03/09/2009

Sermon Desirableness of Christ's Presence

Luke 24:29 They constrained him, saying, abide with us

Persons who have enjoyed the consolatory presence of Christ, and are again favoured with it after having been deprived of it for a time, may from hence learn what to do: like the two disciples travelling to Emmaus, they should constrain him, saying, abide with us. Such was the conduct of the spouse of Christ: I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him and would not let him go. And thus also Jacob to the angel: I will not let thee go, unless thou bless me.
From the words of the disciples we may observe two things; viz. That Christ's presence is exceedingly desirable to the saints and that a seemingly departing Saviour may be constrained, as it were, to abide with us.

1. Christ's presence is exceedingly desirable to the saints
This appears from their earnest desires after it, and their sorrows when deprived of it. ...
When his smile is withdrawn, a gracious soul breathes after him with the most intense desire; and when he is enjoyed, it takes the greatest complacency in him. Is it wonderful that it should be so, if the following things be duly considered:

1 The presence of Christ is an evidence of his love
Fellowship is the fruit of friendship. Wherein shall it be known, (says Moses) that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? Is it not in that thou goest with us? Without this we shall be but upon a level with our neighbours. ... There is no doubting of his favour when we enjoy his presence. We can then use the language of appropriation, saying, with Mary, Rabboni; and with Thomas, My Lord, and my God!
2 Christ's presence is attended with the most desirable effects
None can enjoy it without deriving the greatest advantages from it.
It conveys light into the understanding as well as warmth into the affections; so that in proportion to the measure of Christ's revealing himself to us, will be the measure of our profiting in the knowledge of him. ... The presence of Christ is exceedingly comfortable and refreshing to the soul. Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad. Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord. ... It is said of one of the Roman emperors that he suffered none to go out of his presence sad and surely none can be so who enjoy the presence of Christ. Humble and self-abased they may be but sorrowful and distressed they cannot be.
It is also quickening and transforming. Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? ... Christ's presence puts life and strength into his people. It has the same influence upon the soul, as the sun has upon the vegetable creation. It is the life of duties, and the substance of ordinances, it guards against temptation, supports under affliction and inspires with undaunted fortitude in death. Simeon, with Christ in his arms, could defy the king of terrors, and wished for death as much as others fear it. No state can, make us happy, if without the presence of Christ; no state can make us unhappy, if we enjoy it.
3 Present communion with Christ is an earnest of everlasting fruition
What is hell but a being banished from the presence of the Lord; and what is heaven, but the uninterrupted and everlasting enjoyment of his presence? ... The sweet communion which saints have with Christ on earth is a foretaste of what will be fully enjoyed in the world to come.

2. A seemingly departing Saviour may be constrained, as it were, to abide with his people.
Speaking after the manner of men, there are three ways of constraining Christ to abide with us.

1 By the exercise of a lively faith
Hence Christ addresses the church: Turn away thine eyes from me, for they have overcome me. This is not an expression of dislike, but of love; not of resentment, but endearment. He could stand it out no longer but acknowledged that he was overcome. The saint's faith has an effect upon Christ similar to that of Christ's love upon the saint: his love constrains us to abide with him, and our faith constrains him to abide with us. ... Faith not only overcomes the world, but it also overcomes Christ.
2 By fervent prayer Christ may be constrained to abide with us
As God overcomes by the strength of his arm, so do the saints overcome by the omnipotence of prayer. The word deomai, to pray, comes from deo, to bind. Prayer not only brings, but keeps God and man together. Prayers and tears are powerful orators with God; they are the weapons with which the saints have obtained the most glorious victories. ...
3 By a suitable conduct towards him
If we would have Christ abide with us, we must do what we can to delight him, and make his stay pleasant.

See here, the love which a true Christian bears to his Saviour. A cottage, a wilderness, a prison, a dungeon will do with Christ's presence: but a palace, a kingdom, a paradise, nay heaven itself will not do without it. An awakened sinner desires Christ on any terms, and a true believer would not part with him on any terms. Indeed, if we be not desirous of holding Christ, it is a sign that we never found him.
What has been said of individual believers will also apply to Christian churches. ... But making such a request barely is not sufficient: it must be enforced by the revival of church discipline and the purity of his worship, if these have been neglected; by avoiding strife and contention and maintaining a strict regard to all his commands. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace and the God of love and peace shall be with you. In a word, we must look upon Christ's presence as our main object, without which religion will be a poor lifeless thing. We should therefore grieve at no difficulties if we enjoy it, and prize no privileges if we want it; but say with Moses, If thy presence go not with us, carry us not up hence!
The hymn that follows is 415 in the Hymn Book

Whither, oh whither art thou gone,
Sole source of my delight:
Whose presence ushers in the day,
Whose absence forms the night.

Whither hast thou withdrawn thyself,
My Saviour, and my God?
Tell me in what far distant land,
Thou makest thine abode.

Where'er thou art, thou still canst hear
The humble suppliant's cry :
Return to me, my dearest Lord,
Return, or else I die.

When earthly friends and comforts go,
And wealth and honours flee,
Be thou instead of these - Be thou
Much more than these to me!

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