This sermon was preached at St. Peter's on the first Sabbath after his M'Cheyne's return from Palestine, November 24, 1839.
It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying, For He is good; for His mercy endureth for ever; that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the Lord; so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God. - 2 Chronicles 5:13,14
The day here spoken of appears to have been a day of days. It seems to have been the day of Pentecost in Old Testament times - a type of all the glorious days of an outpoured Spirit that ever have been in the world - a foretaste of that glorious day when God will fulfill that amazing, soul-satisfying promise: "I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh."
My dearly beloved flock, it is my heart's desire and prayer that this very day might be such a day among us - that God would indeed open the windows of heaven, as He has done in times past, and pour down a blessing, till there be no room to receive it.
Let us observe, then, how thanksgiving brings down the Spirit of God.
I. How the people were engaged: "In praising and thanking the Lord."
Yea, you have their very words: "For He is good; for His mercy endureth forever." It was thus the people were engaged when the cloud came down and filled the house. They had been engaged in many other most affecting duties. The Levites had been carrying the ark from Mount Zion and placing it under the wings of the cherubim; Solomon and all his people had been offering sacrifices, sheep and oxen, which could not be told for multitude - still now answer came from heaven. But when the trumpeters and singers were as one in praising and thanking the Lord, when they lifted up their voices, saying: "For he is good; for his mercy endureth forever" - then the windows of heaven were opened - then the cloud came down and filled the whole temple.
My dear flock, I am deeply persuaded that there will be no full, soul-filling, heart-ravishing, heart-satisfying, outpouring of the Spirit of God, till there be more praise and thanking the Lord. Let me stir up your hearts to praise.
1. He is good. Believers should praise God for what He is in Himself. Those that have never seen the Lord cannot praise Him. Those that have not come to Christ, have never seen the King in His beauty. An unconverted man sees no loveliness in God. He sees a beauty in the blue sky - in the glorious sun - in the green earth - in the spangling stars - in the lily of the field; but he sees no beauty in God. He hath not seen Him, neither known Him; therefore there is no melody of praise in that heart. When a sinner is brought to Christ, he is brought to the Father. Jesus gave Himself for us, "that He might bring us to God." O! what a sight breaks in upon the soul - the infinite, eternal, unchangeable God! I know that some of you have been brought to see this sight. Oh! praise Him, then, for what He is. Praise Him for His pure, lovely holiness, that cannot bear any sin in His sight. Cry, like the angels, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty." Praise Him for His infinite wisdom - that He knows the end from the beginning. In Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Praise Him for His power - that all matter, all mind, is in His hand. Hallelujah! for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. Praise Him for His love; for God is love.
Some of you have been at sea. When far out of sight of land, you have stood high on the vessel's prow, and looked round and round - one vast circle of ocean without any bound. Oh! so it is to stand in Christ justified, and to behold the love of God - a vast ocean all around you, without a bottom and without a shore. Oh! praise Him for what He is. Heaven will be all praise. If you cannot praise God, you will never be there.
2. For His mercy - for what He has done for us. The Lord has done much for me since we parted. We were once in perils of waters, but the Lord save the ship. Again and again we were in danger of plague - we nightly heard the cry of the mourner; yet no plague came near our dwelling. Again and again we were in perils of robbers - the gun of the murderous Arab has been levelled at us; but the Lord stayed his hand. I have been at the gates of death since we parted. No man that saw me would have believed that I could be here this day; yet He hath healed our diseases, and brought me back to open once more to you the unsearchable riches of Christ. I, then, have reason to praise Him; for His mercy endureth for ever.
The Lord has done much for you since we parted. My eyes filled with tears when I left you; for I thought He had done it in anger. I thought it was anger to me, and I thought it was in anger to you; but now I see it was all love - it was all mercy to unworthy you and to unworthy me. The Lord gave you my dear brother to care for your souls; and far better than that - for to give you a man only would have been a poor gift - but He has given you His Holy Spirit. "Bless the Lord, O my soul!" Praise Him, O my people! for He is good; for His mercy endureth for ever.
Are there not some of you brands plucked out of the burning? You were in the burning; the pains of hell were actually getting hold on you. You had a hell in your own hearts - you had a hell yawning to receive you; but the Lord snatched you from the burning. Will you not praise Him? Are there not some of you whom I left blind, and deaf, and dumb, and dead? You saw no beauty in Him who is fairer than the children of men; you saw no glory in Immanuel - God manifest in the flesh. But the Lord has said: "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam;" and whereas you were blind, now you see. Oh! praise Him that hath done it. In heaven, they praise God most of all for this: "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain." Oh! have you no praise for Jesus for all His love - for the Father - for the Spirit? Some of you cannot sing: "No man could learn that song but those that were redeemed from the earth."
Some of you are worse than when I left you. You have resisted me - you have resisted my brother; and oh! worse than all, you have resisted the Holy Ghost. You are prayerless yet - Christless yet. Ah! unhappy souls! unredeemed, unrenewed, remember it will be too late to learn to praise when you die. You must begin now. I will tell you what a dear friend on my own once said before dying. She desired all the servants to be brought in; and she said very solemnly: "There's nothing but Christ between me and weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Oh! if you have not Christ, then there is nothing between you and weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth." You that will not praise Christ now, shall wail because of Him soon.
II. The manner of their praise.
They were "as one." Their hearts were all as one heart in this exercise. There were a thousand tongues, but only one heart. Not only were their harps, and cymbals, and dulcimers, all in tune, giving out a harmonious melody, but their hearts were all in tune. God had given them one heart, and then the blessing came down. The same was the case on the day of Pentecost; they were all with one accord in one place; they were looking to the same Lamb of God. The same thing will be the case in that day prophesied of in Psalm 133: "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!--There God commands the blessing, even life for evermore." This is the very thing which Jesus prayed for in that prayer which none but God could have asked, and none but God could answer: "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." And then follows the blessing: "And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me."
Dear children of God, unite your praises. Let your hearts no more be divided. you are divided from the world by a great gulf. Soon it will be an infinite gulf; but you are united to one another by the same Spirit--you have been chosen by the same free, sovereign love--you have been washed in the same precious blood--you have been filled by the same blessed Spirit. Little children, love one another. He that loveth is born of God. Be on in your praises. Join in one cry: "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain: thou art worthy to open the book--thou art worthy to reign in our hearts.: And oh! be fervent in praise. Lift up your voices in it--lift up your hearts in it. In heaven they wax louder and louder. John heard the sound of a great multitude; and then it was like many waters, and then it was like mighty thunderings, crying: "Hallelujah! Hallelujah!" I remember Edwards' remark, that it was in the singing of praises that his people felt themselves most enlarged, and that then God was worshiped somewhat in the beauty of holiness. Let it be so among yourselves. Learn, dearly beloved, to praise God heartily--to sing with all your heart and soul in the family and in the congregation. but, oh! remember that even your praises must be sprinkled with blood, and can be acceptable to God only by Jesus Christ.
1. The cloud filled the house. This cloud is the very same which led them through the Red Sea, and went before them forty years in the wilderness. It was a pillar of cloud by day, to shade them from the heat; it was a pillar of fire by night, to guide Israel on their way to the promised rest; and now it came and filled the holiest of all and the holy place. Such was the wonderful effect which followed their united fervent praises. God himself came down, and filled every chamber of the house with his presence. "This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it." Now, my dear friends, we are not now to expect that God will answer our prayers, or follow our praises, with a pillar of cloud or a pillar of fire. These were but the shadows; now we receive the reality--the substance. If ye will but unite in unanimous and heartfelt praises, then am I persuaded that God will give his Holy Spirit to fill this house--to fill every heart in the spiritual temple. How glorious this will be: (1) For the children of God. Are there not some of you who have come to Christ, and nothing more? Guilty, weary, heavy laden, you have found rest--redemption through his blood--even the forgiveness of sins. Oh! do not stop there. Do not rest in mere forgiveness--cry for the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter. Forgiveness is but a means to an end. You are justified in order that you may be sanctified. Remember, without holiness you will never see the Lord; and without this indwelling Spirit, you never will be holy.
Are there not some of you groaning under a body of sin and death, and crying, with the apostle, "Oh! wretched man, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Do you not feel the plague of your own heart? do you not feel the power of your old nature? How many in this state lean upon themselves--trust in their resolutions-attempt, as it were, by force, to put down their sins! But here is the remedy. Oh! cry for the flood-tide of God's Spirit, that he may fill every chamber of your heart--that he may renew you in the spirit of your mind.
Are there not many who are cold, worldly Christians--those who were long ago converted, but have fallen sadly back, under the power of the world--either its gaiety or its business, its mirth or its money--and they have got into worldly habits, deep ruts of sin? Ah! see what you need. He that created man in his own image at first, must create you over again. You need an almighty indwelling Comforter. Oh! it is he only who can melt your icy heart, and make it flow out in love to God--who can fill you with all the fulness of God.
Are there not some who read the Bible, but get little from it? You feel that it does not sink into your heart--it does not remain with you through the week. It is like the seed cast in the way-side, easily plucked away. Oh! it is just such an outpoured Spirit you require, to hide the Word in your heart. When you write with a dry pen, without any ink in it, no impression is made upon the paper. Now, ministers are the pens, and the Spirit of God is the ink. Pray that the pen may be filled with that living ink--that the Word may remain in your heart, known and read of all men--that you may be sanctified through the truth. (2) For the unconverted. So it was in the day of Pentecost--the Spirit came first upon the small company of disciples, and then on the three thousand. You have seen the hills attracting the clouds, and so drawing down the shower into the valleys--so do God's children, having their heads within the veil, obtain the Spirit of God in fulness, and dispense it to all around. You have seen some tall tree or spire catching the lightning, and conveying it down into the ground--so does the fire of God's Spirit come first upon the trees of righteousness, and from them descends to the dead souls around them.
A word to dead souls. Keep near to God's children at such a time as this. Do not separate from them--do not mock at them; you may yet receive the grace of God through them. Dear believers, for the sake of the dead souls around you--for the sake of this great town, full of wickedness--for the sake of our land, filled with formality and hypocrisy--oh! unite in prayer, and unite in praise, and prove the Lord, if he will not pour out a blessing. Not for your own sakes only, but for the sake of those perishing around you, let us wrestle and pray for a fuller time of the Spirit's working than has ever been seen in Scotland yet.
2. The priests could not stand to minister. Before the cloud came down, no doubt the priests were all busily engaged burning incense and offering sacrifices; but when the cloud came down, they could only wonder and adore. So it ever will be when the Lord gives much of his Spirit; he will make it evident that it is not the work of man. If he were to give only a little, then ministers would begin to think they had some hand in it; but when he fills the house, then he makes it plain that man has nothing to do with it. David Brainerd said, that when God awakened his whole congregation of Indians, he stood by amazed, and felt that he was as nothing--that God alone was working. Oh! it is this, dear friends, that we desire and pray for--that the Lord the Spirit would himself descend, with his almighty power tear away the veil from your hearts, convince you of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment--that Jesus himself take his scepter and break your hard hearts, and take all the glory--that we may cry out: "Not unto us, but unto thy name give glory."