WE are told in the preface at the commencement of this chapter that the words of my text form part of "A song inciting to confidence in God." As we read the chapter with spiritual intelligence, and by the guidance of God the ever-blessed Spirit, we cannot fail to see much that is calculated to strengthen our faith, confirm our hope, and unite our love in the one Object of heaven's worship, and the redeemed sinner's delight. It has been our privilege on recent Sunday mornings to meditate upon the personal beauties and excellencies of our Lord Jesus Christ as portrayed in chapter 5 of Solomon's Song. The reason why I have diverged from the course of expositions on that precious Scripture is simply because of our entering upon the 60th anniversary of the opening of Grove Chapel. Sixty years ago there stood in this place a man who passed through much persecution and contention, but who, by the grace of his God, brought to a successful issue the work of erecting this place for the worship and service of JEHOVAH, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. As he surveyed the completion of the work, with a grateful and adoring heart he prayed that the eye and heart of his covenant God might be upon this place perpetually. He thus asked that there might never be a time when the worshippers of the great and sovereign JEHOVAH should be lacking within these walls. His prayer has been answered. His desire has been fulfilled. Earnest, anxious, spiritual worshippers come to this spot to hear their covenant God and Father glorified, their covenant God and Saviour exalted, and their covenant God and Comforter honored. Throughout this country, and to earth's remotest bounds God's omniscient eye beholds those who drew their first breath of spiritual life under this roof, who received as little children the spiritual kingdom of God, and fell under the powerful and irresistible grace of that great and glorious Saviour who was then exalted, extolled, and lifted very high in the faithful testimony of the highly-honored Joseph Irons.
Sixty years have passed away, during which time Satan has done his utmost to chase God's truth and people from this place; but, God is greater than the devil. My spirit is filled with wonder and amazement when I consider how I have been kept, and taught, and brought to stand in this spot before God and His living people to declare the same glorious truths, to open up the same mysteries of electing, redeeming, and regenerating love, and to be the instrument in God's hand for the comforting, consoling, and building up of some of His poor children. In connection with the present circumstances I have been led to direct your minds this morning to a suitable portion of the good old Book, which contains in its unfoldings this oft-repeated testimony,--
"The only Gospel we can own
Sets Jesus Christ upon His throne:
Proclaims salvation full and free,
Obtain'd on Calvary's rugged tree."
This is a purely evangelical chapter appertaining to New Testament times. Some, who do not enjoy the liberty of the children of God which is opened up and revealed to the election of grace, even in the midst of abounding error, superstition, and idolatry, may be allotting the events recorded here to a future dispensation; but, as I have told you before, my soul loves to revel in present realities. Peter, writing to the elect strangers, says, "I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth." (2 Pet. 1:12) This is truth revealed to our present necessity, and communicated by the Holy Ghost, causing our hearts to rejoice in the assurance of His love, and the sweet hope than when He has perfected His designs of love, grace, and mercy in our hearts' experience, He will receive us into His everlasting habitation, where we shall praise Him with unsinning hearts, without doubt, fear, or amazement. Yes, this is truly an evangelical chapter. It contains blessings rich and rare for those who are brought by the power of Divine grace into the spiritual land of Judah, the land of Divine revelation, spiritual promise, and covenant relationship, to sing with their voice and made melody in their hearts before Him. These have a glorious theme for their rejoicing: "We have a strong city." (Isa. 26:1) This is Zion, God's city, of which the Psalmist sang so sweetly: "Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God." And in the immediate context, "The LORD loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob." (Ps. 87:2) Again, in Psalm 48, you read, "Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountains of His holiness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion, on the sides of the North, the city of the great King. God is known in her palaces for a refuge. Let Mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of Thy judgments. Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof. Mark well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following. For this God is our God for ever and ever: He will be our guide even unto death."
"We have a strong city." It is not we shall have, but "we have a strong city." We know that when we have done with time, we shall have a glorious one without bulwarks or fortifications. We desire a better than any this sinful earth can provide--that is, a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called our God: for He hath prepared for us a city. (Heb. 11:16) "We look for a city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God." (Heb. 11:10) This heavenly city was prepared by the Father, and is possessed by the Son for all the seed-royal of heaven. In it they shall sit down with the King in His throne as sharers of His majesty, glory, and kingdom. But the heavenly city differs from that of our text. One is upon earth, the other is in heaven. One is Zion militant, the other is Zion triumphant. Here all the citizens are surrounded with sin, death, and hellish foes. Yonder they are far removed from every opposing power, according to the sweet declaration of Kelly,--
"Oh, what pleasures there await us;
There the tempests cease to roar:
There it is that those who hate us
Shall molest our peace no more;
Oh that tranquil, happy shore."
The Canaanite shall not dwell in that land. Near its gates the accursed Amalekite shall never be seen. "The twelve gates are twelve pearls, every several gate was of one pearl." (Rev. 21:21) "And the gates shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there." (Rev. 21:25) These gates are not ajar, but wide open for the free and uninterrupted admission, to the abounding glory within, of every elect, redeemed, and regenerate sinner who has spent his allotted time upon earth. Look at the dimensions of the heavenly city. It is foursquare. "The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal." Twelve thousand furlongs. (Rev. 21:16) What will those say to this who are perpetually contending for a literal interpretation of a spiritual Book? Where are the pearls to be found of which these gates are formed? We may rest assured that God has precious instruction and spiritual consolation couching beneath all those metaphors, to be communicated to His living children in His own time. The gates of the city alluded to in Isa. 26 are shut. But they must be opened to all who have right to the tree of life and to enter into the city. This brings us to notice for a short time this morning the precious words of our text. May we be privileged to see light in God's light, (Ps. 36:9) and blessed with the grace and guidance of His Spirit.
"Open ye the gates that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter it."
I. THE GATEKEEPERS--"Open ye."
II. THE GATES--"Open ye the gates."
III. THE GRACIOUS PRIVILEGES--"That the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter it."
I. THE GATEKEEPERS--"Open ye." It is a marvelous mercy to be spiritually acquainted with these highly-privileged and honored persons. It has pleased God, in the riches of His grace and goodness, to separate to Himself certain persons in His Church who shall be heralds of His will, proclaimers of His truth, and leaders or guides of His people. These He will bring prominently forward to declare faithfully, fearlessly, and firmly His mind, His message, His Word. Mark well that personal pronoun, His. Those whom God commissions to preach His Gospel are not to parade their whims and notions, frames and feelings. Ofttimes their frames and feelings run counter to the blessings a gracious God has designed to fulfill in them. For instance, this very morning, had I been left to act according to my fleshly feelings, I should not have taken one step toward this pulpit, but should have left it for another to have stood here. It is not mine to act according to my frames and feelings, but according to the Word of the Lord, though it be dead against them. It is not mine to deal out my own ideas or opinions, but the mind of my God which He graciously reveals to me, and in me. It is my blessed lot, as one of JEHOVAH'S sent servants, to preach His Word, to declare His counsel, to publish His decrees, and to proclaim His glorious salvation. It has pleased Him to separate to Himself certain persons in the Church, and distinguish them from the rest of His people as under-shepherds, watchmen, guides, and leaders. If you will turn to that glorious resurrection and ascension Psalm, the 68th, you will read, at the 10th verse: "Thy congregation hath dwelt therein: Thou, O God, hast prepared of Thy goodness for the poor." Again, at the 17th verse: "The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place. Thou hast ascended on high, Thou hast led captivity captive, Thou hast received gifts for men: yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them." The rebellious! Who are they? The very same persons mentioned in the 6th verse: "God setteth the solitary in families: He bringeth out those which are bound with chains; but the rebellious dwell in a dry land." Though they are rebellious, and experience the effects of their rebelliousness, He will never leave them nor forsake them. He has an abundance of gifts treasured up, in the person of the Man Christ Jesus, for them; and He will dwell among them, to secure the communication of them to those for whom they were designed. This produces an exclamation of adoring gratitude as we read, at the 19th verse: "Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation." Now, what are these benefits? Turn with me to Eph. 4:7, and you see in a moment. The apostle, quoting from this very Psalm, says: "But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore He saith, when He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill, or fulfil, all things.) And He gave some, pastors, and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." When our Lord Jesus Christ rose again from the dead, He said to His disciples who were with Him on resurrection-ground: "Behold, I send the promise of My Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high." (Luke 24:49) They tarried at Jerusalem, but in tarrying, I believe through their fleshly impatience, they went before the Spirit in their choice of Matthias in room of Judas. The choice of an apostle was not theirs, but God's. The disciples tarried at Jerusalem until the day of Pentecost, when they were endued with power from on high. Men sent out to declare God's mind and will in the salvation of His covenant people must have a Divine commission. We see this in Acts 13:2, "The Holy Ghost said, Separate me Saul and Barnabas for the work whereto I have called them." To all who are thus Divinely called to the work of the ministry, the Holy Ghost will reveal those glorious truths which Paul spake in the presence of Agrippa, recorded in Acts 26:16-18, Jesus said unto him, "Rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of those things which thou hast seen, and of those things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people." What an odd thing! Sent to them, yet delivered from them. It is a marvelous mercy for a minister of Christ to know that the great Head of the Church has revealed Himself unto him as his own God, Redeemer, Saviour, Brother, and Friend, and delivered him from all human authority, power, dominion, and domineering, thus making him subject to Him alone. "Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes"--testimonially and as God's instrument--"to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Me." Sanctifying faith in Paul's case was not so much in himself as in his Head, and was communicated to him at those very times when it was feelingly and experimentally needed.
God's sent servants are commissioned, qualified, and named as pleaseth Him. Notice the variety of their titles: ministers, stewards, messengers, laborers, watchmen, and--wondrous title!--"THE GLORY OF CHRIST." (2 Cor. 8:23)
1. Ministers. Here I would place on record that I have no desire to be styled a pastor according to the popular idea of what a pastor should be. I feel I have no right to assume that title, for I find myself utterly insufficient in this matter: but I long to be--and He has given me very blessed evidence again and again that I am made to some of His own--"a minister of Christ." Some have the hardihood to affirm that a one man ministry--that is, one man as a minister or pastor settled over a Church--is contrary to the mind and will of God. I have no desire to have anything to do with that party. I shun and dread them as much as I do the accursed sacerdotalism and priestcraft of the Romish, Greek, and Anglican confederacies. But a one man ministry is a Divine institution, and by it the great and glorious Head has been pleased to feed, instruct, strengthen, and establish the little hills of His Zion here and there in the midst of this naughty world. Each of the seven Churches in Asia had its angel, bishop, or overseer. Paul left Titus at Crete to ordain elders in every city. (Titus 1:5) I know it is a lamentable fact that many occupy pastoral offices who have no more idea of ruling a Church than a Zulu would have. Why is this? Because they are ever ready to listen to what some grumbling old gentleman or murmuring old lady has to say. It will be well for murmurers and complainers to keep a distance from me. Those who attempt to rule Churches by their own wit, wisdom, or experience, are sure to meet with miserable failure. I can tell you where is the best spot to manage and govern a Church! Bending lowly, with a broken and melted heart at the footstool of sovereign mercy, in pure dependence upon a precious Christ for all things.
"Sweet in the confidence of faith
To trust His firm decrees;
Sweet to lie passive in His hands,
And know no will but His."
Such a spirit will find its way, by the power of the Holy Ghost, from the pulpit to the pews. As the minister who distrusts himself proclaims the riches of electing, redeeming, and regenerating grace, unfurls the glorious standard of JEHOVAH'S everlasting love, upon which the eye of faith sees inscribed in shining characters the names of those places where marvelous victories have been achieved by the Captain of our salvation, the hearts of God's elect are cheered and comforted. We will notice this honorable name given by the Holy Ghost to Zion's gatekeepers--Ministers. They are styled "Ministers of the Word;" (Luke 1:2) "the ministers of Christ;" (1 Cor. 4:1) "ministers of the New Testament;" (2 Cor. 3:6) "the ministers of God." (2 Cor. 6:4) What is a minister? He is one whom the Master has graciously singled out from the rest of His servants to do His bidding in respect to the wants, necessities, and infirmities of His household. He is one who is taught to be anxious to wait upon the weak, the weary, and the infirm in God's family, and minister to them that supply which He has graciously entrusted to them. In Col. 1:7, you read of "Epaphras our dear fellow-servant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ." What an honorable distinction! "A faithful minister of Christ." He is one who is not contented with contending for the truth of God in the letter of the doctrines of grace, but one to whom God has given to experience his place in the one body as a suffering member of the now glorified Head, to be brought into deep places to learn his nothingness, and into high places to enjoy his portion in fullness of grace and of glory abounding in Christ Jesus, and thus go forth as an instructor and guide of God's appointing. Those whom God brings into His Church to attend upon the sick, strengthen the weak, and console the disconsolate, will find that their service ceases not with the public ministrations. The work of faithful minister of Christ is not finished for the day with the end of the sermon, or the pronouncing of the benediction, for ofttimes wearisome and wakeful nights are his lot. Then he remembers upon his bed many of God's tried and tempted ones, and names them to the Master, that they may be blessed with association, communion, and fellowship with a covenant God in Christ. I love to be a minister of Christ, and to minister for Christ. As a faithful one, I shall endeavor, with all the wisdom and strength He bestows upon me, to meet the necessities of the old sheep as well as those of the lambs. The commission which the Lord Jesus Christ gave to Peter is still in force: "Feed My lambs. Feed my sheep." That is a delicate and difficult position for a faithful minister of Christ. I know and feel it to be so. In a congregation like this, there is a variety of experience. One child of God is in the depth of soul trouble, while another is soaring away on the wings of faith and love, and with a freedom from care and trouble. One would have me to be incessantly preaching his experience, feelings, and frames; but God will not have His servant always groveling in the mire of human corruptions, and wholly occupied with the little ones to the neglect of those who can be satisfied with nothing short of the strong meat and wine of God's everlasting covenant. As a faithful minister of Christ, I shall know what it is to "serve the Lord with all humanity of mind, and with many tears and temptations," (Acts 20:19) while I cling tenaciously to the injunction, "Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men." (1 Cor. 7:23)
2. Stewards. See 1 Cor. 4:1, "Stewards of the mysteries of God." What is a steward? He is one who manages the concerns of a family, institution, or estate. He has the arrangement of the provision department in his trust, and has a general oversight over his employer's business affairs. So God's ministers are entrusted with the mysteries of God, and it is their delight to bring forth out of the treasury of the Word and their heart's experience, things new and old for the refreshment, nourishment, and comfort of the Church of God, over which the Holy Ghost has made them overseers. Now here comes a question, and you may rest assured it is ofttimes a searching one in the experience of every God-sent minister: Have I really and truly been put in trust by God with the mysteries of His love? If He has committed to my trust so honorable a charge, I shall be privileged to dispense that which He has made spiritually and experimentally mine, but not mine for my fleshly gratification, pleasure, or profit. That which He commits to me is for the comfort, consolation, and joy of those to whom He sends me. This is the point. I stand up to preach God's election, but what know I of God's election personally, feelingly, and experimentally? I preach particular and personal redemption, but what know I of my redemption by precious blood from condemnation, death, and hell? I preach spiritual regeneration, but what know I of the regenerating grace and indwelling of the ever-blessed Spirit? I preach the sure and certain glorification of the elect and redeemed of God, but what know I of the glory of my Father's house, the blessings of His table, and the love of His heart, causing me to rejoice in the blessed assurance that by-and-bye He will take me home to Himself? Well, He knows He has brought me here and given me in some little measure to experience those blessed truths which He is pleased to minister to the wants and necessities of His poor children who may hang upon the words which fall from my lips, and by which I am privileged to meet them in their need. But "it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful." (1 Cor. 4:2) Who shall find him faithful? His God. He will not be found holding back, or approaching to His own use or pleasure, part of those spiritual provisions entrusted to him by the Father to meet the spiritual provisions entrusted to him by the Father to meet the spiritual wants and necessities of His family. Look here! I have ofttimes been tempted in the pulpit, when a precious view of a portion of the Word has come up before me, and has caused my heart to bubble up like a well-spring of life, to keep it back as suitable for some future time; but Satan has been baffled, grace was triumphant, the truth was dealt out, and some poor children of God have found in it their food from the Master's table. God's stewards are faithful to the babes in grace, to the hoary-headed pilgrims, and to the groaning veterans who have received many a wound from Satan, sinners, and saints, and who know what that means,--
"From sinner and from saint
They meet with many a blow."
3. Messengers. A messenger is one who is sent with a certain message. JEHOVAH has His messengers of covenant love and mercy. The Chief of these is Jesus, the JEHOVAH-ANGEL; (Zech. 3:1) the Messenger of the covenant; (Mal. 3:1) and the Apostle of our profession. (Heb. 3:1) This glorious Messenger calls certain of His redeemed people into oneness with Himself in this office, to carry His message of redeeming love to whom He will. It is to call, ordain, commission, and send whom He will. (Mark 3:13,14) To Jeremiah He said, "Thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak." (Jer. 1:7) Of these messengers Paul says, "How shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" (Rom. 10:15) These are bearers of no indistinct, or indefinite message to the elect of God. They go forth from Him with glad tidings of great joy, with the message of full, free, and unconditional salvation to an eternally-loved people. This is welcome news to waiting, wanting, and weary souls. Now turn to 2 Cor. 8:23, where you find God's ministers have this title, "the messengers of the Churches." This expresses a truth. The message of God's ministers is not confined to man-made limits. Blessed be God, there are some of His in the Establishment whose ministry is welcome to those whose dissenting prejudices will not allow them to speak of that system but with bitterness. And it is a positive fact that there are those in Nonconforming communities whom God makes His messengers of love and mercy to those who fancy it would be almost a crime to soil their shoes with the dust of a dissenting conventicle. But, my dear friends, God, in the riches of His grace, by the power of His truth, smashes in pieces all denominational distinctions and sectarian barriers, and reveals, the joy and delight of His Spirit-taught children, that He knows of no Church apart from His Christ, and of no Christ apart from His Church.
4. Laborers. Turn to 2 Cor. 6:1, "We then as workers together with Him." Some of you may be ready to say those words "with Him" are in italics and ought not to be there. Well, let me ask you to turn to 1 Cor. 3:9, "For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building." You may depend upon this fact, if a man is commissioned and qualified by God to stand up before a people as His messenger, that man will, and must be a laborer. He labors in prayer; (Col. 4:12) he labors in the word and doctrine of Christ. (1 Tim. 5:17) Concerning them Paul said, "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake." (1 Thess. 5:12,13) They find rest from their labors only when God takes them home. By night, when every voice is hushed save that of sorrow, when the weary and aching head seeks in vain for rest and repose, then there is a laboring for precious souls. At such times there is a delving and digging beneath the surface of God's Word for precious treasure, a laboring at the throne of the heavenly grace that the preached word may be conveyed and applied to the hearts of God's children, and they brought into the glorious liberty of the Gospel and to the enjoyment of covenant relationship with their gracious Lord. Yes, they are laborers with God. Would you like to have to do with those who labor without God? You know you would not. I should not like to labor in this pulpit without Him.
5. Watchmen. The Lord has given these gracious promises to Zion: "Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion." (Isa. 52:8) "I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the LORD, keep not silence, and give Him no rest, till He establish, and till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth." (Isa. 62:6,7) It is not simply in the pulpit, but in private, the longings, desires, and sighs of this heart are heard by Him that He may make His own little hill of Zion at the Grove a praise to His scattered ones in the earth. God's ministers are watchmen on the look out for the appearance of evil to guard their people against it. They watch the approach of error to guide their loved ones from it. Mark well Paul's testimony in Heb. 13:17, "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls." These faithful and honest men are watching--for your money? Not a bit of it. Though, mark you, they cannot live without it. When a man has a wife and seven lumps of dust to provide for, and in a position like that to which God has lifted the minister of Grove chapel, it takes more than a little to keep things straight. I do not say this with a desire to operate upon your liberality, while I do hope that for the truth's sake there may be expressions of love and attachment to him who labors in weakness, fear, and much trembling for you. O what a precious declaration, "they watch for your souls." They watch to see your souls glistening in the tears of God's own giving. They watch to see God's joy beaming in your faces. As His oil makes the face to shine, the ministers of God receive a good reward. They watch not so much for the perishing bodies to fill the pews, but for souls loved by JEHOVAH, redeemed by blood, quickened by His Spirit, preserved by His power, and which shall be presented by Him perfect and complete before His throne in glory.
6. Guides. Paul says, "Remember them which are the guides." (Heb. 13:7, margin) A minister placed over a people ought to be a leader, for the moment he loses that position and comes cringing behind the deacons, or, if he bows to the voice of the Church in anything which goes against his judgment, it is time for him to quit. God's minister must, and will by God's help, be a leader. He loves to lead the flock in the footsteps of the great and glorious Leader, Christ. He labors to lead His charge to the living fountain of eternal truth, to the green pastures of eternal love, and to the still waters of everlasting consolation. He longs to lead God's pilgrims through the varied intricacies of a Spirit-wrought experience, and into paths which may be painful to the flesh, but profitable to the spirit. It is his delight to lead them, I was about to say, to the foot of the cross; but I hate that Popish expression, therefore I will say, to the feet of Jesus, who hung upon the cursed cross for His people. I love to lead and guide my friends in Him on to resurrection ground where the affrighted, timid, mourning, weeping, and unbelieving disciples meet with Him, and where He graciously reveals Himself to them. It is a blessed privilege to be a leader of the weak, the weary, and the wanting, and sometimes to take them in the arms of precious faith right up to the throne and heart of God. Sometimes a poor lamb of Christ's flock faints and falls. Question it as to its faith. It has none. Where is its hope? Shrouded in darkness. Where is its love? It is weak and cold. In such expressions as these the God-sent minister detects the faith of God's giving, the hope of His own implanting, and the love of His own inspiring, and is enabled in his prayers to carry the fallen one to the heights of covenant favor where sweet fellowship is experienced with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3)
7. THE GLORY OF CHRIST." (2 Cor. 8:23) Is that my title? Ah, my dear friends, as memory retraces certain parts of my pathway, my conscience is smitten, my heart is sad, and my spirit questions, Am I the glory of Christ? A poor dunghill worm honored with so glorious a title! What! a poor hell-deserving sinner, ofttimes carried hither and thither with discontent, repining, and rebellion, the glory of Christ? I, an unbelieving one, who almost questions the possibility of Christ coming with me into this pulpit to reveal Himself in the glorious ministry of the Word, and yet, the glory of Christ? Weak, infirm, ignorant, needy, yet dignified with the illustrious title, "THE GLORY OF CHRIST." How is this? It is in the fact that my testimony by the teaching of the Holy Ghost is, Christ first, Christ last, and Christ the All in all of His people's salvation; that the glory of His redemption work shall never be sullied; that the glory of His mediatorial crown shall never be tarnished; that the glory of His sacred person shall never be diminished. The glory of Christ and His salvation is the burden, spirit, and all in all of the testimony of this place. Do you not sometimes find it so? Yes, blessed be God, some of you can testify that it has often been so to your souls within these walls. In this highly-favored spot of JEHOVAH'S own consecrating, He has made the place of His feet glorious in the eyes of some who are now present. Only last Wednesday but one, in the little chapel of Silverend, Olney, Bucks, the glory of JEHOVAH'S grace was such to some of us that our hearts bounded with spiritual joy. The effect upon one was so precious as to cause him to exclaim, "Is the Lord about to take my friend, His servant, home?" And a few of us can abundantly testify that on Thursday evening last at dear old Dulwich, the glory of God's grace went forth from a fluttering heart and from a stammering tongue, yet was carried by the power of sovereign, reigning grace to the hearts of His waiting children. It was a sweet season of refreshing from His presence, a blessed foretaste of that glory which shall be revealed in all its fullness to all the members of His one glorious Church.
The time is past. Having noticed the titles of Zion's gatekeepers, we will ask the Lord to come up with us in the evening and explain to us the nature and position of Zion's gates.
Our Lot this evening will be to continue the subject set before us this morning, when I endeavored to point out the characters of Zion's Gatekeepers. These are singled out and distinguished by God amongst His people. I did not say above His people, for I love to know, feel, and acknowledge the perfect oneness and identity of all the members of the one body with their great and glorious Head. I do not desire to see one before or after another. I love to know and enjoy that which is blessedly set before us throughout the whole of this song, and which is the spirit of the Gospel: all the elect loved with the same love, bought with the same price, clothed with the same righteousness, animated with the same Spirit, heirs of the same glory, and all possessing the same mind. This mind is enjoined upon all the people of God in that covenant command of the Holy Ghost, which He makes life and power in their hearts' experience: "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." (Phil. 2:5-8) His mind was such that He would not assert His own right, but subjected Himself to authorities and powers of His own creating, and to contempt and reproach. It is no mean mercy when a poor vile sinner is brought to possess, and to be ruled by such a spirit as this. Ministers of the Gospel are not distinguished by God above their fellows, they are not lords over God's heritage; but are distinguished among the flock as messengers, leaders, and guides. They are to go before the people in the unfoldings of the written Word, and in the possession of an experience wrought in them by the power, grace, and indwelling of God the ever-blessed Spirit. If I am one of these, it is mine, not with pride or fleshly conceit, to go before that people which God has given me in the bowels of Jesus Christ, but in true humility, in union with our living and loving Head, seek to trace out the various spots of vital experience into which He leads them. It is mine to exalt my Lord and Saviour in the preaching of the Word that He may be exalted in the affections of His people. It is mine to honor His blessed Spirit, that His grace and power may be felt in the hearts of His quickened ones. I love to notice the signs, tokens, and evidences of spiritual life as they appear in the flock, yet I am not satisfied until I can see something better. What can be better, you ask, than signs, tokens, and evidences? The witness of the Spirit with my spirit that I am a true-born child of God. That is better than everything else that we can possess or produce.
This morning I endeavored to set before you the blessed truth that Zion's gatekeepers are distinguished by a variety of titles. They are ministers waiting upon, and serving the poor of the flock. They are laborers in God's vineyard to sow, plant, prune, weed, and water. They are watchmen to warn against the approach of error, and to guard the living in Jerusalem against evil and enemies. They are messengers to carry the glad tidings of covenant love and mercy to the opened ears of JEHOVAH'S scattered tribes. They are leaders to go before the people in the word and doctrine of Christ, and in the rich and varied experience wrought in the Church by the Holy Ghost. They go before them to the depths of heart sorrow and soul trouble, and to the heights of Divine joy and spiritual consolation. They struggle with Satan in the dust of sin and corruption, and they triumph over him in the ranges of covenant favor. Mark you, I believe that the preaching which has all to do with the dust and the devil will only leave people dusty and devilish; while the testimony which flows from an exercised heart acquainted with its charges and the unchangeableness of the Saviour is that which the Holy Ghost will honor in lifting beggars from the dunghill and setting them upon the throne of glory. It is by this that the truly taught children of God, "behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord, and are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Cor. 4:18) Those whom God calls and commissions are also styled, "THE GLORY OF CHRIST." This is the most illustrious title given by the Holy Ghost to the ministers of the Gospel. Christ is the brightness of His Father's glory, and blessed be God, every minister commissioned by Him, every messenger sent forth by Him, and every preacher anointed by His Spirit to open up the mysteries of redeeming love, is the brightness of His glory. Let me now ask you, What would all my preaching be were it not for the exaltation, exhibition, and revelation of a precious Christ therein? Nothing but vain talking to wear out the patience of God's tried and tempted children. It is the blessed privilege of God's appointed ministers to lead the redeemed of the Lord through Zion's gates to enjoy the rights and immunities of their citizenship. According to the order set down this morning we will consider--
II. THE GATES--"Open ye the gates." What are these gates? They are the entrances into a state of grace and acceptance with a covenant God in Christ. They are the Divine and spiritual openings into the city of Zion. It is not ours now to consider the glories of that city set before us in the Book of Revelation 21 and 22, where we have but a faint description in metaphorical language of the glories of that home which JEHOVAH the Father has prepared for His people, which JEHOVAH-JESUS possesses for them, and of which JEHOVAH the Spirit gives them the earnest in their hearts. There the gates are open continually. No shutting, bolting, or barring at the close of day, for there is no night there. Near to that blessed region neither Satan, sin, nor suffering can approach. We have to do with a city the appearance of which reminds us that Christ's Church here upon earth is in a militant state. Enemies and dangers surround the Church on every hand, and yet, mark you, there are no real dangers to those who are fenced about with every attribute of Deity. We see according to the description of the city in the first verse that the walls are not simply foursquare to surround it, but concentric, wall within wall, for protection and defense. This necessitates gate within gate, through which those who seek repose and security must pass. Gate after gate must be opened and passed through by the living children of God, according to that gracious command of the Leader and Commander of the redeemed hosts to His commissioned officers, "Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people." (Isa. 62:10) This is the command of the great Head of the Church to His ministers, who must first go through the various gates of God's providing before they can describe and open them to the elect and redeemed people of God. The first we shall notice is
The gate of regeneration. Turn with me to Matthew 7:13,14: "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." There are not many, comparatively speaking, even amongst those who profess and call themselves Christians, to whom the strait gate of regeneration has been opened spiritually and experimentally. You may rest assured that not all in a professedly free-grace congregation, not all who can talk very fluently concerning the doctrines of grace and of the grace of the doctrines, have entered through this very narrow gate. Many of those who have gone through cannot truly understand the straitness of the gate and the narrowness of the way, because of their fleshly propensities and weaknesses. With them "the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matt. 26:41) Ofttimes the flesh will prove itself the stronger of the two. Many of the living family are not contented with what a covenant God will have them to be. He will prove to them in the experience of their heart, that while it is theirs to pass through the gate and proceed along the way, they walk not, but are carried. In that way they journey, yet not one step of the journey is theirs, but His, who has so graciously promised to lead them continually, to guide them in the way they shall go, to bear them upon His powerful shoulders in the midst of all their infirmities, and to carry them in His bosom when weak, weary, and worn. Through this gate and in this way there is no room whatever for the creature, and no standing for old Adam, no, not for a moment on this consecrated ground. Of this ground JEHOVAH said to Moses, "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." (Exod. 3:5) This was the highly-favored ground of Divine revelation, spiritual promise, and covenant relationship. Here there is no room at all for old nature to stand or walk. This ground belongs exclusively to a precious Christ. It is the property of the great and glorious Head over all things to His Church. If I stand upon that ground, it is in Him. If I possess it, I possess it in Him. If I am blessed with an entrance into the holy, spiritual, and heavenly city of Zion, it is wholly in Him, by Him, through Him, and with Him. Do I speak of the life I enjoy in union with Him? Do I speak of the life I enjoy in union with Him? I say with Paul, "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." (Gal. 2:20) Have I faith? It is the faith of Jesus Christ. (Gal. 2:16) Have I hope? It is Christ in me the hope of glory. (Col. 1:27) Do I sing? Yes, blessed be God, I do sometimes, and often when I try in the assembly of God's saints to sing His praises, He sends the waster to destroy all my fleshly efforts, and gives me to know that of myself I cannot sing; but when I am blessed with a rejoicing spirit, it is no more I that sing, but Christ that sings in me. (Heb. 2:12) Do I pray? Yes, I do. More frequently when my lips are closed, my tongue fails for thirst, my spirit faints with spiritual desire, and I can only stammer out a few incoherent utterances. Then it is mine to listen to the beatings of my spiritual heart, the breathings of His Spirit, and to know the meaning of those precious lines, the sweetness of which I cannot express:--
"And if in lonely places
A fearful child I shrink,
He prays the prayers within me,
I cannot ask or think--
The deep unspoken language
Known only to that love,
Which fathoms the heart's mystery
From the throne of light above."
Do I preach? Sometimes I feel that I can; but God is sure to stain my pride, and prove to me that I can no more preach than I can create a world. All acceptable preaching to the hearts of God's children is by Him whose lips are filled with grace. This preaching is beautifully expressed in 1 Peter 1:12, "Them that have preached the Gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven." Inside the gate of regeneration, Christ is All and in all.
I think I have told you before of the dream of a colonel in the army whom God brought into the rich enjoyment of His lovingkindness and tender mercy in Jesus Christ. In his dream he saw the heavenly city, the new Jerusalem. He sought an entrance to enjoy its privileges and immunities, but this was denied him. Something induced him to strip himself of his clothes. He took off his coat, but no admission. Each article of clothing was cast off, and still the gate was closed against him. He remembered that next his skin he wore a silk vest of very fine texture. This was off in an instant, when the gate flew open and he entered, a naked sinner into the presence of his God. You may depend upon it, whatever religion, morality, education, or accomplishment may have done for us, while we cling to a single rag, shred, or thread of the same, we shall experience no true, spiritual entrance into the kingdom of our God and His Christ. While the sinner is anything in himself, religiously or morally, he can know nothing of fellowship with God in Jesus Christ, or of the true communion of saints. He may be a member of a Church, and stupidly imagine the Church cannot prosper without him; but he will ever be a burden, and a source of anxiety and grief to the spiritually-taught whose All is in the Lord, and not in self. He who is puffed up with spiritual pride because of the depth of his experience, or the height of his knowledge, may find to his sorrow that the depth of his experience reaches to the depths of hell, while the height of his knowledge rises no higher than the highest hair of his head. My dear friends, the stripping room is hard by the gate of regeneration, and in it the child of God will be taught that he must enter into life halt, and maimed, and blind; (Mark 9:43-47) that he may walk with Christ's legs, proceed in Christ's arms, and be guided by Christ's eyes. Thus the elect and redeemed of God enter into life, spiritual and eternal, which they shall have more abundantly. (John 10:10)
Here we are shut up to the glorious truth that in all salvation matters, and in every spiritual revelation, Christ is All and in all. This is set before us in that precious parable of the sheepfold, the Shepherd, and the sheep, in John 10:1, where the Lord Jesus Christ speaks of the entering in thus: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber." Without the communication of spiritual life, without the conviction of sin by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, without that stripping process in which all creature-righteousness, strength, and confidence is taken away, and if he who enters in is not convinced that his entrance is in the person of Jesus, by the intercession of Jesus, with the works of Jesus, and through the blood and righteousness of Jesus, "the same is a thief and robber." He steals the glory of salvation from Christ, and robs the Holy Ghost of all honor in his work of regeneration. How many thieves and robbers have we in this congregation tonight? If I were to attempt counting them, it would only prove my folly. No minister of the Gospel can with unerring certainty distinguish between the saints and sinners in his congregation, and I believe any minister who attempts that game is more under the influence of Satan, and puffed up with his fleshly mind, than under the guidance of God the Holy Ghost. I know full well that every God-sent minister who preaches the living Word will be a divider between flesh and spirit, nature and grace in the child of God, and between the elect and reprobate among his hearers. God alone knows how it is done whilst the minister is totally ignorant of the stir his testimony is producing. You remember the testimony of JEHOVAH to Jeremiah: "If thou return, then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before Me: and if thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as My mouth." (Jer. 15:19) Mark! It is not taking the vile from the precious. I have heard preachers who have paid more attention to the vile than to the precious, who hurled stones of truth at the heads of some of their hearers, but whose testimony touched not my heart. This reminds me of a saying of my now glorified friend O' Leary, which is this, "Thrashing Arminians is not feeding the flock; but, if the flock is fed, Arminians will be sure to be thrashed." Let the flock be fed with pure provision, and the swinish herd that feeds upon offal will be sure to wince and fly off. It is my delight to do the bidding of our most glorious Christ and preach His pure Gospel to the elect of God. "Oh!" cries Mr. Duty-faith, "you do not preach the Gospel to sinners!" Get away with you, old gentleman, I do not preach to anyone else, for I know of none but sinners to preach to.
"This faithful saying let us own
(Well worthy 'tis to be believ'd),
That Christ into the world came down,
That sinners might by Him be sav'd:
Sinners are high in His esteem,
And sinners highly value Him."
Some of us know the truth and preciousness of these lines of spiritual import:
"What comfort can a Saviour bring
To those who never felt their woe?
A sinner is a sacred thing,
The Holy Ghost has made him so:
New life from Him we must receive
Before for sin we rightly grieve."
Let me ask again, How many thieves and robbers are there here this evening? If any of you have climbed over the wall, or crept under the gate, for religious old Adam is so mighty clever that, if he has not an opportunity to climb over the wall, he will humble himself to creep under the gate, so as to be able to exhibit himself in the assemblies of the saints. Read John 10:9, "I am the Door: by Me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out and find pasture." Mark that, "by Me," not by any fleshly effort or creature aid. Do you know anything of that in and out experience? This is that which a few of us were privileged to listen to the other night from those remarkable words: "And God went up from him in the place where He talked with him." (Gen. 35:13) In the very place where God reveals His gracious presence and communicates His lovingkindness and tender mercy, He will go up, hide His face, and cause His deserted and desolate children to seek after Him. There is a spiritual going in and out known only to the living in Jerusalem; and it is always by the door or gate, Christ Jesus. You will have some spiritual understanding of this if the Holy Ghost is pleased to throw the light of God upon those three precious Psalms, the 22nd revealing the good Shepherd in Redemption, the 23rd the great Shepherd in Resurrection, and the 24th the chief Shepherd in Glory and Regeneration. Yes, the 24th speaks of spiritual regeneration. Look at the 6th and following verses: "This face, O God of Jacob. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in." This is an allusion to military customs. A triumphant conqueror approaches the gates of a city subdued to himself, when the demand goes forth for the gates with the portcullis to be opened and lifted up. Many would confine this to the entrance of our blessed Lord into glory up yonder. Blessed be God, glory up yonder cannot exist without its being revealed to God's redeemed down here. Christ has entered into His glory in the presence of God the Father, and He enters into it with great delight as He sees the fruit of the travail of His soul returning unto Him in spiritual regeneration. "Lift up your heads, O ye gates," is a Divine command accompanied by Divine power, and Jesus enters into the heart of His redeemed, and His redeemed enter into His, and they in blessed oneness enter into possession of the glory which the Father reserved for them from the days of eternity. In reply to the command, the question is asked, "Who is this King of glory?" The answer is immediately given, "The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle." The command is repeated, "Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in." The question again goes forth, "Who is this King of glory?" when the answer comes pealing down in tones of omnipotent grace, "The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory." Yes, He the LORD of all the hosts of angels who do His pleasure, of all the host of His redeemed scattered abroad throughout this naughty world, of all the hosts of infernal spirits, who, with all their malignity against the Church of God, can only work His pleasure in the polishing and perfecting of the saints, all the hosts of influences which surround us, all the hosts of raindrops which have soaked our earth of late, causing men's hearts to quake for fear through not realizing that every drop has to do with the accomplishment of the will of
"The great First Cause of all events,
Who gives decrees and ne'er repents,
And Holy is His name."
As He passes through the gate of regeneration by His resurrection power, He takes possession of the hearts of His people. As this is accomplished in our heart's experience, we see His hand in every circumstance surrounding us, and shall acknowledge the working of His will in the midst of all the confusion, depression, distress, and sorrow we meet with on every hand. There is no real quietness for any but those who have passed through the gate, and entered into His courts with praise, to express their thankfulness, and speak well of His name. We will now hasten to notice,
The gate of hope. Turn with me to Hosea 2:14,15: "Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness." We do not always like that. God calls it in Ezekiel 20:35, "The wilderness of the people." This is not pleasant, but it is a very profitable place for the children of God. "And speak comfortably unto her," or, "friendly," or, "to her heart." Heart-work and heart-communications alone will satisfy the new-born and the true-born child of God, who has entered into communion with Father, Son, and Holy Ghost through the gate of regeneration. "And I will give her her vineyards from thence." From whence? From that very spot of her wilderness experience. Just think of that the next time you are brought to experience the wilderness of this world, the wilderness of your heart, and the wild wilderness of the people among whom you dwell--a wilderness intricate, puzzling, and perplexing, "I will give her her vineyards from thence. "And the valley of Achor," a place of trouble, confusion, disorder, distress and death. "And the valley of Achor for a door of hope." O what glorious truth! In the midst of all our doubts, fears, and anxieties, hope springs up in the heart, and the door opens through which the child of God must pass into the enjoyment of faith in the person and promises of JEHOVAH-JESUS, Son of God most high. It is ofttimes the case, that before faith is experienced, hope is experimentally possessed. There are many of God's children who possess the faith of His operation, who, if asked as to the reality of it, would ignore its existence altogether. By the light of God the child sees, feels, and is fully acquainted with the unbelief of his nature, yet will not give up his little hope. This is the "good hope through grace" given by God to Paul and his Thessalonian brethren. (2 Thess. 2:16) It was this caused the hymn writer to sing so sweetly,--
"Good hope through grace the saints possess,
The fruit of Jesus' righteousness,
And by His Spirit given;
Faith eyes the promise firm and sure,
And hope expects for evermore
To dwell with Christ in heaven."
What is hope? It is belief not amounting to certainty. Look at that precious description given of it in Heb. 6:18,19: where, in describing the persons who are blessed with the possession of it as refugees of hope, the apostle says, "Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath; that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil, whither the Forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus." The heirs of promise and refugees of hope flee to the true city of refuge which is Christ Himself, in whom no condemnation, no death, no danger, can ever be found. To fugitives from law, sin, death, and hell, this gate of hope is opened by Zion's gate-keepers in their faithful declarations of God's glorious Gospel. Hope may appear to be a very feeble grace, yet it is a very blessed one, for it pleases the Lord to have gracious respect to those that hope in His mercy, though they will not presume to boast of any volition of their mind in the matter. (Ps. 33:18) Turn with me to Col. 1:27, "To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you the Hope of glory." See! Christ my Life! Christ my Hope! Christ my All! As I enter into the enjoyment of this Hope, my heart goes out to God for the little ones in His family in the words of Nehemiah 1:11, "O LORD, I beseech Thee, let now Thine ear be attentive to the prayer of Thy servant, and to the prayer of Thy servants who desire to fear Thy name." "Begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead," (1 Peter 1:3) "by Christ we have access into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." (Rom. 5:2) By Christ's own testimony from the lips of His sent ministers who have gone before us through the gates of regeneration and hope, we are brought to a spiritual understanding of our being citizens of no mean city, and of our progress to the palace of our King. We are now led to
The gate of faith. Where do we find this? Turn to Acts 14:27, "And when they were come, and had gathered the Church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how He had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles." This door, or gate of faith was opened by God through the testimony of the apostles. So it is now. Zion's gatekeepers testify of Christ in His fullness and sufficiency of grace by which the gates are opened for the entrance of the redeemed into the enjoyment of their citizenship. As we read of the door of faith, we are led to contemplate faith's door, which is Christ, according to that precious declaration referred to in John 10:9, "I am the Door." If I enter into the city, it is by precious faith; yet the faith is not of my own producing, but that of the operation of God. (Col. 2:12) Without faith it is impossible to please Him. (Heb. 11:6) Without holiness I cannot see Him; (Heb. 12:14) without blood there is no redemption; without righteousness there is no justification; and without wisdom there is no understanding in the way. But Christ is the Object, Author, and Finisher of my faith, Christ is my Hope, Christ is my Sanctification, Christ is my Righteousness, Christ is my Redemption, Christ is my Glory, and Christ is my All in All. In 1 Cor. 16:9, Paul says, "For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries." Has God's faith been wrought in you by the power of the Holy Ghost, so that your hand clings to a precious Christ, your feet run to a precious Christ, your eyes look to a precious Christ, your heart longs for a precious Christ, your spirit hungers and thirsts for a precious Christ? Then, as assuredly as Christ entered into the holiest of all for you, so your faith and hope have entered too, and are centered in Him there. As you have entered feelingly and experimentally into the enjoyment of the privileges and immunities of the kingdom of God, and rejoice even a little in the spiritual apprehension of them here below, so you will enter into His glory up yonder when all the temptations and trials of the journey are past and gone for ever.
Faith. What is it? It is the reliance of the heart upon God's testimony. It is believing that which we do not see. I have a pair of spectacles in my hand, but I do not believe they are there. I know it by the evidence of my natural senses. Tell me of something I never saw, and I either believe or disbelieve you. Tell me of something apart altogether from my knowledge, and as this is brought home with convincing proof of its truthfulness, I receive it and rely upon it as truth. I thus understand spiritually the apostle's declaration in Heb. 11:1, "Now faith is the substance," ground, or confidence, "of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Faith is the spiritual enjoyment of the person, preciousness, and power of the Lord Jesus Christ. Do I believe that I possess His life? It is by His faith. (Gal. 2:20) Do I believe that I am justified before God? It is by the faith of Jesus Christ. (Gal. 2:16) Now turn to that precious portion recorded in Acts 13:38,39: "Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses." Do you say my justification is by my believing? I say it is not. It is "BY HIM all that believe are justified from all things." Through whatever minister you have received this precious truth, the same is Zion's gate-opener to you.
The gate of righteousness. Now turn with me to that resurrection and regeneration Psalm, the 108th, where the Lord Jesus Christ says, "The LORD hath chastened Me sore: but He hath not given Me over unto death. Open to Me the gates of righteousness, I will go into them, and I will praise the LORD. This gate of the LORD, into which the righteous shall enter." It is the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ who calls, "Open to Me the gates of righteousness." What are these gates? The gate of regeneration, the gate of hope, and the gate of faith through which the Head of the Church passes with His members. Through them He must pass with all those whom the Father gave to Him, whom He redeemed with His most precious blood, who are the fruit of His soul travail, the joy of His heart, and the delight of His eye. Oh, my dear friends, God does nothing in unrighteousness. He is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works. (Ps. 145:17) He was righteous before the worlds were framed, when, in the decree of election, part of the human family was predestined to eternal glory, and the other part left to wander to eternal perdition. He was righteous when, on Calvary's cross, His precious blood redeemed His own elect, and left the rest to perish in their sins. He was righteous when, from Bethlehem to Calvary, He gave a perfect obedience to His Father's righteous law for all His elect and redeemed ones in which they shall stand everlastingly complete before His face. On righteous ground He takes possession of His own, and in His adorable person brings them through the gates into the city. It is no mean city where they find their names enrolled, and its glorious freedom is conferred upon them. This is the glorious liberty of the children of God. Here are found no legal shackles, no fleshly fetters, no carnal cords to bind the free-born citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem. Within these gates the whip of small cords prepared by the legal driver is scorned by those who are let loose to range the heights of covenant favor in blessed association with their Redeemer and their God.
III. THE GRACIOUS PRIVILEGES--"That the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in." This is the reason given for the command, "Open ye the gates." It is mine then, and the blessed privilege of every God-sent minister to open these gates testimonially by the declaration of His truth, the proclamation of His promises, the opening up of the mysteries of grace, and by tracing the experience in which a child of God enters into the strong city by spiritual regeneration, a good hope through grace, and the faith of God's operation. Entering in this way, the subject of Divine grace knows and feels that he forms a part of the righteous nation mentioned in the text. What nation is this? Some point to the Jews, but that will not do for me. Turn to Ps. 33:12, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom He hath chosen for His own inheritance." The Holy Ghost describes this in 1 Peter 2:10, "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation." A nation holy in its great and glorious King. A nation righteous in its righteous Head. "Which keepeth the truth." All the truth designed for each citizen must, and will be, kept by Him. Some poor children will say, We are not so clever as to be able to do that. Wait! Is the deserter clever who keeps the brand burned into his flesh? The citizen of Zion who receives the truth of the Father's electing love, the Son's redeeming grace, and the Spirit's regenerating mercy, receives it in the furnace of affliction, where it is so burnt in, that neither sin, Satan, nor suffering can ever obliterate it. The living child of God may ofttimes lose the remembrance of it, but the covenant Remembrancer will bring it to light in His own good time. All the elect and redeemed of God shall enter into this no mean city by the means which God has in His own hands, and shall know feelingly what that means as expressed in those lines of dear old Joseph Irons:
"We have listened to the preacher,
Truth by him has now been shown;
But we want a greater Teacher
From the everlasting throne,
Is the work of God alone."