EXCELLECY OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST.

THE REV. C. SIMEO, M.A.
Isai. Ix. 13. The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee; the
jir-tree, and the pine-tree, and the box together, to beautify
the place of my sanctuary : and I will make the place of my
feet glorious.
WHILST we admire, as of necessity we must, the
richness and diversity of the imagery which is em-
ployed to depict the beauty of the Christian Church,
we must be careful to seize the truths which are so
exhibited : for in this the sublime descriptions of the^
Prophets differ materially from the poetic flights of
other authors ; they declare what actually exists;
whereas the poetical representations of uninspired
men are for the most part either mere fictions, or
truth rendered fictitious by the high colouring that
is given to it. The description here given of the
glory of the latter day is exceeding grand. The
whole creation, rational and irrational, animate and
inanimate, contributes to it according to their several
ability.
458 ISAIAH, LX. 13. [5S6.
ability. ot men only, but even flocks and herds,
are spoken of as coming voluntarily to consecrate
themselves to the Lord ; and in my text, the woods
of Lebanon yield their produce, to adorn the Church,
and to glorify their God.
The particular expressions in my text lead me to
set before you,
L The constitution of the Church of Christ —
From Lebanon the wood was brought for the erec-
tion of Solomon's Temple ^ : and all the glory of Leba-
non shall be brought to our Zion also, to build an ha-
bitation for our incarnate God. By ** the fir-tree and
the pine " I understand the great and mighty of the
earth ; whilst " the box " represents the poor and
humble, whether in respect of civil rank, or intellec-
tual capacity. Both the one and the other of these
shall be employed as constituent parts of God's
spiritual temple. For each a suitable place shall be
found, and for each an appropriate use.
The high and mighty shall be brought on a level
with the lowest —
[Christianity does not at all interfere with distinctions in
civil life: they are the appointment of God himself; and are
necessary to the well-being of mankind. But in a spiritual
view, the greatest monarch upon earth must be brought on a
level with the meanest of his subjects. The axe must be laid
to the root of all his pride and self-sufficiency, and he must
be felled by the operation of the word and Spirit of God.
Every man is a sinner before God : every man must be made
to feel and acknowledge his guilt : every man must seek for
hiercy through the blood and righteousness of that Divine
Saviour who died for him. Every man must live altogether
in a state of dependence upon God, not merely as a God of
providence, but especially as a God of grace ; and must re-
ceive continually fresh supplies of grace and strength out of
the fulness that is treasured up for him in Christ. This is not
the work of the poor only, but of the rich also : the most
learned philosopher must in this respect feel himself on a par
with the most illiterate of the human race. All must equally
be taught of God ; and all " be saved equally by grace
through faith in Christ."]
The poor, on the contrary, are raised to an equality
with the highest —
[There
' 2Chron. ii. l6.
535.] EXCELLECY OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST. 459
[There is not a blessing which the poorest may not ob-
tain, to the full extent that it can be enjoyed by the rich and
great. The Apostles themselves were not selected from the
higher or more intelligent classes, but from the lowest walks
of life. A few poor fishermen were raised up to be the
teachers of the whole world. And if it be thought that this
was a peculiar case, and that the poor by reason of their dis-
advantages ai'e greatly inferior to the rich, I must say, that,
for the most part, the very reverse of this is true ; and that
God yet daily, in ten thousand instances, " reveals to babes
the things which he has hid from the wise and prudent ^'*
The very circumstance of the poor having so little in this
world leads them more simply to depend on God; and their
conscious want of human knowledge leads them to implore
more humbly and more earnestly the teaching of God's
Spirit : and hence by coming to God " hungry, they are filled
with good things, whilst the rich are sent empty away"." Thus
does God still " take the beggar from the dunghill, to set him
among the princes "^ :" and it is still daily seen, that " the box "
occupies a place in the Church of God which the loftiest
cedar in Lebanon might envy.
_ That this is the constitution of the Church of Christ, is not
left to be inferred from the figurative language of my text:
it is expressly stated by St. James, who says, " Let the
brother of low degree rejoice, in that he is exalted; but the
rich, in that he is made low\" Here, I say, the whole of what
I have asserted is stated plainly, and without a figure.]
I now proceed to notice,
IL The excellence of that constitution —
In our text, this particular constitution is set
forth,
1. As ornamental to the Church itself —
[Let any one view the Church as so constituted. Let
the loftiest " firs and pines" be viewed in union with the
humble " box;" the kings and princes of the earth assem-
bled at the footstool of the Divine Majesty in concert with
the lowest classes of mankind : all there are bowing their
knees together before their common Lord and Master : the
same confessions, how humiliating soever they may be, pro-
ceed equally from the lips of all : the same petitions for
grace, for mercy, for peace, for strength, are urged by all,
with equal and united importunity : the same devout acknow-
ledgments are poured forth by all for blessings received :
the^'word delivered to them all is pronounced with the same
authority,
". Matt. xi. 25. • Luke i. 53. * 1 Sam. ii. 8.
» Jam. i. 9> 10-
460 ISAIAH, LX. 13. [535.
authority, and entire submission to it required from them all
under the same awful sanctions : the same invitations and pro-
mises are held forth to all : and the same glorious inheritance
assured to all who receive and obey the word. View them
all as then sitting down together at the table of the Lord, as
guests equally invited and equally accepted by the great Mas-
ter of the feast ; all eating of the same bread ; all drinking
of the same cup ; and all receiving into their souls the same
heavenly communications; and all returning to their homes
refreshed and strengthened for their future labours. Say,
Is not this lovely ? Is it not a very emblem of heaven itself,
where a poor Lazarus, whose very sores the dogs but lately
licked, because he had not a friend to bind them up, now sits
down with all the Prophets and Apostles of the Lord at the
heavenly banquet, his head reclined in the very bosom of
Abraham himself? Yes; thus it is in the Church below:
" The rich and the poor meet together ; and the Lord is the
Maker of them all," the Father of them all, the portion of
them all^ Amongst them all, there is no room either for con-
tempt or envy ; the honour and the happiness of all being
wholly independent on worldly circumstances, and dependent
only on the access to God which each obtains for himself, and
the consequent manifestations of God's love which he is privi-
leged to enjoy. Their degree of usefulness to the Church
may indeed be affected by the situations which they severally
occupy in civil life, and the qualifications with which they are
endowed : but, as in the natural body, so in Christ's mystical
body, though one member may have a higher office than ano-
ther, none can dispense with the services of the rest : " the
eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you ; nor can
the head say to the feet, I have no need of you." Every
member has its proper place, and its proper office : and, if
one were wanting, the whole body would be defective, and
deformed. But in Christ's body not one member is wanting :
every place is occupied ; God having assigned to every mem-
ber the situation adapted for it : and in the perfect adaptation
of each to its proper ends, and the harmonious exercise of all
for the general good, the beauty of the whole consists^. In
truth, it is " for the beautifying of the place of God's sanc-
tuary " that this assemblage of the high and low, " the pine
and the box," is ordained : and we cannot but acknowledge,
that in this view " Zion is beautiful for situation, and the joy
of the whole earth ^"]
2. As honourable to God —
[To this point God hmiself calls our particular attention.
" I will plant, says he, in the wilderness, the cedar, the
shittah
'Pror. xxix. 13. ' See I Cor. xii* 12—22. '' Pj. xlviii. i, 2.
535.] EXCELLECY OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST. 461
shittah-tree, and the myrtle, and the oil-tree ; I will set in the
desert the fir-tree, and the pine, and the box-tree together ;
that they may see, and know, and consider, and understand
together, that the hand of the liOrd hath done this, and the
Holy One of Israel hath created it'." ow why, I would
ask, does he lay such peculiar stress upon this, but because
it reflects peculiar lustre on his character, and displays in a
most endearing point of view his glorious perfections i Truly
" this does make the place of his feet glorious;" because it
shews, that, whilst he is " Lord of all, he is equally rich in
mercy to all who call upon him''." In his regards, there is
no difference between one and another: " there is neither Jew
nor Greek, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scy-
thian, bond nor free ; but Christ, that is, the image of Christ
upon the soul, is all, and in all'."
Let us suppose for a moment that there were the same kind
of partiality in him as he complains of in many of his profess-
ing people : " If there come unto your assembly a man with
a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor
man in vile raiment, and ye have respect to him that weareth
the gay clothing, and say unto him. Sit thou here in a good
place ; and say to the poor. Stand thou there, or sit here un-
der my footstool ; are ye not then partial in yourselves, and
become judges who reason ill""?" I say, let us suppose such
a partiality in God ; and how unamiable would he appear !
But " there is no such respect of persons with him ° :" the
humblest shrub in all the woods of Lebanon is as dear to him
as the loftiest cedar there : yea, the weaker they are in them-
selves, the more tenderly he watches over them for good, that
he may " display in them the excellency of his own power","
and " perfect his own sti-ength in their weakness''." Even the
least and meanest of them all he regards as " trees of righte-
ousness, the planting of the Lord ; and in them he is, and will
be, glorified''."
In this then God acts altogether worthy of himself, and
shews, that, as he is the Maker of all, so is he the Father,
and the Friend of all.]
Application —
Such being the constitution of the Church,
1 . Let us all seek to become members of it —
[Are there here any of the higher orders ? I would say,
give yourselves to the Lord, to serve him with your whole
hearts. This is what you must do, if ever you would be happy ;
for
' Isai. xH. 1 9, 20. '' Rom. x. 12. ' Col. iii. 1 1 .
¦» Jam. ii. 2 — 4. " Acts x. 34. * 2 Cor. iv, /.
>» a Cor. xii. 9. ¦> Isai. Ixi. 3.
402 ISAIAH, LX.13. [535.
for in the very words before my text you are told, that " the
kingdom and nation that will not serve his Church shall perish."
Do not imagine that your elevation among men can procure
for you any exemption from your duty to God ; your distinc-
tions only render your v^ay to heaven more difficult. For
persons elevated in society to be humbled and brought upon
a level with the poorest of mankind, is no easy matter : but it
must be done O beg of God to accomplish it for you,
by the mighty working of his power !
To you who are of the lower classes I would say, Rejoice,
that whilst your fellow-creatures perhaps are ready to despise
you on account of the disadvantages under which you labour,
God loves you, and made it a distinguishing feature of the
Messiah's kingdom, that " the poor should have the Gospel
preached to them"^." Whatever the rich may imagine, you
of the two are more favoured of God than they : for whilst
*' it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle,
than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven,"
*' God has chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith,
and heirs of his kingdom ^" Labour then to secure this pri-
vilege : and, though you have none of the external recommen-
dations of the pine and fir, you need not fear but that God
will accept your services, and make you " pillars in his Temple
that shall go no more out*."]
1. Let US all endeavour to promote the establish-
ment of it in the world —
[Low as the state of the Church at present is, it shall
one day, like the stone which ebuchadnezzar saw, " become
a mountain, and fill the whole earth"." " The mountain of
the Lord's House shall be established on the top of the moun^-
tains ; and all nations shall flow unto it^" The stateliest trees
shall then be as ambitious of contributing to its glory, as those
of the humblest growth." Let us then, in an assured prospect
of that day, send forth workmen to Lebanon, to fell the lofty
firs, and to bring in the humble box -^ So shall the sancr
tuary of God be enlarged and beautified, and his name be
glorified throughout all the earth.]
'Matt. xi.5. 'Jam. ii. 5. 'Rev. iii.l2.
" Dan. ii, 35. ' Isai, ii. 2.
» If this were the subject of a Mission Sermon, the thought of
heathens and savages in every quarter of tlie world flocking to
Christ, " as doves to their windows," (ver. 8.) might here be opened to
advantage.
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