Sermon 63. Marvellous Increase of the Church
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, January 27, 1856, by the
REV. C.H. SPURGEON
At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.
"Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?"-Isaiah 60:8.
TThe ancient church, in the foresight of her mighty increase in these latter days lifts up her hands in astonishment, andhaving been so used to see the Lord's grace confined to a small nation, she exclaims in amazement, "Who are these that flyas a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?" We, beloved, are in a somewhat similar position. It has pleased our Fatherto add to our numbers so greatly beyond all precedent in modern times, that I doubt not that many of our agedmembers, who remember days of yore, when God was pleased to bless them very greatly, and then think of days of sadnessand weariness, when they were diminished and brought low, are this morning lifting up their hands, and saying, as they thinkof the present prosperity of our church, "Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?" I am surewhenever I appoint an evening for seeing the converts I am amazed; I can only stand up afterwards, clap my hands, and go homeandweep for very joy, to think that the word of our God is so running and multiplying and abundantly increasing; and as postafter post I receive letters from different parts of this country, from one person here, and another there, not in Englandonly, but in Scotland, and even across the sea-in Ireland, and you know, in the Crimea also-I have been overwhelmed with amazement,and have been obliged to cry out, "Who hath begotten me these?" "Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the dovesto their windows?"
The church, when she uttered these words, appears to have been the subject of three kinds of feeling. First, wonder: secondly, pleasure: thirdly, anxiety. These three feelings you have felt; you are not strangers to them; and you will understand, while I speak to you as the children of God, how it isthat we can feel at the same time, wonder, pleasure, and yet anxiety.
I. First, the church of old, and our church now, appears to have been the subject of WONDER when she saw so many come to knowthe Lord. "Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?" Take the first sentence of the text first:"Who are these that fly as a cloud?"
The church wondered, first of all, at the number of her converts. They did "fly as a cloud." Not here and there a convert-not now and then one-not converts like solitary bitterns of thedesert; but they "did fly as a cloud." Not a convert now and then, like a meteor, a thing we see but seldom, which flashesacross the sky, rejoices the darkness, and then is gone; not now and then a convert, as a rara avis,-a spiritual prodigy. "But who are these?" saithshe, "who fly as a cloud?" She wonders at their number. But, my brethren, why should we be astonished? Did not the apostlePeter become the instrument of converting three thousand under one sermon? And have we not heard of Whitfield, that whileten thousand listened to him, it has been known that two thousand at a time have felt the power of God manifested in theirhearts? And why should we wonder if hundreds were brought to God now? "Is his arm shortened, that he cannot save? Is his earheavy,that he cannot hear?" Have we not cried unto the God of Jacob; and is anything impossible to him? Remember how he "cutRahab and wounded the dragon." Think of his prodigies by the Red Sea, and the miracles he worked in the field of Zoan. "Isanything too hard for the Lord?" Oh! thou distrustful church, dost thou marvel because thy Lord giveth thee many children?Is it not written-"More are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife," saith the Lord. I tell thee,theLord will show thee greater things than these. The increase we have had shall yet be exceeded, if God wills it. Nothingis impossible with him. He who converts one, could as easily convert a hundred; and he who redeems a hundred, could save athousand by the self-same power. Is not the blood of Jesus sufficient? Is not the Holy Ghost powerful enough? and is not themighty Three-one God "able to do for us exceeding abundantly above what we can ask or think?" Yet, so it is; so little areourexpectations, and so unprepared are we for God's mercies, that when he pours out a blessing upon us, so that we have notroom enough to receive it, we begin shutting up the windows altogether, and think, "Surely it cannot come from God, becausethere is so much of it." Why, that is the very reason why we should believe it to be. If there were few conversions, thenwe might tremble, and fear lest they might be man's; but when there are so many none but a God can accomplish it. When oneor twoare brought to join a church, we may shake for fear and examine them with caution; but when they fly like a cloud, wecan only say, "Great art thou, O God, marvellous are thy works, and that my soul knoweth right well." Doubtless, brethren,until larger views of God's power and increased faith shall diminish the wonder, we shall always stand in amazement, and say,"Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?"
But, secondly, the Chaldee has the idea in it, not of numbers, but of swiftness. "Who are these that fly as a cloud," for swiftness? Ye have seen clouds dashing along, like chariots drawn by mighty horses,or flying like a fugitive army, when the swift winds have pursued them, and ye have said, "See how swiftly the clouds careeralong the sky;" and it is notable, that in great revivals of religion, persons are generally more swift in their religiousgrowth andexperience than they are in dull and degenerate times. "Why," says one, "how soon persons join the church here! how verysoon they attain to assurance of faith! how very speedily they come to understand gospel doctrines. It was not so in my days;for I know I was months and months, and tried a long while, before I dared think of obeying my Master-before I could say,'I know whom I have believed.'" Just so; but these are brighter days than your days, and you are wondering now because theconverts fly so swiftly. But that is just the idea of the text: "Who are these that fly as swiftly as a cloud?" I know, brethren, it used to be the custom with our churches, when a convert came to keep him a summer and awinter-to summer him and to winter him. Now, that is very prudent and very wise; but it is not at all scriptural: there isnothing in the word of God to support it. The example of Jesus and his apostles is altogether against it; and I take it thatscripture is to gobefore prudence, and that his example is always to be above man's wisdom. Why should the people of God tarry in thesedays? Let them haste, and delay not to keep his commandments; and what if young people do grow in grace faster now than theydid in your time? Perhaps God has now poured out a larger measure of his Spirit. He has placed us in brighter days; and plantsin the warm sunshine must expect to grow faster than those that dwell in the frost. We know that in the short summers of Sweden,a harvest will ripen in two or three months, or less than that. Why should we complain of the corn of Sweden, becauseit ripens so swiftly, when it is just as good as ours that takes several months to ripen? The Lord does as he wills and ashe pleases; and if some fly swiftly, whilst others travel slowly, let those who go slowly bless God that they go at all, butlet them not murmur that others go a little faster. Nevertheless, it will always be to God's church a source of wonder: "Whoarethese that fly so swiftly like a cloud?"
The Targum has another idea, that of publicity. "Who are these that fly as a cloud?" The cloud, you know, flies so that everybody can see it. So do these converts fly openlybefore the world. It is a matter of admiration with this church and with God's church whenever it is increased, that the convertsbecome so bold and fly so publicly. In the first days of the church, Nicodemus, the ruler of the Jews, came to Jesus by night;he was somewhat ashamed, lest he shouldbe put out of the synagogue. Joseph of Arimathea, the rich man, was afraid to profess his Lord, and therefore loved Jesus"secretly, for fear of the Jews." But you do not read that any of them were afraid, when God poured out the Holy Ghost onthe day that Peter preached; but "they broke their bread from house to house, and did eat it in singleness of heart, praisingGod." They went up to the beautiful gate of the temple, and in the very teeth of all the people, Peter and John healed thelameman. They worked their miracles openly before all men. They were not ashamed. So, when there is a glorious ingatheringof souls, you will always notice how bold the people become. Why, there never were such a brazen-faced set of people as thosewho assemble here. They are not ashamed of their religion. Why, I have seen persons come to the pool of baptism, fearing,shaking, and trembling: but I have not found it so with the majority of those who have been baptized in this place. They seemproudto own their Master. They can sing,-
"Ashamed of Jesus? Sooner far
Let evening blush to own a star!
Ashamed of Jesus? Just as soon
Let midnight be ashamed of noon!"
You "are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ," for it has been here the power of God unto salvation to many who have believed.I have rejoiced to see the boldness of the young converts; I have heard of them fighting with the antagonists of the truth.I have seen them boldly standing up for their Master, in the face of scorns and jeers, and slanders; and the church says,with regard to them, "Who are these that fly publicly as a cloud?"
But methinks there is another idea here, which Dr. Gill gives us in his very valuable commentary. "Who are these that flyas a cloud," for unanimity? You will mark, not as clouds, but "as a cloud;" not as two or three bodies, but as one united and compact mass! Here isthe secret of strength. Split us into fractions, and we are conquered; unite us into a steady phalanx, and we become invincible;knit us together as one man, and Satan himself can never rend usasunder. Divide us into threads, let our warp and woof be disunited, and we become like rotten tow, that burneth beforea single spark of the fire of the enemy. But, thanks be to God, we are "as the heart of one man." I could not but wonder atour Church Meeting on Wednesday, how all seemed to fly as a cloud. No sooner was a thing proposed, than the whole church seemedwithout a dissentient opinion to be carried along irresistibly by one thought that possessed its bosom. It is very seldomyousee a church really united; but God has united us; we have "one Lord, one faith, one baptism." But yet the church wonders at it; she can scarcely understand it. "Who are these,"she says, "who fly as one compact and solid cloud?" God grant that we may always continue so! Whatever is said of one of us,let it be said of all of us. Do not let us be stragglers. Those who fall into the rear of an army are always in danger; andthose who hang about its flanks are equally subject toinsult and injury. Let us march breast to breast, shoulder to shoulder, each of us drawing the sword at one word; everyone doing as the captain tells us; and as surely as truth prevaileth, unity shall conquer, and our king shall honor us andbless us still, treading our foes beneath our feet, and making us more than conquerors through him that hath loved us.
Again: there is the idea of power. Who is he that shall bridle a cloud, or stop it in its march? What man is he who by a word can stay the careering clouds,and make them still? Who is he that can bid them, when they are driving northward, turn their course to the south? Who ishe that can rein the coursers of the wind, and forbid them to drag the chariots of darkness along to the west? The cloudsyield to none; no majesty can control them; they laugh to scorn thesceptre of the prince, and they move on, despite the rattling of the sabres of armies. None can stop the clouds; theyare invincible, uncontrollable; and in their majesty they move themselves right royally, like the kings of heaven. And whois he that can stop the converts of Zion? Who is he that can keep back the children of Jerusalem; when the Lord shall "bringagain the captivity of his people," who is he that shall stop them? When his people of old were in Babylon, could "the two-leavedgates" bar them in? Could Cyrus, with all his armies, have kept them prisoners? Nay, the two-leaved gates open, the barsof brass give way; and Cyrus himself sends them back to their country, with gold and silver to build their temple. And whenin latter days the Jews shall return to their own land again, to worship God, who shall stop them? Shall the might of Russia?Shall the power of Egypt? Shall the tyranny of Turkey? Shall aught keep them back? No; the city shall be builded again uponherown heap, and the tribes of the Lord shall yet go up again, to worship God where their forefathers bowed before them.O, people of God! it is so with you. "Who are these that fly as a cloud!" Try, try, O enemy, to stop one of the Lord's doves,when he is coming to the windows! You cannot do it. Did not the devil try to stop you, O brother, when you were coming toGod? Ah! he did; but it was all in vain. And when you went to join the church, how many difficulties there were in the way!But whenyou are called to God you will not be afraid, you will fly like a cloud. Ah! the world says we shall stop by-and-by; thatall our success is as nothing; that it will soon die away; that it is a mere excitement, and will soon end. Ah! let them talkso, if they please. We are flying like a cloud. We have God within us; we have good within us; we have the might of the Deitywithin our church; and who is he that shall stop us? We bid the mighty men of this earth come; we bid carnal reason arrayitself against us; we bid the wisdom of the critic try to stop us. But they cannot do it. The weakness of God is mightierthan man; and he who took us from the sheep-folds to lead his people Israel will not desert his David; he who has put us beforehis people will not cast us away, nor will he leave his church, nor forsake his chosen ones. "Who are these that fly as acloud, and as the doves to their windows?"
Thus have I tried to picture to you the amazement of Christ's Church. "Who are these that fly as a cloud?" And, now, Churchof God, one word with thee, ere I leave thee. Your success is amazing one way; but it is not amazing if you look at it inanother direction. It is amazing that any man should be saved, if you look at man; it is not amazing if you consider God.It is amazing that the wilderness should blossom as the rose, if you look at the wilderness; but it is notamazing, if you consider Jehovah. It is wonderful that a desert should have the excellency of Carmel and Sharon: but,wonder all dies away, when you recollect that God who doeth as he wills in the armies of heaven doeth as he pleases in thislower world. O, Church of God! give the honor and the glory to thy God, and to thy God only. Write his name upon thy banners;let thy sacrifice smoke before him, and before the shields of the mighty. "I am, and there is none else besides me." Bow beforehim; lest, if you give praise to the creature, and if you think we have done anything, and say, "Behold this great Babylonthat I have builded," God would say, "Because thou hast exalted thyself like the cedars of Lebanon, therefore will I bringthee down to the earth, and thy glory shall be taken from thee." May the Lord in his mercy keep us from pride, and also keepus living on him, believing in his might, and trusting in his power!
II. This brings us to the second portion of our discourse, which is the PLEASURE OF THE CHURCH. "Who are these that fly asa cloud, and as the doves to their windows?"
First, the church is exceedingly pleased at the character of those who come to her, "doves." We should always thank God, when those who join the church are of the right sort; foralas! there is such a thing as having a large addition to the church of men that are of no use whatever. Many an army hasswelled its ranks with recruits, who have in no way whatever contributed to its might; and it has been known in many greatrevivals, that large hosts have been gatheredin, who have forsaken the truth in six months. I know a church which excommunicated eighty members in twelve months, fordisorderly conduct and forsaking the truth; and they had taken on a hundred or so the year before, from some great spasm,which had been occasioned by one of those spurious revivalists, who came about making a great noise, and doing no good whatever,but scorching and burning up the ground, where other men might have sown the good seed of the kingdom. I wonder that any manshould be so self-conceited as to call himself a revivalist, or profess to be a revival-maker: let this be known, as myopinion, he is a nuisance and nothing better. But where a church is cautious, where the minister exercises scrutiny, and allpossible means are taken to see into character, it gives us great pleasure that they are of the right sort. Ah! beloved, youshould be at our church meetings sometimes, and hear the sweet words of experience which are uttered there. I am sure youwouldsay, that they, "fly as the doves to their windows." Now and then there comes before me an old croaking raven, that wantsto come in; but we are soon able to tell the raven from the dove. It may be, that now and then a raven gets into our church;but I do hope that the majority are doves. We have seen them so humble, so meek, trusting alone in Jesus, like timid doves,half afraid to speak and tell you, and yet so loving, that they seemed as if they had sat on the finger of Jesus, and pickedtheir food from between his lips; we have marked their conduct afterwards, and seen it to be holy and consistent. We willglory before the world, that notwithstanding the numbers that have been added to us, we have had to cut off as few as anychurch in the world-but one in a year, out of our vast body! and that one was received from another church, and therefore had never been examined thoroughly.O my brethren, always try to give the church pleasure by your dove-like conversation."Be wise as serpents, but harmless as doves." Such was your Master's teaching. Let your character be-
"Humble, teachable, and mild,
Changed into a little child;
Pleased with all the Lord provides,
Weaned from all the world besides."
"Set your affections on things above, and not on things on the earth." Be not like the unclean bird, that will devour allkinds of filth; but be like the dove, that liveth on the "good corn of the kingdom." And be ye sure that you are like them,loving and kind one to another; and, like them, always mourn when you lose your mate; weep when your Jesus is gone from you,and you lose his delightful presence. Be ye like the dove in all these things.
Again: the church feels pleasure, not only in their character, but in their condition. Like doves "that fly." Lowth translates this portion of the verse "like doves on the wing." The church feels pleasure inthinking that her converts are "like doves on the wing." Do you never, beloved, get into such a condition, that you are notlike a dove on the wing, but like a dove in a secret place, in the cleft of the rock, hiding yourself in darkness, becauseyou are afraidto be seen? For my own part, I am often not like a dove on the wing, but like a dove hiding its head under its wing, afraidto fly. But "he reneweth our strength like the eagle's." There is a moulting time for the Lord's doves; but their feathersgrow again, and then they have the wings of the dove, covered with silver, and their feathers with yellow gold; and they canfly upwards towards Jesus. And will not our church rejoice, when her converts appear to be all on the wing, not doubting,fearful converts, not converts that stand timidly, afraid to come; but converts on the wing, flying upwards towards Jesus,prayerful, laborious, active; not sitting still, doing nothing, but labouring and flying upwards towards Jesus. These arethe converts we want. And the church is pleased when she can say, "Who are these that are like doves on the wing?"
Furthermore; the translation of the Septuagint gives us another idea. "Who are these that fly like doves with their young?" The church rejoices at the company that the converts bring with them. How charming is the sight when a father unites himselfwith the people of God, and then his children after him! We had an instance a little while ago here, of two sons followedby their mother, and we have had many instances of a mother following her daughters, and ofdaughters following their mothers, and sons following their fathers. Oh! how blessed it is, to see the doves come withtheir young! If there is anything more beautiful than a dove, it is the little dove that flieth by its side. Beloved, do younot rejoice, some of you, that you have your children in the church? that you can run your eye along the pew, where your offspringare sitting with you, and can say, "Ah! glory be to God, it is not only I that have received his mercy, but here are mysons, too; and there sits my daughter drinking from the same well as I draw from; living on the same spiritual manna,looking to the same cross for salvation, and hoping for the same heaven! But I notice some families here-I could point themout if I would: I notice them with sadness; where there is a father and a mother, both of them heirs of heaven, but of whosesons we have no evidence and no hope that they are the children of God. And there are some of you, my friends, whose youngoneshave come before you. We have daughters here that have prayerless mothers; we have sons that have ungodly fathers. Oh!does it not seem hard that the children should be in the kingdom before the parents? For if it be hard that a parent shouldsee his children perishing, surely there is tenfold horror in the thought of children saved, and parents going to hell; youroffspring entering into the joy of their Lord, and ye yourselves cast "into outer darkness, where there is weeping, and wailing,and gnashing of teeth." Daughter of Zion! plead for your children. Men of Jerusalem! plead for your children.
The church, again, feels pleasure at the direction in which these doves move. "Who are these that fly as the doves to their windows?" Where should the dove fly to else but to its dovecot? The word means the dovecot, where the doves live, the little pigeonholes, into which the doves enter and dwell. The joy of the church is, that the poor sinner does not fly to man, nor to thelaw, but flies to Christ, the dovecot! I can recollect when, like a poor dove, sentout by Noah from his hand, I flew over the wide expanse of waters, and hoped to find some place where I might rest mywearied wing. Up towards the north I flew; and my eye looked keenly through the mist and darkness, if perhaps it might findsome floating substance, on which my soul might rest its foot, but it found nothing. Again it turned its wing, and flappedit, but not so rapidly as before, across that deep water that knew no shore; but still there was no rest. The raven had foundhisresting-place upon a floating body, and was feeding itself upon the carrion of some drowned man's carcass; but my poorsoul found none. I went on: thought I saw a ship floating out at sea; it was the ship of the law; and I thought I would putmy feet on its canvass, or rest myself on its cordage for a time, and find some refuge. But ah! it was an airy phantom, onwhich I could not rest; for my foot had no right to rest on the law, I had not kept it, and the soul that keepeth it not mustdie. Atlast I saw the barque Christ Jesus-that happy ark; and I thought I would fly thither; but my poor wing was weary, andI could fly no further, and down I sank into the water, but as providence would have it, when my wings were flagging, andI dropped into the stream to be drowned, just below me was the roof of the ark, and I saw a hand put out from it, that tookme, and said, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore I have not delivered the soul of my turtle dove intothe companyof the wicked; come in, come in!" and then I found I had an olive branch in my mouth of peace with God and peace withman, plucked off with Jesus' power. Poor soul! hast thou found a resting-place in the ark? hast thou fled to thy window? orart thou, O Ephraim, like the silly dove that hath no heart, that goeth down to Egypt, and resteth itself in Assyria? Oh,say thou, why is it that thou are looking for rest, where none can be found? There be many that say, "Who will show us anygood? Lord,lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon me!" That is the dove's resting-place; that is his house. Have you foundyour home in Christ? If you have not, when the storm comes, O dove, with ruffled plumage thou shalt be driven before the swifttempest; thou shalt be blown along like a small feather before the stream, onward, onward, through the dark unknown untilthou findest thyself with burned and singed wings, falling into flames that have no bottom. The Lord give you deliverance,andhelp you to fly to Jesus.
III. Now we come to our third point-the CHURCH's ANXIETY. "Ah!" says the church, "it is all very well their flying like acloud; it is all right their going as doves to their windows; but who are they?" The church is anxious, and she anxiouslydesires to be sure that it is all gold that is put into her treasury; for she suspects that some of those lumps of bullioncannot be gold. She thinks, "surely that is not all genuine metal, or there would not be so much of it;" andshe says, "Who are they?" That is the question! Now I address myself to an anxious church to answer it.
First, they are those that fly. Our text says, "Who are these that fly?" They are those who fly because they cannot stop where they were, and they are flyingsomewhere else for refuge. We trust that those who have joined our church are those who are persuaded that the land whereinthey dwelt is to be consumed with fire, who feel a necessity to come out of the place where they once lived, and have a strongdesire to seek "a city that has foundations, whose builderand maker is God." We hope, beloved, that those who have joined with us here are those who are escaping from hell andflying to heaven; such as once had no sins that they cared for, but now come out because they needs must come, for their househas got too hot for them, and they cannot abide any longer in their sins. Here we have the idea of conviction. They are thosethat fly. They are not content now to make their nest of their own good works, with here and there a little bit of down pickedoff Morality-common, and here apiece of yarn that they have picked up in Legality palace, and here a piece of good workthat they have found in the barn-yard of Ceremonialism. No; they are poor souls that have no rest anywhere, but a re flying,and flying with rapid wing, until they can get to their windows. Are you such, my beloved, that have joined the church? orare you not? If you are not, you have deceived me, and you have deceived the church, for we thought you were; we want to havenoneunited with us but those who are flying to us. We want no self-righteous ones; no self-sufficient ones, no good moralpeople; we want those who feel that they are ragged sinners, clothed by Jesus; poor dead sinners, made alive by Jesus. I askGod, when I ask him to give me any, to give me those who are flying with haste for a Saviour; and if any of you that havecome to us making a profession of flying are not such, I beseech you by everything that is solemn, by that hell of hypocrites,whichis the hell of hells, and by the heaven you would lose, to bethink yourselves how sinfully you are acting, in continuingmembers of a Christian church when you are hypocrites and have never fled.
But again: they are those who fly not on the ground, but like a cloud, up high. We know many a church, to which the people come, because there is so much charity connected with it. I know some countrychurches in the Establishment which are attended by some people, because there are regularly given away so many sixpencesafter the service. That is flying like a will-o'-the-wisp, dancing about in dark marshy places. If I could buy all Londonfor my congregation bythe turn of a threepenny piece, I would not give it. If people do not come from some better motives, we do not wish tohave any. But we have none of that sort, we trust. They fly higher than these groundlings. Zion rejoiced that they did notfly on the ground, but flew like a cloud. They were persons that did not care about the world, but wanted heaven.
They were souls filled with rain, like the clouds; or if they were not big and black with rain, as the clouds sometimes are when they are about to burst,yet they had a little grace in them, a little moisture, a little dew.
And they were persons driven by the wind, just as the clouds are-who do not move of themselves, but go because they must go-who have no power of themselves to move,but have something driving them behind. Brethren, we hope that the converts of this church have been driven to us by the powerof the Holy Ghost, and could not help coming, and they have been men filled with rain, which they will drop out upon us incopious showers, if God pleases. They have beenlike the clouds, which tarry not for man, neither wait for the sons of men. They are come with us now: and we hope tosee the clouds go up higher and higher, into the air, until those clouds shall one by one, be swallowed up in Jesus, shallbe lost in the one assembly of the First-born Church of the Holy Ghost. These are the persons who "fly as a cloud."
We give thee yet another answer, O thou timid church. Those who come to join themselves with thee are persons who have been regenerated; for they are doves. They were not doves by nature; they were ravens; but they are doves now. They are changed from ravens into doves, from lionsinto lambs. Beloved, it is very easy for you to pretend to be the children of God; but it is not easy for you to be so. Theold fable of the jackdaw dressed up in peacock's feathersoften takes place now. Many a time have we seen coming to our church, a fine strutting fellow, with long feathers of prayerbehind him. He could pray gloriously; and he has come strutting in, with all his majesty and pride, and said, "Surely I mustcome; I have everything about me; am I not rich and polite? have I not learning and talent?" In a very little while we havefound him to be nothing but an old prattling jackdaw, having none of the true feathers belonging to him; by some accidentoneof his borrowed feathers have dropped out, and we have found him to be a hypocrite. I beseech you, do not be hypocrites.The glory of the gospel is not that it paints ravens white, and whitewashes blackbirds, but that it turns them into doves.it is the glory of our religion not that it makes a man seem what he is not, but that it makes him something else. It takesthe raven and turns him into a dove; his ravenish heart becomes a dove's heart. It is not the feathers that are changed, buttheman himself. Glorious Gospel, which takes a lion, and doth not cut the lion's mane off, and then cover him with a sheep'sskin, but makes him into a lamb! O church of God! these that have come like doves to their windows are trophies of regeneratinggrace, which has transformed them, and made them as new creatures in Christ Jesus.
The last answer I shall give respecting those who have come to join themselves with us is, that they are those, we hope, whohave fled to their windows, and found a refuge in Christ my Lord. There is nothing we want to know of a person coming before the church, except this.Dost thou believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? Hast thou had pardon from his hands? Hast thou had union with his person? Dostthou hold communion with him day by day? Is he thy hope, thy stay, thyrefuge, thy trust? If so, then thou mayest come in. If thou art one living in the dovecot we will not drive thee away;if thou hast fled like a dove to thy window, we are glad to have thee. But there is the anxious question-Have you fled toChrist? Beloved, there are some who think they have fled to Christ that have not; and there are some who think they have notfled to Christ that have. There are some of you who think yourselves safe for heaven, that are nothing but whitewashed sepulchres,like the Pharisees of old. It is a horrible thought, that there are some, we fear, who lay their head upon their deathpillow, as they think, in sure and certain hope of a glorious resurrection, but will in hell lift up their eyes, being intorment. A dove, you know, can find good shelter for itself in other places beside a dovecot; there may be some little holein the barn, and in there the dove gets and builds its nest, and is very happy and comfortable. Ah! dove, but there is noplace thatwill protect you that is not a dovecot; and there is only one dovecot. You have built a nice snug nest perhaps in someof your trees; you are building your hope in some one of your merits; you are putting your trust in some of your own works.It is all in vain. There is only one dovecot. "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ andhim crucified." There is only one hope for a poor sinner from the justice of Jehovah; and that is in the "Man of sorrows andacquainted with grief," who "gave his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to them that plucked off the hair." Do you knowhow that dovecot was made for you? Do you know how it is lined for you, and how large the door is? It was made by Jesus, the carpenter'sson; it is lined with the blood of his own heart; and the door is so wide that the biggest sinner can get in, but he who hasany righteousness will find that the door is not large enough to let him carry his righteousness with him.Poor soul! hast thou a dovecot? and art thou living in it? If so, we rejoice with thee, and glad enough should we be tohave thee united with our church; for we love all those who love the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, lest thou shouldst not understandour holy religion, one moment shall suffice, and thou shalt go. Dost thou not know that the law which God made on Sinai hasbeen broken by us all, and that God, the "jealous God," will "by no means spare the guilty?" And dost thou not know, O sinner,that thou must offer something to God, to make up a recompense for what thou hast done? Dost thou not know, that God isso angry with the man who sins, that he will damn that man, unless there is some one who will be damned for him, and sufferthe punishment in his stead? And dost thou not know, that our religion is a religion of substitution-that Jesus Christ theSon of God became man; that he might take the punishment we ought to have had; that he bore the wrath we ought to have borne;thathe took the guilt we committed, just as the scape-goat of old did, and carried it right away into the wilderness of forgetfulness;so that now a sinner who is putting his trust in that substitution can escape punishment. God's justice cannot demand paymenttwice-
"First at my bleeding Surety's hands,
And then again at mine."
Precious Jesus! what a substitute thou wast for guilt? Sweet Lord Jesus! I kiss thy wounds this day; thou Man! thou God! thouwho didst wrestle with Jacob! thou who didst walk with Abraham, the man of God, of Mamre! thou who stoodst in the fiery furnacewith Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! Thou Son of God, thou Son of Man, who didst appear to Joshua with thy sword drawn! Iworship thee, my substitute, my hope! Oh! that others might do so too, and that the whole of thisvast multitude might, with one heart, accept him as their Saviour!