The Desire of All Nations *
By Richard Fuller, D. D.
"And the Desire of all nations shall come." — Haggai ii :7
The text foretold a strange phenomenon. It declared that the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity would be seen among sinful men; that he who from everlasting had dwelt in light unapproachable, would assume some form, and make his entrance upon this globe; that the invisible and ever-glorious, whom no man had seen, or could see — the Eternal, forever concealed behind stars and suns, would veil his effulgence, and come into the world. Such is the prophecy; and if this wonderful event, dimly anticipated, could agitate and transport the inmost spirit of patriarcli and prophet, flooding them with rapture, what should be our emotions now — now when he has come; when we have seen "the Brightness of the Father's glory," "come forth from the Father, and come into the world;" when he who, "being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God," has "made himself of no reputation, and taken upon him the form of a servant, and been made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man, has humbled himself and become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross;" when we can say, "without controversy great is the mystery of godliness,
* Preached before the Southern Baptist Convention, at its first annual session, in Richmond, June 10. 1846.
God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory;'' when, with adoring confidence, each of us can exclaim, "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief?"
Of this stupendous and overmastering deed of love, how can I worthily speak, who am a man of unclean lips, and live among a people of unclean lips? Well have we done, to commence from it a new era in the biography of our race. Amid the wreck of past ages, that transaction stands alone by itself, in unique and solitary grandeur: and stand it forever shall, amid the waste of future ages, the great epoch in the cycles of eternity, the masterpiece of infinite power, and wisdom, and love, to absorb our expanding souls long after this globe shall have been purged by fire, and when all its records and annals shall have been forgotten. Turning, then, from the mysterious, unutterable glories of this "new thing which God has made in the earth," let us come to what we may compass by our thoughts; let us confine ourselves to the very significant title applied to the Redeemer in our text; regarding the term "Desire" as referring to the expectation, and the wants and the happiness of the whole human family.
I. First, then, it is a fact deserving more attention than has, I think, been bestowed upon it, that among the nations there has ever existed a widespread,
if not universal expectation of a glorious person to be the renovator of mankind, and to impress a new character on the spirit, habits and morals of the earth. A truth this, wholly inexplicable to the infidel, but quite incontestable for all that, and to every Christian admitting of an easy solution.
Why, my brethren, such a catastrophe as the Fall — who will believe that it could ever be obliterated from the memory of man? And if our ruin, much more surely would the promise of our redemption be transmitted — a promise which in so peculiar a manner assured the guilty that "the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head," and which was performed when, "the fullness of time being come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons."
It is a famous question, which I shall not disturb, whether the benefits of the atonement by Jesus extend to other beings besides man. The Bible conveys clear intimations, that among intelligences peopling other portions of God's empire, the knowledge was dispersed, both of the degeneracy of our race and of some wonderful expedient for our rescue. And if in distant provinces of creation the advent of a Saviour into the world was matter of adoring study, away with the thought that God would leave the posterity of Adam in ignorance of a transaction so deeply affecting their destiny, and of which this earth was to be the theater. Accordingly
we find that such a revelation was not only given, but perpetuated. And those of you who are acquainted with antiquity know that in all ages and among nations most distant from each other the expectation of a deliverer has been cherished, and cherished everywhere as an express communication from heaven.
The truth is that scarcely had the fall occurred wlien God began to announce a retriever from the ruins of that fall; and in antediluvian ages we see him so busied with this great promise that, studied by the light of faith, the history of the world even then will appear as the first act in the grand drama of redemption. It is a touching proof of God's compassion that, before the sentence was uttered against our guilty parents, the gospel was preached to them, and its golden notes mingled tenderly with those accents of wrath which otherwise might have driven them to despair. Directly after this, sacrifices seem to have commenced — an institution by which an innocent victim was to be immolated for the sins of man, a thing so entirely above the dictates of reason that we at once recognize in it the appointment of heaven and a type of the Messiah. The offering of Cain was as choice as that of Abel; the latter, however, was an expiatory sacrifice, and the conduct of God to the two worshipers was a proclamation never to be forgotten, that without the shedding of blood there is no remission, of sins; hence, "by faith Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain." In short, brief — to me instructively,
most affectingly brief — as is the record of those who lived before the flood, their cares and passions, and pleasures, and pains all summed up in a few pages, yet the Spirit has supplied one important fact. There were preachers in those davs whose theme was the same Jesus we preach — Enoch especially foretelling his coming and preparing the world for his reception.
From the flood to the call of Abraham we see God still occupied in consoling the earth with the promise of its great restorer. The Scriptures, indeed, declare that the very manner of Noah's escape was emblematical of salvation by Christ. "The like figure whereunto," says Peter, "even baptism doth also now save us; not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ." No sooner is that patriarch landed than this second father of mankind, by sacrifices of blood, inculcates on his family, then the whole population of the earth, the faith of the grand atonement. And upon all of Jehovah's dispensations at this period we discern the plain shining signatures of this illustrious doctrine. Audience is never given to man as an innocent being, but always as guilty and through the medium of sacrifices.
In process of time we find God adopting a singular measure. He separates one nation from all the nations, choosing them, not because they were more in number than any people, but for this peculiar purpose, that Jhey might be the depositories of the
"faithful saying," and might show from afar the magnificent redemption to be one day wrought out for man. If patriarchs rejoiced it was in anticpation of that event — Abraham desiring to see Christ's day, and gladdened by the sight; and Jacob exulting over death, as he leaned upon the top of his staff and turned his eye to the triumphant Shiloh. If prophets were inspired, it was to confirm the faithful in their aspirations for the Messiah, so much so "that the testimony of Jesus was the spirit of prophecy" — "the spirit of Christ which was in them testifying beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow." Amid the pomp of royalty, if monarchs pined with a longing for the gratification of which they would have bartered their crowns, it was to see him who was all their desire and all their salvation. "Many kings have desired to see those things which ye see and have not seen them, and to hear those things which ye hear and have not heard them." Types, altars, oblations and all the gorgeous machinery of the temple were but shadows of the promised mercy. In short, wherever among the Hebrews "righteous men" were found, the consummation of all their desires would have been to witness the ingress of the Prince of Peace; and in every Hebrew woman's bosom, concealed but glowing, there was such an ambition of the honor afterward conferred upon Mary that the prophet calls the Saviour "the desire of women" — the fondest, highest, holiest dream of the sex, terminating in the bliss of becoming mother to that Son whom a
virgin was to bear, whose name would "be called Immanuel, Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and of whose government of peace there should be no end."
Up to this point, then, in all ages preceding the birth of Christ, you see how that wonderful epiphany was the engrossing theme of piety and inspiration. And here let me repeat two important remarks which have already been made, and which we should always take with us when perusing the books of the Old Testament. The first is that during this period the expectation of a wonderful personage to change and mold the destiny of the world was not confined to the Jews, but was diffused throughout the earth. It was impersonated in Melchisedec; it sustained the sufferer of Idumea, who, when all was desolation around and within, exclaimed, "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:" it fired the lips of Balaam; it was scattered over Asia, Africa, Sicily and the islands of the Archipelago, and from thence was conveyed to Rome, and treasured among those Sibylline oracles which even the wisest men revered as sacred, and it prevailed, as Tacitus and Suetonius inform us, most anciently, all over the East.
This is one striking fact, and the other is the existence everywhere of sacrifices and the faith of appeasing the Deity by blood, by the substitution of the innocent for the guilty. Unite now these two truths, and how incontestable is the assertion that
from the fall to the advent of Jesus Christ there was a general expectation of the mighty victim of Calvary, which justifies the application to him of this title, "the Desire of all nations."
We come now to the great advent, and as the nativity, and afterward the public manifestion of the Saviour approach, the truth I am urging becomes confirmed on all hands, and the earth is agitated by premonitions and prognostications exciting the most intense concern. In the West, at Rome, the metropolis of the earth, and only a few years before the appearance of Christ, Julius Cassar seeks to subvert the liberties of his country, aspiring to a throne; and by what argument is his claim supported? His friends appeal to an oracle in the temple predicting a king to arise at that time, whose reign should be without bounds, and whose government should secure the happiness of mankind. And in a work almost contemporaneous with the birth at Bethlehem the most celebrated of the Latin poets rehearses this oracle, declaring it was now about to be accomplished, and employing, as to the wonderful offspring, almost the very images and language of Isaiah himself. In the East, the light to enlighten the Gentiles is not only seen from afar, but shines so clearly that the sages leave their homes and studies and repair to the birthplace, doing homage to the kingly Star of Jacob.
Above all, in Judea, and at the scene of this amazing mystery, how is everything in commotion, and from every quarter what notes of preparation!
Does the Hebrew enter the temple or walk the streets of Jerusalem, he sees the most devout and venerable of his nation bending with years, yet rejoicing that even their fading eyes should "behold the consolation of Israel." Does he leave the city, among the hills and buried in cells upon the mountains he finds those holy hermits of whom Josephus speaks absorbed with the immediate coming of Messiah, waiting to form his escort, and vindicating their sublime hope by prophecies not to be mistaken. From out the dreary depths of the wilderness, and along the verdant banks of the Jordan, resounds perpetually the voice of a most extraordinary man, an austere herald, who has drawn all eyes upon him as a prophet "with the spirit and power of Elias,'' and who still utters the startling cry, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God." In fine, my brethren, so eager and universal was the expectation* of a great deliverer that as soon as John appeared multitudes flocked and crowded about him, ard the inquiry, "Art thou he? art thou he?" a question never before proposed to any of the prophets, now breaks from their impatient lips, and if they surrender their convictions it is most reluctantly, and only when the Baptist "confesses and denies not, but confesses that he is not the Christ,"' but merely his harbinger, and not worthy to perform even the most menial office, such as unloosing his sandals for that exalted personage.
* Luke, iii. 15: "And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ," etc.
Nor, my brethren (though it is out of place to make the remark here), was the sensation felt by the inhabitants of this earth alone. Other and very different orders of intelligences were moved at the astonishing phenomenon. On the night when the Saviour was born, hell, I make no doubt, stood aghast and marshaled all its forces, and commenced in Herod and the massacre of the children, that infernal conspiracy which pursued the Redeemer through his life, and seemed to triumph, but was most gloriously discomfited at the cross. And all heaven, we are .expressly informed, was filled with a sympathy most thrilling and ecstatic. Man those glorious beings had known in Eden, and had loved with the love of a brother for a younger sister. The dismal hour of man's fall they had witnessed; nor can any tell their emotions when, amid the bowers of Paradise, there ran that shriek, Death, death is in the world! And now, when the Brightness of the Father's glory stoops to that world, and on such an errand, what wonder and rapture seize their adoring thoughts. All along their radiant, countless files roll anthems of high exultation, and then, wheeling down, they pour upon the listening ears of Palestine the music of the skies.
Yes, my brethren, not only on this scene of his love and grief, but in other and distant places were felt the communications of unutterable interest when the Dayspring from on high visited us. And if, when he caine, the world knew him not, and honored him not, he was not without honor, such as no
mere creature can receive. True, no star formed bv mortal hands would ever glitter upon his breast, for he was to be despised and rejected of men; but a star made by eternal hands moves along the heavens, and, stopping in reverence, showers its lustre upon his cradle. No illuminated capital nor palace hails his approach, for he comes at midnight and in an humble village; but "the glory of the Lord shines around," and beams from the Shekinah irradiate the earth. No troops of admiring courtiers welcome the incarnate God — O no! low lies his head in a manger, and among the herds of the stall; but a retinue of strong and immortal cherubim and seraphim adore the Lord of glory, and shake the night air of Galilee with praises for that birth which would give "glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men."
The Expectation of all nations shall come. You now perceive, my brethren, with what propriety, in this view, the Saviour is called "the Desire of all nations." As in those regions where the sun is hid for months, all console themselves with anticipations of his light, and turn instinctively to the point where he will appear, and, when the dawn approaches, abandon their pursuits and dress themselves in their richest garments, and climb the highest hills to greet his first rays, so was it with the Son of Righteousness. The expectation of a deliverer cheered the earth in its gloomiest darkness. As the fullness of time drew near, the gaze of all settled upon that quarter where the Luminary was to arise, the pious and
the wise secluded themselves from all their avocations, and, in the subliniest faith and loftiest contemplations, watched for that morning which was to know no night, but forever give light to them who sat in darkness and the shadow of death, and guide the wretched in the way of peace.
But it is time to pass to our second article, and to consider this title of the Saviour in another view, and with reference to the wants of mankind; for, as regards these also, he is emphatically "the Desire of all nations."
II. The words rendered "the Desire of all nations" mean, in fact, the want, the good needed, the grand desideratum of all the people of the earth. Nor, were this the place, would it be difficult to vindicate the text thus considered, both politically and socially, and to prove that those nations upon whom the gospel shines occupy summits gilded and gladdened by the orb of day, while all others are still in the deep valleys not yet penetrated by his rays. Why, my brethren, look abroad upon the governments of the earth. Who need be told that righteousness exalteth a nation, that Christianity alone can inbreed and nourish true patriotism, and that whatever be the form of civil polity, it will prove a blessing or a scourge, just as rulers obey or violate the precepts of the gospel ? And so, too, as to the arts and sciences, as to liberty and order, as to every virtue which adorns a people (and woe, above all lands, to this Republic when such virtues come to be worn only with a loose and disheveled decency), in
all these respects, while it is true that each age and nation hath its peculiar character, how unequivocal is the testimony of history that the characters of all depend upon the infusion or rejection of the principles of the gospel.
I am not, however, a politician or a philosopher, but a preacher. It is not my design to speak of political or ethical defects, but of wants far more profound and pressing — the wants of the soul, the necessities of the immortal spirit, exigencies which no earthly scheme of polity, or philosophy, or religion, lias ever even recognized, but which the gospel botl reaches and abundantly satisfies. The entire system of the Bible, indeed, and every provision of the gospel, has this great peculiarity; it addresses man as carrying within him the consciousness of wants overlooked by all teachers except Jesus Christ — wants which make him poor, and blind, and naked, and miserable, while he pretends to be rich and increased in goods. Christianity takes for granted a guilt and ruin such as no human expedient could meet. It is precisely on this account — it is because of its exact adaptation to all the dreadful emergencies of our conditions that the great salvation has triumphed and must triumph; that Jesus must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet; that Christ lifted up will draw all men unto him; that all nations shall call him blessed, and that unto him shall the gathering of the people be. And if you do not already feel all the force of this truth, suffer me to explain it to you.
In the first place, then, wherever a human being is found, there will be found a conscience — a moral sense; ignorant perhaps, perhaps stupefied, but still asserting, at least periodically, its mysterious power, and reverberating through all the chambers of the soul those thunders which awe and terrify the guilty. "This is the curse which goeth forth over the face of the whole earth," and secretly appalls the proudest, and flashes in upon the hardest, through all their steel and adamant, convictions that cleave, and agitate, and shake the soul with terror; nor from this pressure of unpardoned sin has man ever found, nor will man ever find deliverance but by the blood of Christ. Let men affect to despise the gospel, and seek to persecute its ministers and stifle its light; that gospel has in their bosoms a ministry they cannot resist, a radiance they cannot extinguish; and while their hands are reeking with persecution, the fell murderers of Christ, the ruthless, ferocious Saul, the cruel jailer, ask what they must do to be saved. Let men plunge into excesses, and seek in vice and revelry to drown the inward forebodings, the fearful looking-for of judgment: "Though they dig into hell," saith God, by his prophet, "thence shall my hand take them: though they bury themselves in the bottom of the sea, I will command the serpent to sting them there;" and Belshazzar, amid his delirious carousals, and Felix, triumphant in all his schemes of rapine and voluptuousness, find their faces gathering paleness and their frames shivering with terrors they cannot conceal. In a word, let
men seek by mere repentance to atone for guilt: it is in vain. Everywhere the imploring cry is heard for some medium, some mediator between God and man. Wherever humanity is diffused there the deep, earnest, imploring exclamation is, "Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God; shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old; will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil; shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" and blood, blood flowing in every land, altars groaning with victims, hecatombs smoking with gore, lacerating hooks and torturing pilgrimages, the reddened axles of Juggernaut, and the wail of anguished women on the Ganges, attest the inefficacy of repentance to give peace to the conscience. No, my brethren, the great want of a guilty world is the atonement of Calvary. It is the Lamb of God alone who taketh away the sin of the world. To him John, the great preacher and impersonation of repentance, pointed; in him there is a redundancy of merit for the vilest; from his cross there floats down a voice, saying, "Look unto me and be saved, all ye ends of the earth!" And in this view how truly is the Saviour "the Desire of all nations," bringing "peace to them that are nigh and to them that are afar off."
Guilt. To the want produced by guilt add now that created by the corruption which sin hath shed through our nature, blinding the mind, perverting
the will, and not only encasing the heart in obduracy, but filling it with enmity to God; a corruption so entire and universal and self-propagating that the Bible employs, in portraying it, the most frightful image, and pronounces all men not only without life, but dead — meaning by death not merely the absence but the opposite of life; death as a principle, a power so active, so terrific in its destructive energy, that in a few hours it reduces to a mass of disgusting putrefaction all the vigor and beauty which the more sluggish element of life had been for years maturing and perfecting. "All," say the Scriptures, "are dead, dead in trespasses and sins. Such is the natural condition of the whole world, and were men left to themselves this corruption, this virus, this leprous essence would forever work, and spread, and forever feed the deathless worm .and the quenchless fire. And as most gloriously "the life of the world," as he who "has come that we may have life, and have it more abundantly" than by the first infusion; that the Spirit may quicken, and purify, and renovate, and pour into the imperishable fabric the elixir of immortal strength and vigor — in this view how truly is Jesus "the Desire of all nations."
In fine, take but one thought more: the just anger of God — that wrath which hangs in unmitigated blackness over a guilty world, and from which there is no refuge but at the cross of Christ. The wrath of God is a calamity without a name — a calamity which none can comprehend — which it will require
eternity to comprehend and deplore; and even the possibility of incurring it must fill a reflecting mind with unspeakable concern and alarm. In heaven it once burned a little, and, promptly as the peal follows the flash, came the crisis upon the crime. Forthwith, without any waiting for a second offense, without hope or respite, angels were weeded out of their "first estate." Radiant cherubim and seraphim, the choice and prime of all the celestial hierarchy, withered into devils, and sank all naming into hell, flung from eternal splendors down to bottomless perdition, where they now lie, "reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day." And not only are all the children of Adam "children of wrath," but all hear the premonition, all hear that cry, "Flee from the wrath to come." All know that the consciousness of guilt is the prophecy of vengeance, and until sheltered in Jesus all stand helpless and hopeless, exposed to the lurid cloud which is only suspended for a while — only waits till it shall have been charged and burdened with storms, and fires, and every deadly material, when it will break and beat forever on their heads, and pour a deluge of eternal wrath upon their souls. And in this view is not Christ — that Jesus who "hath delivered us from the wrath to come" — O! is he not "the Desire of all nations?"'
It would be easy to multiply details on this article, but I must not. It were easy to show that, in reference to the most profound and pressing necessities of man, the gospel is the great desideratum —
literally the one thing peedful. The spirital wants of every age and clirne and class declare how worthy of all acceptation is the faithful saying, and the assertion would not be at all extravagant should I use the image of the Apostle and say that where Christ is not known the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for his manifestation, and the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together for a deliverance he alone can bestow. Justice pursues, vengeance thunders, conscience shoots its clear and ghastly flashes, Satan sways his baleful sceptre, death "reigns over all," trampling the nations under the hoofs of that terrible pale horse, and after death "hell follows." Such is the state of man; nor is there any hope for him but in the Redeemer. Until that Sun of eternity arise a canopy of perdition and despair envelops him, "clouds and ever-during dark surround him;" he turns on every side
"Eyes that roll in vain,
To find the piercing ray, and find no dawn."
III. Our last article requires scarcely a word from me. Here I had proposed to consider the epithet "Desire"' as synonymous with happiness, but it cannot be necessary to prove that the happiness of all must be found in Christ. Not that all feel this, for men. alas ! ignorant on all subjects, are most ignorant as to what constitutes their true felicity, and thus call that good which they love, and reject and hate the gospel which condemns their sins. Yet it is not less true that only Jesus can confer true
happiness; he alone can say, "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
Happiness, because the mind of man can rejoice only in truth, and Christ is "the truth." Without him we grope darkling in mazes of error, and are perplexed and wretched amid doubts and speculations as to all it most concerns us to know. Happiness, because the heart of man can only be satisfied with objects worthy of it, and Christ alone proposes those objects — objects which fix the heart, but without which the passions wander in unrest and pining through creation, fretting themselves with things gross and sensual, whose possession only stings us into a consciousness of our immortality, and whose best gifts are only a pleasing degradation. Happiness, lastly, because God is the life of the soul, and Christ alone reveals this Being, and reinstates us in his favor and love. To be without Christ, say the Scriptures, is to be without God, and to be without God is to be severed from the supreme good, to be cut off from the source of all joy, to have our souls cursed and blasted now, and dying thus, they must become forever most desolate and wretched — the orphans of the universe, the outcasts of eternity. But, as I said, a word here will suffice.
The subject, my brethren, on which you have been addressed is one very dear to me, not only for its interest, but as the common joy and glory of all Christians. It is because the disciples of Jesus wander from the cross that they are separated, and
walk over hidden fires forever flaming up in controversy. As they gather around this sacred altar, one heart glows in every breast, and all the elements of strife are melted and fused into one monopolizing love for God and for each other.
And now, in applying this discourse, what shall I say? Why, the very entrance of such a Being into this world, and the mission of which this earth was the theater, how astonishing and absorbing. There are times in the lives of all men when we feel that we are not all matter; when our thoughts wander far away from the finite and mutable, and become familiar with eternity; when our souls are agitated with the mystery of that eternal Spirit by which they are encompassed — are athirst for God — and ascending to the perfect and ever-glorious, exclaim, in the language of Philip, "Show us the Father, and it sufficeth us."
My brethren, that God, that eternal Spirit has rent the veil and shown himself in our midst. The Word which "in the beginning was with God, and was God, was made flesh and dwelt among us." "Christ Jesus has come into the world." And, now, what movement should stir our minds? In Christ, "God was manifest in the flesh." He is "the image of the invisible God," "the brightness of the Father's glory and express image of his person." "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." In his temper the character of the Deity was impersonated; in his life the attributes of the Deity were embodied; in his cross the very heart of the Deity is
disclosed to our love. What a Being! Search creation through, explore the universe, scale all heights, fathom all depths — no such object can be found for the admiring, adoring contemplations of the mind, the imagination, the heart.
What have we to do with thee?" As if they had said, "Thou hast not come to save us." No, they had nothing to do with him; but we have everything to do with him, since he came for us men and our salvation. O, when the Invisible steps forth upon this scene of visible things, on such a mission and in such a form, must not our hearts yield, melt, love, worship, adore?
The enterprise — and then the cost. From everlasting there he sat, the princely majesty of the universe, amid admiring, adoring thrones, and principalities, and powers, who drank in love and blessedness from his smiling countenance, and forever caused the golden atmosphere to re-echo his praises. But he left all.
He abdicated all "the throne and equipage of "God's almightiness." There was something sweeter to his heart than all the harmonies and ecstasies of heaven. It was mercy — it was pity for our wretchedness — and he came, he flew, he stooped and took our nature in its meanest and most mournful conditions.
And, in this nature, what sufferings did he not endure — sufferings which destroyed his life, though they could not destroy his love. Think of these, and how are you affected? "Christ," says Peter, "hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust;" but in that once what sufferings were not concentrated. Ah, miserable sinner, from eternity had the only-begotten reposed in the bosom of the Father, and now see him leaving that bosom and taking the form of a servant for you. From eternity had the fairest among ten thousand, and the one altogether lovely, been rich in the glories and hosannas of the skies, and now see him becoming poor for you — so poor that, living, he had not where to lay his head; and dying, he would have been buried, but for charity, like a common malefactor, by the highway side. Follow the adorable Jesus from scene to scene of ever-deepening insult and sorrow, tracked everywhere by spies hunting for the precious blood. Behold his sacred face swollen with tears and stripes. And, last of all, ascend Mount Calvary and view there the amazing spectacle; earth and hell gloating on the gashed form of the Lord of Glory; men and devils glutting their malice in the agony of the Prince of Life; and all the scattered rays of vengeance which would have consumed our guilty race, converging and beating in focal intensity upon him of whom the Eternal twice exclaimed, in a voice from heaven, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." After this what are our emotions ? Can we ever be cold
or faithless? No, my brethren, it is impossible, unless we forget this Saviour and lose sight of that cross on which he poured out his soul for us.
That is an affecting passage in Roman history which records the death of Manlius. At night, and on the Capitol, fighting hand to hand, had he repelled the Gauls and saved the city when all seemed lost. Afterward he was accused, but the Capitol towered in sight of the Forum, where he was tried, and, as he was about to be condemned, he stretched out his hands and pointed, weeping, to that arena of his triumph. At this the people burst into tears, and the judges could not pronounce sentence. Again the trial proceeded, but was again defeated; nor could he be convicted until they had removed him to a low spot, from which the Capitol was invisible. And behold, my brethren, what I am saying. While the cross is in view vainly will earth and sin seek to shake the Christian's loyalty and devotion — one look at that purple monument of a love which alone, and when all was dark and lost, interposed for our rescue — and their efforts will be baffled. Low must we sink, and blotted from our hearts must be the memory of that deed before we can become faithless to the Redeemer's cause and perfidious to his glory.
But this thought has carried me beyond all bounds. I return and with a single reflection more I finish. That reflection regards our duties and the solemn responsibilities which the subject charges home upon us all.
My impenitent hearer, how loudly does the text
speak to you; and I cannot sit down without asking you, "What think you of Christ? How are you treating him who came and who seeks to save you? You have heard that he is the desire of all nations; tell me, is he your desire or aversion? Will you receive and obey him or are you resolved still to say, "Not this man, but Barabbas?" Recollect, without him you can have no peace now — your deepest, strongest wants must be unsatisfied — the whole creation cannot make you happy. Recollect, you will soon have nothing to do but to die; then "the desire of the wicked shall perish," and what will become of you? Soon the Saviour will come again, and very differently. "Behold he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him, and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him." And then, when you call upon mountains to cover you, and abysses to shelter you, how will your present conduct appear? And what a wail will be yours when, shattering the air, and shattering your soul, that sentence shall be pronounced, "Depart, accursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels!"
It is, however, to us Christians that the application of the text especially belongs at this time, and in our bosoms how many thoughts ought it to awaken. True (O blessed be God for this,) Jesus Christ is all our desire and all our salvation. We know him as such, and our souls do magnify the Lord. But, with the possession of this blessing, what responsibilities devolve upon us!
My very dear brethren, is Christ the Desire of all nations? Then why are there so many nations still ignorant of Christ? The angel declared that the tidings should be to all people — why, then, have so many not heard those tidings? The Saviour's command is, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" — why, then, have not the heralds of the gospel traversed the earth? The answer to these questions I blush to give; it is (shame on our covetousness — the reproach of our country and of our churches) that Christians have not done, and will not do, their duty.
Ah, my brethren, my brethren, just now. as I surveyed the cross, I pronounced it almost impossible for us to be faithless to Christ; but alas! when I turn from the cross to the conduct of Christians, I have most painfully to confess my mistake. Where is the spirit of Christ among us? Upon whom has his mantle fallen, all wetted with tears for the perishing? "When he saw the multitudes he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd;" how few are affected with such a sight now. "Five hundred millions of souls," exclaimed a missionary, "are represented as being unenlightened. I cannot, if I would, give up the idea of being a missionary while I reflect upon this vast number of my fellow-sinners who are perishing for lack of knowledge. Five hundred millions ! intrudes itself upon my mind wherever 1 go and however 1 am employed. When I go to bed it is the
last thing that occurs to my memory; if I awake in the night it is to meditate on it alone, and in the morning it is generally the first thing that occupies my thoughts." Nor is it only the heathen at a distance; among ourselves how many thousands of the sons of Ethiopia are stretching out their hands, and how have they been neglected. My brethren, let us awake to our responsibility ere the wrath of God wake us up to sleep no more, and the cry which goeth up into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth attract his righteous indignation.
Is Christ the Desire of all nations? Then, my brethren, let us preach Christ, and let our missionaries preach Christ. We do not want philosophers, nor metaphysicians, nor even theologians, but preachers of Christ and him crucified. Nor let us fear that God will not open a great and effectual door for us if we are willing to be co-workers with him. What am I saying? How wide a door is already open; and if, instead of indolently crying, "There are yet four months and then cometh harvest," we would only "lift up our eyes and look on the fields," upon every side we would see them "white and ready to harvest."
Lastly, is Christ the Desire of all nations? Then how sure is our success. True, we must expect difficulties, and it is not improbable that, before the gospel conquers the earth, there will be many conflicts and convulsions. But when we consider what God has promised and done, how intent and busy is the whole Trinity in the grand scheme of salvation,
what difficulty can move us? Who can doubt that all events shall conepire to secure Immanuel's triumph, and even the passions of the world become ministers in its conversion to God? Many of us deprecated and deplored the disruption which lately divided our churches, but the man has blind eyes who sees not already the hand of God in this; and he, among us, has a cold heart who has not felt a glow at the noble conduct of our brethren at the North and is not fired with holy emulation. And thus shall it ever be; the truth shall yet bind kings in chains and nobles in fetters of iron; the wheels of the Redeemer's chariot move not back, but shall roll on until "the Desire" shall become the Delight of all nations, and shall reign over them in righteousness. All the resources of the universe are in the hands of the ascended Jesus. To him the Father hath said, "Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever;" and the hour hastens on when the whole earth shall become a temple, and that temple be filled with the glory of the Lord and echo with the hallelujahs of
"An assembly such as earth
Saw never, such as heaven stoops down to see."
Welcome the glorious consummation! O months, and seasons, and years speed your tardy flight and usher in the blissful period; that day when, from every hill and valley, shall ascend clouds of incense, to return in sparkling showers of mercy; when from every human heart shall swell the angelic hymn,
"Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace and good will to men;" when the pealing chorus of a renovated world shall answer back the thundering acclamations of the skies, and every creature which is in heaven and on the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them shall say, Alleluia! the Lord God omniponent reigneth; Worthy is the Lamb that was slain; Blessing and honor and glory and power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever. Amen!
[From Ben M. Bogard, editor, Pillars of Orthodoxy, or Defenders of the Faith, 1900 - jrd
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