THE COMBINATION AND CONJUNCTION OF JOYS; OR, THE
JOYFUL APPROACH OF THE SAVIOUR, CHEERFULLY WELCOMED
BY THE CHURCH’S ECHO OF FAITH.
This Sermon was preached on Saturday the 27th of April, 1734, being the preparation-day before the celebration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper at Abernethy, upon the 28th.
“Lo, I come! “Psalm 40:7 “The voice of my Beloved? behold he cometh?” Song 2:8
We have a communion-solemnity in view: but if the question be proposed, How shall we have communion with God at this occasion? Two things are necessary to it. 1. His coming to us graciously: there is no communion with him to be expected, unless he come: so he saith in the first text here Lo, I come! 2. Our apprehending his approach, and giving him welcome entertainment, upon his coming: then, and not till then, have we communion with God, when we hear his voice, and see him, as it were on the tops of the mountains, and say, The voice of my Beloved I behold, he cometh.
In the words complexly viewed, we have two things more generally. 1. Here is intimation given to the church, by the Lord Jesus; Lo, I come! 2. Here is notice taken by the church; behold, he cometh Here is the joyful voice of the Son of God; Lo, I come! And here is the joyful echo of the church; The voice of my Beloved! behold, he cometh! Mark the frame HE is in when he speaks of his coming; it is a joyful frame; “Lo, I come! I delight to do thy will, O my God.” And observe the frame SHE is in, upon the intimation of his coming; it is a joyful frame; Behold, he cometh! He speaks with a joyful Lo; Lo, I come! and she speaks with a joyful Behold; Behold, he cometh.
These two words being all the subject I proposed to speak of, at the time, I shall refer the, further explication of them to the prosecution of this doctrinal observation.
DOCTRINE: That Christ’s coming to his people graciously, in their time of need, is a joyful and delectable coming, both to him and them.
The time wherein CHRIST said here; Lo, I come! was a time of great need, even when sacrifice and offering would not; when there was no hope of salvation from any other quarter, unless he himself had undertaken it: then said he, Lo, I come!—The time wherein the CHURCH here said, Behold he corneth! was a time of great and felt need; for the Lord had withdrawn himself behind mountains of sin and guilt, till he paid a new visit, that made her cry out with joy, Behold, he cometh!
That Christ’s gracious coming to his people, is joyful both to him and them, will appear in the sequel; only it is enough here to demonstrate it, that as HE is a joyful proclaimer of his own approach, saying, Lo, I come!—So SHE is the joyful beholder thereof, saying, Behold, he cometh!
The method I would here endeavor to observe, as the Lord shall be pleased to assist, shall be the following—
I. To observe what comings of Christ to his people are joyful to him and them.
II. Show what makes his coming joyful to him.
III. What makes his coming joyful to them.
IV. What expressions of joy in him are imported in his, Lo I come!
V. What expressions of joy in them are imported in their behold; BEHOLD, he cometh!
VI. Show whence is this combination and conjunction of joys; or, why it is that, like a resounding echo, his Lo, I come I is answered, with a Behold he cornea!
VII. Deduce some inferences for the application of the whole.
I. The first thing proposed was, To observe what comings of Christ to his people, are joyful to him and them. Here I shall mention only four comings of the Lord Jesus, namely, his coming in the flesh; his coming in the clouds; his coming in the word; and his coming in the Spirit.
1. His coming in the flesh was a joyful coming both to him and his people. The first text he is particularly applied to his coming in the flesh; “Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, a body hast thou prepared me; then said I, Lo, I come, (in the volume of thy book it is written of me) to do thy will O God,” (Heb. 10:5,7). Which shows also, that this was a joyful and delightful coming, though it was upon that errand of being a sacrifice to divine justice for our sins, when no other sacrifice would do the business. And surely this coming of Christ is a joyful coming to his people, and brings ground of joy unto all people; “Behold,” said the angels to the shepherds upon Christ’s coming in the flesh, “I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be unto all people: for to you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord,” (Luke 2:10). And it is probable, as many divines show, that these words of the spouse here saying, Behold he cometh! hath a particular reference to Christ’s coming in the flesh. The Old-testament saints saw his day afar off, and rejoiced in the view they had of it by faith. They saw him coming, skipping in the dark mountains of shadows, and ceremonies, and typical sacrifices, to be the substance of all the shadows. In a word, his coming in the ‘flesh is the very root and foundation of the joys of all the redeemed: if he had not thus come, according to the promise, they would never had any ground of joy; but faith’s view of this coming, or of God in our nature, God incarnate, “God made manifest in the flesh,” is a fountain-head of joy; “God being in Christ reconciling the world to himself;” being bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh: and we having access to God through him, who became like unto us in all things, except sin. O sirs, do you believe that there is a man in heaven called IMMANUEL, God-man? We read of joy and peace in believing; surely you never believed there was such a man, God in our flesh, if it never afforded any joyful thought to you.
2. His coming in the clouds is a joyful coming, both to him and his people; this is what is called his second coming; “To them that look for him, he will appear the second time, without sin unto salvation,” (Heb. 9:28). And, indeed, this will be a joyful coming to Christ, for it is a coming to salvation: when he comes to save, he comes always joyfully. When he came first to save, by the price of his blood, he came leaping and skipping joyfully; and much more when he will come to finish the work of salvation, and to perfect the salvation of all the redeemed. His coming to marry his people is joyful to him, much more when he comes to consummate the marriage. Christ had an eye to this in his coming to suffer: “He endured the cross, and despised the shame, for the joy that was set before him,” (Heb. 12:2); even to the joy of an exalted state: and, you know, that the last step of his exaltation is his coming to judge the world at the last day; then he will be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe. —And as it is a joyful coming to him, so it is to his people. It is true, it will be terrible to his enemies that slighted his coming to save, and neglected the great salvation; for, “He will come in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel,” (2 Thess. 1:8). His second coming will be dreadful to them that do not welcome his first coming: and, “Behold he cometh in the clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they also that pierced him, and all nations shall wail because of him,” (Rev. 1:7). But to his people, to his followers and servants, to all that welcome him now, his coming is joyful; they will welcome him with joy, saying, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” They long for his coming; and they are called to lift up their heads with joy, because the day of their redemption draweth nigh. They cry to him to hasten his coming. “Haste, my Beloved, and be thou like a roe or young hart on the mountains of Bether.” No wonder, for then they enter into the joy of the Lord. Christ who here says, Lo, I come! will as certainly come the second time, as he came the first; and as he came the first time, in order to his coming the second; so he speaks of his second coming with a behold; Behold! I come quickly, (Rev. 22:20). And the church’s joyful echo follows, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.”
3. His coming in the word, to court a people for himself, is a joyful coming to him and to his people; for then as it is; Both “The Spirit and the Bride say, Come,” (Rev. 22:17). The Spirit of Christ, and the bride of Christ, joyfully invite sinners to come to Christ: hence a gospel-day is called the day of the Son of man. And Christ, in the gospel-dispensation, says, Lo, I come! He comes riding in the gospel-chariot; he comes with out-stretched arms, saying, “Behold me behold me!” —And his coming thus is joyful to all his people; “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace; that bring glad tidings of good things, (Rom. 10:15). His coming in the word is joyful to them, in so much, that nothing in the world is so precious to them as the word; it is sweeter than honey and the honey-comb. “Thy word was found of me, and I did eat it, and it was to me, the joy and rejoicing of my heart;” this is their food; “Man lives not by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” This is their comfort in their affliction. —His word quickens them; they hear his voice therein, and say, “It is the voice of my Beloved I behold, he cometh leaping on the mountains, skipping on the hills.” But his coming in the word is joyful and beneficial, as it is attended with what follows, namely, his coming in the Spirit; for,
4. His coming in the Spirit is a joyful coming: and this is that which makes all the former ways of his coming to be joyful. We have no joyful view of his coming in the flesh, nor joyful hope of his coming in the clouds, nor joyful apprehension of his coming in the word, unless we have some share of his coming in the Spirit, as a Spirit of faith and consolation; his coming in the Spirit not only to court, but to win the heart; not only to deal, but to prevail with sinners, by his convincing and converting power. —This coming is joyful to him; for, it is a day of the gladness of his heart; “Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold king Solomon, with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him, in the day of his espousals, in the day of the gladness of this heart;” (Song. 3:11). for then he sees the travail of his soul and is satisfied, (Isa. 53:11). And, O this should encourage us to pray for the Spirit, the promised Comforter, since nothing gladdens the heart of Christ more than the giving of the spirit to convince of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and so to comfort his people.—And, on the other hand, this coming of Christ in the Spirit, cannot but be a joyful coming to his people; for then they are anointed with the oil of gladness, and get the oil of joy for mourning, and the garments of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Then they get their bands loosed; their maladies healed; their doubts resolved; their fears dispelled, &c. When Christ says here, Lo, I come! let us view therein the promise of his coming in the Spirit: for, why did he come in the flesh, but that he might come in the Spirit? Having come in the flesh, and finished his work, according to his word; he promises the Spirit, and sends the Spirit; “He shall glorify me;” (John 16:14). When the Comforter is come, whom I will send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, he shall testify of me,” (John 15:26). His coming in the flesh was the great Old Testament promise; and his coming in the Spirit the great New Testament promise; and as the Old Testament was but a porch to the New; so his coming in the flesh was to pave the way for his coming in the Spirit; therefore, when you hear him say, “Lo, I come! “take up the meaning of it not only to be, Lo, I come in the flesh; but also, Lo, I come in the Spirit. And, O sirs, is this his voice? What say you to it? Is there any joyful echo in your heart welcoming him, saying, “The voice of my Beloved! behold, he cometh! Surely, if he comes in the Spirit to you at this occasion, it will be a joyful coming.—I might here speak of his coming in his providence; his coming at death; his coming first to begin, and his after-coming to advance his work; but his joyful comings are only so by his coming in the Spirit. I go on,
II. To the next thing proposed, which was to show, what makes his coming joyful to Him. And what makes him come with a joyful Lo, I come! Why,
1. He rejoiced from eternity in the thoughts of his coming; and therefore cannot but rejoice in the accomplishment of his word and design, “Ere ever the earth was, he rejoiced in the habitable parts of the earth, and his delights were with the sons of men,” (Prov. 8:23, 31). It was in the council of peace he said to his Father, “Lo, I come! I delight to do thy will;” and in the fulness of time he says in our hearing, Lo, I come! O to give a joyful welcome to that joyful Lo!
2. His coming is joyful to him; because he comes clothed with a commission from his Father, and he rejoices to run his errands. It is his Father’s will that he executes when he comes; and therefore he says, “I delight to do thy will, O my God. This commandment have I received of my Father, to lay down my life for my sheep.” And, therefore, with desire he desired this passover, even to be himself our passover sacrificed for us. He hath a commission to come; for he is the Sent and the Sealed of God: “God so loved the world, that he sent his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life. Him hath God the Father sealed.” He comes in his Father’s name, and his Father’s seal appended to his commission.
3. His coming is joyful to him, because it is on a glorious design of glorifying the Father; and therefore, when he comes he says, “Now is my Father glorified; now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him,” (John 13:31). When he came, and was just ready to lay down his life, and having done his work he said, “I have glorified thee on earth, I have finished the work thou gayest me to do,” (John 17:4). He brought in glory and honor to all the perfections of God, and full reparation to all his injured attributes.
4. His coming is joyful to him, because, as his coming was on a glorious design, with reference to his Father, God being glorified by his coming, whether in the flesh, or by the Spirit; so it is on a loving design towards his people, to whom he comes. He comes to save them, and justify them, and sanctify them, and comfort them, and heal them, and help them; and all for love, because he has loved with an everlasting love, therefore he comes to draw with loving-kindness.—Love makes him come joyfully: it was love made him come joyfully in the flesh, and love makes him come joyfully in the Spirit; love made him come at first; and, notwithstanding many provocations, love makes him come again, according to his word, “I will see you again, Now you have sorrow, but I will see you again, and your hearts shall rejoice. O the height and depth, and length and breadth of his love!” (John 16:22). He comes joyfully because he lives cordially. But I go on,
III. To the next thing proposed, namely, What makes his coming joyful to his people; what makes them welcome him with a joyful behold: “Behold, he cometh!” Why,
1. Because his coming is their life. When he came in the flesh, “he came to give life, and to give it more abundantly,” (John 10:10). And when he comes in the Spirit, he comes to give life, to give the well of water springing up to everlasting life, (John 4:14). Whenever he comes, life enters the dead and dry bones. We are like dead carcasses, our spirits sinking within us; but whenever the Spirit of life comes in the word, then we get up, as it were, to our feet; then we have life: He that hath the Son, hath life; whenever he comes, and that we have him with us, then the life of faith, the life of repentance, the life of love, the life of joy, the life of humility, the life of holiness, and the life of comfort come: we live or die as he comes or goes. If life be sweet, then his coming must be sweet; and of all lives, the life of God, a spiritual life hid with Christ in God, is the most pleasant and glorious.
2. His coming must be joyful to them, because his absence is their death; yea, his absence is a hell to them that know what a heaven his presence makes: hence their many O’s when he is away; “O when wilt thou come unto me? O that it were with me as in months past!” And hence their many how longs when he is away; “How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? How long wilt thou hide thy face from me?” (Ps. 13:1, 2). They cannot live without him; or, if his absence be to such a degree, as that they are careless, stupid, and unconcerned, yet they that know what his joyful presence is, will grant, that their careless times are their sad and sighing times; they are not their joyful times; they are not their life, but their death; and they never expect to have a joyful life till he come again.
When he is away from the church, then all goes to confusion: “The servants of the house begin to smite their fellow servants,” (Matt. 24:46). Why, because the Lord delays his coming; they begin to smite them with sentences of suspension or seclusion, as at this day, when he is away, then the shepherds begin to rule his people with force and violence, (Ezek. 34:4). And what is the effect of that? “My sheep wandered over all the mountains; my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them,” (Ezek. 34:6). Why, might not this smite the hearts of rigid rulers, to see the flock scattered here and there, upon the violent obtrusions of hirelings upon them? No; none did search out, or seek after them. They even slight them as an ignorant mob, a rabble, that need not be regarded; [and, indeed, if matters go on at this rate, if God do not stir up the ensuing Assembly (viz. 1734) to take course with these disorders, the ruin of the Church of Scotland is but beginning.]. But whence are all these confusions? May we not say, as it is, “Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not amongst us?” (Deut. 31:17). When he is away from a church, nothing but confusion and disorders take place; but when he comes back, then his work is revived, Zion is built up, reformation restored. When he goes away from a particular believer, O what a hell of confusion till he returns! His presence gives rest, but his absence troubles: “Thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled.”
3. His coming is joyful to them, because the errand on which he came is merciful. What does he bring when he comes? Why, he even brings God with him, and all the fulness of God; and so he brings the chief good with him. God is in Christ, and all the fulness of the Godhead in him; and, therefore, when he comes, all good comes; when he comes graciously, he comes in the capacity of a friend, to help; a physician, to heal; a shepherd, to feed: “He feedeth among the lilies.” When he comes, his presence is a reviving and refreshing presence; an enlightening, enlivening, and enlarging presence; sometimes a confirming and comforting presence; a humbling and a sweetly-debasing presence; yea, it is an exalting and dignifying presence. The effects of his coming are most joyful; for, when he comes to his people, then their sins are pardoned, their wants supplied, their enemies conquered, their crosses sanctified, their kingdom secured; and therefore his coming must be joyful to them.
4. His coming is joyful to them, because his coming is all their heaven upon earth; yea, his presence is the heaven of heavens. What is heaven, but a being like him, by seeing him as he is. Now, this heaven is begun on earth when he comes; for then they behold his glory, and are changed into the same image, (2 Cor. 3:18). How can they be but joyful at his coming, when they consider who he is; he is enough to make a heaven, whatever way they look to him; if they look to him absolutely, “He is altogether lovely, the brightness of his Father’s glory.” When they look to him comparatively, “He is fairer than the sons of men; more glorious than all the mountains of prey.” When they look to him relatively, he is their Head and Husband; their God and guide; their righteousness and strength; their light, life, joy, and all. O, says the strong believer, “My Beloved is mine, and I am his;” he is mine, and I will not part with him for the whole creation. O, says the weak believer, the doubting believer, O if he were mine, I would not part with him for a thousand worlds. In a word, he is such a heaven to them that nothing can make up the loss of his presence; ministers cannot do it; ordinances cannot do it; angels cannot do it. Ordinances are but the shell, without the kernel, when Christ is not in them; all creature comforts cannot supply his room. Naturalists say the loadstone cannot draw in presence of the diamond; surely, when Christ is present with a soul, all the pomp and pride, all the gallantry of the world, will have no influence on the soul. Offer the believer mountain’s of gold and silver instead of Christ, “Get thee behind me, Satan,” will be his answer: “Thy money perish with thee,” that lays it in balance with the Son of God. Offer me something better than Christ then you will see what I will do. There are so many thousand excellencies in Christ, that might be so many thousand reasons why his coming is joyful, that they cannot but say upon the notice of it, “Behold, he cometh!”
IV. The fourth thing proposed was, What expressions of joy in the Lord Jesus is imported in this “Lo, I come!” What sort of joy does it express?
1. I think this “Lo, I come!” expresses present joy: “Lo, I come!” It is something like that of John 13:32, “Now is the Son of man glorified;” there was a time when he said, “Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say?” (John 12:27). But when he comes graciously, he says upon the matter, Now is my soul satisfied, now is my heart glad; the Lo is in the present time, and I come is in the present tense: “Lo, I come!” And if Christ be presently saying, with reference to any company here, “Lo, I come to you!” O it is a present joy to him; he comes rejoicing; he comes leaping and skipping; his set time of coming is the time of the gladness of his heart.
2. It expresses active joy: “Lo, I come!” He rejoices to do good; it is his joy to do service to his Father and his friends. And if he rejoiced in his work when he came to save by the price of his blood, how must he rejoice when he comes to save by the power of his Spirit! The natural sun is said to rejoice as a strong man to run his race, (Ps. 19:5). It is a metaphorical speech, for the sun is not capable of joy; but, without metaphor, it is true of the Sun of righteousness, the Lord Jesus Christ; he is a strong man, the man of God’s right hand, whom he hath made strong for himself; and he rejoices to run his race; he rejoices to arise with healing under his wings: “Lo, I come!” It is an active joy.
3. It expresses certain joy. The Lo is a note of certainty; the thing is certain and true: “Lo, I come!” And his joy is certain; certain, true, solid joy. There is nothing more certain than that believers have sometimes joy unspeakable; but these are only streams that flow from the joy that is in Christ’s heart. His joy is the fountain of their joy: “He is anointed with the oil of joy above his fellows;” and the fellowship they have with him is by some drops of that oil of joy. Can they be certain of the streams and the drops when these are allowed? How much more is it certain that all true joy centers in him. Believers have sometimes a fulness of joy; but their fulness is the fulness of the streams, or of the vessel; but his fulness is the fulness of the ocean. If it be certain there is a stream of joy in the believer sometimes, much more that there is the spring of joy in Christ.
4. It expresses communicative joy; designing his people should share of his joy, “Lo, I come!” The joy that Christ has, as Mediator, is a fulness of joy, designed for his people’s use, that out of his fulness we may receive, and grace for grace, and joy for joy; grace answering grace in Jesus, and joy answering joy in him. Yea, Christ, as Mediator, is anointed with the oil of joy, the Spirit above measure, that he may communicate this joy, and give to them the oil of joy for mourning; “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, for he hath anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek; to comfort all that mourn; to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness,” (Isa. 61:3). Christ has a commission from his Father to communicate his joy; and therefore it must be communicative.
5. It expresses triumphant joy, conquering joy: “Lo, I come!” And nothing shall hinder my coming, nor stop me in my course. Mountains nor hills cannot hinder the sun rising: this, points out his coming as a conqueror, notwithstanding principalities and powers in his way, he can easily throw them down. “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? This that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? “I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save,” (Isa. 63:1). Behold, it is I; “Lo, I come!”
6. It expresses solemn joy. He comes with a solemnity, “Lo, I come!” according to the council of a glorious Trinity. Now, when the purpose of heaven is come to the birth, and the decree breaks forth, and the fulness of time is come, he takes heaven and earth witness, as it were, to his solemn march on the errand; he says it with a loud Lo, that all the world of men and angels may notice, “Lo, I come!” And, indeed, all the elect angels break forth into joyful songs of praise at this solemnity; when he came in the flesh, they sang, “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, and good-will towards men.” And when he comes in the Spirit to convert a soul, there is joy in heaven over the soul that repents. It is solemn joy.
7. It expresses infinite joy. If we consider who the person is that speaks, namely, God, assuming our nature in the person of his eternal Son. The joy of an infinite God must be infinite joy. Finite creatures cannot tell what infinite joy is; nay, the joy of saints is joy unspeakable and full of glory; what, then, must be the joy of the King of saints? It is infinitely above speech and expression, infinitely glorious. The joy of saints is unspeakably great; the joy of the man Christ, of the human nature, is unspeakably greater; but the joy of God, of God in our nature, is infinitely great above all finite apprehension. Finite thoughts are lost in this infinite depth.
8. It expresses everlasting joy, and eternal joy; joy from everlasting, before time; and to everlasting after time. It is true, the Lo, I come! as I said first, imports present joy, with respect to our view of it, but with respect to God, nothing being past or future, but all things eternally present to him, this Lo expresses the everlasting joy he had, and will have forever in this work now transacted in time. It is said, “The glory of the Lord shall endure for ever. The Lord shall rejoice in his work; the Lord JEHOVAH shall rejoice in all his works together,” (Ps. 104:31); (as we have it in the meter). Why? his glory is everlasting glory, his joy everlasting joy in all his works; especially in that work wherein all his glory shines most brightly, his saving work, of which he is here speaking, when he says, Lo, I come Thus you see what sort of joy is expressed in this, Lo, I come!
V. The Fifth thing proposed, What expressions of joy is imported in the echo from the Church, The voice of my Beloved! behold he cometh! What sort of joy does this express?
1. It expresses joy with surprise. O but his coming fills the believer with a sweet surprise, like that, “Or ever I was aware,” (Song 6:12). How abruptly does the Church here speak, like one suddenly ravished! The voice of my Beloved! behold he cometh!
2. It expresses joy with wonder and admiration: Behold, he cometh! Wonder, O heavens and earth, that he should come to the like of me! And wonder that he should come back again, after I have heaped up mountains and hills of provocation in his way. “Is this the manner of man, O Lord? And what can David say more?” What can I say, but sit down and wonder
3. It expresses joy with faith: Behold, he cometh! The eye of faith first sees him coming, and then the tongue of joy sings, Behold, he cometh! “Faith cometh by hearing.” What? even the voice of Christ, the joyful sound of the gospel. Christ rides in that chariot; and the believer, by faith, hearing the noise of his chariot-wheels; yea, the sweet voice of him that rides in the chariot, who has grace poured into his lips, then he cries out, “The voice of my Beloved! behold, he cometh!”
4. It expresses joy with love. And, indeed, as faith is the head, so love is the heart of the new creature: and the joy here is a loving joy; for it is in the view of Christ as her Beloved, “The voice of my Beloved! behold, he cometh!” He is the Beloved of the Father, who says, “This is my beloved son;” and the true believer is of the Father’s mind, saying, “This is my Beloved, this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.” And what but joyful love, makes her here speak, with her heart at her mouth, “The voice of my Beloved!”
5. It expresses joy with praise and adoration (as well as wonder and admiration); “The voice of my Beloved! behold, he cometh!” O blessed be the Comer, as it is, “Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord,” (Ps. 118:26). It is a behold of adoration, as well as admiration; and, indeed, they both go together, an admiring heart is an adoring heart: as the presence of Christ makes a heaven in the heart; so it stirs up the heart instantly to the work of heaven, which is to sing his praise, and to glorify his name, saying, O glory, glory, glory to him for coming to the like of me, that was afraid he would never give me a visit. O! let all the world praise him with me, “Behold he cometh!”
6. It expresses joy with humility; Behold, he cometh! and cometh even to me: “What am I, and what is my father’s house?” Behold, he cometh to me! I had no power to come to him, no heart to come, and I would have remained forever at a distance from him, if he had not graciously condescended to come unto me: I could do nothing but depart from him by an evil heart of unbelief: but he comes; “His own arm bringeth salvation:” and he comes with all the salvation I need. Self is sunk to nothing at the appearance of this glorious he; “Behold, he cometh!”
7. It expresses joy with contempt of the world: “Behold, he cometh!” and his appearing darkens all the glory of the world, and makes it disappear, as the stars at the rising of the sun. “I count all but loss and dung, for the excellency of the knowledge of him.” O how little does the believer think of the world, when Christ comes! (panta zemian tanta skunala) all is dung and dog’s meat, as the apostle phrases it, (Phil. 3:8); earthly crowns, kingdoms, thrones, and scepters are but little despicable toys. Here, here, is an object worth the beholding; let mine eyes be forever turned away from beholding vanities: “Behold, he cometh I”
8. It expresses joy with desire that others may see and behold him: “Behold, he cometh!” O that all the world would come and see what I see, come and enjoy what I enjoy. They that see the glory of Christ, though they slight a world of vanities, yet they pity a world of perishing sinners, and would gladly be instrumental in bringing others to Christ; “Come SEE a MAN, that told me all things that ever I did; Is not this the Christ?” said the woman of Samaria. Thus David, “Restore to me the joy of thy salvation: then will I teach transgressors thy way, and sinners shall be converted unto thee.”
In a word, this “Behold, he cometh!” expresses joy with all the qualities of heavenly and spiritual joy. It expresses unspeakable joy, as appears by her broken speech, “The voice of my Beloved! It expresses glorious joy; for it flows, from a view of his glory, “Behold, he cometh!” It expresses holy joy; for she rejoices to see him come skipping and leaping upon the mountains and hills of sin and guilt and leveling all the high towers of strong corruption in his way. O how glad to see him coming down, and making the mountains to melt before him! So, it is a holy joy: the very opposite of all carnal and sensual joys. It expresses a quickening and strengthening joy; for now her heart is open, her lips are open, whatever indisposition for duty took place before; now the joy of the Lord is her strength. Again, it expresses a solid and well-grounded joy; it is no fancy, no delusion, nor enthusiasm; no: the word and Spirit both concur to this joy. “The voice of my Beloved!” there is the word: “Behold, he cometh!” there is the Spirit. Words cannot give the believer joy without the Spirit; and the Spirit will not without the word; the joy of the Holy Ghost is still grounded upon, or agreeable to the word. Finally, it expresses a welcoming joy; “Behold, he cometh! Lo, I come!” says Christ; “Behold, he cometh,” says the church: “Even so, come Lord Jesus, come quickly:” come and welcome with a thousand good wills. O may he be a welcome guest here!
VI. The sixth thing proposed was, To show whence is this combination and conjunction of joys: Or, why is it, that like a resounding echo, his “Lo, I come!” is answered with a “Behold, he cometh! Whence is this? Why,
1. It proceeds from the mutual RELATION between him and his people, between him and his church: he is the Bridegroom, and she is the bride; he is the Husband, and she is the spouse. He has commanded other husbands to leave father and mother, and to cleave to his wife; and he has done something like that himself: he that said, “Thy Maker is thy Husband,” left his Father’s bosom for the sake of his bride, saying, “Lo, I come!” and the conjugal tie being mutual, the believer having the Spirit of his glorious Husband, whenever he hears the voice of an approaching Jesus, is obliged to say, “The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh!”
2. It proceeds from the mutual sympathy between him and them; hence, what affects him, does affect them; what touches them, touches him; “He that touches you, touches the apple of mine eye,” says Christ: they stand kindly affected also to him. This mutual sympathy and love, flows from the union between Christ and them. He is the Head and they are the members of his body; and both Head and members being animated by one and the same Spirit, his joy must be their joy. When they come to have his glorious presence in heaven, they are said to enter into the joy of their Lord: and when they have his gracious presence on earth signified to them with a joyful Lo, I come! they have some begun entrance into his joy; that makes them say with joy, Behold, he cometh!
3. His gracious coming is joyful both to him and them, because of the mutual oneness of nature between him and them. As he is a partaker of their human nature; so they are partakers of his divine nature, (2 Pet. 1:4). Hence, as he knows their frame and what sort of a voice is most suited to their capacity, and accordingly speaks to them by the whispering of his Spirit in the word; so they know his voice from the voice of a stranger, (John 10:5). They know the sound of his feet upon the mountains.
4. His gracious coming is joyful both to him and them, because of the mutual agreement in design between him and them. His ultimate end and design is the glory of God in their salvation; their ultimate end is the same, even that God may be glorified in their salvation. Now, when he comes to pursue this design so joyfully, they cannot but welcome him joyfully: “Sing, O heavens; and shout ye lower parts of the earth; break forth into singing, ye mountains; for the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel,” (Isa. 44:25).
5. His gracious coming is joyful both to him and them, because of the mutual intercourse between him and them at meeting: he hath always some good news to bring them from the Father, which he is glad to tell them, and they are glad to hear; and they, on the other hand, have something to tell him which they cannot tell the world. And as they are glad of his coming to have an opportunity to tell him their mind; so he is glad to hear them; “O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me hear thy voice, and thy countenance; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely,” (Song 2:14). He has something to do with them, and they have something ado with him; and therefore, when he joyfully draws near to them, they joyfully draw near to him; and visit each other with endearing embraces. Truly, indeed, his visits are always visits of kindness and theirs are ordinarily of business; his business is to give, and their business is to get; but then the visits are most sweet, when they are visits of love on both sides.
6. His gracious coming is joyful both to him and them, because of the mutual interest and concern they have both in the covenant of promise, which is a fountain of joy, and belongs primarily to Christ, in whom the covenant stands fast, and in whom all the promises are, Yea and amen; and secondarily to believers in him, who are all the children of the promise. It is promised to Christ, that “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied,” (Isa. 53:11). And it is promised to the believer, clothed with the character of a meek person, that, “He shall eat, and shall be satisfied,” (Ps. 22:26). Now, when Christ comes graciously to his people, both he and they must be satisfied; for he comes to accomplish the promise made to himself and to them. Hence mutual satisfaction cannot but take place.
In a word, his joy is the fountain of theirs; their joy arises from the powerful influence of his joyful approach, upon their joyful reception of him; his joyful “Lo, I come!” does instantly create their joyful, “Lo, he cometh!” he having put an echoing principle within them. The joyful sound of his, “Lo, I come!” cannot but meet with a joyful resounding and rebounding of their “Lo, he cometh!”
VII. The seventh thing proposed, was, To make some application of the subject, by deducing some inferences.
1. Is it so as it has been said, That Christ’s coming to his people graciously, in their time of need, is a joyful and delectable coming, both to him and them? Then we may see, what it is would make a sweet communion-day among us, amidst these sad and lowring days wherein we live. We live in sinful and sorrowful days; but Christ’s joyful approach, with a “Lo, I come!” would make a joyful day among us at this occasion; and, O that he would speak powerfully, that many here may be made to say, “The voice of my Beloved I behold he cometh!” He can make the gospel trumpet to convey his voice. Indeed, if the devil, and his instruments, could get their will, you would not enjoy a gospel ministry; and if our rowers, that have brought the Church of Scotland into deep waters, had got their will, this and some others would have been vacant congregations: there would have been no communion solemnities here: when men would have shut the gospel-door, O may God himself come and open the door, and open the mouths of ministers, and make his voice to be heard; his joyful, “Lo, I come!” I come to give you a little reviving in your bondage; when men are most unkind, I come to show my kindness; as it is said, “The wall shall be built in perilous times,” (Dan. 9:25). The times we live in are perilous times, in respect of sin, error, apostasy, and defection from Reformation purity and principles: a time wherein the rights and principles of poor people are injured, the office of the ministry retrenched, faithful ministers ejected, and the power of Presbytery invaded; a time of confusion in church and state, at home and abroad; (The justness of the charge here exhibited, and a short account of the facts here alluded to, may be attained, by consulting what has been formerly narrated in the notes referred to above.), a time wherein God’s wrath is threatened to be poured out: these are indeed perilous times; but hath the Lord said, “The wall shall be built up in perilous times?” O may this perilous time be a building time; according to the word. “When the Lord shall build up Zion, he will appear in his glory.” Let us seek a glorious appearance of the Lord at this occasion: and what do we know but he is saying, even with reference to this very time, “Lo, I come!” O may we hear his voice, and say with joy, “Behold he cometh!”
2. Hence see the sweetness of fellowship with God in Christ; why, it is a partaking of his joy and happiness, his glory and triumph: it is a meeting his joyful, “Lo, I come!” with our joyful, “Behold, he cometh!” Happy are the sheep of Christ, who know his voice! And, Oh! how miserable are you who hear, and yet do not know the joyful sound! What makes the word and ordinances sweet to the believer? Why, it is their hearing his voice therein; his joyful voice that gives them a joyful heart. But, what makes these same ordinances such a burden and weariness to you, poor graceless man? Why, you have never heard the voice of Christ his loving voice, his majestic voice, his powerful voice, that goes out-through and in-through the heart, and penetrates and ransacks the secret recesses of the soul. What makes believers lament the absence of Christ? Why, then their joy is removed; they are always either rejoicing in his presence, or lamenting his absence, except when they fall into a nap of security, till his joyful voice awake them again. But, alas! what makes you, poor Christless sinners, live an unconcerned life, though Christ should be never so long away? Why, you are not acquainted with his coming and going nor with the sweetness of communion with him. But, O poor soul, may it not stir you up to seek after acquaintance with him; to hear that the believer’s joyful communion, is no less than a partaking of the joy of his Lord. Christ’s joy is their joy, though not of the same measure: for Christ is anointed with the oil of joy and gladness above his fellows; yet it is of the same quality; for they have fellowship with him in his joy, whenever he comes to them.
3. Hence see the difference between the Law and the Gospel; or between the voice of God in the law, and the voice of God in the gospel: his voice in the law is a terrible and dreadful voice; for therein he comes in wrath, with threatenings and curses in his mouth: but the voice of Christ in the gospel is a charming voice, a joyful sound of salvation to sinners, and a door of hope. Whatever word tends to work despair, and to leave a man hopeless, is the voice of the law; but the gospel shows the door of hope in the valley of Achor, and that with a pleasant sound of grace, mercy, pardon, and pity: “Lo, I come!” Hence, as the law is never preached to good purpose, except in a subserviency to the gospel; so gospel-believers are these who first have believed the law, or heard God’s voice in the law, which hath made them despair of all help in themselves, and their own righteousness and duty: and next, they have believed the gospel, or heard Christ’s voice therein, which has brought them to a lively hope, yea to joy and peace in believing.
4. Hence see both the nature of faith and of unbelief. On the one hand, we may, from this doctrine, see the nature of faith, in its correspondence with its objects; both its immediate object, the word; and its principal object, Christ, the speaker, whose voice sounds in our ears by this gospel. The word says, “Behold he cometh!” and faith says, “Behold, he cometh!” Christ says, “Behold! Lo, I come!” and faith says, “the voice of my Beloved! behold, he cometh!” The gospel is nothing else but a proclamation of Christ’s coming; his coming to give life, his coming to save sinners by the price of his blood and the power of his Spirit; and faith is a setting the seal to a present lo, with a present behold. The first act of faith looks neither backward to what is anterior or past, such as the decree of God, or the design of Christ, his intention in dying; nor does it look forward to posterior things, as if it believed a state of salvation that is to come; but it looks to a present truth, a present saying, as the gospel is called, a faithful saying, and so a present lo: “Lo, I come!” and offer myself to you, man, to you, woman; “Lo, I come!” and bring salvation with me. Faith, under the influence of the Spirit, says, “The voice of my Beloved! behold, he cometh!” I hear the voice of God speaking to me through such a minister, and inviting me, the chief of sinners. And I joyfully welcome a coming with salvation unto me: there is a persuasion and appropriation in it to the man’s self; and according to the measure of this particular application to itself, such is the measure of joy. There would be no joy at all, if the soul should put away the message from himself; but receiving it to himself, he rejoices in the voice of Christ as his Beloved. But next, it shows us also the nature of unbelief, on the other hand; the evil heart of unbelief contradicts the word of Christ. Christ says, “Lo, I come!” Unbelief says, O he will not come: no, no; he will never come to the like of me. Indeed a believer may say, and hath good reason to say, I fear my sins provoke him to stay away, and it will be a wonder if he come to the like of me. But it is a gross unbelief to say, He will not come, I do not expect so much good at his hand: and hence unbelief is said to make God a liar: it contradicts and blasphemes. O to get faith this day, to welcome Jesus saying, Lo, I come! and to expect good at his hand.
I might next apply it for trial and examination. What know you of this joyful coming of the Son of God? It is this coming of the Lord Jesus that only can make your coming to a communion table profitable and warrantable: if you know nothing of his joyful approach graciously to you, you cannot approach with his allowance to his table; for, if he never came to you by his Spirit, you never came to him by faith: and so you are an unbeliever: and if you remain in this case, you never had a right to his table here, nor shall have a share of his table above.
QUESTION: How shall I know, if ever he came thus to me? For helping you in this important inquiry I would ask you these few things following.
1. Have you ever apprehended the distance between Christ and you? Was you ever made sensible of the dreadful distance between him and you: a dismal distance; a damnable distance; an invincible and insuperable distance? Have you seen an utter impossibility of saving yourself from it, unless the Lord had come to you? This is the Lord’s ordinary way: when he brings to light, he makes sensible of darkness; when he brings to life, he makes sensible of deadness and lifelessness; when he brings to faith, he makes sensible of unbelief; when he brings to love, he makes sensible of enmity; when he brings to holiness, he makes sensible of wickedness; and when he brings to acquaintance, he makes sensible of estrangement; and before he comes near, he makes sensible of distance.
2. Have you heard his voice saying, “Lo, I come!” Have you heard, not the voice of ministers only, but the voice of the chief Shepherd; and know it to be his voice, by the majesty of it, by the power that attended it, by the sweetness that was in it? Has the gospel come to you not in word only, but in power? (1 Thess. 1:5). Was, there such light, life, liberty, and joy accompanying the voice, as made you sure, at the time, that it was not the voice of man, but of God, who spake like himself?
3. Have you seen him coming, and apprehended him by the light of the Spirit, revealing the Son in you? Have you seen the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ? Have you seen his fulness, suitableness, and sweetness; his glory., worth, and excellency; by a light shining not into the head only, but the heart? It is a spiritual light; flesh and blood cannot reveal it; education, and external revelation, however subservient it may be, yet cannot contribute unto it, without supernatural revelation.
4. Have you joyfully welcomed a coming Jesus, saying, in effect “The voice of my Beloved! behold he cometh?” Have you apprehended the mountains that were in the way between him and you, particularly the mountains of sin and guilt? Has this accented your joy, that he came over all the mountains, and melted down the mountains, and made your heart to melt down before him also, because of your heaping up such mountains between him and you?
5. What intercourse have you had with him? what mutual embracement? Did you get him in your arms, and wrestle with him for the blessing? Did you get grace to call him your Beloved, and to lie in his bosom, and melt in tears of joy? I know there may be intercourse and fellowship with him, even where this is not the attainment; but something like this ordinarily takes place, when he and his people meet together, after some black intervening clouds have kept them long asunder; when his joyful Lo meets with that joyful salutation, “Behold, he cometh! it is the voice of my Beloved!”
6. What are the fruits and effects of his coming? Beholding his glory, was you changed? Surely, if there was never a change wrought upon you, but that you remain as vain, frothy, and carnal in your conversation and deportment as ever, he has not come to you. But has his coming embittered sin, and made you differ with yourself, and submit to his righteousness for your justification, and to his holiness for your sanctification? His great errand is, like his name, JESUS, to save his people from their sins; from the guilt of sin, by his merit and righteousness; and from the power of sin, by his Spirit and grace. What joy has his coming raised in you? Surely, the joy of his salvation; as it is a sin-killing joy, so it is a soul-strengthening joy: “The joy of the Lord is their strength,” (Neh. 8:10). Did this joy strengthen you to believe, and strengthen you to pray, and strengthen you to hope, and strengthen you to wait upon him, and strengthen you to serve him, and to run the way of his commandments with enlargement of heart?
QUESTION: Are there any signs of his coming? What are the prognosticates of his coming?
ANSWER: (1.) It would be a token of his coming, if we were sensible of, and afflicted for his absence, saying, “O that I knew where I might find him!” a longing desire after him, saying, “O when wilt thou come?” He will satisfy the longing desire.
(2.) Another sign of his coming is, if we were seeking after him, and wrestling with him for the blessing; he is near to them that call upon him, and those who seek him shall find him.
(3.) If we were waiting for him in his appointed way, for they who wait upon him shall have to say, “This is our God,” (Isa. 25:9).
(4.) If we were finding ourselves to have a name to which the promise opens a door of hope. Is there any hope of his coming for a poor insolvent bankrupt, who fears that the word of the Lord is against him? Why, that man is in the promise: “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit,” (Isa. 66:2). Is there any hope of his coming to a poor, needy creature, who can find no relief to its soul? Yes, that case is in the promise: “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, I the Lord will hear, I the God of Jacob will regard.”
We shall now shut up the whole discourse with a word by way of exhortation. Is Christ saying, “Lo, I come?” O sirs, hear and believe, so as you may cry out joyfully, “The voice of my Beloved! I behold, he cometh!” For motives,
1. Consider who it is that speaketh: it is God in our nature, “Immanuel, God with us.” The word of salvation is to you, sinners, as well as to you, saints; his voice is, “Lo, I come,” to save sinners; “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance;” yea, “To you, O men, do I call; and my voice is to the sons of men,” (Prov. 8:4).
2. He says it with a Lo! that all the world may give attention to it: “Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken ye people from afar,” (Isa. 69:1). He is speaking to the isles, particularly to the isle Britain, that has long refused to hear his voice. The gospel is to be preached to every creature.
3. The reason why he is saying to you in this gospel, “Lo, I come” to save sinners, is, that sinners may welcome him and say, “The voice of my Beloved I behold, he cometh!” Even the first welcome of faith may be in these terms, and should be so; for his manifesting himself thus in the word is the ground of faith, though his manifesting himself by the Spirit is the cause of faith, absolutely necessary to create that faith. But as “faith comes by hearing;” so hear, O sinners, hear this word as the voice of the Spirit of Christ: “Hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Listen to the word, till you hear and understand that it is the Spirit of Christ; or, Christ, by his Spirit, speaking to you, and saying, “Lo, I come” to you.
OBJECTION: “Christ speaks not here to me, but to his “Father, saying, Lo, I come! I delight to do thy will, O my God.”
ANSWER: It is the better for you and me, and the surer ground of faith and hope; for, it is a word to his Father concerning us, and about his coming to save us. It were sure enough, if it were spoken immediately to us; but it is still the surer, that it is said to the Father concerning us; and he will not retract what he hath said to his Father. Therefore,
4. Consider, that his coming in the Spirit, to accomplish salvation by power, is as surely to take place, as his coming in the flesh has already taken place; therefore, when he says, “Lo, I come” to save by the power of my Spirit, let faith say, “Behold he cometh” to save me.
OBJECTION: “But has he purposed to save us all? If not, how can there be ground for us all to believe?”
ANSWER: Whom he has purposed to save, is a secret; but whom he calls to believe, and look to him for salvation, is no secret: “Look unto me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth,” (Isa. 45:22). And faith, as I said before, is not to look to any secret, either past or to come, but to the word of salvation, to a present Lo; “Lo, I come!” And if you venture on his word, without more questions, we can assure you, from his word, you are safe; take him at his word, when he says, “Lo, I come!”
5. Consider, that mountains are no hindrances; he comes skipping on the mountains, and leaping on the hills. There is a mountain of darkness in your mind; a mountain of obstinacy in your wills; a mountain of carnality and earthliness in your affections; mountains of guilt lying on your consciences; and mountains of objections, doubts, and fears, in your hearts; but all these are nothing to him. Therefore, O take his word for it, “Lo, I come!” and say, “Behold, he cometh; skipping on the mountains.” He can come over them all with one leap, with one skip.
6. Consider, that it is his joyful voice, both in the Old and New Testament, “Lo, I come!” He was glad to come in the flesh of old, and he is as glad to come in the Spirit now, according to his promise; and, O sirs, will you not gladly welcome him? O! is he saying so gladly, “Lo, I come?” What are you saying, poor soul? If you cannot say, “The voice of my Beloved!” then, O will you say, It is the voice of the Father’s Beloved, who has said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased?” And if you welcome him, as the Father’s Beloved, you are quite safe. If you cannot say, “Behold, he cometh!” just now, yet will you say, “He that shall come will come;” and wait upon him in his own way? He waits to be gracious; and he is a God of judgment; “Blessed are all they that wait for him.” Again, if you cannot say, “Behold, he cometh!” to my observation, yet will you say, “Even so, come Lord Jesus, come quickly?” And thus pray for his coming graciously and mercifully; “Come, Lord Jesus:” come to merciful judgment against all my lusts, and prepare me for thy general judgment. Come in the spirit. Come in power and great glory at this occasion. O he comes skipping and leaping! Let your hearts leap within you at the thoughts of it.
OBJECTION: “But I do not feel, I do not see his coming.”
ANSWER: “Blessed are they that believe, and have not seen.” I you do not see and feel, yet do you not hear him say, “Lo, I come?” Faith comes by hearing, and not by seeing; while you hear his word, you hear his feet upon the mountains; therefore, against hope believe in hope, saying, “Lord, I believe; help mine unbelief:” “It is the voice of my Beloved! behold, he cometh!”
Well, sirs, what think you, will he not come to the feast? Have we no reason to think that he will come? Yea, I think we have. Why, it is a time of need among his poor people; and his throne of grace is erected for a time of need: therefore we are called to come boldly to it, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. It is a time of trouble and distress, and he is a present help in time of trouble, and a refuge for the oppressed. It is a time wherein many of his people are in a wilderness of darkness and despondency, and he has said, “I will bring her to the wilderness, and there will I speak comfortably to her; or, “into her heart.” It is a time wherein many of his people, from all corners, and I hope, many praying people, are met about his hand; and he has said, “Where two or three are met together in my name, there will I be in the midst of them.” It is a time wherein some of his servants, and many of his people, are like outcasts in the church, despised and cast out by the judicatories; and he hath spoken in his word of gathering the outcasts of Israel, (Zeph. 3:18; Isa. 56:8; Ps. 147:2). “The Lord doth build up Jerusalem; he gathereth together the outcasts of Israel.” Why then, shall we not expect his coming, when, at the same time, he is saying, “Lo, I come?” May faith’s joyful echo in our hearts say, “The voice of my Beloved! behold, he cometh!”