A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, February 11, 1872, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *9/6/2011
It was only a little way that I passed from them, but I found him
whom my soul loves: I held him, and would not let him go, until I had
brought him into my mother’s house, and into the room of her who
conceived me. I charge you, oh you daughters of Jerusalem, by the
roes, and by the hinds of the field, that you do not arouse nor
awaken my love, until he pleases. (So 3:4,5)
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1. Is it necessary to say that the Lord Jesus Christ is no longer corporeally present in his church? It ought not to be required to assert so obvious a truth; and yet it is important to do so, since there are some who teach that in what they are pleased to call “the Holy Sacrament” Christ is actually present in his flesh and blood. Such people unwittingly deny the real humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ, for if he has indeed assumed our humanity, and is in all points made like his brethren, his flesh and blood cannot be in two places at one time. Our bodily humanity could not be present in more places than one at a time, and if Christ’s humanity is like ours it cannot be in an unlimited number of places at once; in fact, it can only be in one place. We know from Scripture where that place is, for he sits at the right hand of God, waiting until his enemies are made his footstool. Unless you are to suppose that the humanity of Christ is something altogether different from ours, it cannot be here and there and everywhere; but to suppose that it is a different humanity from ours is to deny that he is incarnate in our nature. Our Lord Jesus told his disciples that he would go away, and he has gone away. He ascended into heaven, bearing humanity up to the throne of God. “He is not here, for he is risen.”
2. Remember, also, that because the Lord Jesus is absent corporeally, the Holy Spirit the Comforter is with us, for he especially said, “If I do not go away, the Comforter will not come to you: but if I depart, I will send him to you.” Those who believe that Christ’s flesh and blood are or can be present on earth, deny the presence of the Holy Spirit; for the Scripture is plain enough upon that point — that the bodily absence of our Lord is the cause and condition for the presence of the Comforter. If Jesus still lives corporeally upon the earth, then the Spirit of God is not upon the earth. Many other most serious errors follow from the supposition that the humanity of the Redeemer is present anywhere except at the right hand of God, even the Father; yet it is a supposition which lies at the basis of the sacramental system, and thousands are greatly enamoured by it.
3. No word of mine this morning is intended to have the remotest connection with any sacramental presence of the corporeal nature of our Lord; our mind has a far different matter before it. Let us, therefore, having guarded ourselves so as not to be misunderstood, proceed to speak about another presence of our blessed Lord. The fact is, that Christ Jesus, the Lord, is present in his church by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is today the representative of Christ in the midst of the church, and it is in the power and the energy of the Holy Spirit that Christ is always with us, and will be even to the end of the world. As God, Jesus is everywhere; as man, he is only in heaven; as God and man in one person, Mediator and Head of the Church, he is present with us by the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, whom the Father has sent in his name. It is by the working of the Spirit of God that Christ’s presence in the church is revealed; and we are to expect no other presence than that: we have the spiritual divine presence of the second person of the blessed Trinity, and the presence of Christ Jesus also in the power of his representative on earth, the Holy Spirit. This presence, not a bodily but a spiritual presence, is the glory of the church of God. When she is without it she is shorn of her strength; when she possesses it all good things ensue. Brethren, if a church is without the Spirit of God in it, it may have a name to live, but it is dead, and, you know, that after death there follows corruption, corruption which breeds foulness and disease. Hence, those churches which have turned aside to error, have not only lost all power to do good, but they have become obnoxious and the causes of great evil in the midst of the world. If any professing church does not remain in Christ it is cast out as a branch and is withered; and while it is decaying, it is injurious, and it is necessary for the world’s welfare that it is utterly destroyed. We must have Christ in the church, or the body which was meant to be the medium of the greatest good becomes the source of the grossest evil. Let the Spirit of God be in the church, then there is power given to all her ministries; whether they are ministries of public testimony in the preaching of the word, or ministries of holy love among the brethren, or ministries of individual earnestness to the outside world, they will all be clothed with energy, in the fulness of the power of the Lord Jesus. Then her ordinances become truly profitable, then baptism is burial with the Lord, and the sacred supper is a feast of love; then the communion of the brethren in their solemn prayer and praise becomes deep and joyful, and their whole life and walk are bright with the glow of heaven. In the presence of the Lord the graces of the saints are developed; the church grows rich in all spiritual gifts; her warfare becomes victorious, and her continual worship sweet as the incense of the golden censor. What the moon is to the night, or the sun to the day, or the Nile to Egypt, or the dew to the tender herb, or the soul to the human body, that is the presence of Jesus to his church. Give us the Spirit of God and we will ask for no endowments from the State, nor sigh for the prestige of princely patronage. Endow us, oh God, with the Holy Spirit, and we have all we need. The poverty of the members, their lack of learning, their lack of rank, all these shall be as nothing. The Holy Spirit can make amends for all deficiencies, and clothe his poor and obscure people with an energy at which the world shall tremble. This made the apostolic church mighty, she had the Holy Spirit poured out upon her: the lack of this made the medieval ages dark as midnight, for men contended about words and letters, but forgot the Spirit: the return of this inestimable blessing has given us every true revival: the working of the eternal Spirit, the presence of Christ in the midst of his people is the Sun of Righteousness arising with healing beneath his wings. This has been our confidence, as a church, these eighteen years, and if we are yet to see greater and better things, we must still rely on this same strength, the divine presence of Jesus Christ by the wonder working Spirit. “ ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord.”
4. It becomes then the great desire of every earnest Christian who loves the church of God, that Christ should be in the church, and that by his Spirit he should work wonders there, and I have selected this text with the view of stirring up the spiritually minded among you to seek so great a blessing. Let me endeavour, in opening up this blessed text, to show the means and the course of the necessary action if we wish to see the church revived by her Lord’s presence.
5. I. And first, we learn from the text that before we can ever bring the Well Beloved into our mother’s house, the church, WE MUST FIND HIM PERSONALLY FOR OURSELVES. We begin with that. “It was only a little way that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loves.”
6. How can we bring into the room of the church him whom we have not yet met ourselves? How can we communicate grace to others instrumentally, unless, first of all, we have received it into our own hearts? I am not now about to speak of the need of conversion; we all know that no spiritual act can be performed until we become spiritual men; but I am now speaking about something higher than mere conversion. If we wish to bless the church, we must ourselves occupy a higher platform than that of being merely saved; we must be believers, walking in fellowship with Christ, and having, in that respect, found him whom our soul loves. There are many believers who have only just enough grace to enable us to hope that they are alive; they have no strength with which to work for God’s cause, they do not have an arm to lend to the help of others, neither can they even see what would comfort others, for they are blind, and cannot see afar off, they need all their sight, and all their strength, for themselves. Those who are to bring the Well Beloved into our mother’s house, must be of another kind. They must get beyond the feebleness which is full of doubting and fearing, into the assurance which grasps the Saviour, and the fellowship which lives in daily communion with him. I know there are some such in this church, and I would single them out, and speak to them like this: “Brother, if you wish to bring Christ into the church which you love, then, first of all, your innermost soul must so love Christ, that you cannot live without his company.” This must be your cry: “Did you see him whom my soul loves?” and this must be the goal of your aspirations: “I have found him whom my soul loves.” It must not be talk, it must be soul love; it must not be a profession of affection for Jesus, but the innermost heart of our being must be moved by his name. The words are very strong, “him whom my soul loves”; as if though the spouse might love the daughters of Jerusalem, might love the watchmen of the city, might love them all in their place, yet her soul’s love, the essence of her love, her deepest, fondest, purest, and most real love, was all for him. Are there not such hearts here, virgin minds in whom Christ is first, last, midst, chief, and all in all? Oh, if there is, you are the men, you are the women, who, finding your Beloved, can bring him into the church. May God multiply your number, and may each of you have compassion on the languishing church of this chilly age, and labour to restore to her the glory which has faded from her brow. Pray for Laodicea in her lukewarmness, and Sardis in her spiritual death; but you will only prevail in proportion as your innermost soul loves the Redeemer and abides in his love.
7. These ardent lovers of Jesus must diligently seek him. The chapter before us says that the spouse sought him, sought him on her bed, sought him in the streets, sought him in the broad ways, sought him at last from the lips of the watchmen, sought him everywhere where he was likely to be found. We must enjoy the perpetual fellowship of Jesus. We who love him in our souls cannot rest until we know that he is with us. I fear that with some of us our sins have grieved him, and he has gone far off to “mountains of myrrh and hills of frankincense.” It may be our lax living, our neglect of prayer, or some other fault, has taken from us the light of his countenance. Let us resolve this morning that there shall be no rest for our souls until once again he has returned to us in the fulness of his revealed love, to live in our hearts. Seek him, brother, seek him, sister. He is not far from any of you, but do seek him with an intense longing for him, for until you do you are not the man to bring him into the assembly of the brethren. Labour to bring Jesus into the rooms of the church, but first be sure that you have him yourself, or your zeal will be hypocrisy.
8. In seeking our Lord we must use all ministries. The spouse enquired of the watchmen. We are not to despise God’s servants, for he is usually pleased to bless us through them, and it would be ungrateful both to him and to them to pass them by as useless. But, while we use the ministries, we must go beyond them. The spouse did not find her Lord through the watchmen; but she says, “It was only a little way that I passed from them, that I found him whom my soul loves.” I charge you, my dear hearers, never rest content with listening to me. Do not imagine that hearing the truth preached simply and earnestly will by itself be a blessing for your souls. Go far, far beyond the servant and pass on to the Master. May this be the longing of each heart, each Sunday, “Lord, give me fellowship with yourself.” True, we are led to see Jesus sometimes, and I hope often, through listening to the truth proclaimed, but, oh Lord, it is no outer court worship that will satisfy us; we want to come into the holy of holies and stand at the mercy seat itself. It is no seeing you from afar off and hearing about you that will satisfy our spirits, we must draw near to you, and see you as the world cannot. Like Simeon, we must take you into our arms or we cannot say that we have seen God’s salvation: like John, we must lean our heads upon his bosom or we cannot rest. Your apostles are good enough, your prophets good enough, your evangelists good enough; but oh, we feel constrained to go beyond them all, for we thirst after fellowship with you, our Saviour. Only those who feel like this will bless the church.
9. Notice, that we must search to the very utmost until we find our Beloved. The Christian must leave no stone unturned until he gets back his fellowship with Christ. If any sin obstructs the way, it must be rigorously given up; if there is any neglected duty, it must be earnestly discharged; if there is any higher walk of grace, which is necessary for continuous fellowship, we must ascend to it, fearing no hill of difficulty. We must not say, “There is a lion in the way” — if there are lions we must kill them; if the way is rough we must tread it; we must go on hands and knees if we cannot run; but we must attain to fellowship with Jesus; we must have Christ or pine until we do. We must make sacrifices and we must endure penalties, but we must come to Christ, for we are feeble when we are absent from him, and quite incapable of rendering any great service to the church, until once and for all we can say, “I found him, I held him, and I would not let him go.” Oh dear brothers and sisters, I know there are some of you who can enter into what I mean; but I wish that there were many more to whom the first thought of life was Christ Jesus. Oh, for more Enochs, men who walk with God, whose habitual spirit is that of close communion with Jesus, meditating upon him, yes, more than that, sympathizing with him, drinking in his spirit, changed into his likeness, living over again his life, because he is in them the monarch of their souls. Oh that we had a chosen band of elect spirits of this race, for surely the whole church would be revived through their influence; God, even our own God, would bless us; and we should see bright, halcyon days dawning for the bride of Christ. Here, then, is the first point: we must find the Lord Jesus for ourselves, or we cannot bring him into our mother’s house.
10. I would urge every believer here to ask himself a few questions, such as these: “Am I walking in constant fellowship with Christ? If I am not, why not? Is it that I am worldly? Is it that I am proud, or indolent, or envious, or careless? Am I indulging myself in any sin? Is there anything whatever that separates me from Christ my Lord?” Let this be the resolution of everyone of the Lord’s people: “From this time forward I will seek the Lord my Saviour, and I will not be satisfied until I can say, ‘I am coming up from the wilderness leaning upon the Beloved.’ ”
11. II. This brings us to the second point of the subject. If we wish to be a blessing to the church, and have already found Christ, WE MUST TAKE CARE TO RETAIN HIM. “I found him whom my soul loves; I held him, and I would not let him go.”
12. From this I learn that in order to be of great use to the church of God, it is required for those who commune with Christ to continue in that communion. How comparatively easy it is to climb to the top of Pisgah! It needs very a little effort; many bold and gracious spirits are fully up to it. But to stay there, to remain in that mountain, this is the difficulty. To come to Christ, and to sit down at his feet, is a simple enough thing for believers, and many of us have attained to it; but to sit day after day at the Master’s feet is quite another matter. Oh, could I always be as I sometimes am! Could I not only rise above but remain there! But, alas, our spiritual nature is too much like this weather — it is balmy today; one would think that spring or summer had come; but, perhaps, tonight we may be chilled with frost and tomorrow drenched with rain. Ah, how fickle our spirits are. We are walking with Christ, rejoicing, leaping for joy; and immediately the cold frosts of worldliness come over us, and we depart from him. You will never be strong to impart great blessings to others until you cease to wander, and learn the meaning of that text: “Abide in me.” Notice well, it is not “Look at me”; nor “Come near to me, and then go away from me,” but “Abide in me.” The branch does not leave the vine and then leap back again to the stem; you never saw a living branch of the vine roaming into the corners of the vineyard, or rambling over the wall; it remains connected with the parent stem at all times, and should it be the same with the Christian.
13. Notice that according to the text, it is very apparent that Jesus will go away if he is not held. “I held him and I would not let him go”; as if he would have gone if he had not been firmly held. When he met Jacob that night at the brook Jabbok, he said, “Let me go.” He would not go without Jacob’s letting him, but he would have gone if Jacob had loosened his hold. The patriarch replied, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” This is one of Christ’s ways and manners; it is one of the peculiarities of his character. When he walked to Emmaus with the two disciples, “he made as if he would have gone farther”: they might have known it was none other than the Angel of the Covenant by that very habit. He would have gone farther, but they constrained him, saying, “Stay with us for the day is far spent.” If you are willing to lose Christ’s company he is never intrusive, he will go away from you, and leave you until you know his value and begin to pine for him. “I will go,” he says, “and return to my place, until they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early.” He will go unless you hold him.
14. But notice, next, he is very willing to be held. Who could hold him if he were not? He is the omnipotent Saviour, and if he wanted to withdraw he could do so, no matter how we held onto him. But, notice his condescension. When his spouse said, “I held him, and I would not let him go,” he did not go, he could not go, for his love held him as well as her hands. Christ is willing to be held. He loves that sacred violence which takes him by force, that holy diligence which leaves not a gap open by which he may escape, but shuts every door, bars every bolt, and says, “I have you now and I will take care that if I lose you it shall be through no fault of mine.” Jesus is willing enough to be retained by hearts which are full of his love.
15. And, brethren, whenever you have Christ, please remember that you are able to hold him. She who held him in the Song of Solomon was no stronger than you are; she was only a feeble woman, poorly fed under the Old Testament time; you have drank the new wine of the new covenant, and you are stronger than she is. You can hold him, and he will not be able to go from you. “How,” you say, “shall I be able to hold him?” Oh, have you grasped him? Is he with you? Now, then, hold him firmly by your faith; trust him implicitly, rest in him for the cares of each day, for the troubles of every moment. Walk by faith and he will walk with you. Hold him also with the grasp of love. Let your whole heart go out towards him. Embrace him with the arms of mighty affection, enchain him with ardent admiration. Lay hold upon him by faith, and clasp him with love. Be also much in prayer. Prayer binds him with a chain. He never leaves the heart that prays. There is a sweet perfume about prayer that always attracts the Lord; wherever he perceives it rising up to heaven he will be there. Hold him, too, by your obedience to him. Never quarrel with him. Let him have his way. He will stay in any house where he can be master; he will not stay when another will lords it over his. Watch his words; be careful to obey them all. Be very tender in your conduct, so that nothing grieves him. Show to him that you are ready to suffer for his sake. I believe that where there is a prayerful, careful, holy, loving, believing walk towards Jesus, the fellowship of the saint with his Lord will not be broken, but it may continue for months and years. There is no reason, except in ourselves, why fellowship with Jesus should not continue throughout an entire life; and oh, if it did, it would make earth into heaven, and lift us up to the condition of angels, if not beyond them, and we should be the men who would bring Christ into the church, and through the church into the world. The church would be blest, and God would be glorified, and souls would be saved, if there were some among us who held him so, and would not let him go.
16. I want to call your attention to one thought before I leave this, and that is, the spouse says, “I held him.” Now, a great many people in the world are holding their creed, and if it is a correct one I hope they will hold it; but that is the main business of their religious life; they do nothing else except hold this doctrine or that. Hold it, brother, hold it: it would be a pity you should let it go if it is the truth, but still it is more important to hold your Lord. Certain others are engrossed in holding scriptural ordinances, and saying, “I hold this and I hold that.” Well, hold it brother; if it is God’s ordinance do not let it go. But, after all, if there is anything I hold above all else, I hold him. Is that not the best grip a soul ever gets, when she lays hold of Christ? “I held him and I would not let him go.” Ah, Lord, I may be mistaken about doctrine, but I am not mistaken about you. I may, perhaps, be staggered in my belief of some dogma which I thought was truth, but I am not staggered about you. Oh Son of God made flesh for me, you are all my salvation and all my desire: I rest only on you, without a shadow of mixture of any other hope, and I love you supremely, desiring to honour you and to obey you in life and until death. I hold you, oh Covenant Angel, and I will not let you go.
17. Dear friends! make this the goal of your life, that you hold him and will not let him go. You will be the kind of men to bless the church by leading the Well Beloved into her rooms, if you know how to remain in him yourselves.
18. III. It appears from the text that, after the spouse had found Christ for herself and held him, SHE BROUGHT HIM INTO THE CHURCH — “I brought him to my mother’s house.” We lovingly ought to remember the church of God.
19. By the Holy Spirit we were begotten to newness of life, but it was in the church, and through the preaching of the word there that we were brought into the light of life. Most of us owe our conversion to some earnest teacher of the truth in the church of God, or to some of those godly works which were written by Christian men. Through the church’s instrumentality the Bible itself has been preserved for us, and by her the gospel has been preached to every age. She is our mother and we love her. I know that many of you, dear friends, the members of this church, love the church, and you can say, “If I forget you, let my right hand forget her cunning.” When you are away from this place, and cannot join in our solemn assemblies, your heart mourns like one in banishment. Have I not heard you cry, “Ziona, Ziona, our holy and beautiful house, where we have worshipped our God, the house which is built of living stones, among whom Christ himself is the cornerstone, even your church, oh Jesus: oh that I were in her midst again, and could once more unite my praises with those who dwell within her.” Yes, and because we love our mother’s house and the place where we were conceived, we desire to bring Christ into the church more and more. Did I hear a harsh but honest voice exclaim, “But, I find much fault with the church?” Brother, if you love her, you will go backward and cast a mantle over all. But, suppose your candour is compelled to see faults in her; then there is so much the more need of her Lord’s presence in her to cure those faults. The more sickly she is, the more she needs him to be her strength and her physician. I say, therefore, to you, dear friend, above all things, seek to bring Christ into an imperfect church, and a weak church, and an erring church, so that she may become strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.
20. I have shown you by whom it must be — by those who have found him, and who hold him; and now we will mention the methods by which our blessed Lord can be brought into his church. The saints can bring him in by their testimony. I hope that often Christ is here when I have borne testimony to you of his power to save, of his atoning blood, of his exaltation in heaven, of the perfection of his character, and of his willingness to save. Many a Sunday his name has been like ointment poured out in this place. Is there any subject that so delights you as what touches upon Christ? Is that not the rarest string in all the harp of scriptural truth? Well, every true minister, by bearing witness for Christ, helps to bring him into the church.
21. But, others can do it by their prayers. There is a mysterious efficacy in the prayers of men who dwell near to God. Even if they were confined to their beds, and do nothing except pray, they would pour benedictions upon the church. We want our dear sick friends to get well and come among us at once in full health; but I do not know, I do not know; they may be of more service to the church where they are. “You who make mention of the Lord do not keep silent, and give him no rest day nor night, until he establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.” Now, if there were not some saints kept awake at night by sickness to pray, we should not so fully realise that word, “Give him no rest day nor night.” Some of those dear ones, whose faces we miss from among us, keep up the perpetual ministry of intercession. Their incense of prayer goes up at all hours; when most of us are soundly asleep they are compelled to be awake, and therefore are still led to pray. It is not possible for us to tell how many blessings come down upon the church of God through the prayers of his feeble saints; but I believe if all of us were to set apart a special time for praying and pleading with Christ that he would come into his church, then it would not be long before we saw a wonderful effect resulting from those pleadings. Wrestling prayers bring Christ into the innermost rooms of the church of God. Let us test the power of prayer.
22. And, there is no doubt, dear brethren, that Christ is often brought into the church by the example of those eminent saints who abide in Christ. You know what I mean. There is a very manner and air about some Christian men which honours Christ, and benefits his people. They may not be gifted in speech, but their very spirit speaks, they are so gentle, loving, tender, earnest, truthful, upright, and gracious. Their paths, like the paths of God himself, drop fatness. They are the anointed of the Lord, and you perceive it. Perhaps you could not say that this virtue or that is very prominent, but it is the combination; it is their life at home, their life in public, their church life, their private life, their entire conduct makes you see that the Holy Spirit is in them, and when they come into the church they bring the Spirit of God with them, and so are a great means of blessing to all with whom they associate. I do pray, brethren, that in some way or other, each one of us may try to bring Jesus Christ into the midst of his own people. I am afraid there are some who on the contrary are driving him away — church members that, instead of blessing the church, are a curse to it. I see a great heap before me — a vast heap that God has gathered through my instrumentality; but the winnowing fan is going, and the chaff is flying. Are you, dear friends, among the chaff or the wheat? Are you seed for the sower, or fuel for the unquenchable flame? Oh! live near to Christ; live in Christ; may Christ live in you; then you will enrich the church of God; but if you do not, but only make a profession of love with your lips, what shall I say to you? I mourn over you. Take heed of living a weak life — a life without God in it — a life without Christ in it — a life which a Pharisee might live. Seek to live the life of a true born child of God, lest you hinder the church’s usefulness, and deprive her of her Lord’s presence.
23. IV. This leads me to the last point, which is this, to CHARGE THE CHURCH THAT SHE IS CAREFUL NOT TO DISTURB THE LORD’S REPOSE, if we have been enabled by divine grace to bring the Lord into the rooms of our mother’s house. “I charge you, oh you daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes and by the hinds of the field, that you do not arouse nor awaken my love, until he pleases.”
24. Observe, then, that the Lord Jesus in his church is not indifferent to the conduct of his people. We are not to suppose that because the sin of all God’s elect is pardoned, therefore it is of little consequence how they live. By no manner of means. The Master of this great house is not blind nor deaf, neither is he a person who is utterly indifferent concerning how the house is managed; on the contrary, just as God is a jealous God, so is Christ a jealous husband to his church. He will not tolerate in her what he would tolerate in the world. She lies near his heart, and she must be chaste for him. What a solemn work the Lord did in the early church. That story of Ananias and Sapphira — it is often used most properly to illustrate the danger of lying; but that is not the point of the narrative. Ananias and Sapphira were members of the church at Jerusalem, and they did not lie to men, which would have been sin enough, but in lying to the church officers they lied to God, and the result was their sudden death. Now, you are not to suppose that this was a solitary case. Wherever there is a true church of God, the judgments of God are always going on in it. I speak now not only what I have read, but what I have known and seen with my eyes; what I am as sure of as I am sure of any fact in history. The apostle Paul, speaking of the same in his day, said that in a certain church there was so much sin that many were weak and sickly among them, and many slept; that is to say, there was great sickness in the church, and many died. Judgments are begun in the house of God and are always going on there. I have seen men in the church who have walked at a distance from God, who have been visited with severe chastisements; others who have been of hot and proud spirit, have been terribly humbled; and some who have arrogantly touched God’s ark, and the doom of Uzzah has befallen them. I have seen it and know it. And so it always will be. The Lord Jesus Christ looking around his church, if he sees anything evil in it, will do one of two things; either he will go right away from his church because the evil is tolerated there, and he will leave that church to be like Laodicea, to go on from bad to worse, until it becomes no church at all; or else he will come and he will trim the lamp, or to use the metaphor of the fifteenth chapter of John, he will prune the vine branch and with his knife will cut off this member, and the other, and cast them into the fire; while, as for the rest, he will cut them until they bleed again, because they are fruit bearing members, but they have too much wood, and he wants them to produce more fruit. It is not a trifling matter to be in the church of God. God’s fire is in Zion and his furnace in Jerusalem. “His fan is in his hand, and he shall thoroughly purge” — what? The world. Oh no, “his floor,” the church. And then, again, “he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he shall purify” —— what? The heathen nations. No, “the sons of Levi” — his own people. So that Christ is not indifferent to what is going on in the church, and it is required that when he comes to the church to take his repose, and solace himself there, we should not arouse nor awaken him until he pleases.
25. But many things will drive our Lord away, and these shall have our closing words. Dear fellow members of this church, may each one of us be more watchful lest the Bridegroom should withdraw from us. He will go away if we grow proud. If we are boastful, and say, “There is some reason why God should bless us,” and should begin to speak disparagingly towards weaker brethren, the Lord will let us know that “not to us, not to us, but to his name shall be all the glory.”
26. Again, if there is a lack of love among us, the Lord of love will be offended. The holy dove does not love scenes of strife; he frequents the calm still waters of brotherly love. There the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore, where brethren live together in unity. If any of you have half a harsh thought towards another, get rid of it; if there are the beginnings of anything like jealousy, quench the sparks. “Stop strife,” says Solomon, “before it is meddled with,” as if he said, “End it before you begin it,” which, although it seems strangely paradoxical, is most wise advice. “Little children love one another.” “Walk in love as Christ also has loved us.” May discord be far from us.
27. Notice the beautiful imagery of the text. “I charge you by the roes and the hinds of the field.” In ancient times gazelles were often tamed, and were the favourite companions of eastern ladies: the gazelle might be standing near its mistress, fixing its loving eyes upon her, but if a stranger clapped his hands it would hurry away. The roes and hinds “of the field” are even more jealous things, a sound will startle them, even the breath of the hunter tainting the air puts them to speedy flight. Even so it is with Jesus. A little thing, a very little thing, will drive him from us, and it may be many a day before our repentance shall be able to find him again. He has suffered so much from sin that he cannot endure the approach of it. His pure and holy soul abhors the least taint of iniquity.
28. Let us gather from the text that there are some things in the true church which give our Lord rest. He is represented here as though he slept in the church, “That you do not arouse nor awaken my love until he pleases.” Wherever he sees true repentance, real faith, holy consecration, purity of life, chastity of love, there Christ rests. I believe he finds no sweeter happiness even in heaven than the happiness of accepting his people’s prayers and praises. Our love is very sweet to him; our deeds of gratitude are very precious, the broken alabaster boxes of self-sacrifices done for him are very fair in his esteem. He finds no rest in the world, he never did; but he finds sweet rest in the hearts of his faithful ones. He loves to come into a pure church, and there to say, “I am at home. I will declare your name to my brethren: I will praise you in the midst of the congregation.”
29. Let us be very watchful, too, against all impurity. Anything like uncleanness in a Christian will soon send the Master away from the church. You know what it was that brought the evil upon the house of Eli. It was because his sons made themselves vile even at the tabernacle door. The young people in that case were the immediate cause of the mischief, but it was the fault of the older ones that they did not restrain them. Watch against all evil passions and corrupt desires. Be holy even as your Father who is in heaven is holy.
30. And then, again, a lack of prayer will send him away. There are members of some churches who never come to the prayer meetings, and I should be afraid that their private prayers cannot be any too earnest. Of course we do not speak of those who have good excuses; but there are some who habitually and wilfully neglect the assembling of themselves together; these are worthy of condemnation. Oh, let us continue a prayerful church as we have been so far, otherwise the Master may say, “They do not value the blessing, for they will not even ask for it; they obviously do not care about my Spirit, for they will not meet together and cry for him.” Do not grieve him by any such negligence of prayer.
31. So, too, we may grieve the Spirit by worldliness. If any of you who are rich get to imitate the fashions of the world and act as worldlings do, you cannot expect the Lord to bless us. You are Achans in the camp, if such is the case. And if you who are poor get to be envious of others and speak harshly of others to whom God has given more substance than to you, that again will grieve the Lord. You know how the children of Israel in the wilderness provoked him, and their provocation mostly took the form of murmuring; they complained about this and that: if they had the manna they wanted flesh, and if they had water gushing from the rock they wanted to have even more. I urge you by the heart of mercies that are in Christ Jesus, by all the compassion he has revealed towards us, by the high love he deserves from us, since he laid down his life for us, by your allegiance to him as your King, by your trust in him as your Saviour, by your love for him as the Bridegroom of your souls, “Do not arouse nor awaken my love until he pleases.”
Let me ask you to be more in prayer; let me urge you to live nearer
to him; let me entreat you for the church’s sake, and for the world’s
sake, to be more thoroughly Christ’s than you ever have been; and may
the power of the Holy Spirit enable you in this. I do not fear lest I
should lose what I have accomplished, for God will establish the work
of our hands upon us, but still I do ask him daily in prayer that
this church may not be found in years to come to be a building of
wood, and hay, and stubble, that shall be consumed in the fire of
heresy or discord, or some other testing flame which God may allow to
come upon it; but oh, may you, my beloved brothers and sisters, be
gold, and silver, and precious stones, so that the workman at the
last is saved himself, may not have to suffer loss, nor the Master be
dishonoured in the eyes of men. May you stand as a sparkling pile of
precious gems, inhabited by the eternal Spirit, to the praise and the
glory of his grace, by which he has made us accepted in the Beloved.
[Portion of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Joh 15; So 3]