Christ at tbe Door.
"Behold 1 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, iii. 20.
ANY of us are familiar, I dare say, with the devoutly imaginative rendering of the first part of these wonderful words, which we owe to the genius of a living painter. Jn it we see the fast shut door, with rusted hinges, all overgrown with rank, poisonous weeds, which tell how long it has been closed. There stands, amid the night dews and the darkness, the patient Son of Man, one hand laid on the door, the other bearing a light, which may perchance flash through some of its chinks. In His face are love repelled and pity all but wasted; in the touch of His hand are gentleness and authority.
But the picture pauses, of course, at the beginning of my text, of which the sequel is quite as wonderful as its first part. "I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with Me." What can surpass such words as these? I venture to take this great text, and ask you to look with me at the three things that lie in it: the suppliant for admission; the door opened; the entrance and the feast.
I.—Think, then, first of all, of that Suppliant for admission.
I suppose that the briefest explanation of my text is sufficient. Who knocks? The exalted Christ. What is the door? The closed heart of man. What does He desire? Entrance. What are His knockings and His voice? All providences; all monitions of His Spirit in man's spirit and conscience; the direct invitations of His written or spoken word; in brief, whatsoever sways our hearts to yield to Him and enthrone Him. This is the meaning, in the fewest possible words, of the great utterance of my text.
Here is a revelation of a uersal truth, applying to every man and woman on the face of the earth; but more especially and manifestly to those of us who live within the sound of Christ's Gospel, and of the written revelations of His grace. True, my text was originally spoken in reference to the unworthy members of a little church of early believers in Asia Minor, but it passes far beyond the limits of the lukewarm Laodiceans to whom it was addressed. And the "any man" which follows is wide enough to warrant us in stretching out the representation as far as the bounds of humanity extend, and in believing that, wherever there is a close heart there is a knocking Christ, and that all men are lightened by that Light which came into the world.
Upon that I do not need to dwell, but I desire to enforce the individual bearing of the general truth upon our own consciences, and to come to each with this message—the saying is true about thee, and at the door of thy heart Jesus Christ stands, and there His gentle, mighty hand is laid, and on it the flashes of His light shine, and through the chinks of the unopened door of thy heart comes the beseeching voice, "Open! Open unto Me." A strange reversal of the attitudes of the great and of the lowly, of the giver and of the receiver, of the Divine and of the human! Christ once said, "Knock, and it shall be opened unto you." But He has taken the suppliant's place, and, standing by the side of each of us, He beseeches us that we let Him bless us, and enter in for our rest.
So, then, there is here a revelation, not only of a uersal truth, but a most tender and pathetic disclosure of Christ's yearning love to each of us. What do you call that emotion which, more than anything else, desires that a heart should open and let it enter? We call it love when we find it in one another. Surely it bears the same name when it is sublimed into all but infinitude, and yet is as individualizing and specific as it is great and uersal, as it is found in Jesus Christ. If it be true that He wants me, if it be true that in that great heart of His there are a thought and a wish about His relation to me, and mine to Him, then, then, each of us is grasped by a love that is like our human love, only perfected and purified from all its weaknesses.
Now we sometimes feel, I am afraid, as if all that talk about the love which Jesus Christ has to each of us was scarcely a prose fact. There is a woeful lack of belief among us in the things that we profess to believe most. You are all ready to admit, when I preach it, that it is true that Jesus Christ loves us. Have you ever tried to realize it, and lay it upon your hearts, that the sweetness and astoundingness of it may soak into you, and change your whole being? Oh! listen, not to my poor, rough notes, but to His infinitely sweet and tender melody of voice, when He says to you, as if your eyes needed to be opened to perceive it, " Behold! I stand at the door and knock," There is a revelation in the words, dear friends, of an infinite long-suffering and patience. The door has long been fastened; you and I have, like some lazy servant, thought that, if we did not answer the knock, the Knocker would go away when He was weary. But we have miscalculated the elasticity and the unfailingness of that patient Christ's love. Rejected He abides; spurned He returns. There are men and women in this chapel now who, all their lives long, have known that Jesus Christ coveted their love, and yearned for a place in their hearts, and have steeled themselves against the knowledge, or frittered it away by worldliness, or darkened it by sensuality and sin. And here they are again once more brought into the presence of that rejected, patient, wooing Lord, who courts them for their souls as if they were, which indeed they are, too precious to be lost, as long as there is a ghost of a chance that they may stiil listen to His voice. The patient Christ's wonderfulness of long-suffering may well bow us all in thankfulness and in penitence. How often has He tapped or thundered at the door of your heart, dear friends, and how often have you neglected to open? Is it not of the Lord's mercies that the rejected or neglected love is offered you once more, and the voice, so long deadened and deafened to your ears by the rush of passion, and the hurry of business, and the whispers of self, yet again appeals to you, as it does even through my poor translation of it.
And then, still further, in that thought of the suppliant waiting for admission, there is the explanation for us all of a great many misunderstood facts in our experience. That sorrow that darkened your days and made your heart bleed, what was it but Christ's hand on the door? Those blessings which pour into your life day by day "beseech you, by the mercies of God, that ye yield yourselves living sacrifices." That unrest which dogs the steps of every man who has not found rest in Christ, what is it but the application of His hand to the obstinately closed door? The stings of conscience, the movements of the Spirit, the definite proclamation of His Word, even by such lips as mine, what are they all except His appeals to us? And this-is the deepest meaning of joys and sorrows, of gifts and losses of fulfilled and disappointed hopes. This is the meaning of the yearning of Christless hearts, of the various experiences which come to us all. "Behold! I stand at the door and knock." If we understood better that all life is guided by Christ, and that Christ's guidance of life is guided by His desire that He should find a place in our hearts, we should less frequently wonder at sorrows, and should better understand our blessings.
The boy Samuel, lying sleeping before the light in the inner sanctuary, heard the voice of God, and thought it was only the grey-bearded priest that spoke. We often make the same mistake, and confound the utterances of Christ Himself with the speech of men. Recognize who it is that pleads with you; and do not fancy that when Christ speaks it is Eli that is calling; but say, "Speak, Lord.' for Thy servant heareth." "Lift up your heads, O ye gates, even lift them up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in."
II.—And that leads me, secondly, to ask you to look at the door opened.
I nsed not enlarge upon what I have already suggested, the uersality of the wide promise here—" If any man open the door "; but what I wish rather to notice is that, according to this representation, "the door" has no handle outside, and is so hinged that it opens from within outwards. Which, being taken out of metaphor and put into fact, means this, you are the only being that can open the door for Christ to come in. The whole responsibility, brother, of accepting or rejecting God's gracious Word, which comes to us all in good faith, lies with yourself.
I am not going to plunge into theological puzzles, but I appeal to consciousness. You know as well as I do —better a great deal, for it is yourself that is in question—that at each time when your heart and conscience have been brought in contact with the offer of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, if you had liked you could have opened the door, and welcomed His entrance. And you know that nobody and nothing kept it fast except only yourselves. "Ye will not come to Me," said Christ, " that ye might have life." Men, indeed, do pile up such mountains of rubbish against the door that it cannot be opened, but it was they who put them there; and they are responsible if the hinges are so rusty that they will not move, or the doorway is so clogged that there is no room for it to open. Jesus Christ knocks, but Jesus Christ cannot break the door open. It lies in your hands to decide whether you will take or whether you will reject that which He brings.
The door is closed, and unless there be a definite act on your parts it will not be opened and He will not enter. So we come to this, that to do nothing is to keep your Saviour outside; and that is the way in which most men that miss Him do miss Him.
I suppose there are very few of us who have ever been conscious of an act of resistance, by which, if I might adhere to the metaphor, we have laid hold of the door on the inside, and held it tight lest it should be opened. But, I fear me, there are many of my present hearers who have sat in the inner chamber, and heard the gracious hand on the outer panel, and have kept their hands folded and their feet still, and done nothing. Ah! brethren, to do nothing is to do the most dreadful of things, for it is to keep the door shut in the face of Christ. No passionate antagonism is needed, no vehement rejection, no intellectual denial of His truth and His promises. If you want to ruin yourselves, you have simply to do nothing! All the dismal consequences will necessarily follow.
"Well," you say, "but you are talking metaphors; let us come to plain facts. What do you wish me to do?" I wish you to listen to the message of an infinitely loving Christ who died on the cross to bear the sins of the whole world, including you and me; and who now lives, pleading with each of us from heaven that we will take by simple faith, and keep by holy obedience, the gift of eternal life which He offers, and which He alone can give. The condition of His entrance is simple trust in Him, as the Saviour of my soul. That is opening the door, and if you will do that, then, just as when you open the shutters, in comes the sunshine ; just as when men lift the sluice, in flows the crystal stream into the slimy, empty lock, so—I was going to say by gravitation, rather by the diffusive impulse that belongs to Light, which is Christ—He will enter in, wherever He is not shut out by unbelief and aversion of will.
III.—And so that brings me to my last point—viz., the entrance and the feast.
My text is a metaphor, but the declaration that "if any man open the door" Jesus Christ "will come in to him," is not a metaphor, but is the very heart and centre of the Gospel. "I will come in to him," dwell in him, be really incorporated in his being, or inspirited, if I may so say, in his spirit. Now you may think that that is far too recondite and lofty a thought to be easily grasped by ordinary people, but its very loftiness should recommend it to us. I, for my part, believe that there is no more literal fact in the whole world than the actual dwelling of Jesus Christ, the Son of God who is in heaven, in the spirits of the people that love Him and trust Him. And this is one great part of the Gospel that I have to preach to you, that into our emptiness He will come with His fulness; that into our sinfulness He will come with His righteousness; that into our death He will come with His triumphant and immortal life; and, He being in us and we in Him, we shall be full and pure and live for ever, and be blessed with the blessedness of Jesus. So remember that imbedded in the midst of the wonderful metaphor of my text lies the fact which is the very centre of the Gospel hope, the dwelling of Jesus Christ in the hearts even of poor sinful creatures like us.
But it comes into view here only as the basis of the subsequent promises, and on these I can only touch very briefly, " I will come in to him and sup with him, and he with Me." That speaks to us in lovely, sympathetic language, of a close, familiar, happy communication between Christ and my poor self, which shall make all life as a feast in company with Him. We remember who is the mouthpiece of Jesus Christ here. It is the disciple who knew most of what quietness of blessedness and serenity of adoring communion there were in leaning on Christ's breast at supper, casting back his head on that loving bosom; looking into those deep, sad eyes, and asking questions which were sure of answer. And John, as he wrote down the words "I will sup with him, and he with Me," perhaps remembered that upper room where, amidst all the bitter herbs, there were such strange joy and tranquillity. But whether he did or no, may we not take the picture as suggesting to us the possibilities of loving fellowship, of quiet repose, of absolute satisfaction of all desires and needs, which will be ours, if we open the door of our hearts by faith, and let Jesus Christ come in?
But, note, when He does come He comes as guest. "I will sup with him." "He shall have the honour of providing that of which I partake." Just as upon earth He said to the Samaritan woman, "Give Me to drink," or sat at the table, at the modest village feast in Bethany, in honour of the miracle of a man raised from the dead, and smiled approval of Martha serving, as of Lazarus sitting at table, and of Mary anointing Him, so the humble viands, the poor man's fare that our resources enable us to lay upon His table, are never too small or poor for Him to delight in. This King feasts in the neatherd's cottage, and He will even condescend to turn the cakes. "I will sup with him." We cannot bring anything so coarse, so poor, so unworthy, if a drop or two of love has been sprinkled over it, but that it will be well-pleasing in His sight, and He Himself will partake thereof. "He has gone to be a guest with a man that is a sinner."
But more than that, where He is welcomed as guest, He assumes the place of host. "I will sup with him, and he with Me." You remember how, after the Resurrection, when the two disciples, moved to hospitality, implored the unknown stranger to come in and partake of their humble fare, He yielded to their importunity, and, when they were in the guest-chamber, took His place at the head of the table, and blessed the bread and gave it to them. Your remember how, in the beginning of His miracles, He manifested forth His glory in this, that, invited as a common guest to the rustic wedding, He replenished the failing wine. And so, wherever a poor man opens his heart and says, "Come in, and I will give Thee my best," Jesus Christ comes in, and gives the man His best, that the man may render it back to Him. He owes nothing to any man, He accepts the poorest from each, and He gives the richest to each. He is Guest and Host, and what He accepts from us is what He has first given to us.
The promise of my text is fulfilled immediately when the door of the heart is opened, but it shadows and prophesies a nobler fulfilment in the heavens. Here and now Christ and we may sit together, but the feast will be like the Passover, eaten with loins girt and staves in hand, and the Red Sea and wilderness waiting to be trodden. But there comes a perfecter form of the communion, which finds its parallel in that wonderful scene when the weary fishers, all of whose success had depended on their obedience to the Master's direction, discerned at last, through the grey of the morning, who it was that stood upon the shore, and, struggling to His side, saw there " a fire of coals, and fish laid thereon, and bread," to which they were bidden to add their modest contribution in the fish that they had caught; and, the meal being thus prepared partly by His hand and partly by theirs, enabled and filled by Him, His voice says, "Come and dine." So, brethren, Christ at the last will bring His servants to His table in His Kingdom, and there their works shall follow them; and He and they shall sit together for ever, and for ever " rejoice in the fatness of Thy house, even of Thy holy temple."
I beseech you, listen not to my poor voice, but to His that speaks through it, and when He knocks do you open, and Christ Himself shall come in. "If a man love Me he will keep My commandments, and My Father will love him, and We will come and make Our abode with him!"