Sermon VIII. The Appeals of Christ to the Sinner.
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with me. Revelation iii. 20.
This is the language addressed by Jesus Christ, who is styled the faithful and true witness from the beginning of the creation of God, to the lukewarm and impenitent church of Laodicea. The patient forbearance which he exercised towards her, his solicitude for her recovery from her spiritual insensibility, and his affectionate invitation to this purpose, are denoted by the symbolical allusion of his standing at the door and knocking. Should the impenitent Laodiceans hear his voice and open the door--should they, by humble and lively penitence, faith and obedience, receive and treat him as their Lord and Redeemer--he graciously promises to come in to them, and sup with them, and they with him--they should be restored to his favour and enriched by his blessings.
Alas! brethren, the church of Laodicea is the emblem of too many professing Christians in every age. By their remissness, their lukewarmness, their sensual pursuits, by their impenitent neglect to fulfil the holy conditions of the covenant of their salvation, they have shut the door of their hearts [79/80] against their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. But he stands at the door and knocks. Their ingratitude, their insensibility, their numerous .provocations, cannot induce him utterly to forsake them; he still importunes with them to yield him the possession of their hearts, and graciously promises, that if they will hear his voice, and in humble penitence and faith submit to him as their Lord and Saviour, they shall be received into the closest and most endearing union with him, and shall partake of the inestimable blessings of his love and favour. Lukewarm and unholy Christian! impenitent sinner! who refusest to render to thy Saviour the supreme homage of thy heart and affections--who refusest him admission into that soul which he has redeemed, and which he is desirous to purify by his grace, and to bless with his everlasting favour, how astonishing is his forbearance and his compassion! He sues for admission into that bosom which thou hast closed against him, and urges his solicitation by the exalted promise, that if thou wilt open unto him, he will come in and bless thee.
"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with me."
When we hear this affectionate invitation, we are naturally prompted to contemplate--
The interesting character of him who thus solicits admission into our hearts;
The tender and affecting manner by which he solicits this admission;
The reception which is due from us to a character so interesting, and an invitation so tender and affecting; and
 The blessings which we shall enjoy in yielding him the possession of our hearts.
Who is he that solicits admission into our souls, to sanctify, to rule, and to bless them?
A personage in himself the most exalted, and sustaining to us the most exalted relations--Jesus Christ the Son of God--he who was with the Father before the world was--he who, from all eternity, was the brightness of the Father's glory and the express image of his person--he, the Lord of all things, by whom all things were created, and by whom all things consist--Jesus Christ, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, the first and the last, the Almighty. This is indeed a mystery which surpasses our conception, but which claims our profound adoration--a mystery not greater indeed than that divine nature into which there is no searching--not greater than our own nature, which so often baffles our inquiries--not greater than innumerable truths of reason and religion, which command our assent--and a mystery which claims our most profound adoration--the second person in the eternal Trinity, he who, equal with God, was from all eternity partaker of the glory and felicity of the Godhead, sues for admission into our souls.
And in the most exalted and endearing characters does he solicit admission.
He claims the possession of our souls as our Creator, who formed us out of nothing, and breathed into us an immortal spirit--as our Preserver, who sustains us in life, and protects our frail being from [81/82] the innumerable dangers which surround us--as our Benefactor, who surrounds us with the countless blessings of his providence--and, a character still more endearing and interesting, he presents himself before us and sues for the possession of our hearts as our Redeemer, who, for our sakes, endured poverty, scorn, persecution, was buffeted and scourged, and poured forth his life as one forsaken by his God--He who, as our Redeemer, never withdrawing from us his compassion, is constantly interceding for us, sending forth his spirit to guide and sanctify us, and who is preparing for as a place in his own presence.
And what is the mode in which he presents his claim to our hearts, to our supreme homage and service?
Having violated, by repeated transgressions, the law of our nature, the dictates of reason and of Conscience, the commands of God, as good as he is powerful, it is an act of mercy which spares us, thus sinful and guilty, which rescues us from that prison of darkness where the angels who have sinned are reserved in chains. We deserve only wrath--wrath from the Sovereign of the universe. But should our offended God entertain towards us. any purposes of mercy, what would be the utmost of our hopes? We might reasonably indeed expect that pardon would not be extended to guilt so aggravated, but on conditions the most rigorous and severe, conditions enforced by the stern voice of violated authority. The utmost that we could hope would be, that these conditions of pardon would be rendered practicable by the divine aid of the Sovereign whom we had offended. But here [82/83] again is a mystery which claims our profound adoration. God did not appear to us in the darkness, the tempest, the terrors of Mount Sinai, an inflexible Sovereign and Judge. He unfolds himself to us, his rebellious creatures, in the light, the radiance, the compassion of our heavenly Father. He so loved us, as to send to us his only-begotten Son, not to announce, in the majesty of offended justice, the stern conditions of our pardon, but, in the lowliness of the Lamb of God, to make a propitiation for our sins, in the mild accents of the Prince of Peace, to propose the easy terms of acceptance, and with the tenderness and compassion of our dearest Friend, to invite us to come unto him and receive rest and salvation. And even when insensible to the calls of gratitude and duty, and regardless of our own present and eternal interest, we resolve to continue in our sins, and thus defy the justice of heaven, and trample under foot that mercy which is sealed by the blood of the Son of God; still this almighty Redeemer, who could summon legions of angels to vindicate his insulted glories, becomes the suppliant--and the suppliant to the guilty rebels who had rejected him; he stands at the door and knocks; he sues for admittance into our souls; he sues for admittance by those temporal blessings which he still bestows upon us, sinners, who are unworthy of them, and who, while they deserve the vengeance, are thus crowned with the goodness of their almighty Lord. Jesus Christ sues for admittance into our hearts by those chastisements and warnings, by the loss of health and of temporal comforts, by those escapes from impending danger and threatening death, which are calculated to arouse us to a sense of the necessity of [83/84] securing our eternal peace by making our Saviour our friend.
Jesus Christ also sues for admittance into our souls by all the instructions, all the promises, all the threatenings, of his holy word.
By the instructions of his word he displays the excellence of that divine Being who claims our service--the reasonableness of this service, and of those laws by which God designs to promote the present and eternal happiness of his creatures--which unfold the glory of him who came to save us, the nature of his gracious offices, and the way of salvation through his merits and grace, which, rendering plain to us every part of our duty, leaves us without excuse under the violation of it.
Not only by the instructions of his word does Jesus Christ sue for admittance into our souls, but by all its promises. These promises hold out pardon to the penitent, though their sins be as scarlet, and red like crimson--deliverance to the captives of sin, and rest to those who are burdened with sorrow--promises of succour to the tempted, of comfort to the afflicted, of peace to the conscience agitated by guilt, of purity to the soul polluted by transgression, of mercy to cheer, and of grace to strengthen the dejected and feeble--promises of communion with God, the eternal source of goodness and of happiness, of confidence in his favour who is the Sovereign of the universe, of joy in Christ who is the all-sufficient and almighty Saviour, and of the assurance of his full and never-failing mercy--and when the soul has passed her earthly pilgrimage, promises of an eternal and blessed rest from all sin and from all sorrow, of a glorious entrance into the [84/85] church triumphant, into the presence of God the Judge of all, of Jesus Christ the Mediator of the new covenant, of angels and archangels, and of the spirits of the just--promises of a felicity increasing through eternal ages.
To render his applications for admittance still more powerful, Jesus Christ unites with his promises the threatenings of his word, declaring against those who reject his counsel and will none of his reproof, remorse of conscience, fearful apprehensions of future wrath, despair in death, torment in eternity--unfolding the terrors of that day, when he, the Judge, the almighty Judge, comes to repay vengeance to his adversaries, recompense to his enemies--the day when the ungodly will call on the rocks and mountains to fall on them and to hide them from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb--the day which will reveal every evil thought, every deed of darkness, reveal them in the light of eternity, reveal them before an assembled universe--the day when the sentence shall proceed from the mouth of that Judge (whose solicitations sinners had so often disregarded,) Depart, ye cursed--depart from the holy presence of God, from the glory of his celestial courts, from the blissful society of saints and angels, and the spirits of the righteous--depart from the light, the peace, the never-ending felicity of heaven--depart into outer darkness, into wailing and wo, into the society of the devil and his angels, where their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched--depart for ever!
Oh! who can dwell with the devouring fire, who can lie down in everlasting burnings! These are the awful threatenings which Jesus [85/86] Christ addresses to sinners, not to fill them with unnecessary terrors, not to destroy their comfort and their happiness, but to awaken them to attend to the things which belong to their peace, before they are for ever hidden from their eyes--to arouse them to seek the Lord while he may be found, to call upon him while he is near. Jesus Christ, ever prosecuting his purposes of mercy, seeks, by these threatenings, to excite those whom promises and invitations cannot allure, to give him admission into their souls.
Not only by the instructions, the promises, and the threatenings of his word, but by the checks and warnings of conscience and his Holy Spirit, does he seek to induce us to open our hearts to him, to yield him homage and obedience. Every reflection which arises in our minds on the guilt and danger of our evil ways; every apprehension of future wrath; every emotion of sensibility to the exercises and joys of religion; every desire after the favour of God; every sentiment of sorrow for having offended him; every resolution to return to that God and Saviour whom, by our sins, we have so greatly offended; all these are the gracious applications to us, by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, to open our hearts to him, our Lord and Master, our compassionate Saviour, our best Friend.
By the ministrations, and by the sacraments of his church, does this benevolent Redeemer, never weary in his work of mercy, seek to accomplish the same gracious purpose.
In the sanctuary, his gracious voice is heard, beseeching us to turn from our evil ways, and to be reconciled unto God. In the preaching of the word, we are presented with a view of the guilt, the [86/87] misery, the corrupting bondage of sin, contrasted with the exalted purity and joy of a conscience cleansed from guilt by the mercy, and redeemed from sin by the grace of Christ, we behold displayed the glory of the Saviour's character, his tenderness, his compassion, his long-suffering, his numberless and unparalleled acts of love to us, his willingness and his power to save. Through every avenue the Saviour has sought to gain admission into our hearts.
Hear him addressing us in those services of the sanctuary, by which, confessing our sins, supplicating his grace and mercy, and proclaiming his praise, we may obtain his favour. Hear him calling us, in the sacrament of baptism, to forsake a world which lieth in wickedness and is obnoxious to the wrath of God, and to enter into the fold of salvation, that holy church where forgiveness of sins is extended to the penitent, and mercy and grace dispensed to the believing and obedient. He calls us in this holy sacrament to forsake a state of sin and death, and to make our abode in that Zion which is none other than the house of God and the gate of heaven, and which prepares its faithful members for exchanging the imperfect praises of an earthly sanctuary for the pure, and full, and endless songs of the blest in the temple above, the celestial Zion. Thus born of water and of the Holy Ghost in baptism, made members of Christ, children of God, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven, he provides for our renewing by the Holy Ghost, for our effectual and continual death unto sin, and new birth unto righteousness. In the apostolic ordinance of confirmation, the laying on of hands, he calls us to assume our baptismal engagements, to die to sin [87/88] and to rise again to righteousness, that thus our souls, established in holiness, may be made meet for him to dwell in, and prepared for the glories of our heavenly inheritance. And here, by the chief minister of his church, he assures the humble and the faithful of his favour and goodness to them, and renewedly pledges to them the strengthening influences of the Holy Ghost the Comforter. In the sacrament of the supper, showing him forth as the Lamb of God slain for us, he beseeches us, by his agony and bloody sweat, by his cross and passion, by his precious death, by his glorious resurrection, to open our souls to him, that he may wash them from sin, that he may nourish and strengthen them to everlasting life. Blessed Jesus! innumerable are the ways by which thou dost display thy forbearance and compassion towards us, by which thou dost sue for admittance into our guilty souls. Thou dost stand at the door of our hearts and knock, not as a stern and rigorous sovereign demanding admittance, but as a tender and compassionate friend whose importunate solicitations increase even with the increase of our insensibility and provocations. Thy gracious voice is heard in the blessings and in the chastisements of thy providence, in the instructions, the promises, and the threatenings of thy word, in the checks of conscience, in the strivings of thy Holy Spirit, in the ministry, and the sacraments, and the ordinances of thy church. In all these we hear thee suing us to admit thee, who art the only life of our souls, our only defender from the terrors of divine justice, our only guide, through death and the grave, to the glories of immortality.
And what reception, brethren, should this blessed [88/89] Redeemer receive from us? what effect should invitations so tender and affecting produce upon us? If every emotion of sensibility be not chilled in our bosoms, if we are not wholly insensible to our dearest interests, it is impossible that these inquiries can appear uninteresting.
When Jesus Christ sues for admittance into our hearts, we should hear his voice and open unto him--we should hear his voice with the emotions of penitence.
When we contemplate the infinite dignity, the exalted excellence of his character; when we reflect on the numerous and tender invitations by which he seeks to gain admission into our hearts, we should be impressed with his forbearance and love towards us; and with a deep conviction of our own insensibility and ingratitude in having so long and so often slighted a Friend and Saviour so condescending and tender, we should no longer turn a deaf ear to the invitations of the Redeemer, who has so long supplicated us to grant him a place in our bosoms; we should become suppliants, and prostrate at the feet of our compassionate and long insulted Saviour; we should implore him--'Enter in, Lord, and take possession of the souls which thou hast redeemed, but which have been too long estranged from thee, too long slighted thy grace and contemned thy mercy--enter in, Lord, and dwell in them as their Saviour and their Lord.'
By faith also we must hear the voice of the Saviour, and open our hearts to him.
It is by faith indeed that we realize the divine glory of his character, and receive him in all his [89/90] gracious offices; as our Prophet, to instruct us in divine truths; as our Priest, to atone for our sins; and our King, to rule over us. It is by faith that we realize the fulness of his love for us, the all-sufficiency of his power, and his infinite willingness to save us. It is by faith that we embrace all his precious promises, trusting in those merits which are our only defence from the demands of incensed justice, and confiding in that grace which, made perfect in our weakness, enables us to overcome the enemies of our salvation, and purifying us from sin, makes our souls a fit habitation for the Lord of glory. "Lord, I hear thy voice," is the language of the believing soul; "I acknowledge thee to be the only-begotten Son of the Father, the only Mediator between God and man. Enter in and dwell in my soul, for thy blood only can cleanse it from guilt, thy grace only redeem it from sin. Thou alone art my refuge from the condemning accusations of conscience, from the terrors, of divine justice; thou only art my deliverer from the prison of the tomb; thou only art my guide to the glories of immortality; and thou wilt be the fulness of my joy through the ages of eternity."
And lastly, my brethren, we hear the voice of the Saviour and open our hearts to him, by yielding, through his Spirit exciting and aiding, sincere obedience to all his commands--imbibing that meek, that tender, that forgiving spirit which distinguished him--following the holy example which he left us--like him, ever intent on doing the will of our Father in heaven--striving to adorn his doctrine in all things--walking in all his commandments and ordinances blameless--instant in prayer, not sloth[90/91]ful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. When we thus render Jesus Christ sincere, supreme, and universal obedience, he becomes established in our souls--be takes complete possession of them.
And what are the blessings that proceed from this admittance of Jesus Christ into our hearts?
They are expressed in figurative language--"I will sup with him, and he with me." The most intimate and affectionate communion subsists between Christ and the soul who thus receives him. Jesus Christ is his friend and brother--God his reconciled God and Father--his sins, however many, are forgiven--his conscience, however agitated, is soothed to peace--his soul, however polluted by sin, is purified and established in holiness: a "spiritual feast" is prepared for him--the approving testimony of a conscience reconciled unto God--confidence in the protection of him who is able to save and to destroy, and who hath promised to make all things work together for good to those who Jove him--joy in the favour of him whose favour is life, whose loving-kindness is better than life--trust in that Saviour who is constantly interceding for him, who is preparing for him mansions of bliss eternal in the heavens--a foretaste of those celestial and everlasting joys reserved in heaven for the servants of God: these are the joys which Jesus Christ dispenses to those in whose souls he dwells; he nourishes them with divine truths, he strengthens them by his grace, he feeds them with the bread of life--with divine and everlasting joys.
What then shall prevent us from hearing his voice and opening unto him? He stands at the door and knocks. He solicits admission by his [91/92] blessings and by his chastisements, by the instructions, the promises, and the threatenings of his word, by the monitions of conscience and the strivings of his Spirit, by the ministrations, the services, and the ordinances of his church--by all these powerful methods he solicits us.
But with us it rests to hear his voice, to open our hearts to him. This, through his grace, we are able to do. Jesus Christ does not force admittance, he does not by his almighty grace overpower our inclinations. He stands at the door and knocks; and his very declaration, that if we will hear his voice and open unto him, he will come in, implies, that hearing his voice and opening unto him must depend, through his grace exciting and aiding, on ourselves.
What then shall prevent us from hearing the voice of this gracious Saviour--from opening our hearts to this our compassionate and almighty Friend? Shall the world, its sinful pursuits and passions, exclude him from our souls? Ah! the world is soon to pass away--the world is to be consumed by the breath of God's displeasure--and the world we must soon leave, its enjoyments we must soon relinquish; and if Jesus Christ has not taken possession of our souls, they will become the seats of remorse, of anguish, of never-ending misery. Yes, blessed Jesus, in excluding thee from our souls, we exclude from them the light of heaven, the light of joy--we draw over them the darkness of the place of wo, the darkness of endless despair.
Brethren, if you have any regard for the welfare of your immortal souls, any desire for a felicity that knows no end, any terror for an anguish that never terminates, any sensibility to the tender and press[92/93]ing invitations of the Saviour who died for you, who intercedes for you, who implores you to be saved, open your hearts to him, hear his voice; resist not the monitions and strivings of his Spirit; listen to his instructions, live a life of faith in him, obey his laws, attend on his ordinances, submit to his grace; he will come in and sup with you, he will enrich your souls with every virtue, he will refresh them with the present joys, he will save you from that prison of despair to which those are consigned who reject his invitation, and where no sounds are heard but weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth; and he will receive you into those celestial courts, where you shall join in the never-ceasing chorus of praise and joy, and shall celebrate with him the everlasting festival of love, enjoying the ineffable and ceaseless communications of his favour and his bliss through endless ages.