Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;…
I. THE REPRESENTATION WHICH IS HERE GIVEN OF GOD'S MODE OF DEALING WITH MEN. "He cometh and knocketh." Where? At the "door" of our hearts. Then the door is by nature closed against God. And this applies equally to all. We allow all that can be asked of us, in regard to a vast difference between man and man; but only with reference to their characters and their conduct as members of society. When we try them by their love to God, by their willingness to submit to Him, by their desire to please Him, we contend that there is no difference whatever, but that all must be equally included under one emphatic description — "Enemies in your minds by wicked works." This truth it is which we derive from the words of our text — the truth that the heart of every one amongst us is naturally barred against God, so that though it will be readily opened at the touch of friendship, or the call of distress, yet does it obstinately exclude that Creator and that Benefactor, who alone can fill its mighty capacities. And, if the text thus pourtray to you the natural condition of the human heart, it shows you, with equal accuracy, by what kind of manner Christ tries to gain the entrance which is wickedly denied. We speak not yet of the mode, in which it may be said, that Christ "knocks" at the door of the heart. We confine ourselves simply to the representation that no kind of violence is employed; there is nothing like forcing the door; but when Christ has "knocked," it still rests with man to determine whether he will obey the summons, and let in the guest. You will all admit that there is nothing in the text which looks like what is called IRRESISTIBLE ONCE; nothing to favour the opinion that there is any inteference with the free will of man, in order that he may be compelled or induced to renounce what is evil, and embrace what is good. The representation is purely that of such an appeal to man as man is quite at liberty to withstand. There is a "knocking" at the door; perhaps a loud knocking, and a continued knocking, but still it is left with man to decide whether he will hear the voice and throw open the door. It is very clear from this, whatever we may hold as to human corruption and disability, that none of us can be excusable in being still unconverted and at enmity with God. If Christ have only "knocked" (and this can hardly be denied by any who have ever heard the sound of the gospel), the whole blame is chargeable on themselves, if He have not also entered, and taken possession of the heart. And how does Christ knock? We might almost say that He knocks by every object in creation, and by every provision in redemption. Every feature of the landscape, every tree of the forest; every flower of the garden, every joint and every muscle of my frame — all are gifted with the same energy, an energy in proclaiming that there is a Supreme Being, infinite in wisdom and goodness, as well as in might. And through each, therefore, this Being may be justly affirmed to "knock" at the door of the heart, demanding its love and its allegiance. And there are modes yet more personal than these, in which God may be said to "come and knock" at the human heart. Does He not often inflict fatherly chastisements — removing objects of deep love, and startling those who were sunk in lethargy, and living as though they had here an "abiding city" by sudden and distressing dispensations? And if God may be said to knock at the heart by the visitations of His providence, will you not allow the same in regard of all those actings on men, which are especially to be referred to the Second and Third Persons of the Trinity? We are bold to declare of every sermon that you hear, and every chapter which you read, that it knocks at the heart. The written word and the preached word are the exhibitions of what has been done for you by the Lord your Redeemer; and in resisting these, you resist the strongest possible appeal to every charity of the heart, to every susceptibility, to every hope, and to every fear. When Christ is evidently set forth "crucified amongst you," the throes of His agony and passion; the instruments of shame and torture, the crown, the nail, the cross, the spear, the indignities endured without resentment, the griefs sustained without a murmur; the contumely poured on the Lord of Glory, the death submitted to by the Lord of Life, and all "for us men and for our salvation"; — each of these may emphatically be said to rush against the heart, pleading against its indifference, and worldliness, and pride, and soliciting admission for a Saviour who longs to enter it, only that He may purify and bless and fill it with lasting happiness. And to this must be added what must occur to every one of you, that the suggestions of conscience, and the strivings of the Spirit, are means through which Christ often "knocks" at the heart, and that too, with a violence which will scarcely permit inattention. Who is there of you who will presume to say that he never heard this knocking?
II. THE PROMISE MADE TO THOSE WHO YIELD TO HIS SOLICITATIONS, We will not insist upon that point of the representation which sets before us Christ as actually ministering — ministering as a servant to such as open when He knocks. We must not give too literal an interpretation to such sayings, though we may certainly understand our blessed Lord as affirming that He will graciously condescend to employ all His power and authority in advancing the honour and happiness of those who hearken to His call. Whilst waiving this, let us consider only the representation of "sitting down to meat" in association and company with the Lord our Redeemer. It has often been said, and we suppose with much truth, that heaven would be no scene of enjoyment to the wicked if they could be admitted within its gates without having the heart first changed by Divine grace. There cannot be happiness unless our faculties and desires have their counterpart objects. This is only saying that we must have our faculties rectified and receive a new set of desires ere we can possibly find happiness in the occupation and pleasures of the invisible world. And such a remark is specially in place with regard to the promise made by Christ in our text. It is not a promise which can wear much attractiveness to men who are wholly strangers to vital religion. There is not much in it to excite them, because it addresses itself to feelings which they do not yet possess and presupposes desires of which they are not conscious. They may see that the promise refers to close intimacy and rich communion between Christ and the soul, but they are disposed to resolve all such things into idealism and enthusiasm: they cannot profess to understand how they can be, nor if they be real, how they can also be valuable. But let us all add, that if unconverted men find no relish for the blessing to which the promise refers, this alone is sufficient to make them earnest in obeying Christ's summons and opening the door. Certainly we do not know a more startling truth if we be impenitent and indifferent, than that heaven would be no heaven to us, even if we could gain entrance within its precincts; and it is going far beyond all ordinary descriptions, whether of mental or corporeal tyranny, to say that there is such a thorough unfitness for every pleasure which has God for its author, such a thorough incapacity for enjoying the blessings which God delighteth to secure to those whom He loves, that they would carry, as it were, hell into heaven, and be unspeakably miserable, even where there is to be "no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain." That man indeed, must have wretchedness woven up with all the elements of his being, so that he must be his own tormentor, his own accuser, his own executioner, who could be translated from hell to heaven, and find the purities of the heavens a burden with the infirmities of earth. We will not, therefore, hear that there is no stirring motive to the unconverted amongst you in these words of the Saviour — "he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them." That you do not feel their force; that you do not see their beauty; this alone is argument enough why you should labour to fulfil the conditions and "open immediately," upon hearing the knocking of Christ. To have no relish for what Christ has to bestow, proves such incapacity for happiness as is more formidable than the mere accumulation of misery. Therefore should the unconverted be as much roused by a promise whose worth they do not feel as by one which should actually address itself to their hopes and their wishes. If the "door were to be opened" that wealth might pour in, and that carnal pleasure might abound, what alacrity would there be in obeying the summons and withdrawing the bolt I But if the door is to be opened, that the Mediator may enter, and if this seem in no degree an inducement; why, this very fact ought to furnish the strongest possible inducement! for, unless I can learn to be happy in God's way, how unspeakably wretched must I ever be in my own! But we may well believe that there are others in this assembly who have appreciated the worth of the promise in our text. To such we need not say that there is a communion and intercourse between Christ and the soul, which if not capable of being described to a stranger, is unspeakably precious to those by whom it is experienced. It is no dream of rye enthusiast; it is the statement of soberness and truth. The Redeemer so manifests Himself to those who believe in His name that He communicates to them such a sense of His presence, and brings them into such intimate companionship, that He may be said to enter in and "make them sit down to meat." There is what I may venture to call a social and family intercourse; not indeed an intercourse in which the majesty and the dignity of the Mediator are ever forgotten, but nevertheless one which is as cordial and unreserved as it is actual, the soul opening all her capacities that she may be filled with all the fulness of the Saviour, and the Saviour deigning to impart himself in His various offices.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;