Royal Emblems for Loyal Subjects
“And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.” — 2 Samuel xxiii. 4.
*“This date is an approximation of when this sermon was delivered.”
EASTERN despots fleece their subjects to an enormous extent. Even at the present day, one would hardly wish to be subjected, to the demands of an Oriental government; but, in David’s time, a bad king was a continual pestilence, plague, and famine, — a bane to the lives of his subjects, who were under his caprice; and spoliation to their fields, which he perpetually swept clean to enrich himself with the produce thereof. Hence, a good king was a rara avis in those days, and could never be too highly prized. So soon as he mounted the throne, his subjects began to feel the beneficent influence of his sway. He was to them “as when the sun riseth.” The confusion which had existed under weak governors gave place to settled order, while the rapacity which had continually emptied the coffers of the rich, and filched the earnings of the poor, gave place to a regular system of assessment, and men knew how to go about their business with some degree of certainty. It was to them “a morning without clouds.” Forthwith, trade began to flourish; persons who had emigrated to avoid the exactions of the tyrant came back again; fields which had fallen out of tillage, because they would not pay the farmer to cultivate them, began to be sown; and the new ruler was to the land as “clear shining after rain,” which makes the tender grass spring up out of the earth.
I fear we do not value, as we should, the constitutional government which it is our privilege as Britons to enjoy. Let us look where we may, — we need not say to the East only, but to the West also, — we would not wish to change the government under which we live so happily. Let us gratefully acknowledge to God his tender mercy, and his goodness, in sparing us alike from the refractory elements of a, republic, and the prodigious exactions of a despotism, and for giving us to dwell in a quiet and peaceable kingdom, wherein we can sit “every mam under his own vine and under his own fig-tree, none making him afraid.” We may say, I am sure, of Her Majesty who is set over us in the order of providence, that she has been “as the sun when he riseth, as a morning without clouds.” Under her generous sway our country has been verdant. As “the earth by clear shining after rain” bringeth forth the green herb, so have our institutions fostered our trade and commerce by the goodwill and gracious providence of God.
But it is not my object, at present, to enlarge upon the secular benefits that have fallen to our lot, though I should not think it unworthy of the Christian ministry to pursue a theme, which calls for so much gratitude to God, and might foster so much good feeling among ourselves. We might make one another feel that there are vast mercies we enjoy which would be more esteemed if better known. Just as we speak of Christ’s unknown sufferings, so many of the bounties that we daily enjoy have become so common that we are oblivious of them; and, therefore, I might call them our unknown mercies. It well becomes us to lift up our voices and hearts to heaven, and thank God for the happy land, and for the happy age, in which the lines have fallen to us. Still, I take it that David was not so much speaking of mere political rulers as of Christ Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords, whose sway is always gracious and full of goodwill. May his kingdom, come! “Surely, I come quickly,” he crieth from heaven. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus,” respond those whose love inspires their worship. His kingdom is “as when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds” and when it shall have been perfectly established upon the earth, all men shall know that the Son of David, whom once they rejected, is he by whom God would make all generations to be blessed for ever and ever. May we, who have waited and watched for his glorious advent, live when he standeth in the latter day upon the earth, and may we constitute a part of that glorious harvest, the fruit whereof shall shake like the cedars of Lebanon! Thus we look for the day wherein the Lord shall come in the clouds of heaven.
I. David says of Christ, HE SHALL BE AS THE LIGHT OF THE MORNING, WHEN THE SUN RISETH. This he is as King, already, in his Church, and as the rightful Monarch in the individual heart of the believer. Wherever Christ comes into a soul, it is “as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth.”
The light of the morning is joyous. Then all the birds begin to sing, and the earth, which is silent at night, save when its stillness is disturbed by stormy winds, or by wild beasts, or by riotous drunken people, becometh vocal with songs from many mouths; so, when Christ cometh into the heart, the tuneful notes of the sinking birds are heard, and the voice of the turtle welcomes the gladsome season. Where darkness had brooded before, the sunlight of Christ bringeth mirth and blessed rejoicing. Oh, what streamers; there are in the town of Mansoul when Prince Emmanuel rideth through! Happy day, happy day, when Jesus; comes into the heart! Save the day when we shall be with him where he is, I suppose there is no day that is; comparable to the first one, when beheld Christ, and see him as our Saviour and our King.
The rising of the sun is joyous; and, besides that, it is comforting and consoling to those who have been suffering from ills which night aggravates. “Would God ’twere morning!” has been the cry of many a languishing one tossing upon his couch. “Would God ’twere morning!” may be the cry of many a heart that is troubled exceedingly with the guilt of sin. Ah, let the morning come; let the watchman say, “The morning cometh;” let the day dawn, and the day-star appear in our hearts, and there is “the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” Joy to cheer and comfort the disconsolate Christ bringeth, for he is as the rising of the sun.
And, how glorious is the sun when from his pavilion he looks forth at morn! Job describes the sunrise as being the stamping of the earth with a seal; as if, when in darkness, the earth were like a lump of clay that is pervious; then, as it is turned to the light, it beginneth to receive the impress of divine wisdom; mountain and vale all stream with it, till impressed on its surface we begin to perceive the glorious works of God. So, when Christ riseth upon the heart, what a glorious transformation is wrought! Where there has been no love, no faith, no peace, no joy, none of the blessed fruits of the Spirit, no sooner doth Christ come than we perceive all the graces in blossom; yea, they soon become fragrant and blooming, for we are made complete in him. The advent of Christ bringeth to the heart celestial beauty; faith in him decketh us with ornaments, and clothes us as with royal apparel. Better garments than Dives had, though he wore scarlet and fine linen, doth Christ give to his people when he cometh to them; and better fare than Dives had, though he fared sumptuously every day, does Jesus bestow upon his saints when he shineth into their hearts. Oh, the glory of the sunrise of the Saviour on the darkness of the human soul! If a man might rise every morning of the year to lock at the rising sun, and yet never be tired of it, because of the sublimity of the spectacle, methinks a man might consider his own conversion every hour in the day, and every day of his life, and yet never be wearied with the thrice-heavenly spectacle of Christ arising over the mountains of his guilt, to banish the dense darkness of his despair.
As the sunrising is thus joyous, and comforting, and glorious, let us remember how unparalleled it is, — unparalleled because divine. By no method of illumination can we manufacture such a light as the sun exhibits by his simple rising. O ye priests, ye come, with your incantations and mysteries, to make light in men’s hearts, and sometimes ye strike a spark that doth but show the darkness; it dieth too soon to be called “the light.” And ye pile your deeds to heaven, — your faggots of good works, — ye bring your van-load of superstitious observances, and vainly try to make an illumination; but ere it beginneth to blaze it dieth out, and a handful of ashes alone remains to disappoint the expectant ones. But Christ ariseth, and with what boundless majesty he looks abroad! The joy, the peace, the comfort, the confidence, the full assurance, the blissful hope, which one ray of Christ’s light gives to the heart of man is not to be equalled; nay, scarcely to be compared with anything else. It is a joy that God only giveth us, and, thank God, a joy which none can takeaway.
And, as this sunrise: of Christ in our heart is divine, so likewise it is irresistible. No curtains can conceal the sun from the world when he willeth to rise. No tyrant, by any law, can prevent the sun’s beams from gilding the cottage of the poor. Shine he must, and will. Like a giant lie cometh out of his chamber, and where is he that shall wrestle with him? Where art thou, O man, who can take the bridle of the sun, and bid his coursers stay their race? Until they have climbed to heaven, and then gone down again to bathe their burning fetlocks in the Western Sea, they must, they will pursue their onward course, for none can stay them, or say to their mighty driver, “What doest thou?” So, when Jesus comes into the heart, — avaunt, thou fiend! Thy time of flight is come! Away despair and doubt, and aught that can prevent the soul from having joy and peace! Thus the eternal mandate runs, “Let that man go free!” Thus saith Jehovah to Pharaoh, “Let my people go;” and go they must and shall, for the time of their light and their liberty is come. Like the rising of the sun, when he springs forth “as a giant strong, and as a bridegroom gay,” even so is Christ Jesus when he riseth in the human heart.
The sunrise, moreover, is very much like the coming of Christ, because of that which it involveth. Those rays of light, which first forced the darkness from the sky with golden prophecy of day, tell of flowers that shall open their cups to drink in the sunlight; they tell of streams that shall sparkle as they flow; they tell of the virgins that shall make merry, and the young men that shall rejoice, because the sun shineth on them, and the darkness of night is fled. And so, the coming of Christ into the heart is a prophecy of years of sweet enjoyment, — a prophecy of God’s goodness and longsuffering, let night reign, elsewhere, as it may; — yea, and it is a prophecy of the fulness of the river of God, for ever and ever, before the throne of God in heaven. Hast thou Christ, poor soul? Christ is to thee the promise of eternal happiness. Thou canst not be dark again if Christ hath once shone on thee. No night shall follow this blessed day; it is a day that lasts for ever.
“Doth Jesus once upon thee shine,
Then Jesus is for ever thine.”
Hath Christ appeared to thee? Dost thou trust him now? Art thou reposing only upon his finished work? Then the sun hath risen upon thee, and it shall go down no more for ever. The everlasting Joshua biddeth the sun stand still, and to-day, and to-morrow, though the whole world revolve, that Sun of Righteousness abideth still to shine on thee with healing in his wings.
II. We must proceed to notice that the psalmist uses another figure: EVEN A MORNING WITHOUT CLOUDS.
Brethren, there are no clouds in Christ when he ariseth in a sinner’s heart. The clouds that mostly cover our sky come from Sinai, from the law, and from our own legal propensities, for we are always wishing to do something by which we may inherit eternal life; but there are none of these clouds in Christ.
There is, in Christ, no cloud of angry rebuke for the past. When. Jesus receiveth the sinner, he chideth not. “Neither do I condemn thee,” is all that he hath to say. I thought, when I came tremblingly to him, that he would at least bring all my sins before me, and chide before he sealed my pardon with the kiss of mercy; but it was not so. The Father received the prodigal without a single word of rebuke. He did but say, “Take off his rags;” he did but command them to kill the fatted calf that they might make merry; not a word did he speak of his hungry look, or his filth, or of the far country, or even of the harlots with whom he had spent his substance. Christ receiveth the soul without rebuke, for he is “as a morning without clouds.”
And, as there is no cloud of anger, so there is no cloud of exacting demand. He doth no task the sinner to be anything, or to do anything. That were a cloud, indeed, if he did. A sinner by nature can do nothing, and can be nothing, except as grace shall make him be and do. If Christ did ask anything of you or me, if he did but ask repentance of us, unless he gave us that repentance, his salvation would be of no avail to us. But he asketh nothing; all he bids us do is to take him as everything, and be nothing ourselves. So, to the empty handed sinner, he is such a full Christ that we may well say, “He is a, morning without clouds.”
And, as he is without cloud of demand, so! he is without a cloud of falsehood. I know that some say Christ may reject those who have put their trust in him, — that, after they are saved, they may yet fall from grace and perish. Surely, that would not be a morning without clouds. I should see, in the distance, the tempest gathering that might ultimately destroy my spirit; but no, if thou trustest Christ, he will surely save thee, even to the end. If thou puttest thy soul into his hand, there is no fear that he will be false to the sacred charge; he will undertake to be surety for thy soul; he will bring thee to his Father’s face without hindrance, when the fulness of time is come. Trouble not yourselves, O ye anxious ones, concerning the future! Does faith reach only to the present? Do ye trust Christ only to save you to-day? I pray you take a larger sweep of confidence, and trust him to save you to the end. If you do so, he will be better to you than your fears would suggest, or than your faith can conceive; to the end he will love you, and in the end he will bring you to be like him and to be with him where he is. Happy is that man who seeth Christ “as a morning without clouds.” They who see any clouds in him make the clouds. The clouds are only in their vision; they are not in his person. The spots and defects are in themselves; they are not in his person, nor in his work. If thou wilt only trust him fully, simply, without any admixture of thine own merit or confidence, thou shaft find him to be equal to the brightest description, — a morning without a single cloud.
III. But, now, to the last figure. Upon this we intend to dwell at somewhat greater length. David says of Christ, the King, that his sway is like “CLEAR SHINING AFTER RAIN” whereby the tender grass is made to spring out of the earth.
We all understand the metaphor. We have often seen how, after a very heavy shower of rain, and sometimes after a continued rainy season, when the sun shines, there is a delightful clearness and freshness in the air that we seldom perceive at other times. Perhaps, the brightest weather is just when the wind has driven away the clouds, and the rain has ceased, and the sun peers forth from his chambers to look down upon the glad earth. Well, now, Christ is to his people just like that, — exceedingly clear-shining when the rain is over.
Sorrow and sadness do not last for ever. After the rain, there is to come the clear shining. Tried believer, after all thy afflictions there remains a rest for the people of God; and if, just now, thou art tried and vexed by some extraordinary trial, there is a clear shining coming to thy soul when all this rain is over. Look to Christ, and thou shalt find where that clear shining is. The quiet contemplation thou shaft have of him, when this time of rebuke is over, shall then be to thee as the earth when the tempest has sobbed itself to sleep, when the clouds have rent themselves to rags, and the sun peers out, shooting forth virtue with its lustrous rays.
And while sorrows, like the floating clouds, last not for ever, they do work together with the bliss, that, as the clear sunshine, followeth afterwards, to produce good. It is not in the sorrow alone, perhaps, to bring forth good, any more than the rain might, by itself, bring forth the spring blade; but when the sorrow and the joy, when the affliction and the consolation, come together, then the joy of the heart is indeed benign. None bring forth much fruit for God but those who have been deeply ploughed with affliction, and deluged with grief; but even they do not bring forth much fruit till they have had the joy of Christ’s presence after the affliction is over. Clear shining after rain produces an atmosphere good for the herbs, and the joy of the soul in the presence of the Lord, after a time of sorrow, makes it able to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Thus, after times of great trouble, Christ becometh to his people more specially and delightfully sweet than he has ever been before. I notice this in many instances. It is manifest in conversion. What happy, happy days were our first young days in the faith! I cannot forget mine, — I never shall. When talking with those who come to tell me what God has done for their souls, I notice the freshness upon their memory of every separate event on the day of their new birth; they can tell how Christ appeared unto them, and how they looked unto him, and were lightened. “I can never forget that, sir, till I die,” says one; “I have a very bad memory, and I forget almost everything that is good; but that I shall never forget, for it was such a joyous season.” I know that many of you have had good days, but they have been like pieces of money that you received when children, very bright once; but they have been passed about, and worn in circulation, until they have lost the image and superscription which were once so bright to your eyes. Not so the day of your new birth; it has been like a coin, as fresh as when you laid it aside; and when you take it out again, it is as fresh as the mint delivered it, and you can read it still, and read the image of Christ which it bears. I think there is scarcely such a day on earth to be had in Christian experience as that first day when we came to Christ, and knew him as our Saviour.
The like is true also, in its measure, after great and heavy affliction. You have been bereaved. A wife, a husband, a child, has been removed from, you; or, you have had a great loss in business, you were crossed in some expectation, and you were cast into the lowest depth of trouble. Friends failed you, consolation fled from you; but, after a time, you felt a sweet resignation; you could say, “My soul is even as a weaned child;” your troubles, somehow or other, grew sweet as honey, though before they had been bitter as gall. You saw the finger of a loving Lord in all those graving lines of affliction, which the chisel had made upon your brow; you saw the great Refiner sitting at the mouth of the furnace, watching your gold that it might not be destroyed, and rejoicing over your dross, because it melted away in the flame. Do you remember it? Why, I can look back to some of the happiest seasons of my life, and see them stand in juxtaposition with the blackest times of trial. Oh, it has been, sometimes, a glorious thing to be cast down by rebuke and slander, and then go into one’s chamber, and lay Rabshakeh’s, letter before the Lord, and then to go down, and feel more glad than a king of a hundred kingdoms, because we have been counted worthy to suffer reproach for Christ. At such a season, there is a calm within us more deep and profound than we felt before.
And, mark you, if it has been so with us individually, it has been no less so with the Church. Remember the clear shining after rain in the apostles’ times. “Them had the churches rest, and walking in the fear of God, were multiplied.” Those little seasons of hush and calm, between the great persecutions, have always been prolific of converts. I hope, in the midst of successive controversies which darken the sky overhead, that, when the rain is over, and the noise and trouble it costs some tender spirits have ceased, and the powers of darkness have been hushed to sleep once more, we may have some clear shining after rain, and brotherly fellowship once again be renewed. The day cometh when the great battle of Armageddon shall be fought, when the powers of darkness shall be roused to frenzy’s highest pitch, when hell shall be loosed, and the great dragon shall be permitted to come upon the earth, trailing its chain along in the supremacy of its hour; — then, when dreadful war shall come upon the earth, when nations shall reel and stagger to and fro, the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the trump of the archangel and the voice of God, and there shall be clear shining after the rain. And then, when the flames shall have consumed tins orb, when judgment shall have been passed, when death and hell shall have been cast into the lake of fire, when all the powers of evil shall have been utterly destroyed before the majesty of his coming who shall overturn them, that his kingdom may be established in heaven, everlasting hallelujahs, “For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth,” shall bear witness that there is clear shining after the rain: for so it must be in the little as the great, in the experience of the individual as in that of the multitude; there, must, be a rain, and there must be the clear shining after it, and the two together shall bring forth a matchless harvest, to the praise and glory of his grace, who worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will.
Ask ye, now, why is it that God giveth to his people sweet seasons just after the bitter?
One reason is, to take the taste of the hitter out of their mouth. Even as to our little children, when they take their nauseous medicine, we give some sweetmeat; so doth the Lord often, when he cometh to his little ones, give them such sweet, honey of his grace that they forget their sufferings in the sweet nectar which he vouchsafeth them.
Another reason, no doubt, is lest they should he utterly destroyed by the terror of his judgment. “He tempereth the wind to the shorn lamb;” but, better than that, he taketh it to his bosom; and when it lieth there, little doth it know that but for the rain and the tempest it had not lain in his bosom, and been fondled there tenderly. He put it there lest it should perish.
Then, again, he doth it as a sweet reward of faith. He seeth thee in trouble, bravely struggling with the tempest, and saith, “I will reward that, man.” He seeth thee following him in the garden, till clinging to him amidst, all the darkness and temptation; and, therefore, he saith, “I will give to that soul such joy, by-and-by, that it shall be well rewarded for its faithfulness to me in the past.”
Is it not also to prepare you for the future that, in looking back, you may say, “The last time I had trouble, there was clear shining after the rain, and so I feel it will be next time”? Ah, thou timid one, there is a trial coming; it looms over thy head. What! and didst thou behave valiantly for thy Master in former times, and wilt thou be a coward now? Ah, my brother, thinkest thou there is a time of ruin threatening thee, and thou sayest, “His mercy is clean gone for ever; he will be faithful to me no. more”? Oh, wherefore dost thou say that? Doth my Lord deserve it? Hath he been with thee in six troubles? Then, why should he forsake thee in the seventh? He that hath helped thee hitherto will surely help thee to the end. Wherefore hath he delivered thee in the tempest, if he means to let thee sink at last? By the kindness of the past, the love experienced in former days, let thy faith put out its great sheet anchor, and outride the storm, for there shall again be “clear shining after rain.”
And, surely, these changeful seasons of ours, and that constant ordinance of his, ought to make us sick of self, and fond of him. He putteth gall on the world, and he putteth honey on his own lips; so that we may eschew the one and love the other. We are so fond of this world that we must be drawn away from it: and when we are drawn away from it, and enticed to him, our foolish hearts come to know his value, and we yield ourselves up to him.
I cannot tell to whom this sermon is addressed. I am sure it has a mission to fulfil. O brothel’s and sisters, it may be that these words may be worth a mine of gold to some of you, as clear shining after rain! If they reach thy case, do thank my Master for it. He may have a harvest from thy soul yet. Be sure that thou givest him the firstfruits of the harvest. When there is clear shining after the rain, honour him more, serve him better, give more to his cause, pray more for his people, live more in his fear, commune more with him, and walk more closely to him. Let it be true that, in thy case, as in. that of this round world, the rain and the clear shining after it have brought forth their abundant fruit. When you and I shall get to heaven, we will talk on its green and flowery mounts of all the showers through which we passed, and of the clear shining; and, in the sacred high eternal noon, which shall be our portion for ever, we shall, with transporting joys, recount the labours of the past, and sing of the clear shining after the rain.
How sad the thought that there is no “clear shining after rain” for some of you! There is a rain of trouble in reserve for you, — that you know; there will be more troubles yet in this life; there is a heavy shower coming yet in death, and then it shall rain for ever, and there shall be a horrible tempest; — that is your portion. If ye believe not that Jesus is the Christ, and trust not your souls to him, all the woe you have ever known is as nothing; it is but the first spattering of the drops on the pavement; it is nothing compared with the storm which shall beat upon your unsheltered head for over and ever. But the refuge is before thee, man! The sky is dark, the tempest lowers; but the refuge is before thee. Run! in God’s name, run! The storm comes hastening on, as if God were gathering up all his black artillery that he might discharge his dreadful thunders upon thee. Run! “But can I enter?” Yes, the door is open; run! “But may I enter?” Yes, he invites thee: “Come unto me, yea, come unto me, — come this night, — trust me,” he says, “and I will save thy soul.” “But I am unworthy.” Well, see the tempest! Run! Let thine unworthiness put feathers to thy feet, and not stop thee in thy haste. Jesus calls thee from his throne in heaven; he invites thee: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” “The Spirit and the bride say, Come; and let him that heareth say, Come.” Heaven and earth say, “Come.” Sinner, wilt thou avoid the tempest? Wilt thou flee, and find shelter in Christ? God help thee to trust Christ now, and unto him shall be the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.