« AnteriorContinua »
asunder, but that really they will not come near this gate of wisdom? They will not think on their case.
2. Christian conference about spiritual matters. Hence we read of this being practised in a very declining time; Mal. iii. 16, "Then they that feared the Lord, spake often one to another. This was the gate at which the two disciples found and met with Christ; Luke xxiv. 32, "Did not our hearts burn within us," say they, "while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures ?" As two cold flint stones struck one upon another produce fire; so doth spiritual conference sometimes warm cold hearts; Cant. v. 8, 9, and vi. 1. Meetings for Christian fellowship have been meeting-places with Christ to many; the due consideration whereof might well encourage and stir up Christians to a more frequent attendance upon them.
3. Singing of the Lord's praises. This is a commanded duty; Eph. v. 18, 19—"Be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." What made David so frequently to wait on about this gate, but that he knew the King used to come forth that way? Here Paul and Silas got a joyful meeting with Christ even in a prison; Acts xvi. 25, 26. It is pity, that people should treat it as a blind gate, at which they never look for the Lord to come forth. But in the experience of the Lord's people he is to be found there. The heavenly melody sometimes melts hard hearts, elevates drooping souls, and fills them with glowing affection to Christ.
4. Prayer. It is called seeking of God, and is the highway to find him. It has a large promise; Matth. vii. 7, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you;" and it has been the gate of heaven to many a soul. It is a four-leaved gate, and at every one of the leaves the King has shewn himself to poor sinners. (1.) Public prayer, at which Lydia got her heart opened; Acts xvi. 13, 14. (2.) Private prayer, whether in one's family; Acts x. 30, or otherwise in society with others privately; Acts xii. 12. This social prayer has a large promise made to it; Matth. xviii. 19, "I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth, as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven." (3.) Secret prayer. Many a soul has found Christ there. There Jacob got the blessing; Gen. xxxii. 24. There Daniel beheld the King in his glory, and obtained favour; Dan. ix. 22. This has many a time made the corner of a barn, byre, or dyke-side, a Bethel, a Peniel; and these are more esteemed than a king's palace, by the children of God. (4.)
Ejaculatory prayer. This has many times suddenly opened, to the soul's finding of Christ. So it did with Moses; Exod. xiv. 15, "Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward ;" and with Nehemiah, chap. ii. 4. No wonder they do not find him, that watch not at this gate.
5. The word. This is the most patent door of heaven, at which the King usually comes forth to his attendants, that come to wait on him there. It is a two-leaved gate. (1.) The word read, Rev. i. 3, "Blessed is he that readeth." Augustine hearing a voice, Take up and read, opened Rom. xiii. 12, 13, and was converted. Junius was brought to Christ by reading John i. (2.) The word preached, 1 Cor. i. 21,-"It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. This is a well of salvation at which three thousand persons at a time drank and lived, Acts ii. 41. The eunuch met with Christ at this gate, where the one, viz. hearing the word, opened after the other, viz. reading the word; and he found favour with the Lord.
6. Lastly, The sacraments, baptism and the Lord's supper. These are sealing ordinances, in which many have had sensible communion with Jesus Christ. It is true, the first finding of him is not to be expected here; but though they are not converting, they are confirming ordinances; and as such, happy means of strengthening the believer's faith and love, and increasing his acquaintance with Christ.
II. In order to confirm this doctrine, consider,
1. The ordinances are by Christ's own appointment the trystingplaces, wherein he has promised to be found of those that seek him ; Exod. xx. 24, "In all places where I record my name, I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee." So that coming thither to wait on him, they may expect to find him there. It is the divine appointment put upon them, which is accompanied with a blessing, that gives ground of hope in the case. By this they are,
(1) Trysting places for sinners; where they may be convinced, converted, and regenerated; James i. 18, "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth." These are the pools where the Spirit troubles the water for the cure of sinners of their deadly soul diseases. And there Christ and the sinner meet, for making up the spiritual match. (2.) Trysting places for saints; where they may receive life more abundantly, 1 Pet. ii. 2, 3. In them he keeps his Jower table for the feeding of those to whom he has given life. They are the inns in the way to Immanuel's land; the pools in the way to Zion, the wells of salvation.
2. They are the places wherein his people seek him, who know best where he is to be found. When the spouse had lost sight of her
beloved, she goes to the ordinances to seek him; Cant. iii. 2, "I will rise now," says she, "and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth." And they are the places where his people have found him, and do find him; Cant. vii. 5, "The king is held in the galleries." So it is even as natural to them to go to these duties and ordinances when they would see him, as for a child to seek out the mother, in the place where she is wont to be. And when they find him not in one duty, they go to another, till going the little further they find him.
3. They are what the Lord has allowed his people to supply the want of heaven, until they come there; the tabernacle set up in the wilderness, till they get the temple in Canaan. And therefore they must last till then and no longer; Eph. iv. 11, 12, 13, " And he gave some, apostles; and some prophets; and some evangelists: and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." When John saw the new Jerusalem, he made that observe on it; Rev. xxi. 22, "I saw no temple therein; for the Lord God Almighty, and the Lamb, are the temple of it." But they could not supply that place, unless Christ were there; but he is there; Matth. xxviii. ult., "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." Cant. iv. 6, "Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of
III. Lastly, I come now to apply this doctrine.
USE I. Of reproof. It reproves,
1. Those who slight attendance on ordinances, public, private, or secret. It is much to be lamented that there are so many who do so, and that so little prevails with many to do it. Ah! sirs, if ye look on this practice in its true colours, it is a slighting of Christ, and an opportunity of meeting with him. It is a breaking of the appointment which the Son of God has made with you; and if the appointment be broken must not the business you have with him stick?
2. Those who will come to ordinances to meet with some that they have worldly business with. They will come to the church on the Lord's day, because they have somebody to meet there, perhaps a servant to bespeak, &c. This is a grossly profane abuse of the ordinances of the Lord; a turning of that which Christ appointed for the service of your souls, to the service of your lusts; a turning of that which is appointed for your eternal interest into your carnal interests. What will these say, when Christ rises up to plead with them at the
great day? when they shall hear, that his being to be found there, could not bring them there; but they would go for fellow-worms, to transact business with them?
3. Those who come to ordinances, but seek not to find Christ there; of such the Lord speaks; Isa. xxix. 13, "This people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do they honour me, but have removed their heart far from me." How many go to prayers, sermons, &c., who have it not in their view to meet with Christ in them? So they come away without him, and they do not mourn because they find him not; and how can they be so affected, since it was not their errand to meet with him?
4. Those who stand in the way of others attending on ordinances. The effect of this is to keep them out of Christ's way, and to hinder their keeping appointment with the Son of God; by which they become answerable for all the damage that thereupon ensues to the souls of such; Luke xi. 52, "Wo unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge; ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in, ye hindered..
USE II. Seek Christ in ordinances, and come to them with a design to find Christ there. When ye go to read the word, to secret duties, or family duties, or public ordinances, think with yourselves, "I am going to wisdom's gates, O shall I not see the King's face? find the smell of his garments, get some communion with Christ?" When Mary missed him in his grave, she could not be satisfied with a vision of angels, but wept on, till she found him, John xx. 11-16. O that there were such a heart in us! For motives to enforce this exhortation, consider,
1. He is well worth the seeking. "He that findeth Christ, findeth life." If his transcendent beauty and peerless excellencies were known, we could not but seek him till we had found him; John iv. 10, "If thou knewest the gift of God," says Christ to the woman of Samaria, "and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldst have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water." They that find him are made up for time andeternity. When ye come to ordinances, know ye where ye are? Ye are upon a beautiful field, and it may be your own. Ye see the surface of it, but know ye what is in the bowels of it? A treasure, and Christ is that treasure, Matth. xiii. 44. The ordinances are the earthen vessels, but there is a treasure in them, 2 Cor. iv. 7.
2. That is what the people of God have been seeking, and are intent upon in ordinances, in all ages, however careless the blind world has been about it. And they sought always again, because they had once found; they still desired to drink of that fountain,
after they had once tasted of it. Hence says David; Psalm xxvii, 4, "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord, all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple. Psalm Ixiii. 2, "My flesh longeth for thee, to see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. When Jacob found himself engaged with Christ, how intent was he? Gen. xxxii. 24, "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me." This has made them follow ordinances to the fields and the mountains, at the hazard of their lives by persecutors; and they thought all hardships little enough, to find Christ in them.
3. What avail ordinances, if ye do not find Christ in them? Upon this consideration, we should take Moses' protestation before we go to them; Exod. xxxiii. 15, "If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence." They are but empty husks without him, and cannot feed the soul; he is the marrow and sap of them; John vi. 63, "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." Mary met with a disappointment, when she saw two angels in the sepulchre, but Christ himself was away. Should the man that has a petition for life, be brought before the chair of state, but his prince not in; would he not say, "Alas! it is the king alone himself that can do my business;" so here, when the soul seeks Christ, ordinances alone will not satisfy it; no, the man wants to enjoy Christ in them, as he alone is suited to his case.
4. Lastly, It is a great pity ye should not meet, when the parties have come so far on the appointment. And,
(1.) Most of you come hither from a considerable distance; it is pity you should forget your errand when ye are come. Ye come too far for nothing; the pains and toil of waiting on ordinances, I think, should even stir you up to think with yourselves, “ What am I at this pains for? what am I seeking? shall I make nothing for my soul by it?"
(2.) But Christ came farther for it than any of you to keep this appointment, and it cost him infinitely dearer than it does of any you. It cost him a long journey from heaven to earth; to sweat drops of blood, and to lose his precious life on a cross, ere there could be a possibility of your meeting with him in ordinances. And now when he is come, shall the meeting misgive betwixt him and your souls? But I must proceed to consider,
DOCT. II. People may come to ordinances, and yet not find Christ. One may be found at Christ's palace gates, and yet never see the King come forth; as Absalom did in another case.
Here I shall give the reasons why it is so, and then apply the point.