“Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.” — Psalm xxx. 4.
DAVID had been very seriously ill, and the Lord had graciously restored him to health. He says, “O Lord my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me. O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.” As soon as he has recovered his health and strength, the holy instincts of the man lead him to praise the Lord. The first thing to do, when the throat is clear after an illness, is to sing praises to God; the first thing to do, when the eyes are brightened again, is to look up to the Lord with thankfulness and gratitude. Some people need to be told this, but the psalmist did not, it came to him as a matter of course. Now that he was restored, he would take his place amongst the heavenly choristers, and sing unto Jehovah; he was not satisfied to sing alone, what child of God is? Among the birds in the springtime, when the first one wakes in the morning, and begins to sing, does he not call up his fellows? Is not his song an invitation to all the feathered songsters of the grove to join with him, and pour out their united harmony? In like manner, it is characteristic of a praiseful heart that it naturally desires society in praise. We do not like to praise God alone; we can do it, and we will do it if we must; but our heart often cries aloud to our brethren and sisters in Christ, “Praise ye the Lord.” Our very “Hallelujah” is intended to stir up others to this holy exercise, for it means; “Praise ye the Lord.”
My one desire, just now, is that those of us who have received special mercy from God should praise his name, and then that all the rest, if there be any who have not received such remarkable mercies as others of us have, should also feel exhorted to join in the sacred song of thankfulness unto our God.
This is a duty which is pleasant; there is nothing more delightful than to sing praises unto the Lord. It is also a duty that is profitable; it will be as blessed to yourself as it will be pleasing to God. Singing has a curative effect upon many of the maladies of the soul; I am sure that it lightens the burdens of life, and I was about to say that it shortens the weary way of duty if we can but sing as we travel along it. This holy employment is pleasant and profitable, and it is preparatory for another world and a higher state. I like to sing with Dr. Watts, —
“I would begin the music here,
And so my soul should rise:
Oh for some heavenly notes to bear
My passions to the skies!”
We are on the way to glory, so let us sing as we journey thither ; and as the lark, ascending up to heaven’s gate, sings as she soars, her wings keeping time with her music, and mounting in her song as she rises through the air, so let it be with us, — every day a psalm, every night a day’s march nearer home, a little nearer to heaven’s music, and a little better imitation of it. Let us sing now, in our hearts if not with our lips; and when the time comes, let us join our lips with our hearts, and sing unto the Lord. That is our text, “Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.”
It strikes me that our text is very suitable for a communion Sabbath evening. We are about to gather at this table whereon are spread the memorials of our Saviour’s death, and there are three things about the text which make me think it a very proper one for such an occasion. They are, first, the peculiar fitness of the exhortation to our present engagement: “Sing unto the Lord.” Secondly, the special suitability of the subject for our meditation: “The remembrance of his holiness.” Then, thirdly, the admirable suitability of the company invited to join in the song, for they are the same people who are invited to sit down at the table: “Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.”
I. So, first, let us consider THE PECULIAR FITNESS OF THE EXHORTATION TO OUR PRESENT ENGAGEMENT: “Sing Unto the Lord.”
You are to come to the table where you remember your Saviour’s death, where you are to feed upon the memorials of his passion. Come thither with a heart prepared for song. “Oh!” says one, “I thought I had better come with tears.” Yes, come with tears; they will be very sweet to Christ if you let them fall upon his feet to wash them with your penitential streams. “Oh, sir!” says another, “I thought that surely I must come with deep solemnity.” So you must, woe be unto you if you come in any other way; but do you know of any divorce between solemnity and joy? I do not Levity is akin to sorrow, and soon curdles into it; the laugh is but superficial, and just below the surface lies the sigh. But he who is calmly, quietly, soberly thoughtful, is the man in whom there may be deeps of joy which can never be fathomed. There is a little shallow joy that goes prattling over the pebbles of the brook, and is soon gone. I invite you not to that sort of mirth, but to that deep solemn joy which godly men feel, and which can be fittingly expressed in holy song. “Sing unto the Lord.” That is no frivolous music. “Sing unto the Lord.” That is no ballad or ditty; it is a psalm, deep, solemn, and profound, and the joy of it is great. “Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his.”
“Still,” you say to me, “we do not quite see the suitability of singing at this communion-table.” Well, then, if you do not, I think you soon will, for I remind you that, at this table, we celebrate a work accomplished. Solomon said, “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof.” The joy is not in the sowing, but in the reaping. Our Lord bids us put bread and wine upon the table to show that his work is finished by his death. There is the bread, and there is the wine; they are distinct and separate. They indicate the flesh and the blood, but the blood separate from the flesh, — a sure mark that death has taken place. It is Christ’s death that we celebrate by this communion, and that death has written across it these words, “It is finished.” He had finished the work the Father had given him to do, and therefore he gave up the ghost. I do rejoice that Christ’s death is an accomplished fact. We have sung, in plaintive tones, with an almost bleeding heart, the sad story of the cross, and nails, and spear, and thorn-crown, and it has been a sweet relief to us when the poet has led us to sing, —
“No more the bloody spear,
The cross and nails no more,
For hell itself shakes at his name,
And all the heavens adore.”
It is an infinite satisfaction to us that —
“The head that once was crown’d with thorns.
Is crown’d with glory now.”
All the shame and sorrow are done with, all that is over; and we come to this table to eat this bread, and to drink of this cup, in memory of a glorious work, an unrivalled work, a work which cost the Saviour his life, but a work that is complete and perfect, and accepted of God. Talk of the labours of Hercules? What are these compared with the toil of the Christ of God? Talk of the conquests of Caesar? What are these beside the victories of Christ, who hath led captivity captive, and received gifts for men? Beloved, I think that no music can be too loud, too pleasant, too joyous, as we gather about this table, and say one to another, “We are celebrating the full accomplishment of that which Jesus undertook to do when he was born at Bethlehem, when he lived at Nazareth, when he sweat great drops of blood in Gethsemane, and died on the cross at Calvary.” Therefore, “Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his.”
I think I see another reason also why we should come to this table with holy song, and that is, not only because of a work accomplished, but because of a result realized, at least in a measure. Look ye, sirs. Instead of flesh, I see bread; instead of blood, I see wine. I know that the bread and the wine are symbols of the flesh and the blood, but I know also that they are something more; they are not only symbols of the things themselves, but also of that which comes out of those things. This is what I mean. This day, because Christ has died, a table is spread for the starving souls of men. God keeps open house; like a great king, he sets his table in the street, and sends out his servants, and bids them invite the hungry, the poor, the needy, the thirsty, to come and eat and drink and be satisfied; and inasmuch as, maddened and besotted by their sin, they will not come, he adds this command, “Compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.” And, brothers and sisters, when you and I gather around this table, if we have indeed come to Christ spiritually, he sees in us a part of the reward of his sufferings. The festival has been going on these eighteen hundred years, relays of guests have been continually feasting at the table of the great King who says, “My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed,” and his guests are still coming, myriads of them, who must all have died if they had not lived by feeding upon Christ, who must all have been lost if they had not been saved by the precious blood of Jesus. They are coming still, and our prophetic eye sees, in the companies that are gathering together this Sabbath all over the world, the vanguard of a mightier host that no man can number, out of every nation, and kindred, and tribe, and people, and tongue. Wherefore, “Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his.” The very setting up of the communion-table, and the gathering of men and women to it that they may spiritually feast upon their dying Lord, is a reason for thankfulness.
There is, in the third place, this reason why some of us should sing unto the Lord, for here is a blessing enjoyed. Not only are many coming in various parts of the world, and feeding spiritually upon the flesh and blood of the Crucified, but it is a special joy that you and I also are here. I am glad, dear brother, that you are here; it is a great joy to me that my brother in the flesh should be here, and it is a great delight that many of you with whom I have lived so long in happy fellowship should be here; but I could not afford not to be here myself. If I had to go away at the close of the service, and leave you to commune with the Lord, and I had no part nor lot in the matter, I should have to miss an exceeding great joy. You who love the Lord, will you look back to the days when you did not know him, but when you longed to know him? There was a time when you sighed and cried for him, and if anybody had said to you, “You will sit with the great company at the communion in the Tabernacle on such a night, and the Lord Jesus will be very precious to you, and your heart will be brimming over with delight,” you would have said, “I am afraid that is too good to be true, I cannot expect it ever to be my case.” There was a time with me when, if I might but have been the least dog under Christ’s table, and have picked up the crumbs, and the stale crusts, and the bones that others despised, I would have licked his feet for very joy. Yet now, lo! here I sit among his children, and am one of them, and have the pleasure of passing to you, my brothers and sisters, the sweet dainties which he puts on the table, and if you do not sing, I must; if none of you will sing, I shall have to sing alone, I cannot help it. But I believe that each one of you feels the same wonder, delight, and gratitude to think that you also are here.
There is yet another matter to sing about in coming to this table, for this communion reminds us of a hope revived. What said the apostle Paul concerning this ordinance? “As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come.” This is one of the tokens which our Lord has given us that he will come again ; in effect, he says, “Eat that bread, drink of that cup, and I will be coming nearer and nearer every time that you thus assemble around my table ” Well now, if you did not sing last time, you ought to sing at the thought that Jesus is coming again. He has not gone away for ever; according to the Scripture, he has not gone for long. Every hour brings him nearer, and it cannot now be very long before he will be back again. Remember what the two men in white apparel said to the disciples, “This same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come” — literally and personally, — “in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” As surely as Jesus lives, his feet will stand in the latter day upon Mount Olivet, and he will come to reign among his ancients gloriously. This second coming of our Lord, not as a sin-offering, not in shame and humiliation, but in all the glory of his Father and of his holy angels, makes us smite together with a joyous clash the high-sounding cymbals. We already anticipate the final triumph of the Lord Jesus Christ, when all his enemies shall bow before him. It will be, it shall be, and this supper is the memorial that it certainly shall so be; therefore, “Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his.”
I think I have given good proof that this exhortation well befits our present engagement.
II. Now, secondly, dear friends, notice THE SPECIAL SUITABILITY OF THE SUBJECT FOR OUR MEDITATION: “Give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.”
It needs a holy man to give thanks at the remembrance of a holy God. Sinners hate holiness because they dread holiness; but the saints love holiness because they have no cause to dread it, and because, on the other hand, it has become a fountain of comfort and joy to them.
I want you, at this table, to think, first, of divine holiness vindicated. God loved us, brothers, and he wished to save us; but even to save us he would not be unjust. His great heart was full of love, but even to indulge that heart of love he would not suffer his righteous law to be dishonoured, nor his moral government to be impaired. Men talk sometimes of God’s punishing sin as if it were a freak with him. It is a necessity; it is imprinted upon the very existence of moral beings that holiness must bring happiness, and unholiness must bring sorrow, and God will not reverse what he has so properly ordained to be the everlasting order of things. God must be just, and he could not therefore wink at human guilt, and pass it by. What, then, must be done? He himself, in the person of his dear Son,— for never forget that God the Father gave his only-begotten and well-beloved Son, — he himself, in the person of his dear Son, came into this world, assumed our nature, and in that nature became the Representative of his people, and as their Representative he took upon himself their sins; and being found with their sins imputed to him, God dealt with our sin as laid upon him. He found it there, and he smote it there, and because of our sin Jesus bled, and Jesus died; and now, when we come into a state of peace with God, it is not over the ruins of a broken law, it is not over the shivered tables which Moses broke at the foot of the mount, but we come to the holy God in a holy way. Sinners are forgiven in a righteous way, the unjust are reckoned as just in a just fashion; there is not, in the salvation of a sinner, any keeping back or veiling of the justice of God. He is just, yet he is the Justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. I love this glorious truth; it seems to me to be the charm of mercy in Christ that it is righteous mercy. This is the quintessence of delight that, when the saint gets to heaven, he will be as rightly there as the sinner in hell will be rightly there. There will be as much of the divine holiness seen in the salvation of the dying thief as in the damnation of that other thief who perished in his sin. So let us, as we come to the Lord’s table, “give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.” We are going to commune with a God who, even that he might commune with us, and indulge his love to his chosen, would not break his own law, or do that which, on the strictest judgment, could be regarded as unjust. I do rejoice in that unquestionable fact, and my heart is glad as I remind you of it.
And, next, let us give thanks at the remembrance of Christ18 holiness declared. It is a happy occupation to look upon the perfect character of our dear Redeemer. If there could have been found a fault or flaw in him, he would not have been a suitable Substitute for us. If he had committed a single sin, he could not have taken our sins upon him, nor could he have put them away. Think, then, as you sit at this table, what a pure Christ he was, what a perfect man as well as perfect God, what a spotless character he possessed, and then, inasmuch as this was absolutely necessary to the completeness of the atonement which you celebrate at this table, “give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.” I think I see him coming in before us, in his snowwhite garments, girt with the golden girdle, with a face that for purity and brightness looks like the sun when it shineth in its strength; and I fall down, and admire and adore, not only his mercy, and his meekness, and his charity, but the perfect holiness of my Redeemer and Lord. As you come to the table, beloved, give thanks at the remembrance of the holiness of him who sits at the head of the feast, — the Lord Jesus himself, who passes you the cup, and says to you, “Drink ye all of it,” and who breaks the bread, and says, “Take, eat: this is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.” “Give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.”
I think also that it will be quite congruous with our present engagement if we think of God’s holiness as the guarantee of our salvation. This may seem a striking thing to say, but it is assuredly true. Blessed be the righteous God! It is upon the righteousness of God that we rest our hope, after all. If God can lie, then not one promise of his is to be trusted. If God can do an unrighteous thing, then his covenant may be flung to the winds. But God is not unrighteous to forget the work of his dear Son, and “God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love.” He who has pledged his word to you saying, “They shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels,” will keep that pledge inviolate, and you shall be there. He who hath said, “They shall not be ashamed that wait for me,” will keep his promise, and you shall never be ashamed. You, poor sinners, when you first come to Christ, look to God’s mercy, and trust to it, and you do quite rightly; but after you have been a little while with Christ, and begin to know the Father through knowing the Son, you come to “give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.” You see that, at the back of his mercy, as the very foundation and pillar of his grace, there stands his righteousness. Beloved, as we come to the table of communion, we give thanks at the remembrance of a hope that is grounded upon the righteousness of God, and we therefore sing praises unto his holy name.
Once more. I think that, at this table, we may give thanks that the holiness of God is our mark, the object for us to aim at, ay, and that to which we shall one day attain. “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” “Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” I sometimes ask our young friends, when they come to join the church, whether they are perfect; and they open their eyes, and look at me and say, “Oh, no; far from it!” Then, when I ask, “Would you like to be perfect?” their eyes sparkle with delight, as much as to say, “Why, that is the heaven we are looking for, to be absolutely free from sin! We would not mind sorrow, sickness, pain, persecution, or anything of that sort, so long as we could but get rid of sin.”
“If sin be pardon’d, I’m secure;” and if sin be conquered, I am perfectly happy. This will be the case with all believers one of these days, but not here. Of all the people whom I have ever met with, who have told me that they were perfect, I can say that I was morally certain they were not; they had only to talk for about five minutes, and they proved their own imperfection. But, beloved, we shall be perfect one day. “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” He has you now like an unfinished vessel on the potter’s wheel; you are in the clay state, and the great Potter is putting his finger on you, and moulding you. You are not half-fashioned yet, but he will never throw you away ; he does not begin to make a vessel unto honour, and then cease his work, but he perfects that which he begins; and, one of these days, you and I shall stand together as a part of the perfected work of God of which even he shall say, “ It is very good.” Wherefore, when we come to this table, though we come sighing over our own imperfections, let us come singing because of the holiness of God, that holiness which we shall yet share.
“O glorious hour! O blest abode!
I shall be near and like my God.”
The children shall yet bear the image of their Father, the brethren shall yet be conformed unto the glories of the First-born; wherefore, “Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.”
III. Lastly, the text is very appropriate for the communion because of THE SUITABILITY OF THE PEOPLE of whom it speaks, for they are the same people who ought to come to this table: “Sing unto the Lord O ye saints of his.”
First, then, those who come to this table should be “saints.” “Ah!” says one, “that is what I called a person this afternoon, — ‘one of your saints.’” I suppose you thought it was an ugly name, did you not? Well, you are perfectly welcome to call me by that name if you like, only I wish that you would prove the title to be true. “There,” said one to a Christian man, as he shoved him into the gutter, “take that, John Bunyan!” man I What did the other say? Why, he picked up his hat, and said, “You may fling me into the gutter again if you call me by that name, I am so perfectly satisfied to take the compliment.” You call a man a “saint”, and then think you have done him an ill turn? Why do you not call him a nobleman? Why do you not call him a peer of the realm? For many of your noblemen, your peers of the realm, are poor stuff compared with the “saints.” I would sooner be a saint than be an emperor, or all the emperors rolled into one. A “saint” — why, it is a glorious title! “Oh!” says one, “I mean Cromwell’s saints.” Do you? Well, they were not a bad sort of saints, after all, whether you try them by the strength of their arms in the day of battle, or by the strength of their lungs when they sang, “Let God arise, lot his enemies be scattered,” and shouted in Jehovah’s name in the midst of the battle , or when they went back to their tents, and knelt in prayer, and communed with the Most High. But I do not mean Cromwell’s saints, and I am not going to talk more about them; but I do say that this is what every Christian man ought to be, a “saint.” It means a holy person, one who aims at being holy, one who is set apart for the service and glory of God. These are the people who are to give thanks at the remembrance of God’s holiness, because God has made them holy, too. They are partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption which is in the world through lust, and so they are saints, and they are the people who ought to come to the table of the Lord.
But notice that they are not only saints, but they are “saints of his.” That is to say, they are God’s saints; not Rome’s saints, but God's saints; they might be Cromwell’s saints, but, better than that, they are God’s saints. “O ye saints of his.” That is to say, they are saints of his making, for they were great sinners till he made saints of them; and they are saints of his keeping, for they would soon be sinners again if he did not keep them. They are saints enlisted in his service, sworn to serve under his banner, to be faithful to him unto death. They are “saints of his” that is, they are saints whom he purchased with his precious blood, and whom he means to have as his for ever because he has bought them with so great a price. They are saints who shall be with him in that day when he shall appear with all his holy ones. Then, “Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his.” If God has made you holy, if you belong to Christ, and so are holy, let your heart sing; fling away your doubts, cast away your fears, forget your sorrows: “Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his.”
Further, these people who are spoken of in the text, the kind of people who ought to come to the communion-table, are God’s thankful saints. They “give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.” The man who has no thanks to give ought not to be at the table of the Lord, for it is called the Eucharist, which signifies the giving of thanks. It is intended to be a giving of thanks from beginning to end. Jesus took the bread, and gave thanks; after the same manner also, he took the cup, and gave thanks. So, “Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks.” If we would come aright to the table of the Lord, we must be thankful saints.
Then, lastly, they who come to the Lord’s table should be singing saints. “May not mourning saints come?” Oh, yes! come and welcome, but learn to sing. “May not weak and feeble saints come?” Oh, yes! but let them not remain weak and feeble. “May not groaning saints come?” Yes, they may come if they like; but groaning is out of place when you have your head on Christ’s bosom, and have his flesh and his blood to feed upon; it should stop all your groans and moans when you once begin to feast on him. I wish that more of God’s people would take to singing; I have known some few who were truly singing saints. I recollect quite an old gentleman in my very young days. The first thing he did, when he rose in the morning, was to sing a hymn while he was washing and dressing. When he came downstairs, the family knew by his singing that he was about. When he went into the street, he used to hum some little bit of a ditty, and the people laughed, and said that old Father So-and-so was always singing. You could never put the good old man out, for as soon as he finished one hymn he began another, and if anybody stopped him so that he could not sing, he only waited till he could start again, and all the while he kept going over it silently in his heart.
We have not enough singing saints. The other Sunday morning, I noticed that there was a lifeboat crew over at the farther end of the Tabernacle, and one brother began saying “Amen!” as soon as ever I commenced to pray. Somebody stopped him, and I cannot say that I felt very sorry for my own sake and the congregation generally; but after the service was over, he and his mates said that they enjoyed the preaching, but what a dead lot of people we were here! He was a red-hot Methodist, accustomed to cry out, “Glory!” and “Hallelujah!” so he could not make you people out. One of our friends said to me, “If I had not said, ‘Hallelujah!’ the other Sunday morning, I must have burst altogether.” I like people to get into that condition; and if sometimes they should break the silence, and cry, “Glory I” why, it is better than that they should burst, at any rate! It is a great mercy that they do feel their hearts so full that they are ready to burst. People express their praise and delight spontaneously concerning far less things than the joys of God, and the privileges of his people; therefore, “Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.” Now you must finish my sermon for me by standing up and singing, —
“All hail the power of Jesus’ name!
Let angels prostrate fall:
Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown him Lord of all.”