"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified." (Isaiah 61:1-3)
OUR text has no application where there is no spiritual life. The whole of that which our text contains as setting forth the condition of those for whom our blessed Redeemer condescended to be "made flesh," refers to spiritual things. It is spiritual meekness, it is spiritual brokenness of heart, it is spiritual bondage from which they are delivered; it is the opening of the spiritual prison to them who are spiritually bound; it is proclaiming the spiritual year, which is the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; it is to appoint unto them that spiritually mourn in Zion--they must be in Zion; made new creatures in Christ Jesus by the blessed regenerating power of the Spirit of God; they must be manifestly children of God; manifestly brought under the rod into the bond of the covenant, before they can know what it is to mourn spiritually--to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for spiritual mourning, the garment of praise for spiritual heaviness.
But while I thus speak with reference to the certainty that our text can have no application where there is no spiritual life, at the same time every child of God knows something, more or less, of the spiritual conditions over which the prophet goes in these words. It is, to my mind, most blessed to compare our text with the sermon on the mount.
You will remember that our blessed Lord Jesus Christ claims the words of our text as referring directly to himself, when he returned to Nazareth after his baptism, and stood up in the synagogue for to read. They gave him the roll of the prophet Isaiah, and he read the first two verses of this glorious testimony. And he closed the book and said, "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears." (Luke 4:16-21) Thus he claimed it all as his own. And when he began his blessed ministry, what was the first thing he did! He gave forth the same blessed proclamation, "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted." (Matt. 5:3,4)
He looked around upon the multitude, and saw some of his dear ones who had been led or drawn to him by the power of the Spirit, and had been made partakers of life divine! He knew that that life had begun to manifest itself in them. It had enabled them to perceive and feel their spiritual poverty. It had brought them into a condition in which nothing could satisfy them but a knowledge of their interest in Christ himself.
How many of us know what it is to have passed through this great change? Dear brother, it is an eternal change! "I give unto them [my sheep] eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand." (John 10:28)
Then, again, in opening the grand subject to Nicodemus, when he came to Jesus by night, the very first thing he says to him is, "Except a man be born again, he cannot SEE the kingdom of God." (John 3:3) He has no spiritual eyesight, therefore he cannot see the preciousness of Christ. He cannot see the suitability of Christ. He cannot see his own condition of need, therefore he cannot see that Christ is all he needs. But this knowledge, perception, and feeling flows solely from the indwelling of this new spiritual life, to attain which a man must be born again from above.
Then, again, a few verses after the one we have quoted--Christ says to Nicodemus, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot ENTER into the kingdom of God." But when the child of God has passed through this blessed change, he begins to see the preciousness and suitability of Christ. He sees that there is in him all fullness to supply his need. He sees it, perhaps, as it is developed in others, long before he is enabled himself with sweet simple faith to realize as his own all "the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ." Still, he enters the kingdom of God in desire, it may be, long before he is enabled to enter the blessed kingdom in full assurance of faith. Again, "Except a man be born of water." Now water here signifies life. As Christ said to the woman of Samaria, "The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." (John 4:14)
Again, in many other places water is put for life. "Ye must be born again" through the power of the Spirit, bringing the water of life down, and gathering up the sinner into union with that eternal life which is Christ himself; for Christ is our life. It is then, and only then, that we have power to enter by faith into the kingdom of God.
The apostle tells us clearly, "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor. 2:14)
A man may have a great amount of natural knowledge with regard to the letter of God's Word; he may know all about doctrine; but if he has not been born again from above, he knows nothing of spiritual poverty; he knows nothing of that spiritual meekness which arises out of a knowledge of our deep sinnership; he knows nothing of waiting at the footstool of mercy, and, like the poor publican of old, smiting upon his breast, crying, "God, be merciful to me a sinner!"
"A sinner is a sacred thing;
The Holy Ghost has made him so."
That is, a sinner who has been brought to feel that without Christ he can do nothing is made sacred by the power of that holy life, which, by its light, shows him first what a vile thing he is in himself, and then the preciousness of Christ as his only hope.
I shall endeavor today, as the Lord shall help me, to look at our text, first, with reference to the blessed title that is claimed by Christ in it; and secondly, with reference to the glorious mission of the person who claims this title.
First, with regard to the title, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me."
Christ claims this as his own. If you refer to Psalm 110:1, you will there see a similar testimony: "The LORD said unto my Lord." This means literally, "Jehovah said unto my Adonai." Here are two distinct names. "The Spirit of the LORD-Adonai, the Spirit of Jehovah-Adonai, is upon me." Here is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. So, "The LORD said unto my Adonai, my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool." Christ claims these words as his own, as we shall see if we refer to Matt. 22:42-45. He asks the question, "What think ye of Christ? whose Son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David. He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his Son?"
Here we see Christ clearly sets forth the two natures in his one glorious person. He was the Son of David, and yet David's Lord. And here in our text he claims to be the "Adonai," which signifies THE SUPPORTER OF ALL THINGS. If we turn to Col. 1, we shall there see this set forth: "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the Church." (Col. 1:13-18)
The Holy Ghost continually brings these two grand features together,--that Christ is the creator and the upholder of all things; the "Adonai," who is full of infinite power to uphold, as he was full of infinite power to create. He sustains all by the mightiness of his power; as it is written, "Because he is strong in power not one faileth." (Isa. 40:26) Yet Satan will come sometimes to the child of God, and tell him, You will make shipwreck after all, because you are so powerless. But it is a blessed thing to live in entire dependence upon the Lord, feeling that in ourselves we are less than nothing, and vanity; but that in our precious Lord Jesus we have all things, and abound. The apostle Paul learned this glorious lesson by the thorn in the flesh, the messenger, Satan, that buffeted him, when the Lord said to him, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore," says Paul, "will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Cor. 12:9) It is the Lord that permits me to be brought down to feel my abject weakness and nothingness, that I may be compelled of necessity to go to him for strength. "Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength." (Isa. 40:30,31) They shall exchange strength. The Lord will take their weakness, and give them his strength. He will bring them to glory in the fact, that the very life in which they are living, as new creatures in Christ Jesus, is that which makes them feel their deep need of all that Christ is made of God to his people: Their wisdom, their righteousness, their sanctification, or holiness, and their redemption. He is the head of his body, the Church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell." All fullness of spiritual blessings dwells in him; as we read, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." (Eph. 1:3)
Now since it has pleased the Father that in Christ all fullness should dwell, we must expect to continue empty from day to day; for it is the empty vessel alone that is suitable for the Master's use. Empty in ourselves, but of his fullness receiving, and "grace for grace." Grace to grow in grace; grace to love his grace; grace to seek after his grace; grace to long for more grace.
This name "Adonai," which belongs to our most glorious Christ, may be viewed in two aspects. He is not only the center of all power, as the creator and supporter of all things; but he is also the center of all authority. The name contains these two distinct properties.
We shall look first a little at his power. He has power to give life. He contains in himself eternal life, as he tells us, "As the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man." (John 5:26,27)
He as the Adonai, as the head of his body, the Church, contains ETERNAL LIFE in himself, and he has power at any moment to give that life to each one who was "bound up in the bundle of life with the Lord their God before the foundation of the world." And with this life he has power to give all other blessings. He has power to give PARDON.
Yes, poor troubled one, you may have experienced the first putting forth of this power, giving you the light of life to perceive that you are a poor needy sinner. This is the first great act of the power of our "Adonai," bringing the poor sinner out of death into spiritual life in himself, as we read, "He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." (1 John 5:12) To those who are destitute of spiritual life, as I have already said, there is no application of any thing that is contained in our most glorious text. But he who has but the very beginning of this life, causing him to feel his need of pardon, will never rest contented until pardon is sealed upon his heart; until he feels the precious power of the blood of Christ; until pardon is proclaimed in the court of conscience; until he can go to a throne of grace, realizing the words of that blessed hymn--
"Behold a throne of grace,
The promise calls us near;
There Jesus shows a smiling face,
And waits to answer prayer.
"That rich atoning blood,
Which sprinkled round I see,
Prepares for those who come to God
An all-prevailing plea."
Oh, dear brother, when the blood of Jesus Christ, that cleanseth from all sin, was first applied to my conscience, what a moment of delight was it to my soul! And if you have once felt it, you will long to get back again under the power of the sprinkling of that precious blood, which has brought you up to know that your sin is for ever put away; to know that the passover was killed for you; so that now, as a pardoned sinner, you can say--
"My soul, ask what thou wilt,
Thou canst not be too bold;
Since his own blood for thee he spilt,
What else can he withhold?"
It was necessary that our precious Lord Jesus Christ should go forth to establish his power to pardon by shedding his own precious blood. It was necessary that he should go forth as the anointed One to accomplish all the purposes of our covenant God and Father. It was necessary that he should "bear our sins in his own body on the tree," and so put them away by the sacrifice of himself. It is as a slain sacrifice that our "Adonai" comes forth now as the anointed One of the Father, having power not only to pardon, but to justify the sinner before God. He is able not only to pardon our sins, and to cleanse us from all spot of iniquity, and from all wrinkle of impurity, but, by his own perfect righteousness, he justifies us freely from all things; so that we can rejoice in the blessedness, that "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life"--that new ascending life which is given to the child of God when he is made a new creature in Christ--"the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made us free from the law of sin and death." (Rom. 8:1,2)
What a glorious standing has the poorest, feeblest child of God, if he could but realize the simplicity of it by faith! Yea, the little new-born babe stands as high here, in all the dignity of this eternal justification and perfection, as the young man or the father in Christ. It has nothing to do with our knowledge: the Prince of Wales, the moment he was born, was as much the proprietor of all the dignity which belonged to his high position as he is now, but he knew nothing about it. So is it with every one that is born of the Spirit: he must "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." (2 Pet. 3:18) It is to grow up into him our living head in all things. And it is our blessedness to know, that when we are born again from above, having received eternal life, we must of necessity grow, and that we must be presented at last "faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy."
But not only has he power to justify, but he has power also to sanctify, and to make us holy as God is holy. "For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified;" (Heb. 10:14) them who are "sanctified by God the Father, preserved in Jesus Christ, and called" by the divine power and ministry of the Spirit.
Again, he has power to extend protection to his Church. She may be beset by ten thousand evils; there are the three mighty enemies, THE WORLD, THE FLESH, AND THE DEVIL, that are continually banded together against her peace, and would, if it were possible, pluck her out of the hand of the MIGHTY ONE who holds her fast. The flesh, perhaps, is the most desperate and the most wicked of the three. But, in the midst of all, how blessed is it to realize by faith that our most glorious Christ is sent forth thus to exercise his power, that he may protect his own dear children, and preserve them even unto the end. He has power to raise a sinking Peter when, in his unbelief, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" (Matt. 14:30) And there may be many a sinking one here this morning who may be feeling that it is impossible that anything can save him; but, as in the case of Peter, if you are looking to him, crying, "Lord, save, or I perish!" he will stretch forth his hand, and say, "O thou of little faith! wherefore didst thou doubt?" He may suffer you to sink again and again, that you may learn that it is by his power alone you are kept. "All his saints are in his hand." (Deut. 33:3) He has also to restore the fallen. He restored poor Peter. "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep." (John 21:16,17) And he is the same precious Lord Jesus Christ, yesterday, today, and for ever.
Do you suppose for a moment, that in preaching the glorious doctrine of the power of Christ to restore the backslider, it will make a poor sinner who has been thus restored indifferent about sin? Was Peter indifferent about his sin of denying his Lord and Master? No; I doubt not he remembered it to his dying day; for when he came to be put to death, we are told that he was determined he would not suffer in the same way in which his Lord did, but he would be crucified with his head downwards. Jesus had power to carry Peter through his deep temptation. He says, "Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have thee, that he may sift thee as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not." (Luke 22:31,32) What a manifestation of the mighty power of him who is the "author and the finisher of our faith" was this! and this power is exercised on behalf of each individual who is born again from above. He is as much a partaker of the putting forth of this power, as was Peter, or Paul, or any of the Old or New Testament saints.
Moreover, he has power to "save unto the uttermost." I know there are some of the Lord's children who are so cast down in their hearts because Satan often comes in like a flood, and, as the "accuser of the brethren," holds up their filthy garments and says, What! you a child of God! that they think it is almost impossible that there can be any salvation for them. But it is our privilege to come to you in the name of the Lord, and to proclaim this declaration, that "Jesus is exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins." (Acts 5:31) And, also, "He is able to save unto the uttermost all who come unto God by him." (Heb. 7:25) Thus, though it may appear, according to your own feelings, as though you were beyond the reach of mercy, you are not beyond the power of our Adonai; for our text says, "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek."
But he is not only able to "save unto the uttermost," he is able also to hold us fast. It is not our faith that holds us fast. Some people talk a great deal about their faith; but the child of God sometimes feels unbelief so far working and prevailing in his heart, that when he looks for his faith he seems to have none. But we must turn from self to Jesus, as we read in Heb. 12:1, "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking from--to [it is a double preposition in the Greek, it is looking from self, to] Jesus the author and finisher of our faith."
Now, dear brother, the Lord help you to realize with me the blessedness of this. He being the author and finisher of our faith, we may be quite sure he will hold us fast. And he will give us faith enough, but none to spare.
Moreover, by his infinite power he gives us the victory over Sin, Satan, and the World; as the apostle blessedly sings in the closing up of the eighth of the Romans. I call it a song, because it seems to come into my heart sometimes as the song of triumph of a conquering warrior,--"We are more than conquerors through him who loved us." Even through our precious Lord Jesus Christ. As the apostle says again in another place, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Gal. 2:20) This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." (1 John 5:4) It is the faith of which Christ is the "author and finisher."
The Lord impress these things upon the hearts of his dear children, that they may see that it matters not how low down they may be in their feelings; that they are not reckon according to their enjoyments; but if they have spiritual life to feel their need of Christ; if they feel that nothing short of union to, and communion with Christ will satisfy their souls; that nothing short of the putting forth of his power can give them the victory over sin, Satan, and the world; then, all are theirs, they are Christ's and Christ is God's.
Moreover, he can empty us, and he can fill us. It is by his power that we are "emptied from vessel to vessel;" and if we were not thus emptied, the grace that God has given his children would be turned into another channel. It would be taken advantage of to puff them up with pride. The old nature in the child of God would become proud of his graces, if the Lord did not now and then empty him from vessel to vessel; and make him feel that in himself he is always empty, and that it is the Lord alone that can fill him. When he comes in sweet manifestation, and communes with us from above the mercyseat, and drops a little of the precious anointing oil upon our hearts, we can then say, "It is the voice of my beloved;" for we know his voice. "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:27)
"Yes," says some poor troubled Little-faith, "but I find these moments of enjoyment are so soon over. It is like lightning, that comes for a moment, and lights up the prospect, so that I can 'see the King in his beauty, and behold the land that is very far off;' (Isa. 33:17) and then it is all darkness again." Well, it is blessed that you can see the darkness, for a dead man cannot see. You must have spiritual eyesight, or you could not distinguish between the darkness and the light. But we must wait for the promise. HE has said, "I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice." (John 16:22) Yes, he will come again, dear brother.
"Sometimes a light surprises
The Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord, that rises
With healing in his wings."
How blessed is it when we can go with him into the banqueting-house, and "drink, and forget our poverty, and remember our misery no more." (Prov. 31:7)
Again, it is a blessed thought for the child of God to bear in mind from day to day, and from hour to hour, that our glorious "Adonai" is putting forth his power to subdue the proud waves of nature, as they are pressed forward by Satan. He says, "Thus far shalt thou come, and no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed." (Job 38:11)
But there is a power which he puts forth in another way, and that is a captivating power. He has power to win the sinner's heart. "Yes," say you, "he has shown me that I am bound about his heart; that he lived and died for me. He has shown me, that though I am one of the feeblest and poorest of his members, yet that I am necessary; for he says, "The feebler members are necessary." (1 Cor. 12:22)
He has power also to adorn his bride, to clothe her in his own glorious robe, and to beautify her in his glorious perfections; so that he can look upon her and say, "Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee." (Songs 4:7)
Moreover, he has power to give her a glorious crown; for the crown is already laid up for her, as Paul says, "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." (2 Tim. 4:6-8) Now, dear brother, if, in the least degree, you can claim the blessedness that you "love the appearing" of Jesus Christ in his precious Word; or at a throne of grace, when he breaks through all the obstacles that surround you, and comes in sweet manifestation to your soul,--I say, if you "love his appearing" thus, the crown is yours.
Thus much concerning the name and power of our Adonai, our most glorious Christ. We shall, if the Lord will, this evening look at his authority, and then at his glorious mission; that he was the Messiah: that he was anointed the Prophet, Priest, and King of his people. Their Prophet to teach them; their Priest to perform all the various offices of the priesthood on their behalf; and their "King eternal, immortal, invisible," to reign over, for, and in them, until he presents them at last to himself, "without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing."
WE read this as our text this morning, and observed that there were two parts in it. First, the glorious title; and second, the mission of him to whom the title belongs. We dwelt a little on the title, and found in the commencement of our text the three glorious persons of the Trinity. "The Spirit of the Lord GOD, the Spirit of Jehovah, Adonai, is upon me." Here is the Spirit, the Father, and the Son.
It is by the Father's blessed anointing that the Son comes forth to fulfill his mission; to accomplish all the purposes of the Father concerning his own dear children.
We compared this morning the first verse of Psalm 110, with the words of our text. "The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool." It is the same word, "Adonai," in both places; and we have seen that Christ claims it as his own in both.
We observed also, this morning, that there are two aspects in which to view this name. First, it signifies that he has all power, as the creator and the supporter of all things. And, secondly, that he possesses infinite authority. These two characteristics are contained in this one name, "Adonai." We looked a little at his infinite power, as the great creator and supporter of all things, both in providence and in grace. We come now to look at the glory of his authority.
He tells his disciples, that, all things in heaven and earth are his. "All things that the Father hath are mine." (John 16:15) Here is his glorious authority. The Father hath given all that he possesses in himself to his Son, even to our most glorious Christ. "He hath given him to be the head over all things to the Church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." (Eph. 1:22,23)
I would observe here, that it is a glorious thought for the child of God ever to bear in mind concerning the authority of Christ our Adonai, that it is for his body's sake, the Church, that he contains in himself all authority in heaven and in earth. There is no power above his own. The Father himself hath conferred upon him all this authority, that he might accomplish all those purposes of love and mercy which he formed in the covenant of grace for the Church before the foundation of the world. And since all power in heaven and earth is given to Christ, and all judgment is committed unto him, we should remember for our consolation that he also appoints all things for his Church.
There is not a single circumstance that happens to a child of God, however trifling it may appear, but all is according to his appointment. "Even the hairs of your head are all numbered." (Matt. 10:30) He appoints and governs all, according to his authority, on behalf of his Church; therefore the Holy Ghost says by Paul, and it is a word that would be well remembered by the Lord's dear children in the midst of all their tribulations and exercises, darkness, coldness, doubts, and fears, and all those things which come upon them, with reference both to spiritual and temporal things,--"All things shall work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." (Rom. 8:28) "Yes," say you, "I can easily believe that all things shall work together for good to them that love God; but, then, I sometimes feel that I have no more love to God, no more love to Jesus Christ, than if I had never heard of him."
Dear brother, you are looking into your dark natural heart; instead of which, you should be looking simply to the Lord, who is the source of all our love. We are not to be reckoning according to our love to him. It is the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost; it is the manifestations of his love to us that kindles love in our hearts towards him. "We love him, because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19)
Now, since he appoints all things for his body, the Church, all things must work together for her good; for it is the Church from which he is to get his glory. It is the Church for whom he lives. It is to the Church he is given to be the head over all things. Now it follows, that since all authority is combined with the infinite power of our Adonai, nothing can possibly injure the child of God; nothing can touch the "APPLE OF HIS EYE." (Zech. 2:8)
This is sweetly set forth in the case of Job. It would have been impossible for Satan to have afflicted him as he did, until he had obtained permission of the Lord to do so; and then he could go no further than he was permitted. "Touch not his life." And if circumstances arise to bring you into the same condition in which Job was brought--if you have the witness that you have passed out of death into spiritual life, the Lord help you to see that, whatever your trials may be, it is all according to his appointment; and to say as Job did, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." (Job 13:15) All these things may appear adverse now; they may not appear to be working together for your good; but the Lord is dealing with you according to his infinite wisdom; and the reason he permits Satan to afflict you is, that you may be brought out of all that you would be resting in, in the creature; that you may be led to see that all time things are but vanity; that you may look not at the things which are seen and temporal, but at the things which are not seen, and which are eternal. And that you may learn to realize the blessedness of your standing in Christ, and to rejoice that all things are under the authority and government of your most glorious Lord.
Again, as he has all authority, we know that he commands all hearts. He commanded the ravens to feed the prophet Elijah, morning and evening. (1 Kings 17:6) And he commands the ravens to feed his children still; therefore let them not suppose that it is necessary they should always go to the Lord's people to be fed. There may be many an ungodly person led to do that for a child of God, which Christ himself puts it into his heart to do; and thus he may be fed by ravens. And there is many a song of praise and thanksgiving poured forth from the heart, when the child of God sees how wonderfully the hearts of all men are under the control and authority of his glorious Lord. How should it encourage us to go to his blessed majesty at all times; to have nothing to do with time things, time cares, time circumstances; but to take all to HIM, knowing that all authority is in his hands, and that whatsoever we require to have done for us, whether with regard to temporals or spirituals, it is only for us to lay it at the footstool of our precious "Adonai," and he will accomplish all on our behalf.
How wonderfully did he provide food for his prophet again, by commanding a widow woman to sustain him. (1 Kings 17:9) How wonderfully did he accomplish his miracles on behalf of his servant, that he might learn that all authority was in the hands of him whom he served.
Moreover, he is "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS." Nothing can resist his power or authority. And I do consider, with reference to our own country, as we look at her, upheld as she has been up to this moment, that the children of God should here see and adore the power of our glorious "Adonai," and bless him that he is thus "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS." That however much we may regret that our rulers do not fall down before him, and ascribe to him all the glory, yet "the salt of the earth" is here. The Lord has many of his chosen ones in England, and he has blessed the country for their sakes. And I cannot doubt but that he will still bless dear old England; though she may be sifted, "as corn is sifted in a sieve;" yet, while we look to HIM who changes not, and while we can number many of the Lord's dear children among us, who are "the salt of the earth," I cannot doubt but that the salt will preserve us from those things which may come upon other nations, and bring them into trouble and misery.
How blessed is it, then, to contemplate that Christ is our adorable "KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS." That he possesses all power, and all authority; that "the government is upon his shoulder," as we read,--"Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." (Isa. 9:6)
We have a very blessed testimony also in Rev. 1: "And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last." Dear brother, the Lord help us to realize this,--that he is our first and our last; that he is the beginning and the ending of all that is blessed with reference to the Church. "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive, for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death." Then will he ever suffer one of his dear children to be locked up in that miserable pit of wretchedness, "where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched," while he has the keys of hell and of death? Satan may come and tell the child of God that he is going headlong to hell, because of his sin and unworthiness; but our precious Lord Jesus Christ is the friend of sinners, and he has said, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matt. 11:28) How sweet are those precious words of invitation that he gives his poor needy children to draw near to him, casting all their care upon him! And how many examples have we in his Word of the simple way in which his dear ones came to him! Look at the poor woman who came behind him and touched the hem of his garment. She said, "If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole." (Matt. 9:21) It has nothing to do with any outward circumstance; it is not a mere profession of religion; but it is the heart of a poor sinner, who has been made alive from the dead, going out after the Lord Jesus Christ as his only refuge; pressing through a crowd of difficulties, saying, "If I may but touch!" How simply does the Lord bring it down! We are not to set up any standards; we are not to set up the experience of this or that child of God; but it is to come in this simple way, saying,
"Nothing in my hand I bring;
Simply to thy cross I cling."
We come now to consider THE GLORIOUS MISSION of our "Adonai." "The Spirit of the LORD GOD is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn."
How sweetly does the Lord present to us in his word the portraits of his dear children! As I remarked this morning, it is very beautiful to place the words of our text by the side of the blessing which Christ pronounced at the commencement of his sermon on the mount: "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." (Matt. 5:3-6)
How exactly do the two sweet testimonies correspond. And it is well for the child of God to bear these things in mind, and to take the whole of the testimony as concerning Christ, the anointed One, our "Adonai;" and to remember, that while he blesses thus, he blesses because he possesses all power and all authority; that there is no power above his own--no authority superior to his. Therefore he comes forth as the MESSIAH. He comes forth in his threefold character. First, as Prophet; secondly, as Priest; thirdly, as King.
First, he comes as Prophet: as he tells us, "The Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek." It is the proclamation of the gospel to those who are brought down into the dust of nothingness in themselves. Like the apostle Paul; when the Lord first met with him, he was a self-righteous Pharisee. And I think we must look upon Paul as the Pharisee who went up into the temple, and who thanked God that he was not like other men; that he was not like that poor publican who smote upon his breast, and cried, "God be merciful to me a sinner." But as soon as God met with Paul, he brought him down into a spirit of meekness, into brokenness of spirit, into a spirit of poverty. And it is thus every child of God is brought down, when he is born again from above, and made a new creature in Christ Jesus.
As I remarked this morning, Christ read the two first verses of our text in the synagogue of Nazareth after his baptism; and there he says, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor." (Luke 4:18) We see there is a little discrepancy between the two statements. It is supposed that Christ read, not from the Hebrew, but from the Greek. But, as one says with reference to these things, the apostles or evangelists wrote under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, and though they may differ in the words they express, yet they differ not in meaning; for to be spiritually poor is to be brought into a meek condition: the meaning is precisely the same. So we shall find there is no real disagreement in the quotations that are made from the Old Testament in the New. There may be little discrepancies; but these only show the independent way in which the Spirit of God wrought upon the hearts of those who "wrote as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." Infidels may endeavor to confound the minds of the Lord's dear children; but while we can understand what it is to be spiritually poor, or to be spiritually meek, which is the same thing, it is to be brought to a feeling sense of our nothingness,--the Lord the Spirit being our teacher, he will "guide us into all truth." It is he that brings us into a condition to feel our need of the teaching of the great prophet who was sent to preach the "good tidings." And what are the good tidings, but that he himself has accomplished all our work, and paid all our debts!
Now, when a poor sinner is brought to feel that he is under condemnation by the broken law, when he finds that he has not only no power to pay the debt he owes, but that he has no power to work out a righteousness that can make him acceptable to God, what good tidings is the Gospel to him! what good tidings does he read in Isaiah 40, "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem." Tell her she has no need to be terrified. Cry unto her in the midst of her miserable condition, that Jesus Christ has conquered on her behalf, that there is eternal peace and pardon for every poor sinner who is trusting in him. "Cry unto her that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins." He has borne her sins in his own body on the tree, and has put them away for ever. And this is the good tidings, that he has not only paid her debt, but that he has given her also a spotless robe, even his own righteousness. He has clothed her with this eternal robe, which shall never be defiled, and she stands thus in God's "double," complete before him; and she shall never come into condemnation, but she shall ever live to the praise of the glory of his grace who hath made her "accepted in the beloved." This is the teaching of the Great Prophet who was sent forth and anointed thus to preach "good tidings unto the meek."
"He hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted." Here we have his priestly office. Under the Old Testament dispensation, when a leper discovered his leprosy, it was the priest to whom he went, that he might present his sacrifice. And it is to be the priest we still go with our daily and hourly sacrifice. What is it? "The sacrifices of God are a broken and a contrite heart." Dear brother, if you know what it is to have a "broken and a contrite heart," bless the Lord for it. Our most glorious Christ was anointed as our high priest, "to bind up the broken-hearted." He takes the poor broken-heart, and binds it up with the cords of love, and he pours in the oil and the wine of his consolations, and he testifies that "ye are clean" in the sight of God. He shows us that, though we are poor broken-hearted creatures in ourselves, yet that he is the great high priest of his people, anointed by the Father, that he might thus bind up the broken heart, which is the only acceptable sacrifice that a poor sinner can bring. And while we feel that in ourselves we are nothing; while we feel our spiritual poverty, we may rejoice that all we need is treasured up in Christ, and that "of his fulness we receive, and grace upon grace."
Had I time tonight, I would take you through the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th chapters of Paul's epistle to the Hebrews, which show the blessedness of the priesthood of Christ; but you can go over them at your leisure, contemplating yourself as a poor needy Israelite, bringing to him your sacrifice,--even your poor broken heart, realizing that he has entered into the holiest of all on your behalf; that he has "perfected for ever them that are sanctified by his one glorious offering." And he has said, "Because I live, ye shall live also." (John 14:19)
We come now to look at another glorious title which he bears. He is our "KING ETERNAL, IMMORTAL, INVISIBLE." He lives in us, and conquers in us. He has conquered our proud hearts, and brought them down into subjection at his footstool. He has overcome "every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God," and brought every thought into obedience to himself. Thus he reigns in us.
Moreover, he reigns for us, and over us, in all the glory of his power. He reigns over all that can possibly arise to distress us. He reigns over the power of sin, Satan, and the world; and thus reigning in, for, and over us, we know that we need not fear; for he will ever remain the same glorious King to us, until he presents us unto himself, to be his eternal Queen.
"One glorious head, one body there,
Which shall at last one glory share."
Thus, as the great and glorious King, he proclaims LIBERTY. "Liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound." To those who are under sentence of death he sends his blessed warrant of "liberty." He tells them that their debt is paid, that they are eternally free from all charge; that "there is, therefore, now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus."
It is recorded of Judge Hale, that once after he had pronounced sentence of death upon a poor prisoner--what his offence was I do not know--he went into his condemned cell to see him. He sat down by his side and said to him, "Do you love me?" The man scowled upon him, and said, "What! I love you? You are the judge who pronounced sentence of death upon me! I love you? No! I hate you!" He talked to him a little, and then left him. The next day he went again, and so he continued, for three or four days, going into his cell and talking solemnly to him about the offence he had committed, each time asking him the question, "Do you love me?" and receiving each time the same answer, that he hated him, because he was the judge who had condemned him. But on a certain day he went again into the cell, and sitting down by the side of the poor prisoner, he took from his bosom a paper, and told him he had brought him "a free pardon!" "Do you love me now?" he said. "Love you!" said the poor man, "Yes, that I do; take me into your service, let me wait upon you, and I will prove to you how much I love you." He did take him into his service, and a most faithful servant he proved.
Now it is in this way the Lord deals with his dear children. Sentence of death has been pronounced in the court of conscience; we look for judgment without mercy, and we feel that it is right and just. Yet we cannot love the person who pronounces the sentence. But when he comes and proclaims "liberty to the captive;" when he shows us his warrant; when he shows us the bond with the seal torn away, proving that the debt is eternally paid, and that we are "justified freely from all things," and then turns to us and says, "Do you love me?" we can rejoice to tell him, with an overflowing heart, how much we love him. And thus he deals with us. He takes us into his service, that we may be "to the praise of the glory of his grace;" that we may manifest our love to him who has thus proclaimed "liberty to the captive, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound."
How many of us know what it is to have been in bondage, under the sentence of death, constantly expecting the execution of the sentence, and then for a messenger of mercy to come and proclaim "LIBERTY!" It is "liberty" from sin; "liberty" from curse and condemnation; "liberty" from darkness and death; "liberty" from hell; "liberty" from the power of Satan, and from all that we may bring to bear upon the heart of the poor needy sinner. It is "good tidings," dear brother--precious tidings, when brought home and sealed upon the heart by the power of the Holy Ghost.
But it is also "to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." This, doubtless, refers to the year of "jubilee," which was established by the Lord himself among the Israelites; as we have it recorded in Leviticus: "And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof; it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family." (Lev. 25:10) In the year of jubilee, those who had been obliged, through poverty, to sell their possessions, had them restored to them. All debts were cancelled; and all captives were set free. I can easily imagine how eagerly the captives listened in their prison-houses for the first blast of the trumpet of the jubilee. And is it not so with the child of God now? Yes; I believe there are many among us who are longing for the sound of the trumpet to set them free,--who are longing for the coming of the accepted year of the Lord, as it literally reads.
This glorious jubilee-year was spoken of, 700 years before Christ came, as the accepted year of the Lord. It was the year in which liberty was to be proclaimed to all who were debtors under the law, that they might be redeemed who were under the law. And is it not done, dear brother? The Lord help you to look at the finished work of our blessed Redeemer as the accepted year of the Lord.
It is also called "the day of vengeance of our God." It was the day in which the vengeance of God rested on the head of the great Surety. All vengeance was taken from the Church, and laid upon the person of our most glorious Christ. It was a day of vengeance in this respect.
It was a day of vengeance also upon Satan. Christ, as the great Conqueror, destroyed the power of the devil. Thus it was in a double sense a day of vengeance. The justice of God rested upon the head of Christ without mercy when he suffered the just for the unjust. He then broke the power of Satan, and destroyed him who had the power of death. He destroyed sin by putting it away once for ever by the sacrifice of himself, and he swallowed up death in eternal victory.
"To comfort all that mourn;" to give comfort to those who are mourning over their sins; to comfort those who mourn over the sufferings of Christ, when they "look upon him whom they have pierced, and mourn;" to give them the sweet consolations of the Gospel, that they may be enabled to
"Count the purple drops and say,
Thus were my sins all wash'd away."
Thus, while we mourn over the sufferings of our precious Lord Jesus Christ, we can rejoice in the mercy that he suffered that we might be eternally delivered from all sufferings,--that he suffered the penalty due to our sins that we might be eternally delivered from all wrath and condemnation.
Moreover, it is "to appoint," or ordain, or establish "unto them that mourn in Zion,"--to establish them personally in the blessedness of the covenant of grace; as it is written, "I, even I, am he that comforteth you"--referring to the afflictions of the child of God as he comes in contact with his own flesh--"Who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass; and forgettest the LORD thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; and hast feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor [the devil], as if he were ready to destroy? and where is the fury of the oppressor?" (Isa. 51:12,13) We have just seen that the Lord himself, in the day of his vengeance, has destroyed the fury of the oppressor. Then the Church answers the Lord in the 14th verse very sweetly and simply,--exactly as the Lord's children breathe out their sighs for help now in the time of trouble--"The captive exile hasteneth that he may be loosed, and that he should not die in the pit, nor that his bread should fail." As though the captive exile said, Lord, I am in a pit of misery, "bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name." I know thou hast all power over the fury of the oppressor; but I feel I am shut up, and cannot come forth. Then the Lord answers, "But I am the LORD thy God, that divided the sea, whose waves roared: the LORD of hosts is his name." It is thus again he comforts them that mourn. But it must be spiritual mourning, and the first indication of spiritual life is this spiritual mourning.
Upon this point the Lord gives us some very glorious testimonies in his Word, but our time will not admit of our going over them this evening.
"To give unto them beauty for ashes." It was the custom of the Jews, when they were in trouble, to cover their heads with ashes, and to put sackcloth upon their loins. But the Lord says, he will give his people a crown of beauty instead of ashes--a crown of roses and lilies; and where do the roses and the lilies grow? Even upon mount Calvary. Our precious Lord Jesus Christ was crowned with thorns, that we might be decked with the "ROSE OF SHARON, and the LILY OF THE VALLEY;" (Songs 2:1) that we might be raised to the glorious dignity of "kings and priests unto God." (Rev. 1:6) Though mourners in ourselves, he will take away our ashes, and put a fair mitre upon our heads; he will bring us forth to join the "dances of them that make [spiritually] merry;" and he will give us the "oil of joy for mourning." Like Stephen, when he looked up to heaven and saw the "King in his beauty," his face shone like the face of an angel. So is it when, "beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory." (2 Cor. 3:18) We can then rejoice that we are conformed to the glorious image of the Son of God.
"The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." We have this sweetly set before us in Psalm 45:13. "The king's daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold." And again in the case of the returning prodigal, where the Father says, "Bring forth the best robe, and put in on him: and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found." (Luke 15:22-24)
How blessed is it! And there is not a poor prodigal here but shall be brought to experience the same blessedness, when he is enabled to realize the glorious things that are set before him in our text. "That they might be called trees of righteousness"--trees made good by Christ himself. "Make the tree good, and the fruit shall be good." How is it made good? By being created anew in himself. It is thus made a "tree of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified." It is planted first in Christ in the covenant of grace, and planted with him in all that he became to and for his people; and it is planted again when the Holy Ghost comes down with his almighty power, and creates it anew in Christ Jesus; and it is all to the "praise of the glory of his grace," that our most glorious Christ may gather an eternal revenue of praise in thus presenting unto himself a number which no man can number of those who are poor and needy, of those who are meek, of those who are bound and in prison; delivering them from their bondage and misery, and making them what he would have them to be; presenting them thus without spot "before his presence with exceeding joy."