O LORD JESUS, make us to feel Thy presence, in our midst, at this time. We know that Thou art here because of Thy promise; but we would realise its fulfilment, each one for ourselves individually. O Lord draw nigh to each heart here present; make each one to realise that there is nothing between Jesus and his soul but love. "He loved me." And let this realisation of Thy presence and Thy love, which existeth for ever between Thyself and Thy redeemed, comfortably assure us before Thee.
Speak to us, Lord. Teach us, as we sit at Thy feet, by the teaching of the Holy Ghost, Whose gracious office it is to take of the things that belong to Thee, and say them to Thy people.
We would know more of Thee, Lord. We bless Thee for all we do know, but we would know more; and we beseech Thee on behalf of those who know Thee only dimly, and darkly, and distantly; we beseech Thee, that Thou wilt draw nigh to them as Thou didst draw nigh, so very nigh, to Thy two disciples when they were downcast and sad because of Thy death and burial. Let their hearts 'be kindled by the words that Thou shalt speak. O speak to us. O speak to us. O speak, Lord, for Thy servants are waiting to hear. Speak to us such words as we most need; and guide Thy words, by the help of Thy Holy Spirit, right into Our hungry hearts, and feed us with the same, and make us to drink anew of that refreshing stream which makes glad Jerusalem, the city of God, which is the Church of Thy redeemed ones.
And now, especially, bless those, O merciful, pitiful Jesus, who ask our prayers. Hasten the time of their deliverance. Even now, if it be Thy will, manifest Thy nearness, Thy friendliness, Thy power, Thy wisdom, Thy goodness toward them, and enable them to trust Thee; to doubt Thee no more; to be able to be satisfied with the words of gracious love that Thou offerest to all sinners who are willing to come to Thee.
Let the speaking of Thy Word, at this time, have great freedom and power in the midst of us. Open up to us some of the sweet thoughts that Thy word contains for us; and let us rejoice in the food that the green pastures of Thy Scriptures of truth provide.
And then, Lord, as Thou seest Thy people refreshed and comforted, will not Thy loving heart rejoice over us with singing? As Thou seest our souls steeped with the dew of Thy pity, wilt Thou not rejoice in our joy, and be comforted in our consolation 1 O Lord Jesus, Thy love to us is so exceeding great; Thy mercy is so open towards us that we wait confidently for a loving and sufficient answer to our prayer. Grant it for Thy loving mercy and Thy truth's sake. Amen.
"Pure oil--olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamp to burn always."--Exod. xxvii. 20.
"And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God."--Rev iv. 5.
FROM these two texts we see that God commanded the Sanctuary Lamp to burn always, and we also know that that lamp was a sevenfold lamp. There were seven cups to it, though it was one lamp on one stem; and it was to burn always.
This was in the earthly sanctuary; but it was to speak, to the worshippers, the mystic truths of God.
In our second text we have a part of one of the visions of S. John concerning the heavenly temple; and we are told that there, in the land where there is no need of any lamp or candle, because God is the light thereof, there burn seven lamps of fire before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
Now we know that there is but one Spirit of God, so far as personality is concerned; but in that one Spirit there are these distinct sevenfold operations. Therefore this lamp in the Sanctuary of the Mosaic dispensation was a type of the Ever Presence of the Holy Ghost with His people; and it was to burn always to show that the Holy Ghost never leaves His people, but "seals them to the day of redemption."
This afternoon we have reached thus far on our ritualistic journey.
On Monday we were contemplating the "Glorious Church" of God, which we saw was the Church of the Redeemed--the Church of all those who have Christ within them. Then we went on to consider the Altar and the Host in this Church; how that the Host is the one Offering by which Jesus "hath for ever perfected them that are sanctified." We saw how that the Altar itself was Jesus again, on Which we must lay all our offerings and all our gifts, and that God will accept no gift except in Christ.
Yesterday we went on to consider the candlesticks, and the Figure of the Son of Man walking among the candlesticks; and we saw how that Jesus Christ Crucified is ever the Beloved, Pleading Victim, in the midst of His people; and that these people carry about with them the reflected light of Calvary, and they themselves shine as lights. Jesus, their Lord, is walking in their midst. Thus we considered the teaching of the Crucifix and Candlesticks.
But now I want to speak to you about the Sanctuary Lamp. I daresay that many of my hearers, on some hot summer's evening, have strolled into some glorious old Catholic Cathedral in Belgium or France. The heat of the day has been excessive and overwhelming; and just as Vespers are over, and the clouds of incense are lingering on the air, some tired, weary, worn traveller steals into the cool, mystic, solemn, vast building. As he pushes the heavy leathern curtain aside and enters, the very first thing that strikes him is the gleaming fire before the Altar in the Sanctuary Lamp; and the Sanctuary Lamp, with its soft, solemn light, seems to have such a voice! It is burning there to tell of His Presence.
This is the Lamp burning before the Presence of the Lord; and as one looks at the Lamp, so many Scriptural thoughts rise up in one's heart. That Lamp, if we only had ears to hear its voice, would preach to us many a sweet, soothing, joyous lesson.
Now there are three things in that Lamp. First of all, a little pure spring water; then there is some pure olive oil; and then there is the fire. Fire, Water and Oil. These are the three types of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is likened by our Lord to living water. The Holy Ghost is the anointing oil of God. We are called Christians, because we are anointed by the Holy Ghost. The word "Christian" means an anointed person. Then there is the fire; and we know that the Holy Ghost, at Pentecost, appeared under the form of fire. In the shape of cloven tongues of flame, the Holy Spirit came of yore on the infant Church in her cradle of that "Upper Room."
Now, as we look at the Sanctuary Lamp, there is a great accumulation of thought gathering around it as a cloud of glory. If we take a magnificent Cathedral to represent the glorious, world-embracing Temple of living stones--stones picked out by the loving hand of Jesus Himself, from the quarry of human corruption; built up by Himself, the Rock of Ages, and joined together with bands supplied by the Holy Spirit--what a solemn picture it brings before us!
Do you know the ceremony in the Old British Church for the lighting of this Lamp? It was lighted on the night that the Church was justified by the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Christ died for our sins; but He was raised again for our justification; and, on the solemn, mystic night of Easter Eve, the Church strikes the new fire from the flint, outside the Church door; and, when the fire has been struck from the flint, it is brought into the building with very solemn prayer, and chant, and psalm. Then this fire is solemnly offered to God, and God's special blessing is invoked upon it; and then it is hung in the Lamp. All the lamps and lights in the church are lighted from that fire alone; and no light is allowed to burn in the church, unless it has been lighted from that Holy Flame, consecrated by prayer, and supplication, and praise, on the mystic night when the Church was justified.
So that this Lamp represents to us the Presence of the Holy Ghost, sent down from heaven into the living Church of the Redeemed. "Ye shall receive power when the Holy Ghost is come upon you!"
It is with the Holy Ghost, sent down from above, that the Church of God, the Church of the Redeemed, is lighted; with a Light, not kindled from earth, but sent down from heaven. It is a Light that springs from the smitten Rock; for it is only through Christ that we can receive the Holy Ghost. If once we have received Him, then the Holy Ghost takes up His abode in the temple of the believer's soul: and so we have a Light, which is not of earth, shining on our way; guarding our steps; enlightening our understandings; illuminating them, and enabling them to believe and accept those mysteries which God has revealed, but which we cannot accept, unless the rays of the Sanctuary Lamp of God's Temple shine upon us.
We have a Light from this Sanctuary Lamp, then, not only from God, but burning continually, to testify to the Presence of Jesus Christ in our midst. That Sanctuary Lamp, in the great Cathedral, hangs before the Altar in token that the mystic Presence of our Sacramental Lord abides there. That Lamp burns to testify that Christ is in us "the hope of glory; "and as Christ will never leave us, because He has promised He will not, so the Holy Ghost's light will never go out in the heart of the believer. The Holy Ghost, when once He comes to us, "seals us unto the day of redemption." No power of earth can extinguish that Light, or of hell either; for God has promised that it shall not go out.
Think, then, of the magnificent picture which we have before us in contemplating the Holy Ghost as the Sanctuary Lamp in the Church! Did the Church ever need the Light of the Holy Ghost as she needs His Light to-day, when we see, in the Visible Church, very nearly all the Christian faith "spirited away; "when we have Jesus Christ Himself preached only as "a man," and all the dogmas of His salvation explained away, or fresh meanings put to old sayings, which make them lose their force?
Oh! my brethren, they would deceive, "if it were possible, even the elect; "but the elect cannot be deceived, because the Sanctuary Lamp is shining on them, and shows them the difference between truth and error; and they are "all taught of God." Therefore they will not hear the voice of the stranger, because they are led by the Shepherd Who will never leave them and Who says: "I know My Sheep, and am known of Mine."
In the Sanctuary Lamp, then, we see a great ground for confidence in the Church to-day. She is surrounded by darkness; but the Sanctuary Lamp is shining within Her doors. Her footsteps are feeble and faint, but they are directed; and the seven-fold Sanctuary Lamp lights Her way up the earthly nave to the Heavenly Chancel where the Golden Lamp hangs before the Throne, in the Temple above. The Holy Ghost is with us; the Holy Ghost teaches us; and while I am now speaking these words to you, God's people here present will all receive them, because they know, at once, that it is the Shepherd's voice speaking; but a "stranger will they not follow, for they know not the voice of strangers."
With this Sanctuary Lamp in our midst, let us now look a little deeper into the mystery. So often I get tired on my pilgrim way; and so do you, my brothers and sisters in the Lord. Very often our earthly sorrows damp our ardour on the road. They seem to clog our steps upon the way. Mists of doubt and fear lower round our path, and we scarce can see the way; and we get so faint, and fagged, and way-worn. Oftentimes we feel, oh! how we wish that the end of our short, earthly pilgrimage of tears were come; but then, in this Sanctuary Lamp, that burns within us, there is the refreshing water of His reviving grace; there is this Holy Ghost as a Well of Living Water springing up within us to Eternal Life.
Have you ever experienced very great suffering of thirst in a burning, desolate region in summer-time, where no house of refreshment could be found for miles? You have not passed perhaps a streamlet among the rocks for many a weary mile, when, all at once, as you have sat down fainting, yo,u have thought you heard the sound of water! Oh, how delicious was that sound! I can remember times like these.
This is just like the Holy Ghost in the Church; He is a Well of Living Water. What a delightful expression--a Well of Living Water! It cannot dry up, for it it is living water; and the well is deep and large. A Well of Living Water! And just when we need refreshment the most; when it seems we can bear no more, the Holy Ghost will open up to us some view of Jesus, some wondrous story of His Word, which perhaps we have overlooked. Many a time He lights it up with such a power, with such a startling light, that our souls become refreshed.
From the Sanctuary Lamp, then, we can draw continual refreshment in time of need.
But often there are other times, when we fall into sin, and we are wounded, and we suffer and faint from our wounds, and the hot barbs of the world come on us and burn into our wounds, just like a wounded traveller on a mountain road, in some eastern land; then, all at once, the Sanctuary Lamp begins to cast its oil of anointing and healing upon us--balm from the Hand of the Good Samaritan, our Great High Priest.
When the leper was cured, the Priest touched his head and hand and foot with this oil. The man was anointed with it to signify how God's Holy Spirit is a healing power. And so the wounds of Satan are soothed with the unction of the Holy Ghost; they are anointed, and the pains are mollified by the healing anodyne of the unction that we have from the Holy One; the unction of the Holy Ghost; the Oil of the Sanctuary Lamp.
And then again, there are times when life seems very lonely and quiet; when the dear wife comes to die; or a darling parent; or a fondly loved child; and as we grow older, those we loved in early youth begin to fall away one by one, until there are very few left at all; and then, as we grow older still, and our grey hairs turn to white, and we are almost quite alone in the world, everything seems so dull and sad, and we think of the old times, and we sigh as we contemplate the days, when merry laughter, from the voices of those who made everything so bright and glad, rang through the old corridors of our ancestral home.
But now the aged pilgrim is alone; and he can only sit at his fireside, and listen to the spirit voices in the land beyond the veil. The world gets so cold, and his heart seems to chill with the world's frosts around it. His life has been wretched, and wounded, and torn by harassing cares, and agonizing loss, or bitter provocation; and grave after grave studs life's roadway containing those he has loved. They have vanished from earth for ever; but then--then there comes to him the gleam of the Sanctuary Lamp of the Living Temple, a flash of cheery light, a flame of warming fire, that tells of the glory of the Home above; that seems to speak, with absolute certainty, of sure conviction, given by the Holy Ghost Himself, that this is not our home; that we need not sit at the lonely hearth and only weep, for we are to join all the loved ones in the Land where are the true Homesteads of the Saints.
Then the new-made graves seem trimmed with bright and joyous flowers; and the echoes of the tolling bells, heard in the distance of years gone by, seem to change into marriage chimes that tell of the bond between Jesus and His Church, up in the Promised Land; and the light in the fire in the Sanctuary Lamp is warming, and brilliant, and guiding. It is leading our steps on and on, to embrace for ever all that God gave us to love below. It is warming our hearts with the glad refreshings of God; and so we march on to the Glorious Home of the Redeemed quite refreshed, fed, instructed, helped and warmed, by the rays of the Sanctuary Lamp which hangs in the Church of the Redeemed.
My brothers and sisters, this is the work of the Holy Ghost in the Church, and in our lives. May I not, as a believer, speaking from many experiences of the Sanctuary Lamp's power and grace, tell how many desolate hearts have been opened to realise what the Holy Ghost can do, and does do, for the children of God, here below? As I have been speaking, I am quite sure that many of God's children have been echoing "Hallelujah "in their hearts, to testify to the truth now.
But if I could go on for an hour more I could not use language that would be sufficient to expatiate worthily on the glories of the Sanctuary Lamp of the Church of the Redeemed.
Brethren, it is a very solemn thought that there may be some listening to me who are not in the Church of the Redeemed; there may be some whose lives have been more or less wasted because they have not come to the Altar to lay their offerings thereon; and which, therefore, have all gone for nothing before God. There may be those who have not received the doctrine of the Crucifix; who have not become the Candlesticks of the Lord, shining as lights in the darkness of earth. These have nothing whatever to do with the Sanctuary Lamp. They have never yet drunk of the water of the Holy Ghost; never yet felt the anointing, holy power of the Divine Unction of the Holy One; never yet felt the warmth of that heaven-lit, and never dying flame that warms the soul of the Redeemed.
Oh, my brother! would not we like to bring you to this beautiful Sanctuary Lamp's beams and rays of glory? How can you come? You cannot come unless you enter the "Glorious Church "first. And how can you enter this Church? You can only come in by the door. You cannot get in any other way; and that door is Jesus only. You must come to Christ as a poor, lost, helpless sinner; as one who cannot do without Him; you must come to Christ because you feel your need of Him; and you know His willingness to receive you.
Then directly you have received Him, directly Jesus is yours, you are inside the Building; then you are in this Beautiful Building--the Living Church of God's Elect; and you may go up and take your place in full view of the Altar. You may kneel beneath the beams of the Sanctuary Lamp and rejoice; and, be sure of this--He has promised that none shall henceforth "separate you from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
It is very simple to become a sharer in all these blessings! God gave Jesus Christ to the world as a Gift; and the instant you accept this Gift you are in the Church of the Redeemed; Jesus Christ tells you you are His, and He is yours, and that "none shall pluck you out of His hands," and that directly you have received Him, He gives you power to become God's child. The Holy Ghost springs up in you as a Well of Living Water; and you are one of the elect stones, built up, by the heavenly Architect's own hand, into a living temple on the Rock, which is Jesus Christ, the Rock of Ages--"the same yesterday, to-day and for ever."
It is very simple. If there be anybody here who is not in the Church of the Redeemed, the curtain in front of the door may be very easily lifted up. Oh! do but only lift it up, by the hand of a childlike confidence, and trust Jesus Who says: "Come unto Me, and I will give you rest."
Put the curtain on one side and walk in. There you are in the Magnificent Temple at once, with all the living stones that the Heavenly Architect has gathered out from the world, through the ages, from the time of righteous Abel down to the very last sinner who was last night brought to God. Then you take your place at once as part of that Living House, built up of living stones.
We have one more meditation left for to-morrow, and that is on the "Incense and Vestments "of the "Glorious Church;" and when we have enjoyed this sermon, a great many of us will, I hope, by God's Holy Spirit, go forth enriched exceedingly in all the fulness of the knowledge of Christ. I think that some of our ritualistic congregation will realise the utter uselessness of the outer ritual, unless they have the inward realities to which the outward ritual points.
God is blessing these afternoons to our souls. I can tell, by numbers of letters which are coming to me, that God is blessing them to your hearts. I have been feeling how poor the addresses have been, but letters have been written to me saying that they are "wonderful." They have been, I trust, so very simple and plain that even a little child can take them in, but I believe they strike people, who are not accustomed to these services, as "wonderful," because there is so much Gospel truth hidden beneath the outward symbols of the Catholic rites.
God is blessing us, and we will rejoice; and if there be any one here this afternoon who has not come into the "Glorious Church," but only belongs to the outward and visible Church; who knows nothing of the peace and joy of belonging to Christ, and therefore has not taken his place in the "Glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing"--who is not washed in the Blood of the Lamb--let him come now, for "now is the accepted time; now is the day of Salvation."