"And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth."Micah 5:4.
You have a very vivid idea of the sufferings of Christ. Your faith has seen him sweating great drops of blood in the garden of Gethsemane. You have looked on with amazement while he gave his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to them who plucked off the hair, and hid not his face from shame and spitting. With sorrowful sympathy you have followed him through the streets of Jerusalem, weeping and bewailing him with the women. You have sat down to watch him when he was fastened to the tree; yon have wept at his hitter complaint"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" and you have rejoiced in his shout of victory"It is finished!" With Magdalene and Nicodemus, you have followed his dead body to the tomb, and seen it wrapped about with spices, and left to its lonely sleep. Are your perceptions quite as keen concerning the glory which did follow and is following? Can you see him quite as distinctly when on the third morn the Conqueror rises, bursting the bonds of death with which he could not be holden? Can yon as clearly view him ascending up on high, leading captivity captive? Can you hear the ring of angelic clarions, as with dyed garments from Bozrah the Yictor returns from the battle, dragging death and hell at his chariot wheels? Do you plainly perceive him as he takes his seat at the right hand of the Father, henceforth expecting until his enemies be made his footstool? And can you be as clear this morning about the reigning Christ as you have been about the suffering Christ? Lo! my brethren, "the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof!" At this hour he goeth forth, riding upon his white horse, conquering and to conquer. Lo! at his girdle swing the keys of heaven, and death, and hell, for "the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, T he everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." "God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow." Behold him, my brethren, in his present plenitude of glory, and endeavor to get as clear a perception of it as you have had of his shame. Not only weep at his burial, but rejoice at his resurrection; not only sorrow at his cross, but worship at his throne. Do not merely think of the nails and of the spear, but behold the imperial purple which hangs so nobly upon his royal shoulders, and of the divine crown which he wears upon his majestic brow.
I want to conduct you in such a frame of mind through the glories of my text. First, bidding you observe the perpetual reign of Christ: "He shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God;" then I shall beg you to observe that flowing from this is the perpetual continuance of his church: "and they shall abide;" and then proceeding both from his continued reign and from the Church's consequent perpetual existence comes the greatness of our King: "for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth."
I. At the outset, observe carefully THE PERPETUAL REIGN OF CHRIST. He lives, he reigns, he is king over his people.
Notice first, that his reign is shepherd-like in its nature. The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, but our Master washed his disciples' feet. Earthly monarchs are often tyrants; their yoke is heavy, and their language domineering; but it is not so with our King; his yoke is easy, and his burden is light, for he is meek and lowly of heart. He is a shepherd-king. He has supremacy, but it is the superiority of a wise and tender shepherd over his needy and loving flock; he commands and receives obedience, but it is the willing obedience of the well-cared-for sheep, rendered joyfully to their beloved Shepherd, whose voice they know so well. He rules by the force of love and the energy of goodness. His power lies not in imperious threatenings, but in imperial lovingkindness. Let the children of Zion he joyful in their King, for "men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed." Never people had such a king before. His service is perfect freedom; to be his subject is to be a king; to serve him is to reign. Blessed are the people who are the sheep of his pasture; if they follow in his footsteps their road is safe; if they sleep at his feet no lion can disturb their peace; if they are fed from his hand they shall lie down in green pastures, and know no lack; if they abide close to his person they shall drink of rivers of delight. Righteousness and peace are the stability of his throne, joy and gladness are the ornaments of his reign. Oh! how happy are we who belong to such a prince. Thou King in Jeshurun, we pay thee homage with loyal hearts; we come into thy presence with thanksgiving, and into thy courts with praise, for thou art our God, and we are the people of thy pasture, and the sheep of thy hand.
Notice that the reign of Jesus is practical in its character. It is said "he shall stand and feed." The great Head of the Church is actively engaged in providing for his people. He does not sit down upon the throne in empty state, or hold a scepter without wielding it in government. No, he stands and feeds. The expression "feed," in the original is like an analogous one in the Greek, which means to shepherdize, to do everything expected of a shepherd: to guide, to watch, to preserve, to tend, as well as to feed. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the great Head of the Church, is always actively engaged for the Church's good. Through him the Spirit of God constantly descends upon the members of the Church; by him ministers are given in due season, and all Church-officers in their proper place. When he ascended up on high he received gifts for men; "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." Our Lord does not close his eyes to the state of his Church. Beloved, he is not a listless spectator of our wants. He is this day standing and feeding his people. They are scattered, I know, wide as the poles asunder, but our mighty Shepherd can see every sheep and lamb of his flock, and he gives them all their portion of meat in due season. He it is that like a mighty Breaker, goes forth at the head of his flock, and they follow where he clears the way, "He shall stand and feed." Oh! blessed carefulness and divine activity of our gracious King! always fighting against our enemies, and at the same the shedding his benignant influences upon his friends.
Consider again, for it is in our text, that this active reign is continual in its duration. It is said, "He shall stand and feed;" not " he shall feed now and then, and then leave his position;" not, "he shall one day grant a revival, and then next day leave his Church to barrenness." Beloved, there is no such pastor as Christ. "I know my sheep," he can say, in a very high and peculiar sense. He knows them through and through; he feels with them; in all their afflictions he is afflicted; he is one with them eternally. There is no such wakeful watchman as the Lord Jesus. Is it not written, "I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day." Those eyes never slumber, and those hands never rest; that heart never ceases to beat with love, and those shoulders are never weary of carrying his people's burdens. The Church may go through her dark ages, but Christ is with her in the midnight. She may pass through her fiery furnace, but Christ is in the midst of the flame with her. Her whole history through, wherever you find the Church, there shall you find the Church's Lord. The head is never severed from the body, nor is the watchful care of this gracious husband towards his spouse suspended for an instant.
I beseech you labor to realize the noble picture. Here are his sheep in these pastures this morning, and here is our great Shepherd with the crown upon his head, standing and feeding us all; nay, not us all alone, but dispensing his tender mercies to all the multitudes of his elect throughout the whole world. He is at this moment King in Zion, ruling, and overruling, present everywhere, and everywhere showing himself strong in the defense of his saints. I would that our Churches could be more influenced by a belief in the abiding power, presence, and pre-eminence of their living and reigning Lord. He is no dead King whose memory we are bidden to embalm, but a living Leader and Commander whose behests we must obey, whose honor we must defend.
Do not fail to discern that the empire of Christ in his Church is effectually powerful in its action; "He shall feed in the strength of Jehovah." Wherever Christ is, there is God; and whatever Christ does is the act of the Most High. Oh! it is a joyful truth to consider that he who redeemed us was none other than God himself, he who led oar captivity captive was Jehovah-Jesus; he who stands to-day representing the interests of his people is very God of very God, he who has sworn that every one of his people whom he hath redeemed by blood shall be brought safe to his Father's right hand, is himself essential Deity. O my brethren, we rest upon a sure foundation when we build upon the Incarnate God; and O ye saints of God, the interests of each one of you, and of the one great Church, must be safe, because our champion is God; Jehovah is our Judge, Jehovah is our Lawgiver, Jehovah is our King, he will save us. How can he fail or be discouraged? When he maketh bare his arm, who shall stand against him? Let us rehearse the mighty deeds of the Lord and tell of his wonders of old. Remember how he got him victory upon Pharaoh and the pride of Egypt! Pharaoh said, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go?" Ten plagues of terrible majesty taught the boaster that the Lord was not to be despised, and the humbled tyrant bade the people go their way. With a high hand and an outstretched arm did the Lord bring forth his people from the house of bondage. When the proud high stomach of Egypt's king again rose against the Most High, the Lord knew how to lay his adversary lower than the dust. Methinks I see the hosts of Mizraim, with their horses and their chariots, hurrying after the Lord's fugitives. Their mouths are foaming with rage. "The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them." See how they ride in all their pompous glory, swallowing the earth in their fury. O Israel, where shall be thy defense? How shalt thou escape from thy tyrannic master? Be still, O ye seed of Jacob; ye sons of Abraham, rest ye patiently, for these Egyptians whom ye see to-day, ye shall see no more for ever. With their horses and their chariots the fierce foemen descended into the depths of the sea, but the Lord looked upon them, and troubled them. "Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters." The depths have covered them; they sank into the bottom like a stone. "Let us sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea." Surely it shall be so at the last with Jesus our King, and all his saints; we also shall sing "the song of Moses, the servant of God, and of the Lamb," in that day when the arch-enemy shall be overthrown, and the hosts of evil shall be consumed, and they who hate the Lord shall become as the fat of rams, into smoke shall they consume, yea, into smoke shall they consume away.
One other word remains; our Lord's kingdom is most majestic in its aspect. You will observe it is written by the prophet"He shall feed in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God." Jesus Christ is greatly to be reverenced; the familiarity with which we approach him is always to be tempered with the deepest and most reverent adoration. He is our brother, bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh, but still he counteth it not robbery to be equal with God. I know he made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and he calleth himself to-day our husband, and maketh us to be members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones; but yet we must never forget that it is written, "Let all the angels of God worship him," and "At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Yes, Christ is majestic in his Church. I would, brethren, we always thought of this. There is a glory and a majesty about all the laws of Christ, and all his commands, so that whether we baptize at his command, or break bread in remembrance of him, or lift up his cross in ministryin whatever we do, in his name, which is in fact, what he does through us, there is an attendant majesty which should make our minds feel perpetually reverent before him. O that the world could see the glory of Christ in the Church! O that the world did but know who it is that is in the midst of the few, the feeble, the weak, the foolish as they call them. O Philistia! if thou didst but know who is our champion, thy Goliath of Gath would soon hide his diminished head. O Assyria, if thou didst but know that the ancient might of him who smote Sennacherib, still abideth with us, thy hosts would turn their backs and yield us an easy victory. There is a true and mysterious presence of Christ with his people, according to the promise "Lo I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world;" it is because the world ignores this that she despises and sneers at the Church of God. Therein is our comfort and our glory. We have a majesty about us if we be the people of God, which is not to be gainsayed; angels see it and wondera majesty of indwelling Godhead, for the Lord is in the midst of us for a glory and around us for a defense.
II. We will now occupy one or two minutes with THE CONSEQUENT PERPETUITY OF THE CHURCH. Because of the unseen but most certain presence of Christ as King in the midst of his people, his Church ABIDESso says the text. Here reflect first that a Church exists. What a wonder this! It is perhaps, the greatest miracle of all ages that God has a Church in the world. You who are conversant with human history will hear me out when I say that the whole history of the Church is a series of miracles, a long stream of wonders! A little spark kindled in the midst of oceans, and yet all her boisterous waves cannot quench it! Here is the great wonder which John saw in vision, and which history reveals in solemn, sober fact. A woman, "being with child, cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon . . . stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born." The man-child who is to rule all nations with a rod of iron, was brought forth and caught up to God and to his throne. As for the woman, the Church, she fled as on eagles' wings to her wilderness-shelter prepared of God, until, in great wrath, the dragon pursued and persecuted her. Apt enough is that metaphor, "The serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood . . . And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." Yet, my brethren, as surely as that glorious man-child, the Lord Jesus, lives and sits upon the throne, so surely shall the woman, the poor afflicted Church, live on until the dragon's time is over, and the King shall reign upon the earth.
To what trials, my brethren, has not the Church of God been subjected? What new invention can Satan bring forth? The fire, the rack, imprisonment, banishment, confiscation, slander, all these have been tried, and in them all the Church has been more than conqueror through him who loved her. False doctrine without, heresy and schism with in, hypocrisy, formalism, fanaticism, pretences of high spirituality, worldliness, these have all (lone their worst. I marvel at the wondrous ingenuity of the great enemy of the Church, but methinks his devices must nearly have come to an end. Can he invent anything further? We have been astounded in these ages by the prodigy of an infidel bishop; we have been struck dumb with sorrow and amazement at a decree which declares that a Church professing to be a Church of Christ must permit men to be her ministers who deny the inspiration of Holy Scripture. This is a new thing under the sun. Popery and infidelity are to be both legalized and fostered in a Church professing to be Christian and Protestant. What next? and what next? Bat what of all this? The Church, I mean the company of the Lord's called and faithful and chosen still exists; the Lord has his elect people who still hold forth the Word of truth, and in the most reprobate Church still he may say, "I hay e a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white; for they are worthy."
Observe, the text says, "she abides," which means, not that she exists now and then by starts and spasms, but she exists always. This is wonderful! Always a Church! When the full force of the Pagan Emperors came like a thundering avalanche upon her, she shook off the stupendous load as a man shaketh the flakes of snow from his garment, and she lived on uninjured. When papal Rome vented its malice yet more furiously and ingeniously; when cruel murderers hunted the saints among the Alps, or worried them in the low country; when Albigenses and Waldenses poured out their blood in rivers, and dyed the snow with crimson, she lived still, and never was in a healthier state than when she was immersed in her own gore. When after a partial reformation in this country, the pretenders to religion determined that the truly spiritual should be harried out of the land, God's Church did not sleep or suspend her career of life or service. Let the covenant signed in blood witness to the vigor of the persecuted saints. Hearken to her psalm amidst the brown heath-clad hills of Scotland, and her prayer in the secret conventicles of England. Hear ye the voice of Cargil and Cameron thundering among the mountains against a false king and an apostate people; hear ye the testimony of Bunyan and his compeers who would sooner rot in dungeons than bow the knee to Baal. Ask me "Where is the Church?" and I can find her at any and every period from the day when first in the upper room the Holy Ghost came down even until now. In. one unbroken line our apostolic succession runs; not through the Church of Rome; not from the superstitious hands of priest-made popes, or king-created bishops, (what a varnished lie is the apostolic succession of those who boast so proudly of it!) but through the blood of good men and true, who never forsook the testimony of Jesus; through the loins of true pastors, laborious evangelists, faithful martyrs, and honorable men of God, we trace our pedigree up to the fishermen of Galilee and glory that we perpetuate by God's grace that true and faithful Church of the living God, in whom Christ did abide and will abide until the world's crash.
Observe, dear friends, that in the use of the term "Abide," we have not only existence, and continued existence, but the idea of quiet, calm, uninjured duration. It does not say she lingers, hunted, tempted, worried, but she abides. Ohm! the calmness of the Church of God under the attacks of her most malicious foes. Thou crue1 adversary, the virgin daughter of Zion hath shaken her head at thee and laughed thee to scorn! She abides in peace when the world rages against her. It is most noteworthy how in most instances the Church of God still keeps her foothold where she has been most savagely persecuted. In modern times we find in Madagascar, after years of exterminating persecution, the Church of God rises from her ashes, like the phoenix from the flames. The chief wonder is that she abides perfect. Not one of Cod's elect has gone back; not one of the blood-bought has denied the faith. Not one single soul which ever was effectually called call be made to dolly Christ, even though his flesh should be pulled from his bones by hot pincers, or his tormented body flung to the jaws of wild beasts. All that the enemy has done has been of no avail against the Church. The old rock has been washed, and washed, and washed again by stormy waves, and submerged a thousand times in the floods of tempest, hut even her angles and corners abide unaltered and unalterable. We may say of the Lord's tabernacle, not one of he stakes thereof has been removed, nor one of her cords boom broken. The house of he Lord from foundation to pinnacle is perfect still: "The rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house and it fell not;" nay, nor a single stone of it "for it was founded upon a rock."
But why all this, dear friends, why is it that we have seen the Church endure to this day? How is it that we are confident that even should worse times arrive, the Church would weather the storm and abide till moons shall cease to wax and wane? Why this security? Only because Christ is in the midst of her. You do not believe, I hope, in the preservation of orthodoxy by legal instruments and trust deeds. This is what too many Dissenters have relied upon. We certainly cannot depend upon creeds; they arc good enough in their way, as trust deeds are too, but they are as broken reeds if we rely upon them. We cannot depend upon parliament, nor kings, nor queens. We may draw up the most express and distinct form of doctrine, but we shall find that the next generation will depart from the truth unless God shall be pleased to give it renewed grace from on high. You cannot, by Presbytery, or Independency, or Episcopacy, secure the life of the ChurchI find the Church of God has existed under an Episcopacya form of government not without its virtues and its faults. I find the Church of God flourish under a Presbytery, and decay under it too. I know it can be successful under an Independent form of Church government and can decline into Arianism quite as easily. The fact is that forms of government have very little to do with the vital principle of the Church. The reason why the Church of God exists is not her ecclesiastical regulations, 11cr organization, her formularies, her ministers, or her creeds, but the presence of the Lord in the midst of her; and while Christ lives, and Christ reigns, and stands and feeds his Church, she is safe; but if he were once gone, it would be with her as it is with you and with me when the Spirit of God has departed from us, we are weak as other men, and she would be quite as powerless.
III. But now, thirdly, flowing from both these, from the perpetual presence of Christ and from the continued existence of his Church, is THE GREATNESS OF OUR KING. "Now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth." Christ is great in his Church. Oh! how great in our hearts where he reigns supreme! My heart, it doth leap at the sound of his name
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