A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, September 25, 1881, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *4/15/2013
“And it shall come to pass, when you are multiplied and increased in the land, in those days,” says the Lord, “they shall say no more, ‘The ark of the covenant of the Lord’: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more.” [Jer 3:16]
1. The first text speaks concerning the material ark. I should like to append to the other, which speaks of the ark spiritually, and tells us where its antitype is to be found.
And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in
his temple the ark of his testament (or covenant). [Re 11:19]
For other sermons on this text:
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1621, “Ark of the Covenant, The” 1621]
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2427, “Ark of His Covenant, The” 2428]
2. When inward piety is low the externals of religion are frequently extolled. Those who know nothing about God are the very people to exclaim concerning themselves and their brethren, “The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, are these.” The Pharisees, who were furthest from God, were the most bitter advocates of ritualism and formalism; they would not even have a man healed on the Sabbath day, or allow the hungry to rub a few ears of grain out of the husks. It is not always so; but yet too often, “The nearer to the church the further from God.” The more gown, the less grace. The more phylactery, the less sanctity. The more of ecclesiasticism, the less of true godliness. On the other hand, whenever the Spirit of God is largely poured out, although the ordinances of God are carefully attended to, yet as external things they are sure to be put into their proper place, and that proper place is a secondary one. The spiritual is put foremost and the ritualistic is placed hindmost when grace is largely given. It was so with David in the fifty-first Psalm: when he had made a hearty confession of his sin, and cried to God for mercy, be uttered those memorable words, “You do not desire sacrifice; otherwise I would give it: you do not delight in burnt offerings.” He sets aside the symbol because he has a clear view of the substance. That is exactly the case with the people mentioned in my text: they had been sadly sinful; but God in his mercy promised to turn to them, and to bless them, and bring them back into their own land again, and he says — “ ‘And I will give you pastors according to my heart, who shall feed you with knowledge and understanding. And it shall come to pass, when we are multiplied and increased in the land, in those days,’ says the Lord, ‘they shall say no more, "The ark of the covenant of the Lord": neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more.’ ” The visible golden ark, which was so much their glory, should be quite forgotten, because of the gracious visitation of God. That shall be our subject this morning.
3. First, I shall invite your attention to the symbol reverenced; secondly, we shall see that reverence obliterated; and, thirdly, we shall dwell upon that reverence transferred; for though we no longer revere the ancient ark of shittim wood overlaid with pure gold, we do honour to that for-ever-enduring ark of which we read in our second text — “The temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his covenant.”
4. I. First, then, let us think upon THE SYMBOL REVERENCED.
5. The ark of the covenant was a small chest not longer than four feet and a half in length by about two feet eight inches in width. It was made of an enduring kind of wood, and was covered with pure gold both within and without. Upon the upper part of it was a golden crown, into which fitted a solid slab of gold, which formed the lid of the ark. That golden lid was called the propitiatory or mercy seat; in the Hebrew, Kapporeth, or a place of covering. Upon the two ends of this mercy seat, and part and parcel of the same solid metal, were two cherubs, with outstretched wings. The Lord said of them, “And the cherubims shall stretch out their wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look at each other; the faces of the cherubims shall be towards the mercy seat.” Between those wings, when God was favourable to his people, the bright light, called the Shekinah, was accustomed to shine out: and when, once in the year, the high priest went into the innermost place, bearing with him a cloud of incense and sprinkling the blood, he saw the glory of that light.
6. This ark was the object of great reverence, and very fitly so, because it symbolised God’s presence, the presence of Jehovah, the living God, in the midst of his people. They saw no similitude, for what likeness can there be of him who fills all in all? But they knew that God’s excellent glory shone above the mercy seat, and they thought of the ark in connection with the Lord, as David did, when he said, “You and the ark of your strength.” It was, therefore, a thing greatly to be reverenced, for God was there. To no other people had God given such a sign of his presence. He walked in the midst of no other camp; but he had said of Israel, “My Spirit shall go with you.” It was the first article of the tabernacle concerning which Moses received instructions, for, indeed, it was the first in honour. Read the twenty-fifth chapter of Exodus, and see how speedily the Lord who gave the law provided a chest for its honourable preservation. Although Solomon made most of the furniture of the holy place anew he retained the same ark, which was too much esteemed to be changed. When it was carried abroad in the marchings of the Israelites it always went in front, and it was distinguished from all the other furniture by being covered externally with blue, as if to indicate its heavenly character. Lifted high on men’s shoulders, upon golden staves, the blue coloured wrapping of the ark was seen in the vanguard of the Lord’s host occupying the place of honour. We do not wonder, therefore, that it was much spoken of and esteemed by the tribes of Israel.
7. That presence of God meant blessing; for God was with his people in love for them. The Lord does not reside with his enemies, but with his chosen. As long as he gave the sign of his presence it was a sign that he had not cast them off as hopeless. He still heard their prayers and granted them his favours; for he still remained in residence among them while his mercy seat was in the holy place. When the ark went into the house of Obededom for a time the Lord blessed the house of Obededom, for the sake of the ark of the Lord. Therefore David was encouraged to bring up the ark into his own city, and he did so with gladness, which he expressed by dancing before the Lord with all his might. Well, then, might the people speak of it, and think of it, and visit it, and magnify it, because it brought blessing to them.
8. The ark was held in reverence by the Israelites because it was their leader. When the time came to march through the wilderness the ark went in the forefront. How often did Moses cry, “Rise up, Lord, and let your enemies be scattered,” and on they went across the pathless desert accurately led by this ark of the covenant. When they came to the brink of Jordan, as soon as the feet of the priests who carried the ark touched the waters, the river was parted, and they went through dry shod. It was so trusted in that they carried the ark on one occasion into the battlefield, when God was not with them, and the golden chest was carried into captivity to vindicate its own honour among the Philistines, by striking its captors with severe diseases, and breaking in pieces Dagon, their god. It was a wonderful ark when God was with it. It was such a symbol of power that we do not wonder that when David brought it up to Mount Zion all the people shouted, and with sound of trumpet celebrated its triumphal march. It was also so much a symbol of holiness that Solomon removed Pharaoh’s daughter out of the city of David, for he said, “My wife shall not dwell in the house of David, king of Israel, because the places are holy, where the ark of the Lord has come.”
9. In Solomon’s day the ark was finally installed in the temple, and the king placed over it two greater cherubim, ten cubits high, with outspread wings. These were made of olive wood overlaid with gold, and probably covered the entire structure of the chest and the smaller cherubim, which were component parts of it. Then they drew out the staves of the ark, indicating that there the ark was to remain; but they left the ends of the staves visible, to show that God might still depart from them if they sinned against him. In the temple the ark rested until the time of the captivity, and from that time it was no more heard of, and possibly never appeared again in the temple that was built by Zerubbabel or in what was enlarged and beautified by Herod.
10. The ark was to the Israelites, after their wanderings were over, the fixed centre of their nationality, even as while they were in the wilderness it had always been placed in the centre of the camp. In the desert it had been the central kernel of the whole army. Outside the ark was the tabernacle or holy place, and outside of that, in various rows and orders, were the tents of the tribes; but the core of it all was this honoured ark. Today we have a centre to which we rally, a fixed centre which faith perceives in heaven, where the true ark of the covenant has gone up.
11. Do not marvel that the men of Judah paid great reverence to this ark when in so many ways it was a sign for good to them. What they did to this ark is mentioned in the text. First, they recognised it as the ark of the covenant of the Lord. They were accustomed to say, “The ark of the covenant of the Lord.” They spoke much of it, and prided themselves upon the possession of it. Indeed, they not only spoke of it, but they loved it; for we read, “Neither shall it come to mind,” or as the margin has it, “Neither shall it come upon the heart.” The ark of the covenant was upon the hearts of God’s people; they had a deep affection for it. When it was carried away captive we read of a godly woman who was seized with sudden labour pains at the news, while the aged Eli fell backward with horror at the tidings. It was very dear to the people of God, and if it was taken away they thought that the glory was departed from them.
12. Hence, in the next place, they remembered it, as the text plainly informs us. If they were captives they prayed in the direction in which the ark was located; wherever they wandered they thought of God and of the chest which represented his presence.
13. Next, they visited it. On certain holy days they came from Dan and from Beersheba, even from the utmost ends of their land, in joyful companies, singing from stage to stage, and making a joyful holiday as they went up to the place where God dwelt between the cherubim. When they came back they rejoiced because they had worshipped before the ark of the covenant, even before the presence of the Most High God.
14. Visiting it, they were accustomed also to speak highly of it; for in the margin of your Bibles you will find, “Neither shall they magnify it any more.” They used to tell to each other what the ark had done; the glory that shone out from it, the acceptance of the offering whose blood was sprinkled upon it on the Day of Atonement, and the testimony which was heard from between the cherubic wings. They would tell how the ark divided the Jordan, how it laid the walls of Jericho level with the ground, how it killed the prying men of Bethshemesh and Uzzah, who laid presumptuous hands upon it, and how the glory of the Lord came upon it and filled the temple so that the priests could not stand to minister. They would not cease to sing about their God and the ark of his strength; for the ark of the covenant was honoured in Israel.
15. II. Secondly, I would have you observe THAT REVERENCE OBLITERATED.
16. They were to say no more, “The ark of the covenant of the Lord.” Yet that fact was to be a blessing. Observe that the words are not spoken as a threatening, but as a gracious promise. Now, this cannot merely mean that they would be without the ark; for they would certainly understand that to be a sign of divine anger. Neither would the mere absence of the ark fulfil the prophet’s words; for if the ark were gone they would still remember it, and their hearts would hanker after it. If they could not visit it, it would still come to their minds, and they would speak of it. It was somehow to be a blessing to them that they should speak no more of the ark of the covenant, for the text was delivered in the form of a promise. The fact is they were to be finished with the symbol because the substance would come. They were no more to speak of the ark itself, because they would have what the ark was intended to foreshadow. Bear with me with great patience this morning while I try to interest you in the points in which our blessed Lord Jesus Christ is the ark of the covenant now in the temple of God for us.
17. Our Lord Jesus by his coming has put out of his people’s thoughts the material ark of the covenant, because its meaning is fulfilled in him; and this, first, in the sense of preservation. The ark was intended to be a sacred treasury in which God laid up the two tables of stone upon which the law was written, so that they might be kept there as priceless things, not to be commonly handled or even seen, but kept there as the most precious gifts of heaven. We do not know where the tablets are now, and we do not know what has become of the golden chest; but where is the law now? Once it lay broken at your feet and mine, even as the tables were shattered at the feet of Moses. When Moses takes the tables of the law into his hand he soon grows angry with the sinful people, and he breaks them to pieces at the foot of the mount. But where is the law now? In Christ, for “he is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” “How I love your law,” says David. David knew where the law was, and where it could become an object of love, even in the hand of a mediator. The law apart from Christ is a terror to our guilty souls, because it is a law broken, and therefore condemning; but the law in Christ Jesus, honoured and fulfilled by him, is a delightful sight to true worshippers. In him the law is more honoured than by any merely human obedience, and it smiles upon us as if we had perfectly obeyed it. The law fulfilled is our confidence as much as the law violated was our dread. We think nothing of the ark now, and we think nothing of the tablets of stone; but we do think everything of Christ Jesus, “who is made by God righteousness to us”; for he has completely kept the law; for he said, “Your law is within my heart.” It was not within his heart alone, but within all his life; his whole thoughts, words, and acts went to make up a golden chest in which the precious treasure of the perfect law of God should be contained. Oh come, let us magnify his blessed name.
18. Next, the ark signified propitiation; for over the top of the sacred box which held the two tables of the law was the slab of gold called the mercy seat, which covered all. We will not talk about that golden covering now, but we will speak of Jesus, our blessed Lord, who covers all. When God looks down upon his law, he does not see it nakedly, but he sees it in the person of his Son. He sees it there perfectly preserved without taint or flaw of any kind, and he rejoices in it. You and I magnify the Lord that instead of having a naked law to look at, which would flash devouring flame upon us, we see the law in Christ covered with mercy, fulfilled by love on our behalf. We often speak of the mercy seat; but do we, as often as we should, remember that Jesus Christ himself is that mercy seat? There is no mercy seat to which we can draw near in prayer except the Lord Jesus Christ himself, who is the propitiation for our sins, and through whom our supplications are accepted. “Ah,” said the Jew, “we have a mercy seat that covers all.” “Ah,” we say, “but we have one who does not do that typically, and in outward pattern alone, but he is the real covering upon which we lay our prayers and thanksgivings, and find ourselves accepted.” We do not come to God on the footing of the law, but the interposing propitiation covers all, and comes between, and upon that mercy seat we offer our petitions and praises. That is a second blessed reason why we will say no more, “The ark of the covenant of the Lord,” neither shall it come to mind, for Jesus is the propitiatory for us.
19. The next word is a very blessed one, and that is covenant. The ark was called “the ark of the covenant.” It represented a covenant of works, since it was a part of a visible sanctuary; and, ah, how soon was that covenant broken! There is no wonder that in the breaking of that covenant the golden pot of manna was lost, and that Aaron’s rod that budded was seen no more; for we are told in the Chronicles that when they opened the ark, in the days of Solomon, there was nothing found in it “except the two tables which Moses put in it at Horeb, when the Lord made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of Egypt.” Paul tells us that they were there originally, and so it is probable that they were taken away by the Philistines. Ah, how soon we would lose the sweet things of God if we were under the covenant of works, and how soon we would miss the gentle sovereignty of his shepherd’s rod! I thank and bless God that in Christ Jesus we have a covenant of grace which can never fail, and never can be broken, and in him we have all that our souls desire: we find in him the pot of manna and the rod of Aaron, the covenant provision and the covenant rule. Dear hearer, have you ever seen Christ as your covenant? It is not every believer that has seen him in that light. When we first come to Christ we look to him as our Saviour, and we are enlightened, and a very blessed look it is. It may not be until years after that we come to understand that God has entered into covenant with us in Christ, that he will bless us, and sanctify us, and keep us to the end. But, notice that while a knowledge of Christ as a Saviour gives you the bread of life, yet the “wines on the lees well refined” and the “fat things full of marrow” are unknown to you until you can spell that word “covenant.” Oh, how I wish some of the people of God understood it, and realised that there is established between God and us in the person of Christ Jesus a covenant ordered in all things and sure. May the Holy Spirit teach you this. God has pledged his honour for the salvation of his people, and he has sealed the covenant with the precious blood of Jesus, and therefore he will not turn away from it, but will keep it for his Son’s sake. Oh, blessed Jesus, we need no ark of the covenant; for you are the covenant itself to us, and we rejoice in you.
20. Fourthly: because this ark was the ark of the covenant of God it was from it that he was accustomed to reveal himself, and so it is called the “ark of testimony.” Jehovah often spoke from off the mercy seat to his waiting people. His priests and prophets heard a voice coming out from the thick darkness of the secret room where God resided, a voice from off the mercy seat giving them promises of help in their times of need. It was a great thing to possess what they called “the oracle.” No other people had a true oracle except these chosen ones of God; but now that its voice is silent we need not regret it, for we have another oracle. “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by his Son.” His Son is the testimony of the Father’s mind; “He who has seen me,” he says, “has seen the Father.” In all the world of nature, in all the realm of providence, in all the books of revelation, God is seen; but nowhere as he is seen in the person of Jesus Christ — Jesus, the Word, is the plainest revelation of God. His sacrifice is the heart of God written out in readable characters. Jesus Christ is “the testimony.” Come, then, beloved, let us rejoice in the faithful and true Witness. Some will say that they know God by study, others declare that they have found God by reflection, and some dream that they perceive him by imagination; but all their knowledge put together cannot equal their blessed testimony of God which he has given us concerning himself in the revelation of his incarnate, holy, obedient, suffering, dying, risen Son. We say no more, “the ark of the testimony,” but we rejoice that God was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, and saw the Father in the Son.
21. We have only reached the middle of the subject now: this ark also, indicated enthronement; for the top of the ark was, so to speak, the throne of God. It was “the throne of the heavenly grace.” There God reigned and resided; that is, typically. It was a throne to which petitioners came with their pleas to obtain favours from the hand of the great King. Where is the visible throne of God now? Ah, sirs, his holy place has been broken down, and he does not live in temples made with hands, that is to say of this building. There is no visible throne of God upon the face of the earth now. To what shall you compare the throne of the Most High? We have heard of thrones of mighty kings adorned with gold, and ivory, and pearls, and gems, until they have shone like rainbows; but what would these trifles be to the God of the whole earth? If you wish to see the throne of God, behold the person of Christ; for in him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. The Lord reigns from the tree, from the cross: here is the kingdom of God set up in the person of Christ Jesus among the sons of men. Oh what a blessing to have such a throne to come to — to Jesus himself who is the throne of the invisible God! We speak no longer of the ark, and of its gold, and of its crown, and of its golden lid, and of the winged cherubs; for the Lord Jesus is infinitely better than these. Oh, our beloved Lord and Master, you chase away these shadows from our minds, for you are the very throne of God!
22. Out of this grows the next idea, that just as it was the place of God’s enthronement, so it was the door of man’s approach. Men never came nearer to God on earth typically than when they stood in the holy place close by the ark. Israel was nearest to God symbolically on that day when the atonement had been made and accepted, and her priest stood before the ark awe-stricken in the presence of God. You and I need not speak of the ark of the covenant; for we have a blessed way of approach. We do not come to Christ once in the year only, but every day in the year, and every hour of the day. He who only came once in the year came tremblingly. The Jews have a tradition that they tied a cord around the foot of the High Priest, so that if he should die before the ark they might pull out his corpse; such was their slavish fear of God. The tradition shows what was the trembling nature of that entrance within the veil: how different from the apostle’s words, “Let us come boldly to the throne of the heavenly grace.” We are not afraid of being struck with death there: we are full of reverence, but we have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear. There is no approaching God except in Christ; but in Christ our approach to God may be as near as possible. Come nearer, nearer still: it is your fault that you do not come near enough. There is nothing to tremble about here, — come right up to God and speak with him as a man speaks with his friend. I would leave others to worship as they find they can; but to me the prayers of our national church are very beautiful, but, oh, how cold! What a long way off is God in the Liturgy! What word is there in it of childlike delight in God? Hence certain brethren who have been accustomed to that style of praying chide us for our boldness and familiarity in prayer. They think we are presumptuous in drawing so near to God. Brethren, we do not marvel at your judgment, nor complain about it. We would not condemn you for your distant prayers but we cannot yield to your censure of our bolder approach, for we have in our hearts a sense of acceptance and a spirit of adoption which will not let us speak with God in any other way than as his favoured children. We come boldly because we come through Jesus. Who is afraid of Jesus? Who shudders when drawing near to him? And if he is the mercy seat to whom we come, and the place where the Father meets us, we feel that he permits the holy familiarity, the humble freedom which is suggested to our hearts by the spirit of adoption.
23. I must go a step further — the ark was the place of gracious power. On the top of the mercy seat stood cherubic figures, and, notwithstanding all that learned men may have said, I do not think that any idea is nearer the mark than that these cherubim were types of angelic power, and of all the powers of providence which God is pleased to use in the behalf of his people. Notice how frequently the Word associates angels with our Lord; for example, when Jacob saw the ladder which reached to heaven, and God at the top of it, there were angels ascending and descending upon it. Cherubim were on all the curtains of the most holy place which enclosed the ark, and the ministry of angels is interwoven into the great covenant plan of salvation. “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” Consider, then, that the angels on the mercy seat typify the power of God by which he will defend his people. He defended them very well, for who could harm them when he was in the midst of them? Yet we will not speak of the ark, neither will we remember it, neither will we visit it; for we see in Christ Jesus that all the power of God is on our side: he is “God with us,” and if God is with us, who can be against us? Every angel is the servant of our Covenant-Head, and so the guardian of every member of Christ. Just as he might have summoned twelve legions of angels by one uplifted glance to heaven, so he will fill the mountain with horses of fire and chariots of fire whenever his people need such help. The stars in their courses fight for the Saviour and for the saved ones: nothing shall by any means harm them. In heaven, and earth, and hell the warrant of the great King stands in full force, “Do not touch my anointed, and do no harm to my prophets”; and this protection comes to us because we are preserved in Christ Jesus.
24. An eighth explanation, however, I must close with, as far as this second point is concerned. The ark was much reverenced by the Jews, because it was the centre of their nationality. All the tribes gathered around the ark in the wilderness. The pillar of fire and cloud above the ark of the covenant was God’s flaming standard marking the pavilion where the Lord of hosts resided. After they were settled in Canaan, it was the centre of the nation; the tribes go up there, the tribes of the Lord, to the testimony of our God. Today we have no such sacred ark or chest, we have no palladium or central standard. There is a church which has a man they call infallible, who is her centre; and there are others who in their cravings after uniformity in the churches would, I have no doubt, soon create a second hierarchy, and produce by prodigious birth a second pope; but it is not so among us. God will not have it so; he will have no human centre; and our very divisions are overruled to prevent such a thing. But there is one centre to which all God’s people gather; there is one name above every name, “of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” Find me a dozen spiritual men, and, to describe their different modes of thought, one of them may be called a Baptist, another an Episcopalian, a third a Presbyterian, a fourth a Methodist, and so forth; but let them sit together and begin to talk of the things of God, and of the covenant of grace, and of the work of the Spirit in the soul, and of the preciousness of the blood of Jesus, and you will see that they are one. Though they talk with various brogues, their language is one. Even as men from Somersetshire, or Essex, or Yorkshire, all differ and yet all are Englishmen; so are Christians of various denominations one in the common language of the cross of Christ. They say that Christians ought to be one, and so we ought to be; but I go further, and assert that all who are in Christ are already one. When our Lord prayed, “That they all may be one,” was he unheard? Was his prayer unavailing? I believe it was answered, and that to this day there is a vital union among all the people of God in every place, and though they sometimes try to conceal that unity, yet the love of Christ will win out and will fuse them into one. Put two mere theologians together, and they will fight like Kilkenny cats; but bring two spiritual men together at the cross, and they will lie down like two lambs: they cannot help it, they must love each other in Christ. There is, there must be, an essential unity among those who are quickened by the Spirit: and I rejoice and glory that the name, the person, and the work of Jesus are at this hour the centre of Christendom. Do not talk of the ark, neither visit it, neither let it come to mind; for the King himself is in the midst of us, “the standard-bearer among ten thousand.”
25. III. Thirdly, let us see THIS REVERENCE TRANSFERRED. Let us render to Jesus the honour which previously was offered to the ark.
26. First: let us say that Jesus is our covenant. We are told, “They shall say no more, ‘The ark of the covenant of the Lord.’ ” People must talk, it is natural to them, they must say something — what else are their tongues for? Let us, then, say concerning Christ that he is the ark of the covenant of the Lord. Come, let each one of us say it for himself — “Lord Jesus, I am in covenant with God through you. Jesus, you are my propitiation, by you I approach the Father.” Recognise this truth for yourself, my brother, and it will be a grand day for you. When you have said it to yourself, say it to those around you. Say it to strangers, but especially say it to your own brethren. “Those who feared the Lord spoke often to each other,” and what better subject could they have than to say to each other, “Brother, what fellowship we have with God in Christ! What a covenant there is between us and him! Oh how sweetly Christ covers our sins! How blessedly he fulfils the law! How sweetly he brings us into fellowship with angels, and how he enables God to shine upon as!” Say this, say it often, no one will rebuke you; it is a subject upon which you may be as fluent as you please. When you have said all you know, say it over again, and when you have said it again, say it a third time. This is a kind of note of which the human ear, when once it is cleansed, never grows weary.
27. The text takes you a step further; for it says concerning the original ark, “neither shall it come to mind,” or (I give the margin), “neither shall it come upon your heart.” Brethren, let Christ come upon your heart, and dwell there. Beloved, let us not have Christ in the head, but Christ in the heart. Know all you can about him; but love him on account of everything you know; for everything we learn about Christ ought to be another argument for affection for him. How I loved him when I only knew myself to be a sinner and Christ a Saviour; but oh, I love him more as I begin to see my greater need and his greater fulness; as I see my greater sinfulness and his greater graciousness! Oh for a great Christ! Oh to see him grow upon us. Oh to get more knowledge, and then to have our hearts enlarged so that we may love him more and more! Carry Christ in your heart, even as the Israelite bore the ark in his affections. Oh love the Lord, all you his saints! You can love other things too much; but not your Lord. Embrace him; cry in the language of the Song, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.” Outsiders do not understand the Song: they say it is a mere love ditty. They never will understand it until the Lord Jesus is laid on their hearts; but when he is once there — their joy, their all — they will need just such golden speech as Solomon’s Song, and every word of it will be dear to their souls. Let as, then, love our Lord with all our hearts.
And, next, if we should ever grow dull or cold at any time, let us
take the third step in the text, and let us remember the Lord.
What peaceful hours I once enjoyed,
How sweet their memory still.
If I do not have this enjoyment now, I will remember it, and struggle
until I find my Lord again. Oh my Lord, I will remember you. If I
forget you, let my heart forget to beat.
Gethsemane, can I forget?
Or there thy conflict see,
Thine agony and bloody sweat,
And not remember thee!
When to the cross I turn mine eyes,
And rest on Calvary,
Oh Lamb of God! my sacrifice!
I must remember thee.
Remember thee, and all thy pains,
And all thy love to me;
Yea, while a breath, a pulse remains,
Will I remember thee.
29. Oh memory, leave no other name than that of Jesus recorded upon your tablets. Let us sometimes set apart a little time for the exercise of our memory. It is good for children at school to have their memories trained. Should we not sometimes, especially we who speak so much, get quite alone and sanctify our memory by going over all the blessings of the covenant which come to us by Christ, all the glory of his person, and all the wonders of his work. Oh, yes, we must remember it!
The next thing is, let us visit him. We cannot set out on
journeys now to go to Jerusalem on foot, — little bands of us together;
yet let us visit Jesus. Let us continually come to the mercy seat
Who that knows the worth of prayer
But wishes to be often there?
Next, let us come up by twos and threes. You who live at home and seldom get out, could you not every now and then during the day say to your maid, if she is a Christian, or to your sister who lives with you, “Come, let us have a five minute visit to the ark of the covenant; let us go to the Lord and speak with him; maybe he will speak with us. Perhaps we have not been agreeing as we should together, let us go and hear what God the Lord will speak, for he may speak peace to us, in more senses than one. Perhaps we have had a trouble today, and we do not see our way — let us go up to the ark of the covenant and hear what the oracle will tell us. Perhaps the Lord will say, ‘This is the way, walk in it, and we shall know what to do.’ ” Frequently in twos and threes visit Christ your ark, and take care also to join the great caravans of church prayer. One starts in this place every Sunday at seven o’clock in the morning, and another at the hour of ten. Join those bands of pilgrims. A still larger company goes up to the oracle on Monday nights at seven o’clock. Some twelve or fifteen hundred of us are usually to be found in happy fellowship going up to the mercy seat on Mondays. A very blessed little company meet on Thursday nights before I begin my sermon, and they say, “Come and let us go and enquire of the Lord, and ask his blessing upon his servant.” Besides these, there are meetings for prayer in this place at so many hours that I cannot now mention them all. If you live where they are giving up prayer meetings, carry home a live coal and drop it into your minister’s heart. “Ah,” you say, “he might not like it.” That is very likely, but he certainly needs setting on fire if he lets the prayer meeting go out. Churches without prayer meetings! Pull them down, their day is over! Stop the preacher’s mouth if he does not pray, and let his church be scattered to the winds; for the church that forgets to assemble for prayer has “Ichabod” written on its walls. No prayer, no power. The ark of the covenant is gone when the people no longer come together to cry to the Lord in their companies. Let us visit the ark, then, constantly together; let us go up to the Holy Place so that we may speak with the Most High!
The last thing is, “Neither shall that be done any more”; but the
margin has it, “Neither shall that be magnified any more.”
Transfer your reverence, then, and since you cannot magnify the
literal mercy seat, come and magnify Christ, who is the real mercy
seat. Oh, that I knew how to speak words worthy to lie under the
soles of my Master’s feet! Oh, that I could speak a sentence that was
fit to be laid in the road like the palm branches, with which the
disciples strewed his way, not worthy to be touched by his feet, but
by the feet of the beast that he rode upon! I am not worthy to
release his shoe latchet. He is so glorious that archangels fall on
their faces to adore him. Heaven is splendid, but the splendour of
heaven is the presence of my Lord and Master. His throne is a
glorious high throne, but it owes its glory and its height to him who
sits upon it. Hallelujah to you, oh Christ. Hallelujah for ever and
ever! For you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood!
If the Jew was ever permitted to look upon the golden chest of the
ark, he saw very little compared with what I see in you, oh man, oh
God! The wood that could not rot, covered over with precious gold,
was a poor representation of his perfect manhood and glorious
Godhead. The ark was crowned, but we see Jesus made a little lower
than the angels, and crowned King Of kings and Lord of lords. Again
my heart cries hallelujah! The Jew could only see a slab of gold that
was called the throne of God, but we see the spotless, perfect life,
and infinitely precious atonement of Christ, which are better than
much fine gold. I see God, not as a light for the eyes, but as
shining upon the soul in Jesus my Lord. Oh, the glory, the glory of
that light! I am reconciled! I am a child of God! I am brought near!
Jehovah speaks to me! I speak to him! Hallelujah! All praise to him
through whom such fellowship is rendered possible, so that a man can
see God and live! Glory, glory be to him who is now in the temple
above. The veil is torn, and faith can see Jesus, to whom we come
today. May God bless you, beloved. Amen.
[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Heb 8:1-9:5]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Spirit of the Psalms — Psalm 132” 132]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Jesus Christ, Names and Titles — Christ Of God” 373]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “God the Father, Attributes of God — The Lord God Omnipotent Reigneth” 181]
Spirit of the Psalms
1 Arise, oh King of grace, arise,
And enter to thy rest,
Lo, thy church waits with longing eyes,
Thus to be own’d and blest.
2 Enter with all thy glorious train,
Thy Spirit and thy word;
All that the ark did once contain
Could no such grace afford.
3 Here, mighty God! accept our vows,
Here let thy praise be spread;
Bless the provisions of thy house,
And fill thy poor with bread.
4 Here let the Son of David reign;
Let God’s Anointed shine;
Justice and truth his court maintain,
With love and power divine.
5 Here let him hold a lasting throne;
And as his kingdom grows,
Fresh honours shall adorn his crown,
And shame confound his foes.
Isaac Watts, 1719.
Jesus Christ, Names and Titles
373 — Christ Of God
1 Jesus, the Lamb of God,
Who us from hell to raise
Hast shed thy reconciling blood,
We give thee endless praise.
2 God, and yet man, thou art,
True God, true man, art thou:
Of man, and of man’s earth a part,
One with us thou art now.
3 Great sacrifice for sin,
Giver of life for life,
Restorer of the peace within,
True ender of the strife:
4 To thee, the Christ of God,
Thy saints exulting sing;
The bearer of our heavy load,
Our own anointed King.
5 True lover of the lost,
From heaven thou camest down,
To pay for souls the righteous cost,
And claim them for thine own.
6 Rest of the weary, thou!
To thee, our rest, we come;
In thee to find our dwelling now,
Our everlasting home.
Horatius Bonar, 1861.
God the Father, Attributes of God
181 — The Lord God Omnipotent Reigneth
1 The Lord is King; lift up thy voice,
Oh earth, and all ye heavens rejoice:
From world to world the joy shall ring,
The Lord Omnipotent is King.
2 The Lord is King: who then shall dare
Resist his will, distrust his care,
Or murmur at his wise decrees,
Or doubt his royal promises?
3 The Lord is King: child of the dust,
The Judge of all the earth is just;
Holy and true are all his ways,
Let every creature speak his praise.
4 He reigns! ye saints, exalt your strains:
Your God is King, your Father reigns;
And he is at the Father’s side,
The Man of love, the Crucified.
5 Come, make your wants, your burdens known;
He will present them at the throne;
And angel bands are waiting there,
His messages of love to bear.
6 Oh! when his wisdom can mistake,
His might decay, his love forsake,
Then may his children cease to sing,
The Lord Omnipotent is King.
Josiah Conder, 1824.