O MOST loving Father, to Whom we may draw near, with holy confidence, in the name of Jesus Christ, Thy Son our Lord, we come before Thee, at this time, as Thy believing people who know our election of Thee in Christ; who, taught by the Holy Spirit, are able to cry to Thee: "Abba, Father! "We earnestly desire to be taught of Thee, at this time, remembering those words of Thy Holy Apostle S. John: "Ye need not that any man teach you." "Ye have an unction from the Holy One." Grant that the least believer, here present, may be comforted, and strengthened, and instructed, not by the words of my own poor human voice, but by the Word of God, and by the Voice of Thy Holy Spirit, bringing home that word individually to each one of us.
O Father! glorify Thy Holy Child Jesus in our midst; grant that the words to be spoken may be such words as shall exalt Jesus, and help His people to realise what they are apart from Him.
Grant that the beautiful correspondence between the Crucifix and Candlesticks may be made plain to us. Unfold to us such meanings of Thy Word as may comfort, and strengthen, and help us in our struggle against the world, the flesh, ourselves, and the devil. Make us all to go forth from this assembly longing all the more to be very altar lights for Jesus in the midst of a dark and unbelieving world that is at enmity with God.
Let the lights and shadows of the Crucifix fall upon all our hearts in such a manner that we may go forth, more than ever longing to shew forth Christ, and Him crucified, in the midst of a perverse generation, that we may shine as lights in the world.
And, O Almighty Father, the Light of Jesus, through the Holy Ghost, will be enough for us, to teach us and make us shine. Let us indeed realise, personally, the truth of the word of the prophet: "Arise, shine, for thy Light is come." He is to us, to each one of us, all the light we need, necessary to direct our steps and keep us in the way.
And, O blessed Lord Jesus, Thou art indeed in our midst because the Holy Ghost has gathered out, from the world, more than two or three here gathered in Thy Name. Thou art in the midst of us. Wilt Thou graciously permit us to enjoy a sense of Thy presence, so real, so deep, that we may each be constrained to say: "It was good for us to be there, for surely the Lord was in that place." Come very nigh to us just as Thou knowest so well how to come, and draw nigh especially to those for whom we are asked to pray.
We commend to Thy loving hands, blessed Jesus, the soul of our dear brother, just departed out of the body. [One who had been a frequent attendant at the Westminster Missions.] Command that it may be carried, by Thy holy Angels, into Abraham's bosom, that he may have a place of refreshment with Lazarus and all Thy saints. Blessed Jesus, keep the soul of Thy servant in Thy tender keeping, until, having waited for the redemption of the body, he may at last be raised with Thy saints "to meet Thee, the Lord, in the air."
And comfort those who are mourning his loss; let their poor stricken hearts feel the balm of that tender sympathy with which Thou didst weep at Lazarus' grave. Bless all who ask our prayers; supply their needs according to their several necessities, which Thou knowest so well. Accept our thanksgiving and praise for the many answers to prayer that Thou hast vouchsafed, for the increase of our faith, in Thy mercy; and let these Thy answers give us greater confidence that if we shall ask anything in Thy Name Thou wilt do it.
And now, commending everyone here present, and ourselves, and all who ask our prayers, to the tender keeping of Thy most mighty and merciful arm, we bow down for the blessing we seek; and we ask this in Thy Name, O blessed Jesus, Who livest and reignest with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God for ever and ever. Amen.
"I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of Man." Rev. i. 12 and 13. "Jesus Christ, and Him Crucified." I Cor. ii. 2.
OUR two previous addresses have prepared us for our subject this afternoon. We have been contemplating the exquisite portraiture of the "Glorious Church "of the Lord Jesus, "without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing;" the Church which is to be "preserved blameless "unto the coming of the Lord; the Church that comes "behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall confirm it unto the end."
And after gazing on the beauty of this Glorious Church; this Spiritual House, "built up of living stones"--upon Christ Himself, the Rock of Ages, cemented together by joints and bands which the Holy Ghost supplied, we were lost in admiration of this Glorious Church; and we longed to have more members of this Glorious Church within the bounds of our own dear Church of England.
We have too many members within our own Church, who do not belong to this Glorious Church at all; who know nothing of this Church; who have not so much as even heard of Her; who know nothing whatever of the glories of which this Church consists: therefore we long to see the number of those who belong to this Glorious Church within the pale of that part of the Visible Church to which we ourselves belong.
We then went on to consider that in this Glorious Church there is a Glorious Host; and that there is also a Royal Golden Altar on which this Host perpetually abides; and we gazed on the magnificent fulness and the glory of that Host. We then realised how It was continually pleading for the sins of the whole world in general; but for the sins of the Redeemed in particular; and we saw how God had sent His Son as the Golden Altar on which we must lay all our offerings if they would be accepted by God.
We then learnt how we have this Royal Altar always in our midst; and how all our daily actions may be consecrated by this Altar, and become acceptable and loving sacrifices to God in Christ. We saw that, in this Glorious Church, the Perpetual Host is always prevailing; and that the Church, by It, is not only cleansed once, but is kept clean by the prevailing power of this Sacred Host.
We then found that the Altar in this Glorious Church, which is again Christ Himself, makes our actions holy, acceptable, perfect--more perfect than the actions of angels; that this is the Altar of the Redeemed; the Altar where sinners, chosen of God, by faith in Christ Jesus, may offer their tiniest daily actions and give to them a value which makes them reflect the glory of God in Heaven, for they are "accepted in the Beloved." They are accepted in Him, of Whom the Father says: "This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased; "so that not one of our actions need be wasted, for when offered on that Altar before the Throne, in the Church of the living God, they are accepted in Christ.
And now to-day we come to the "Crucifix and Candles" in the "Glorious Church."
It may be as well here again to remind my hearers that I take the Catholic view of ritual.
I am always very thankful if I enter a church and see a Crucifix, I do not care for a cross much unless Christ be on it. It is "Jesus Christ and Him Crucified."
The Crucifix and Candles, visibly presented to the eye, on the Altar in the Temple, are to me most wonderfully perfect types of the Presence of a Crucified Saviour in our midst, surrounded by His witnesses, living lights, whose lights He hath kindled. I do not, you know, feel any affection for ritual as practised by unconverted, worldly people--for instance, people who go to plays and theatres. The Crucifix and Candlesticks to them are simply contradictions of their whole lives. But if I could be allowed to go to theatres and stand up and preach "Christ and Him Crucified "I would gladly go. I very nearly had an opportunity once of being allowed to go on to the stage of a theatre, between the acts, to speak. One of the chief managers consented that I should do so, but the others would not allow it. I would, if permitted, willingly stand on the stage, between the acts, and speak of Jesus Christ to the people gathered in a theatre.
I am not, however, speaking to worldly people at these afternoon services. These services are for those who have taken Christ at His Word; and, by faith in Christ, have made their "calling and election sure;" and "whose names are in the Book of Life." I am addressing myself to those who know that they are "not of the world," because their precious Saviour has "chosen them out of the world."
Now, brethren, this meeting will be very peaceful, and joyous and calm, for we are met as the children of the living God; we are met as those whom God has begotten again to eternal life by Jesus Christ's Resurrection; and "the Resurrection life of Christ" is in us; and therefore we confess that we are pilgrims.
Directly a soul accepts God's promises in Christ, that very moment he feels himself a pilgrim on earth. When I have embraced for myself the promise: "None shall pluck thee out of My hand," I feel a pilgrim at once; I feel that the world knows nothing of me. When I have embraced the promise: "I will never leave thee," I realise an ever present Saviour at my side.
We are in the world for a little while; but we are not of it. And as it is to such that I am speaking, if there be some of our friends here who are professing Christians but not possessing; if there be any here who have an intellectual faith in Christ, but have never yet "with the heart believed unto righteousness;" with the heart received Christ, in His fulness, as God's gift, individually to them, they will not be able to appreciate what I am saying.
But let us now gaze on the "Crucifix and Candles" in this "Glorious Church." First of all the Crucifix is enshrined in our hearts, held out and lifted up in our midst, continually as the boast of this Glorious Church. It is the Crucified Son of God of Whom S. Paul said: "I am determined to know nothing save Jesus Christ and Him Crucified." We who have received Him agree to lift Him up to a 19th century civilization, and to the gaze of modern, scientific research, though we cannot help regretting to see many of our churches turned into little else than Buddhist temples. We sometimes see people professing to be Christ's ministers go into the pulpit, and come out of it, without even naming the name of Jesus Christ.
But we, who have received Him, whether we be Roman Catholics or Church of England people, or Dissenters--whatever we be--if we have received Him, we all agree to exalt "Jesus Christ and Him Crucified." We will "know nothing" among our brethren but "Christ and Him Crucified." We will worship, in the midst of a dying world, none but "Jesus Christ and Him Crucified." We will lift up nothing but the Crucified Christ.
Christ Crucified teaches us the utter helplessness and depravity of man. The uplifting of the Cross pushes away from beneath our feet all idea of human righteousness. "There is none that doeth good, no not one." "They are all gone out of the way. They are altogether become abominable." But "whosoever will" let him come; and Christ is made of God to everyone that believeth "Wisdom and Righteousness and Sanctification and Redemption."
Christ was made sin for us; Christ took our corrupt human nature; and in our nature He made a perfect atonement for all the world, efficiently applied to all who are willing to accept it. Therefore the Crucifix teaches the utter inability of man in himself to please God.
As I have said to you here on a former occasion, the Crucifix seems to put away from under us all idea of man's ability to save himself; of any power, on the part of man, without Christ, to do works "acceptable to God."
Now this is a very unpopular doctrine indeed; but do not you thoroughly accept it? Our own righteousnesses are as "filthy rags "in the sight of God.
Can we believe, for one instant, that the "Marriage Garment "is a robe which we ourselves have made? Do we not lovingly, and gratefully, and humbly, and thankfully acknowledge that it is putting on the Lord Jesus Christ as our Garment, which makes us stand acceptable before God?
This, then, is the first part of the teaching of the Crucifix--the utter repudiation of man's righteousness, and man's ability to save himself in any way at all.
The second part of the doctrine of the Crucifix is set forth in the Outstretched Arms of Jesus offering to each soul a perfect Righteousness, a perfect Salvation, Eternal Life, as the gift of God.
Oh, see how widely the Crucifix extends Its Arms on the Altar in the midst of the Glorious Church! See how widely they open to embrace all who will come! And "him that cometh I will in no wise cast out." The Crucified Saviour gives us all His "exceeding great and precious promises; "He makes His finished work on Calvary personally a work for us, and He makes Himself over to us as an ever present Saviour, Who has promised that He will never leave us. He is "the Good Shepherd." He laid down His own life for the sheep; and to those who are in the greatest danger the Shepherd tries to get the closest. He does not leave us. We may take away ourselves from Him, but He will never take Himself away from us; and this is our assurance, that when we seem in greatest danger, we are "kept."
Dearly beloved, This is the Crucifix in the "Glorious Church! "And oh, what lessons of humility and of assurance It conveys! How It makes us remember the idols before which we were once bowing; how once we were dead in trespasses and sins! How It brings back past memories of wrong and wickedness!
But now we have faith in Him; in Him is our fulness; and He has made us children of God, and we take our places in the "Glorious Church "and may say that all that our Saviour is is ours, and we are perfect in Christ Jesus.
That is what the Crucifix teaches me--the picture of "Jesus Christ and Him Crucified."
Take your Crucifix or, if you are a Protestant, take the picture of the Cross and press it to your breast. And my Catholic brethren, if you made more use of your Crucifix than you do, you would the more realise your debt to Him Who paid your debt to the uttermost farthing on the tree of shame.
Then, as the years pass us quickly by, as the grey hairs mantle on our brows, and we come creeping to the Holy Cross on the awful day of death, we shall realise more than ever the price at which we were redeemed, the price that it cost God to make us what we are, adopted children into the family of Heaven, "joint heirs with Christ."
Directly we have received Him we have received "the gift of God," Eternal Life. "I am the true Light." "Arise," says the voice in our hearts. And this is one of the chief signs that the Holy Ghost gives us, because directly we have received Christ we want to go and tell everybody about it; to let everybody know what Jesus is to us; we want to tell it out what He has done; we want to let everyone know the news that we have come to Him, and that He has given Himself to us. "Ye shall be witnesses unto Me."
And now we come to the Candles of the "Glorious Church."
Often, on great festivals of the Church, you see a large number of candles about the altar unlighted; but there is one little spark before the altar, and all at once this one light seems to expand, and to grow larger and larger, till the whole of the altar is in a blaze of light. That is just a picture of what the Gospel does with sinners. The Gospel brings Christ, the great Light, to sinners' souls, and then they are all alight with the light of the day. They are not in the darkness, but in the light, so that they become God's "Altar lights "in the world. When once we have laid hold of Christ, then our light shines forth as the day.
Dear brothers and sisters, may I now ask you, and may I ask myself, are we candlesticks among which the Son of Man walks? "I saw seven golden candlesticks: and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of Man." Are we the instruments for manifesting the Light of Christ? Is our profession only talk without action? Is there no real shining in our lives?
If so, it must be because we do not possess the light. You may say: "No, I have the light; but I do not let it shine!" Well, I am sorry to say that there are some Christians who have the light but who do not "let it shine; "they have put something between the light and the day. Yes, my dear brother, you have it, but you do not let it shine.
The Son of Man is by the Candlestick; the Son of Man is looking at the Candles which He has lighted, and He is telling you Himself, in His own Sermon on the Mount: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
The Altar Lights must shine for God's glory before the sight of men.
May God grant this afternoon that, with your gaze fixed on the Crucifix, you may now, for the rest of your short pilgrimage below (and some of us may only have a little while left), earnestly, zealously, lovingly desire to shine for Jesus. Let the little piece of candle, left in the candlestick, burn away until it flicker down into the socket, and the loving Saviour shall come to His Candlestick and carry the light, which is just passing from earth, up to the Land where it shall shine in the armies of the hosts around the throne of Him Who longs to gather, in one, all the children whom the Father hath given Him.
And in the Heavenly Temple above, when He presents His "Glorious Church" as His Bride, He will be the Host for ever--"the Lamb as It had been slain."
He will be the Beloved Victim, and we shall be the lights amidst which He will walk. We shall be His Candles, amongst whom He will find more delight even than in the rank of the angels; for He passed by the nature of the angels.
Oh! then let us, in the few short years left to us here, shine forth as God's witnesses, so that we may live to be His shining Altar Lights in the Everlasting Life of the Eternal Glory!