3. What affections will this sight move in a believing soul?
Firstly, it will occasion admiration. The spouse here is filled with wonder, and is so extraordinarily pressed with it that she would have others to help her to admire the sight. “Behold”, says she, “He cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills!” In this sight everything is apt to beget wonder; everything is new, surprising and uncommonly excellent.
Secondly, it will excite love. If ever the heart will warm to Jesus Christ, this sight will do much to put it into a flame of love. When she sees Him, the spouse is so taken with Him that she confidently calls Him her beloved: “The voice of my beloved! Behold He cometh”.
Thirdly, it will raise extraordinary joy. When He came unexpectedly for the delivery of the Church from that captivity which was a type of their spiritual captivity, “when the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing; then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them. The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad” (Ps 126:1-3). And such certainly will be the influence of the sight of the glorious Deliverer when He is coming to deliver His people from their spiritual thraldom.
Fourthly, it will fill with a sincere sort of shame, such as David had when the Lord promised to do so many great and undeserved kindnesses to him (2 Sam 7:18). Shame is nothing else but a dissatisfaction with oneself, arising from the discovery of some imperfection. And this is done when the Lord comes to us, for in Him we may see what we are: how vile, how unkind! And we may see how wonderfully kind He is! It is enough to put the soul that sees Him to the blush. There is a remarkable Scripture to this purpose, “I will establish my covenant with thee, and thou shalt know that I am the Lord; that thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never more open thy mouth, because of thy shame, when I am pacified towards thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God” (Ezek 16:62,63). When Christ comes to a soul in peace, it will surely blush for shame.
Fifthly, it will occasion grief, a sincere sorrow. Joy and godly sorrow are not inconsistent; nay, on the contrary, that joy is not usually abiding which has not sincere sorrow for its companion. When a believing soul sees Christ – whom it has pierced by its sins, its unbelief and unkindness – come “leaping upon the mountains and skipping upon the hills”, it is ready to dissolve into tears of godly sorrow. This sorrow is not like the sorrow of the world, which contracts and narrows the soul; it enlarges and sweetens the heart, and has in it a joy which no one acquainted with it would exchange for all the carnal mirth of a wicked world. This grief we are speaking of is promised expressly as the consequence of this sight: “They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn” (Zec 12:10).
Sixthly, this sight will be attended with gratitude in the soul that sees it. Gratitude is one of the most noble emotions; if ye pronounce a man destitute of this, you pronounce him void of all that is good. Gratitude is a delightful sense of favour done to any without their deserving it; and this naturally leads to that question, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?” (Ps 116:12).
4. The reasons of the doctrine: whence it is that Christ’s coming is so affecting to the soul of a believer.
Firstly, because it is the return of the desire of a believing soul. What is it that the believing soul vehemently longs for? Is it not to see Him come leaping upon the mountains and skipping upon the hills? Doth not such a one cry out with the spouse in verse 17 of this chapter, “Turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe, or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether”? And is it possible that this desire should be accomplished, and the heart not be affected therewith? “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick; but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life”, says the wise man (Prov 13:12). And a few verses afterward: “The desire accomplished is sweet to the soul”.
Secondly, this flows from the nature of the thing which is seen. Everything in it, as we have shown at length, is wonderful and surprising, and therefore apt to be affecting to the beholder.
Thirdly, it is on the account of the effects of the discovery: it removes all clouds, it lays a foundation for solid joy, it gives strength to the faint, and comfort to the disconsolate.
5. Application: In the improvement of this doctrine, that I may not encroach too far upon your patience, I shall waive the consideration of many useful doctrinal inferences which might be drawn from it, and only speak a word to one or two sorts of persons of whom this assembly may be composed. There is a question I shall put to you all, and ye are all not a little concerned in it, especially such of you as design to approach the table of the Lord. The question, which I plead ye may pose to your own consciences, is this: Did ye ever see this heart-affecting sight: Jesus Christ coming “leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills”? Found ye ever your hearts filled with wonder, love, joy, grief, shame and gratitude when ye saw this lovely, wonderful one, Jesus Christ, coming over all interposing difficulties to you? Put the question home to your own consciences. It is a matter of the highest importance, especially to you who design to approach the table of the Lord. This question, if put home, will cast this assembly into two sorts.
Firstly, such as never saw Jesus Christ, nor have any desire to see Him.
Secondly, such who, if they dare not positively say that they have seen Him “leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills”, yet dare say they have seen that which makes them desire above all things to see this heart-affecting sight. I shall speak a few words to the two sorts of persons mentioned, but without any separate consideration of these inferior divisions that might be made: such who dare be positive in asserting they have seen Him, and those who cannot.
I begin, firstly, with those who never saw this sight. I put no doubt, there are in this house this day not a few who have lived, it may be, some 20, some 30, some 40, 50, or 60 years, and have never to this day seen this heart-affecting sight. Ye have been busy toiling for the pleasures or profits of the world; your only inquiries have been about what ye should eat, what ye should drink, or wherewithal ye should be clothed. If ye got food to eat, or raiment to put on, or medicine when ye were sick, ye found no lack of any other thing. How ye might escape the wrath of God; how ye might be reconciled to Him and get the well-grounded assurance of your peace, never entered into your thought, never brake your rest; ye never missed Christ. If a husband, a wife, a child, a friend, had been absent, or if ye had lacked any external comfort, ye could be sensibly touched and affected with it; but indeed ye never esteemed Christ more than other honest folk, nor did ye ever miss Him. You came, it may be, to the church and to communions; ye heard and saw as others did; but as for seeing this sight, or hearing anything that affected you as a sight of Christ coming for the relief of His people will do, that ye did never see, nor desire. Is not this the exact character of not a few of this assembly? Sure it is. Well, to any of you who are such, we say:
1. What have we to do with you who dare not say that ye came to see Jesus? Our only business here is to call persons to come and look at this heart-affecting sight. We have no errand here but to direct people that would see Him coming in this glorious manner, and lead them to Him, and therefore we have nothing to do with you.
2. What seek ye here? “What seek we here! A very impertinent question”, some of you may say. “We seek the same that other honest folks seek; we never neglected the church; we thank God our parents taught us that it is the way to heaven; and we see everybody come to it, and we come as they do, to hear a preaching, and to get our communion, as we have ever done.” I answer, the question is not impertinent, for God has appointed the ends people should propose to themselves in coming, as well as the ordinances to which they should come. Compliance with custom, and the like, are not the ends for which God has appointed the ordinances.
3. Therefore it is a small thing for you to mock men by assuming the name of Christians, though ye be not acquainted with Christ; but will ye mock our Lord also? Do ye think that He will suffer you to tread in His courts, as His people, and, knowing ye come not to seek Himself, suffer you to go away without a mark of His displeasure? No, you may assure yourselves He will not suffer such abuses to pass unpunished; the mockers’ bands will be made strong. He has said, “I will be sanctified in them that come nigh Me, and before all the people I will be glorified” (Lev 10:3). And if He get Himself glory in some remarkable judgement, like to that whereby He was sanctified in the destruction of Nadab and Abihu, then woe to you. How terrible will your case be! And, though your stroke be not so noticeable to bystanders, and discernible to the eye of sense as theirs was, yet it may be full as severe. God may lock you up in final impenitency, clap on the chains of judicial hardness upon you, and then woe to you eternally.
4. Have ye been so long at Jerusalem and never “seen the king’s face”? Have ye attended ordinances so long, and never seen Christ coming, leaping upon the mountains and skipping upon the hills? Then certainly ye are blind. I may venture to say that others in the church with you, in the same assembly, nay, it may be, in the very seat or at the table with you, have seen this ravishing sight: Jesus Christ coming from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah, glorious in His apparel, travelling – nay, skipping and leaping – in the greatness of His strength, over interposing hills and mountains. Past all peradventure, then, ye are blind.
5. We say therefore, Take heed; see that ye approach not the Lord’s table, for, as the Lord liveth, the curse of God will fall upon you if ye do; ye will “eat and drink damnation to yourselves, not discerning the Lord’s body”. Blind folks cannot discern this, and such are ye. Touch not therefore, we charge you, those holy things; for why should ye meddle to your hurt?
6. Saw ye never Jesus? Then ye never saw any sight worth the seeing; ye never saw anything that could ease you of a burden of guilt which, though ye do not feel the weight of it at present, yet it will sink you into hell if He take it not off you. Ye never saw any that can go between you and the wrath of God that is ready to break forth into a flame against you and burn you in the lowest hell. Ye never saw any that can redeem you out of the hand of the devil, who reigns in the children of disobedience, or subdue those rebellious lusts that war against your souls; in fine, ye never saw any that could save your souls; and “what is a man profited, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Can you carry a world with you into the grave? Can a world comfort you in hell? Can a world purchase heaven? Can a world redeem a soul from massive chains of darkness, with which sinners shall be eternally bound? No, “the redemption of the soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever”. All the angels in heaven, all the saints above, all the men on earth, millions of worlds, cannot bring a soul back again that is once lost.
7. Saw ye never Jesus? Then ye never saw one so infinitely well worth the seeing. What is He, will ye say, whom ye talk so much of? Are ye serious in the question, or are ye not? If ye be not serious, then it is needless to answer you; if ye be, O that I had the tongue of men and angels to tell you who He is. O that God would grant me my desire! That He would enlarge a narrow heart, to receive just and great impressions of wonderful Christ! O that He would open closed lips! Then should I tell of Jesus Christ – if not what He is – yet what would, in some measure, satisfy the serious inquirer and make those to turn in earnest who were but in jest.
Ask ye who Jesus is? I tell you, His name is wonderful; He is the brightness of the Father’s glory, the express image of His person, the eternal darling of His bosom; He is the Son of man, our elder brother, bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh; He is Immanuel, God with us; God manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, believed on in the world, received up into glory; He is earth carried up to heaven, and heaven brought down to earth; He is that man who is fellow of the Lord of hosts; He is God in the form of a servant; He is the Amen and faithful witness, the great prophet, the wonderful counsellor of the Church; He is the great shepherd of the sheep; He is the guide of the blind and the prince of preachers; He is the glorious high-priest of our profession, “the Lord our righteousness”, the propitiation for the sins of the world, the Lamb of God, the truth of all the sacrifices, the throne of grace, the true mercy-seat, and the glorious advocate of the church; He is Zion’s king, the captain of our salvation, the Head of the Church, the saviour of lost sinners, the prince of the kings of the earth, the death of death, the conqueror of the world and the flesh and the devil, the redeemer of Satan’s slaves, the law-giver of the Church, the prince exalted to give gifts to rebels and repentance and remission to sinners.
What shall I say more of Him? He is the everlasting Father, the mighty God, the prince of peace, the desire of all nations, the heir of all things, the unspeakable gift of God, the sun of righteousness, the resurrection and the life, the wonder of angels, the terror of devils, the light of the world, the lamp of heaven, in the light of which the nations of them that are saved do walk, and the eternal song of all the redeemed and ransomed of the Lord. This, this is He, O blind sinners, to whom ye have preferred the world, your filthy lusts, and the devil. This is He whom ye expect to come down to fill this house with His glory, and to entertain His friends at His royal banquet. But who may abide His coming? Dare ye, O wretches, look Him in the face?
8. Once more, we say to you, have ye yet no desires to see Him coming, leaping upon the mountains and skipping upon the hills that are between God and you? Then I say to you, Ye cannot tell but this unseen Christ may lift up His mighty arm and fetch an unseen blow down upon you that may ruin you eternally. He may say to you, “Sleep on”; and then, though angels should preach to you, though the threatenings should thunder out wrath to the terror of others, though the land wherein ye live should shake with the anger of God; nay, though all the shrieks and cries of the damned were about you, ye shall never waken till the flames of hell awaken you.
If ye be awake and have any desires, then give heed to what we are, secondly, to speak to the other sort of persons whom we named. I hope there are some here who are longing to see Jesus Christ coming, leaping upon the mountains and skipping upon the hills. And whether they dare say that they have seen Him formerly in that ravishing posture or not, yet they dare say that nothing will satisfy them unless they see this sight that they have come here for that very end and have this morning and, it may be, for some days or weeks before, been praying that here they might see the sight they long for: to see Him whom they would fain love skipping over hills and mountains that are between them. And are there any such here? Then our errand this day to such is very acceptable; we come this day to call you to see the sight ye so much long for. Up, up; come and see; “behold, He cometh, leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills”.
1. Poor soul! It may be, thou hast been full of misdoubting thoughts. Will He ever let me near Him who is “the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity”? Me! Sinful me! Come and see Him, O sinner, whom thou longest for, leaping upon this mountain, skipping upon this hill, cheerfully coming over this difficulty. Come to His table and see that, though Christ “be high, yet hath He respect unto the lowly” (Ps 138:6). He stoops, indeed, when He receives praises, when He bends His ear to hear thy prayers; but here He is a step lower: He is willing to sit at the same table with you. Nay, before you should doubt His kindness, He will step even lower: He will set you at the table, and He will serve. Behold Him leaping upon the mountains and skipping upon the hills!
2. It may be, thou hast been full of fears about the wrath of God: “What! Will He ever bear one stroke for me – sinful, unkind, unbelieving me? O no, He never will!” Away, away, O sinner, with these proud and misgiving thoughts; behold, He comes, leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills! He has borne the wrath of God; and though it has broken His body, He is nothing discouraged, nothing offended at thee. Nor doth He rue His undertaking, but is cheerful after all that is over; and, as a sign of it, has proclaimed a feast for thee that thou mayest be cheerful at the remembrance of all His sorrow.
3. It may be, thou fearest the enemies that stand in the way: the devil and the world; but let none of these things trouble you. He, who hath trode their strength and knows it well, stands so little in fear of them whom He has foiled, that lo, He makes a feast of loves and covers a table for you in the presence of His foes! Here is a strange evidence of His power: behold Him covering the table, placing the royal entertainment, and holding His enemies, to their infinite discontent, spectators of His matchless kindness to you! Here, here is indeed a heart-affecting sight!
4. It may be, thou hast many times thought in thy heart, I would not doubt that Christ will come over all if it were not my wretched unkindness. After I was at His table and was feasted with royal dainties, I proved wretchedly unkind; I forgot all He had done for me and began to parley with His enemies; and I fear He will never get over this. Whenever I look to Him, this looks me broad in the face. Stand not upon this; thou hast reason indeed to be ashamed, but none to be discouraged; for, behold, He comes cheerfully, skipping over all thy unkindnesses, and leaping upon the hills that thou hast raised! Behold, He comes not to upbraid thee with unkindnesses, but to win thee by new favours! Behold, He comes not frowning for faults, but smiling! He comes not to fight against thee, but to feast thee; not to take away mercies thou hast received, but to give thee new ones! He lifts not up His hand to smite unkind friends, but stretches them forth with mercies! He speaks to you, but it is not, “Depart, unkind friends”. He cries, “I am come into My garden, My sister, My spouse; I have gathered My myrrh with My spice; I have eaten My honey with My honeycomb; I have drunk My wine with My milk: eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved” (Song 5:1). We protest in our kind Lord’s name that if any go away from His table without being fed, they are not straitened in Him, but in their own bowels; they are not filled, because they have not opened their mouth wide enough.
In fine, behold, He comes triumphantly over the mountains of unbelief. Are thy sins so strong, so great, that thou findest it hard to believe a bare word, a bare promise, even of a God that cannot lie? Behold here a wonder of goodness! He will not have thee discouraged for all that. Here He calls to thee, Come and see; nay, taste and see that Christ is good. Here thou mayest hear Him speak; here thou mayest see Him bleeding, dying, broken; here thou mayest reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into His side: that wide gash that the sword of justice made will let thee into His very heart, and there thou mayest see one half of it full of sorrow and heavy trouble, under the pressure of the hand of justice, and the other full of love and kindness to thee. O be not then faithless, but believing. Tell me, poor drooping soul, what was it that thou didst see in Christ when thou sawest Him formerly? That is all to be seen still: thou mayest see Him pouring out a river of blood to cleanse such filthy wretches as thou art; thou mayest see Him making a feast to strengthen and comfort poor, weak, drooping souls, and offering all freely. He says not, If thou be one that is come to such and such a degree of desire, if thou be one that art free of such and such sins, take My body and blood; but, Take Me, take all, whatever thy sins be, if thou be but willing.
I cannot stand to answer objections now. I only say, Away with groundless discouragements. I cannot tell what to say of the low, narrow and wicked thoughts many of you have of the grace of Christ. O, says one, I am so vile, and my fellow-communicants are so vile and wicked, and the ministers have such and such faults; and therefore Christ will not come; He will not get over these mountains. I say, all these may be true; ministers may be faulty, and people too; but your unbelief is more likely to keep Christ away than any of these things. Away with these narrow thoughts, which depress grace and discommend Christ. Eternally blessed be God that Jesus Christ is not so pettish as many of us; He will not run away for a fault in a minister or a member. Many mountains of faults in ministers and people will not keep Him away from a poor soul that is seeking Him; and blessed be God that it is so. Has Christ come skipping over all real mountains and will ye rear up imaginary ones? I protest to you, ye are not straitened in Christ, but in your own bowels. “Behold, He cometh, leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills!” “And the Spirit, and the bride say, Come; and let him that heareth, say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev 22:17). “And He which testifieth these things saith, surely I come quickly. Amen, even so, come Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20).
1. This is the second half of a sermon taken, with some editing, from volume 1 of the new edition of the Works of Halyburton (1674-1712). The first part appeared last month. The preacher summed up the doctrine of the sermon: “A sight of Jesus Christ coming for the relief, support and comfort of His people, over all discouragements and difficulties, which are like hills and mountains in His way, is a very affecting sight to a believing soul that is sensible of its need of Him and languishing because of His absence”. The first two heads were: 1. What are these discouragements which stand in the way of Christ coming to His own people? 2. What is so affecting to them in His coming over these mountains?