by Thomas Hooker
Behold, I will send my Messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his Temple: even the Messenger of the Covenant whom ye delight in: Behold he shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts. MAL. 3.1.
For the Preface, two things are worth considering. 1. What we have accomplished. 2. What we will do. We have completed the purpose of our endeavor, which was to demonstrate how Christ's Merits are applied to the Soul, how it becomes possessed of grace here and happiness hereafter. Now, before the Soul can partake in saving grace, two things must be done: 1. Preparation. 2. Implantation. There must be a preparation because a sinner, naturally devoid of grace, is not naturally capable of receiving grace. This is evident in two aspects: 1. On God's part, He breaks the cursed alliance between Sin and the Soul, drawing us from sin to Himself. 2. Something on our part concerning the disposition of our hearts, which is manifested through two works: 1. Contrition. 2. Humiliation. These two were necessary for the Soul, as we have previously discussed, as they are the main hindrances to our Faith. First, there is a sense of security when the blinded soul takes rest and sees no need to improve, thus lacking the desire for change. Natural men regard it as mere curiosity. Therefore, the Lord initiates this work, causing us to recognize the misery of sin and deeply impacting our souls, leading us to desire transformation, for otherwise, we understand that we are condemned. Second, when the sinner recognizes their misery, they begin to seek their own comforts, striving to reform sin and perform superficial duties in an attempt to make amends. This is carnal confidence, and many perish by relying on these empty gestures, as means are not mediators, and services are not saviours. In place of these, God reveals that there is enough sin even in the best of services. The Soul, being thus separated from sin and its desires, stripped of its abilities, renouncing all forms of confidence, and becoming nothing, is now ready for Christ to be everything to it. This is how far we have progressed. Throughout this journey, the Soul is akin to the children of Israel, partly wandering in the valley of tears and partly traversing the desert of humiliation. Egypt symbolizes a person's natural condition, Moses represents the Law, Joshua represents Christ, and the wilderness represents both. Having traversed all of these, the Soul is now on the verge of reaching Canaan's shores. The Soul is like a graft, first cut off, then trimmed, and finally grafted. Contrition cuts us off, and Humiliation trims us. The next point is the incorporation into the Lord Jesus, as the prepared heart is implanted into the true vine, the Lord Christ.
Regarding the work, we will explore two aspects:
- We will provide a general overview.
- We will examine its components.
In general, our implantation into Christ is the work of the Spirit, through which the humbled sinner becomes possessed of Christ and shares in the spiritual blessings found in Him.
Now, let us delve into the description:
The humbled sinner, who otherwise has no connection with Christ, becomes possessed of Him. I use the term "possessor" because it is a work accomplished upon the soul rather than originating from any inherent principle within the soul itself. Christ possesses the individual, and as a result, the individual comes to be possessed by Christ (Gal. 4:9). It is not a matter of how we perceive Him, but of how He acknowledges us (Phil. 3:12). In this process, a person is more passive than active, for the work is primarily carried out by God. Just as a child holds onto the father because the father first holds onto the child, we hold onto God because He holds onto us.
The humbled sinner is made a partaker of the good things in Christ, but the initiative and action still lie with Christ. We contribute to the extent that we allow ourselves to be influenced and shaped by His work upon us.
These two elements are universally applicable to all works of application: to be possessed by Christ and to partake in the spiritual blessings found in Him.
Regarding vocation, Christ draws the soul and demands more from it than mere possession; the soul follows Him, and therein lies the spiritual good.
In justification, Christ offers a price, establishing ownership, and at the same time, the soul is freed from the guilt and punishment of sin. This is where the spiritual good is found.
In adoption, Christ not only calls a sinner and justifies him, but also adopts him and transforms him from a sinner into a son. This signifies a closer possession, and the individual receives the privileges of a son. This is the spiritual good derived from Christ.
In sanctification, the Lord Christ, through the power of His Spirit, imprints His image, bestowing grace upon grace. The individual is marked as His own and is liberated from the power of corruption. This is the spiritual good. In all these aspects, we observe that the soul is possessed by Christ and becomes a partaker of the spiritual good found in Him.
All of this is accomplished by the Holy Spirit of God. Just as a graft cannot insert itself into a stock but requires the hand that cut it off and pared it to graft it, similarly, the same Spirit that worked contrition and humiliation becomes the Spirit of grace and promise. As for the foundation of our discussion, we have chosen this text, which is a prophecy by John the Baptist.
Let's observe two things in this passage.
The words are spoken about John the Baptist.
First, let's consider the work of John the Baptist. He was the Messenger of God and was tasked with preparing the way for Christ. Secondly, we have the consequence: "The Lord will suddenly come into his Temple." Now, before I delve into the specific details, allow me to explain two terms so that the doctrine becomes clear.
Firstly, what is meant by "Temple"? Besides its literal and natural meaning, it is also understood in a mystical and spiritual sense. In this context, it partly refers to the Church of God, which includes the faithful who serve God with sincerity of heart. Just as all the people who fear God are considered the Church of God and His Temple in a general sense, individually, every faithful person is also regarded as the Temple of God (2 Corinthians 6:10). Just as the glory of the Lord descended upon the physical Temple in Jerusalem and He declared that He would dwell there and reveal Himself, similarly, a humble and prepared heart becomes the Temple of the Lord. The Lord takes possession of it, rules in it, and provides for it eternally. Just as a person dwells in a house prepared for them, the Lord dwells in a humbled soul. This is what is meant by "Temple."
Now, let's address the meaning of "the coming of the Lord into His Temple." Just as the Temple is to be understood in a spiritual sense, so is His coming. In this context, "coming" refers to when the Lord comes to take possession of a truly prepared soul. It is important to note that the Lord Christ comes as a King, and therefore, He has a forerunner who prepares all things for Him.
A king comes in two ways: firstly, he takes sovereign possession of the place where he arrives. If he comes to a town or an inn, the guests who have taken up the space must depart. In the same manner, the Lord comes as a king to take full possession of the soul. Secondly, all kings bring their own furniture when they arrive, and it must be displayed. Similarly, Christ comes in these two ways: He takes complete possession of the soul and mercifully provides for it.
Now that we have clarified the meaning of the words, the point becomes evident. The English translation of the text is as follows: When John the Baptist, through the power of the Word and the Spirit of Contrition and Humiliation, has humbled and prepared the souls of God's servants, making them willing to be at God's disposal, then suddenly and immediately, the Lord Jesus will come. He will command as a king and take possession of the humble soul, graciously providing for it. He comes to the bare walls, bringing His provisions with Him. He requires nothing more than a prepared and emptied soul, and He will bring more than enough provisions of vocation, adoption, justification, and sanctification.
Now, let us gather the points as they are presented:
[Doctrine 1] The Lord Jesus cannot be hindered from entering a humbled soul.
[Doctrine 2] The Lord Christ takes possession of the soul as a king and will provide for it.
The first point is that Christ cannot be hindered from entering a truly humbled soul. He comes swiftly, as if he sets aside all other work and cares for nothing else but how to enter the prepared heart. He does not approach the wicked of the world; He does not listen to the cries of the rich; He does not look after the perishing honorable ones. However, the Lord will suddenly come into a humble soul. To speak with reverence, He forsakes all company, Heaven, and the blessed angels. He forsakes everything and only desires to be in and dwell with a humble and broken heart. This is the manner in which He comes suddenly, as if He disregards all else and cares for nothing except taking possession of a broken soul. This is the reason why the Scripture does not merely express the extraordinary tender respect that the Lord has towards such a soul or the delight He finds in a humble soul. He willingly lies with a broken heart, dwells with it, and sleeps with it. He will suddenly come into His temple, just as we can see in the story of the prodigal son's father. The prodigal son decided to return to his father and say, "I have sinned against Heaven and against you," etc. The father noticed that the son was willing to be at his disposal, and even though his condition was lowly and he was ragged, he desired to enter his father's household. The father could have said, "Go to your mistresses, let them comfort you if they can." However, the text says that he saw his son from a distance, ran to him, had compassion on him, and embraced and kissed him. All of this happened before the prodigal son could speak a word or kneel down; the father ran and kissed him.
Here, four specific details are worth noting: He saw him from afar, had compassion on him, ran to meet him, and kissed him. He no longer remembered that the prodigal son had been rebellious, promiscuous, and wasteful of his wealth. All of that was forgotten. Instead, when the father saw his son coming humbly and broken, he saw him from a distance even before the prodigal son could see his father. Furthermore, he showed compassion for his son's wretchedness even before the son could confess it. The father ran to meet him swiftly, even faster than the son could reach him. And when the prodigal son fell before his father, the father embraced him and kissed him even before the son could utter a word. The Scripture itself cannot fully express the remarkable readiness and generosity of the Lord to welcome a humbled soul. It is noteworthy that after the prodigal son confessed his sins, the father instructed others to bring the best robe to cover him, put a ring on his finger, and prepare a feast for him. It was as if the father said, "Your stubbornness and rebelliousness do not matter. You have been a prodigal, but I do not care. Bring the robe to cover him, slaughter the fattened calf to feed him, and give him a ring to adorn him." Similarly, in Luke 15:4, it is said that if a man has a hundred sheep and one goes astray, he will leave the ninety-nine to seek the lost one. And when he finds the straying sheep, even if it cannot come back on its own, he will lift it onto his shoulders and bring it home. The lost sheep represents the lost soul that is bewildered. Despite all the mercies and kindness bestowed upon the lost soul, it may still stray, but the Lord Jesus will leave everything to seek it. Notice the language used and the extent to which He goes; He leaves everything to seek it and will never stop until He finds it. He does not seek momentarily but persistently until He has found it. And when He has found it, even if the lost soul cannot walk, He will carry it on His shoulders towards eternal happiness. This demonstrates the incredible readiness and generosity of the Lord towards a poor and humble sinner (Matthew 13:45). This is the meaning of the Parable of the Pearl. The text states that the Kingdom of God is compared to a pearl, which a merchant found and sold everything he had to buy. Firstly, let us explain the text and then apply it to our purpose. The pearl represents the rich mercy, grace, and salvation in Christ. The merchant is every poor and sinful creature who lacks mercy for comfort and grace for forgiveness. For what is the value of the whole world if my soul lacks mercy? Well, the merchant knows where the pearl is. The deal is as follows: he must sell everything and buy this pearl. He agrees to God's terms and purchases it at the price set by Him, and there are no more words to be said. Selling everything means that a person renounces all sins and self-confidence. They no longer trust in their own worth or rely on their own abilities. They recognize their misery caused by committed corruptions and understand their inability to free themselves from this misery. Therefore, they willingly let go of everything. Once this is done, there are no more words in the transaction, and the Lord tells them to take the pearl. They have bought it and can take it home with them. So, the situation is clear. If you are a good trader, make a fair offer, and accept God's price, there are no more words to be said. You may take the pearl in your hand and bring it home with you. This concludes the explanation.
Now, let's move on to the reasons. Why is it that the Lord does not delay in coming into a humble soul? The remarkable readiness of the Lord is truly admirable to contemplate. There are three reasons for this:
Because the Lord Jesus was sent by God the Father for this very purpose, as stated in Matthew 15:24. He also came for the specific purpose mentioned in Luke 19:10. Let's gather the references. He said, "I am not sent but to the lost sheep of Israel." In another place, it is mentioned that he came to seek and save the lost, meaning those who are lost in the awareness and acknowledgment of their own misery and their inability to help themselves. Lastly, it refers to being willing to be directed by another, which is the nature of a lost person. When a person is in the wilderness and does not know the way out, they are willing and content for someone to guide them. If someone were to say, "This is the path that leads you out of the wilderness to a certain place," wouldn't they accept the advice if they were truly lost? Similarly, if you realize that you are lost in the wilderness of sin and that you are a condemned person, and if you recognize that you are unable to save yourself, are you willing to be guided and directed by God? Then take note of what the text says: The Son of Man, the Lord Jesus, came to seek such sinners, and He will never stop until He finds you. And when He finds you, He will never stop until He saves you. The Lord will seek you even though you cannot seek Him, and when He has found you, He will also save you. Therefore, if the purpose of Christ's coming and the goal of His mission is to save a lost sinner, then above all else, He will accomplish His own purpose and fulfill what was entrusted to Him. He will seek and save that person.
Because a humble and broken soul is the most suitable vessel to display the glory of God's rich grace and salvation, which is purchased through Christ and conveyed to the soul. They are the most suitable subjects for God to work upon, for the Lord to come to and dwell in, and to manifest the honor of the work of redemption as it deserves. As stated in Ephesians 1:11-12, God works all things according to the counsel of His will, and why does He do so? It is for the praise of the glory of His grace. Now, take note that there is no soul more fitting to proclaim the praise of the glory of the Lord's grace and the great work of salvation than a broken soul with a self-denying heart. An humble soul denies everything in itself and relies solely on grace and the free favor of God. It acknowledges its unworthiness to receive mercy, yet it needs and begs for it. Therefore, an humble soul is the most suitable to declare the great work of God and all His counsel, to proclaim the riches of His grace, so that everything may be attributed to grace. Just as in the case of the rebuilding of the temple described in Zechariah, they cried out, "Grace, grace, grace," signifying that grace laid the first stone and grace laid the last stone. It is all of grace from beginning to end. Thus, a humble soul magnifies the abundance of God's free grace and acknowledges, "I deserved nothing but hell, and if I have anything other than hell, it is solely due to God's mercy." On the other hand, a proud heart opposes the work of God and the entire craftsmanship of His grace.
The proud heart desires to have something of its own and takes credit for itself, thus hindering the manifestation of the riches of God's mercy in Christ. It attributes everything to its own abilities and talents, instead of acknowledging the grace of God. In doing so, it hinders the display of the abundant work of redemption and the structure of salvation. On the contrary, an humble soul is the ideal setting where the great work of redemption and the framework of salvation can be witnessed. The humble soul will declare, "Look at what the Lord has done, it is marvelous in our eyes," and it should truly be marvelous in our hearts.
Just as in the case of human dwellings, no wise person would choose to live in a house where their reputation cannot be maintained and where they lack necessary conveniences. Therefore, it is not surprising that Christ enters into an humble heart, as it is the most suitable place for His honor. Christ desires to accomplish everything in the soul, and the humble soul willingly acknowledges it. It is a general rule that a wise builder does not merely plan a structure but also ensures its completion and dwells in it, unless they lack the power or wisdom to do so. However, none of these limitations can apply to God. He is an all-powerful and infinitely wise God who never leaves a matter unfinished. When the Lord has prepared and shaped an humble soul as a dwelling place for Himself, He will certainly bring His work to completion. The powerful God, who cannot be hindered, and the wise God, who acts with perfect wisdom, will establish the building of grace, and salvation will be bestowed upon the soul.
Because all obstacles that could hinder Christ from coming into the soul have been removed, and all impediments that could prevent Him have been completely taken away, it is necessary for Him to come now. If there were any hindrance to the coming of Christ into the soul, it would either be on His part or on our part. However, it will become evident that there is no hindrance from either God's side or the side of a broken soul. Therefore, nothing can hinder the Lord from coming. If there is anything on our part that could hinder Him, it is because we love ourselves and cling to our sins. But a broken heart has renounced both of these. An humble soul declares, "Sin shall not rule over me," and a self-denying heart acknowledges, "I cannot rule myself, so Lord guide me with Your grace." Now the way is prepared, the soul is separated from all other attachments, and it is ready for the Lord. The humbled soul has renounced sin and its own authority, and desires Christ to rule over it. Therefore, any impediments must be on Christ's part, but that is impossible, as stated in Revelation 3:20. Our Savior Christ is not unwilling to come into the soul; rather, He stands knocking at the door. He knocks at the door of a proud and licentious heart, at the door of a base and drunken heart. He says, "Forsake these sins and embrace a Savior. Renounce these corruptions and accept your own salvation. Do not be under the power of corruption that will destroy you, but submit to Christ who will redeem you." He knocks and continues knocking, saying, "Open to me, my love, my dove, my undefiled one." The Lord knocks in this manner at the door. Therefore, if the door is open, He will surely come in. In fact, He declares, "I stand at the door and knock." He has stood at the hearts of many stubborn sinners, knocking through His mercies, judgments, and His Word, bestowing blessings upon them. He says, "If anyone opens, I will come in and dwell with them." Now, if He promises that if the door is open, He will come in, and if the door is open for Him to come, then there is no reluctance in Him to enter the soul. In an humble soul, the door is open, sin and self are put away, and the Lord is welcomed to come and rule and take possession of the heart. The door is wide open now, and the Lord, who knocked before, seizes the opportunity and comes swiftly into the prepared and humbled soul. Therefore, if the purpose of Christ's ruling and coming is to advance the glory of His mercy, and if there is no hindrance from either our side or Christ's side, then with the soul being disposed in this manner, we should expect our Savior immediately, for He will come. This concludes the proof.
[Question] I confess that nothing should be dear to me, and if I know myself, there is no sin that I am not willing to let go. I have abandoned my sin, renounced myself, and yet I find no comfort. So either this doctrine is not true, or my heart is not healed.
[Answer] Is it so with you? Then Christ has come, but you do not perceive it. Just as Jacob said when he awoke from his sleep, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not perceive it," the Lord is in your soul, and you do not perceive Him.
[Question] But can Christ be present and not be seen?
[Answer] Yes, it happens all too often, and there are hindrances of two kinds.
- On our part.
- On Christ's part. The hindrances on our part can be classified into four types.
Christ has come into your soul, and you do not recognize Him. In Matthew 14:26, when Christ was closest to them to bring comfort, they thought He was a spirit sent to frighten them. Similarly, you may find your sins repulsive and think that it is not Christ, but it is indeed Jesus Christ present, even if you do not see it. In John 20:15-16, the woman, longing for the company of Christ, mistook Him for a gardener and sought a Savior from the Savior Himself. Likewise, a broken-hearted sinner seeks a Savior. If you are seeking guidance on how to find favor with God, seek the counsel of a poor sinner. It is Christ who gives you the desire to seek Him, and it is the Christ you are seeking. By the power of the Savior, you seek for a Savior, just as a person looks for a candle by the light of another candle. (John 14:9)
You do not pay attention when our Savior comes; He comes quietly and unnoticed by you. Just as he appeared in the midst of his disciples when they were shut up in a chamber (Luke 24), he conveys himself to you silently and you do not see him. Why do you seek the living among the dead? While you are focused on your corruption, you cannot see Christ. Why do you look for a comforting Savior among the corruptions that would condemn you? It was not Hagar's fault that she did not see the fountain; she simply did not pay attention to it. Similarly, we sit in despair while Christ is within us, but we do not look for Him. Like a person waiting for a nobleman, if he does not come at the appointed hour, the person goes into a corner and weeps, thinking that he has been displeased. Meanwhile, the nobleman approaches and remains there for a long time before he is noticed. In the same way, while we lament our corruptions, the Lord Christ comes, but we do not see Him. If we go into a dungeon, we will never see the sunshine, even if it shines brightly. So when the Son of Righteousness shines upon us, we go into the dungeon of discouragement and fail to perceive Him, even though His light is clear.
We are also unable to correctly discern when Christ is in us because we judge Him based on our senses and expect extraordinary sweetness within us. We make judgments on false grounds. Every sinner sets up a notion in their imagination that if Christ comes, miraculous things will happen. Holding onto this notion, they will accept no other evidence of Christ's coming.
Gideon's fault in Judges 6:13 was that he judged God's presence based on false grounds. God was with him not only to deliver him from misery but also to help him bear it. Similarly, when ministers say to humble sinners burdened with the sight of their abominations that the Lord is with them, they reply with doubts. They question how the Lord can be present when they experience violent temptations and numerous corruptions. They wonder why they don't witness the same miracles that the saints of old experienced. They cite examples of what God did for David, Elijah, and Paul, who conquered their corruptions and led captivity captive. However, they fail to realize that the Lord is present to help them contend against sin, not just to make them dominate over it. The same apostle who was more than a conqueror at one time also experienced captivity and the flesh lusting against the Spirit. This is a misconception—an assumption that if the King (Christ) comes, there will be no traitors. But the truth is, traitors follow the court. They also believe that if the King comes into their hearts, He must promote them to positions of honor. These are desperate mistakes. A broken heart wrongly believes that it would have certain abilities and sufficiency if Christ were truly in it. They mistakenly think that Christ's coming depends on their own specific experiences, abilities, or assurances. They refuse to believe that the King has come unless they are embraced closely by Him. This is judging based on sense rather than relying on the promise of Christ, who is blessed forever. It's like Jacob in Genesis 45:24 who did not believe the words of his sons until he saw their chariots. Disconsolate spirits have a similar mindset. However, we have the Word of God to confirm the presence of Christ. Unless you are carried by the chariot of that promise, enabling you to triumph over all sins, your spirits will not be revived, and you will not believe that Joseph (your Savior) is alive and with you.
When our eyes are held, it means that our conscience is troubled, or when the intensity of temptation overwhelms us, or when we are burdened with worldly troubles that consume our thoughts, the soul cannot acknowledge Christ's presence even if He is near. Just as a person engrossed in sad thoughts may not recognize an acquaintance they meet, the disciples experienced a similar situation. In Luke 24:32, they said, "Did not our hearts burn within us?" implying that there was enough evidence of a divine presence, it was Christ who spoke, but they were unable to see it. Similarly, when the soul is caught up in the turmoil of temptation and worldly matters, it fails to see Christ even though its heart longs for Him. This is why, when Satan launches his attacks, those troubled spirits, despite hearing numerous promises, forget what was spoken because their minds are solely focused on the temptation. They do not pay attention to Christ in the promise because their eyes are held captive, even though they may be in their private chambers and have the opportunity to converse with our Savior (Psalm 13:23).
The Lord Jesus hides Himself from us as a just consequence. In Isaiah 8:17 and Psalm 31:22, it is mentioned that Christ hides Himself in three cases:
When the saints fall into grievous and gross sins, or when they make peace with a cherished corruption, even if it's just an infirmity, God withdraws His presence. Obedience is the condition for God's presence (2 Chronicles 15:1), and if the saints break this bond, it is no wonder that Christ withdraws His fellowship (John 19:21). This is how Christ manifests Himself, provided we love Him. But if we don't, He departs (Psalm 51). Thus, God demonstrates His anger against sin by not tolerating or supporting it, not even in His own people. He does this not only when they commit gross sins but also when they make peace with a sinful disposition, even if it's just an infirmity. For instance, if a Christian regularly struggles with anger or becomes overly attached to worldly desires or grows spiritually apathetic, it is just for God to withhold their comforts.
When the saints of God become indulgent, misusing the sense and sweetness of experiencing His favor, and consequently growing careless, it is only just for God to distance Himself from that soul. Seeing a person abusing His goodness, God may choose to estrange Himself in order to restore that soul's former strength (Song of Solomon 5:2; Psalm 30:6).
The Lord hides Himself as a preventative measure. He does not want some of His people to fully comprehend His favor, lest they become prideful and start looking down on their fellow brethren. Instead, God extends to them just enough mercy to provide some comfort while still keeping them humble. Similar to a father who sees his child growing proud and therefore keeps him dependent in order to foster better obedience, God recognizes our unruly hearts and keeps us dependent to cultivate greater obedience (John 16:12). Just as a small boat would be overwhelmed by large sails, people adjust their sails according to the size of their vessel. This is a significant reason why God removes the sense of His favor. The world is the sea, and the soul sails through it. If the soul were to have too much favor, it would be overwhelmed. It is not the fault of grace; the fault lies in the soul's inability to bear it. This explains why many individuals spend their days in sorrow but gain great assurance at the time of their death. As one wise person said, God will not always provide His servants with a cup of wine, meaning He will not always comfort them. The comforts of God's Spirit are superior to wine, but if they were granted to a proud heart, it would lead to arrogance towards others. Therefore, God reserves this cup until the end.
Thus, when God keeps us in a state of lowliness and withholds His hand, if we still contend with Him and question why our prayers seem unanswered and our pleas unheard, then it is clear that if we were given what we desired in that state, we would turn our backs on the Almighty. It is for our own good that God acts in this way because we are not capable of bearing such sails; otherwise, He would grant them.
If this is the case, let every soul claim their part and portion. To all you stubborn and disobedient spirits who refuse to obey the Gospel of God, to all unbroken hearts and unhumbled spirits, I have nothing to say to you at the moment. But to those of you who have obedience in the work of the Spirit and grace in your souls, to those who willingly surrender and resolutely open the door to a Savior, if there is any soul hiding according to the previous doctrine, you humble and broken-hearted sinners, go on your way with comfort, and may the God of heaven be with you. In fact, He is already with you. He will meet you at home, and even in the midst of your journey. No matter what your sins, miseries, or needs may be, here is abundant consolation to support your heart. If you are a poor, broken-hearted sinner, it is enough. The Lord Christ will enter your soul, and regardless of whatever may come or can come, the Lord Jesus will come, and He will come suddenly.
But you may say, "There are so many sins that weigh upon me. My corruptions engulf me like clouds. All my oaths and drunkenness, all my pride, immorality, vanity, and worldliness—these corruptions press upon me, and the guilt remains. They horrify me, and I cannot find peace in the assurance of their forgiveness. Pride, adultery, drunkenness, a multitude of sins, they all assail me." Are your souls in such distress and misery? Well, I implore you to consider what I am about to say. Are you humbled, you defiled heart? Are you oppressed by your corruptions? Does your soul declare that it is the greatest burden and wound you feel? If your heart could only be free from these sins, your soul would be calm and your heart at peace. Then know this: if the Lord sees you humbled, He will not see you corrupted. He will come suddenly. Let all your corruptions accuse you, let all your sins rise up against you in battle. Yet, if your heart is broken because of them, if you are humbled in the face of these sins and determined to forsake them, the Lord will come suddenly, and with His mercy, He will pardon all and subdue every cursed disorder that clings to you.
But you may still question, "What? Will this Lord come into my soul, this wretched soul, this mud-walled and abominable heart? Will the Lord come to my temple? I have committed such hideous sins, and will the Lord come into such a decaying dwelling and such a wretched, cursed heart like mine?" Yes, pay attention to what the text says: "I stand at the door and knock. If any man will open, I will come in." He knocks at the door of every proud person, every adulterer, every drunkard. If any adulterous person opens, the Lord will come and sanctify them. If any unclean wretch opens, the Lord will come and release them from all abomination. What a comfort this is then! Let Satan accuse us and sin condemn us. If the Lord comforts us, who can discourage us? If the Lord saves us, who can condemn us?
Furthermore, as this brings comfort against all sins, it also brings marvelous comfort against all extremities and miseries. If you are humbled, let miseries come, let troubles and temptations come, and Christ will come too, into a humble soul. In all weaknesses, Christ will come to strengthen you. In all disgraces, He will come to honor you. Here is comfort. The favor of men may fade away. The closer a man draws to God, the farther they may go from him. He may become a stranger to his brother and an alien to his mother's son. But no matter what your wants may be, and no matter what troubles and weaknesses may come, the Lord will not depart from you. Even if friends are distant, the Lord will be near to you. So be comforted. As the wise man said, a man may exchange honor for profit. Sometimes he may give up honor for gain, and money can supply all. Whatever the world can do, money can do. Therefore, let this bring peace to the rich man. "I have it with me. I may have many wants, but it doesn't matter. I have money with me. Perhaps I lack a house, but that's no issue. I have money and can build one. I may lack clothes to wear, but I have money, and it can buy them." (Thus, money can answer all.)
To all you broken-hearted sinners, go home cheerfully and eat your bread with glad hearts. The Lord accepts you, and even if others may not pay attention to you or keep their distance, go home, and may the Lord comfort you more and more. Know that the Lord Christ comes suddenly and provides answers to all. It was the speech of Christ to his disciples, "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." If you are troubled, you shall have a kingdom that will bring you peace. If you are disgraced, you shall have a kingdom that will honor you. If you are persecuted, you shall have a kingdom that will bring you comfort.
Let a humble soul descend into the depths of the sea or flee to the farthest corners of the earth; still, take comfort, for the Lord will come suddenly and bring His provision with Him. Wherever you may be, He will be with you to comfort and cheer you. You who are humble little ones, it is not only your Father's pleasure to give you a kingdom, but His Son as well, and together they provide for all your needs. What if you have many miseries? You have a Christ who is the God of all mercies. What if you have many sins? You have a Christ who is the God of all grace. Wherever you are, He will be with you. Even if you were banished, He would wander through every wilderness until He finds you and carries you upon His shoulders to comfort and cheer you here, and to fulfill the desires of your heart in the future. If we are not comforted by this, it is a shame. Therefore, let every sorrowful soul take heart. If you have Christ, you have enough, even if you never see a good day again.
Now we come to the second doctrine.
[Doctrine 2] When the Lord Jesus comes to a humbled soul, He takes possession of it as His own. When the soul is surrendered to God's disposal, allowing His mercy to do as it pleases, then the Lord takes possession (Ezekiel 16:8).
[Question] In what way does this sovereign possession manifest?
[Answer] It is evident in two aspects:
- The Lord Jesus undertakes for the soul.
- He directs and arranges it for its best advantage.
He undertakes for it, meaning he takes upon himself to protect it from all the evil it cannot avoid. As I mentioned earlier, when the sinner sees the wretchedness of their sin and desires to be freed, they are unable to deliver themselves and therefore turn to Christ. Now our Savior steps in and says that He will take on the responsibility to pay for everything. If people are oppressed by a formidable enemy, they seek the protection of a sovereign prince and submit to him if he agrees to defend them. Similarly, when the soul is burdened by numerous sins and intense suffering, it falls down and asks Christ to be its protector. And then, immediately, Christ comes and delivers it from evil. In Numbers 35, it was commanded that the manslayer should flee to the cities of refuge and they would open their gates for him. The manslayer represents the poor sinner who is pursued, and now they flee to the Lord Jesus, their refuge, as David often speaks. And Christ receives them and delivers them from the hand of the avenger. There are three dangers that an humble heart faces, and for each of these, Christ takes responsibility: first, the satisfaction of the Father's justice; second, the conquest of Satan's temptation; third, the subduing of sin. The soul is overwhelmed by all these and cries out, "Who will deliver me?" When the heart is in this state, Christ has come to rescue it and says, "Be comforted. I will satisfy my Father's justice, I will thwart Satan's malice, I will overthrow the power of corruption."
The sinner sees a just God who demands His glory. When justice emerges, Christ intervenes. When a person is arrested, if a great man gives his word, they are acquitted. Similarly, when the venom of God's vengeance pursues you, Christ gives His word that He will ensure complete satisfaction. Therefore, take comfort, for Christ's word is sufficient, and no other reconciler is needed.
Temptation is subdued, and sin and Satan must yield. Christ's supreme authority causes sin and Satan to vanish. In Revelation 1:18, a key is a symbol of authority. He who possesses the key can admit or exclude whomever he desires. So Christ can release whomever He chooses, as stated in Ephesians 4:8. Just as conquerors lead captive slaves, Christ leads sin and death. When the scepter of Christ was displayed, Satan fell like lightning, as mentioned in Luke 10:18.
Sin comes to be dismissed; sin argues that it has possessed the soul since youth and therefore has a rightful claim. However, Christ, having taken possession, refutes all charges. When sin says, "I have possessed the soul from the beginning, so why should I leave?" Christ replies, "It is a usurpation, a forged claim. It belongs to me, and I have come to claim what is rightfully mine. Therefore, sin, depart." Romans 8:3 states that Christ condemns sin in the flesh. To condemn sin is like a person presenting their case in court and losing. Sin claims ownership of the soul, but Christ comes and condemns sin in the flesh, making the case go against sin. Sin claims rights based on the fact that every descendant of Adam is a child of disobedience, under its power, and deserving of death. But Christ answers, "Those for whom the sin of Adam has been satisfied are not under the possession of sin." The soul is in that category. Does Adam's sin still have a hold? I have satisfied for it. Is sin strong? I have conquered it. Thus, sin loses its case. This is what it means to condemn sin in the flesh. In Acts 26:18, it is stated that they were turned from the power of Satan, and then came forgiveness of sins and sanctification.
Christ arranges the soul for His best advantage. When Satan, the strong man, held control over the house, and the soul was under his management and cultivation, it either lay fallow like ground covered in thorns, as described in Jeremiah 4:3. When sin and Satan rule the heart, they blind it. But when God calls, the soul responds and welcomes that call. This is evident in two aspects.
The sinner receives the work of grace and mercy when they are empty. The Lord can pour in whatever He desires because there is room in the soul to receive anything. This is called passive receiving, wherein God prepares the soul to receive mercy and empties it so that it can receive the work of mercy.
The emptied soul, having received virtue from God, responds to His call. This is known as active calling. The soul, empowered by that virtue, answers the call of God, similar to an echo. Just as the air is set in motion by a voice and then returns the same voice, the soul responds to God's call. It is like the men of Syria in 1 Kings 20:32-33, where Ahab said, "my brother Benhadad," and the sinner waits and anticipates when God will show mercy. Finally, God says, "my son," and the soul answers, "thy Son, Lord," as stated in Jeremiah 3:22. Pay attention to how they respond: "Behold we come, for thou art the Lord our God." The Lord says, "come away," and the soul says, "behold, I come" (1 Corinthians 6:17). It is the same voice that echoes and the same beam that reflects from the wall. Likewise, it is the same spirit that responds with the voice. This response of the soul is what we call faith. Now we have outlined our task, and for further exploration, we have chosen this text to reveal the work of vocation.