Sermon 851. Nearness To God
Delivered on Lord's-day Morning, JANUARY 17, 1869, by
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off are made near by the blood of Christ."- Ephesians 2:13.
THE text is a gate of pearl leading up to the excellent Glory. Happy are the men to whom it is given to enter thereby. Itturns upon hinges of diamond. Those two phrases, "in Christ Jesus," "by the blood of Christ"-these are the two pivots of theprecious doctrine of the text. "Made near," this is our delightful privilege, but, "in Christ Jesus," is one source of theblessing, "and by the blood of Christ" is the other. Before our rejoicing eyes rolls a sea of love, an ocean of boundlesspeace and bliss comparable to the sea of glass before the sapphire throne! In order to reach this great Pacific, you mustsail through yon narrow strait which flows between the two headlands of union to Christ and cleansing by the atoning blood.
I. We commence, therefore, this morning, by endeavoring to EXPLAIN THE MEANING OF THE TWO KEY WORDS-"In Christ Jesus," and"by the blood of Christ." "We who once were far off are made near." First, because we are in Christ Jesus. All the elect ofGod are in Christ Jesus by a federal union. He is their Head ordained of old to be so from before the foundation of the world.As Adam was the federal head of the race and as in him we fell, so Christ, the second Adam, stands as the Head of the chosenpeople and in Him they rise again and live.
This federal union leads in due time, by the Grace of God, to a manifest and vital union-a union of life and for life-evenunto eternal life, of which the visible bond is faith. The soul comes to Jesus and lays hold on Him by an act of faith becauseJesus has already laid hold upon that soul by the power of His Spirit, claiming it to be His heritage, seeing He has boughtit with His blood and His Father has given it to Him as the reward of the travail of His soul. All who are in Christ Jesusin the eternal Covenant of Grace, shall, in due time, be in Him by the living union of which we now speak-mystical and mysterious-butstill most real, most true and most efficient.
Now, Beloved, when a soul becomes really in Christ, as the branch is in the vine, and draws its nourishment from the stem,as the limb is in the body and derives all its vitality from the central heart-when a man thus becomes one with Christ, itis clear to the most common observer that he must be near to God-for Christ is ever near to God and those one with Him mustbe near, also. Jesus is Himself God-here is nearness outdone! As Man He is without spot or blemish and near to God in Character.As having finished the work which was given Him to do, He is near to God in acceptance. As having gone up to Heaven to takethe promised crown, He is near to God in Person. And since we are one with Him, we must be from that very fact near to God,yes, as near to God as Christ Himself is!
Understand that if anything is one with a man, actually one with that man, it stands in the same place as that man does. Soif we are one with Christ by a real and actual union-where Christ is, we are! Christ's standing is our standing! And as Christis near unto God, even so He has raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places. We are-
"So near, so very near to God, We cannot nearer be, For in the Person of His Son,
We are as near as He."
The other key word of the text is, "by the blood of Christ." If it is asked what power lies in the blood to bring near, itmust be answered, first, that the blood is the symbol of the Covenant. Ever in Scripture when covenants are made, victimsare offered and the victim becomes the place and ground of approach between the two covenanting parties. The blood of ourLord Jesus Christ is expressly called, "the blood of the Everlasting Covenant," for God comes in Covenant near to us by theblood of His only-begotten Son. Every man whose faith rests upon the blood of Jesus slain from before the
foundations of the world is in Covenant with God and that Covenant becomes to him most sure and certain because it has beenratified by the blood of Jesus Christ and therefore can never be changed or disannulled.
The blood brings us near in another sense because it is the taking away of the sin which separated us. When we read the word,"blood," as in the text, it means mortal suffering-we are made near by the griefs and agonies of the Redeemer. The sheddingof blood indicates pain, loss of energy, health, comfort, happiness. But it goes further still-the term, "blood," signifiesdeath. It is the death of Jesus in which we trust. We glory in His life. We triumph in His Resurrection. But the ground ofour nearness to God lies in His death.
The term, "blood," moreover, signifies not a mere expiring, but a painful and ignominious and penal death. A death not broughtabout by the decay of nature, or the arrows of disease, but caused by the sharp sword of Divine vengeance. The word, in fact,refers directly to the Crucifixion of our Lord. We are brought near to God especially and particularly by a crucified Saviorpouring out His life's blood for us! Beloved, it is well to note this well-known doctrine, because there are some teachers-andI doubt not very excellent men, too-who seem not to be of Paul's mind when he said, "God forbid that I should glory, savein the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ," and who resolved to know nothing among men save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
These Brethren are incessantly preaching concerning Christ glorified, a valuable Truth of God, I allow, but not the way ofa sinner's access to God. Christ's Second Coming was never intended to take the place of Christ's Crucifixion and yet therehave been some, I fear, who, in their zeal for the very great and important Truth of the coming Glory, have suffered the blazinglight of the Second Advent to obscure the milder radiance and the more healing beams of the First Advent, with its bloodysweat, its scourges, its crown of thorns and ransom price for lost sinners.
Let it never be forgotten that while we bless Immanuel, God with us, for His Incarnation. And we joyfully perceive that evenour Lord's birth in human flesh brought man near to God. While we thank and praise the Man of Sorrows for His Divine exampleand we see that this is a blessed help to us practically to advance towards our heavenly Father. While we praise and magnifythe Lord Jesus for His Resurrection and His Ascension and discern in each glorious step fresh rungs of the ladder which leadsfrom earth to Heaven. Yet still, for all that, we are not made near to God by the Incarnation! We are not in very deed madenear to God by the Resurrection, nor by the Second Advent, but we are made near by the blood of Christ.
The first, the grandest, the highest, the most essential Truth of God for us to lay hold of and to preach is the fact thatJesus Christ died for our sakes according to the Scriptures and that this is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation,that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners and for sinners gave Himself up to die, the Just for the unjust, tobring us to God. God is glorified because Christ was punished for the sin of His people. Love has its full, but Law has itsdue. On the Cross we see sin fully punished and yet fully pardoned. We see Justice with her gleaming sword triumphant andMercy with her silver scepter reigning in sublime splendor!
Glory be to the wondrous wisdom which discovered the way of blending vengeance with love, making a tender heart to be themirror of unflinching severity, causing the crystal vase of Jesus' loving Nature to be filled with the red wine of righteouswrath!-
"O love of God, how strong and true!
Eternal and yet ever new,
Uncomprehended and unbought,
Beyond all kno wledge and all thought.
We read You best in Him who came
To bear for us the Cross of shame-
Sent by the Father from on high,
Our life to live, our death to die." Beloved, you thus see that we are made near because the blood of Christ has sealed aCovenant between us and God and has forever taken away the sin which separated us from God. Experimentally, we are broughtnear by the application of the blood to our conscience. We see that sin is pardoned and bless the God who has saved us inso admirable a manner, and then we who hated Him, before, come to love Him.
We who had no thought towards Him desire to be like He is. We are experimentally, and in our own souls, drawn and attractedto God by the blood of Jesus. The great attracting loadstone of the Gospel is the doctrine of the Cross. To
preach the atoning sacrifice of Jesus is the shortest and surest way, under God's Holy Spirit, to draw those that are faroff, mentally and spiritually, very near unto God! Thus have I dwelt upon those two key words upon which the text seems tome to hinge.
II. Let us pass on to ILLUSTRATE THE NEARNESS into which God has been pleased to bring us in Christ Jesus by virtue of Hisblood. I shall take three illustrations from the Word of God. The first illustration is from our first parent, Adam. Adamdwelt in the Garden, abiding with God in devout communion. The Lord God walked in the Garden in the cool of the day with Adam.As a favored creature, the first man was permitted to know much of his Creator and to be near to Him.
But, alas, Adam sinned and at once we see the first stage of our own distance from God as we perceive Adam in the Garden withouthis God. In the Garden, in the very midst of Paradise, flowers shedding their sweet perfume, fruits hanging ready to his handon every side-and yet man is wretched, miserable and cowardly! He hides among the trees of the Garden until the Lord God callsto him, "Adam, where are you?" Here is the first stage of distance and it is sad and terrible. But, ah, Brethren, you andI were further off than that-much further off than that when love made us near!
It would have been a great wonder of Divine Grace if, being in such a position, God had restored us again to His favor. IfHe had said to us after one transgression, "I have blotted out your sin like a cloud: I have passed by your offense, I restoreyou to happiness." But the Grace which God has shown to us is as much greater than this as the thorn-bearing soil is sternerthan Eden's laughing flowers.
Adam was brought before his God, arraigned, upbraided and condemned to be expelled from Paradise. Justice drove out the man.With fiery sword the cherubim keep watch at Eden's gate. Adam banished into the cold, sin-blighted world, to till the groundfrom where he was taken, with the promise ringing in his ear, "The Seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head," isthe second stage of distance from God. Now, it would have been great Grace for God to take Adam from outside the Garden, toforgive him, to bring him within the happy gate and restore him to his former place-but the mercy worked in us is greaterstill!
You and I were further gone than Adam outside of Eden, with a Gospel promise newly given him. We were not on the thresholdof Paradise, but we were far off by wicked works. Our natural position as Gentile sinners was not with Adam outside the gate,but with the nations that knew not God! Our position was as when they had wandered farthest away from Paradise, had becomemost estranged from God and had set up many gods, and many lords, and had polluted and defiled themselves with all mannerof uncleanness!
See now the steps which God has taken with us Gentile dogs, as the Jews once called us! He has taken us, who were of old anidolatrous people, practicing bloody rites-a nation without knowledge of the Divine oracles and He has illuminated us withthe Gospel of His Grace, bringing the kingdom of God very near unto us and ourselves very near to it. The Lord has been pleasedto separate many of us to Himself and bring us into His visible Church so that we dwell within that "garden walled around,chosen and made peculiar ground." This is no small deed of love! Aliens are made fellow citizens with the saints and of thehousehold of God!
Yet, much more than this has been done for true Believers in the blood of Jesus. Not the name only, but the very essence andsoul of true piety is ours, so that once again we walk with God! And in communion with the saints and with their Lord, wefind a new garden of delight whose plants are an orchard of pomegranates with pleasant fruits, camphor with spikenard. "Yourplants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphor, with spikenard, spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon,with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices: a fountain of gardens, a well of living watersand streams from Lebanon." We might date our letters from Elysium, for, "we that have believed do enter into rest." Yes, weare restored by Divine Grace to the King's garden! We have found Glory begun below-
"Celestial fruits on earthly ground, From faith and hope do grow." Let me now give you a second illustration, which may placethis wonder of love in a still clearer light. It shall be taken from the children of Israel traveling through the wilderness.If an angel had poised himself in mid air and watched awhile in the days of Moses, gazing down upon the people in the wildernessand all else that surrounded them, his eyes
would have rested upon the central spot, the tabernacle, over which rested the pillar of cloud and fire by day and night,as the outward index of the Presence of God.
Now, observe yonder select persons clad in fair white linen, who come near, very near, to that great center-they are priests-menwho are engaged from day to day sacrificing bullocks and lambs and serving God. They are near to the Lord and engaged in mosthallowed work, but they are not the nearest of all. One man, alone, comes nearest. He is the high priest, who, once everyyear, enters into that which is within the veil. Ah, what condescension is that which gives us the same access to God! Thepriests are servants of God and very near to Him, but not nearest. And it would be great Grace if God permitted the prieststo enter into the Most Holy Place.
But, Brothers and Sisters, we were not by nature comparable to the priests. We were not the Lord's servants. We were not devotedto His fear and the Grace that has brought us near through the precious blood was much greater than that which admits a priestwithin the veil. Every priest that went within the veil entered there by blood which he sprinkled on the Mercy Seat. If madenear, even from the nearer stage, it must be by blood and in connection with the one only High Priest.
If the angel continued his gaze he would next see lying all round the tabernacle the twelve tribes in their tents. These werea people near unto God-for what nation has God so near unto them? Deuteronomy 4:7. But they are nothing like so near as the priests. They did not abide in the holy court, nor were they always occupied inworship. Israel may fitly represent the outward Church, the members of which have not yet received all the spiritual blessingthey might have, yet are they blessed and made near. If ever an Israelite advanced into the court of the priests, it was withblood. He came with sacrifice. There was no access without it. It was great favor which permitted the Israelite to come intothe court of the priests and partake in Divine worship. But, Brethren, you and I were farther off than Israel and it neededmore Grace, by far, to bring us near. By blood alone are we made near, and by blood displayed in all the glory of its power!
Outside the camp of Israel altogether, you would have seen a company of miserable wretches who herded together as best theycould-lepers-unclean, driven outside the camp. This is more like our position. If ever these lepers were brought near enoughto come into communion with the camp of Israel, much more to come into communion with the priests, their access must be whollyand alone by blood. The turtle dove, or the young pigeon must be slain. The lamb must be killed, the scarlet wool and hyssopmust be used. There was no purging of the leper to bring him into communion with the tribes of Israel except by blood.
And oh, we-we in our filthiness so like the leper-we have to praise almighty Grace which looked upon us when our natural depravitystared us in the face-when it had become apparent by our continued disobedience to God! We have to praise the mercy whichhas brought us right away from the leper's place to as near to God as the accepted high priest before the veil! Beloved, hadthe angel still continued his gaze, he would have observed that even these lepers were far more favored than the other inhabitantsof the world, for the whole world was lying in darkness, without God, without a revelation of His Glory.
THIS is our position, this last one! We were the aliens, the strangers, the foreigners! A leper, though a leper, was stillan Israelite, and if he could not go up into the sanctuary of the Lord, yet still there was the mark of the Covenant of hisflesh and he was of the seed of Abraham and the wing of God in the cloudy pillar covered him! He ate the manna and drank ofthe rock. But as for the poor heathen-for them there was no appointed way of access-they were cast out and left to perishin their sins! The old Covenant did not, so far as its outward manifestation was concerned, have a word to say to US!
Far off, then, with the Gentiles is your place and my place. We are by nature out of covenant and aliens from the commonwealthof Israel. There you are right away in the dark heathen world. And what did God's Grace do for you? Why, it brought you, firstof all, into connection with God's people and under the sound of the Gospel's silver trumpet! You became like the poor leper,but still you were near to Israel, hearing the Gospel and learning the way of salvation. Thank God for bringing you so nearas that, for there is no small privilege in hearing the Truth of God. But Divine Grace did not stop there. It purged and cleansedyou, and you were admitted into fellowship with the Church.
You became numbered with the seed of Israel! You pitched your tent near the tabernacle and partook of its abundant blessings!But Grace did not stop there. It made you, next, a priest unto God, a consecrated servant of the Lord of Hosts and you havebeen kept by Grace in the place of holy service! You are still the Lord's anointed priest and your sacrifices
are well-pleasing in His sight. But here is the wonder of wonders-when the eternal love of God had brought you so near, sogloriously near, it did not stop there! It did not content itself with making you a priest, but it said you shall stand "inChrist Jesus!" And, Beloved, you know that this means that we are made as near Christ Himself, who, as the great High Priest,with blood in His hand, goes right into the veil, right up to the Mercy Seat and talks with God!
A third illustration of our nearness to God will be found around the peaks of the mount of God, even Sinai, where the variousdegrees of access to God are set forth with singular beauty and preciseness of detail. The 19th chapter of the book of Exodustells us that the Lord revealed Himself on the top of Sinai with flaming fire and the smoke thereof ascended as the smokeof a furnace. Jehovah drew near unto His people Israel, coming down in the sight of all the people upon Mount Sinai, whilethe tribes stood at the foot of the mountain.
Now remember that our natural position was much more remote than Israel at the foot of the mountain, for we were a Gentilenation to whom God did not appear in His Glory and with whom He spoke not as with Israel. We were living in darkness and inthe valley of the shadow of death-and Israel was privileged to come very near as compared with us. Therefore the Apostle,in the chapter from which the text is taken, speaks of the circumcised as near. I take Israel to be to us this morning thetype of those who live under Gospel privileges and are allowed to hear the joyful sound of salvation bought with blood.
There stand the tribes at the foot of the mountain. They can hear the sound of the trumpet waxing exceedingly loud and longand a distinct voice proclaiming the Law of God-they hear it and it affects their hearts and prostrates them with awe. Boundarieswere set round about the mountain and an ordinance was given that if so much as a beast touched the mountain, it should bestoned or thrust through with a dart. Their distance was thus far more apparent than their comparative nearness. Do you seethem standing there-the whole vast host-hearing, hearing distinctly and trembling as they hear-at last trembling so much thatthey say to Moses, "Speak you with us and we will hear. But let not God speak with us lest we die"?
Their fear made them remove further still-what they saw and heard of God begot in them no love-it did not draw them to Him,but the reverse! They promised fairly to Moses that they would keep all God's Laws, that they would serve him with all theirhearts. But alas, their goodness soon vanished! They had been outwardly purified and made ready, sanctified, as Moses says,to behold the Glory of the Lord. But alas, after a few short days they deliberately fell into idolatry, worshipping a goldencalf-forgetting the solemnities of the Law and indifferent to the will of God who had displayed Himself to them. Very nearthey were, and yet far enough off to perish-for their carcasses fell in the wilderness and with many of them He was not well-pleased.
Ah, my dear Hearers, there is much Grace in the fact that you are brought near enough, all of you, to be able to hear theGospel plainly and earnestly delivered. At the base of Mount Zion you have stood trembling while we have warned you of thejudgment to come and told you of the indignation of God against sin. You have been like Israel, ready to sink into the earthwith fear and you have promised, some of you very fairly, that before long you would repent and believe the Gospel. The Gospelcommand has come to your conscience with such power that you have been compelled to promise obedience to it! But alas, whathas been the result of your fear and your vow? You have gone farther back from God and have plunged anew into the world'sidolatry-and are today worshipping yourselves, your pleasures, your sins, or your righteousness!
And when the Lord comes, the nearness of opportunity which you have enjoyed will prove to have been to you a most fearfulresponsibility and nothing more. You come to the mount of God and hear His voice, but like Israel you go your way to rebelyet more and more! Sometimes, under earnest sermons, or by solemn Providences, or by the suggestions of the Holy Spirit, youhave been almost persuaded to be Christians! But yet you are, to this hour, without Christ and without hope! You came up tothe turning point, but you stopped there. We all hoped well of you. We could almost have clapped our hands in the certaintyof our hope that you would be saved and yet you remained like Israel- only near in the point of outward privilege-but notbrought near by the blood so as to be saved.
Child of God, be thankful for that first stage of nearness this morning, for even this is given us by blood! If there hadbeen no paschal lamb, Israel had never stood at Sinai. And if there had been no blood shedding you had never heard the Gospel.But bless the Lord that you have advanced far, far beyond this into a nearness infinitely preferable! Turning to
the 24th chapter of Exodus, you will observe that the Lord said unto Moses, "Come up unto the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab,and Abihu and 70 of the elders of Israel; and worship afar off."
The next stage of nearness to God is pictured by the chosen men selected from the people who were to climb halfway up thehill, nearer to the thick canopy of darkness which veiled the Presence of God. But still they are said to have worshippedafar off. Now, note that these 70 could not come nearer than the people except by blood-turn to the 5th verse, "And Mosessent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the Lord.And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the Bookof the Covenant and read in the audience of the people and Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people and said, Beholdthe blood of the Covenant which the Lord has made with you concerning all these words."
The select band of representative men could not come into a degree of superior nearness without blood. It was a great honorto be called out from among the people to enjoy a nearer audience with the Almighty Lord. Surely those men, with their soulshushed under a deep sense of awe would, nevertheless, rejoice and say, "What are we and what is our father's house, that weare called upon to climb so near to God?" Those 70 may be used to represent the visible Church of Jesus Christ. Church membersare all, in a certain sense, made nearer to God than the mere common hearers of the Word and their position is one of eminenthonor and privilege.
In the case of the 70, it is said, "they saw the God of Israel"-10th verse-that is to say, they had a remarkably vivid impressionupon their minds of His august Presence-"and there was under His feet, as it were, a paved work of sapphire stone." That is,they were permitted to see the justice, the holiness, the purity of God typified by a pavement of clear crystal. As the textcontinues-"as it were the body of Heaven in His clearness." They were doubtless overwhelmed with a sense of the awful majesty,holiness and purity of God. But they were encouraged by Divine mercy to be of good cheer, so that they saw God, "and did eatand drink."
They had manifest communion with the Most High and yet they did not die under the blaze of Glory. "Upon the nobles of thechildren of Israel He laid not His hand." See here a fair type of the Glory which God gives to His visible Church! We areselected and taken out from among men to be a people near unto Him. We are made, as Church members, to have a clearer viewthan others of the holiness and Glory of God. We are permitted to eat and drink in His Presence, to sit down at His tableand yet to live. We are favored in the Church with many gracious displays of the Lord's love and Grace such as the world seesnot.
But I want you to notice a Truth of God which strikes me as so solemnly full of warning. Among those who thus were privilegedto enter into this nearness, we have the names of Nadab and Abihu-and what became of them? They were destroyed before theLord for offering strange fire upon the altar! So that it is clear that there is an official nearness of God which does notsecure men from wrath. In the Christian Church, there may be, no, it seems as if there always must be some who shall, withoutdoubt, perish-and the fire of God shall devour them. I wish that those who join the Church without due consideration wouldsolemnly recollect that it is not necessary for them to thrust themselves into such an awful position unless they know thatthey are the people of God. It were a pity for them to increase their own condemnation by such a willful act of presumption.
Note well that passage concerning the unfaithful servant who said in his heart, "My lord delays his coming," and began tobeat the men servants and maidens, and to eat and drink and to be drunken. For it is written, "The lord of that servant willcome in a day when he looks not for him and at an hour when he is not aware and will cut him in sunder and will appoint himhis portion with the unbelievers." The sacrifices of the Covenant were cut in sunder and so the Covenant was ratified.
Now, the man who mocks the Covenant by intruding himself into the fellowship to which he belongs not shall receive upon himselfthe curse which for others our Great Sacrifice has borne. There will be singular judgments for ungodly Church members. Itwere good for such men that they had never been born! Judgment is to begin at the House of God. "His fan is in His hand."And what will He do with it? "He will thoroughly purge His floor." When He sits as a refiner, whom will He purify? Mark thewords of Malachi-"He will purify the sons of Levi." His fire, where is it? It is in Zion and His furnace in Jerusalem. Thereshall be no such condemnation as that which shall be measured out to those who, in official standing, possess peculiar nearnessto God and yet, like Nadab and Abihu, have not the true spirit, are unfaithful in service, look not to the Savior in truthand so are cast away after all!
Most worthy of your notice is another fact connected with the 70 and that is when Moses went up into the higher Glory, hebade Aaron and the 70 stay where they were, but they failed to do it. He said unto the elders (in the 14th verse), "Tarryyou here for us, until we come again unto you: and, behold, Aaron and Hur are with you: if any man has any matters to do,let him come unto them." Moses was then gone from them for 46 or 47 days at the least and their duty was to have remainedwhere he had appointed their place. If the people needed Aaron, they were to send up to him-he need not cease to direct andjudge the people, but they were to come to him-he was not to go down to them.
Now, what did Aaron do? Why, he went down to the camp and fell into the black sin of making a molten image! "And when thepeople saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron and said untohim, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt,we know not what is become of him." Aaron would never have made that golden calf if he had stayed upon the mountain wherehe was told to remain.
What does this say to us? Is not the lesson plain? The visible Church is too prone to come down to the world and even thosewho are God's servants, when they are lifted up into a state of nearness to God, seldom abide there. They conform to thisevil world-they descend from their true eminence, they mix with the people-and they, who have seen God in His Glory like untoa sapphire stone, are found pandering to the corruption of the world! To what a state of degradation may any of us come unlessthe Lord shall hold us up! We may go up very far and may see God and then come down and become the instruments of the sinsof others, as Aaron did.
If you read on, in the 24 th chapter, you will observe that the Lord called to Moses again and he went up the hill attendedby one single person. "And Moses rose up and his minister, Joshua: and Moses went up into the mount of God." So these twomen go alone and Joshua comes to what I may call the fringe of the black cloud of darkness which hung over the central peakof Sinai. There he stopped and there by God's Grace he was able, patiently, to remain the first six days with Moses and thoseother 40 days, while Moses was on the top alone. Joshua, by God's Grace, was enabled to maintain the true, real, abiding,faithful communion with God!
And he seems to me to represent those virgin souls among God's elect ones who follow the Lamb where ever He goes. Those men,greatly beloved, who are delivered by abundant Grace from much of the instability of the majority of professors, so that theywalk in the light as He is in the light. They abide in their Lord and His Word abides in them. These come not down to thepeople as Aaron and the elders did, but their conversation is in Heaven and their walk is with God. Such men fall not intothe people's sin, but tarry in solitary nonconformity to a degenerate Church. Even these do not realize the fullness of thenearness which belongs to them in the Mediator, but they come very, very near to God.
Now what are such men sure to be? What was Joshua? He was a warrior and of martial spirit. When Moses came down from the mountwith Joshua, Joshua said to him, "There is a sound of war in the camp." As a warrior he would naturally be apprehensive ofa foe. Moses descended alone till he met his servant, Joshua, waiting in his place. The two went down till they came to theplace where the 70 ought to be, but they were all gone-all gone! And at the foot of the mountain, where they might have expectedto find Israel on their knees in prayer, they saw a ribald crew indulging in vile orgies before a golden calf! Joshua's exampleseems to say to us, that if we are to keep up our fellowship with Christ, we must fight for it! If we would be men of God,we must be warriors for the Truth of God! What a blessing if we can get to such a point as this!
But there is something beyond it and I desire to bring you to it by bidding you observe that Moses is the type of the Mediator-hewent right up to the greatest nearness of access and there he communed with God-he interceded with God and he received fromGod's hand the revelation of God's Law! Now hear and wonder, "We who sometimes were far off are made near by the blood ofChrist," and brought to stand as near as Moses stood, for we are in Jesus as near to God as possible. It was something tocome as near as Israel. It was more to advance as near as the elders. It was higher, still, to be called as near as Joshua.
But to be brought as near as Moses, through the precious blood, so that we dwell in God, rejoice in Him, intercede with Him,have power with Him and receive from Him the revelation of His Truth by the energy of His Holy Spirit-this is the crown ofall! O that we may go down with a Glory upon our faces like that upon the face of Moses, to show the sons of men that we havebeen with Jesus in the Holy Place and are filled with all the fullness of God!
Looking at these stages of nearness, does it not seem a tremendous distance from our place in far-off Tarshish and the islesthereof, among the heathen, into the camp of Israel, up the sides of the mountain with the elders, higher still with Joshuaand beyond Joshua into the secret place of the majesty of the Most High, where the Mediator of that Covenant stood alone andwhere our Mediator stands forever with all those who are in Him?!
III. Let US NOTE SOME OF THE DISPLAYS OF THE REALIZATIONS OF THIS NEARNESS TO GOD as granted to us by blood through our unionwith Christ. We perceive and see manifestly our nearness to God in the very first hour of our conversion. The father fellupon the prodigal's neck and kissed him-no greater nearness than that! The prodigal becomes an accepted child-is and mustbe very near his father's heart.
And we, who sometimes were far off, are as near to God as a child to his parents. We have a renewed sense of this nearnessin times of restoration after backsliding, when, pleading the precious blood, we say, "Purge me with hyssop and I shall beclean. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow." We come to God and feel that He is near unto them that are of a broken heart.We come near to God in prayer. Our nearness to God is peculiarly evinced at the Mercy Seat. The very term we use for prayeris, "Let us draw near unto God." But, Brothers and Sisters, we never get to God in prayer unless it is through pleading theprecious blood!
We see our nearness to God in the act of praise. Oftentimes in praising Him, we have taken the wings of seraphs and passedup into the Glory and magnified the Lord, but it has always been through Him who by His precious blood makes our praises acceptableto the Most High. We who have believed come very near to God in the act of Baptism, for we are baptized into the name of theFather and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Wicked and base is he who has dared to touch that ordinance, unless he sincerelydesired fellowship in the Lord's death. The nearness we get to God in Baptism by faith depends upon whether or not we seethe blood there and behold Jesus as buried for us.
Then in the Lord's Supper-what nearness is there! But it, too, all lies in the blood. We get no nearness through the wine,no nearness through the bread-the elements are nothing of themselves-it is only when we get to feel that our Lord's fleshis meat, indeed, and His blood drink, indeed, that we draw near to Him. And, Beloved, when we have done with means of Grace,with communings here, and meditations and prayers and praises, we shall get nearer to our God up yonder-in the place wherethey see His face and bear His name upon their foreheads.
But why shall we then draw near to Him? It is written, "They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of theLamb: therefore are they before the Throne of God and serve Him day and night in His Temple."
IV. I have thus hinted at various times when this nearness to God develops itself and is most seen. Let us close with a BRIEFEXHORTATION. Let us live in the power of the nearness which union with Christ and the blood has given us. It is a well-knownrule that our minds are sure to be occupied with those things which are most near to us. We may excuse ourselves for beingso worldly because the things of this world are so near us-but we must never venture to repeat that excuse again- since wenow know that we are made near to God and heavenly things by the blood.
Let your conversation be in Heaven: "Where your treasure is, there let your heart be." Beloved, if we are, indeed, so nearto God through the blood and through union with Christ, let us enjoy those things which this nearness was intended to bring!Those who live under the equator never lack for light or heat. There vegetation is luxuriant and every form of life is welldeveloped. They who dwell far away in the frigid zone, where the sun only casts his slanting rays, may well be meager andshort of stature and feel the pinch of poverty.
We who dwell under the equator of the Lord's love must bring forth much fruit! Let us rejoice with joy unspeakable! Let oursouls be like those torrid zones where all the birds have plumage rich and rare, where brilliant flowers abound, where everythingis fall of vigor! If we are so near to God, it follows as a very natural exhortation that we should exercise much faith inHim. If I am, indeed, brought so near to God, why should I be afraid that He will leave me in poverty? If I were a strangerand He knew me not, He might cast me away. But if I am near to Him, as near as Christ is, He cannot be unkind, thoughtless,or ungenerous to me. Near to Him! Why, my name is on the palms of Jesus' hands! I live in Jesus' heart! And I live, if I amin Christ, under the very eyes of God! He will keep me as He keeps the apple of His eye.
One other word. Let us maintain a behavior suitable to the high position which Divine Grace has given us. If we are a peoplenear to God, let us walk in all integrity, uprightness, chastity, honesty, soberness-in one word, in all holiness. "Be youperfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect." If you have looked upon the pavement of sapphire, you must haveseen your own sinfulness in contrast with its azure brightness. Pray the Lord to give you of His Spirit, that you may becomelike He who is thus so pure and glorious in all things!
Let not the sons of God demean themselves! Let not princes of the blood imperial be found among the common herd. As you areto be the compeers of angels, no, as you are higher far than they, and one with Christ-and as the precious blood has beenyour ransom price-walk as becomes saints! The Lord help you to do so, that His name may be glorified. Amen.