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is most of all aggravated. There can be no relationship so dear as that which exists between the election of grace and their covenant God, and consequently their departures from Him, their wanderings from Him, their dishonouring of Him, and, in instances not a few, their disregarding and even perverting His truth, must be visited with the rod. Yet, amid all the visitations Zion has experienced from her God in consequence of her departures, His heart has been set upon her eternal interests, and He never can change His mind concerning her. Consequently, after captivities, and sorrows, and privations, and threatenings of almost annihilation, Zechariah is sent with these sacred "yets,” which are so beautifully repeated in my text:
Cry yet, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts : My cities, through prosperity, shall yet be spread abroad, and the Lord shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem.'
You will plainly perceive that the language of my text divides itself into four parts, which I intend inviting your prayerful attention to as cursorily as I can. First of all, the claim which Jehovah lays to His Churches, " My cities." Secondly, their prosperity, which must come from Himself. Thirdly, their comfort,“ the Lord shall yet comfort them. And lastly, the grand first cause of all, electing love, the Lord "shall yet choose Jerusalem."
I think I hear some strangers remark, “I thought you would not get through the subject without election.” Why, I cannot find a text without it, and it is impossible to do justice to the text without it. It is the truth of God-it runs through all the sacred volume of inspiration; and surely we shall do ourselves a serious injustice if we trace such mercies as are found in the three first particulars, without tracing them up to their great first cause.
I.-First of all, let us give a little description of the cities that God claims, " My cities." There is something peculiarly interesting in this one view of the Churches of the living God—that God claims them. I believe there are great numbers of assemblies passing for Christians that God never laid claim to and never will. I believe there are many persons assuming that name that never knew anything of Him-that never were called His cities. It becomes us, therefore, a little to investigate the matter, especially for the sake of our own confidence and consolation.
“My cities." They are associated or organized bodies, not promiscuous multitudes, not rambling vagrants, not mere Gypsey tribes; but cities are associated-organized bodies. So are the Churches of the living God; and the best accounts we have of Christian Churches in the New Testament, and in the earliest histories of the Church of the living God, will confirm and carry out this point, that they are distinct cities—that all of them that are spiritual belong to God-that they are the real cities of truth that are walled with salvation. The cities in which Jehovah dwells are claimed as His own. Distinguished they may be from each other by a variety of names and by a variety of circumstances; but still God says to them all, “They are my cities. And I beseech you here just to mark, concerning them, that they are all chartered, all classified, all consecrated cities.
They are all chartered cities; and if you would know their charter, it is unchanging, covenant love. If you would know their charter, it is written, signed, sealed, and preserved by their covenant God. If you would know where their charter is, I tell you it is lodged in the archives of heaven-if you would know who holds it in security, I tell you the hand of Omnipotence—if you ask me to whom it is entrusted, I answer, to the covenant Head; for all is laid up and treasured in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. And what is the wording of the charter? “I will be their God, they shall be my people." But are there no “ifs " in the charter? Are there no conditions? Are there no contingencies? Are there no proposals whether these fallen, rebel, ruined sinners are to be invited, and invoked, and urged, and pressed to do something to meet God half way? That is not in His charter. However man may invent, yet I never could discover this in God's charter. God's charter runs in the language I have stated, " I will be their God, they shall be my people.” God's charter runs, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion ?" God's charter runs, “Salvation is of the Lord.” God's charter runs, " By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves--it is the gift of God.'
Moreover, God's cities or churches are classified. They are separate from one another, not only in their peculiar localities, and their peculiar features of discipline, but in minor points of order and regusation. They are classified differently even in these; for what is chiefly aimed at in classifying is, that the inhabitants of each city itself distinctly must be classified. Look into any city of the world well organized: are all the citizens to be lord mayors at once? Are they all to be aldermen? Are they all to be merchants? Are they all to be tradesmen? Are they all to be servants ? Are they all to be labourers? We want all these classes, for the sake of the comfort of the city. So we do in Zion. And if I may change the metaphor for a moment, God has set forth the classification of His Churches by the figure of the members of the body. All are not hands, all are not feet, all are not eyes, all are not ears, all are not mouths. These are set down as distinct, and yet are essential to the welfare and health of the body. So the different companies, ranks, names, and employments of the inhabitants of a city. We should look well to this as regards our position in any Church of the living God.
All are not Sundayschool teachers, all are not sick visitors, all are not sympathizing burden-bearers, all are not fit for deacons, all are not fit for pastors. They must be classified, and the great point for the welfare of the Church of the living God is for each class of these citizens to know his and her proper position, and keep it. If they put themselves out of place they will derange the order, peace, and comfort of the whole city. If you take a labourer, a strong and hearty labourer, doing either the work of a mechanic or a labourer in the city, and introduce him to the highest office and rank in the city, to give orders to all' around, you will find he has not the mind for it, that he has not been educated for it, and will put all into confusion. If you take the most refined class, and insist on their becoming scavengers to work in the streets, their strength will not meet it, and they would probably die under it. But put them in their proper places, and both are useful. So in the Church of Christ. Let each know his proper position. There must be a head, there must be rule and government, there must be order maintained, or it is not a city well organized. We, therefore, want citizens thus classified.
Moreover, they are all consecrated, from the highest to the lowest.
The whole city is consecrated ground, and I wish particularly to urge upon you, that whatever is not consecrated to God does not belong to His city. It may be an intruder, it may be a passer by, it may be a traveller, it may be a friend upon a visit; but certainly that individual does not belong to God's Church, nor will he be owned at the last, who is not consecrated to the glory of God. This consecration commences with regeneration, and goes on with advancement in life until the apostle's injunction is realized. “As ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness, and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness"having borne the image of the earthly, consecration brings us to bear the image of the heavenly-having lived without God and without hope in the world, consecration makes us embosomed in Deity-having conversation in heaven, living above the world, walking by faith and not by sight, and devoting our faculties, energy, time, and talents, to the exalting of Jesus's name, and the extension of the triumphs of His gospel.
Let us pass on, just to remark, that cities are generally noted for their liberties and privileges. We hear them talk about their freedom, about taking up their freedom, and the privileges belonging to that freedom. I shall not attempt to enter into any particulars here, by way of illustration, because I study brevity as much as possible; but I will just turn to the spiritual view of our liberties and privileges. And here I know well that not a few that I can believe to belong to the Lord's family are at issue with me, and they think me a very dangerous being because I am so continually insisting upon the liberties and privileges of the people of God. Why, beloved, it is because I want you to enjoy them as much as I do—it is because I want you to come into a participation of the sacred rights which are set open to our view, and to the possession of which we are entitled. How shall I begin? “If, therefore, the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed”—free from the curse of the law-free from the threatenings of justice-free from the vengeance of Omnipotence-free from the curse and condemnation which hangs upon the world—free from the slavery of Satan-free from his captivity, so that we can no longer serve him but by constraint; and whenever we are dragged into anything like his drudgery, our souls recoil, and we call for deliverance on the Lord Jesus—free from self-confidence-free from self-righteousness. Here is a liberty, a liberty to range the provision of the covenant of grace, and lay the hand of faith upon it—a liberty to enter into the presence of Jehovah daily without waiting to be sent for more than the invitation already given—a liberty to approach His throne with holy boldness, believing assurance, and high expectation, asking whatever we need under the sweet assurance it shall be given to us“ a liberty to go to school to the Holy Ghost, if I may so speak, and even if that liberty is not prized, He, the glorious Preceptor, will come to us, and bring us into the schoolroom, and make us wise unto salvation-a liberty to claim Jesus as our Substitute and elder Brother-a liberty to cail God Father-a liberty to lay hold upon His salvation, yea, even upon Himself, saying, as the prophet did, “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.” This belongs to the cities of our God.
Moreover, our privileges are most valuable and innumerable. The feasting, the robes, the jewels, the associations, the participations, the securities, the sacred interviews with the King of kings Himself with which the citizens are favoured. Under these privileges we live above the world, enjoying heaven on earth, appealing to the very throne, in the exercise of all the graces which constitute the new man, and consequently walking with God. Oh, beloved, while others talk of drudgery, do you talk of privileges ; while others talk of fear and apprehension of this, and that, and the other, let it be your part and mine to plead earnestly for grace to live and walk in close communion with God, as our high privilege, as our best inheritance, and so to walk worthy of our high vocation, and worthy of Him that called us to His kingdom and glory, that we may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men, who charge the doctrine of grace with everything vile and wicked. These are the privileges of a Christian.
Observe, once more, that these cities were all designed and founded by Jehovah, and He rules over them all. I confess this is one of the most comforting ideas of the subject presenting itself to my view, that the plan and order of the city is designed by Jehovah, of His own infinite wisdom and love. Is not something of this set forth in the opening of the chapter we have been reading, when the prophet is brought to view the measuring line, going forth to measure the city of Jerusalem, to know the length and the breadth thereof? Does it not hold out the idea that Jehovah was intimate with its full extent, had drawn the whole plan, had laid the entire design for all His Churches? Do you imagine that Paul planted the seven Churches in the little province of Lydia, in Asia, without a plan, or without the plan of God? Verily not. God's plan was suggested to Paul, and the very name of the place was suggested when the preaching of the gospel was to go forth, and the Church to be established. So, also, in every part of his travels, and in all the Churches planted down to the present day. I am satisfied that in His own eternal map this very Chapel in Camberwell Grove was appointed, designed, and marked out by Himself, where a Christian Church should be established and prosper, and all the powers of darkness could not alter it, though they have tried hard.
Moreover, He not only designs' but founds His Churches Himself. This is the message, “ That the Lord hath founded Zion, and the poor of His people shall trust in it.” Now I want my hearers to keep a close eye upon this matter of fact, that whatever is founded as a congregation or Christian Church, the hand of the Lord shall be seen in it
, that His power shall be manifest, that His power and wisdom shall be known in the matter. As for buildings, you have plenty of buiidings for worship of one kind or another in all directions all over the world. I don't find any fault with that, but I should like every man of God who occupies them to be well satisfied the Churches are of God's founding Whoever founds the building, whatever great name or personage may be there on the occasion, if God does not found the Church, sure I am there will be no spiritual prosperity; for thus saith the Lord God, “Behold I lay in Zion, for a foundation stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation. He that believeth shall not make haste.” And that believing is the adding of one brick after another to this precious corner stone, or foundation stone, all founded upon Him, confiding in Him; and if you would know the prominent characteristics of the Church of God, one of His own cities that He claims, it is this, that the members of the Church are resting and confiding exclusively in the person, work, and imputed righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. And if it be not this, you may call it Atheism, or Deism,
or Arminianism, or Socinianism, or whatever you like. It is not one of His cities, unless the members rest on the chief corner stone, the sure foundation that God has laid in Zion. I can forgive them in other matters, but I cannot, will not own any assembly of Adam's race as the Church of God, unless their prominent principle is an entire resting on the person and work of Jesus Christ for salvation.
Well, then, when the Lord has founded His cities, He takes the government of them, He rules them Himself; and here let observe His sacred hand, His wise and sovereign providence in managing all the affairs of His Church. It is He who sends ministers, it is He who removes them, it is He who protects them from danger, it is He who overcomes their enemies, and gives them victories and conquests, it is He who feeds and supplies them, it is He who furnishes His ministers with the message from above, it is He who so governs all hearts as to determine who shall come here and there, and who shall not. I need not concern myself about your not coming. Those who do not choose to hear the Word, are at liberty to forbear, till God says they shall. When God constrains them, they must listen to the word of life, for He is the Ruler in Zion still. Moreover, all the officers He employs are not at liberty to make any laws but what are consistent with His own, whether it be by things pertaining to the bishop's office or the deacon's office; for I know no other. The Bible is the rule, the Word of God is the directory; and we are none of us at liberty to enact a law in hostility to God's Word. He is still the Governor and the Ruler of Zion; and hence the prophet says, “The Lord is our Lawgiver; the Lord is our King. He will save us.
II.-Let me pass on to say a few words, in the second place, on the prosperity which she obtains. “My cities, saith the Lord of Hosts, through prosperity, shall yet be spread abroad.” Here, again, I intend to limit myself to two or three cursory remarks. If a citizen, well versed in all that appertains to his city, were asked the question, “What constitutes the prosperity of a city?" perhaps he would reply, “ It would take me a great deal of time to enter fully into the question ; but I will tell you three things that are quite essential to it. Its population, its commerce, and the healthiness of its air.” Find me this in any Church, and I think we shall have a fair specimen of prosperity. Population. What is it? Spiritual births. Now bear with me while I mention that for it is the most prominent of all the features of prosperity: Of Zion it shall be said, this man and that man was born there, and if I could witness no spiritual births in Zion, I should begin to feel a fearful apprehension that the prosperity of Zion was ebbing. Often does my soul feel a deep anxiety about this. I think I know something of what it is to travail in birth for souls; and when a little time elapses, during which I hear of no heart-breaking, of no sinner called by grace, of no work of regeneration going on, I begin to flag. To tell you the truth, I have done so more than once, and then I have felt a very ungrateful and rebellious mind; and one such feeling crossed me only last Monday, It had, however, scarcely crossed me before the Lord 'sent one I had never before seen to give me an interesting account of the Lord's work in the soul. “Well,” I said, “Zion is prospering now; here are births.” I was upon the look out, and was wondering. I heard of so-and-so a little while ago, and such a one following on, and had the