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pleasure of congratulating such a one upon admission into fellowship; but still I wish it to go on. I could enter into Rachel's unreasonable request, "Give me children, or else I die." I could not go on with my ministry, unless the Lord gives me testimonies that His regenerating work is going on. Ten thousand thanks to His name! He does not allow me to go long without instances of it. I call on you to glorify Him, that His conquering grace is bringing sinners to His feet week after week. This is Zion's prosperity.
Now just mark, and keep up the idea of the citizens. They are all born free. You will recollect that interesting little dialogue between Paul and the chief captain, who exercised so much authority over him. When the dispute arose about his being a Roman, and the chief captain exclaimed, with great importance, “With a great sum obtained I this freedom,” Paul, calmly but most manly, replies, “But I was free born." The very birth that brought me into the world made me free of the city of Rome; and the very birth I had from God makes me free of the celestial city. The birth of the Holy Ghost that gives me life Divine, entitles me to all the privileges of the Church of God, of the covenant of grace, and of the heavenly Jerusalem. Free born! Oh, what a grievous thing it is to my mind that so many of God's dear children should be so long in the devil's drudgery. But so it is. They are not free born to Christ's kingdom till they are born again; and therefore I pause to ask this question among my hearers, which I hope God will enable them to decide for themselves. Have you received a second birth? Is life Divine communicated to your souls ? Are ye partakers of the Divine nature? If not, don't call yourselves citizens. All citizens are free born, and, consequently, there is no condemnation to them-nay, more, having passed from death to life, they cannot come into condemnation-nay, more, being justified freely by grace, there is no condemnation by the law of Moses--nay, more, they may give the challenge of the apostle, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?” I want my bearers to understand their freedom, and as citizens, to take it up. Let it be made use of, that their souls may enter into the privileges of the gospel of Christ, and not appear in the outskirts and suburbs of the city, as if they had no right within.
Mark yet further. I said the prosperity of the city lies not merely in the increase of the population, the growing number of births, but in its commerce also. "The city looks very dull,” the merchants sometimes say in the city. What about? Why, commerce does not seem to go on; the export and import business seems to be flagging; the vessels are lying in the harbour, or in the dock, or in the channel, as if they were useless. No exports, no imports. Then there is no prosperity. I think the city merchants tell us the prosperity of the city lies chiefly in the freights they send out, and the freights they import
, and the quickness of the return. They call that prosperity. So it is with you and me. I advise you to freight the vessel very often, and send it in prayer and supplication, with all your wants, and woes, and temptations, and corruptions, and difficulties. Send your vessel often freighted, as full as possible, to the celestial world. Send it forth with earnest prayer, and expect the return it brings, covenant blessings, promises fulfilled, mercies bestowed, strength imparted, victory over enemies accomplished by the might of Jehovah's arm, and sweet assurances that further communications are intended. Then you, like
merchants seeking goodly pearls, shall not be disappointed, but find them, and get wealth for eternity.
Moreover, in the prosperity of a city we must include the healthiness of its air. What would it avail for a city, however populous, and however extensive its merchandize, though it were like that of Tyre, if the air wafted plagues into every habitation, if the inhabitants could not inhale a pure atmosphere; all their commerce useless; no one to enjoy it; sickness and death raging in all directions; and, if not death itself, an appalling sickly depression, a poor, meagre, consumptive sort of thing, to pass for Christianity. Alas! alas! that so many congregations, that pass for cities, should exhibit to us no better specimen of their prosperity than this; they want the pure air, the air of spirituality, genuine spirituality—the heavenly breeze from the ancient mountains and the everlasting hills—the breath of the Holy Ghost breathing upon the slain that they may live, and keep the living in health-the mighty rushing wind, to fill our city, as it did in the assembly of the apostles. In fact there must be three prominent ingredients, if I may so speak, in the health of our Zion. It must be paternal love, Divine substitution, and invincible grace; and the inhabitants of the city will never be in health long, unless all these are there present. But when Divine, sovereign, eternal, paternal, electing love, is received and enjoyed--when Divine substitution in the person and work of Christ becomes the sole ground of dependence, and when the unctuous anointing of the Holy Ghost possesses the souls of the Lord's people, and brings all the graces He has implanted into lively exercise, there health in that city, there is health in that Church, there is health in that assembly, so that it may be called a prosperous city; for there are births constantly occurring, there is commerce going on rapidly, and vigorously, and profitably; and there is a wholesome air inhaled from heaven itself; and every citizen accustomed to the elevated, pure, lofty mountains, will find their position there, in all high places, inhaling the
very air of heaven, in habitual communion with God. That is a healthy city, if I understand it.
III.—Now let us glance at the comfort. I said a little about this in the classification ; but here it is said, “ The Lord shall yet comfort Zion.” I would have my brethren in the ministry—I would have the deacons, and the prominent persons in their Churches, reflect upon this "yet.” There are some instances, which I know of, in which faith is put to the test, in which frequently appearances are against them, in which there is frequently a pining after some fulfilment of God's promise to give them energy and courage. There are some instances in which the health of the city is affected by the mischievous introduction of heresies, which go far to poison the air. But I would have the believers and ministers of God take courage from these “yets” in my text. “The Lord shall yet choose Jerusalem.' “ The Lord shall yet comfort Zion.” Look at the expression. How does God comfort Zion? In addition to the things † have named, allow me to mention two more. Her tranquillity is preserved in spite of all that sin and Satan can do; and her honourable associations are kept up and maintained. That will be comfort for Zion. Her tranquillity to be preserved, in the first place. We are quite aware that Satan is hostile to it--we are quite aware that he leaves no stone unturned to disturb it, and that the more God favours any part of His vineyard with pros
perity, the more jealous will the devil be, and the more agents will he employ to disturb and interrupt that tranquillity, to interfere with peace and order; and he has plenty of agents under religious garbs, for any dirty work he chooses to set them about. But God says, “ i will comfort them by preserving their tranquillity. I will make the citizens care for each other's comfort. I will frustrate all the devices of the traitors that may rise within. I will ward off the attacks of all foes from without.” Jehovah says, “ I will watch over you day and night, so that none shall come to hurt you.” So that even when we are subject to difficulties and trials, and have foes to contend with, and when there arise many among ourselves speaking perverse things, as in the days of old, still we will have recourse to the “yet." God ** shall yet comfort Zion.” God shall yet prove Satan to be ineffectual in the accomplishment of his malicious designs. God shall yet bruise Satan under our feet. God shall yet make His dear saints to triumph in the persevering hand of Israel's covenant God.
Sure I am if any Church on earth ought to have recourse to this “yet," in this particular point, we ought above all others ; for during the twenty-nine years that have run out, I think it would be difficult to find any Christian Church that has been subjected to so much persecution, so much reproach, so much maligning, insolent falsehood, so much bitterness of the carnal mind, as the Church assembling here; and yet, amidst it all, we take our God to record this day, and we exult in it as a mercy peculiar from Him, that we are kept in tranquillity, our doctrines undiluted, undisturbed, and unmixed; and our discipline held fast, and never moved or shaken for the whole twenty-nine years; and, consequently, while our doctrine is uncorrupt and our discipline in strict accordance with the New Testament, is preserved unsullied, brotherly love shed abroad in our hearts, affectonate feelings preserved, and abounding more and more, who shall disturb our tranquillity? While the Lord keeps His Church of one heart and one soul, abiding purely in the doctrines of grace, and adhering to His doctrine and discipline, cherishing brotherly love, sure I am, we shall have no lack of comfort. The Lord “shall yet comfort Zion.” Now I entreat, if any of my dear brethren in the ministry are not sharing quite so largely in this description of comfort as we are, they will fasten by faith upon the word "yet;" that they will go on, proclaim His truth, assert His honour, fear none of the things they shall attempt to do against you, only abide close by the Ark, tell all God's truth, cleave to Him with purpose of heart, and when He has tried your faith, and put your grace to the test, and proved that no hand could keep but His hand, forth He comes with a high hand and an outstretched arm. “ The Lord shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem.”
There is another feature of comfort which I must not overlook, and that is, honourable association. I do not mean with the honourables and right honourables of the world, but God forbid I should despise them, for I love their good company as well as others, if they love my Master. Honour to whom honour is due, tribute to whom tribute. God forbid we should for one moment say a word to disparage honourable distinctions among mortals, in the order of God's providence; but that is not the honourableness I mean. There is a certain class of persons spoken of in the Scriptures that were more honourable than others. It was those disciples that dwelt in the little city of Berea, who were more honourable than those of Thessalonica. And this is the point suggested to my mind; it was because they searched the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Then the blessed association I want is with Bible Christians, those who search the Scriptures daily. I want to be associated with those who are most closely associated with my Lord and Master; I want to be associated with those who go most frequently to court; I want to be associated with those who are most intimate with the King of kings; I want to be associated with those on the earth who bear the image of my precious Lord. That I call honourable association. Now, the reverse. Allow me to remark that associations of an unnecessary kind with the world are dishonourable, disreputable, generally fraught with mischief, and very dangerous. What part hath he that believeth with the Infidel? What concord hath Christ with Belial? What communion hath light with darkness? They are not honourable associations. Honourable associations are those which pick out the family. I do not want the association to be so specially and critically drawn as to associate only with those who think exactly as I do on any particular point. If so, Í should have very narrow associations. I only look whether they bear the image of the King, whether they have spiritual life, whether they are accustomed to go to court. I only look if they are familiar with the Most High, in habitual communion with Him, and then I can honourably associate with them.
But higher than this. The honourable associations urged upon the citizens of Zion amount to nothing less than a growing intimacy and advancing progress in our personal intercourse with all the persons of Deity. My soul desires—(oh, on this hallowed day I cannot but tell it forth)—my soul desires, above all things, to be living under the anointing influence of the Holy Ghost-my soul desires to be living in close fellowship with Jesus as my covenant Head, Advocate, and Mediator on high-—to approach the very bosom of God the Father in the spirit of adoption, not doubting my relationship to Him. Then I want the sacred intercourse going on by special tokens from above ; the Father, to shed His love abroad in my heart copiously ; the Son, to bedew my conscience with His blood in all its efficacy ; the Holy Ghost, to take the things that are Christ's, and bring them unto my personal enjoyment with increased sweetness perpetually. Oh! to live thus like a citizen, a happy citizen, a dignified citizen, an honourable citizen; to take care that our garments are never spotted ; to take care that the wares of Vanity Fair have no charms for us; to take care that the King's glory, the Lord's honour, the interests of Zion, spiritual progress and advancement, are the prominent business of our life. This is comfort. “ The Lord shall yet comfort Zion."
IV.-A few words under the other head of discourse. Trace all up to its first cause.
The Lord “shall yet choose Jerusalem.” We cannot understand that the Lord has to make another choice. I understand the meaning to be, the Lord shall yet make it evident to man, yet prove, yet demonstrate, that Jerusalem, the living Church, is the object of His eternal electing love. All is to be traced there. And I must remind you that this electing love is personal. It is not of a mass indiscriminately. It is not of a nation or class. It is personal. It is, “ Jacob have I loved, Esau have I hated.” It is an individual choice, traced up to the sovereign will, pleasure, and love of God the Father; and however carnal minds may cavil against it, beloved, let me tell you no other first cause can be found for any of the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If they flow not from electing love, where do you find them spring ? where do you find their source? where do you find their first cause ? Certainly not in the fallen angels ; certainly not in Beelzebub, who led them astray; certainly not in the first Adam, who was driven from Paradise under the curse; certainly not in creature doings, for they are altogether evil; certainly not in repenting and believing, for they cannot be the causes: they are the effects of Jehovah's sovereign love. They are not the causes, not the conditions ; they are the effects produced by the mighty operations of invincible grace, pursuant to the eternal covenant love of God the Father.
One word more, and I draw to a close. The manifestation of electing love in the character, conduct, and deportment of the objects of His choice. The Lord shall “yet choose Jerusalem," and shall make it as manifest as He did of Saul of Tarsus, when Ananias scrupled the matter so vehemently, and was very much afraid of him, and determined to have nothing to do with him, God said, “Go thou with my commission from above; he is chosen vessel unto me. That was quite enough; and God having assured Ananias that Saul was chosen to Him, was an assurance that all the rest should go on. If he is chosen, he is called; if he is called, he will be justified; if he is justified, he will be sanctified; if he is sanctified, he will be glorified. That was Paul's chain. I rejoice in it. It is a golden chain, a glorious chain, a chain which secures the everlasting salvation of all the Church of the living God. But we want it made manifest; we want it witnessed;
we want it evidenced. And when the soul has given diligence to make his calling and election sure, the next step and all the future steps of his life shall be such as shall demonstrate before the world and to all who seek the like knowledge of him, they are the people whom the Lord hath blessed. I want them to stand aloof from the vanities and wickedness of the world, with Nehemiah's holy protest, "So did not I, because of the fear of God.” I want the believers in Jesus to be more scrupulous than I have yet found any about their carnal associations. I want them to bear in mind that, as they are citizens of no mean city, and are shortly to receive admission, and to occupy, one of the mansions that the glorious King Himself has provided for them, that they should be waiting, expecting, looking, and longing for that consummation of their blessedness, and consequently pass through the wilderness as old John Bunyan's pilgrims passed through Vanity Fair, who, when they heard the cry, “ Buy my Wares,” stopped their ears, and only shouted the cry, “ We buy truth." And they would not sell it either. "Buy the truth, and sell it not." Now, if you are citizens, I pray you be tenacious about the honour of: Zion; if you are citizens, I pray you not only be anxious to get comfort and share in it, but see that all is traced to electing love, and that it is manifest by exhibiting in life the likeness of Christ.
I have not taken up your time with anything like the history of Grove Chapel, because you have that in print in a small tract, within the reach of every one; but I cannot help remarking that the bitterness of the carnal mind against “ those things which are most surely believed among us " is not at all abated, but vents itself in a still greater variety of ways, froving that Satan is as angry as ever at Zion's prosperity.