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KNOCKING AT THE DOOR.
THE OFFERS OF MERCY RECORDED AND WIT.
NESSED FOR THE JUDGMENT-DAY.
“BEHOLD, I STAND AT THE DOOR AND KNOCK: IF ANY MAN HEAR MY VOICE, AND OPEN THE DOOR, I WILL COME IN TO HIM, AND WILL SUP WITH HIM, AND HE WITH ME.” Rev. 3:20.
This day hath our compassionate Redeemer opened unto us a door of liberty-liberty to us to preach, and liberty for you to hear the glad tidings of the gospel. This is a day few looked for; how often have I said in the years that are past, God hath no more work for me to do, and I shall have no more strength and opportunities to work for God. And how often have you said in your hearts, we have sinned our ministers out of their pulpits, and our eyes shall no more behold these our teachers. But lo, beyond the thoughts of most hearts, a wide and, I hope, an effectual door is now opened in the midst of us. O that it may be to us as the valley of Achor was to Israel, " for a door of hope," Hosea 2:15; not only making the troubles they met with in that valley an inlet to their mercies, as ours have been to us, but giving them that valley as a pledge of greater mercies intended for them. Upon the first appearance of this mercy, my thoughts were how to make the most fruitful improvement of it among you, lest we should sin ourselves back again into bondage.
In the contemplation of this matter, the Lord directed me to this scripture, wherein the same hand that opened to you the door of liberty, knocks importunately at the doors of your hearts for entrance into them, and for union and communion with them. It will be sad indeed if he who hath let you into all these mercies, should himself be shut out of your hearts; but if the Lord help you to open your hearts now to Christ, I doubt not this door of liberty will be kept open to you, how many soever the adversaries be that will do their utmost to shut it up. Ezek. 39 : 29. The mercies you enjoy this day are the fruits of Christ's intercession with the Father for one trial more: if we bring forth fruit, well; if not, the axe lieth at the root of the tree. Under this consideration I desire to speak, and even so the Lord help you to hear what shall be spoken from this precious scripture, “ BEHOLD, I STAND AT THE DOOR AND KNOCK : IF ANY MAN HEAR MY VOICE AND OPEN THE DOOR, I WILL COME IN TO HIM, AND WILL SUP WITH HIM, AND HE WITH ME.” : These words are a branch of that excellent epistle dictated by Christ, and sent by his servant John to the church of Laodicea, the most formal and degenerate of all the seven churches; yet the great Physician will try his skill upon them, both by the rebukes of the rod and by the persuasive power of the word, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock," etc.
This text is Christ's wooing voice, full of heavenly rhetoric to win and gain the hearts of sinners to himself; wherein we have these two general parts.
1. Christ's suit for a sinner's heart.
1. Christ's suit for a sinner's heart, in which is, (1,) the solemn preface, ushering it in, “ Behold.” The preface is exceedingly solemn; for besides the common use of this word behold in other places, to excite attention or put weight into an affirmation, it stands here, as a judicious
expositor says, as a term of notification or public record, wherein Christ takes witnesses of the most gracious offer he was now about to make to their souls, and will have it stand for a perpetual memorial of this offer, as a testimony for or against their souls to all eternity, to cut off all excuses and pretences for time to come.
(2.) The suitor, Christ himself, “ I stand ;" I who have a right of sovereignty over you; I who have shed my invaluable blood to purchase you, and might justly condemn you upon the first denial or demur, “behold, I stand :” this is the suitor.
(3.) His posture and action, “I stand at the door and knock :” the word is fitly translated, “I stand,” yet so as that it notes a continual action. I have stood, and do still stand with unwearied patience; I once stood personally and bodily among you in the days of my flesh, and I still stand spiritually and representatively in my ambassadors at the door, that is, the mind and conscience, the faculties and powers which are introductory to the whole soul.
The word “ door” is here properly put to signify those introductory faculties of the soul, which are of like use to it, as the door is to the house. This is the Redeemer's posture, his action is knocking, that is, his powerful and gracious attempts to open the heart to give him admission. The word “knock” signifies a strong and powerful knock; he stands patiently, and knocks powerfully by the word outwardly, by the convictions, motions, impulses, and strivings of his Spirit inwardly.
(4.) The design and end of the suit ; it is for “opening” to him, that is, consenting, receiving, and heartily accepting him by faith. The Lord opened the heart of Lydia, Acts 16 : 14; that is, persuaded her soul to believe; implying that the heart by nature is strongly barred and locked up against Christ, and that nothing but a power from him can open it.
2. The powerful arguments and motives used by Christ to obtain his suit in the sinner's heart; and they are drawn from two inestimable benefits which accrue to the opening or believing soul.
(1.) Union: “I will come in to him ;" that is, I will unite myself with the opening, believing soul; he shall be mystically one with me, and I with him.
(2.) Communion: “I will sup with him, and he with me;" that is, I will feast the believing soul with the delicacies of heaven;, such comforts, joys, and pleasures as none but believers are capable of.
And, to set home all, these special benefits are proposed · by Christ to all sorts of sinners, great and small, old and
young : “If any man hear my voice, and open the door :" that so no soul might be discouraged from believing by the greatness or multitude of his sins, but the vilest of sinners may see free grace triumphing over all their unworthiness, on their consent to take Christ according to the gracious offers of the gospel.
The words thus opened afford many great and useful points of doctrine, comprehending in them the very substance of the gospel. The first which arises from the solemn and remarkable preface, “ BEHOLD,” will be this:
That every offer of Christ to the souls of sinners is recorded and witnessed with respect to the day of account and reckoning.
Here we shall inquire into three things : Who are God's witnesses to all the offers of the gospel ; what they witness to; and why God records every offer of Christ, and takes a witness thereof.
I. WHO ARE God's WITNESSES to all the tenders and offers made of Christ by the gospel ? and they will be found to be more than a strict legal number; for,
1. His ministers, by whom he makes them, are all wit
nesses as well as officers of Christ to the people. “I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness.” Acts 26 : 16. Here you see ministers have a double office, to propose and offer Christ, and then to bear witness for or against those to whom he is thus offered ; they are expressly called God's witnesses. Rev. 11:7. Their labors witness, their sufferings witness, their solemn appeals to God witness, yea, the very dust of their feet shaken off against the refusers of Christ, turns to a testimony against them. Mark 6:11. Every sigh, every drop of sweat, much more of blood, are placed in God's book along with all their sermons and prayers, and will be produced and read in the great day against all the refusers and despisers of Christ.
2. The gospel itself, which is preached to you, is a testimony or witness for God against every one who rejects it. “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him ; the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” John 12:48. And this is the sense of Christ's word, Matt. 24 : 14, “ And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Ah, what a solemn record is here; every sermon you hear, yea, every reproof, persuasion, and conviction is a witness for God to condemn every soul in judgment that complies not immediately with the calls of the gospel : so many sermons, so many witnesses. .
3. Every man's conscience is a witness for God, that he has a fair offer made him; the very consciences of the heathen who never saw a Bible, who had no other preachers but the sun, moon, and stars and other works of nature; yet of them the apostle says, that they “show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another.” Rom. 2 : 15. Certainly if such vigor and activity was put into the consciences of