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His foundation is in the holy mountains.
A material portrait of the spiritual Church
I. It is glorious in its elevation (Psalms 87:1). The spiritual Church is a city set upon a hill. Though elevated it is safe; its foundation is in the everlasting mountains. “Upon this rock,” etc.
II. It is specially regarded by God (Psalms 87:2). The infinitely loving One must be interested in all the works of His hand; even the sparrow that falls not to the ground without notice. But for those Christian men who constitute the true spiritual Church He has a special regard.
III. It is illustrious in its history (Psalms 87:3). Many glorious things had been said of Zion. It was said that they should call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord, and they should call all the nations to it; it was said they should come to see the city of Zion, and flow together to the goodness of the Lord. It was said by God (1 Kings 9:3; 2 Chronicles 7:16). But what far more glorious things have been said of the true Church. Read what victories she has won, not only in the time of the apostles, but in every subsequent age. It has been said of the true Church, that it is “a royal priesthood.”
IV. It is superior to all other communities (Psalms 87:4). Compare commercial, scientific, political, and other religious communities with it, and in all that is morally great and glorious, the brightest of their fires pales into dimness.
V. It is the birth-scene of the good (Psalms 87:5). In the true spiritual Church, souls are born again.
VI. It is divinely registered (Psalms 87:6-7). Jehovah kept a register of all that were born in Jerusalem, and so He does of all who are spiritually born in the true Church. “When He writeth up the people.” Ah I the time will come when He will write up a register of all true men. No others, however lofty in rank and illustrious in genius, will find a place in that book. No one shall enter heaven who is not found written in “The Lamb’s Book of Life.” VII. IT is infinite in its resources. “All my springs are in Thee.” This is what the poet says, as the representative of all that were born in Zion; and this is what all the members of the true spiritual Church can also say and most deeply feel. All my fountains are in Thee, in Thee, that is, in Zion or in God. If in Zion, it is from God. (Homilist.)
The city of God
I. Its foundation (Psalms 87:1). Christ’s charactor, teachings, miracles, and merit.
II. Its favour (Psalms 87:2). God canopies the city with His wing of covenant promise, and belts it with the attributes of His Being.
III. Its fame: (Psalms 87:3), (2 Chronicles 7:16; Psalms 132:13-17; Zechariah 1:14; Zechariah 2:4-12).
IV. Its fraternity (Psalms 87:4-6). Here are the true aristocracy of souls, the real nobility of earth.
V. Its future (Psalms 87:5).
VI. Its fountains (Psalms 87:7). (J. O. Keen, D. D.)
The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.
The gates of Zion
I. God has always shown a particular respect to houses set apart for His worship. Nor is He less present with us than He was with His ancient worshippers. Now God, dwelling in a tent and a temple, prefigured the incarnation of our Saviour, who having taken upon Him our nature, dwelt, or tabernacled among us.
II. Worshipping God in such places is more conducive to the spiritual improvement of the worshippers than elsewhere.
1. The character and perfections of God never appear with such bright lustre as in the sanctuary, where numbers of His faithful subjects are assembled before Him, to present the sacrifices of prayer and thanksgiving.
2. The worship performed in the house of God is the most direct testimony of our homage and obedience.
3. Worshipping God in such places animates and strengthens us in our devotional exercises.
4. Worshipping God in the sanctuary contributes to promote peace and happiness among all orders and degrees of men.
III. The importance of a regular attendance upon the services that are there performed. Like the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda, we must continue our attendance till it please God to give a blessing to the means of His own appointment. (John Ramsay, M. A.)
God’s peculiar regard to places set apart for Divine worship
I. That God bears a different respect to places set apart and consecrated to His worship, from what He bears to all other places designed to the uses of common life.
1. Those eminent interposals of the Divine providence for the erecting and preserving such places, will be one pregnant and strong argument to prove the difference of God’s respect to them, and to others of common use.
2. The second argument for the proof of the same assertion shall be taken from those remarkable judgments shown by God upon the violators of things consecrated and set apart to holy uses. A coal, we know, snatched from the altar, once fired the nest of the eagle, the royal and commanding bird; and so has sacrilege consumed the families of princes, broken sceptres, and destroyed kingdoms.
3. The ground and reason why God shows such a concern for these things is that He has the sole property of them. It is a known maxim, that “in Deo Runt jura omnia”; and consequently, that He is the proprietor of all things, by that grand and transcendent right founded upon creation. Yet, notwithstanding, He may be said to have a greater, because a sole property in some things, for that He permits not the use of them to men, to whom yet He has granted the free use of all other things. Now, this property may be founded upon a double ground.
(1) God’s own fixing upon and institution of a place or thing to do His peculiar use. When He shall say to the sons of men, as He spoke to Adam concerning the forbidden fruit, of all things and places that I have enriched the universe with, you may freely make use for your own occasions; but as for this spot of ground, this person, this thing, I have selected and appropriated, I have enclosed it to Myself and My own use; and I will endure no sharer, no rival or companion in it: he that invades them, usurps, and shall bear the guilt of his usurpation. Now upon this account, the gates of Zion, and the tribe of Levi, became God’s property. He laid His hand upon them, and said, “These are Mine.”
(2) The other ground of God’s sole property in any thing or place is the gift, or rather the return of it made by man to God; by which act he relinquishes and delivers back to God all his right to the use of that thing, which before had been freely granted him by God.
II. That God prefers the worship paid Him in such places above that which is offered Him in any other places whatsoever.
1. Because such places are naturally apt to excite a greater reverence and devotion in the discharge of Divine service than places of common use. The place properly reminds a man of the business of the place, and strikes a kind of awe into the thoughts, when they reflect upon that great and sacred Majesty they use to treat and converse with there: they find the same holy consternation upon themselves that Jacob did at his consecrated Bethel, which he called “the gate of heaven”: and if such places are so, then surely a daily expectation at the gate is the readiest way to gain admittance into the house.
2. Because in such places it is a more direct service and testification of our homage to Him. For surely, if I should have something to ask of a great person, it were greater respect to wait upon him with my petition at his own house, than to desire him to come and receive it at mine. (R. South, D. D.)
God’s love for the gates of Zion
I. The Lord loves the dwellings of Jacob--He loves those that are true Israelites. These are succeeded by the name Christian, for the Christian Church is now become the true Israel of God. He loves His saints on account of that image of Himself which they bear: He loves them on account of those graces which are infused into them when they are renewed by the Spirit; He loves them on account of the relation they stand in to Him as His people, and as His Church, who are qualified for the duties of the relation by that love of their Father, that reliance upon His care, that delight in His person, that enjoyment in His service which belongs to dutiful and affectionate children.
II. He loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob--nothing in the dwellings of Jacob so much attracts His attention as the people of God connected together in a social capacity. He regards with peculiar complacency the worship of His saints--
1. On its own account, as a yielding to Him that which is His prerogative.
2. On account of that union of mind and consent of heart evinced in the assembling of His people together and constituting themselves into a Church.
3. On account of that deference to His authority which is evinced by maintaining and keeping up the practice of those institutes which rest entirely on that authority.
III. Consider how it is that God manifests this complacency in the gates of Zion above the dwellings of Jacob.
1. By making the assembly of the saints the grand means of conversion,
2. By continually maintaining in operation those gifts which are for the edification of the saints, and without which the union of the saints would be with difficulty maintained.
3. By that marvellous protection which is afforded to the interests of the Church of God; whereby, though weak, and frequently reduced to a handful of disciples yet they have been protected, and their society on earth continued. (R. Hall, M. A.)
God’s regard for His Church
I. The important fact implied. “The Lord loveth the dwellings of Jacob,” i.e. the righteous in their personal and domestic capacities.
1. He loves them in their individual character as His people.
2. He loves them in their domestic capacity (Psalms 128:1-6.; Proverbs 20:7; Jeremiah 31:1-40.),
3. He loves them in all their religious services.
II. The glorious declaration given. “He loveth the gates of Zion better,” etc. That is, He greatly prefers the public assemblies of His people over all the dwellings of Jacob.
1. The evidences of this preference.
(1) The special promises given. One of the most ancient promises is, “Wherever My name is recorded,” etc. Then the one given to Solomon, “My eyes, and Mine heart shall be there continually.” “Wherever two or three,” etc.
(2) The Divine manifestations afforded. In His house He reveals His truth, and faithfulness, and goodness, and grace, etc.
(3) The invaluable blessings communicated. Here He says to the benighted chaotic minds. “Let there be light,” etc. Here He speaks to heavy-laden, sin-sick souls, “Go in peace--thy sins are forgiven thee.”
(4) By perpetuating the public assemblies of His saints despite of all opposition.
2. What reasons can be assigned for this affectionate preference. It is in Zion, or the public assemblies of His saints,
(1) That the graces and holy feelings of God’s people are most fully displayed.
(2) On account of the holy and happy harmony which is exhibited. Here men are brought together, to hear, and love, and pray.
(3) Because it is the pillar and ground of truth.
(4) Because of its resemblance to heaven.
1. Do we love the gates of Zion? What evidences do we give? Speak for it; think of it; pray for it; labour for it.
2. What advantages have we derived from it? Justification, comfort, holiness, longing for heaven. (J. Burns, D. D.)
Zion the spiritual centre
The glory of a nation is in the quality of its manhood and womanhood. It is not determined by the number of square miles that it may possess, not by its geographical position, nor by its commerce, but by its men. There is a little village in the west of Scotland that has to-day no commercial value, but it is great because David Livingstone was born there. We come to this truth, then, that--
1. Personality gives value to place. Bethlehem was but an insignificant Eastern village; it was not the centre of any trade, it was off the main highway of commerce. It is the personality of Jesus that gives value to Bethlehem.
2. Zion is great also because God “records His name there. He loves the gates of Zion.” A peculiar blessing ever attaches to the house of God. This is the place where the feet of our God rest, and is thereby made glorious. It is here where this man and that man was born into the new life of God.
3. We come then to this further truth that Zion is the place where souls are born. This is where men are detached from the world and attached to Christ, where they are polished and perfected. In all these souls born in Zion, God sees wonderful possibilities.
4. Let me say further that in Zion God is always wanting to work on the men born there, and to bring the best out of them. Aaron’s rod was to him only a piece of ordinary timber, a dead stick, with no possibility of life in it; but when he laid it up in the sanctuary, and God began to work His silent wonders on it, Aaron gazed with astonishment on the transformed stick as he saw it bearing buds and blossoms and ripe almonds. We often wonder what God can ever make of the men and women that are born in Zion. They come in late, some of them, and come in sighing and moaning, “Give me back my lost years.” There is a sense in which God cannot do this, but there is another sense in which He can. “I will restore unto you the years that the caterpillar and the locust and the palmerworm have eaten.” “Where sin abounded grace did much more abound.” It is a significant fact known to botanists that the late flowering plants have often the most magnificent blossoms. Of late florists have been treating plants to what is known as the “cold process.” The plants are kept in an ice-house so that the blooms are repressed. This repression really does the plant no harm. They blossom all the more freely and rapidly when brought into a warm atmosphere. Many a man has for years been kept in a kind of spiritual ice-house, but some day, in the warmth of a gracious revival, he breaks out into unexpected splendour and glowing wonder. A recent writer states that an “Apollo” has been discovered in Rome amid a heap of rubbish. It was headless, and had only one arm. A sad sight. The artist’s beautiful work marred by the rough handling of time and the weather. How many of Christ’s works of art-saved men--get mutilated, debased, crushed, ruined. Some want a spiritual limb, an eye, a hand, a foot. They are full of defects and incompleteness; but it is the glory of God to work on them till not a coarse fibre is left, and His redemptive power produces in them spiritual completeness.
5. What lots of different material there is in Zion for God to work on. There are so many different characters, many of them unpromising and unlikely that God has much to do. Yet He never despairs. Out of Peter, that handful of sand blown away by a maiden’s breath, God brings the man of rock-like solidity. He cares for the stars, will He not care for the man and woman for whom His own Son died upon the cross? The God who works with completeness in the starry realms will bring out perfectness in you, His own child.
6. And believe me, our God does not work haphazardly. He has a plan. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be.” No, God has not finished with us yet.
7. But all this must begin down here. “When God counts up the people, He shall say this man and that was born there.” The only important question about any Church is, “Are souls born there?” This was the glory of the ancient Church. “Multitudes turned to the Lord.” What value the Bible places on the individual! Christ thought very little of the tyranny of numbers. This old Jew saw them coming from the most unlikely places. From Rahab and Babylon, Philistia and Tyre and Ethiopia; “all sorts and conditions of men “were to find a resting-place, a home within the walls of God’s Zion. God’s house is not a select club for the rich. It is a home for all. What an honour to open the gates of Zion to the night-wanderer and the outcast. (A. J. Campbell.)
A Divine preference and its reasons
When the Roman soldier went out to fight, his battle-cry was “Pro aris et focis”--that is, for altars and hearths. It was not of his fields that he thought, it was not of his beeves--or at any rate it was not of these in the first place, but of treasures he held dearer still, the inmates of his dwelling, the honour of his gods. Now, it is these two thoughts, of home and of sanctuary, that are brought together in the text. What are the “dwellings of Jacob”? Are they not just the peaceful homesteads scattered up and down the land, in which families dwelt together in unity with themselves, and in covenant with their God? And what are the “gates of Zion”? Are they not a symbol of the common convocations when they gathered for religious worship--to pray, to praise, and to sacrifice?
I. God’s regard for the family. We may prove it by various facts, and in especial by three,
1. Consider the place God has given to the family in the economy of nature. For what is home--home, I mean, where it attains its destined ideal and fulfils its appropriate ends? It is a means of protection for the young, hiding them in their defenceless years from the sight of evil and the strife of tongues. It is a ministry of refreshment for the old, calming and recruiting them in their hours of weariness after the bustle and fret of toil. And it is a school of charity for all.
2. Consider the place God has given the family in the kingdom of grace. Let us never forget that there is a law of heredity in grace. There exists a principle of transmission, on which Scripture lays abundant stress, by which the generations are made one, linked together in a chain of blessing.
3. Consider, too, the place that God has given the family in the discipline of Christ. Can there possibly be a stronger proof of the honour which God sets on the household than the fact that to the household’s keeping and to the household’s care He entrusted the most precious treasure of heaven, the noblest life on earthy
II. God’s greater regard for the Church. The text says that, good and beautiful as home is, the assembly of the saints is better. And why? Why is it that, while God delighted in these peaceable habitations, each beneath its vine and fig-tree, the nurseries of brave young men and pure and gentle maidens, sons as plants grown up in their youth, daughters as corner-stones polished after the similitude era palace, He took still greater delight in the temple services at Jerusalem?
1. The Church’s fellowship is more catholic. However close, however sacred, and however enriching the fellowship of the family is, it is the fellowship of those that are one in blood. As such it is circumscribed. And there is an element of selfishness in it, innocent selfishness if you will, permissible selfishness, but selfishness notwithstanding, a certain home-contrariness which may easily turn to exclusiveness, coldness towards the wants, and indifference towards the interests, of those beyond. But in the fellowship of the Church the range is extended, the horizon is enlarged. We are out on the open platform of grace.
2. The Church’s testimony is more public. Home means privacy, home means seclusion; there is the erection of a certain barrier, the intervention of a certain screen. And therefore the witness of home, however consistent and faithful, may be said to begin and to end with the inmates of home; it is seldom far-reaching, because little observed. It is otherwise with the Church; publicity is of its very essence. The character of the Church is maintained, the ends of the Church are fulfilled, not when it edifies itself merely, but when it makes confession to the world.
3. The Church’s character is more spiritual. The Church is the special abode of the Holy Ghost, whose living and personal presence gives meaning to every privilege and might to every agency, purifying the Church’s life, prospering the Church’s work. And, in comparing the Church with the family, may we not say that the Church has ampler provisions, finer adaptations, more sacred and select appliances, more ample and effective energies, for the maintenance of God’s worship, the proclamation of His message, and, as a consequence of both, the saving and the sanctifying of souls?
4. The Church’s experiences are more permanent. There are duties and joys of the domestic life which it would be wrong to say, “I am acting and feeling now as I shall act and feel in heaven,” for we shall be changed in more ways than we think, if by grace we get there. But we can say so of worship. For the exercises of worship are spiritual, they are therefore abiding and unalterable; the future can make no real change in them. Both home and Church have their close connection with the heavenly life. But while home life prepares for it, Church life anticipates it. The one is a training, the other is an earnest.
III. The principle of the text, with its elevation of Church over home, in the aspects, and for the purposes we have spoken of, is suggestive of various practical lessons.
I. It means comfort for the homeless. Though God has denied you the lesser good, He offers you the greater. If He has shut the door of home, He has thrown wide the door of the Church.
2. The text suggests a caution to those who have homes. For though the Church may be a substitute for home, home can in no wise be a substitute for the Church. Beware of imagining that it may. See to it that the home points upwards to the Church. Teach your children to take their place at the Church’s services. Accustom them to bear a share in the Church’s work. Always keep before them the duty of communicating at the Church’s table, and making avowal of the Church’s Lord. (W. A. Gray.)
Public worship to be preferred before private
Public worship is to be preferred before private. So it is by the Lord, so it should be by His people. So it was under the law, so it must be under the Gospel.
1. The Lord is more glorified by public worship than private. God is then glorified by us when we acknowledge that He is glorious. And He is most glorified when this acknowledgment is most public.
2. There is more of the Lord’s presence in public worship than in private. He is present with His people in the use of public ordinances in a more especial manner, more effectually, constantly, intimately.
3. Here are the clearest manifestations of God. Here He manifests Himself more than in private. Why was Judah called a valley of vision, but because the Lord manifested Himself to that people in public ordinances?
4. There is more spiritual advantage to be got in the use of public ordinances than in private. Whatever spiritual benefit is to be found in private duties, that, and much more, may be expected from public ordinances when duly improved. There is more spiritual light and life, more strength and growth, more comfort and soul refreshment.
5. Public worship is more edifying than private. In private you provide for your own good, but in public you do good both to yourselves and others. And that is a received rule, that good is best which is most diffusive, most communicative. Example has the force of a motive; we may stir up others by our example (Zechariah 8:20-21).
6. Public ordinances are a better security against apostasy than private, and therefore to be preferred: an argument worthy our observation in these backsliding times.
7. Here the Lord works His greatest works; greater works than ordinarily He works by private means.
8. Public worship is the nearest resemblance of heaven. In heaven, so Ear as the Scripture describes it to us, there is nothing done in private, nothing in secret, all the worship of that glorious company is public (Hebrews 12:22-23). They make one glorious congregation, and so jointly together sing the praises of Him that sits on the throne, and the praises of the Lamb, and continue employed in this public worship to eternity.
9. The examples of the most renowned servants of God, who have preferred public worship before private, is a sufficient argument.
10. Public worship is the most available for the procuring of the greatest mercies, and preventing and removing the greatest judgments.
11. The precious blood of Christ is most interested in public worship, and that must needs be most valuable which has most interest in that which is of infinite value. The blood of Christ has most influence upon public worship, more than on private: for the private duties of God’s worship, private prayers, meditation, and such like, had been required of, and performed by, Adam and his posterity, if he had continued in the state of innocency; they had been due by the light of nature, if Christ had never died, if life and immortality had never been brought to light by the Gospel. But the public preaching of the Gospel, and the administration of the federal seals, have a necessary dependence upon the death of Christ. As they are the representations, so they are the purchase of that precious blood; as Christ is hereby set forth as crucified before our eyes, so are they the purchase of Christ crucified, so are they the gifts of Christ triumphant.
12. The promises of God are more to public worship than to private (Exodus 20:24; Isaiah 4:5; Isaiah 55:2-3; Psalms 36:8-9). (D. Clarkson.)
The gates of Zion
The gates of our Zion ought to be--
I. Greeting gates. Think how the welcoming heart of Jesus opened itself to all sorts and conditions of men during His earthly life--to the leper, the Samaritan woman, the thief on the cross, etc. Surely, if the Church is to represent her Lord, her gates ought to be gates of greeting.
II. Established and guarding gates. Our churches stand for great facts and doctrines--like God, the humanity and Deity of Jesus, the authority of Scripture, the atonement, the sacredness of the Sabbath, righteousness, beneficence, etc.
III. Loved gates. What our Lord loves we should love. And especially your own Church should you thus love.
IV. Supported gates, Every Church-member should be willing and glad to do his share toward the support of worship.
V. Attractive gates. So winning, so wrapped in genial and cheerful atmosphere should our Church services be, so evident in their holding forth the attractive Christ, that the Churchless throng should be constrained to enter and to share. (Homiletic Monthly.)
Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God.
The glorious city
The inspired singer had the ransomed Church in view, and his soul was stirred by a vision of the new Jerusalem, its regenerated myriads gathered from every nation, and its crucified King, when he broke forth into this eulogy.
I. There are glorious things with respect to the erection of the city.
1. The plan of its erection. Faultless, complete, wonderful for beauty and grandeur, worthy of its Divine Architect and of the end in view, viz. to rear a city for Him to dwell in.
2. The site. The sure decree, the Divine perfections, the promise of Him that cannot lie, and the incarnate Son Himself, are the holy mountains, whose summits are gloriously crowned by the city of the great King. There the city sits securely, beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth.
3. The date of its erection. It is older than any of the cities of the ancient world--Rome--Nineveh--Babylon; it reaches a higher antiquity than any of them all. It was standing before the flood; Noah, Enoch, Abel, dwelt in it. It is almost as old as the creation.
II. There are glorious things to tell of the defences of the city. It is well fortified--encircled by the sleepless providence of Jehovah, girt about with the power of the Almighty. When its bulwarks were reared, He that made them “saw that they were good”; and He said, “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper.”
III. There are glorious things in connection with the stores and supplies on which the city depends.
1. The excellence of the city’s supplies. It is little to say that there is the best of everything--the finest of wheat, honey from the rock, water clear as crystal. The bread, the water, the wine, the milk, and the pleasant fruits, are without a parallel.
2. The abundance of the city’s supplies. There is enough for all the citizens. “He, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters,” etc.
3. The source whence the supplies are derived.
(1) They do not come from without. Its well-springs are not in the world. The corn, and the wine, and the oil, are grown where the foe is without any power.
(2) There is a river that maketh glad the city of God. Yes, the city has a river--a pure river of the water of life, clear as crystal. But cannot Satan do to the river of our city as Cyrus did to the river of Babylon? The river is beyond his reach. The fountain whence it issues is within the city walls. The river-head, the perennial spring of the stream of life, is in the heart of the fortress, and in the very throne of the King.
(3) The windows of heaven are right above the city; and the windows of heaven are frequently opened, and manna and other celestial products showered down, till there is not room enough in the magazines of the city to receive them.
IV. There are glorious things respecting the King of the city.
1. He is glorious in Himself.
(1) His name--Wonderful. He is Adam, Jacob, David, Israel; Jesus, Immanuel, Shiloh, Christ; the Second Man, the Mighty God; the Lamb, the Shepherd, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah; the Branch, the Plant of Renown, the Rose of Sharon; the Morning Star, the Sun of Righteousness, the Word of God, the Alpha and the Omega, the Amen. And these are not the whole. There are many titles and appellations behind.
(2) His person--full of grace and dignity.
(3) His character.
2. There are glorious things respecting the King, when we consider Him in connection with the city.
(1) His choice of the city is one of these. He made choice of the city before the foundation of the world; yea, the city itself was not built when it became the object of His choice, He foreknew the city; raising the curtain of futurity in the past beginning, He saw the city, He fixed upon it His love, and resolved to be its King.
(2) The circumstance that He dwells in the city is glorious.
(3) His sufferings for the city are glorious.
(4) His victories for the city are glorious.
V. There are glorious things in connection with the citizens of the city.
1. The Dumber of the citizens. It was foretold long since that they of the city should flourish like grass of the earth, and that they should be like the stars of heaven for multitude. The population of the city is increasing accordingly. Sometimes its progress is greater, and sometimes it is less, but it is always advancing.
2. The rank of the citizens. All of them are princes--the King’s own kinsmen. They are born of God, and the glorious King is their elder brother!
3. The circumstances of the citizens. In other places some are rich and some are poor. But here all the citizens are poor. “To this man will I look,” says the King, “to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit,” etc.
4. The character of the citizens. All of them are on the way to perfection. They are being fashioned to the pattern of the character of the King. The climate in which they live, the atmosphere which they breathe, the diet on which they are fed, and the exercises they engage in, have a powerful tendency to produce a resemblance between them and Him, and to conform them to His image. The beauty of the Lord descends upon them more and more.
5. The employment of the citizens.
6. The privileges of the citizens.
(1) They are served and protected by the King’s attendants and guards.
(2) They are permitted to eat fruit in the King’s garden.
(3) They may enter the King’s palace, and approach His throne. (Andrew Gray.)
The glory of the Church
Glorious things are spoken of our New Testament Zion--
1. As a magnificent city.
I. It is populous. The polished European is there, and the rude islander from the great Pacific; the dark Ethiopian on whom the sun has looked down; and the wild dweller under the North Star from his dreary regions of perpetual snow. The philosopher is in Zion with his extensive learning and habits of independent thought, in humble submission to the Cross. The cottager is there, who has read and known little but his Bible; and the child, who, receiving the Gospel in its simplicty to his infant heart, has been set forth as a pattern to the older by Him who said, “Of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
2. It is increasing; but its past triumphs are not to be compared with its future glory. A time is coming when the Gospel shall be preached to all, when the true light shall shine in the dark places of the earth, and “the isles shall wait for His law.”
3. Zion is a magnificent, because a well planned city. Glorious things are spoken of its situation. It has not an unhealthy site by the slough of despond, or a disagreeable position beside the habitations of horrid cruelty: “His foundation is in the holy mountains.” Many cities are overcrowded, and while their best streets are beautiful and spacious, their alleys are the abodes of misery and the nurseries of disease: but this city has abundant convenience and blessings for all.
II. As the seat of the great King. Many cities are beautiful in themselves, but want the honour of the metropolis. This is the capital of the dominions of a Monarch who is “higher than the kings of the earth”--God in the person of Jesus Christ. He is great--
1. In His character.
2. In His dominions.
3. In His actions.
4. In His speech. His decrees and revelations are not only superior to any statements to be found elsewhere in their cheering and instructive nature, but in the length of their duration. The edicts of other kings soon pass out of date; those of the King of Zion are eternal.
III. As the abode of a happy people.
1. Zion is the abode of a people who are happy, because they are well governed. The first element in a good government is a strong mutual affection between the prince and the people.
2. The inhabitants of Zion are happy, because well conducted. A realm whose inhabitants are idle can never be a happy one: and Christians, besides being taught not to be slothful in the common business of life, are told likewise to be active in their Master’s work.
3. Zion is the abode of a people who are happy because all their wants are abundantly supplied. There is never a famine of spiritual food in that glorious and happy place. (W. Dickson.)
The city of God
I. The designation.
1. A city, well-built and fortified.
2. It is the city of God.
(1) He is its Architect and Builder.
(2) He dwells in it.
(3) He reigns over it.
II. The excellences ascribed to this city.
1. Its purity. There is no guilt there; for “the people that dwell therein are forgiven their iniquities.” There is no defilement there; for “they have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” There are no remains of transgression there; for “they are without fault before the throne of God.” The place itself is holy, and all who dwell in it are holy, in every possible respect. Their actions, conversation, desires, and thoughts, are all holy. Nor is it merely by the absence of sin the city is distinguished. There all the fruits of righteousness abound, and in every member of its glorified community the Spirit takes up His abode, filling him with light, and life, and love.
2. Its magnificence. There is the throne of God and of the Lamb. If He were not there, it would be like a city wrapped in night; but because He is there, it shines with the brightness of perpetual day. Hence He is the object on which all eyes gaze.
3. Its opulence. Universal plenty. No toil, no anxious cares, nor disappointed hopes. Its inhabitants have for their portion God Himself, who is all in all. They are His people, and He is their God, and from the boundless resources of His nature they are ever supplied with the richest blessings.
4. Its permanence. It is an “abiding city”; “a city that hath foundations”; “a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens”; “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away.”
III. Practical lessons.
1. The necessity of personal holiness.
2. Learn, while dwelling in the vale below, to live as citizens of heaven.
3. Learn what estimate to put upon the things of time and sense. They are evanescent as the vapour which appeareth for a little time and then passeth away. There is nothing certain but death; there is nothing true but God; there is nothing permanent but heaven. (Thornley Smith.)
The city of God
Glorious things are spoken of--
1. Its Founder.
2. Its privileges, Pardon, instruction, comfort.
3. Its eminent characters.
4. Its perpetual security.
5. Its future extent and magnificence. (J. Jowett, M. A.)
By universal consent Zion is regarded as type of the Christian Church.
I. This mother is glorious is her reputation. (Verse 3). She has the reputation--
1. For the highest intelligence. To her are committed the oracles of God. She is the receptacle and the revealer of heavenly intelligence.
2. For self-sacrificing love. The love which she possesses is of the same kind as that which the Son of God exemplifies--an unconquerable love for souls.
3. For the most beneficent achievements. She has created Christendom. All the arts that bless and adorn the civilized world must he ascribed to her. Her great work is to save souls.
II. This mother is Divine in her resources (Psalms 87:5). She has had her enemies. Her continuance can only be ascribed to Divine support.
1. In what does God establish the Church? In truth and love. She is like a tree which He roots and grounds in love; like a vessel which He fastens in the firmest anchorage; like a house which He builds upon a rock.
2. How does God establish the Church? He thus gives her “power, love, and a sound mind.”
III. This mother is illustrious in her family. 1 Her children are men. “This and that man was born there.” Many call her mother whom she disowns.
2. Her children have their birth divinely registered. “When He writeth up.”
3. Her children are distinguished by every variety of mind (Psalms 87:7). There is the impulsive Peter, the heroic Paul, and the scientific Luke, and the lamb-like John. There is no monotony in her domestic circle. (Homilist.)
The city of God
I. In their literal reference to the Jewish metropolis, Jerusalem was truly the “city of God”; the city which He particularly chose--to which He paid especial regard. Hence “glorious things” were spoken of her.
1. There was the seat of the civil government.
2. There the Divine ordinances were celebrated
3. There was the general rendezvous of all the Israelitish tribes.
4. This city received a glorious name, “vision of peace”; and was at length honoured with the presence of our Lord, “the Prince of Peace.”
II. in their spiritual application to the Church of Christ. St. Paul styles this “Jerusalem which is from above, which is the mother of us all”--of all believers (Galatians 4:26). Hence Christians are represented as “fellow-citizens” (Ephesians 2:19) Now of this spiritual city, the antitype of Zion, glorious things are spoken:--
1. That she is gloriously founded by the living God.
2. That she possesses glorious privileges.
3. That she contains glorious inhabitants.
4. That glorious promises shall be accomplished in her (Isaiah 55:1-13.).
III. In their grandest typical reference to heaven itself. (Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)
The city of God
Glorious things are spoken of--
1. Its security.
2. Its beauty.
3. The privileges enjoyed by its inhabitants. Theirs are the present and palpable advantages connected with a life of piety; evil things are sent them in mercy, and of the good things of life they have the real benefit and enjoyment, and possess them with God’s blessing. Theirs is the inheritance of grace; theirs the heirship of glory.
4. Its enlargement, and the increase of its inhabitants.
5. Its durability. (James Kirkwood.)
The Church and the city of God
I. A ransomed city.
II. A holy city.
III. A united city.
IV. An enlarging city.
V. An everlasting city. (J. Smyth, D. D.)
I. First on the catalogue is the fact of God’s intimate connection with the Church. “His foundation in the holy mountains.” God and His people cannot be separated. The Spirit dwells within the Church, aye, and tabernacles within the very body of each believer.
II. The second glory is found in the fact that God Himself has established the Church. The Divine attributes and perfections are as the foundations of the city.
III. An equally glorious fact is to be found in the special favour God has towards His Church.
IV. The most glorious thing of all is the promise of increase, and the fulfilment of that promise. Certain nations are spoken of here. “I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to them that know me: behold Philistia, and Tyre, with Ethiopia; this man was born there.” Whole nations, you see! Yes, for a nation shall be born in a day, and men shall come to Christ as doves fly to their windows. The character of the people is here indicated. These are heathen nations, Rahab, Babylon, Philistia, Tyre and Ethiopia. Thank God for the missionary work at home and abroad, for home missionaries and city missionaries, as well as for foreign missionaries, since the heathen are at our very doors. But though nations are made mention of, it is very evident that individuals are dealt with. “This man was born there,” “This and that man was born there.” Yes, salvation is an individual matter after all. You cannot be saved with the crowd, though you can be saved in a crowd. It must be God’s own Spirit working on heart and causing it to be new-born. Praise the Lord for this individual work among the people. (T. Spurgeon.)
Glorious things of the city of God
1. Her redemption and salvation through Christ.
2. Her spiritual life and beauty.
3. Her increase and enlargement..
4. Her relation to the kingdom of this world.
5. Her millennial happiness.
6. Her duration on earth.
7. Her future eternal glory. (E. Ritchie.)
And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her.
The Church of to-day
I. The chief work and truest dignity of the Church lies in her regeneration and saving energy. In imitation of the example of her Lord, she has reached, and is reaching now, those whom philosophers and poets, statesmen and even philanthropists, had designated “the lapsed and incorrigible classes.” Where schools of philosophy and codes of law have utterly and ignominiously failed to kill the virus of some moral epidemic, the religion of Christ has succeeded, the Gospel of Christ has proved an unfailing remedy.
II. The conversion of men should be the first aim of the Christian ministry.
III. This should be the great aim of all religious effort. We need more of the spirit of the sainted Alleine, who said “he was insatiably greedy for the salvation of souls”; or of Matthew Henry, who said “he would deem it a greater happiness to gain one soul to Christ than thousands of gold and silver.”
IV. The dignity and work of the Church lies with its individual members--“this and that man.” The Church of every age can boast of names whose loss would be a loss to mankind. Time would fail to tell of Paul, the eloquent apostle of the Gentiles; Polycarp, the faithful disciple of John; Justin Martyr, the great defender of the faith; Augustine, Luther, Wycliffe, Knox, Wesley and Whitefield, and a host of others, of whom we say with pride, “this and that man,” etc.
V. The true inspiration in the Church is spiritual and supernatural, I have seen an unfilled balloon lying limp and useless on the ground. I have seen the same material expanded and floating gracefully far away above the toil and sin of earth. So have I seen the Church lying limp and lifeless, an object of loathing to some and pity to others. I have seen the same Church filled by the breath of God warm and full, no longer pitied, but admired as the centre of life and hope for a weary world. (Z. T. Dowen, D. D.)
Zion a type of the Church
Contemplate Zion in regard to--
I. Her converts. They are born, as it were, into a new world. The subjects of this change have new attachments and aversions; new joys and sorrows; new fears and hopes. They are actuated by new motives; and having experienced such a change in the inward man, they will manifest it in the whole of their deportment.
II. Her perpetuity.
III. Her final triumph. We may infer this from--
1. The faithfulness of God to His promises.
2. The firm basis on which religious liberty rests in our day, and the growing intelligence of the age respecting the spiritual nature and the Scriptural means of supporting the Church of Christ.
3. The more abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit with which we believe God will bless His Church.
4. The prayers offered and the efforts made for the religious interests of the neighbourhood. (Essex Remembrancer.)
The Church’s fruitfulness
1. In regard of the eminency of her births, she is not wholly barren; she bath her births of men, and worthy men. The carnal world hath not exceeded the Church in men of raised intellectuals; Zion hath not been a city of fools.
2. In regard to the multitude of them; “this and that man,” of all sorts and conditions, and multitudes of them, so that “more are the children of the desolate than of the married wife.” The tents were prophesied to be enlarged, the curtains of the habitations of Zion to be stretched out, and her cords to be lengthened, to receive and entertain that multitude of children that should be brought forth by her after the sacrifice of the Son of God (Isaiah 54:1-2); for that exhortation follows upon the description of the death and exaltation of Christ (Isaiah 53:1-12.). (S. Charnock.)
Fragrant memories of spiritual birth-places
There is nothing strange in the halo of dearness which, to every Christian, hangs around the scenes with which the beginning of his new life is associated. The place where two friends first met is sacred to them all through their friendship, all the more sacred as their friendship deepens and grows old. Only the last day shall tell how much of earth is hallowed ground. This is what makes the old churches holy with an accumulated sacredness which surpasses their first consecration. Who can tell how many this church of ours will find among the blessed to honour and treasure her for ever, that she may not be forgotten when the birthplaces of souls are remembered? (Bishop Phillips Brooks.)
And the Highest Himself shall establish her.
The Church’s stability
I. The explication.
1. This stability must not be meant of any particular Church in the world. Particular Churches have their beginnings, progresses, and periods. Particular Churches have been corrupted by superstition and idolatry, rent by heresies, and scattered by persecutions, Zion hath stood, though some synagogues of it have been pulled down; it hath, like the sun, kept its station in the firmament, though not without eclipses and clouds to muffle it. The Church is but one, though it be in divers countries, and named according to the places where it resides, as the Church of Ephesus, the Church of Sardis, etc. If you obstruct the light of one beam, or lop off one branch, or dam up the stream, yet the sun, root, fountain remains the same.
2. Though God unstakes the Church in one place, yet He will not only have a Church, but a professing Church in another. It is a standing law of Christianity that a belief in the heart should be attended by confession with the mouth (Romans 10:9). And the Church is a congregation of people sounding the voice of Christ, as He was preached and confessed by the apostles. While there are believers, there will be professors in society together; some ordinances settled in being during the continuance of the world, as the supper (1 Corinthians 11:6).
3. This Church or Zion shall have a numerous progeny. The spiritual Israel shall be “as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered” (Hosea 1:10), which was the promise made to Abraham (Genesis 22:17), and renewed in the same terms to Jacob (Genesis 32:12). The Church is a little flock in comparison of the carnal world, yet it is numerous in itself, though not in every place.
II. God has hitherto established Zion.
1. This is testified by its present standing, when other empires have sunk by age or violence. She bath borne up her head in the midst of earthly revolutions, and met with her preservation or resurrection where carnal interests have found their funeral.
2. No society but the Church ever subsisted in the midst of a multitude of enemies.
3. The violences against her, which have been fatal to other societies, have been useful to her. This bush hath burned without consuming, and preserved its verdure in the midst of fire; not from the nature of the bush, but the presence of Him that dwelt in it.
4. When she has seemed to be forlorn and dead, God has restored her. When Israel was at the lowest, a decree issued out in Egypt to destroy her males and root out her seed, deliverance began to dawn; and when a knife was at her throat at the Red Sea, and scarce a valiant believer found among a multitude of despairers, God turned the back of the knife to His Israel, and the edge to the throat of the enemies.
5. God never wanted instruments for His Church in the due season. If Nebuchadnezzar be the axe to hew down Jerusalem, Cyrus shall be the instrument to build her up; when His time is come, He will not want an Ezra and Nehemiah to rear her walls, nor be wanting to them to inspire them with courage and assist their labour, in spite of the adversaries that would give checkmate to the work. If Stephen be stoned by the Sews, He will call out Paul, an abettor of that murder, to be a preacher of the Gospel, and he that was all fire against it shall become as great a flame for the propagation of it: one phoenix shall arise out of the ashes of another.
III. Why it must needs be so.
1. It is necessary for the honour of God. Those societies may moulder away, and those religions grow feeble, which have drawn their birth from the wisdom of man and been settled from the force of man, but a Divine work must needs have a Divine establishment.. It is so--
(1) If you regard it as His main design in the creation of the world.
(2) As He hath been the author and builder of Zion.
(3) As He hath been the preserver and enlarger of her to this day.
(4) In regard of the cost and pains He hath been at about Zion.
(5) In regard of faithfulness, His veracity is engaged.
(6) In regard it is the seat of His glory.
(7) In regard that it is the object of His peculiar affection.
(8) In regard of the natural weakness of the Church.
2. It is for the exercise of the offices of Christ that Zion should be established. He is prophet, priest, and king, which are all titles of relation. Prophet implies some to be instructed, a priest some to offer for, and a king some to be ruled; put one relation, and you must necessarily put the other. If there were no Church preserved in the world, He would be a nominal prophet without any disciples, a king without subjects, and a priest without suppliants to be atoned by Him upon earth.
3. The foundation of Zion is sure. It is founded upon Christ, the corner stone.
IV. The use,
(1) If the Church hath a duration and stability, then ordinances and ministry are perpetual. Ministers may be thrust into corners, clapped up in prison, hurried to their graves, but the sepulchres of ministers are not the graves of the ministry.
(2) The doctrine of the establishment of every member of Zion is clearly established. The same blood that is the cement of Zion, the same hand that built her, the same head that influenceth her, secures every one of her true-born children. They are all in the same posture and upon the same foundation with Zion herself.
(3) How great is the folly of Zion’s enemies! They judge of her by the weakness of her worldly interest, and not by the almightiness of her guardian.
(4) What a ground is here for prayer! No petition can more comfortably, no petition can more confidently, be put up, than for Zion’s establishment. Prayers for particular persons, or for ourselves, may want success; but supplications for Zion never miscarry.
(5) What a strong ground is here for trust! Look not so much upon the condition of Zion’s walls as upon her foundation; not upon her present posture, as upon her promise-charte; not upon her as a weak vine, but under the hand of the Highest as the vine-dresser. Look not upon the feebleness of the flock, but upon the care of the shepherd; nor upon the fierceness of the lions, but upon the strength and affection of her guardian.
(1) In the confusions and troubles of the world.
(2) In persecutions.
(3) In the deepest designs of her enemies. If He be the Highest, and employs Himself as the Highest, there is none so high as to overtop Him, none so high as to outwit Him. Though their union be never so close, and their projects never so deep, yet God’s being with the Church is curb enough for them and comforting enough for Zion (Isaiah 8:9).
(1) Take heed of apostatizing from Zion.
(2) Let us love Zion.
(3) Let us desire the establishment of Zion more than our own private establishment.
(4) Let us endeavour the establishment of Zion. (S. Charnock.)
The Lord shall count, when He writeth up the people, that this man was born there.
The last census
I. When this dispensation shall come to its close, when the Lord Jesus Christ shall come in the clouds of heaven, then we believe the Lord shall write up His people. What will this writing be?
1. There will be written in this census nothing but personal matters. “This man was born there.” They are not taken in the plural--“these men.” They are not taken as a corporate body--this nation, this Church, this family--but one by one each man’s name shall be found either written there or else left out. There is no truth which we need more frequently to hold up before the eyes of our people than the truth that nothing but personal godliness will ever avail.
2. Again, you will perceive that this great census deals not merely with personal matters, but with vital matters which concern a man’s birth. Here you have it that this man was born there. ‘Tis true the things we have thought and those we have done shall be mentioned at the last, but not for their own sakes. They shall be mentioned only as means of proving that we were born again, or else as evidence that regeneration had never taken place in us.
3. This census will be decisive--the last polling of the people, the last counting of the jewels and casting away of the counterfeits, the last bringing in of the sheep and banishment of the goats. Oh that we were wise to look into futurities!
II. Whose names will not be found written when the Lord counteth up His people.
1. The name of the hypocritical Church member will not be found there.
2. The man who is a mere hearer.
3. Those who are living in vice and open sin, and die as they live.
III. Whose name will be found there? We reply, there shall be the name of every soul that ever believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.
IV. Who is to make out the census paper? “The Lord shall count when He writeth up the people.” But why shall the Lord make out the census? Who else should do it? God is only wise. We will not question this man or that, this denomination or that. It is not for us to use our fingers to count the brands plucked from the burning, but to use our hands to pluck them from the fire, and we will pass the roll to the only wise God, and He shall at the last decide whether they be His or no.
V. Why will the census be taken at all? The Lord counts up His people--
1. To show His value of them.
2. To show to Satan his entire defeat.
3. To let all men see that the great riddle which has distracted human intellect was no riddle but a fact. God is glorified, and man free. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The correct census
I. The counting. A census is no new thing. Refer to the history of Jacob, the time of Pharaoh, etc. Churches have their census. This describes the final census--
1. It will be an individual counting. “This man was born there.” The question not one of reformation, but of regeneration.
2. It will be unalterable. It will be final (Revelation 22:11). It is of supreme importance to have our name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Seek to have it registered now.
II. The counter. “The Lord shall count.” What a mercy. Man might accidentally omit, or through partiality insert some name, but it is well that the Lord should be the Presiding Officer because of--
1. His intimate acquaintance with every one. “The Lord knoweth them that are His.” He cannot therefore be deceived. To Him all hearts are open. We may “profess and call ourselves Christians,” but our profession will be worthless unless our name be inserted in the heavenly register.
2. His unfailing accuracy. No name omitted or inserted in error. The totals will agree. Man may err, but His accuracy none can call in question.
III. The counted. Whose name will be found in the register? Only his who has been “born again,” i.e. “born from above.” I may be “the weakest of them that love Him,” but if I have been “born there,” I shall not be disowned. If we share in the bond of the covenant, we shall also share in the blessedness of the covenant. Will He count me? “Except a man be born again,” etc. (Samuel Oliver.)
God takes the census
Why should the Lord make out the census? The reason is--who else could do it? Imagine for a moment that the pen could be given to the Pope of Rome. I am sure he would omit yours and mine, because we are not obedient to the Pontifical See; and even if he were under authority and command, I am sure he would make a great splutter in trying to write the name “Martin Luther,” and he would throw down his pen and utterly refuse to obey if he had to write the glorious name of John Calvin. Suppose, now, we put the pen into the hand of Bigotry--Bigotry who lives not quite so far off as Italy, but takes up her residence in our own land, and hard by our abode. I think I see her, with her face bitter as wormwood, and with her eyes full of darkness, and she, having written all the names down, reads, “There be few that shall be saved; they be so few that a child can count them.”. . . God, and God only--God the only wise--shall have the writing up of the people, for there is no one to be found but God who could do it. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
As well the singers as the players on instruments shall be there.
Music an epitome of life
Music does a great many things for us. It pleases the senses, it affords aesthetic delight, it calms perplexed feelings, it nerves the soldier’s heart to battle, it soothes the babe upon its mother’s breast, it thrills the maiden’s heart with love, it consoles the mourner’s grief and hallows it, it spurs the rapture of the dance, and moderates and sanctifies the march to the tomb. What man would but cannot, music seems to do for him. When his deed lags, she strengthens him; when his spirit falters, she inspires; when his voice is dumb, she speaks for him. In a word, music is capable of supplementing man’s finitude, and opening for him the realm of his ideals and his aspirations. And this is the explanation of its power to do so much for us, and be so much to us, because in its own terms it has a capacity of expressing life. This is at once an explanation of its power and a statement of its inscrutable mystery, that it is fitted to be the common language of the universal sentiment of humanity. As good old Father Haydn said of it, “My language is understood all over the world.” So, in recognition of this capacity to portray human experience and to reflect human sentiment, I have chosen to consider music as an epitome of life. One essential of music is based on time, and consists in the relation of notes to each other measured by duration. The savage beating his tom-tom is the rudimentary musician. The human ear is earliest susceptible to the impression of rhythm. Yet so radically and perpetually essential is this feature that the most elaborate symphony is dependent on it equally with the primitive drum-beat. Lacking it, either one would be incoherent, would cease to be music, and would become simply noise. This is manifest, but now where shall we find in life the equivalent of this essential term? What is the pulse of the moral life, the heart-beat of conduct as rhythm is the heart-beat of song? What imparts measure and meaning and impulse to the otherwise unrelated activities, and sets them in order in intelligible succession? What, if not the exercise of will, the putting forth of purpose? Yes, purpose is to life what rhythm is to song. Beside time, the other evident essential of music is tune, in which also we may discern some suggestive parallel to life. The possibility of tune depends on that mysterious feature of music we call the scale or the octave. These eight tones of relative pitch that compose the octave, with their semitones of the chromatic scale, furnish the material out of which all music is composed. Melody, which is a sort of harmony, and harmony, which is in turn a sort of condensed melody, both equally flow from this mysterious relation that sounds bear to each other, and depend on it. Not a single note in music stands alone in its significance. We are not far, then, from recognizing what is signified concerning human life, in the fact that music rests on the relation of note to note, of part to part. The parallel truth is that no man liveth to himself. Selfishness excludes one from the harmony of being. As the notes in the scale are fitted by their mutual relations to portray ideal beauty, so are we constituted for each other, attaining the roundness, the completeness, the satisfaction of life, never in ourselves alone, but only as we stand related to each other in the significance of that scale of character that imparts the meaning to life, and in this large relation we all inevitably stand for discord or for harmony. A closing parallel may be drawn from the motive of music. Its material it takes from time and tune, its method is obedience, and its motive is love. Each individual musical entity gives itself to the use and being of the whole. How the symphony exemplifies this truth! Each note is woven as a mesh in the network of tone; each part contrasts and amplifies every other part; each instrument sets in other colour the utterance of its neighbour--the violins in clear intensity of utterance give forth the theme, and then they part, some to maintain it, others to adorn it; the flutes and clarionets and oboes touch it with a sylvan tone; the lower strings grant it the fervour of their passionate thought; the horns breathe calm and clear; the trumpets sound the voice of resolute affirmation, while the basses solidly support them all: so many voices, yet with one harmonious theme, it is the picture of a community of inspired souls with a common purpose. Therein the finite escapes from its bondage and restriction, and goes out into the Infinite. Hear the words of the Christ, having identical import: “He that loseth his life shall find it. Let a man deny himself, and he shall have a part in My eternal kingdom. Let the finite humble itself, and it shall be exalted to share in the Infinite.” A definition has been given of music, at once most philosophical and most poetical--a single line by Sidney Lanier:--
“Music is love in search of a word.”
Yea, this is its one abiding theme; not the mere feeling of affection and selfish preference, not of mawkish sensibility, the expression of which is music’s bane and curse and disgrace, but love that comes from a humble consciousness of the worth of personal being, and that in the spirit of consecration and of self-bestowment devotes itself to that fulness of being of which its character enables it to supply a part. “Music is love in search of a word.” True life is love striving for perfect utterance in word and deed. (C. F. Carter.)
All my springs are in Thee.
Christ Jesus the fountain of grace
I. In Jesus Christ are the springs of pardoning mercy. This is the root of every other mercy.
II. A Christian acknowledges all his springs of sanctifying grace to be in Jesus Christ. As the streams of a fountain are directed into various channels to water every part of the garden in which it springs, so doth the grace of God, in Jesus Christ, gush forth from its unfathomable depth of mercy, into every sentiment of the heart and mind of a sincere believer. It rectifies the erring judgment--it corrects the perverted will--it sanctifies the affections, weaning them from the vanities of earth and the defilement of sin, and turning them to dwell with complacency and with delight upon the supreme realities of eternal things. It quickens every languishing grace, and unites all the parts of Christian character in one supreme desire to glorify God.
III. The springs of that peace and joy with which a Christian is filled in believing, are also found in the Son of God, as He is present with His Church. O if the sight of Joseph at Pharaoh’s right hand, in favour and honour with the King of Egypt, could send the patriarchs home to Canaan with such joyful news to their aged father, what a message of delight must faith carry to the soul when it comes after a visitation of mercy in those services in which it hath contemplated the glory of Christ, and its own interest in that glory! With joy, even with joy unspeakable and full of glory, may such a soul draw water out of the wells of salvation.
IV. The springs of hope that cheer and bless the pilgrimage of a Christian, are derived from the great Head of the Church. To Him are given exceeding great and precious promises; and a view of the unchangeable fidelity of his Father, in the covenant of love by Jesus Christ, fills him with a hope that maketh not ashamed.
V. The springs of eternal glory proceed from the Son of God. The righteousness, the holiness, which constitutes the character of true Christians, and the blessedness with which it will be recompensed, are all given by Christ to the Church. They who possess them are the seed which should prolong their days, or be happy for ever. In them He sees of the travail of His soul, and is satisfied. Here the gracious purpose of Jehovah prospers in His hands, perfectly and for ever. (R. P. Buddicom, M. A.)
A song of triumph
I. The Christian requires divers kinds of blessings, and these are all furnished for him. Not one rill of supply merely, but many springs.
1. We will speak first of that spring which may be called sanctification, which washes us from daily accumulating evil, and checks our own depravity--which makes us more holy, and more fit to become partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.
2. Sustaining grace.
3. Wisdom to direct.
4. Strength and assistance in every time of need.
5. Joy and comfort.
II. Where are these springs to be found? In Jesus our Lord and our God. It is of the Father’s grace that the Spirit gives us from Jesus’ fulness, so that we can never faint or fail. The wisdom of this arrangement will be evident if we consider--
1. Our own folly.
2. Our weakness.
3. Our great ingratitude and forgetfulness of God.
4. Our tendency to pride.
5. We admire this plan because it exalts God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. It makes us to come often into their presence to acknowledge our need and to extol God as alone able to supply it. (J. A. Spurgeon.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 87". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19