The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem
“Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.” — Matthew 21:5.
WE have read the chapter from which our text is taken; let me now rehearse the incident in your hearing. There was an expectation upon the popular mind of the Jewish people, that Messiah was about to come. They expected him to be a temporal prince; one who would make war upon the Romans and restore to the Jews their lost nationality. There were many who, though they did not believe in Christ with a Spiritual faith, nevertheless hoped that perhaps he might be to them a great temporal deliverer, and we read that on one or two occasions they would have taken him and made him a king, but that he hid himself. There was an anxious desire that somebody or other should lift the standard of rebellion and lead the people against their oppressors. Seeing the mighty things which Christ did, the wish was father to the thought, and they imagined that He might probably restore to Israel the kingdom and set them free. The Saviour at length saw that it was coming to a crisis. For him it must either be death for having disappointed popular expectation, or else he must yield to the wishes of the people, and be made a king. You know which he chose. He came to save others, and not to be made a king himself in the sense in which they understood him. The Lord had worked a most remarkable miracle; he had raised Lazarus from the dead after he had been buried four days. This was a miracle so novel and so astounding, that it became town talk. Multitudes went out of Jerusalem to Bethany, it was only about two miles distant, to see Lazarus. The miracle was well authenticated; there were multitudes of witnesses; it was generally accepted as being one of the greatest marvels of the age, and they drew the inference from it that Christ must be the Messiah. The people determined that now they would make him a king, and that now he should lead them against the hosts of Rome. He, intending no such thing, nevertheless overruled their enthusiasm that by it he might have an opportunity of performing that which had been written of him in the prophets. You must not imagine that all those who strewed the branches in the way and cried “Hosanna” cared about Christ as a spiritual prince. No, they thought that he was to be a temporal deliverer, and when they found out afterwards that they were mistaken, they hated him just as much as they had loved him, and “Crucify him, crucify him,” was as loud and vehement a cry as “Hosanna, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” Our Saviour thus availed himself of their mistaken enthusiasm for divers wise ends and purposes. It was needful that the prophecy should be fulfilled — “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, he is just and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” It was needful again, that he should make a public claim to be the Son of David; and that he should claim to be the rightful inheritor of David’s throne; — this he did on this occasion. It was needful, too, that he should leave his enemies without excuse. In order that they might not say, “If thou be the Messias, tell us plainly,” he did tell them plainly. This riding through the streets of Jerusalem was as plain a manifesto and proclamation of his royal rights as could possibly have been issued. I think, moreover, — and upon this I build the discourse of this morning, — I think that Christ used the popular fanaticism as an opportunity of preaching to us a living sermon, embodying great truths which are too apt to be forgotten because of their spiritual character, embodying them in the outward form and symbol of himself riding as a king, attended by hosts of followers. We come to this as the subject of our sermon. Let us see what we can learn from it.
I. One of the first things we learn is this. By thus riding through the streets in state, Jesus Christ claimed to be a king. That claim had been to a great extent kept in the background until now; but ere he goes to his Father, when his enemies rage has reached its utmost fury, and when his own hour of deepest humiliation has just arrived, he makes an open claim before the eyes of all men to be called and acknowledged a king. He summonses first his heralds. Two disciples come. He sends forth his mandate — “Go ye into the village over against you, and ye shall find an ass and a colt.” He gathers together his courtiers. His twelve disciples, those who usually attended him, come around him. He mounts the ass which of old had been ridden by the Jewish lawgivers, the rulers of the people. He begins to ride through the streets, and the multitudes clap their hands. It is reckoned by some that no fewer than three thousand people must have been present on the occasion; some going before, some following after, and others standing on either side to see the show. He rides to his capital; the streets of Jerusalem, the royal city, are open to him; like a king, he ascends to his palace. He was a spiritual king, and therefore he went not to the palace temporal but to the palace spiritual. He rides to the temple, and then, taking possession of it, he begins to teach in it as he had not done before. He had been sometimes in Solomon’s porch, but he was oftener on the mountain’s side than in the temple; but now, like a king, he takes possession of his palace, and there, sitting down on his prophetic throne, he teaches the people in his royal courts. Ye princes of the earth, give ear; there is one who claims to be numbered with you. It is Jesus, the Son of David, the King of the Jews. Room for him, ye emperors, room for him! Room for the man who was born in a manger! Room for the man whose disciples were fishermen! Room for him whose garment was that of a peasant, without seam, woven from the top throughout! He wears no crown except the crown of thorns, yet he is more royal than you. About his loins he wears no purple, yet he is more imperial far than you. Upon his feet there are no silver sandals bedight with pearls, yet he is more glorious than you. Room for him: room for him! Hosanna! Hosanna! Let him be proclaimed again a King! a King! a King! Let him value his place upon his throne, high above the kings of the earth. This is what he then did, he proclaimed himself a King.
II. Moreover, Christ by this act showed what sort of a king he might have been if he had pleased, and what sort of a king he might be now, if he willed it. Had it been our Lord’s will, those multitudes who followed him in the streets would actually have crowned him there and then, and bowing the knee, they would have accepted him as the branch that sprung out of the dried root of Jesse — him that was to come — the ruler, the Shiloh among God’s people. He had only to have said a word, and they would have rushed with him at their head to Pilate’s palace, and taking him by surprise, with but few soldiers in the land, Pilate might soon have been his prisoner, and have been tried for his life. Before the indomitable valour and the tremendous fury of a Jewish army, Palestine might soon have been cleared of all the Roman legions, and have become again a royal land. Nay, we aver it, with his power of working miracles, with his might by which he drove the soldiers back, when he said, “I am he;” he might have cleared not only that land but every other; he might have marched from country to country, and from kingdom to kingdom, till every royal city and every regal state would have yielded to his supremacy. He could have made those that dwelt in the isles of the sea to bow before him, and they that inhabit the wilderness could have been bidden to lick the dust. There was no reason, O ye kings of the earth, why Christ should not have been mightier than you. If his kingdom had been of this world, he might have founded a dynasty more lasting than yours; he might have gathered troops before whose might your legions would be melted like snow before the summer's sun ; he might have dashed to pieces the Roman image, till, a broken mass, like a potter’s vessel shivered by a rod of iron, it might have been dashed to shivers.
It is even so, my brethren. If it were Christ’s will, he might make his saints, everyone of them, a prince; he might make his Church rich and powerful; he might lift up his religion if he chose, and make it the most magnificent and sumptuous. If it were his will, there is no reason why all the glory we read of in the Old Testament under Solomon, might not be given to the Church under David’s greater Son. But he does not come to do it, and hence the impertinence of those who think that Christ is to be worshipped with a gorgeous architecture, with magnificent vestments, with proud processions, with the alliance of states with churches, with making the bishops of God magnificent lords and rulers, with lifting up the Church herself, and attempting to put upon her shoulders those garments that will never fit her, vestments that were never meant for her. If Christ cared for this world’s glory, it might soon be at his feet. If he willed to take it, who should raise a tongue against his claim, or who should lift a finger against his might? But he cares not for it. Take your gewgaws elsewhere, take your tinsel hence, he wants it not. Remove your glory, and your pomp, and your splendor, he needs it not at your hands. His kingdom is not of this world, would his servants fight, else were his ministers clothed in robes of scarlet, and his servants would sit among princes; he cares not for it. People of God, seek not after it. What your Master would not have, do not court yourselves. Oh! Church of Christ, what thine husband disdained, do thou disdain also. He might have had it, but he would not. And he read to us the lesson, that if all these things might be the Church’s, it were well for her to pass by and say, “These are not for me — I was not meant to shine in these borrowed plumes.”
III. But thirdly, and here lies the pith of the matter, you have seen that Christ claimed to be a king; you have seen what kind of a king he might have been and would not be, but now you see what kind of a king he is, and what kind of a king he claimed to be. What was his kingdom? What its nature? What was his royal authority? Who were to be his subjects? What his laws? What his government? Now you perceive at once from the passage taken as a whole, that Christ’s kingdom is a very strange one, totally different from anything that ever has been seen or ever will be seen besides.
It is a kingdom, in the first place, in which the disciples are the courtiers. Our blessed Lord had no prince in waiting, no usher of the black rod, no gentlemen-at-arms. Who supplied the place of those grand officers? Why a few poor humble fishermen, who were his disciples. Learn, then, that if in Christ’s kingdom you would be a peer, you must be a disciple; to sit at his feet is the honour which he will give you. Hearing his words, obeying his commands, receiving of his grace — this is true dignity, this is true magnificence. The poorest man that loves Christ, or the humblest woman who is willing to accept him as her teacher, becomes at once one of the nobility that wait upon Christ Jesus. What a kingdom is this which makes fishermen nobles, and peasants princes, while they remain but fishermen and peasants still! This is the kingdom of which we speak, in which discipleship is the highest degree, in which divine service is the patent of nobility.
It is a kingdom, strange to say it, in which the king' s laws are none of them written upon paper. The king’s laws are not promulgated by mouth of herald, but are written upon the heart. Do you not perceive that in the narrative Christ bids his servants go and take his royal steed, such as it was, and this was the law, “Loose him and let him go?” but where was the law written? It was written upon the heart of that man to whom the ass and the foal belonged, for he immediately said, “Let them go” cheerfully and with great joy; he thought it a high honour to contribute to the royal state of this great King of peace. So, brethren, in the kingdom of Christ you shall see no huge law books, no attorneys, no solicitors, no barristers, who have need to expound the law. The law-book is here in the heart, the barrister is here in the conscience, the law is written no more on parchment, no more promulgated and written, as the Roman decrees were, upon steel and brass, but upon the fleshy tablets of the heart. The human will is subdued to obedience, the human heart is moulded to Christ’s image, his desire becomes the desire of his subjects, his glory their chief aim, and his law the very delight of their souls. Strange kingdom this, which needs no law save those which are written upon the hearts of the subjects.
Stranger still, as some will think it, this was a kingdom in which riches were no part whatever of its glory. There rides the King, the poorest of the whole state, for yonder King had not where to lay his head. There rides the King, the poorest of them all, upon another man’s ass that he has borrowed. There rides the King, one who is soon to die; stripped of his robes to die naked and exposed. And yet he is the King of this kingdom, the First, the Prince, the Leader, the crowned One of the whole generation, simply because he had the least. He it was who had given most to others, and retained least himself. He who was least selfish and most disinterested, he who lived most for others, was King of this kingdom. And look at the courtiers, look at the princes! they were all poor too; they had no flags to hang out from the windows, so they cast their poor clothes upon the hedges, or hung them from the windows as he rode along. They bad no splendid purple to make a carpet for the feet of his ass, so they cast their own toil-worn clothes in the way; they strewed along the path palm branches which they could easily reach from the trees which lined the road, because they had no money with which to bear the expense of a greater triumph. Every way it was a poor thing. No spangles of gold, no flaunting banners, no blowing of silver trumpets, no pomp, no state! It was poverty’s own triumph. Poverty enthroned on Poverty’s own beast rides through the streets. Strange kingdom this, brethren! I trust we recognise it — a kingdom in which he that is chief among us, is. not he that is richest in gold, but he that is richest in faith; a kingdom which depends on no revenue except the revenue of divine grace; a kingdom which bids every man sit down under its shadow with delight, be he rich or be he poor.
Strange kingdom this! But, brethren, here is something perhaps yet more exceeding wonderful; it was a kingdom without armed force. Oh, prince, where are thy soldiers? Is this thine army? These thousands that attend thee? Where are their swords? They carry branches of palm. Where are their accoutrements? They have almost stripped themselves to pave thy way with their garments. Is this thine host? Are these thy battalions? Oh, strange kingdom, without an army! Most strange King, who wears no sword, but rides along in this midst of his people conquering and to conquer! Strange kingdom, in which there is the palm without the sword, the victory without the battle. No blood, no tears, no devastation, no burned cities, no mangled bodies! King of peace, King of peace, this is thy dominion! ’Tis even so in the kingdom over which Christ is king to-day; there is no force to be used. If the kings of the earth should say to the ministers of Christ, “We will lend you our soldiers,” our reply would be, “What can we do with them? — as soldiers they are worthless to us.” It was an ill day for the Church when she borrowed the army of that unhallowed heathen, the emperor Constantine, and thought that would make her great. She gained nothing by it save pollution, degradation, and shame ; and that Church which asks the civil arm to help it, that Church which would make her Sabbaths binding on the people by force of law, that Church which would have her dogmas proclaimed with beat of drum, and make the fist or the sword to become her weapons, knoweth not what spirit she is of. These are carnal weapons. They are out of place in a spiritual kingdom. His armies are loving thoughts, his troops are kind words. The power by which he rules his people is not the strong hand and the stretched-out arm of police or soldiery, but by deeds of love and words of overflowing benediction he asserts his sovereign sway.
This was a strange kingdom too, my brethren, because it was without any pomp. If you call it pomp, what singular pomp it was! When our kings are proclaimed, three strange fellows, the like of whom one would never see at any other time, called heralds, come riding forth to proclaim the king. Strange are their dresses, romantic their costume, and with sound of trumpet the king is magnificently proclaimed. Then comes the coronation, and how the nation is moved from end to end with transport when the new king is about to be crowned! What multitudes crowd the street! Sometimes of old the fountains were made to flow with wine, and there was scarce a street which was not hung with tapestry throughout. But here comes the King of kings, the Prince of the kings of the earth; no mettled steed, no prancing horse which would keep at a distance the sons of poverty; he rides upon his ass, and as he rides along speaks kindly to the little children, who are crying, “Hosanna,” and wishes well to the mothers and fathers of the lowest grade, who crowd around him. He is approachable; he is not divided from them; he claims not to be their superior, but their servant; so little stately as a king, he was the servant of all. No trumpet sounds — he is content with the voice of men, no caparisons upon his ass, but his own disciple’s garments, no pomp but the pomp which loving hearts right willingly yielded to him. Thus on he rides; his the kingdom of meekness; the kingdom of humiliation. Brethren, may we belong to that kingdom too; may we feel in our hearts that Christ is come in us to cast down every high and every proud thought, that every valley may be lifted up, and every hill may be abased, and the whole land exalted in that day!
Listen again, and this perhaps is a striking part of Christ’s kingdom — he came to establish a kingdom without taxations. Where were the collectors of the King’s revenue? You say he had not any; yes he had, but what a revenue it was! Every man took off his garments willingly; he never asked it; his revenue flowed freely from the willing gifts of his people. The first had lent his ass and his colt, the rest had given their clothes. Those who had scarce clothes to part with, plucked the branches from the trees, and here was state for once which cost no man anything, or rather for which nothing was demanded of any man, but everything spontaneously given. This is the kingdom of Christ, — a kingdom which subsists not upon tithe, Church-rate, or Easter dues, but a kingdom which lives upon the free-will offering of the willing people, a kingdom which demands nothing of any man, but which comes to him with a stronger force than demand, saying to him, “ Thou art not under the law, but under grace; wilt thou not, being bought with a price, consecrate thyself and all that thou hast, to the service of the King of kings? Brethren, do you think me wild and fanatical in talking of a kingdom of this sort? Indeed, ’twere fanatical if we said that any mere man could establish such a dominion. But Christ has done it, and this day there be tens of thousands of men in this world who call him King, and who feel that he is more their native land; that they give to him a sincerer homage than they ever give to the best beloved sovereign; they feel that his power over them is such as they would not wish to resist — the power of love; that their gifts to him are all too little, for they wish to give themselves away; ’tis all that they can do. Marvellous and matchless kingdom! it’s like shall never be found on earth.
Before I leave this point, I should like to remark that apparently this was a kingdom in which all creatures were considered. Why did Christ have two beasts? There was an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass; he rode on the foal of the ass because it had never been ridden before. Now I have looked at several of the commentators to see what they say about it, and one old commentator has made me laugh — I trust he will not make you laugh too — by saying, that Christ telling his disciples to bring the foal as well as the ass should teach us that infants ought to be baptized as well as their parents, which seemed to me to be an argument eminently worthy of childish baptism. Thinking the matter over, however, I consider there is a better reason to be given, — Christ would not have any pain in his kingdom; he would not have even an ass suffer by him, and if the foal had been taken away from its mother, there would have been the poor mother in the stable at home, thinking of its foal, and there would have been the foal longing to get back, like those oxen that the Philistines used when they took back the ark, and which went lowing as they went, because their calves were at home. Wondrous kingdom of Christ, in which the very beast shall have its share! “For the creature was made subject to vanity by our sin” It was the beast that suffered because we sinned, and Christ intends that his kingdom should bring back the beast to its own pristine happiness. He would make us merciful men, considerative even to the beasts. I believe that when his kingdom fully comes, the animal nature will be put back to its former happiness. “Then shall the lion eat straw like the ox; the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice den.” Old Eden’s peacefulness, and the familiarity between man and the lower creatures, shall come back once more. And even now, wherever the gospel is fully known in man’s heart, man begins to recognize that he has no right wantonly to kill a sparrow or a worm, because it is in Christ’s dominion; and he who would not ride a foal without having its mother by its side, that it might be at peace and happy, would not have any of his disciples think lightly of the meanest creature that his hands have made. Blessed kingdom this which considereth even the beasts! Doth God care for oxen? Ay, that he doth; and for the very ass itself, that heir of toil, he careth. Christ’s kingdom, then, shall care for beasts as well as men.
Once more: Christ, in riding through the streets of Jerusalem, taught in a public manner, that his kingdom was to be one of joy. Brethren, when great conquerors ride through the streets, you often hear of the joy of the people; how the women throw roses on the pathway; how they crowd around the hero of the day, and wave their handkerchiefs to show their appreciation of the deliverance he has wrought. The city has been long besieged; the champion has driven away the besiegers, and the people will now have rest. Fling open wide the gates; clear the road and let the hero come; let the meanest page that is in his retinue be honoured this day for the deliverer’s sake. Ah! brethren, but in those triumphs how many tears there are that are hidden! There is a woman who hears the sound of the bells for victory, and she says, “Ah! victory indeed, but I am a widow, and my little ones are orphans!” And from the balconies where beauty looks down and smiles, there may be a forgetfulness for the moment of friends and kindred over whom they will soon have to weep, for every battle is with blood, and every conquest is with woe, and every shout of victory hath in it weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Every sound of trumpet because the battle is obtained, doth but cover over the cries, the sorrows, and the deep agonies of those that have been bereaven of their kinsfolk! But in thy triumph, Jesu, there were no tears! When the little children cried, “Hosanna,” they had not lost their fathers in battle. When the men and women shouted, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord,” they had no cause to shout with bated breath, or to mar their joys with the remembrance of misery. No, in his kingdom there is unalloyed, unmingled joy. Shout, shout, ye that are subjects of King Jesus! Sorrows ye may have, but not from him; troubles may come to you because you are in the world, but they come not from him, His service is perfect liberty. His ways are ways of pleasantness, and all his paths are peace.
“Joy to the world, the Saviour comes,
The Saviour promised long;
Let every heart prepare a tune
And every voice a song.”
He comes to wipe away your tears and not to make them flow; he comes to lift you from your dunghills and set you upon his throne, to fetch you from your dungeons and make you leap in liberty.
“Blessings abound wherein he reigns,
The prisoner leaps to lose his chain;
The weary find eternal rest,
And all the sons of want are blessed.”
Singular kingdom this!
IV. And now I come to my fourth and last head. The Saviour, in his triumphal entrance into the capital of his fathers, declared to us very plainly the practical effects of his kingdom. Now what are these? One of the first effects was that the whole city was moved. What does that mean? It means that everybody had something to say about it, and that everybody felt something because Christ rode through the streets. There were some who leaned from the tops of their houses, and looked down the streets and said to one another — “Aha! Did ever you see such fool’s play as this? Humph! Here is Jesus of Nazareth down here riding on an ass! Surely if he meant to be king he might have chosen a horse. Look at him! They call that pomp! There is some old fisherman has just thrown down his bad-smelling garment; I dare say it had fish in it an hour or two ago! “Look,” says one, “see that old beggar throwing his cap into the air for joy!” “Aha!” say they, “was there ever such a ridiculous thing as that?” I cannot put it in such terms as they would describe it; if I could, I think I would. I should like to make you see how ridiculous this must have seemed to the people. Why, if Pilate himself bad heard about it he would have said — “Ah! there is nothing much to fear from that. There is no fear that that man will ever upset Caesar; there is no fear that he will ever overturn an army. Where are their swords? There is not a sword among them! They have no cries that sound like rebellion; their songs are only some religious verses taken out of the Psalms.” “Oh!” says he, “the whole thing is contemptible and ridiculous.” And this was the opinion of a great many in Jerusalem. Perhaps that is your opinion, my friend. The kingdom of Christ, you say, is ridiculous; you do not believe perhaps that there are any people who are ruled by him though we say that we own him as our King, and that we feel the law of love to be a law which constrains us to sweet obedience. “Oh,” you say, “it is cant and hypocrisy.” And there are some who attend where they have golden censers, and altars, and priests, and they say, “Oh! a religion that is so simple — singing a few hymns, and offering extempore prayer! — Ah! give me a bishop with a mitre — a fine fellow in lawn sleeves — that is the thing for me.” “Oh,” says another, “ let me hear the peals of the organ; let me see the thing done scientifically; let me see a little drapery too ; let the man come up clad in his proper garb to show that he is something different from other people ; do not let him stand dressed as if he were an ordinary man; let me see something in the worship different from anything I have seen before.” They want it clothed with a little pomp, and because it is not so they say — “Ah! Humph!” They sneer at it, and this is all that Christ gets from multitudes of men who think themselves exceeding wise. He is to them foolishness, and they pass by with a sneer. Your sneers will be exchanged for tears ere long, sirs! When he comes with real pomp and splendour you will weep and wail, because you disowned the King of Peace.
“The Lord shall come! a dreadful form,
With rainbow wreath and robes of storm,
With cherub voice and wings of wind,
The appointed Judge of all mankind.”
Then you will find it inconvenient to have treated him with contempt. Others no doubt there were in Jerusalem who were filled with curiosity. They said — “Dear me, whatever can it be? What is the meaning of it? Who is this? I wish you would come,” they said to their neighbours, “and tell us the history of this singular man; we should like to know about it.” Some of them said, “He is gone to the temple; I dare say he will work a miracle;” so off they ran, and squeezed and pressed, and thronged to see a marvel. They were like Herod, they longed to see some wonder wrought by him. It was the first day of Christ’s coming too, and of course the enthusiasm might last some nine days if he would keep it up, so they were very curious about it. And this is all Christ gets from thousands of people. They hear about a revival of religion. Well, they would like to know what it is, and hear about it. There is something doing at such-and-such a place of worship; well, they would like to go if it were only not question it, for the prayer of Christ is of this character. In all the incense which now our Great High Priest puts into the censer, there is not a single grain that is for himself. His work is done; his reward obtained. Now you do not doubt but that Christ's prayer is the most acceptable of all supplications. Very well, my brethren, the more like your prayer is to Christ’s, the more sweet it will be ; and while petitions for yourself will be accepted, yet your pleadings for others, having in them more of the fruits of the Spirit, more love, perhaps more faith, certainly more brotherly kindness, they will be as the sweetest oblation that you can offer to God, the very fat of thy sacrifice. Remember, again, that intercessory prayer is exceedingly prevalent. What wonders it has wrought! Intercessory prayer has stayed plagues. It removed the darkness which rested over Egypt; it drove away the frogs which leaped upon the land; it scattered the lice and locusts which plagued the inhabitants of Zoan; it removed the murrain, and the thunder, and the lightning; it stayed all the ravages which Gods avenging hand did upon Pharoah and his people. Intercessory prayer has healed diseases; — we know it did in the early church. We have evidence of it in old Mosaic times. When Miriam was smitten with leprosy, Moses prayed, and the leprosy was removed. It has restored withered limbs. When the king’s arm was withered, he said to the prophet, “Pray for me;” and his arm was restored as it was before. Intercessory prayer has raised the dead, for Elias stretched himself upon the child seven times, and the child sneezed, and the child’s soul returned. As to how many souls intercessory prayer has iustrumentally saved, recording angel, thou canst tell! Eternity, thou shalt reveal! There is nothing which intercessory prayer cannot do. Oh! believer, you have a mighty engine in your hand, use it well, use it constantly, use it now with faith, and thou shalt surely prevail. But perhaps you have a doubt about interceding for some one who has fallen far into sin. Brethren, did ye ever hear of men who have been thought to be dead while yet alive? Have ye never heard by the farmer’s fire some old-fashioned storv of one who was washed and laid out, and wrapped up in his shroud to be put into his coffin, and yet he was but in a trance and not dead? And have ye not heard old legends of men and women who have been buried alive? I cannot vouch for the accuracy of those tales, but I can tell you that spiritually there has been many a man given up for dead that was still within reach of grace. There has been many a soul that has been put into the winding sheet even by Christian people, given up to damnation even by the ministers of Christ, consigned to perdition even by their own kinsfolk. But yet into perdition they did not come, but God found them, and took them out of the horrible pit and out of the miry clay, and set their living feet upon his living rock. Oh! give up nobody; still pray, lay none out for spiritually dead until they are lain out for dead naturally. But perhaps you say, “I cannot pray for others, for I am so weak, so powerless.” You will get strength, my brethren, by the exertion. But besides, the prevalence of prayer does not depend upon the strength of the man who prays, but upon the power of the argument he uses. Now, brethren, if you sow seed you may be very feeble, but it is not your hand that puts the seed into the ground which produces the harvest, — it is the vitality in the seed. And so in the prayer of faith. When you can plead a promise and drop that prayer into the ground with hope, your weakness shall not make it miscarry; it shall still prevail with God and bring down blessings from on high. Job! Thou comest from thy dunghill to intercede, and so may I come from my couch of weakness; — thou comest from thy poverty and thy desertion to intercede for others, and so may we. Elias was a man of like passions — sweet word! — of like passions, like infirmities, like tendencies to sin, but he prevailed, and so shalt thou; only do thou see to it that thou be not negligent in these exercises, but that thou pray much for others even as Job prayed for his friends.
Now that the air is very hot, and the atmosphere heavy and becalmed, our friends find it difficult to listen, more difficult even than the speaker finds it to preach. Now, that I may have your attention yet once again — and a change of posture may do you all good — will you stand up and put the text into use by offering an intercessory prayer and then I will go on again. It shall be this one.
“Pity the nations, O our God,
Constrain the earth to come;
Send thy victorious word abroad,
And bring the strangers home!”
(The congregation here rose, and sung the verse.)
Simony which is still tolerated by law, and purge out the men that are malappropriators, who take that which belongs to the ministers of Christ, and apply it to their own uses. I would that he would come into all our places of worship, so that once for all it might be seen that they who serve God serve him because they love him, and not for what they can get by it. I would that every professor of religion could be quite clean in his own conscience that he never made a profession to get respectability or to get esteem, but only made it that he might honour Christ and glorify his Master. The spiritual meaning of it all is this — We have no houses of God now; bricks and mortar are not holy, the places where we worship God are places of worship, but they are not the houses of God any longer than we are in them. We believe no superstition which makes any place holy, but we are the temple of God. Men themselves are God’s temples, and where Christ comes he drives out the buyers and sellers, he expunges all selfishness. I will never believe that Christ, the King, has made your heart his palace till you are unselfish. Oh, how many professors there are who want to get so much honour, so much respect! As to giving to the poor, thinking it more blessed to give than to receive, as for feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, as for living for other people, and not for themselves — they do not think of that. O Master! come into thy temple and drive out our selfishness; now come, turn out all those things which would make it convenient to serve Mammon by serving God; help us to live unto thee, and to live for others by living to thee, and not live unto ourselves!
The last practical effect of our Lord Jesus Christ’s kingdom was, he held a grand levee; he had, if I may so speak, a drawing-room day; and who were the people who came to attend him? Now, ye courtiers, the disciples, show up your nobility and gentry that are come to wait upon him. Here comes one man, he has a bandage over here, and the other eye has almost failed — show him in; here comes another, his feet are all twisted and contorted — show him in; here comes another limping on two crutches, both his limbs are disabled, and another has lost his limbs. Here they come and here is the levee. The King himself comes here and holds a grand meeting, and the blind and the lame are his guests, and now he comes, he touches that blind eye and light shines in; he speaks to this man with a withered leg, he walks; he touches two eyes at once, and they both see; and to another he says, “I will take away thy crutches, stand upright and rejoice, and leap with joy.” This is what the King does wherever he comes. Come hither this morning, I beseech thee, thou great King! There are blind eyes here that cannot see thy beauty. Walk, Jesu, walk among this crowd and touch the eyes. Ah! then, brethren, if he should do that, you will say, “There is a beauty in him that I never saw before.” Jesu, touch their eyes, they cannot take away their own blindness, do thou do it! Help them to look to thee hanging upon the cross! They cannot do it unless thou dost enable them. May they do it now, and find life in thee! O Jesu, there are some here that are lame — knees that cannot bend; they have never prayed; there are some here whose feet will not run in the way of thy commandments— feet that will not carry them up where thy name is praised, and where thou art had in honour. Walk, great King, walk thou in solemn pomp throughout this house, and make it like the temple of old! Display here thy power, and hold thy grand meeting in the healing of the lame and the curing of the blind! “Oh!” saith one, “I would that he would open my blind eyes.” Soul, he will do it, he will do it. Breathe thy prayer out now, and it shall be done, for he is nigh thee now. He is standing by thy side; he speaks to thee, and he saith — “Look unto me and be thou saved, thou vilest of the vile.” There is another, and he says — “Lord, I would be made whole.” He says — “Be thou whole then.” Believe on him and he will save thee. He is near you, brother, he is near you. He is not in the pulpit more than he is in the pew, nor in one pew more than in another. Say not — “Who shall go to heaven to find him, or into the depths to bring him up?” He is near you; he will hear your prayer even though you speak not; he will hear your heart speak. Oh! say unto him — “Jesus, heal me,” and he will do it; he will do it now. Let us breath the prayer, and then we will part.
Jesus, heal us! Save us, Son of David, save us! Thou seest how blind we be — oh, give us the sight of faith! Thou seest how lame we be — oh, give us the strength of grace! And now, e’en now, thou Son of David, purge out our selfishness, and come and live and reign in us as in thy temple-palaces! We ask it, O thou great King, for thine own sake. Amen. And ere we leave this place, we cry again, “Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”