The reason I will mention is the very core of all the other reasons. There need be no surprise that we did not esteem Christ, for we were spiritually dead. I will suppose that there sits, away yonder, a man over whom I want to exert a certain influence. I will further imagine that I am a skillful musician and that I touch the strings of my harp in such a manner as to bring forth the most delightful melody, yet the man takes no notice whatever of it. Then I turn to an instrument of quite another sort—a cornet or a bugle—and blow a blast that startles all of you—yet that one man still gives no heed to the sound! Why is it that, charm we ever so wisely, he is like the deaf adder and regards neither the sweetest nor the shrillest or loudest noise? I try to attract his attention in another way. I place before him the daintiest dish that the cleverest cook in all England can prepare, or I bring some rare delicacy from a distant land— but he regards the food no more than he did the music. I will try another plan to reach his senses. I will bring Him.
"The choicest flowers that were ever grown Since Eden's joys were blasted."
I will hold them close to his face and let their fragrance ascend to his nostrils. Yet he heeds not! What will awake him? Let Heaven's thunder peals roll like the drums in the march of some mighty warlord, but the man moves not. Let the lightning flash all around us till it seems as though the end of the world had come, but the man stirs not. What shall I do to awake him? Shall I beat him with a whip, or strike him with a sword? All is in vain and, at last, I perceive that the man is dead and that all my efforts have been wasted! Now the riddle is solved, the secret revealed, the knot untied—the man is dead. Therefore, I wonder no longer that he esteemed not music, food, or flowers. Or that he feared not thunder, lightning, or the sword. And, Brothers and Sisters in Christ, though the Holy Spirit has quickened us, there was a time when we were "dead in trespasses and sins" and, like Lazarus in his grave, we were becoming more and more corrupt as every moment passed!
So I would try to make the Gospel very plain to my poor friend and tell him what the Lord had done for my soul—and assure him that, having saved me, there was no limit to His Grace and mercy! I always admire the argument of Charles Wesley in those familiar lines—
"His blood can make the foulest clean, His blood availed for me."
That was the same kind of argument that Paul used when he wrote, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for the pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting." Christian men and women, as you retire from this building, I leave these thoughts with you. At one time you did not esteem Christ, so now you have no right to be proud of your position as His followers, but should give to Him all the glory for your salvation! And you should hope for the salvation of others, even the very worst of your fellow creatures—
"While the lamp holds out to burn, The vilest sinner may return."
You may go to the very worst haunts of sin and vice in this city or anywhere else and, trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit, you may proclaim the Gospel of Christ to be the most abandoned men and women whom you can find, knowing that He is able "to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever lives to make intercession for them."
. IT is not very unusual that the Pharisees could not understand the Saviour’s mode of action—not only because self-righteousness and bigotry had blinded their eyes and callousness of heart to the interest of others and had bound them up in the darkness of self-righteousness—but also because the Saviour’s mode of acting was contrary to the general current of the dispensation to which the Pharisee had been accustomed. The dispensation of the old Covenant was that of distance. When God appeared to His servant Moses, it was, "Draw not near here: put off your shoes from off your feet." And when He manifested Himself upon Mount Sinai to His own chosen and separated people, one of the first commands was, "You shall set bounds about the mount and if so much as a beast touches the mountain it shall be stoned or thrust through with a dart."
In the sacred worship of the tabernacle and the temple the thought of distance must always have been prominent to the devout mind. The mass of the people did not even enter the outer court. Into the inner court none but the priests could ever dare to come. And into the innermost place, or the holy of holies, once a year one person only ever entered! A thick costly veil hung before the manifestation of Jehovah's Presence and upon the Shekinah no mortal eye ever gazed, except that eye which, once a year, alone, dared to look upon its splendour through the mist of the smoking incense when the blood of atonement was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat.
The Lord seemed ever to be saying to the whole of His people, with but a few exceptions, "Come not near here." It was the dispensation of distance—as if the Lord in those early ages would teach man that sin was so utterly loathsome to Him that He must treat men as lepers put outside the camp. And when He came nearest to them, yet He made them feel the width of the separation between a holy God and the impure sinner.
But Jesus Christ came on quite another footing. The word, "Go," was now exchanged for, "Come," and distance was made to give place to nearness! Partitions were broken down, middle walls of separation became like tottering fences, and we, who sometime were afar off, were made near by the blood of Jesus Christ. Therefore, Incarnate Deity has no wall of fire about it. Christ was surrounded with that Divinity which does hedge about a king, but it was only as a hedge of thorns to Himself and not as a hedge of briars to keep off the approach of the mean of mankind.
"Come unto Me all you that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest"—that is the joyful proclamation of God as He appears in human flesh! Not now does He teach the leper his leprosy by setting him at a distance, but by suffering the penalty of man's defilement. Not now does He teach man that the disease is naturally incurable—He now shows him the heavenly cure by revealing the fact that God, without sullying His purity, can come into contact with impurity in order to its removal and without receiving contagion from the arch-leper. The devil can grapple with Him in the human heart—He can lay hold upon His adversary that He may bind him hand and foot and cast him away from men—no more to oppress our race!
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