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Preface and Notes
By Rev. ANDREWA. BONAR, D.D.
Charles Glass & Co., 85 Maxwell Street
This edition © 2018 CrossReach Publications, Kerry, Ireland
Hope. Inspiration. Trust.
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X. Christ’s Napkin
XI. Christ and the Dove
XIII. The Lamb’s Marriage
About CrossReach Publications
Bestselling Titles from CrossReach
Where Samuel Rutherford preached during the first nine years of his ministry.
ALL who relish “Samuel Rutherford’s Letters” will welcome the reprint of this volume, entitled, when first printed, “Collection of Valuable Sermons Preached by him at Sacramental Occasions, in the years 1630, 1634, and 1637.” I have added two discourses to the collection, one preached in 1630, and another in 1633, and also what is commonly called a Communion Address, delivered in London.
All breathe the same spirit as the famous “Letters,” and are full of racy remark and illustration, bearing on scriptural doctrine and Christian experience.
The Sermons were not published by himself, but from the notes of hearers, and so there are some awkward sentences and clauses. But still they are exceedingly valuable. The first nine sermons were originally printed at Glasgow, “from an old manuscript.” The rest have frequently appeared in various forms. A Sermon, which bears the title, “The Cruel Watchman,” and a fragment, “Christ’s Voice from Heaven,” are not genuine, and so are not included in this collection. His only other Sermons are that on Luke 8:22, preached before the House of Commons, 1644, and that on Daniel 6:26, preached before the House of Lords, 1645.
ANDREW A. BONAR.
THE first issue of two thousand copies has been sold off within a year. In the meantime, two more of S. Rutherford’s Sacramental Sermons have been sent to the Editor by friends who had them in their possession, and were happy to offer this addition to the First Twelve. They are given in this volume.
ANDREW A. BONAR.
And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war, &c.—Revelation 19:11, 12, 13, 14.
CHRIST is here brought in triumphing on horseback, and His armies following Him upon white horses. Here Christ is discovered gloriously: 1. From His triumph, on horseback. 2. From His style, Faithful and True. 3. From His righteousness in government. 4. From His head, His eyes, His name, His habit, His convoy, His power of the sword, and His high style. KING OF KINGS, &c., which are all here set down.
Before ever John see this triumph of Christ over Antichrist, he sees “Heaven opened,” which shews him a new revelation. For, until God open the door, and glance2† from heaven with new light, we never do certainly believe that Christ shall win the battle. If God’s door be closed, and our eyes be darkened, we think we see Christ going on foot, persecuted and banished, and put to the worse; then we begin to droop and die, and cast away our confidence, as Elias did. But we have faith and hope when a window is opened in heaven to give us light, but until then, no marvel the saints have their faith to seek. David said, One day or other, I shall fall by the hand of Saul; and yet he had that promise, that he should live and be king. He had then many experiences; how comes this then, that he was in the dark? Here is a reason; God had closed the door. We think no more of our trouble, but at first3* by faith and hope to open our King’s door, and in to Him, and be stayed with flagons, and comforted with apples. No, but God will cause His children to come and stand, and pant, and cry, and wait upon an open door. And yet they are believing though they know it not, they are waiting on for faith though they know it not; and howbeit they think they believe not, yet that is believing to one of His children. And therefore howbeit our Lord keep a good house, His children will get leave to sleep and mourn twenty-four hours for bread. God loves a hungry child that’s aye crying for bread. Nay, I say it is more glory to God, to knock a while at a locked door, than if the door were open to us night and day. We see not that hunger is often better for us than a full stomach. In hunger we seek and cry, and it pleases God; but when we are full, we can lay ourselves down in the sun and fall asleep.
“And behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True.”—Here we have a glorious description of Christ; as also in Song 3:10; Col. 1:15, 16, 17; Rev. 3:14. And wherefore is all this? I think it is a putting Christ to open market, a commending of Him as highly worth the buying. What think ye of Him? Well, is He not a lovely one, a sweet excellent person? Saw ye ever the like of Him? (I will talk of this and the convoy, and let you see both together). Where is Christ? He is triumphing upon a white horse, and the saints, His armies at His back, following Him on horseback in white. Here indeed is a fair company of horsemen, all in white! Here all are in one livery; Christ is the Captain or Colonel, and all His company, His armies with Him. Christ and all His Elect are a fair company together, and a well-favoured sight. “And I looked, and lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Zion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads” (Rev. 14:1). “Behold, I and the children whom thou hast given me” (Isa. 8:18). I think he would say, Am not I and my children a pleasant sight? Judge ye then what a sight it will be at the last day, when Christ, having ended His court, and the saints have met Him in the air, He and they shall go back again to heaven, and He shall come in at the door with such majesty, and all the first-born, the fair bairn-tene,4* the whole Elect, nations, tongues, languages and people, that none can number, at His back, every one of them as fair as the sun! And He shall present them as a gift to the Father. “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands” (Rev. 7:9). In very deed, then, he is a happy man who is amongst them; for that must be a glad meeting for evermore, when we shall meet with the Bridegroom. This white horse that Christ rides on, teaches nothing else than that He triumphs in Himself, and His cause and truth. He rode through death and hell, and was never thrown off the saddle. Nay, upon the cross, “having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Col. 2:15). “I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (Rev. 1:18). Here is Christ riding over hell and death upon His triumphant horse, and breaking the wards, and taking the keys of the prison with Him. And is He not daily posting upon this horse? Has He not ridden like a victorious Lord through Germany, and sparkled dirt upon the Beast’s face, and the false Prophet? Ye will say, Christ loseth a battle sometimes. I grant you, Christ’s horse seems to snapper5* sometimes, and is upon his knees, but he doth not fall. Nay, even when the woman is chased, by the Dragon, to the wilderness, Christ keeps the saddle and bridle; the devil cannot lay Him on the breadth of His back, and take His horse from Him. The horse seemed to lose a stroke in a mire, when Christ cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” and when the Kirk was in captivity, at the river of Babel, weeping like a poor silly captive. But believe me, Christ will win the race, and will get the gold,6† and we shall get a part of it. Christ in His members will get a fall, but He will rise again and win the field, say all what ye will. He will yet ride in Scotland, and win the race. Ken ye what He said? (2 Cor. 4:9), “Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.”
“Faithful and True.”—So is He called the Faithful and True witness, the Amen, who spake the truth betwixt God and us, and told us all that ever He heard of the Father. And these styles the Lord Jesus gets because all the promises of God, made to us, are fastened to Christ, as so many bonds that God has given us in the gospel. Says Christ, “He that believeth on Me, is passed from death to life;—he that loveth Me, shall be loved of My Father; and we will come into him, and make our abode with him;—he that overcometh, shall eat of the tree of life.” Christ’s name is in all the bonds, in all the bargains betwixt God and us. Christ is aye one, and He is a Cautioner, not only for us but with us; for God challenged Him for our debt, and He, as Faithful and True, answered without bout-gates,7* and was very honest in His word to His Father. He is (let me speak so) God’s Cautioner to us, taking on Him that God shall keep true to us. This is a point not considered as it should be by us; for there is not a promise made to the true believer, but he may challenge Christ for it by law; though it is the law of the new Covenant. But in this good sense, Christ is God’s debtor, and He is become our debtor. Indeed Christ is fastened in the Mediator’s chair and offices, with strong nails and iron wedges, on both sides: God hath bound Him by law. “For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded; therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed” (Isaiah 50:7). There Christ says, I am bound, but I hope I shall not die in my bonds: I shall be true both to God and man: I hope I shall have no shame of my handy-works. Then we are far in the wrong to Christ, when we believe not. Nay, ye say ye dare not yet believe. Ye say ye are aye doubting. Ken ye what ye say, when ye say that? Ye are even saying, I fear Christ play me a slip: I fear Christ be but a false promiser. I say it is wrong to believe a falsehood of an honest man; for, thou that wilt not believe the promises, thou art saying the Lord Jesus Christ is but a double8* dyvour: “He that believeth not God, hath made Him a liar” (1 John 5:10). Now when the text says Christ is Faithful and True, this is the King’s broad seal for your salvation; and aye the truer Christ be, it is the better for you. For when in judgment your salvation is questioned, and your sins come in9† reckoning, whether they be satisfied for, or not, ye may see an easy way. Say ye, Lord, ask at Christ, the faithful witness, if they be not taken away. Christ is one of the sworn men (if we may so speak) upon His conscience for clearing of you, and He is Faithful and True, and will tell the truth. And will Christ get it denied, what scourges, whips, and strokes, He suffered for you? Nay, indeed we have gotten, I think, a strong hold of salvation, when we have gotten it laid over on Christ the Faithful and True. It is much that a faithful man is in office, and that he keeps all the writs in the country; and if he keeps the register who is faithful, true, and an honest witness, then all the writs and charters are safe. The writs you and I have for heaven, are all in Christ’s hand, and ye should aye be looking them over.
“In righteousness He doth judge and make war.”—He rendereth to every man according to his works; but in battles amongst men, much blood is spilt, falsehood, and violence used, while those who may be strongest, whether it be right or not, keep the field. Nay in very deed, are not kingdoms often ruined by opposite parties, who rent them in pieces amongst them? As to Nebuchadnezzar’s, the Medes, and Persians did. They draw it among them, and the thing they get is a fine web of linen, a bit of a kingdom with an ill conscience, which never does them good. They are like so many men striving about a leme10* vessel; he draws, and he draws, and the one pulls the side from the vessel, and breaks it in pieces: So conquerors, when they have subdued a kingdom, are like those who get the leme vessel, that seldom bides the second heir. Christ makes not war with the shedding of innocent blood; when He takes in a city, He plays not foul play as other captains do, where often the soldier’s right to a country is by the point of the sword; for there is no difference betwixt his sword, his conscience, and his musket. But it is not so with Christ. How then? 1. When Christ takes in a city, nation or country, He has God’s right to it, and His Father’s promise of it (Psalm 2:8; Psalm 72:8). “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.” 2. When besieged men render and give up themselves to Christ, O! but they get good quarters from Him! They live and are not made captives, but kings and priests to God. Christ’s captives have a king’s life of it. 3. Christ makes not war in a passion, but sweetly to His people in the end, though seemingly bitter at the first. But when Christ’s enemies who get the worse, are all driven to pieces with a rod of iron, they have no comfort; yet He hath done them no wrong, He hath made His war in righteousness. Then ye who are His enemies shall never be cured nor healed again, nor yet by Him pitied; nay, let Christ drive an enemy all to flinders, He doth it by laws God bade Him. Who will then gather them or mend them? Oh! there is no balm, no cure for the mending of Christ’s wounds again. But there is sweetness, and comfort to those whom Christ takes in, and sets on to win them to the obedience of the gospel. He has good right to you, and has God’s warrant to have you. Has Christ fought a battle with the devil and sin, and hath He won you? Then He hath better right to you than you have to the coat on your back. Be glad ye are His own; He wan you with the sweat of His brow. It is true, ye deserve not Christ, but indeed He deserves you; therefore be glad and humble, for Christ will not want His own. Who can rob, spoil, and oppress Christ? I know well He is able to hold His own with the best of them. Then fear not that ye be lost, for Christ’s right cannot be broken, God must give Him justice and law, and by law you are His; for open market-right is a good right, and Christ has that of you.
Verse 12.—“His eyes were as a flame of fire.”—Fire flies out of His eyes, to cause His enemies flee and hide themselves. “And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bond man, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens, and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall upon us, and hide us from the face of the Lamb” (Rev. 6:15, 16). What is the matter they are so afraid, when Christ had not as yet laid a finger-end upon them? What then, saw they in His fiery eyes? They saw fire in His face: Hide us, say they, from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb. “There went up a smoke out of His nostrils, and fire out of His mouth: coals were kindled by it” (Psalm 18:8). When there is such a fire and anger in His face, how soon, with a frown of His countenance, will He make the hearts of His enemies to melt like wax? And this fire of His eyes will soon burn up the chaff and stubble. A glance of His fiery eye made Belshazzar’s knees to shake and strike one against another. Then what wisdom is it for men to be sporting with Christ, and pulling at His Crown, and playing with His Sceptre? Surely I think them like a child thrusting up a stick in the nose of a sleeping lion, and pulling his beard; which is no wise play. Is it good play for fools (like bairns) to be sporting and playing with the Lion of the tribe of Judah? I think they are now scorning Christ, and breaking a jest upon Him; but one stroke of His paw, one of Christ’s roars when He is angry, will cause them all to take a back-side. Fire shall go before Him, and shall devour and burn all His enemies.
“And on His head were many crowns.”—I tell thee or ever11* I go further, O believer, thou need not think shame of thy master. Saul went to the devil in the night; but he that serveth Christ may not think shame of his master; he may think it an honour to go to Him in fair day-light. He is more than a double king. For as He is God essential with the Father and Holy Spirit, He is an honourable Lord. All the kingdoms of the earth are His; all the crowns in the world; (of Britain, France, Spain, Israel and Judah, and tell12* until the morn), they are all Christ’s as God Creator. “By Him kings reign and princes decree justice” (Prov. 8:15). All the kings of the earth hold their being of Christ: He is appointed of the Father, “King upon the holy hill of Zion” (Psalm 2:6). “Kings shall fall down before Him, all nations shall serve Him” (Psal. 72:11). By His rising from the dead, He has gotten a name far above every name; so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow. “The Lord at thy right hand, shall strike through kings in the day of His wrath” (Psalm 110:5). Then kingdoms and kings that stand by policy, and not on Christ and His word, they stand on rotten tree13†-legs. Now men of policy devise a way, and cast their wit in a pair of balances, how to shift the matter. Had they been in Daniel’s place, they would have devised some way to have kept the court and place; and would have said, “Can ye not speak low, and make little noise with your prayers? To save yourselves from the lion’s den, might ye not keep a close door and windows? What need ye like fools make all the fields ado with your prayers?”14‡—and so have sewed the black coat with white thread. But in so doing, Daniel would have denied Christ to have “many crowns upon His head.” And would not policy have said to the three Children, “Bow, bend your knee before the golden image, and think upon the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; that so ye may put by an ill hour, and the harm of the fiery furnace!” Nay, but such counsel as this would have come from hell. Men are surest when they stay on Christ’s side, and are always strongest when they stand with Him.
“And He had a name written that no man knew but Himself.”—O! what a nameless king is this! What? Is Christ unbaptized that He wants a name? Is there no man knows His name? “What is His name, and what is His son’s name, if thou canst tell?” (Prov. 30:4). “He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare His generation?” (Isa. 53:8). Here is a strange thing! Says the angel, “Thou shalt call His name Jesus Christ.” Nay, but His name is Himself; and His nature, and so He is an infinite God. None knows infinite Christ but Himself. Ay, surely Christ is an unknown person; though each one has Christ Jesus in their mouth, yet they know not what they are saying.
There are three mysteries in Christ we cannot perfectly ken in this life, nor understand. 1. The infinite wisdom, mercy, goodness, love, and grace in Christ; which the angels delight to look into and wonder. Come near Christ here, and ye will never see the bottom of Him. Ye have seen mercy, mickle mercy; there is yet more behind. One has seen much of Him, another more; the angels that are sharp in sight have yet seen more; nay, but there is infinite more behind. You will as soon take the sea in the hollow of your hand, and bind the wind in your cloak, as ye will take Him up. Ye must even stand still here and wonder, and cry out, O! great Jesus, who will or can fathom Thee out? 2. The work of Christ’s incarnation. O! what a depth is in it! God and dust married together! How blood remains in a personal union with God! How the finite Man-hood subsists in His infinite personality! And how the God-head in the Second person, and not in the First or Third, assumed our nature, and yet but one God-head in all the Three! How the God-head stood under the Man-hood that was stricken, and the God-head as a back-friend15* held Him up, and yet the God-head suffered not! How Jesus man died, and Jesus God lived, and remained in death God and man! And the 3rd mystery is, What a name Jesus has gotten by His rising from the dead, and how the Man-hood is advanced. Christ kens all these full well; He can read His own name. Ye will speak of learning to measure the earth, number the stars, and to learn their motion; that is deep knowledge; but God help you to come hither, and see this unknown name, JESUS, and find it out if you can. I trow ye cannot.
Now ask, Where will ye set Christ? Where will ye get a seat, a throne, a chair to Him? He cannot be set too high; nay, if there were ten thousand times ten thousand heavens, and each to be above another, and Christ to be set in the highest of them all; yet were He too low. Alas! He is too little thought of! He is like the field where the pearl is, that men go over, and tread upon the grass that grows above it, and yet they ken it not. Men tramp upon this pearl, and yet they know not what they are doing. Fy! fy! earthly man that thou art! Wilt thou put a cow or a sheep in thy affection beyond thy salvation? Fy for shame for evermore, that men set their lusts above Him! And O, fy for shame! that you should set your new-come-over lord, Wilful-will, above the old eternal Lord, the Ancient of days, Jesus Christ. O! how is Christ put out of His place? O let us long for glory, that place where we will read His name clearly, and will see Christ face to face. O strange! we long not to be in heaven, to see this comely glorious one (if I may so speak), a darling indeed, and to play God’s bairns in heaven. We will then come and look into the Ark; for the curtain will be drawn by,16* and we will see our fill of Christ there.
“And He was clothed with a vesture dipt in blood.”—That is a strange garment! I leave all expositions, and take it to be Christ in His suffering clothes, wooing His Kirk; represented thus to John in His wooing clothes. He is also represented so in Isa. 63:2, “Wherefore art Thou red in thine apparel, and Thy garments like him that treadeth in the wine fat?” Christ, in His suffering for us, was wet to the skin in His own blood. When He was slaying our enemies, He was all bloody to look upon; even a loch of blood, dropping blood. O then come and see if He be not a red man! Had there been but a drop of blood here and there upon Him, it had been less; but He was all dyed with His own blood; for blood dropped from Him and He wet the ground where He lay! “And His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). So as I think for the space of near hand twenty-four hours, the blood got not leave to dry on Christ, in His suffering for us. For, after Supper, in the garden, He swat a sweat of blood that wet the ground He lay on, and it would be long ere it dried. Then immediately after that, there came a band of men with lanterns and torches, and they bound Him and led Him away, and He got blue marks anew. Pilate then scourged Him; and blood came upon blood. Then, a crown of thorns was put upon His head, to renew His blood again. First God bled Him, then man bled Him, and then the laying on of the cross upon His holy shoulders, would thrust out more blood; (for His wounds could not be closed then) and then His holy hands and feet were nailed to the cross, and He hung bleeding there until the ninth hour, which was about three in the afternoon of the day after He was taken. Then His side was pierced until blood and water came out. So as from after supper in one night, until it was near night the day following, He was under blood. What think ye now of Christ’s bloody coat, and bloody skin? Was He not a strong keen warrior? Fought He not well for you? Is He not well worthy of your love? God grant Him good of it, and joy of it! He fought for it, and would not give over the play; and God forbid He had given it over, and rendered up the cause; woe then had been to us. Should ye not then give your best things to Christ? for He gave the best things He had for you—even His precious blood; for the life is in the blood. He seeks no more but the blood and life of your heart-idols and sins; for, says He, “I slew Myself for you, and if ye love Me give blood for blood.”
“And His name is called the Word of God.”—The word is the birth of a man’s mind, and an image of what is conceived in the understanding; and it represents to the hearers what is in the mind. Now, because man is a finite creature, the birth of his mind is finite also. As the image of a man in a glass represents the likeness of himself; so his words are the image of his soul, representing what is in him. Christ is the infinite and eternal Word of the invisible God, not only like Him, but God Himself, differing only in manner of subsisting from God, “Who is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15), “being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God” (Phil. 2:6). “He that hath seen Christ, hath seen the Father also. No man hath seen the Father at any time, save the Son who is in the bosom of the Father, and He to whom He will reveal Him: All things that I have heard of My Father, I have made known unto you” (John 15:15). Christ is God’s tongue (to speak so) to us, betwixt us and our King. He is privy to all the Father’s secrets; then, would you have news from that great Court, and want to know the secrets of God, and how the work of your salvation thrives? Christ only knows His Father’s mind; make your acquaintance with Christ, and be oft with Him, and ask Him questions often times. He keeps the book where the names of the first-born are recorded; desire Him to let you read your name there. Ye will advise with lawyers, about your lands and inheritances; Christ is our advocate, and has our law-book, to tell us what a holding we have, what duty we owe to our Lord the King; what a fair rent and possession we have. Our inheritance is made sure unto us. Now, because Christ is the only one in all the world likest God, and being His substantial image, yea, being very God, if ye would send your commendations, your love, and services to your heavenly Father, desire Christ to do it, and He will carry them. If ye send a kiss to God by Christ, He will carry it to His Father and your Father.
“And the armies which were in heaven, followed him upon white horses.”—This is not to be understood simply of the church triumphant in heaven; but also of the heavenly army of the church militant on earth; for the church on earth is burgess of another country. Heaven is her home; her members are but merchants hereaway17* seeking the pearl of great price, but Christ has given them their burgess tickets, and made them free men. They are sworn to be true to the burgh, and to hold with the heavenly company, to watch and ward with the saints, or “heavenly armies”—called so because they smell of heaven, and their portion is there. “Our conversation is of heaven” (Phil. 3:20). Ye shall ken a man by the smell of his breath: if he savour of the earth, it says, that he is none of the spiritual or heavenly army. Ye might ken by Judas’ breath (who said, of the box of spikenard, might not this have been sold for so much) that he was a burgess of the black pit. But see here, they are all on horseback, and in their Master Christ’s livery, white and holy; they bear the King’s arms upon them. “I have compared thee, O my love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots” (Song 1:9). See, then, that the saints are on horseback with Christ; He does not ride and His people walk, but will have His own mounted on horseback with Him. He is even then triumphing with us over all our enemies. “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us” (Rom. 8:37). He will get the victory over all His and His people’s enemies; and He will enable His people to get the victory at last. “These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:14). See, then, all the saints are on horseback, galloping and posting to heaven after Christ; overcoming all temptations, triumphing over the world, sin, and death. Then, ye that are but Christ’s foot-runners, take heed to this; you that have your souls licking the dust of the earth, and have aye a smell of clay, who mind earthly things. By the smell of their breath ye will ken what country they are of; they are upon their feet with it, wading to their knees, and on their elbows, among the filthy clay-ground of covetousness. Ride up, and ride down, and ride else where18* ye will, ye will not get Christ overtaken. Ay, ye will get some like the young man in the Gospel, who would have galloped after Christ, but when Christ bade him go sell all he had, that threw him off the saddle, and laid him on the breadth of his back; and so he fell behind, and never overtook Christ again, so far as we hear of.
The devil and the world make some men say, that yon Captain, Christ, rides so hard and fast, that they cannot keep up with Him, and so lose Him. Demas posted awhile along with Paul after Christ and the Gospel, yet at last his horse stumbled, and he fell off, and lost his horse, and company, and altogether. Judas, he posted awhile, but the devil shot a musket ball at him, even thirty pieces of silver, and so he gave it over, and there he lay. Men ken not that the devil and the world are lying betwixt them and heaven, stealing a shot at Christ’s horsemen. I assure you the devil seeks no better, than that ye will light and take a bait,19† a drink of his strong wine, worldly lusts, and fleshly pleasures, that so your Master on the white horse may be far before you. A little of lawful pleasure is best! Then light not, for the devil will have you lose sight of your Captain; and if ye lose your Master, Christ and fall behind Him, it will stand hard with you. Therefore when ye lose Him, seek and be diligent to find Him out again. Seek the right way, follow the horse’s foot-steps, the print of Christ’s foot-steps, in holiness, faith, patience, and hope, which may be seen all the way betwixt this and heaven. Ask Him out as the church does; “Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?” (Song 3:3). When the church said, Draw me, she was three or four miles behind. When David said, “O Lord, how long?” (Psalm 6:3), he had almost lost sight of his Captain. Nay, when Christ is a mile or two before, so that there is a little hill betwixt Him and us, with watery eyes and panting heart, look a long look over the mountain, and cry, Lord Jesus, ride at leisure, tarry and take a poor wearied traveller with Thee! Lord, tarry, or else Thou wilt lose a footman. Job said, “Lord, Thou takest me for an enemy.” He brake a girth there. Christ has many a sore tired horse to take out of the mire.
In this triumphing host, many of Christ’s soldiers will be very near off their horses, and hanging by the houghs.20* “I said in my haste, All men are liars” (Psalm 116:11). Here David was hanging upon the saddle by the houghs. Peter got a fall off his horse, and he fell into a swoon, and lost his horse when he denied his Master. Yea, God will have the horse sometimes to stumble, and will have His servants laid on the breadth of their backs, and all their clothes spoiled, and a leg or an arm broken; because they, like young riders, are full of self-importance, and will not follow their Captain, and care not about keeping a good bridle-hand. As David will ride on a hanging and steep hill of murder and adultery; Lot upon incest and drunkenness; and or ever they be aware, the devil trips up their heels to the sun, and gives them such a fall, that they be on their knees with it, and shall lose their horse, and so be obliged to creep up the hill on their hands and feet. “Then see that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15, 16). “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” I think He speaks by this text, as if He would say, Be not rash; take heed to your ways; keep a good bridle-hand; hold off the hills, and hanging precipices of ice; for if ye give the devil and your lusts the horse bridle to lead, they will sink you to the girths in a black marsh, near to the mouth of hell, and leave you there, and laugh at you when they have done. The devil is aye playing such sports and tricks as these; they are but feckless21* sports; and I tell you, do your best, ye will get a broken brow ere ye win to heaven. But come weeping to Jesus. I ken the saints fall on Christ’s floor; when they break their faces, He is at their elbow, to blow upon the wound, and take them up again. We, like fools, will ride at full career, and cross the long sands; and we grow too jolly and proud of our victory. I said I shall never be moved, says David; I shall die in my nest, says Job; but God breaks the bridle, and the horse loses his feet, or runs from him on a hard causeway, and there lies syne22† a stout man! Be not high minded, be not too wanton, nor too secure, after ye have won a race at The Communion, and have gotten a hold of Christ; ye know not how soon ye may get a fall, or your mittens laid up23‡ (as we commonly say), and then your boasting will be laid. Ye will say, Ye bid us rejoice in the Lord. I bid you rejoice; but see that it be humble rejoicing, sober joy, with fear and holy care.
“Clothed in fine linen, white and clean.”—Whiteness being the most perfect colour, is a token of innocence, and blackness is a mark of guilt. Here the saints are in their Master’s livery, clean and holy: “Be ye holy as He is Holy.” Be ye harmless as He is, who, when He was reviled, reviled not again. Let the white clothes of your profession be also adorned by the innocency of your lives. Let your good works shine before men, that your heavenly Father may be glorified. Thus manifest your thankfulness after The Communion. Christ’s sheep have His mark upon them, and are like Himself in holiness. Let them see Christ’s stamp and coat of arms upon you: your King’s arms, in all your actions, Faith, and Truth. What is it that makes men profess that they are riding to heaven after Christ, but to deceive the world: they are the devil’s black armies, and are wearing the devil’s double-black arms, Falsehood and Vanity. They choose to live in sin, pride, and vanity of apparel, which is not booked like the white livery or linen of the saints, but rather like the black livery of the prince of the bottomless pit. May the Lord direct your hearts unto the love of God, and to a patient waiting for Christ, and to Him be praise. Amen.
Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered; and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones, &c.—Zechariah 13:7, 8, 9.
AS the Eunuch, when reading Isaiah 53 asked the question, “Of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?” so may we of the sufferings of Christ. Christ’s sufferings were so admirable that they made Him a world’s wonder! As if a man would say, What a sight do I see? The like whereof I never saw! I see the Son of God, the Lord of Life, all mangled in His hands and feet.
There are three grounds of wonder in our Lord’s sufferings. 1. Look at His Person. 2. Compare Him with others. 3. Look at the rare way of clearing mercy and justice.
1. Look on His Person, and wonder that the Way should be weary; Strength, faint; Life, die; Bread, hungry; and Water, thirsty. Is not this a rare matter? A wonder! that the God-head should be knit in a personal union with the Man of Sorrows! For God with His Spirit to bear up a man under sorrow, is nothing, compared with giving His personal subsistence to stand connected with wounds, blood, curse, and shame! For the God-head to breathe, live in, and dwell as one with the person shamed, cursed, hanging on the cross, dead, and buried, is truly wonderful! Here God is made a curse, God is made a shame; and the personality of the God-head still abiding with the shame and the curse, howbeit neither cursed nor ashamed.
2. Compare Him with others. It was nothing to see Moses subjected to scorning; Zechariah slain, between the porch and the altar; and many of the ancient Fathers rent in pieces: but for Christ, for God, to be so handled is strange! No wonder though all the world wonder and cry, O God, what wonders do we see! The hand that spanned the heavens, pierced with nails! The feet of Him that treadeth on the stars, nailed to a tree!
3. What man or angel could have dreamed of this rare work, and strange way to heaven, that justice would have God-man to suffer? This was a voluntary work, for God to come down and save men; which He needed not to do by any necessity of nature. God’s own free will was above, beyond, and before this set and decreed law of justice. Out of His free good will, He breathes out goodness, love, mercy, and tender compassion. What a mystery? The infinite God to suffer for miserable men!
Use. Then he that counteth little of sin, counteth little of God. The wilful sinner, who takes sin into his bosom, is cruel to his Maker. If Christ be your husband, and you His wife; then sin slew your husband. Will the wife love the knife that cutted her husband’s throat? Ye will say, The wife loveth not the husband, if she take the man into her bosom who pursued her husband to the death, and helped to execute him on the gallows. Should the redeemed of the Lord then love their lusts, that pursued Christ to the death, and nailed Him to the cross? Then beware, by going on in sin, of saying Amen to the shedding of Christ’s blood.
Love, and learn to look at, Christ in His suffering for His people. O the love of God, it passeth all knowledge! “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10). Christ laid the ground-stone, and foundation of His love very deep; even down upon the earth, the grave, shame, the curse, hell, and the wrath of God. Yea, in His love, He maketh all His elect children kings and princes to God, and they shall reign with Him for ever and ever. O! then what great fools are they who will not be kings and princes!
But alas! that the world is aye picking quarrels with Christ and His followers. “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us” (Psalm 2:3). When Christ came to the nation of the Jews, they were offended at Him. I assure you he is far forward who finds no fault with God; who thinks Christ so fair and lovely, that there is no spot in Him, and loves Christ, even when He seems to be angry at him.
If it be asked, Should Christ have offered mercy to the Jews? Is it not against justice, that mercy should be offered to those who trample mercy under foot?
Ans. 1. If you consider Christ’s nature and offices, ye will see that He behoved to give an offer of mercy to those who spat in His face. Having man’s nature in Him, He behoved to put on bowels of mercy. God’s infinite mercy upon Christ’s tender heart, bound Him that He could not go away and leave His friend’s house; but constrained Him to stay still, and take all the strokes that His friends gave Him. A man has compassion on his first-born; a woman on the fruit of her womb; a husband on his wife; a kinsman on his friend; and a faithful king on his people: but Christ is infinite (even mercy running over the banks) in His nature. Christ said to Justice, “Stay till I woo My bride:” for justice (as manifested to us) is a voluntary decree of God to punish sinners; and justice would have been at us to slay us. Absalom sought to slay David his father, but David gave command to the captains and officers to deal gently with the young man Absalom. Be not sore upon my child. So mercy comes to sinners through Christ.
2. Look to Christ’s office, as dying Christ. Our Lord would never say amen to our forwardness, nor run away and leave us, nor yet would He say amen to the curse of the law. The law cried, Death upon all sinners; Christ, as Mediator (to speak so) said, God forbid, My Father! I would rather give My heart’s blood ere it were so. How went the matter then? Thus; aye the unkinder the world was to Christ, He was aye the kinder to it; they abused Him, He kissed and embraced them in His arms. Christ, as Mediator, came and bowed down to go into the house of clay that He had borrowed from the Jews (to speak so), but they met Him in the door, fell upon Him and abused Him, and bruised both His hands and His feet.
3. (Which may be sweetest of all). Upon what terms did Christ make the bargain with His Father? He got commandment to die, but not continually. He said, Content, I will die, and be warm-hearted to them; I shall take a lift of them in My two arms, to pull them out of hell, and from all their miserable toil. Our Lord says, Let them be as ill as devils to Me, I will be as good as God to them.
Use. Then it reproves those who seek a reason why Christ died for them. O, say they, I am a hard-hearted body, so rebellious that Christ would never die for me! Well, then, do ye think that Christ died for hire? Would you make Christ a Popish God, who died for sinners only for as good again. Christ, ere He came out of heaven, knew the worst of it, and said, Let My friends slay Me, I will die in love for them. Look, then, sour, unthankful world, what a hold Christ took of your souls, and held them fast, and would not let them go. So it is a shame to us not to clasp to Him. This mercy of the Mediator has shamed us all out at the door; we are ashamed for ever more, if we do not take Christ who would so fain take us. Come to yourselves, then, and fight no longer against Him. Say, Woe’s me, that my Lord kissed me, but I abused Him! If this move not our heart, and melt it with love to Christ, God shall break it all to pieces, and it never shall be healed again. O, my friends, Christ never got a good turn of His friends. “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” (John 1:11). The house of Israel crucified Him; the daughters of Jerusalem stirred Him up before He pleased. The rulers and teachers of the kirk, and professors are the traitors, who sell Christ, even the men who pretend friendship with Him. It is a shame to beguile and be false to any friend, far less should we be false to Christ. Art thou a professor and in the kirk? Be true to Christ, and stand to His cause.
“Awake, O sword, against My shepherd.”—As if the sword had ears, and were asleep, the Lord speaks to it. “If I bring a sword upon a land, and say, Sword, go through the land, to cut off from it man and beast” (Ezek. 14:17). He is speaking to the sword as if it were a messenger who had ears, whom He sends on an errand. We should be afraid to anger the Lord who hath so many on His side. Providence and justice have many friends, and mercy has many servants. If God say, Sword, go to Germany, go through Scotland, it dare not sit His call:25* God’s providence has a secret impulse upon all the creatures. If God say, Arise, pestilence, and set on them; Awake, devils; Come hither, graven images and set on Scotland; Come hither, whore of Rome, smite Scotland, and make it a den of dragons, they must obey. He bids the sword awake against His Son, and Shepherd, Christ, because, by the determinate counsel of God, He was to be slain.
And there be two sweet reasons why He awaketh the sword against Christ. 1. Because the sword behoved to sleep a while, till Christ’s twelve hours of the day was over. Says He, Luke 13:32, “I must work to-day and to-morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.” So long as Christ hath the world to teach with the gospel, and any seed to sow, any soul to convert, as long the sword slept; for His Father gave Him a time to suit26† His wife, and O! but our Lord bestirred His time, and hastened before the sword awaked against Him. 2. The sword behoved to sleep till the term-day came; and then the sword awaked, for God would not want payment an hour beyond the time, and that was a black and dreary hour to Christ. He got not two summons, with continuation of days, but He behoved to keep the first day, and answer the first summons. Therefore, when He was to answer peremptorily to the justice of God, and (as it were) an hour of awakening to the sword (for God would not let the diet pass the day, nor renew Christ’s bond), He said, “Now is My soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour” (John 12:27). So Christ desired it not; but for the love He had to us He was glad of the day, and willing to pay the debt, and had the sum ready; “For their sakes I sanctify Myself” (John 17:19). He made His soul and body ready for the fire, to be burnt as a sacrifice for man upon the altar of the cross. And because He was minded not to play the dyvour,27* He was willing, with all His heart, to suffer; therefore, says He, “Arise, let us go hence” (John 14:31). He went to that place where He knew they would take Him, and willingly went to prison for the debt. He was like an honest man who resolved to pay His debt, and would fain have the money off His hand, and receive a discharge. O! fain would Christ have had a written discharge in His hands for Himself, His heirs and assigns.28†
Hence, we are taught to use our time well, our twelve hours of time here, as Christ did. At the hour of death, at the hour of call, He had nothing to do; so let us be ready against our hour, that so death and judgment awake us not. It is an unmeet time to sleep then, while the judge is before the door; and when we hear the voice of the Lord’s feet coming in wrath against the land, it is not time for us to lay down our head, and say, “Soul, take thine ease.” And yet it is often seen, when God is crying to the sword to awake against a land, it is midnight with men therein; then they are sleeping; and it is the fearfulest death of all to die in a sleep, and unprepared; to be slain in that state and leap into eternity in a night dream, when we know not where we are going.
“Awake, Sword, smite.”—Spare that man by no means; Justice, Spare Him not; Curse of the law, Spare Him not; Men and devils, Take your will of Him. To hear God say this of Christ was a world’s wonder! O sun, hide thyself, hide thy face! O heavens, put on a mask of darkness! O angels, go down and dry the sweat off Him! O earth, tremble! O graves, open! O rocks, rent! Fools mock and laugh at sin, but Christ wept when He satisfied for it.
“Awake against my fellow.”—Christ who is equal with the Father, “the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature” (Col. 1:15), the “exact character”29* of His person; is the man who stands with God ever ready to do His work, and to run for us where ever the Lord bids Him. Hence learn, that Christ in nature is even the brightness of God’s glory, “the express image of His person” (Heb. 1:3). We see the printing iron leaves behind it every way, the print of itself; so the Lord from eternity brought forth another like Himself, the Second Person of the Trinity, stamped with that same glorious God-head, with all the essential properties that are in the Father. As the Father has life, so the Son has life in Himself. As all men honour the Father, so should they honour the Son. The brightness of God’s glory is a great word, a rare and great mystery. The glancing30† brightness coming from the sun, is not another sun; nor is the glancing brightness of a precious stone, another stone. And so it is here with Him. Because, all that is in God is God, and there is nothing in Him but what is in His nature; therefore the riches and beams of infinite glory, and that substantial glancing glory, and beauty in God, is God, and the very nature of God, and the same God with the Father. Only this substantial glancing of God’s glory, has subsistence in itself, to make it a person distinct from the Father; and, therefore, Christ is God, and co-equal with God in all things, carrying the substantial stamp and character of the God-head. Now, this glorious image, being the Lord’s delight from all eternity, He would not enjoy His alone,31* but put a copy of the God-head, as it were in print, on the flesh and blood of man, when The Word was made flesh, that we might take this fellow and companion of God, to be our fellow and companion. See, then, the dignity of the elect in Christ, that God and they are made one! are made one in such a manner that He has (so to speak) parted His own Son betwixt Himself and them. Take Him, take Him, then, with God’s blessing. God gave you Him with good will, take ye Him with heart and good will then.
“Smite the Shepherd.”—Smite Christ and the apostles shall be offended, run away and leave Him. Here is a command to the sword to set on Christ God’s Fellow and the chief Shepherd. Even Christ is arraigned before the judge, for the sins of men. Wherefore should this have been? We would have been stricken and condemned for ever, had not the Lord stricken and condemned His own Son. Here we have God taking the sacrifice of His Son, and letting us go. He knew that His Son would bear the strokes best. What reason had Christ to be stricken? He came but under the debt; might He not have gone free? No, no, as He came under the debt, He behoved to pay. Justice would not let Him away; but smote Him so, that indeed it struck the Lord’s soul from His body. You that live in sin, are ye not afraid when the God of glory got such a stroke? We make but sport of it, but God’s sword goes through flesh and bones, soul and body. Beware of a stroke of it out of Justice’s hand; for if ye get it ye will never do well again: ye will be like Moab, a broken and lame pot,32* and shall curse the day wherein ye were born (Jer. 20:15). “He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out; He hath made my chain heavy (Lam. 3:7).
“And the sheep shall be scattered.”—That is, The disciples shall flee away for fear, and shall start and fall at Christ’s sufferings; because they were thinking He should be an earthly king, and make them great men in the world. But they were all mistaken: for He came to get strokes, and not an earthly kingdom.
Doct. Observe here: The faith of the apostles, when Christ was taken, gets a crack; the back of it is near broken, and they are at the point of giving up with Christ, taking Him not to be the Redeemer of the children of Israel. O, but God’s children, in their way to heaven, get many sore backsets!33† Many sore trials have the people of God to encounter with. They are many times at that of it, that they know not what to do. What might the disciples now think, but Christ and they were separated never to meet again? “Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and holdest me for thine enemy?” (Job 13:24). Christ, the true heir, was put to this, What shall I do? “Now is,” says He, “My soul troubled, and what shall I say?” Howbeit He never doubted, though He was put to tears and strong cries. I think the saints, in their way to heaven, are like rash children, who get many a fall, and break their face twice a day. God will give them such a backset and fall under temptations, that their eyes will reel again, their hands grow weak, and their hearts faint; so that there is but as a hair-breadth, betwixt them and their giving up with God. Faith, as it were, goes through fire and water to heaven: or like a soldier going through an enemy’s camp, this one runs at him with a spear, another discharges a musket at him, one runs him through the arm or thigh, with a sword; another has well nigh put him off his horse, and he is very near surrendering; yet he spurs through, and at last gets away with his life. So the Christian warrior, however many hazards he may meet with, shall come off victorious at last. This may be a comfort for all under temptations and down-castings for their grievous sins. Ye sometimes cry, “No, but God loves me not; I am often doubting if the dead rise, if there be a heaven,” &c. These are backsets, but take ye no fear, give not over, all shall be well. Faith must not be like foolish people, to seek law-burrows34* of temptations. True faith is an herb that grows best in winter weather.