Sermon 1862. The True Tabernacle, and Its Glory of Grace and Peace
The True Tabernacle, and Its Glory of Grace and Peace
Delivered on Lord's-day Morning, September 27th, 1885, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,)full of grace and truth." John 1:14.
"For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." John 1: 17.
THERE WAS A TIME when God freely communed with men. The voice of the Lord God was heard walking in the garden in the coolof the day. With unfallen Adam the great God dwelt in sweet and intimate fellowship; but sin came and not only destroyed thegarden, but destroyed the intercourse of God with His creature man. A great gulf opened between man as evil, and God as infinitelypure; and had it not been for the amazing goodness of the most High, we must all of us forever havebeen banished from His presence, and from the glory of His power. The Lord God in infinite love resolved that He Himselfwould bridge the distance, and would again dwell with man; and in token of this He made Himself manifest to His chosen nationIsrael when they were in the wilderness. He was pleased to dwell in type and symbol among His people, in the very center andheart of their camp. Do you see yonder tent with its curtains of goats' hair in the center of the canvas city? You cannotseewithin it; but it was all glorious within with precious wood, and pure gold, and tapestry of many colors. Within its mostsacred shrine shone forth a bright light between the wings of cherubim, which light was the symbol of the presence of theLord. But if you cannot see within, yet you can see above the sacred tent a cloud, which arises from the top of the Holy ofHolies, and then expands like a vast tree so as to cover all the host, and protect the chosen of God from the intense heatof thesun, so apt to make the traveler faint when passing over the burning sand. If you will wait till the sun is down, thatsame cloud will become Alimonies, and light up the whole camp. Thus it was both shade and light; and by its means was enjoyedthat safety which was afterwards set forth in the promise, "The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night." Overall the glory was a defense and a comfort. The Lord dealt not so with any nation, save only His people Israel, of whom Hesaid,"I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people."
The day of the type is over; we see no more a nation secluded from all others and made to be as "the church in the wilderness."God doth not now confine His abode to one people; for "The God of the whole earth shall he be called." There is now no spoton earth where God dwells in preference to another. Did not our Lord say, at the well of Sychar, "Woman, believe me, the hourcometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father." "But.Â .Â . the true worshipers shall worship the Father it spirit and in truth"? Wherever true hearts seek the Lord, He isfound of them. He is as much present on the lone mountain's side as in the aisles of yonder above, or in the galleries ofthis tabernacle. "Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne,and earth is my footstool; what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest?"
Yet there is a true house of, a real temple of the infinite, a living abode of the Godhead. The epistle to the Hebrews speaksof "the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man." There is still a trysting-place where God doth still meet withman, and hold fellowship with him. That place is the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, "in whom dwelleth all the fullness ofthe Godhead bodily. "The manhood of Christ is become to us the anti-type of that tent in the centerof the camp. God is in Christ Jesus; Christ Jesus is God; and in His blessed person God dwells in the midst of us as ina tent; for such is the force of the original in our text. "The Word was made flesh, and tabernacled, or tented, among us."That is to say, in Christ Jesus the Lord dwelt among men, as God of old dwelt in His sanctuary in the midst of the tribesof Israel. This is very delightful and hopeful for us: the Lord God doth dwell among us through the incarnation of His Son.
But the substance far excels the shadow; for in the wilderness the Lord only dwelt in the abode of man, but now His approachto us is closer, for He dwells in the flesh of man. "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." Note that word "flesh."It doth not say, "The Word was made man": it means that, but the use of the word "flesh brings the Lord Jesus still closerto us, and shows that He took on Him the very nature and substance of manhood: He did not merely assumethe name and notion, and appearance, of manhood, but the reality: the weakness, the suffering, the mortality of our manhoodHe actually took into union with Himself. He was no phantom, or apparition, but He had a human body and a human soul. "TheWord was made flesh." When the Lord became bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh, His incarnation in a human body broughtHim far nearer to man than when He only abode within curtains, and occupied a tent in the midst of Israel.
Moreover, it is to be noted that God does in the person of Jesus not merely dwell among men; but He hath joined Himself untomen-the Word not only dwelt in flesh, but "was made flesh." It is impossible to use words which are exactly accurate to describethe wonderful incarnation of the Son of God in human flesh; but these words are used to show that our Lord is as truly andas really man as He is God. Not only does God dwell in the body of man; but our Lord Jesus is Godand man in one person. He is not ashamed to speak of men as His brethren. "Forasmuch then as the children are partakersof flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same with us. This approach to us is exceeding close. God wasnever one with the tabernacle, but in Christ Jesus He is one with us. This union hath in it a sweetness of sympathy, a tendernessof relationship, and a condensation of fellowship greatly to be admired. Now we listen to the music of that blessed nameEmmanuel, "God with its." In the person of the only begotten, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we see God reconcilingthe world unto Himself. Let us rejoice and be glad that we have in Jesus more than Israel had in the holy place of the tabernaclesof the most High. The ancient believer gazed upon the sacred tent, he thought of the holy place of sacrifice, and the Holyof Holies, the inner shrine of the Lord's indwelling; but we have unfeignedly more, we have God in our nature, and in Him"truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ."
In and around the tent wherein the Lord dwelt in the center of the camp there was a manifestation of the presence of God.This was the glory of that house: but how scanty was the revelation! A bright light which I have already mentioned, the Shekinah,is said to have shone over the mercy-seat; but the high priest only could see it, and he only saw it once in the year whenhe entered with blood within the veil. Outside, above the holy place, there was the manifest glory ofthe pillar of cloud by day, and of fire by night. This sufficed to bear witness that God was there; but still, cloud andfire are but physical appearances, and cannot convey a true appearance of God, who is a spirit. God cannot be perceived bythe senses; and yet the fiery, cloudy pillar could appeal to the eyes only. The excellence of the indwelling of God in Christis this-that there is in Him a glory as of the only begotten of the Father, the moral and spiritual glory of Godhead. Thisisto be seen, but not with the eyes; this is to be perceived, but not by the carnal senses: this is seen, and heard, andknown, by spiritual men, whose mental perceptions are keener than those of sight and hearing. In the person of the Lord thereis a glory which is seen by our faith, which is discerned of our renewed spirits, and is made to operate upon our hearts.The glory of God in the sanctuary was seen only by the priest of the house of Aaron; the glory of God in the face of Christis seenby all believers, who are all priests unto God. That glory the priest beheld but once in the year; but we steadily beholdthat glory at all times, and are transformed by the sight. The glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ is not a thing ofoutward appearance, to be beheld with the eyes, like the pillar of cloud and fire; but there is an abiding, steady lusterof holy, gracious, truthful character about our Lord Jesus Christ, which is best seen by those who by reason of sanctificationaremade fit to discern it. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God; yea, they do see Him in Christ Jesus. "Noman hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." Many ofus besides the apostles can say, "We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace andtruth." We have not seen Jesus raise the dead; we have not seen I Jim cast out devils; we have not seen Him hush the windsand calmthe waves, but we do see, with our mind's eye, His spotless holiness, His boundless love, His superlative love and truth,His wondrous heavenliness; in a word, we have seen, and do see, His fullness of grace and truth; and we rejoice in the factthat the tabernacling of God among, men in Christ Jesus is attended with a more real glory than the mere brilliance of lightand the glow of flame. The condescension of Christ's love is to us more glorious than the pillar of cloud, and the zeal ofourLord's self-sacrifice is more excellent than the pillar of fire. As we think of the divine mysteries which meet in theperson of the Lord, we do not envy Israel the gracious manifestation vouchsafed her when "a cloud covered the tent of thecongregation, and the glory of the Lord covered the tabernacle"; for we have all this and more in our incarnate God, who iswith us always, even to the end of the world.
As the Holy Spirit shall help me, I shall at this time say, first of all, Let us behold this tabernacling of God; and secondly, Let us avail ourselves of this tabernacling of God in all the ways forwhich it was intended.
1. First, then, LET US BEHOLD THIS 'TABERNACLING OF GOD WITH US. "We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten ofthe Father, full of grace and truth. "In Jesus Christ all the attributes of God are to be seen; veiled, but yet verily there.You have only to read the gospels, to look with willing eyes, and you shall behold in Christ all that can possibly be seenof God. It is veiled in human flesh, as it must be; for the glory of God is not to be seen by usabsolutely; it is toned down to these dim eyes of ours; but the Godhead is there, the perfect Godhead in union with theperfect manhood of Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory forever and ever.
Two divine things are more clearly seen in Jesus than aught else. Upon these I would speak at this time, considering the twotogether, and then each one separately-"Full of grace and truth."
Observe the two glorious qualities, joined inseparably-grace and truth-and observe that they are spoken of in the concrete. The apostle says that the only begotten is "full of grace and truth." He did not come to tell us about grace, but actuallyto bring us grace. He is not full of the news of grace and truth, but of grace and truth themselves. Others had been messengersof gracious tidings, but He came to bring grace. Others teach us truth, but Jesus is thetruth. He is that grace and truth whereof others spoke. Jesus is not merely a teacher, an exhorter, a worker of graceand truth; but these heavenly things are in Him: He is full of them. I want you to note this. It raises such a differencebetween Christ and others: you go to others to hear of grace and truth, but you must go to Christ to see them. There may be,there is, grace in other men; but not as it is in Christ: they have take it as water flowing through a pipe, but He has itas water inits fountain and source. He has grace to communicate to the sons of men, grace without measure, grace essential and abiding.There is truth in others where God has wrought it, by His Spirit; but it is not in them as it is in Christ. In Him dwell thedepth, the substance, the essence of the fact. Grace and truth come to us by Him, and yet they evermore abide in Him. I sayagain, our Lord did not merely come to teach grace and truth, or to impress them upon us; but He came to exhibit in His ownperson, life, and work, all the grace and truth which we need. He has brought us grace in rivers and truth in streams:of these He has an infinite fullness; of that fullness all His saints receive.
This grace and truth are blended. The "and" between the two words I would treat as more than a common conjunction. The two rivers unite in one fullness-"Fullof grace and truth": that is to say. The grace is truthful grace, grace not in fiction nor in fancy, grace not to be hopedfor and to be dreamed of, but grace every atom of which is fact; redemption which does redeem, pardon which does blot outsin, renewal which actually regenerates, salvation whichcompletely saves. We have not here blessings which charm the ear and cheat the soul; but real, substantial favors fromGod that cannot lie. Then blend these things the other way. "Grace and truth": the Lord has come to bring us truth, but itis not the kind of truth which censures, condemns, and punishes; it is gracious truth, truth steeped in love, truth saturatedwith mercy. The truth which Jesus brings to His people comes not from the judgment-seat, but from the mercy-seat; it hathagracious drift and aim about it, and ever tends unto salvation. His light is the life of men. If thou art overshadowedwith a dark truth which seems to deepen thy despair, look thou to it again and thou wilt perceive within it a hidden lightwhich is sown for the righteous. The darkness of convincing and humbling truth maketh for light: by engendering despair ofself, heart-searching truth is meant to drive thee to the true hope. There is grace to God's people in everything that fallsfrom thelips of'.Jesus Christ. His lips are like lilies dropping sweet smelling myrrh; myrrh in itself is bitter, but such isthe grace of our Lord Jesus that His lips impart sweetness to it. See how grace and truth thus blend, and qualify each other!The grace all true, and the truth is all gracious, This is a wondrous compound made according to the art of the divine Apothecary.Where else is grace so true, or truth so gracious?
Furthermore, it is grace and truth balanced. I wish I were able to communicate my thoughts this morning as they came to me when I was meditating upon this passage; butthis thought almost speaks for itself. The Lord Jesus Christ is full of grace; but then He has not neglected the other qualitywhich is somewhat sterner, namely, that of truth. I have known many in this world very loving and affectionate, but they havenot been faithful: on the other hand, I haveknown men to be sternly honest and truthful, but they have not been gentle and kind: but in the Lord Jesus Christ thereis no defect either way. He is full of grace which doth invite the publican and the sinner to Himself; but He is full of truthwhich doth repel the hypocrite and Pharisee. He does not hide from man a truth however terrible it may be, but He plainlydeclares the wrath of God against all unrighteousness. But when He has spoken terrible truth, He has uttered it in such agraciousand tender manner, with so many tears of compassion for the ignorant and those that are out of the way, that you are muchwon by His grace as convinced by His truth. Our Lord's ministry is not truth alone, nor grace alone; but it is a balanced,well-ordered system of grace and truth. The Lord Himself is in His character "just and having salvation." He is both Kingof righteousness and King of peace. He does not even save unjustly, nor does He proclaim truth unlovingly. Grace and truthareequally conspicuous in Him.
Beloved, notice here that these qualities in our Lord are at the full. He is "full of grace." Who could be more so? In the person of Jesus Christ the immeasurable grace of God is treasured up.God has done for us by Christ Jesus exceeding abundantly above all that we ask, or even think. It is not possible even forimagination to conceive of any person more gracious than God in Christ Jesus. You cannot desire, certainly you cannot require,anything that should exceedwhat is found of grace in the person, offices, work, and death of the only begotten. Come, ye that have large minds, andintellects that are creative, and see if ye can devise anything that should be mentioned in the same day with what God, inthe infinite glory of His grace, has given us in the person of His Son. And there is an equal fullness of truth about ourLord. He Himself, as He comes to us as the revelation and manifestation of God, declares to us, not some truth, but all truth.All ofGod is in Christ; and all of God means all that is true, and all that is right, and all that is faithful, and all thatis just, all that is according to righteousness arid holiness. Christ Jesus has brought to us the justice, truth, and righteousnessof God to the full: He is the Lord our righteousness. There are no reserves of disagreeable faith in Christ. There is nothinghidden from us of truth that might alarm us, nor anything that might have shaken our confidence; nor, on the other hand,is any truth kept back which might have increased our steadfastness. He says, "If it were not so I would have told you."Admire the full-robed splendor of the Sun of Righteousness. Ask not with Pilate, "What is truth?" but behold it in God's dearSon. Oh, I know not how to speak to you upon themes so full and deep! How shall 1, that am but as a twinkling dewdrop on ablade of grass, reflect the full glory of this Sun of Righteousness? But all truth and all grace dwell in Christ in all theirfullness beyond conception, and the two lie in each other's bosoms forever, to bless us with boundless, endless joy andglory.
Thus have I taken the two together. Now I want to dwell briefly on each one by itself.
Grace is put first. "We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace." Jesus Christ is theSon of God; He is His only begotten Son. Others are begotten of God, but no other was ever begotten of God as Christ was;consequently, when He came into this world the glory that was about Him was a glory as of the only begotten. A very singular,and very special, and incommunicable glory abides in the person of our Lord. Part of this wasthe glory of His grace. Now, in the Old Testament, in that thirty-fourth chapter of Exodus, which we read in part thismorning, you notice that the glory of God lay in His being "the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundantin goodness and truth." The glory of the only begotten of the Father must lie in the same things as the glory of the Father,namely, in longsuffering and truth. In Christ there is a wonderful gentleness,.patience, pity, mercy, and love of God. Notmerelydid He teach the grace of God, and invite us to the grace of God, but in Himself He displayed the grace of God.
This is seen, first, in His incarnation, It is a wonderful instance of divine grace that the word should be made flesh anddwell among us, and reveal His glory to us. Apart from anything that springs out of the incarnation of Christ, that incarnationitself is a wondrous act of grace. There must be hope for men now that man is next akin to God through Jesus Christ. The angelswere not mistaken when they not only sang, "Glory to God in the highest," but also, "on earthpeace, goodwill towards men," because in Bethlehem the Son of God was born of a virgin. God in our nature must mean Godwith gracious thoughts towards us. If the Lord had meant to destroy the race, He never would have espoused it and taken itinto union with Himself. There is fullness of grace in the fact of the Word made flesh tabernacling among us.
More than this, there is fullness of grace in the life of Christ when we consider that He lived in order to perfect Himselfas our High Priest. Was He not made perfect through His sufferings, that He might sympathize with us in all our woes? He wascompassed with infirmities, and bore our sorrows, and endured those crosses of the human life which press so heavily on ourown shoulders; and all this to make Himself able to deal graciously with us in a tender and brotherlyway. Apart from that which comes wonderful brotherhood, there is a bottomless depth of grace about the fellowship itself.The Lord Jesus cannot curse me, for He has borne my curse: He cannot be unkind to me, for He has shared my sorrows. If everypang that tends my heart has also rent His heart, and if into all my woes He has descended even deeper than I have gone, itmust mean love to me, it cannot mean anything else; and it must mean truth, for Jesus did not play at fellowship, His griefswere real. I say then that this manifestation of God in the person of Christ Jesus is seen in His sorrowing life to befull of grace and truth.
Then think for a minute of what He did. He was so full of grace that when He spoke His words dropped a fatness of grace, thedew of His own love was upon all His discourses; and when He moved about and touched men here and there, virtue went out ofHim, because He was so full of it. At one time He spoke and pardoned a sinner, saying, "Thy sins be forgiven thee"; at anothermoment He battled with the consequences of sin, raising men from sickness and from death: He again Heturned Himself and fought with the prince of darkness himself, and cast him out from those whom he tormented. He wentabout like a cloud which is big with rain, and therefore plentifully waters waste places. His life was boundless compassion.There was a power of grace about His garments, His voice, His look; and in all He was so true that none ever thought Him capableof subterfuge. Everywhere He went He scattered grace among the children of men; and He is just the same now; fullness of graceabides in Him still.
When it came to His death, which was the pouring out of His soul, then His fullness of grace was seen. He was full of graceindeed, forasmuch as He emptied Himself to save men. He was Himself not only man's Saviour, but his salvation. He gave Himselffor us. He was indeed full of grace when He bore our sins in His own body on the tree. His was love at its height, since Hedied on the cross, "the just for the unjust, to bring us to God," pronounce the word "Substitution, "and you cannot help feeling that the Substitute fori guilty man was full of grace; or use that other word, " representative,"and remember that whatever Jesus did, He did as the covenant Head of His people. If He died, they died in Him; if He roseagain, they rose in Him; if He ascended up on high, they ascended in Him; and if He sits at the right hand of God, they alsosit in the heavenly places in Him. When He shall come a second time it shall be to claim the kingdom for His chosen as wellasfor Himself; and all the glory of the future ages is for them, and not for Himself alone. He saith, "Because I live, yeshall live also." Oh, the richness of the grace and truth that dwell in our Lord as the representative of His people! He willenjoy nothing unless His people enjoy it with Him. "Where I am, there also shall my servant be." "To him that overcometh willI grant to sit with me in Thy throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne."
There is yet another word higher than "substitution," higher than "representation," and that is "union." We are one with Christ,joined to Him by a union that never can be broken. Not only does He do what He does, representing us, but we are joined untoHim in one spirit, members of His body, and partakers of His glory. Is it not a miracle of love that worms of earth shouldever be one with incarnate Deity, and so one that they never can be separated throughout the ages?
Thus I have shown you that there is in our Lord a fullness of grace. Your own thoughts will dig deeper than mine.
But then it is said there is in Him also a fullness of truth, by which I understand that in Christ Himself, not merely in what He said, and did, and promised, there is a fullness of truth.And this is true, first, in the fact that He is the fulfillment of all the promises that went before concerning Him. God hadpromised great things by His prophets concerning the coming Messiah, but all those predictions are absolutely matters of factin the person of theWell-beloved. "All the promises of God are yea and Amen in Christ Jesus." Verily He hath bruised the serpent's head. VerilyHe hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. Verily He hath proclaimed liberty to the captives. Verily He hath provedHimself a prophet like unto Moses.
According to my second text, in verse seventeen, I understand our Lord Jesus to be "truth" in the sense of being the substanceof all the types. The law that was given by Moses was but symbolical and emblematical; but Jesus is the truth. He is reallythat blood of sprinkling which speaketh better things than that of Abel; He is in very deed the Paschal lamb of God's Passover:He is the burnt-offering, the sin-offering, and the peace-offering-all in one! He is the truescapegoat, the true morning and evening Lamb; in fact, He is in truth what all the types and figures were in pattern.Blessed by God, brethren, whenever you see great things in the Old Testament in the type, you see the real truth of thosethings it the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Jew had nothing that we have not; he had nothing even in outline and shadowwhich we have not obtained in substance. The covenant in its fullness is in Christ: the prophecy is in Moses, the fulfillmentis inJesus: the foreshadowing is in the law, the truth is in the Word made flesh.
Further than that, our Lord Jesus Christ is said to be grace and truth in this sense, that He truthfully deals with mattersof fact in the case of our salvation. I know the notion of the world is that the salvation of Christ is a pretty dream, ahandsome piece of sentiment. But there is nothing dreamy, about it: it is no fiction; it is fact upon fact. The Lord JesusChrist does not gloss over or conceal the condition of man in his salvation; He finds man condemned, andtakes him as condemned in the very worst sense, condemned of a capital offense; and as man's substitute He endures thecapital penalty, and dies in the sinner's stead. The Lord Jesus views the sinner as depraved, yea, as dead in trespasses andsins, and He quickens him by His resurrection life. He does not wink at the result of the fall and of actual sin; but He comesto the dead sinner and quickens him; He comes to the diseased heart and heals it. To me the gospel is a wonderful embodimentofomnipotent wisdom and truth. If the gospel had said to men, "The law of God is certainly righteous, but it is too stern,too, exacting, and therefore God will wink it at many sins, and make provision for salvation by omitting to punish much ofhuman guilt," why, my brethren, we should always have been in jeopardy. If God could be unjust to save us, He could also bechangeable, and cast us away. If there was anything rotten in the state of our salvation, we should fear that it would failits atlast. But our foundation is sure, for the Lord has excavated down to the rock; He has taken away every bit of mere sentimentand sham, and His salvation is real throughout. It is a glorious salvation of grace and truth, in which God takes the sinneras God is, on the principles of true righteousness; and yet saves him.
But it means more than that. The Lord deals with us in the way of grace, and that grace encourages a great many hopes, butthose hopes are all realized, for He deals with us in truth. Our necessities demands great things, and grace actually suppliesthose great things. The old law could never make the comers thereunto perfect as pertaining to the conscience, but the graceof God makes believers perfect as pertaining to the conscience. If I were to sit down and try toimagine a flaw in the ground of my salvation by Christ, I could not do it. Believing as I do in Him who bore my sins inHis own body on the tree, I feet that by no possibility can His atonement fail me. I have not imagination strong enough tofeign a reason for distrust: I do not see hole or corner in which any charge could lurk against the man that believes in JesusChrist. My conscience is satisfied, and more than satisfied. Sometimes it even seems to me that my sins could not have deservedthat the Son of God should die. The atonement is greater than the sin. Speak of the vindication of the law!-not the vindicationeven greater than the dishonor? Does not the law of God shine out more lustrous in its indescribable glory through the sacrificeof Christ as the penalty for sin, than it would have done had it never been broken, or had all the race of law-breakers beenswept into endless destruction? O brothers in the salvation of Jesus there is a truth of grace unrivaled! There isa deep verity, a substantiality, an inward soul-satisfaction in the sacrifice of Christ, which makes us feel it is a fullatonement-a fountain of "grace and truth."
Nor have I yet quite brought out all the meaning, even if I have succeeded so far. Christ has brought to us "grace and truth";that is to say, He works in believers both grace and truth. We want grace to rescue us from sin; He has brought it: we needtruth in the inward parts; He has wrought it. The system of salvation by atonement is calculated to produce truthful men.The habit of looking for salvation through the great sacrifice fosters the spirit of justice, begets inus a deep abhorrence of evil, and a love for that which is right and true. By nature we are all liars, and either loveor make a lie: for this cause we are content t with refuges of ties, and we compass ourselves with deceit. In our carnal statewe are as full of guile as an egg is full of meat; but when the Lord comes to us it Christ, no longer imputing our trespassesto us, then He takes out of our heart that deceit and desperate wickedness which had else remained there. I say it, and dareavow it, that the system of salvation by the indwelling of God in Christ and the atonement offered by Him for men hasa tendency in it to infuse grace into the soul and to produce truth in the life. The Holy Ghost employs it to that end. Ipray that you and I may prove it so by the grace which causes us to love both God and man, Santa and the truthfulness withwhich we deal in all the affairs of life.
Thus has our Lord displayed the glory of God in the grace and truth with which He is filled. I am sorry have spoken so feeblyon a theme so grand. May the Spirit bless you even through the infirmities of my speech!
II. Now I want a few minutes to say to you, Come brothers and sisters, LET US AVAIL OURSELVES OF THIS TABERNACLING OF GODAMONG US.
First, then, if God has come to dwell among men by the Word made flesh let us pitch our tent around this central tabernacle; do not let us live as if God were a long way off. To the Israelites God was equally near from every near from every quarterof the camp. The tabernacle was in the center, and the center is equally near to every point of the circumference. No trueIsraelite could say, "I must go across the sea, or soar up into the air, or dive into the depthsto find my God." Every Israelite could say "He dwelleth between the cherubim: I have but to go to His tabernacle to bein His presence and speak with Him." Our God is not far from any one of His people this day. We are made nigh by the bloodof Christ. God is everywhere present, but there is a higher presence of effectual grace in the person of the only begotten.Do not let us feel as if we worshiped a far-off God. Let us not repine as if we were deserted. Let us not feel alone, forthe Fatheris with us.
God is near thee, therefore cheer the sad soul.
Open thy window towards Jerusalem, as Daniel did; pray, with thine eye upon Christ, in whom all the fullness of the Godheadbodily the greatest nearness to us. God is never far away since Christ has come to dwell among men.
Next, let us resort to this central tabernacle to obtain grace tto help in time of need. Let us come to Christ without fear, for He hath grace to give, and He will give it to us abundantly whenever we need it.I like to think of the wording if my text. Leave out the parentheses, and it runs, "He dwelt among us full of grace." He couldnot have dwelt among such provoking ones if he had not been full of grace." But if He dwells among us full of grace, we neednot fearthat He will cast us away because of our sins and failings. I invite you, therefore to come boldly to Him who is fullof forgiving love. I beg you to come and receive of His fullness, for grace is truly grace when it is communicated: gracewhich is not distributed is grace in name only. "Alas!" you say, "I want so much grace." Brother, it is treasured up in Christfor you without measure. It is placed in Him that you may have it. Do we not try to persuade the sinner that there is lifein alook? Shall I need to persuade saints that grace is equally free to them? Do we tell the sinner that God is not be soughtfor as far away, but that He is waiting to be gracious? Must I tell the believer the same? You may at this moment obtain allthe grace you need. The door is open; enter and take what you will. Do not stop till you reach home and go through a set ofreligious exercises; but here, and now, believe in Jesus to the full. In the center of the camp is the incarnate God; Israelhadbut to go the central tent to find present help in time of trouble. In the person of Christ, who hath said, "I am withyou always, even to the end of the world," there is, in truth, all the grace you can possibly need. Come to this well anddrink. Receive of His fullness, and go on your way rejoicing.
What next shall we do? Brethren, since God in Christ is in the midst of us, let us abide in joyful, peaceful confidence in Him who is grace and truth to us. Do not let us wander to other sources. To whom should we go? Shall we leave our God? Shall we leave His grace, His truth?Do not let us dream that He has changed, for He is God. Do not imagine that He has removed, for He hath said. "This my restforever; here will I dwell, for I have desired it." Do not let usconceive that His grace and truth are exhausted; for His fullness is eternal. Let us receive strong consolation, and remainsteadfast, unmovable. Let us quietly rest in the firm belief that all we can want between here and heaven, all that we needthis moment and in all moments yet to come, is treasured up in Christ Jesus, who is abidingly the center of His church andthe manifestation of God.
Once more: if this be so, and God really in Christ dwell in the midst of His people "full of grace and truth," let us tell everybody of it. I am sure if I had been an Israelite in the wilderness, and had met an Amalekite or an Edomite, I should have gloried inthe privileges which His presence secured me. We know that Amalekites and Edomites could not have come into the house of theLord: but nowadays, if we meet with one who is a stranger, we can tell him of ourprivilege, with sweet persuasion that the stranger can be brought nigh through the blood of the Lamb. Therefore let usabundantly speak of the dwelling of God with men. Let us tell to all that the Lord has come to man, not in wrath, not in judgment,but "full of grace and truth." O my unconverted hearer, come to Jesus! He is able to save to the uttermost those that comeunto God by Him. Draw night to the meek and lowly Jesus, and you draw night to God. He saith, "He that hath seen me hath seenthe Father." Publish the invitation of grace to the four winds. Ring out your silver trumpets, or if you have them not,sound your ram's horns; but somehow let all people know that the tabernacle of God is with men, and He doth dwell among them.Tell out his news in the far country, that the wandering prodigal son may hear it, and cry, "I will arise, and go to my Father."God has come to men' will not come to receive grace and truth?
One more lesson remains, And that is-what manner of people ought we to be among whom Jehovah dwells? It must have been a very solemn thing to be a member of that great camp of two million in the wilderness of Sinai. God'spresence in the midst of the camp must have made every tent sacred. As we walked through the streets of that canvas city,if we had been Israelites, and in our right minds, we should have said, "These tents are none other than the house the houseof God and the very gate of heaven; for see, Jehovah is in the midst of us. Mark you not the bright light that shinesabout His sanctuary?" We should have felt that in such in such a camp all should be holy. The pollution of sin should be unknownthere. In such a camp constant prayer and praise should be presented to Him whose presence was its glory and defense. Todaylet our congregation be a holy convocation; and as for ourselves, let us be holiness unto the Lord. We are consecrated menandwomen, seeing the Lord has come so very near to us. I spoke of solemnity; I meant not dread and sorrow, but a solemnityfull of joy. It is a solemn thing to have God so near, but the joy is equal to the solemnity. Glory be unto God most high,for He is here! Let us spend our days and nights in gladness and delight. God is reconciled to us in the person of His dearSon, and we have fellowship with God in Christ Jesus; Wherefore let us rejoice evermore. Amen and amen.
PORTIONS OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE THE SERMON-Exodus 34:1-8; 40:34-38; JOHN 1:1-18.
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK"-249, 256, 250.