the afflicted, comforting the saints in their tribulations, leading sinners into the way of justification and eternal life. These good works wither before the hot blast of contention, strife, backbiting, and vainglory; and by these, men, running well for awhile, are destroyed. Let us take heed, and show ourselves men of God, whose seed "remaineth in them"; who cannot be moved away from the path of duty or the hope of the Gospel by the wildest storms that may come; who stand stoutly, in their particular day and relations, in the position described by Habakkuk: "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet will I rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation" (3:17). The standing aim of this class is to be approved of God, however much they may incur the opprobrium of men. Men work one way; the children of God another. God's opinion of the ways of men is clearly and abundantly recorded. This record they "read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest." They eschew the selfishness rebuked by Haggai, who was commanded by the Spirit to say to the men of Israel, "Is it time for you, 0 ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste? ... Mine house is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house" (1:4-9). There is no stone-and-mortar house of God to attend to; but there is another house -- the house of God, the pillar and ground of the truth, whose condition is that of wasteness, and to which we are called to attend in priority to our own affairs. If we are of God, we feel not at liberty to do as the men of Israel did, and as the world around does, to look after their own affairs, and see ourselves comfortably established without regard to the desolate state of the house of God. While God is a pilgrim in the earth, His sons are not content to be dwellers in the tents of sin. While Jerusalem and her children are in affliction, they aim not to seek their ease. They have a heart to feel for the downtrodden house of Christ, and on its upbuilding their best exertions are bestowed. They give not to the Lord the refuse, the fag end, the superfluity. They have noticed the lesson of Mal. 1:6-14: "A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if, then, I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the Lord of Hosts, unto you, 0 priests, that despise my name. Ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name? Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible. If ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and the sick, is it not evil? Offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the Lord of Hosts ... Cursed be the deceiver, that hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing. For I am a great King, saith the Lord of Hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen." These principles apply in the truth. Wise men will have them in remembrance, honouring the Lord with their substance; sowing bountifully, that they may reap bountifully; that in the day about to dawn, they may not be of those who will be rejected for a faithless use of the "few things" now entrusted to their care.