“Until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people he. Genesis xlix. 10.
THE dying patriarch was speaking of his own son Judah; but while speaking of Judah he had a special eye to our Lord, who sprang from the tribe of Judah. Everything therefore which he says of Judah, the type, he means with regard to our greater Judah, the antitype, our Lord Jesus Christ. You will remember how Jacob gathered his twelve sons around his bed, and, addressing them individually as representatives of the twelve tribes that bear their names, uttered divers predictions, and gave to each a special blessing. After first apostrophising Reuben and Simeon and Levi, he proceeds to salute Judah in words full of majesty:— “Judah thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise.” A happy expression; for the word “Judah” signifies “praise.” The name was given to him by his mother as expressing her gratitude to God at his birth. It is now confirmed to him by his father, who discerns in it a presage of his character and his destiny. And verily this is true of Jesus. If the virgin mother hailed his advent, how much more do his grateful brethren laud his career! Do not his brethren recognise in him a leader and commander, a Saviour and a friend? Is it not here, on earth, our sweetest employment, and will it not be in heaven our highest delight to praise his name? The praise we bestow on men is mere flattery: the praise we receive from men is fulsome. But Jesus hath a peerless name, and his brethren derive from him priceless benefits. In Jesus are fulfilled the dreams of Joseph. The sun and the moon and the eleven stars all bow before him; all the sheaves make obeisance unto his sheaf. Let him be crowned with majesty who bowed his head to death is the common verdict of all the brotherhood of the house of God. “Thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies” As one that gets his hand upon the neck of his prey, stops its breath and destroys it; or as one who seizes his enemy by the throat and flings him down to death. How true has this been of Jesus. He has laid his hand upon the neck of his enemies. When he came to the cross, fought foot to foot with the old Serpent, and there vanquished sin and death and hell for us, it was a terrible battle, but it ended in a splendid victory, of which we shall never cease to sing. Nor do we doubt but the hand of Jesus Christ is at this moment in the neck of his enemies. They may be very rebellious, and, for a time, they may seem to get the ascendancy; but he has got the upper hand of them, and as surely as truth and righteousness must flourish and prevail, as surely as Jehovah is the living God, the kingdom of Christ will yet break in pieces all the powers that resist it. “He shall break them as with a rod of iron: he shall dash them in pieces like potters’ vessels.” “Thy father’s children shall bow down before thee.” To the descendants of Judah in the persons of David and Solomon the whole nation did fealty. But worship of a higher order, homage of deeper significance, and adoration from a wider circle pertain to him, for whom our Father in heaven demands of all his faithful children love, honour, and obedience. “Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up.” And how does this describe the Saviour— that “Lion of the tribe of Judah” — that strong and mighty Lion who entered into conflict with the lion of the pit and overcame him. From the prey he has gone up again, up into his glory, gone up beyond the stars, up to the right hand of the infinite majesty, there to sit in perpetual peaceful triumph. “He stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion.” The lion may have been an emblem that befitted the son of Jesse. The lion couchant might have been fitly chosen for his heraldic device, when the Lord had delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies and of Saul. Yet with how much more propriety may this emblem be emblazoned on the arms of Prince Emmanuel! Did he not stoop down? Was ever such a stoop as his? Let him be crowned with majesty who bowed his head to death. It is for this that he deserves to conquer, because he was willing to submit to shame and death itself for the sake of his people. How glorious is it to think that he has gone up, seeing that he once came down! Who should deserve such honours but he who laid such honours aside for a while? “Who shall rouse him up?” A grand question. Who shall rouse up the Lion of the tribe of Judah? Who dare do it? Who can stand against him? He is a lamb, gentle- and tender; “A bruised reed he will not break, and the smoking flax he will not quench but let him be provoked, then fiercer than a lion that roareth from the forest will he be upon his foes. So shall it come to pass on that tremendous day when he will ease him of his adversaries and shake himself clear of all his enemies. Remember ye not these terrible words of his:— “Beware, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver”? “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come.” The sovereignty remained with Judah. It did continue to be the royal tribe till the prophetic epoch. When other tribes lost their peculiar position and their positive distinctiveness, Judah still remained, and it survives in the common appellation of the Hebrew people to this day. The Israelites are more commonly called Jews than by any other name. Jesus, of the tribe of Judah, is the King of the Jews, even though they reject him. Over his head upon the cross was written the indelible truth in letters of Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Yea, he is King of all faithful Jews and of all believing Gentiles at this hour, with a sovereignty wider than that of emperors— yea, as wide as the dwelling places of all mankind he “King of kings, and Lord of lords.” Of Shiloh it is the patriarch speaks when with the vision of a seer he describes the grand climax. Before the dim organs of his sight he saw all his twelve sons gathered to take leave of their dying sire. Before the beaming eyes of his faith he beheld the gathering of all their distant posterity, or peradventure of all the kindreds of the earth to greet with glad acclaim the everlasting King, of whose kingdom there shall be no end. “Unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” Thus simply and thus pointedly does Jacob refer to the Lord Jesus Christ by the name of Shiloh. Of that name and of that prophecy I shall try to speak.
First, let the title, “SHILOH, and secondly the TESTIMONY, “To him shall the gathering of the people be,” engage our attention.
The title, SHILOH. What an old word it is! What an old world word! I should not wonder if it was one of Jacob's own coining. A pet name is often the product of peculiar love. Tender affection takes this kindly turn. Those whom we fondly regard we familiarly call by some other name than chance has bequeathed or choice bestowed. Not content with the names that others understand or use, there is often a new mode of recognition between two who love each other, as much as to say, “You are to me what you are to none upon earth beside me.” Even God gives to his people new names; and I do not wonder if they give to him new names. Well may believers have each a favourite name for Jesus. Which name of your Lord do you love the best? If the question were passed round, perhaps some would say Another — and would the majority say, might— “Jesus: the name divinely sweet.”
“Sweeter sounds than music knows
Charm me in Emmanuel’s name.”
“That is the choice name.” Others it may be might put in a claim for pre-eminence to the title of “The Well-beloved,” which always seems to me to have a great charm about it; and if George Herbert were here, you know he would say, “How sweetly doth ‘My Master’ sound!” “My Master.” That was the name he loved to call his Lord by. Well, Jacob’s name for Jesus was “Shiloh;” and it is so long ago since he called him Shiloh that I do not wonder that we have almost forgotten the meaning of it. He knew it had a wealth of meaning as it came from his lips, and the meaning is there still; but the well is deep; and those that have studied the learned languages have found this to be a word of such rare and singular occurrence, that it is difficult, with any positive certainty, to define it. Not that they cannot find a meaning, but that it is possible to find so many meanings of it. Not that it is not rich enough, but that there is an embarrassment of riches. It may be interpreted in so many different ways. I will give you, one by one, some of the meanings that have been proposed. There is something to be said for each one. Though I shall not trouble you with the names of the learned authors who stand up for each particular translation, as that would be useless, I will take care to put last the one which I conceive to be the best, has the most authority, and will probably commend itself to you as the most acceptable.
Some maintain that the word “Shiloh” signifies “sent.” Like that word you have in the New Testament, “He said to him, go to the pool of Siloam, which is, by interpretation, Sent.” You observe the likeness between the words Siloam and Shiloh. They think that the words have the same meaning; in which case Shiloh here would mean the same as Messiah — the sent one— and would indicate that Jesus Christ was the messenger, the sent one of God, and came to us, not at his own instance, and at his own will, but commissioned by the Most High, authorised and anointed to that end. Here let us stop a minute. We rejoice to know that, whatever this title means, it is quite certain that Jesus Christ was sent. It is a very precious thing to know that we have a Saviour; but often and often it has cheered my heart to think that this dear Saviour who came to save me did not come as an amateur, unauthorised from the courts of heaven, but he came with the credentials of the Eternal Father, so that, whatever he has done, we may be sure he has done it in the name of God. Jehovah will never repudiate that which Jesus has accomplished. Him hath God set forth to be a propitiation; he is a mediator of God’s own sending. He is our Substitute; but he is a Substitute of God’s own finding. “I have laid help upon one that is mighty.” So saith the oracle, and who shall gainsay it? “The Lord hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all.” It is the Lord that has done it. An ambassador who had no credentials from the court he represented would be but a dubious boon to the people; but when as a plenipotentiary, with full authority from his sovereign, he comes with terms of peace, he might well be received without hesitation or demur. Sinner, have you received the Saviour Jesus? You profess to acknowledge the God who sent him, but know that in turning from the Emissary you are spurning the Sovereign. If you deny Jesus you defy God himself; yea, you make God a liar, because you have not believed his testimony concerning his Son. Beloved, do you welcome Jesus Christ as being sent to you personally? When you have laboured under a sense of sin, burdened to the very ground with trouble of conscience, was Jesus ever sent to you to say, “Look unto me and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth”? Was he ever sent to lead you to look? Did you look unto him, and were you lightened? Oh, then, you will for ever bless his name, the name of the Most High, who sent such an one that he might lift you up out of your miseries, bring the bondaged one out of the dungeon, and set the captive free. Dwell, sweetly dwell, upon this meaning of the word Shiloh. If it means “sent,” there is great sweetness in it.
Others have referred it to a word, the root of which signifies the Son. Upon such a hypothesis the name would be strictly appropriate to our Lord. He is the “Son of God;” he is the “Son of Man;” he was the “Son of Jndah;” he was the “Son of David:” “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.” Let us linger for a while upon this gloss— “Until Shiloh,” “Until the Son shall come.” Be the annotation right or wrong, Jesus is the Son of God. He that hath come to save us is divine. No angel could bear the stupendous burden of redemption. Sooner might angels create than redeem, but they can do neither the one nor the other; they can only sing the high praises of him who is able to do both. Who but God himself could snatch a sinner from hell? God has done it. He that died upon the cross was none other than he that made the world. Trust the divine Saviour? O sinner! if thou hast had any doubts about the sufficiency of Jesus Christ to save, cast them all aside; for, if he be the Son of the Highest, and “God over all, blessed for ever,” they that rest in him shall never be confounded. The Son of God is he, but he is also the Son of Man, and this is an equal joy to us. Jesus Christ is “bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh,” a man like ourselves. Though he is now in heaven, think not that he is transformed into a spirit there, or that he hath discarded our nature, or disowned our flesh and blood. Oh, no. After he was risen from the dead he appeared to his disciples, and eat with them; he partook of a fish and of honeycomb, to show that he was not spirit but flesh, and he said, “Handle me, and see, a spirit hath not flesh and bone: as ye see me have.” In that very body of his he has gone up into his glory, and to-day, at the right hand, there sits he— a man clothed in a body like our own. Oh, beloved! let not terror affright us, or misgivings keep us back from a high priest that can be touched with a feeling of our infirmities, a dear Saviour who is not ashamed to call us brethren. “This man receiveth sinners.” Oh, sinners! may ye be willing to be received by him. Let us bless him as the Son — the Son of God, the Son of Man.
A third meaning has been given to the word “Shiloh” which rather paraphrases than translates it. The passage, according to certain critics, would run something like this:— “Until he come to whom it belongs, to whom it is, for whom it is reserved;” or, as Ezekiel puts it, “Overturn, until he shall come whose right it is, and thou wilt give it him.” It may mean, then, “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah until he shall come whose that sceptre is.” This meaning is supported by many learned authorities, and has its intrinsic value. The sceptre belongs to Christ. All sceptres belong to him. He will come by-and-by and verify his title to them. Have you not seen the picture that represents Nelson on board a French man-of-war, receiving the swords of the various captains he has conquered, while there stands an old tar at his side putting all these swords underneath his arm as they are brought up. I have often pictured to myself our great Commander, the only King by divine right, coming back to this our earth, and gathering up the sceptres of the kings in sheaves, and putting them on one side, and collecting their crowns; for he alone shall reign King of kings and Lord of lords. When the last and greatest of all monarchs shall come a second time, “without a sin offering unto salvation”— oh, the glory of his triumph! He has a right to reign. If ever there was a king by nature, and by birth, it is the Son of David; if ever there was one who would be elected to the monarchy by the suffrages of all his subjects, it is Jesus Christ. How often do we sing—
“Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown him Lord of all;”
and we cannot repeat it too often. Our hearts and lips ought to be always saying, “Crown him; crown him; crowns become the victor’s brow.” His is the right to reign. Dear souls, acknowledge that right. If you never have acknowledged it, acknowledge it now. “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and ye perish from the way, while his wrath is kindled but a little.” You that do love him, and have made him your King, oh, kiss his feet again! Let him have your highest homage, your purest love, your perpetual service. Was ever such a King as thou art, O Jesus! “the chief among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely”? Let him be crowned with majesty for ever and ever. To him the royalty belongs, for him it is reserved.
The interpretation, however, which has the most support, and which I think has the fairest claim to be accorded correct, is that which derives the word “Shiloh” from the same root as the word “Salem.” This makes it signify peace. “Until the peace, or the peace-bearer, or the peace-giver,” or, if you like it better, “the rest, or the rest-maker— shall come.” Select the word you prefer, it will sufficiently represent the sense. “Until the, peace-bringer come, until the rest-maker come.” His advent bounds the patriarch’s expectation and his desire. Oh, beloved, what a vein of soul-charming reflection this opens! Do you know what rest means? Such “peace, peace,” such perfect peace as he hath whose soul is stayed; because he trusteth, as the prophet Isaiah hath it. Have you ever said to yourself, “There is nothing I desire— nothing that I wish for; I am satisfied— perfectly content; I am without a fear, without a dread”? “No,” say you, “I never reached that elysium. You may be worth millions of money without ever coming to that pass. All the gold in the world will never fill a man’s heart; and you may have broad acres across which a swift horse could hardly rush in a day, but you will not have enough. All the land in the world cannot fill a heart. You may have all the beauty, rank, honour, and fame that ever can come to a human being, and yet say, “Ah me! I am wretched still.” But full many who have found Jesus have been able to say, “It is enough: I need no more.” Believing in Jesus, and learning to yield up everything to his will, living to his glory, and loving him supremely, we do enjoy peace with God— a “peace that passeth all understanding,” which “keeps our heart and mind” by Jesus Christ. Are we adopted into the family of God?— we are sure that he never did cast a child out of the family that was once received into it. Are we made members of the body of Christ? There is no fear of dismemberment; that which is perfected and compacted together cannot be mangled or torn asunder. Our good hope through grace is not precarious. Well may we sing with the seraphic Toplady—
“Yes, I to the end shall endure,
As sure as the earnest is given;
More happy, but not more secure,
Are the glorified spirits in heaven.”
Here is rest! Man may well take his rest when he has nothing to do, when it is all done for him. And that is the gospel. The world’s way of salvation is “Do,” God’s way of salvation is, “It is all done for you; accept and believe.” The world, that says “Do,” never does anything, while the gospel which tells us “It is all done,” imparts such joy and peace within that we spring to our feet ready and willing to do and dare ought for him who gave himself up for us. While active and passive obedience spring out of the doctrine of grace, nothing but pride and self-righteousness can come out of the religion which prates of merit and prescribes duties to be done in order that you may be saved. All that ever will be saved were saved on Calvary’s bloody tree. Jesus said, “It is finished.” Here his humiliation reached its climax; he humbled himself even unto death. It was finished. Those for whom he died were there and then redeemed. The ransom price paid for them exempted them from the penalty of their transgressions, exonerated them from legal responsibilities, and extinguished for them the fiery threat of perdition. He had suffered in their stead, and they could not be called upon to suffer for themselves. He had offered a righteousness to God on their behalf, and they were accepted because of that righteousness. Do you say, “I wish I were one of those people”? Dost thou believe in Jesus? Then thou art one of them. Dost thou trust Jesus? Then thou art saved. The moment a sinner believes and trusts in his crucified Lord, he is pardoned at once; he receives salvation in full through Christ’s blood. Do but rest thy soul on Jesus, and it is done, and peace will enter thy soul — oh, such a deep and blessed peace, the like of which is not to be found out of heaven! for Jesus is the great peace-giver and peacemaker: he is our peace, God grant us to know him and to understand this aspect of his mediatorial character. Believe me, my hearers, I feel in my soul, as I look round upon you, the utmost longing for you all. Oh, that you did know my Lord and the peace he gives. It is years ago— three and twenty years or more— since I went to him. I could not believe it possible that he would receive me. I felt myself too great a sinner. How should there be mercy for me? But I heard a sermon from the text, “Look unto me and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth!” I never understood it before, but when I came to understand that all I had to do was to look, oh, what a revelation it was to me! No feelings, no workings, no doings, no purchase-money demanded as a qualification. Christ on the cross was evidently set forth crucified before my eyes. I did but look, and I was saved; saved the moment I looked. When I turned to the Scriptures I found that was just what the Scriptures said, “He that believeth in him is not condemned.” I did believe it, I did trust it, I did simply rest there. Neither shall I ever forget the rush of joyous feeling that went through my spirit, the cessation of long years of melancholy, bordering on despair, and the coming out into a clear light, which I thank God I have never lost, for, with all the troubles of this material life, I would not change places with any man that breathes, no, nor with the angels before God’s throne. The station and the privilege of angels will not bear comparison with the eternal dignities reserved for the saints. For an angel no redeemer ever died, and no angel will be able to sing, “Worthy is he that hath washed me in his blood!” Oh, to be superlatively indebted to the infinite love of Jesus, to be a cleansed sinner, and to be put among the children, is so enchanting that it is enough to make one say, “Ah! not even an angel would I envy, nor with one of those celestial ministers would I change my happy lot.” I wish you could all sympathise in this. Would that you all had fellowship with us in this grace wherein we stand. Many of you have, thank God. Some of you have not. What do you poor people do without a Saviour? I cannot make out why you who have got so little in this life do not look out for the promise of a better inheritance. And what do you poor rich people do without a Saviour? I pity yon most of all, for your lives are generally passed in a very senseless and insipid fashion. With nothing but a round of visits to pay, and a few elegant trifles to attend to, like butterflies you flit from flower to flower. A poor man’s time is taken up with hard labour; but you often ask yourselves, and consult one another how best you can spend the hours and kill the time that hangs heavily on your hands. If you cannot think upon Christ, if you cannot fall back upon the covenant of grace, if you cannot look up to the eternal God, and say, “My Father, thou art mine, and with thee shall I dwell for ever,” I pity you, whether you be rich or poor. God grant you to have and to enjoy the fulness of treasure that is in Jesus Christ; then you can say:–
“I would not change my blest estate
With all that earth calls good or great;
And while my faith can keep her hold,
I envy not the sinner’s gold.”
Trusting, then, dear friends, that your faith has identified the Shiloh of Jacob’s vision, let us occupy the few minutes that remain to us in considering the TESTIMONY which the patriarch here bears.
“Unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” “UNTO HIM, as the Hebrew runs, “shall the gatherings of the peoples be.” So wide the circumference that converges in this glorious centre. It comprehends all the peoples of the Gentiles as well as Jews. Of course it includes the favoured nation, but it also takes in the isles afar off; yea, all of us, my brethren. “Unto him shall the gatherings of the peoples be.” What joy this announcement should give us! Do you realise it, that around Jesus Christ, around his cross, which is the great uplifted standard, the people shall gather? Just open your eyes and look. If you can see, and your eyes have been touched with eyesalve, you may perceive the power of attraction by which this magnificent issue is already in progress. Over yonder in America a poor sinner is seeking eternal life. If he is seeking aright, he is being gathered to Christ. Or, look at home in your own country. Perhaps, to-night, in many thousands of places that are open for divine worship, the like magnetic influence is at work. I only wish I could hope that there was some one in every assembly that was looking for eternal life. If it be so, they are all looking to Jesus Christ. Cast your eye now to India, or France, or Prussia, or over to Australia, in whatever direction you will; every soul that is in earnest seeking life is seeking it through Jesus Christ. I see them coming; he is the centre, and they are all drawing near to him. Every soul that is saved is drawn to Jesus; none are saved without him. The people gather to him as their only hope, and all succour else has failed. They do not fly to him until they have tried every other hope. Nobody ever comes to Christ until he cannot go anywhere else. The sinner comes to him by stress of weather— driven in sometimes, as ships are into harbours of refuge, because they cannot keep pace with it outside the bar. It is when the sinner is in difficulties that he is driven to Jesus Christ; and every soul that really is looking for eternal life in the right place is looking to Jesus and gathering to Jesus; and I see little silver threads going out from Christ, the centre, from all over the world, drawing men to himself. I hope there is one of these threads drawing you. Oh! yield to the gentle pressure! Follow it; for there is your only hope.
Look again, and you will see that all over the world those that are saved are gathering to Jesus, rallying round him, and accepting him as their leader, instructor, and king. The Jews said, “We have no king but Caesar the Christians say, “We have no king but Jesus.” I mean no spiritual lord, no teacher, no leader, except Jesus Christ himself. “Unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” His people out of all nations shall come and take his easy yoke and wear it, and find rest unto their souls. And now, at this moment, my eyes can see myriads all over the world who are coming nearer and nearer to Jesus, with instant eager cry, saying, “Draw us, Lord, draw us nearer to thyself; make us more like thyself; help us to live more to thy glory.” Is there one of these golden threads drawing you? Then run if you are drawn, and seek to love your Lord and serve him better than ever you have done, for “unto him shall the gathering of the people be.”
Be assured of this; Christ is the only centre of true unity to his people. There is a society, I believe, for the promotion of the unity of Christendom. I am afraid it does not do much good, or cement much fellowship. The unity of Christendom! That will all depend upon what is the key-stone of the arch you are going to build. If you expect there will be a unity of the Greek Church, and the Latin Church, and the Anglican Church, I can only say that were all three united the union of Christians would be as far off as ever. In the midst of that professed Christendom, but distinct from it, there is an inner Christendom, a secret, sacred brotherhood of real Christians that knows little about these great secular churches. The true Christendom consists of all that worship God in the spirit, not having confidence in the flesh. The true church consists of all that believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and are quickened by the Holy Ghost, the only unity that society could ever get would be a confederation ecclesiastical, to be dominated over by some lordly priest or other. No desirable thing certainly. Christ is the centre of the church, and true unity will be found in him. “Unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” Were I to give you a book to read about Jesus Christ, full of love to him, and when you had read it were I to ask you who wrote it, I warrant you would not guess rightly what denomination the man belonged to. Perhaps you will say, “Well, there is a flavour in it of Roman Catholicism now and then; but really it is so good a book I cannot think a Roman Catholic could have written it.” “Or,” you will say, “it has a little of the Plymouth Brother here and there, and that is not a sweet flavour; but still, it is so good I hardly think he could have written it.” By-and-by you will say, “I do not know at all; I am at a loss.” Often and often after reading books which have a savour of Christ in them, I have felt a love to the author, though I may have found out, perhaps, that he was an ecclesiastical opponent of mine. I do not care; I love him if he loves my Master, be he who he may, wherever he comes from. When we are down on our knees praying for the kingdom of Christ, or standing up to sing Messiah’s praise, it is wonderful how like we are to each other. Mr. Wesley did not like Toplady, and Mr. Toplady did not like Wesley, called him “ an old fox,” and said that he would pluck him, and have him “tarred and feathered;” but take up any hymn book you like, and you will find, side by side, Charles Wesley’s “Jesus, Lover of my Soul,” and Toplady’s “Rock of Ages, cleft for me;” and which is the better hymn of the two I am sure I do not know, they are so much alike. So were these men, after all, two blessed souls, for all their mistakes and all their misunderstandings of one another. When you get to the cross you get together. “Unto him shall the gathering of the people death be.” When you come to talk of him and what he did – his life and death, his atoning sacrifice, his glorious conquest of all our foes– then are you agreed.
Oh, brethren, we must therefore strive vigorously, and try incessantly, to lift Christ up. We want to see, during this year, a great gathering of souls. Well, we shall see it if we lift Christ up. Here is a lot of steel filings among a heap of ashes. How can I separate them? There are a great many ways of trying to do it. Bring a magnet in; put a magnet into the heap; see how it draws the steel filings away. In this congregation there is a great number of individuals, but who among them are God’s elect I do not nor can I know; but let me preach Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ will draw his own. “My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life.” Preach Christ; that is the magnet; he will draw his own to himself. And, dear friends, if we want to see conversions in this beyond all past years there must be more preaching, more constant preaching of Christ; Christ must be in every sermon, and he must be top and bottom too of all the theology that is preached— “Jesus Christ and him crucified,” and nothing else. I am bound to preach Jesus Christ and him crucified, for I do not know anything else to preach. My simplicity is my safeguard. I have often felt to be of Paul’s mind: “I determined to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Some are wise to interpret prophecies; I am not: enough for me to know about the cross. Some are able to split a hair, they can a hair divide betwixt the north and the north-west side. I am no logician. If, knowing the terrors of the Lord, I can persuade men to fly to Christ, and escape from the wrath to come, I shall fulfil my mission to my heart’s delight. Consider this, all of you. Let each of us go back to the first principles of the gospel, and bring out, again and again, the old, old story of sinners lost and a Saviour come to redeem, of guilt sinking a man to hell like a millstone, and the Saviour taking all that guilt away. If you preach the blood, the precious blood of Jesus, you set forth the great soul-saving gospel, and you do honour to him unto whom “shall the gathering of the people be.”
And, brethren, by the climax of destiny that is opened up, let the conduct of our daily life be disciplined. Let us aim to gather more and more to Jesus ourselves. We cannot get too near to him. Be it ours to strive to get closer than ever we have been. Even if a cross should be necessary to raise us, let us not be afraid of the cross, so long as it brings us nearer to Jesus. You are happiest, healthiest, and holiest when you are nearest to Christ. To him shall the continual “gathering of the people be.”
And oh! let us pray, also, that this gathering may go on both among saints and sinners — that saints may gather nearer to Jesus, and that sinners may gather savingly to him. The text says, “To him shall the gathering of the people be.” It is a faithful saying, and we do believe it. Not death nor hell can keep back the Lord’s elect from coming to Christ. Come they must and shall; for the divine decree shall be accomplished, and each one for whom Jesus specially shed his blood shall be saved infallibly, saved beyond all risk; but it is ours to pray for it. Oh, Lord Jesus, it is said, “Unto thee shall the gathering of the people be.” Make it so. The gathering shall be wrought by thyself. “He shall gather the lambs in his arms;” it is his to gather the strayed sheep; he gathereth together the outcasts. Surely he is the great gatherer. Well may they be gathered to him when he himself gathers them. Ask him to gather your children. Ask him to gather your dear beloved ones under your house-roof, your servants, your neighbours. Ask him to gather them. Ask him to gather this great city. Oh, what a city it has grown to be! Would God that Jesus had it! It would be a glorious koh-i-noor in the state jewels of Christ if he could call London his own. The biggest of cities— would God it were the holiest. Oh, that it were wholly Christ’s from one end to the other. They used to say, in Cromwell’s day, that if you walked down Cheapside at a certain hour, you would have heard the voice of family prayer and praise at every house in the whole street, both morning and evening. I trow it is not so in any street in London now. We have gone back since the grand old Puritanic times. But we will repair to the throne again by God’s good grace, and yet shall there be a salt in this city, for the city shall be seasoned through and through with the power of the gospel of Jesus. Only to your knees! to your knees! to your knees! if you would have it so. You should get this fulfilled among your fellow citizens, if you would get it first vouchsafed to you as a boon of your God. Tell him he has said, “Unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” Hold him to his word, plead with him .that he cannot break it, and we shall live to see the day yet. “To him shall the gathering of the people be.”
Oh, my dear hearers! as I draw these reflections to a close one thought passes over my mind to which I must give expression. You will all of you either be gathered to Christ to be saved, or else you will have to be gathered by-and-by for another purpose. There shall ring out upon the midnight air a trumpet call that shall be loud enough to be heard east and west, and south and north; it shall startle all the sleepers, and more than that, it shall arouse the dead; at its sound the sepulchre shall vomit forth its prey, and they that are rocked in slumber beneath the waves of ocean shall hear that trumpet call and rise, the whole mass of Adam’s family, the myriads of all our race. Oh, what an assembly will that be! The motley throng within these walls is but as a grain of sand, compared with the sea-shore, to the multitudes that will then be congregated. Gather ye! gather ye! ye that have been dead these six thousand years. Gather ye! gather ye! ye that were drowned in Noah’s flood. Gather ye! gather ye! all ye hosts of Egypt, and ye myriads of Chaldea, and of Babylon, of Persia, and of Greece. Gather ye! ye legions of Rome! ye myriads of the middle ages! ye countless millions of China and of swarthy Hindostan, and you of the world across the sea! Gather ye! gather ye! men of every skin and every tongue! For ye must gather, and there in the midst of you all shall be the cloud sailing through the air, and on it the great white throne of him whose spotless justice is mirrored in it. There will you stand, and if you have not looked at Christ on the cross, you will have to look at the Christ upon the throne; and if ye have never trusted him, ye will then have to tremble at him. Hark, how the trumpet sounds! How that clarion rings out again and again and again! And lo! all are there. And now he comes, whose pomp is beyond conception, and the books are opened. As they are opened, page after page, he reads the story of each man’s life, and he has come to yours, and he reads the page that chronicles this fleeting hour. On such a night, gathered with this great congregation, you were bidden to believe in Jesus, and bow down before the great Peace-giver; you refused, and sealed your doom for ever. Shall it be so? Oh! shall it be so? God grant it may not be so. May there be another book opened, which is the Book of Life, and in that book may your name stand recorded as one who humbly trusted in the finished work of Jesus, and therefore was accepted in the Beloved, and found mercy on that day. The Lord grant it to every one of you. I may not ever again speak to some of you as long as I live. This then I do say to you while your ears are open and attentive to my voice, Lay hold on eternal life; put your trust in Jesus. And if, beloved, any of you to whom I am so familiar, to whom I speak so often, if you should depart from the world while I am absent, or if I should never return, but find a grave in some distant land, I charge you, meet me on the other side of Jordan; I charge you, meet me at my Master’s right hand; I charge you, cling to the atoning sacrifice by faith; and we will meet together where he sits and reigns— our best beloved —the Judah, the Jesus, whom all his brethren shall praise– the Shiloh, the Prince of peace, for whose glorious advent all his saints look, and to whom they shall be gathered in fulness of joy for ever and for ever. Amen and amen.