Sermon 907. Christ-the Fall and Rise of Many
Delivered on Lord's-day Morning, DECEMBER 26, 1869, by
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"And Simeon blessed them and said unto Mary His mother, Behold, this Child is set for the fall and rising again of many inIsrael; and for a sign which shall be spoken against."- Luke 2:34.
[I thank God most devoutly that I am permitted, once again, to appear in my place among you. It is always a most painful deprivationto me when I am unable to preach the Gospel on the Sabbath to my beloved congregation. I earnestly pray that this long afflictionmay be for my spiritual growth and that you may all profit by that which my Lord has taught me in the School of the Cross.I beseech you, my dear fellow Helpers, ask of God, as a great favor, that now, upon my return to my accustomed work, a doubleblessing may rest upon all that is done-that those already saved may be more active and the conversions in our midst may bemore numerous. So may God grant it and His shall be the praise.]
THIS text has within it a profound deep meaning, but I shall not attempt to fathom it. There was a company hired a few monthsago for attempting to recover ingots of gold and bars of silver, supposedly lying at the bottom of the sea in a Spanish galleonwhich sunk some centuries back. My ship is not fitted with the necessary machinery for obtaining gold from mysterious deeps,and I have, moreover, great question as to whether the attempt might not be more dangerous than profitable, for many who varyinto the awful depths of predestination have lost themselves. And many more have become unprofitable to the Church and tothe world.
My ship is but a little fishing boat whose business it is to fish for the souls of men. My gifts fit me only to be such acoasting vessel as may carry corn from port to port to feed those who hunger for satisfying bread. I shall not, therefore,attempt to enter into the sublime mystery which is contained in this text as to the Divine appointment of Christ to be theoccasion of the falling and rising of many souls. I believe in that doctrine, however, though I cannot expound it. I tremblinglybelieve in Peter's words concerning those who stumble at the Word of God, being disobedient, "whereunto also they were appointed."But I say again, though believing the doctrine of predestination in all its length and breadth because I see it revealed inthe Word of God, yet as I cannot see any practical result that might come out of a discussion of that subject this morning,I shall leave it for other minds and tongues.
Rather would I conduct you to the practical Truth of God which lies in the text. The great practical doctrine before us isthis-that wherever Jesus Christ comes, with whomever He may come in contact-He is never without influence, never inoperative-butin every case a weighty result is produced. There is about the holy Child Jesus a power which is always in operation. He isnot set to be an unobserved, inactive, slumbering Personage in the midst of Israel, but He is set for the falling or for therising of the many to whom He is known. Never does a man hear the Gospel but he either rises or falls under that hearing!There is never a proclamation of Jesus Christ (and this is the spiritual coming forth of Christ Himself) which leaves menprecisely where they were-the Gospel is sure to have some effect upon those who hear it.
Moreover, the text informs us that mankind, when they understand the message and work of Christ, do not regard them with indifference.When they hear the Truth of God as it is in Jesus, they either take it joyfully in their arms with Simeon, or else it becomesto them a sign that shall be spoken against. He that is not with Christ is against Him and He that gathers not with Him scattersabroad. Where Christ is, no man remains neutral-he decides either for Christ or against Him. Given a mind that understandsthe Gospel, you have before you, also, a mind that either stumbles at this stumbling-stone, being scandalized thereby, orelse you have a mind that rejoices in a foundation upon which it delights to build all its hopes for time and for eternity.
Observe, then, the two sides of the Truth! Jesus is always working upon men with marked effect-and on the other hand, mantreating the Lord Jesus with warmth either of affection or opposition-an action and a reaction being
evermore produced. Why is this, do you think? Is it not, first, because of the energy which dwells in the Lord's Christ andin the Gospel which now represents Him among men? The Gospel is all life and energy. Like leaven it heaves and ferments withinward energy. It cannot rest till it leavens all around it. It may be compared to salt which must permeate, penetrate andseason that which is subject to its influence. Paul compares the preaching of Christ to a sweet-smelling savor.
Now, you cannot say to a perfume, "Be quiet! Do not load the air with sweets. Do not affect men's nostrils." It cannot dootherwise-the fragrance must fill the chamber. Even so, Christ must be a savor, either of life unto life, or of death untodeath-but a savor He must be wherever He comes! It is no more possible for you to restrain the working of the Gospel thanto forbid the action of fire. Stand before the fire-it shall warm and comfort you. But thrust your hand into it-it will burnyou. Keep that fire in its proper place, it shall yield you abundant service. Cast forth the firebrand, it shall consume yourhouse-it shall devour all that comes in contact with it. You cannot say to fire, "Restrain your consuming energy." It mustwork because it is fire.
And so with yonder sun. Though clouds may hide it from our sight at this moment, yet forever does it pour forth, as from afurnace mouth, its heat and light. Nor could it cease to burn and shine unless it ceased to be a sun. As long as it is a sunit must permeate surrounding space with its influence and splendor. Do you wonder that the Sun of Righteousness is of yetmore Divine energy? Do you marvel that the blaze of His Glory blinds His enemies, or His warmth of love dries the tears ofHis friends? In every case there is a distinct result and a manifest effect! Never does the Gospel return void-it prosperseven in that for which the Lord has sent it. Jesus in the Gospel cannot cease to work. "My Father works and therefore I work."
The Father, in Providence, pauses not, nor does the Son cease from the work of Divine Grace. Moreover, let it be rememberedthat Jesus Christ and His Gospel are matters of such prime importance to mankind that from this cause, also, there must alwaysbe an effect produced by Christ. Consider other matters that are of prime importance to humanity and my meaning will be clear.Here is the air, I breathe it. What then? Why, I live! I cannot breathe it without obtaining this grand result. The lungsreceive the air-the blood is supplied with oxygen-life is sustained. Suppose I refuse to breathe the air, what then? Willthere be any remarkable effect produced? Shall I be sickly? Shall I be a little faint? Shall I be somewhat less energetic?No, I must die! Breathing, I live. Refusing to breathe, I die. So the Lord Jesus is as necessary to our souls as the atmosphereto our bodies.
If we receive Christ Jesus we live. We cannot receive Him without living by Him. If we will not receive Him, we must die.It is unavoidable that it should be so. You cannot reject the Savior and be a little damaged. There is no alternative butthat you utterly perish. Take another article of human necessity, bread. You shall eat bread, it shall nourish you, it shallprovide for you the material of flesh and sinew, nerve and bone. Refuse to eat it and you take your life from you. You may,if you will, try to impose upon others, but, whether watched or unwatched, you shall die if you will not eat. It is so ordainedby wise decree that there is no living without food-let but the space of time be long enough and death must be inevitableto those who will not eat.
So is it with Christ who is the Bread sent down from Heaven. Receive Him-you have all that your soul needs to sustain it anddrive away its hunger. Reject Him and there is neither in Heaven nor in earth anything that can supply your soul's lack. Imight instance the water that we drink, or, indeed, anything else that is not a matter of luxury or of artificial need, butwhich is absolutely necessary to human life. All such things become operative for good or ill, according as you accept themor reject them. So must it necessarily be with Christ. We may add that the position in which Jesus Christ meets man makesit inevitable that He must have an effect upon them. I shall not speak of the heathen who never hear of Him, nor of our unhappyheathen around us who will not hear of Him.
But concerning you who have heard of Christ, I assert that in your case the Lord Jesus has met with you on occasions whereto accept or to refuse was to make a crisis in your being. He was right in your way. It was one Sunday evening when the HolySpirit was with the preacher. Or it was one day when your father had just been buried. Or, Woman, it was one night when yourdear babe had just been taken from your bosom and laid upon the bed of death. You may readily recall the occasion. Christcame right in your way and you could not go around Him-you must either, that night, stumble over Him, make Him to be to yourselfa rock of offense-or you must then and there build on Him and accept Him as your soul's confidence.
I believe that such a time of decision comes to all hearers of the Word who have at all intelligently heard it. And when theHoly Spirit enables us from that time forth to take the Redeemer to be the ground of our soul's confidence, oh, what a joyit is! But if we are left to ourselves to reject Christ, we shall not have rejected Him without a strain upon conscience-withouthaving done violence to everything good and true. We shall not have stumbled at Christ without knowing that we were stumblingat the noblest gift of God-at the greatest token of the Father's love-stumbling at the only thing which could deliver us fromthe wrath to come and ensure us an eternity of joy. Thus, you see, because Christ comes to us at the important crisis of ourlife, He, therefore, cannot be indifferent to us. He must make us either to fall or rise.
Once again, let me observe that the Lord Jesus was appointed for this very thing-so says the text-He "was set for the falland rising again of many in Israel." It was for this very end He came. See the farmer take the fan. You observe the heap ofmingled wheat and chaff lying on the floor. He begins to move the fan to and fro till he has created a breeze of wind. Whathappens? The chaff flies to the further end of the threshing floor and there it lies by itself. The wheat, more weighty, remainspurified and cleansed, a golden heap of grain. Such is the preaching of the Gospel! Such is Christ! He is the Separator ofthose who will perish from those who shall be saved. The fan discerns and discovers. It reveals the worthless and manifeststhe precious. Thus has Christ the fan in His hand!
Or, take another metaphor, which we find in the Prophets, "Who may abide the day of His coming? And who shall stand when Heappears? For He is like a refiner's fire and like fuller's soap." You see the refiner's fire? Notice how it burns and blazes.Now, it turns to a white heat-you cannot bear to look on it. What has happened? Why the dross is divided from the silver andthe alloy from the gold. The refiner's fire separates the precious from the vile. And so the Gospel reveals the elect of Godand leaves to hardness of heart the finally impenitent. Where it is preached, the men who accept it are precious ones of God,His elect, His chosen! The men who reject it are the reprobate silver. So shall men call them, for God has rejected them.
Mark too, the fuller's soap. The fuller takes his soap and, exercising his craft upon yonder piece of linen marked with manystains and colors, you see how these foul things fly before the soap and the fair fabric remains. Both spots and linen feelthe power of the soap. So does the Gospel take the polluted fabric of humanity and cleanse it-the filth departs and fliesbefore it and the fair linen remains. Such are the saints of God-when the Gospel comes to them they are purified, thereby-whilethe wicked, as foul spots, are driven away in their wickedness. Thus I have shown you that it is not possible for Christ tocome anywhere without working some result. I would impress upon each of you that it is not possible for Christ to come toyou without effecting a result in you.
I beseech you never fall into the error of those who assert that unbelief is no sin and that to reject Christ is no faultof yours. The whole tenor of Holy Scripture is contradictory to that most erroneous opinion. I know of hardly anything morelikely to lull the conscience to sleep than that delusion. Depend upon it, the Gospel will be a savor of death unto deathto you if it is not a savor of life unto life to you. If you believe not, you are condemned already. Why? Hear the voice ofGod: "He that believes on Him is not condemned. But he that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believedin the name of the only-begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, (above all other condemnations), that light iscome into the world and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil."
You are in a solemn position, this morning, in listening to the Gospel of Christ. You cannot go out of this House withouta mark being made upon you which shall remain there evermore either for your good or for your ill. Christ must operate uponyour souls. He is set either for your fall or for your rising again.
Having thus set forth the great Truth of God of the text, I purpose with as much brevity as shall be possible to answer oneor two questions.
I. The first is this, WHO ARE THOSE THAT FALL BY CHRIST? In Christ's day the question was not difficult to answer. Those thatfell by Christ, were, first of all, the holders of tradition. There were certain persons who always pleaded, "It was saidby them of old time." They quoted some saying of Rabbi Ben this, or Rabbi Ben that-and these famous sayings were practicallyexalted above the written Word of God-often so as to take the very meaning out of the Decalogue itself and make the traditionsof men a higher authority than the Commandments of God.
Now, our Lord Jesus Christ laid the axe at the root of this evil tree, for often and often did He say, "It is said by themof old time, but I say unto you." He denounced their making void the Law of God through their traditions. He took a broomand relentlessly swept away the old cobwebs of what the fathers did and what the ancients said and placed the everlasting,"it is written," above the authority of antiquity. Much such work is there for Him to do in this, our day, when the use of"Sacraments," and the custom of the orthodox churches and I know not what else of venerable rubbish profane the House of God!And, my Brothers and Sisters, He will surely do it and tradition will yet again fall before the Ever-living Word.
There fell, also by our Lord's hand the externalists. These men made much of washing their hands before they ate bread. Theythought it a great thing to make broad the borders of their garments. They were peculiarly attentive to their phylacteries.They carefully used strainers to keep flies from getting into their wine, lest unclean animals should touch their lips. Butthe Master in His ministry made short work of them. You blind fools, said He, you strain at gnats and you swallow camels!How He held up to scorn their long prayers and vain pretences, their tithing of cumin and their devouring of widows' houses!Never could they forget the simile of the cup and platter, washed outside but foul within, nor that of the whitewashed sepulcher,so fair to the eye and yet so full of rottenness. "Woe unto you," said He, "Scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites."
And with that word He swept away the whole empire of externalism and made men see the vanity of outward religiousness whilethe heart is unrenewed. How forcible are those words, "Not that which goes into the mouth defiles a man; but that which comesout of the mouth, this defiles a man." The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but joy in the Holy Spirit. O for an hourof our Lord's Presence to lash the formalism of today! But be of good cheer, His Gospel will do it yet. The Master, at thesame time, made to fall all the self-righteous. They conceived in themselves that they were righteous and they despised others.What a fall He gave to such when He told that famous parable of the Pharisee and the Publican who went up to the temple topray! How that proud man, who thanked God he was not as other men, went to his house without peace-while the humble sinner,who confessed himself unworthy to lift his eyes to Heaven- went to his house justified of God!
Oh, it was a grand sweep the Master made of self-righteousness in the days of His flesh! Why, one would think that where Christwas, the Pharisee must have half-wished to pull off their phylacteries and hide the broad border of their garments! Smallmatter for their pride was it to stand away and profess to be better than other men, while Jesus of Nazareth tore off themask and revealed the heart! Jesus our Lord was also the fall of the wiseacres of His day. There were the lawyers. They knewevery point. They could discern in a moment what should be and what should not be according to the fathers. And they had away of reading every precept of Moses so as to make it mean just whatever you might please, according to the depth of yourpurse.
Then there were the Scribes-what diligent students they had been! They knew how many letters there were in the whole Law andwhich was the middle letter and which the middle word. They knew the size and length of each book and they had written notes,matchless for wisdom, upon every passage. And they were expert in muddling the sense of every passage and making the wordsmean what they were never intended to teach. Diligent students of the letter these doctors of divinity, these Scribes of Christ'sday, and yet He nonplussed them with a question so simple that a child should be able to answer-"David in your Law calledthe Messiah, Lord. How is He then his Son?" They could not reply to Him. And if they had been able, with all their wisdom,to answer that one question, yet could He have asked them many more by which their ignorance would have been discovered.
He was their fall, as He will be at this day the fall of all the boastfully wise, for, "He takes the wise in their own craftiness."But if our Lord was thus the fall of those who were externally religious, who were self-righteous, who were merely orthodox-Hewas also the fall of the broad Church as well as of the high Church. What a fall He gave the Sadducees! These were your broadchurchmen. They professed to believe the Law of Moses, but robbed it of its supernatural element. And yet they continued inthe then established Church. Of course they did! Why should not the national Sanhedrim be of the most comprehensive character?Yet these skeptics declared that there is no resurrection, neither angel nor spirit!
When our Lord came into the arena against them, their famous story of the woman with the seven husbands was snapped like awooden sword and the point of an irresistible weapon was set at their breasts as Jesus asked them whether
the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, was the God of the dead or of the living! Our great Leader's triumph over the skepticalfaction was as complete as that achieved over the ritualistic band-to each He gave a crushing fall! If it is easy to answerthe question, Who fell by Christ in His lifetime? It is not difficult to answer the enquiry, Who falls by Christ today? Why,very much the same sort of people as fell by Him then! If any of you are trusting in the externals of religion. If you arestrangers to the inner spiritual life. If you are depending upon your confirmation, your baptism, your reception of the sacrament,or anything of ceremony, assuredly Christ will be the fall of you!
Hear His own words, "You must be born again." "If any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." Though you mayreceive the baptism of Christ and the supper of Christ as often as you will, without His Spirit, you are lost! If there areany here who are confident in their own excellence. If you are hoping to enter Heaven because you have never done any greatharm and have, on the whole, been very good people-amiable, and kind and generous-Christ will be the fall of you! Continuingas you are now, His Gospel condemns you thoroughly. For what says that Gospel? "By the works of the Law there shall no fleshliving be justified." Why, then, should you hope to be justified, in the teeth of what Christ, by His Inspired Apostle, hasdeclared? Christ is the death of self-righteousness and you will most assuredly perish, if self is your reliance.
Some will tell you that human nature is not at all so bad as it is said to be in Scripture-there are some fine points aboutman which only need opportunities of development. Ah, but if man were not fallen, why did he need a Savior? If man were nothopelessly fallen, why need God have come down from Heaven to take upon Himself human flesh to redeem man? You who praiseup human nature are robbing Christ of Glory to crown a dying rebel! And rest assured that such robbery will be your ruin unlessrepented of. There are others who say let man do his best and he will, no doubt, be accepted of God. They hope that thereis enough of strength in man to enable him to force his way to that which is desired of him.
If so, why that bleeding Sacrifice? What necessity for Calvary's groans and death-pangs? The Sacrifice of Christ is the deathof all hopes of self-salvation. If you could save yourself, it were monstrous that Christ should come to save you! I tellyou if you hold to self-reliance, Christ's Cross will be the fall of you! It will be a condemning witness against you! Moreover,Jesus is the fall of all who rely upon priests, or who profess to be priests. When the Son of God has appeared as the Priestof fallen humanity, oh, how dare you, you curs and dogs who yelp at the heels of Antichrist, to claim to be what Jesus, alone,is! How dare you take upon yourselves to stand at the altar when He is there! Now that the Sun of Righteousness has risen,we cannot, dare not, trust in such mere blots of darkness as you are!
All persons who are self-contented. All those who are lofty in mind-to these Christ will assuredly give a dreadful fall. "Everyvalley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill shall be laid low." Every look of pride will He abase, for He is set forthe fall of all those, whether in Israel or among the Gentiles, who exalt themselves in the face of the Lord of Hosts. Judgeyou, Sirs, whether He will be your fall! You can readily tell. He that is down need fear no fall! But he that is on high maytremble lest the Child who was born in Bethlehem should be his fall.
II. But I must pass on. Another and a happier question suggests itself. To WHOM WILL THE LORD JESUS BE A RISING AGAIN? Hewill be a rising again to those who have fallen. Do you confess, "I have fallen"? Do you acknowledge, "I possess a fallennature"? Do you lament you have fallen into sin? O my Brothers and Sisters, He will be your rising! He cannot uplift thosewho are not brought low. But if you have fallen and are conscious of it this day, He is set to be the rising again of suchas you are.
Again, are you conscious of being down? There cannot be a lifting to those who are up-there cannot be healing to those whoare not sick. Christ came not for so preposterous a purpose as to be the Savior of those who are already safe. Are you sick?He was set to heal such as you are. Are you down? Then the more desperate your fall, the deeper your sense of degradation,the more I will rejoice! If you call yourself the chief of sinners, I shall but be the more thankful. And if you feel yourselfpast all hope, I shall congratulate you as a prisoner of Hope, for He came to be the rising again of such as you are! Clearlyto everybody's common sense the rising is not for those who are already up, but for those who are in need of raising. Theyshall rise in Him!
Note, again, those that rise in Him are those who are now willing to rise in Him. He saves none while they are unwilling,but He makes men willing in the day of His power. Are you willing this day to rise in Christ? That gracious will came fromGod! That will is an indication that Jesus is set to raise you up. Never did a soul cling to Christ with
earnest will to rise and find that Christ did leave it to perish! Only lay hold of the hem of His garment and He will liftyou up to His own Glory! We have heard of drowning men who have clutched at others who could barely save themselves, but couldnot support another and have therefore been compelled to throw off those who clung to them. But you may cling to Christ withoutfear! He is an almighty swimmer and will bear to land every soul that lays hold on Him.
Trembling Believer in Jesus the Redeemer, you shall rise from your poverty to sit among princes! You shall rise from the dunghillof your sins to reign with angels! You shall rise from your spiritual death to newness of life! You shall rise from the shameof your sin to the honor of perfection! You shall rise to be children of God, educated and trained for a better world! Youshall rise to dwell in the many mansions of your Father's house! You shall rise to oneness with Christ and shall enter intoHis joy, triumphing with Him!
But all this is not for those who have a high esteem of themselves, but for those who lament their own unworthiness and sinfulness.He still has a frown for the haughty and a smile for the lowly. "He has put down the mighty from their seats and exalted themof low degree. He has filled the hungry with good things and the rich He has sent empty away."
III. Another matter shall occupy us for a moment. Some of the best critics of modern times differ entirely from the olderexpositors and think that the, "and," here used is conjunctive and not disjunctive. That is to say, that the two words describebut one character, whereas, older commentators and, as I believe, rightly, interpret the words of two classes of persons.However, let us include that other sense in our exposition. This Child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel-thatis to say there are some who shall both fall and rise again in Christ-to whom Christ shall give such a fall as they neverhad before and such a rise as shall be to their eternal resurrection.
Let me give you a picture. You remember Jacob and the angel wrestling at night? Did you ever, yourself, experience what itwas to wrestle with Christ? I do remember when He met me and entered into gracious conflict with my rebellious spirit. I stooderect in pride and as good as told Him that I had no need of a Savior. But He wrestled with me and would not let me go. Istood foot sure, as I imagined, on the Law, but what a fall He gave me when He revealed its spiritual nature and proved meguilty at every point! Then I thought I had firm footing with one foot on the Law and the other upon His Grace-imagining thatpartly by the mercy of God and partly by my own endeavors I might be saved. But what a fall was there when I learned thatif salvation was of works, it could not be of Grace-and if it was of Grace it could not be of works-the two could not be mixedtogether.
Then I said I would hope in the performance of the duties which the Gospel inculcates-I thought I had power to do this-I wouldrepent and believe and so win Heaven. But what a fall I had and how each bone seemed broken when He declared to me, "withoutMe, you can do nothing. No man can come unto Me, except the Father who has sent Me draw him"! Do you remember, Brothers andSisters, when you lay before Christ and the Gospel, all broken and bruised, till there was no life in you except the lifethat could suffer pain and even that you questioned, for you feared you did not suffer enough pain? You felt you were notpenitent enough, nor believing enough and that you could not make yourself anything other than you were. You were hopelessand helpless.
Ah, this is how Christ saves souls! He gives them a fall first and afterwards He makes them rise. You cannot fill the vesseltill it is empty. There must be room made for mercy by the pouring out of human merit. You cannot clothe the man who is clothedalready, or feed him who has no hunger. It is the hungry soul that is filled. It is the naked soul that is clothed. It isthe fallen one that is lifted up. But this fall which Jesus gives us is a blessed fall! He never did throw a man down withoutlifting him up afterwards. "I kill and I make alive. I wound and I heal"-these are the attributes of Jehovah Jesus. The textsays after the fall shall come the rising again. I have explained what that is and I hope you understand it.
If you this day are enabled to lay hold of Jesus Christ by simply trusting Him, you are already raised up through Him. Hewho trusts Christ is forgiven. He is accepted. He is saved-and low as you may have fallen in your own esteem through the fallwhich the Truth of God has given you, you may rise just as high in the union that you have with Christ, for you are acceptedin the Beloved! And there is, therefore, now no condemnation to you. Heaven is your sure portion! You shall be with Christwhere He is!
IV. We shall conclude with a few words upon the last part of the text. The text tells us that the Lord Jesus is, "A SIGN THATSHALL BE SPOKEN AGAINST." What is He a sign of? The Lord Jesus Christ is a remarkable sign and the only sign I know of thatwas ever spoken against. He is a sign of Divine love. "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." There neverwas such a sign of God's love to man as when God gave His own Son for him. Now there have been many
other signs of God's love and men have not spoken against them. The rainbow was in some respects a sign of His love-that Hewould no more destroy the world with a flood.
The sun is a sign of God's love to man and so is the moon. He makes the sun to shine by day and the moon by night, for Hismercy endures forever. A fruitful harvest, a flowing stream, a refreshing wind-the common mercies of life-these are all signsof God's benevolence. Nobody speaks against them! But the grandest sign of benevolence on God's part was when He spared notHis own Son! But listen to the babble, the noise and confusion of tongues, like the voices of many waters, as the nationscry, "This is the heir, let us kill Him." "Away with Him! Away with such a Fellow from the earth! It is not fit that He shouldlive"! Oh, prodigy of human malice! God reaches the climax of benevolence and man exhibits the climax of deadly hate!
The greatest gift provokes the greatest hostility and the loftiest sign brings forth the most virulent opposition!
Christ was a sign of Divine justice. A bleeding Savior. The Son of God deserted by His Father. The thunderbolts of vengeancefinding a target in the Person of the Well-Beloved-herein is justice revealed most fully! I hear not that other signs of vengeancehave been spoken against. Men have trembled, but have not railed. Sodom and Gomorrah, with bowed head, confessed the justiceof their doom. Egypt, engulfed in the Red Sea, says nothing of it. None of her records contain a single blasphemy againstJehovah for having swept away the nation's chivalry. The judgments of God, as a rule, strikes men dumb with awe! But this,which was the greatest display of Divine hatred of sin, where the Son of God was made to descend into the lowest depths asour Substitute-this provokes, today, man's uttermost wrath! Know you not how many are continually railing at the Cross? TheCrucified is still abhorred! How matchless is the perversity of human nature that when God displays His justice most, butblends it sweetly with His love, the sign is everywhere spoken against!
Let me close where much more might be said, by observing that Christ was the sign of man's communion with God and of God'sfellowship with man. None ought to have spoken against that. It ought to be man's greatest joy that there is a ladder thatreaches from earth to Heaven-that there is a connecting bridge between creature and Creator. But man does not want to be nearhis God, and therefore he rails at the means provided for communion! Christ is the sign of the elect seed. He is the woman'sSeed, the Head of the covenanted people and this is, perhaps, the main ground of opposition-for the serpent must always hatethe Seed of the woman. God has put an enmity between them. Jesus is the representative of the holy, the new-born, the spiritual.He is the sign of the elect of God, and therefore, as soon as the carnal mind that knows not God, nor loves Him, perceivesChrist and His Gospel, it at once stirs up the depth of its malevolence to put Christ down if it is possible.
Brothers and Sisters, they shall never put Him down! They may speak against the Gospel, but here is our joy-that Christ willraise up His people and will certainly give the fall to His enemies. It is one of the proven facts of Providence that no lieis immortal. Never be afraid that any error can long be dominant. The Ark of the Lord can never fall before Dagon-but Dagonmust fall down before the Lord's Ark. Have patience, have patience! The victory is as sure as it is slow. You may complainthat the Ritualists gather force. Have patience! The Lord shall laugh them to scorn. The Lord shall have them in derision.You may say that the doubters as to the truth of God's Word are gathering in strength. But wait with patience- skepticismshall have its overthrow. "Yet have I set My King upon My holy hill of Zion."
The Lord God has declared the decree and the decree shall stand. Be of good cheer, for all is well! Inasmuch as you have risenin Him, be not dismayed though the sign is spoken against. In patience possess your souls, for the day shall come when Hewill ease Him of His adversaries, when the loftiest foe shall be hurled to the ground-for He shall dash them in pieces, Heshall rule them with a rod of iron-He shall break them like a potter's vessel. O come you who want to be on His side, youwho would be safe! "Kiss the Son, lest He be angry and you perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessedare all they that put their trust in Him."
Come, you tremblers, cower down beneath the wings of your Savior who says today, as He did in the days of His flesh, "Howoften would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings and you would not!"Refuse Him not, lest He be unto you a swift flying eagle that scents the prey from afar and descends with terrible vengeanceto tear in pieces and to destroy!
The Lord grant that the Child Jesus may be set for your rising again and for a sign in which your souls shall delight, forHis name's sake. Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON-Luke 2.