Fifth Degree. — His Table and His Cup.

Psalm 23:5. "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over."

We now come to a scene and atmosphere which is altogether different from all that precedes, and the very opposite of the last verse. It is as high above it, as the heavens are above the earth. The "Valley of the Shadow of Death," with its exercises of faith in the trials and conflicts of the Christian pilgrim, is left behind, and we enter upon higher regions, the heavenly atmosphere of the Christian worshipper. The peaceably lying down and feeding upon the pasture of the Word of God, amidst a restless and hostile world, and the being led by Him beside the still waters of refreshment, with broken cisterns all around or the necessary exercises of conscience, heart, and faith, for deepening communion with God — blessed as they are — yet what would they be as to power and lasting practical effect, unless linked with the blessings of the fifth verse,

The Lord's Table and His Cup, — and the heavenly, pure atmosphere of worship that characterizes that Table? The pilgrim now takes his place as a worshipper in the Heavenlies. The wilderness is left behind, and Canaan above opens before us, flowing with blessings better than milk and honey.

"The veil is rent, our souls draw near
Unto a throne of grace;
The merits of the Lord appear,
They fill the Holy Place.''

Yes, they fill the Holy Place! The odour of Mary's ointment filled the little house in Bethany, and ascended higher still, no doubt; for it was spent upon Christ, and came from a heart filled with Christ. But the Christ above, sitting at the right hand of God, in His dignity as the Son of God, and according to His merits as the Son of Man, fills all the Father's House above with the sweet incense of His presence and acceptance as the perfect Man, Who has glorified God on earth in His life, and, above all, in His death upon the Cross. And never during the whole life of Christ on earth, which ascended as a constant incense up to God," — never, except during those hours in Gethsemane, and during that prayer that ascended up to Heaven from the banks of the brook Cedron, the threshold of Gethsemane (John 17), — arose there a sweeter incense from Earth to Heaven, than in that solemn night, when the Good Shepherd, before He died for His sheep, prepared a Table for them in the presence of His and their enemies.

{*So beautifully typified in the meat-offering.}

That Table is as old as is redemption, It was prepared in the darkest night that ever was, or will be. I do not mean, as to natural darkness. In that sense there had once been a night in Egypt far darker than this — a night, which lasted "three days." It was when its sin-benighted and hardened inhabitants were made to feel and realize, in an anticipatory way, the terrible power of darkness to which Pharaoh and his kingdom belonged; when they saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days, whilst all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings. And not many days after, that night had been followed by another, neither so long nor so dark, but unrivalled in its awfulness — a night never to be forgotten in Israel, though long since forgotten in Egypt — when the Lord passed through the land and smote all the first-born, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne, unto the first-born of the captive that was in the dungeon, and all the first-born of the cattle. But, for His people, who by nature were under the same condemnation as the Egyptians, God had "found a ransom;" for "without shedding of blood there is no remission." And, as during the terrible darkness of the former "night" there had been light in all the dwellings of Israel, so there was, amidst the awful judgment and terrors of the second "night," a perfect shelter to be found in every dwelling — even the poorest hovel of Israel being marked by the blood of the Lamb. But God had not only provided a ransom and a shelter for His people; He had prepared for them a Table in the presence of their enemies, where they could feed upon the lamb, to get strength for the journey before them; as they had been sheltered by its blood upon the door-posts and lintel. In that night, whilst all Egypt rang with the wail of despair, there stood six-hundred-thousand men of Israel, every one in his house, with his family, around that Table of Jehovah's gracious provision, when He was about to deliver His people, and lead them like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron. There they stood, every one with his loins girded, with his staff in his hand, and with his shoes on his feet, ready to depart, feeding in silence upon the roast lamb. I say, in silence, for there was not one single note of praise heard at that Table, during the solemn supper of Passover, It was not only on account of the cries of lamentation all around, but because the blood, which sheltered them from that terrible, resistless hand of the Destroyer, was, at the same time, a voice to their own consciences, that they had deserved the same fate, and had escaped it only through the gracious provision of God. And, besides, they had not yet "seen the salvation of the Lord;" and until that had been, there could be no song of praise. After their deliverance at the Red Sea, the Passover was to be kept by Israel in the wilderness; and, after having crossed Jordan, the Passover, again, was the first thing that met them in Canaan. There, at Gilgal (the taking away of the reproach of Egypt), before the very walls of Jericho, the Lord again prepared a Table for His people in the presence of their enemies. The blood of the Lamb — the death of Christ — must be the foundation for every blessing — whether it be for the shelter in Egypt, or deliverance from it (Rom. 3:23-25) or for guidance and sustenance during the conflicts and temptations of the wilderness (1 Peter 1:18-21; Heb. 10:19-23); or for the abundance of Canaan, and our safe and perfect realization and enjoyment of it (Eph. 1:7-9 and Eph. 2.)

But there was another night — a night in Canaan — compared to which those two nights of Egyptian darkness appear to be as daylight. It was that night when Judas went out from the presence of His Master to betray Him with a kiss — a night, singled out by the Holy Spirit from every other dark and terrible night that ever has been or will be, by those awful additional words, "and it was night." He Himself, the One so shamefully betrayed, when ascended, and surrounded by the light of heavenly glory, of which He is the brightness Himself — remembered it, when, by way of an especial revelation, He reminded His apostle and all His flock of that never-to-be-forgotten night, in those words, "in the night in which he was betrayed;" thus confirming these solemn words of His Holy Spirit, "And it was night." As to any outward appearance, as remarked above, there was no difference. That night had broken in like every other night upon the Holy Land of Promise, with its natural beauties and abundance. The Holy City of Peace, with its glorious temple, lay buried in sleep. Those who were gorgeously apparelled and lived delicately, rested from the enjoyments — and the poor of the flock, from the trials and exercises of the day. Only the measured footfall of the Roman sentinels was to be heard from the high terraces of the castle. Perhaps, from the distant wilderness, now and then might be heard, like the faint sound of an approaching tempest, the deep voice of a roaring lion, seeking whom he might devour. But no cry of despair, as in that awful night in Egypt, interrupted the silence and peace that lay over Canaan and Jerusalem, the City of Peace. But, alas! what peace! In the day of her visitation, when the King of Righteousness and Prince of Peace entered her gates, riding meek and lowly on the colt of an ass, she had not known the things that belonged to her peace; and now they were hid from her eyes. And this night has come upon her!

But there was something in the atmosphere of that night, only perceived by hearts with spiritual instincts, like Mary's. The air was thickening with the leaven of malice and wickedness; for the high priest and the rulers, with the people, were going to keep the Passover. The prince of the power of the air was summoning and gathering his evil hosts of wicked spirits in the air, to exercise from thence his infernal influence upon the children of this world, whose prince he is. He was concentrating his army for the final battle, to be fought on Calvary, the place of a skull.* … There are some faint sounds, coming from the palace of the High Priest, and stealthy lights can be seen, moving from window to window. But they do not appear like preparations for the great "feast of the Jews" that was at hand, but like the hushed voices of thieves and robbers, preparing for a nightly raid; and those lights resemble wandering stars, soon to relapse into darkness.

{*Something of that atmosphere seems to have been felt by the Lord's disciples, when Jesus "steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, when they were amazed, and, as they followed, they were afraid."}

Quiet and stillness all around. — But no! a voice interrupts the treacherous peace of that night… a voice of deepest anguish. … It ascends from the banks of the brook Cedron, over which David went, when fleeing from his son Absalom. It comes from One, greater than David from David's Son and Lord! … He is kneeling upon the cold turf of the garden of Gethsemane. … His sweat, as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Let us approach here with unshod feet, reader, for the ground is holy. It is wondrous grace that permits us to listen to the utterances of that voice, which then was not heard by the chiefs of His apostles, though they were so near, — for they were asleep.

"Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless" (oh, let us ponder this 'nevertheless,' reader!) "not my will, but thine, be done."

Thrice that appeal of deepest agony is heard going up to heaven. But no responding voice from above is heard this time — for the cup which the Father has given Him, shall He not drink it? But an angel comes down to strengthen Him, Who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death.

Again His voice is heard, speaking to His awakening disciples, "Behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand."

The prince of this world, and of the power of the air, the chief ruler of the darkness of this world, is approaching with his satellites. They are led by an apostle of the Lord, "the son of perdition."

It was their hour, and the power of darkness. … "and as soon as he was come, he goeth straightway to him, and saith, "Master, Master, and kissed him." …

"And they laid their hands on. him and took him."

The darkest treason that ever was, or will be, had been accomplished. The Chiefs of Israel had weighed out thirty pieces of silver, as the price for Jehovah, their Messiah.

But, just as increasing darkness only serves to set off the brightness of a light shining through the night, so the love of Him, Who was betrayed, sold, denied, and forsaken by His own in that night of sins of the darkest dye shone out all the brighter, set in relief by the very darkness around Him. I have dwelt longer than I intended on that night, my fellow believer, for I feel we are apt to forget it practically, and to slight that Love that then shone brighter than ever before, though always perfect in itself from first to last. Oh, would that that night were more fixedly in the remembrance of our consciences, and that love more in the memory of our hearts. Then, indeed, when sitting down at the Table, prepared for us in that very night, by our Good Shepherd, we should better understand and carry out the full meaning of His tender and loving dying injunction: —

"This do in remembrance of me."

What a moment, when Jehovah-Jesus, in the night when He was betrayed, sat down with His apostles to eat the last Passover with them before He died! A better blood had to be shed — the blood of the Lamb of God — to procure for them and for us, the blessings founded upon it — for them on earth, and for us in heavenly glory. Before Him and His apostles, was set the roast lamb on the table, of which He Himself was the blessed antitype. What was the train of His thoughts when the Holy Lamb of God looked at the type before Him? Was it His own sufferings? Yes, but in what way? "With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you, before I suffer."

The One Who sat at that Table with the twelve was the very same by Whom God made the world. When He appointed the foundations of the earth, He was His Father's daily delight, and His delights were with the sons of men. "In him was life, and the life was the light of men." "Behold I and the children which God hath given me."That which now engrossed His heart and mind, was not the anticipation of His sufferings (the hour of Gethsemane had not yet come), but those for whom He was going to suffer and to die. It was not the travail of His soul, but those that were to be the fruit of it, all whom the Father had given Him out of this world, and whom He was going to redeem by His blood. They and we, fellow-believer, filled the foreground of His mind and heart before He suffered; and they — we — are the first of whom He thinks and speaks, after He has been heard from the horns of the unicorns, "I will declare thy name unto my brethren; in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee."

Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God," And did not Jesus know what manner of men they were, for whom He was going to suffer? As to "that nation," for whom He was to die — "He came unto his own, and his own received him not." The Son of God, the King of Israel, Who saw Nathaniel when he was under the fig-tree, knew that in that very night the false shepherds of Israel were going to weigh out to His betrayer the price for a common slave, as the price of Jehovah, their Messiah. And as to His disciples, nay, His apostles, did He not know that one of them, who was eating His bread at that very table, had lifted up his heel against Him, to betray Him for thirty pieces of silver? Was He not aware that the chief of His apostles, to whom He had given the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, would in that night deny Him thrice? And knew He not that all His disciples, the one whom He loved (and who was then leaning on His bosom,) along with the rest, were going to forsake Him in the hour of deadly peril? He knew it, and He told them. He knew and fore-knew every thought and movement of their treacherous, proud, deceitful, and inconstant hearts and of ours. He knew it all, and He felt it too; as only He, perfect God and perfect Man, could know and feel it. The words, "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat," were followed by, "But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not, and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." And, in the perfect knowledge of all this, did His hand hesitate, even for a moment, to take the bread, and give thanks and break it, and likewise also the cup, after supper? Those blessed words, "This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you," are followed by, "But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table. And truly, the Son of man goeth as it was determined, but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed!"

There was a conscience there, upon which even such words had no effect. Judas Iscariot took the sop. Satan entered into him, and finally hardened his conscience, and afterwards drove him to despair, The others were alarmed; but what comes next? "And there was a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest."

Wretched hearts of ours, that betray themselves (even at such a table, and even at such a moment) in the very presence of Him Who was obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross of Him, Who loved His own unto the end, and Who gave His life for His sheep. But the purposes of the Obedient Son could not be shaken by the treason and pride of men's rebellious hearts! When He came into the world, He said, "Lo, I come* to do thy will, O God." When in service on earth, it is, "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." And at the end, in Gethsemane, it is again, "Nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done."** Such obedience could not be turned from its path by all the defection of His own around. Could His purposes of divine love be shaken or modified by the wretched selfishness in the hearts of His disciples — or by ours, my reader? No; His obedience was as unwavering towards His Father, as His love was unchanging towards those whom the Father had given Him, "Behold I and the children which God hath given me." His love had its motive in Himself, Who is Love, and not in anything in us, or in our hearts, which are the very opposite of love, — selfish. "Not that we loved" Him, but He has loved us, He gave Himself for us. Oh! what accents of sweetest, perfect love, grace, loveliness, patience, goodness, and wisdom, were heard in that night, the atmosphere of which was pregnant with all the wickedness of Satan and men.

{*Not, "I go," but I "come;" as it were, from the distance of eternity (Comp. Prov. 8.) Our place it is to say, "I go."

**There was an "if" in Gethsemane; and if any "if" be admissible, surely this was. But it was immediately followed by, "nevertheless."}

He prepared a Table for them in the presence of His and their enemies.

Did His thoughts, whilst He was eating the Passover with them, travel back, if I may say so, to another night, separated by fifteen-hundred years from that present one? In that night He had also prepared a Table — this very Table — for His people in the presence of their enemies, when He went and slew the first-born throughout Egypt, to deliver His people from its bondage. Then cries of death and despair rang through the night, whilst Israel stood and fed in safety. But now the time had come when the "First-born of all creation" was to be slain — slain by wicked hands; yes, and not only so; He was to be "wounded in the house of his friends."

But there was more: "Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts; smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered." The Judge of Egypt, the Judge of the whole earth, was to undergo the judgment due to His people, due to you and me, reader! The Deliverer of His people of old, was now to be delivered by their children into the hands of sinful men, in order to deliver them from their sins. The Lamb of God was to take away the sin of the world, and to die for that nation, "His own" — who received Him not — Messiah was to be cut off and have nothing.

But, no! He now looks onward, not backward. His words, "With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer," are followed by, "I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God." And His words, "Take this [cup] and divide it among yourselves," are followed by, "For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come." Did they understand what He meant by, "before I suffer," and, "until the kingdom of God shall come?" Alas! they were dull of understanding, "slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken." They did not know that "Christ ought to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory." They "trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel." Redeemed from what? From the consequences of their sins, i.e., the yoke of the Romans. Had they never heard of the words of the angel of the Lord, when he spoke to Joseph? "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins." Had they not heard the voice of the forerunner, exclaiming, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world?" If they had, they had forgotten, or not understood it. But had not the Lord Himself foretold them, "The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men, and they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again?"

"They were exceeding sorry," and Peter even said, "That be far from thee, Lord!" But the Cross of Christ, and the truth that He must suffer, and thus enter into his glory, was entirely beyond the narrow compass of their thoughts, however clearly foretold in the prophets. They "understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not; and they feared to ask him of that saying." The glorious truth of resurrection was just as far, if not still farther beyond their conception. The first tidings of it "seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not." But there was One in the midst of them, the spotless, gracious One, Who not only forbore with their (though culpable) ignorance, but even stooped down and washed their feet, before He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, to die for them. May we learn of Him to practise what we sing so often: —

"O patient, spotless One!
Our hearts in meekness train,
To bear Thy yoke, and learn of Thee,
That we may rest obtain."

The Passover, the Supper of the Old Testament, being over, Jesus then proceeded to prepare for them, and for us, the Table — the Lord's Supper, of the New Testament.

"And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, this is my body, which is given for you; this do in remembrance of me."

Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you."

What a disclosure of the true meaning of the Passover-lamb, upon which they had been feeding! All-overwhelming in its effect, if the truth of the Cross, if the real meaning of the 53rd chapter of the prophet Isaiah had now burst upon the vision of their minds. But, alas! that cross was still far from their thoughts! Self had the uppermost place there. They contended which of them should be accounted the greatest. But the meek and lowly One among them, Who had come from glory to die for them, and to suffer Calvary's woes, and to enter into His glory, was looking onward to the glory of His kingdom, for which the dying thief upon the Cross, craved a passport of Him. After having addressed to them one of His faithful, yet always gracious rebukes, He continues, Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations, and I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel."*

{*We must not forget that the Lord's Table, as presented in the Gospels, has naturally an Israelitic — I do not say character, but aspect. The Church was not yet called, and thus the Lord's coming, to which He there alludes, refers to His public appearing for His millennial reign, not to His coming for the Church. This latter we find referred to in the especial commandment which the ascended Lord, from glory, as Head of the Church gave to the apostle of the Gentiles with regard to His Table, already established in the Gospels. There the words, "We show his death, till he come," refer to His coming for the Church.}

What can surpass the perfect grace of such words, spoken at such a moment, and addressed to such hearts as theirs and ours? May the spirit, and the very tone of them, so to speak, be more present to our hearts and minds, in the abiding power of His own Spirit!

The Supper of the New Testament, the Lord's Supper, had been established by the true Paschal-Lamb Himself. Jehovah-Jesus, the Lamb and the Good Shepherd, had prepared a Table for them in the presence of their enemies. All around, the atmosphere of evil is thickening, and the prince of this world and of the power of the air, is summoning and gathering his hosts of wicked spirits, to inspire, incite, and lead on poor deluded sinners, Jews and Gentiles, to their final conspiracy and open rebellion around the Cross (as he will do at a later period, for the battle of Armageddon. — Rev. 16:13-14). At the house of the high priest, his satellites assemble, and the watchword of treason is whispered, "Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; hold him fast." But amidst and above that murky atmosphere of Satan and men's wickedness, there arises from that upper chamber, where the Good Shepherd has prepared a Table for His sheep in the very presence of their enemies — an incense sweeter than that of Mary's precious ointment, ascending to heaven. Hark! the notes of a hymn of praise going up to Him, Who "is good, and whose mercy endureth for ever!" It is intoned by the voice of the Good Shepherd, before He goes to die, and His sheep — minus the traitor — who know His voice, join in the wondrous song. Oh! what a song in that night! Was there ever a singing like that? At the Red Sea, from the shore of safety, the joyful song of redemption had ascended to God, when Moses and the Children of Israel praised the mighty salvation of Jehovah, and Miriam answered with the Daughters of Israel! A wondrous choir of praise, indeed, sung by millions of grateful voices! Such a vast hymn of praise, there had never been in this world, nor ever will be, until it come to pass that they shall say, "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord!" But what was it, compared to the notes of praise that ascended to God from that upper-chamber, sung by those twelve voices? Not Moses, the servant of God, who was faithful in all His house, intoned that hymn, but the Son over His own House, Jehovah-Jesus, the Deliverer of His people of old, to Whom that song of redemption at the Red Sea was addressed. He Himself is leading the song of praise of His little band. The voice that was soon to appeal to His Father in the agonies of Gethsemane, and then from the Cross, in that cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" — we hear at that Table, leading the praises of His little flock; just as if, even before He was heard from the horns of the unicorns, He must in anticipation praise His Father and God, (soon to be known as their's too,) in the midst of His "brethren." He wept when He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead He sings a hymn when He is going to die — to die the death upon the cross, Did not he know what Calvary meant? Gethsemane tells us. Oh! for ears and hearts to listen to that voice, and to ponder over that song. What an insight it gives into the perfect obedience and into that perfect love that dwelled in the heart of Jesus! May His Word dwell richly in us, in order that "with grace we may sing and make melody in our hearts to Him, our Lord," as He did to His Father and God, in that never-to-be-forgotten night.

That Supper was ended; the things concerning Him had an end. Then the Lord, with the Eleven, leaves the upper-chamber for Gethsemane! Here, whilst on their way, we listen to His parting words — His farewell to His disciples, words for ever engraven on the hearts, not only of those who heard them, but of all who have an ear to hear the voice of that Good Shepherd, which was so soon to be silenced in death. Then from the banks of Cedron, the boundary of Gethsemane, a prayer ascended to Heaven, upon which I do not wish here to offer any comment; only praying that some portion of that fragrance, which went up to God in that night and from that spot, might remain in its precious savour in our souls. The incense of the burnt-offering of Him, Who gave Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour, went up to God from the only pure heart that ever moved or will beat on earth, till He Himself, Who alone has a pure heart and clean hands, will come again and ascend to the holy hill of Zion. But God has, in His wondrous grace, permitted such as you and I, fellow-believer, to be in spirit witnesses of that prayer, and to inhale some of its sweet fragrance for the everlasting benefit of our souls.

{*A long time before this night (more than a thousand years), David, His royal ancestor after the flesh, crossed that same brook on his flight from his son Absalom. "All the country wept with a loud voice," as he went up towards the wilderness, "by the ascent of Mount Olivet, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered, and went barefoot, and all the people that was with him covered every man his head, and they went up, weeping as they went up." Sweet utterances fell in that memorable day from the rejected king, words that came from a heart true to God, and humbled before Him. And he "worshipped God, when he was come to the top of the mount." No doubt that worship ascended acceptable to God, Whose "sacrifices are a broken spirit, and Who will not despise a broken and contrite heart." But, acceptable as those tears and that worship were to God, coming, as they did, from the man after His own heart; what were they, compared to that prayer of "the Son of David," when, like His ancestor after the flesh, He crossed that brook, the rejected King of the Jews? He needed not to cover His head, like David, for He had done nothing amiss, and yet He submitted His head to be covered with a crown of thorns, when the reproaches of them that reproached God, fell on Him. Neither needed He to weep, like David. But He was, as David never could be, "a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief." Who that has a true heart would disappreciate the tears that David wept over Jerusalem in his day, and even those he wept after Absalom, his son? No doubt God "gathered them in His bottle." But what were they compared to the tears at Bethany, when "Jesus wept," though going to put an end to all their sorrows by raising the bewailed one from the dead? Did all the divine power at His disposal check, or even diminish, the expression of His perfect human sympathy? Or, when he wept over Jerusalem, because she did not know the day of her visitation — could the thirty pieces of silver to be weighed there as the price for their King and Messiah; or the cry "crucify Him!" that was to resound through the streets of that city, when they preferred a murderer to the Prince of Life; or could His cross, to be set up there — or the cup full of gall and vinegar which they were going to minister to their rejected Messiah, as the last beverage in His dying hour; could all this, and more, shut up the fountain of those tears He wept over Jerusalem? Or could the imminent defection of His disciples chill the fervency of His prayer for them? Oh, that perfume of sweetest incense ascending from the purest heart up to heaven, when "Jesus lifted up His eyes to heaven" and prayed!}

Then follow the agonies of Gethsemane the betrayal and capture of Jesus — the defection of all His disciples — Jesus before the High Priest, Herod, and Pilate — and then the Cross! "It is finished!" The Veil in the temple is rent "from the top to the bottom."* The earth quakes — the rocks are rent — and the graves opened. Two days more, and the First-begotten from among the dead, the Firstborn of many brethren, Jesus, the Lord, is risen indeed; is seen of His disciples forty days, as the Great Shepherd, brought again from the dead. A few days more, and He is received up into glory. The lowly Son of Man has taken his seat at the right hand of God. He sends down from glory the promise of the Father. The Spirit of God, the Spirit of glory, takes His abode in man on earth, (in men redeemed by the Blood of the Son of God,) and testifies that Jesus, the Son of Man, has been made Lord and Christ, and that they who believe in Him are sons of God. The last testimony is addressed to the Jews through Stephen — in vain. The Cross had been their reply to the witness of the Son of God; stones are their answer to the last testimony of the Holy Spirit to their consciences. Stephen sees the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God in perfect sympathy, (the same sympathy with which He stooped down at the grave of Lazarus and wept,) and ready to receive the spirit of His faithful witness up into glory. The Second Man from Heaven, the Son of Man, is seen in heavenly glory, as the Head of His members on earth, who are baptized by the Spirit of God into one body — His Church, the Body of Christ. What a bright light there was shining in Stephen's time in the violent and bloody city of peace! Five thousand members, the first members of the Body of Christ, all of them "one heart and one soul," as they formed one body. And the power of the Holy Ghost within that "house of the living God," maintaining, in discipline, that holiness which "becometh his house for ever," as exercised in the solemn case of Ananias and Sapphira, was so great that, of those without, "durst no man join himself to them." There was no danger then of Gibeonites creeping in, however strongly the unity and love among the disciples might naturally have attracted them, for "fear came upon every soul." And, as to the Lord's Supper.

{*Not from the bottom to the top! God did it!}

"They continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine, and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers."

What hymns of praise arose there around the Lord's Table at Jerusalem, offered up by those first-fruits of the travail of His soul!

They, indeed, kept the Passover with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth; and they sung, not only the "new song" of the redeemed, but the "new song" of the righteous too. But still they did eat the Passover, the Lord's Supper of the New Testament, "with the bread of affliction." That is to say, I doubt not, that their praises and thanksgiving bore the character of a chastened joy, and that there was a subduedness in their voices when they sung.*

{*Not as it is now often at the Lord's Table, (where we are to feed upon, and show the death of Christ), hymn upon hymn, and sometimes verses like this: —
"See Him for our transgressions given;
See the blest Lamb of God from heaven,
For us, His foes, expire;
Rejoice! rejoice! the tidings hear!
He bore, that we might never bear,
Th' Almighty's righteous ire."
Such lines savour more of the unhallowed and selfish joy of one who knows more, and thinks more, of his own salvation by the Cross, than of the Cross itself and the One Who suffered there. How different the following lines: —
"There from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flowed mingled down;
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?"
The writer of that hymn knew what is the meaning of eating the Passover with the bread of affliction, with chastened joy.}

Those three crosses set up on the "place of a skull," where their Lord had been suspended along with two transgressors, when the spotless Lamb of God had been bound to the accursed tree, had scarcely had time to be removed. Their song of praise, I doubt not, bore much of the quiet and serene, but sober and subdued character of that hymn that was sung in that upper-chamber; sung by their and our now glorified Lord, before He suffered for them and us. Their position, indeed, was vastly different from that of those who did eat the Passover with the Lord. The latter were at that time in an analogous position to that of Israel, in that memorable night in Egypt. They had to be redeemed first by the blood of the Lamb, and to be delivered from it by the power of God in resurrection, on the ground of the virtue of that blood. (Only they, unlike Israel in Egypt, could sing, for "the First-born of all creation," to be slain for them, bade them sing. He Himself intoned and led their praise.) Not so those who broke the bread at Jerusalem after Pentecost. Though the same apostles who had eaten the Passover with the Lord in that ever-to-be-remembered night, were with them, yet they were altogether in a different position. They could raise, like Israel of old, the song of deliverance from the shore of safety — the wilderness before them, where persecution, famine, sword, and nakedness, awaited them. In that sense, they kept, like Israel of old, the Passover in the wilderness, as redeemed and delivered from Egypt; but, as to their bodies, still in the wilderness — the wilderness (Jerusalem and Canaan) was around them.

But as risen with Christ, their Head in glory, as those who had been delivered by the power of God from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of His dear Son, they were in an analogous (though, of course, infinitely higher) position to Israel in Canaan. Like Israel of old, when they had just entered Canaan, and kept the Passover at Gilgal, those five thousand at Jerusalem kept the Passover, seated, as it were, on the banks of Jordan, and looking towards the waters of death, which had only just returned again into the bed of the river, after they had been divided, to let the people of God pass over into the Land of Promise and blessing. Seated in the Heavenlies, we look back to the death of Christ, which not only has shut the mouth of the pit, and redeemed us from Egypt and its judgments, but has opened the gate of Heaven to us, as being our title for heavenly glory.

But there was a difference between those at Jerusalem and those at Gilgal. We read in the Book of Joshua, that the manna ceased the day after they had eaten the Passover, and that they henceforth fed upon the "old corn of the land" (i.e., Christ, no longer known after the flesh). Now I think that this was not exactly the case with the apostles of the circumcision and the flock of God at Jerusalem, who had come from the Jewish fold. True, the Lord when eating the last Passover with His apostles in that most solemn yet blessed night, had told them that the things concerning Him (as Israel's Messiah) had an end. Messiah was to be cut off and have nothing. But Israel's despised, rejected, and crucified King had interceded for them upon the Cross. God, through His Spirit at Pentecost, had responded to the intercession of His gracious Son, by the mouth of Peter. If they, as a nation, had now repented and believed in Him, their true Messiah and King, Whom they had slain, but Whom God had raised and made Lord and Christ — Christ, their Messiah, Whom the Heavens had received, would have come again. The shout, "Hosannah! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord," would have resounded through Jerusalem, and the times of refreshing, the millennium, the Kingdom of righteousness and peace would have begun. But "Hosannah," we may add, on our part; blessed be God, that, through their fall, salvation is come unto us.

But, until the death of Stephen, Israel had not yet been finally rejected. Those five thousand converts were the first-fruits of Israel, and bore, thus far, the character of a Jewish remnant. They might look for the return of their Messiah, as Christ after the flesh, in His earthly relationship to His people; they could not say with Paul, "though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more!" In that sense, the "manna" had not yet ceased for them, until, with the rejection of Stephen's testimony and his death, all was over with Israel, and Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, was called.

The songs of praise that arose from those first believers at Jerusalem, when they commemorated the Lord's death at His Table, or privately broke the bread in their houses with singleness and gladness of heart, were accompanied with the first murmurs of the storm of persecution that was soon to break in upon them, and for which the death of Stephen was the signal. Saul, the zealous model-Jew, and the unsurpassed pattern-man of religion after the flesh, and of its attainments and effects — Saul, the persecutor of the Son of David, begins, like a wolf, to make havoc in the flock, "entering into every house, haling men and women, and committing them to prison." The rest are scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. But the efforts of the enemy, as usual, only serve to bring about the accomplishment of God's counsels. The breaking up and scattering of the Church at Jerusalem, prevented the formation and accumulation of a Jewish-Christian centre in that city, which would have been the very opposite to God's intentions. The mystery of Christ, which from the beginning of the world had been hid in God, was now to be made known. Saul, the persecutor of the Church, — the wolf, making havoc, and the lion, breathing out threatenings and slaughter, — is called from glory and made the apostle to the Gentiles, and the mystery of Christ is revealed to him and through him. But I must forbear entering upon this wondrous and glorious subject, as it would lead us away from our verse.

Amongst the commandments which this Apostle — the pattern of God's long-suffering now, as he had been a pattern of men's attainments — received from his now Liege-Lord, the exalted Head of the Church, was that which he had delivered to the Corinthians, but which they had sadly forgotten and neglected. It referred to the character of the Lord's Table, which was well-nigh being effaced among them; for many had ceased to discern the Lord's body, profaning the Lord's Table, and thus eating and drinking unworthily, and thereby eating and drinking judgment unto themselves. Therefore many of them were visited with sickness, whilst others had even been cut off by death.

But our Great and Chief Shepherd, Who has not ceased to be the Good Shepherd though now in glory, foreknew, and had provided for all the needs of His flock, He knew all about our poor hearts, and the unceasing efforts of the adversary to divert them from His blessed Person, and lead our consciences and hearts away from His holy and gracious presence. A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. And where to get a whole heart for Christ, where acquire that evenness of walk, that balance between heart, knowledge, and conscience, except by abiding in His presence, close to His blessed Person? There is nothing that we stand so sadly in need of as this balance. And there is no place where His sheep and lambs, if gathered in the Spirit, are more really and consciously in His presence, than at His Table, when feeding upon and showing His death, the highest proof of His love our Good Shepherd could give us.

Before He went to die for us, it was: —

"With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you!" After He has been heard from the horns of the unicorns, — a risen Saviour, — it is, "In the midst of the congregation I will praise thee;" and after He had been received up to glory, and has called Paul for the gathering of those sheep who were not of Israel's fold — the Great and Chief Shepherd gives from glory, to him who once made havoc in His flock, a proof of how the interests of that flock, especially with regard to His Table, are on His heart in glory. Paul receives from His glorious Master the following instruction, expressed in those few simple words — Oh, would that the grace and love that gave them, may engrave them with indelible letters on the hearts of His flock!

"The Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread; and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat; this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me." After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me."

These words, addressed by our gracious Shepherd from glory to the flock of God, through His apostle, appear to be of a threefold import.
First, the few but weighty words in v. 23, addressed to the consciences of His flock ("the bread of affliction," to be eaten with the Passover).
Second, vv. 24, 25 for the heart; and —
Third, v. 26, the blessed hope of His coming (not in connection with His kingdom, i.e., His public appearing, as in the Gospels, but His coming for His Church) as an encouragement on the way.

First the conscience, then the heart, then the realization of Him as our Hope; such is His own order, at His Table, as everywhere, — as we have said repeatedly in these pages: no true feeding of heart, without an honest and tender conscience before Him (which is a different thing from an unpurged conscience).

As to the first part, the night in which the Lord Jesus was betrayed, I have already endeavoured, in my poor feeble way, to offer a few comments on that solemn time. I therefore refrain from saying more, except to repeat, that our blessed Lord, Who would that that night of Egypt should be ever remembered by His people of old, wills that night in Canaan to be ever present to our remembrance; not to darken our joy in His presence, but to give it that hallowed, and chastened, and therefore deeper character, suited to such a Table. Joy, that springs from meditating upon love that shone so brightly in that night!

One word more, and I have done. Have you listened to those sounds and utterances that fell on the air of that night, reader? Such as, "For what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much and given to the poor." "Which of us shall be accounted the greatest?" "What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you?" "Hail, Master," and then the sound of the betrayer's kiss. "Although all shall be offended because of thee, yet will not I." "If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise." "Woman, I know him not." "Man, I am not" [one of them]. "Man, I know not, what thou sayest," accompanied by cursing and swearing. "He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? Behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye?" Then the awful reply to that awful question, "He is guilty of death!" Then the sound of spitting, buffeting, and smiting, and, "Prophecy unto us, thou Christ, who is it that smote thee?"

Reader, some of those words — the worst — fell from him that had preached the gospel and cast out devils. They came from hearts, by nature not worse than yours and mine — hearts with feelings of natural affections and friendships — with devotional feelings, when in their gorgeous temple — some among them truly attached to the Lord, especially one of them. And yet, they furnished each their part in the awful concert of the voices and sounds of that night!

But in that same night, a voice — calm, even, and gentle, yet full of holy solemnity in accents of purest grace and eternal love, spoke these words:

"This is my body which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me."


"This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me."

Oh! may those words in Divine power abide in our consciences and hearts! May they produce in our hearts a true response to Him Who spoke them, and draw forth in its constraining power the Love of Christ to those that are His. And may that grace and love shine out more brightly in a world where men are hateful and hating one another, and where darkness is thickening; in order that, during the night of Christ's absence from this world, we may reflect more of His light, Who, when here below, was ever the light of this world, shining with equal, undimmed brightness — the light of life!

And, beloved, if anywhere, it is in His presence, at His Table, that we derive grace and strength for this from Him Who is the strength, as He is the light of our salvation. It is at that season, on the Lord's day, when gathered by His Spirit around His Table, when feeding on His death, —
"We sing of the Shepherd that died,
That died for the sake of the flock;
Whose love to the utmost was tried,
But firmly endured as a rock.

When blood from a victim must flow,
This Shepherd, by pity, was led,
To stand between us and our foe,
And willingly died in our stead."

It is there that we, through grace, in our poor measure, ponder on the depths of sufferings which it required to accomplish those counsels, of which His Apostle exclaims: "O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!" When the obedient Son of the Father entered into those deep waters, where there was no standing for His feet, whilst all the billows and waves of Jehovah were going over His head! The waters of death and the waves and billows of God's wrath around, beneath, and upon that spotless One! When I eat and drink at that Table, I do not so much think of comprehending with all the saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, in the sense of the third chapter of Ephesians, but I think of the love of Christ, which was strong as death. At that Table, I am not to be fed with high Church truth, blessed as that is, in its proper time, and place; but I feed upon a dead Christ. Ponder on that love which led Him there, love which could not be quenched by the waters of death, nor be consumed by the waves and billows of Divine wrath! Before that Cross, I bow my poor head to the dust, not to reason about it, but to muse and worship before it.

"Whene'er I muse upon the Cross,
On which the Lord of glory died;
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ, my Lord;
All the vain things that charm me most,
I'd sacrifice them to His blood.

There from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flowed mingled down;
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too, small;
Love so amazing, so Divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all."

Ah fellow-believer! which was deeper, the depth of the sufferings of that Good Shepherd, Who prepared that Table for us in the night when He was to be smitten for us, or the depth of those Divine counsels, to be made good only by those sufferings! And as to the height of those counsels of glory, is not the height of His Cross the measure of them? Do you know the height of it? I do not mean, of that tree of curse, but the height of those mountains of sins and transgressions heaped upon it? Mountains, too high for all the waters of the Deluge to cover them, but not for those waters into which that Good Shepherd went down, when He died for us! Or the length? Do you know how long were those hours, spent upon the Cross by the Forsaken One? Of how many minutes or seconds did. these hours consist? Or the breadth? Can you measure the distance, expressed by His hands and arms, when extended and nailed to that cross-beam by wicked hands, in order to remove our transgressions, as far as the West is from the East? Do you know, how far is the West from the East? I know that the blessings flowing from His Cross will extend to the remotest corners of the world, when not only we, but "all the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord; and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before him" — When the kingdom (in fact) will be the Lord's, and He (the true Joseph) be the governor among the nations — when "all they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship; all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him, and none can keep alive his own soul" — when a seed shall serve him, and be counted to the Lord for a generation — when they shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.

In the fifth chapter of the Book of Revelation, where we behold the Lamb, once slain, as the centre of Heaven, — we find something more as to the height and depth and length and breadth, as to the blessed results of the Cross. It is as high as is the Throne of glory, in the midst of which I find the Lamb, as it had been slain. That universal choir of praise ascends from the very bottom of the sea, the inhabitants of which then cannot be silent any longer — it embraces the redeemed from every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and it lasts for ever and ever. Not a single discordant note will be heard in the harps, or in the new song of the redeemed, though none can number them; for Christ, the Lamb once slain, will be the sole object for every eye, and the only motive of every heart. The Lamb, once slain — here on Earth, when upon His Cross, the centre of Satan and men's opposition — will be, above, the heavenly centre of attraction. Is it thus with us, beloved, when gathered around Him at His Table? Oh, may He,

"Whose presence gladdens Heaven,"
gladden and fill our hearts with His blessed presence; no object before us but Him, no motive within but Him, the Lamb Who was slain. Then our harps, indeed, will be well tuned, and our praises ascend to God through Him, Who adds virtue and efficacy to them.
"Grateful incense this, ascending
 Ever to the Father's throne;
Ev'ry knee to Jesus bending,
 All the mind in Heaven is one."
But I am anticipating here a subject, of which I shall speak presently, I mean the subject of worship.* It is the very result of the feeding upon the death of Christ. The breaking of bread, and the drinking of the wine, His broken body, His shed blood — is "the great day of the feast," as it were, the grand moment at that meeting — that wondrous, long, deep pause, when His saints worship in silence, whilst musing upon that wondrous truth:

"The Lamb was slain."

{*Of the third part ("till He come,") we shall speak farther on, in our meditation on the last verse.}

In the blessed portion of the Word of God just referred to, there are three phases of heavenly worship. 1. The falling down of the twenty-four elders, and the casting of their crowns before the throne. (Rev. 4:10). 2. The singing of the New Song (Rev. 5:9-10) and 3. The final silent worship at the end. Which of those three great phases of heavenly worship will be fraught with the greatest degree of happiness for the worshippers, if one may use this expression about a place where every thing conveys the thought of perfect happiness, I do not venture to decide. We shall know it, when there, fellow-believer. But one thing I may venture to say, I think, without fear of being found fault with, except on the part of those who do not like "pauses;" namely, that that long, deep, and worshipful pause, following upon the act of the breaking of bread, which, when happy, generally occurs about the middle of the meetings for breaking of bread, is one fraught with deepest blessings for every heart taught by the Spirit to turn to account those precious minutes. In that heavenly scene just referred to, that pause concludes the whole, after the sound of the harps and the voices of the singers have ceased. Such a pause is like the "Selah" in the Psalms of David, which generally occurs after some important truth has been expressed. The "Selah," the pause in the music, and the "Yea, truly," comes in, when the Psalmist, the man after God's own heart, bade his harp rest for a moment, whilst his heart began to make melody in musing on some great truth, which, indited by the Holy Ghost, had just been uttered. For instance, "And thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah." … "Thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah." Would there were more such "Selahs," i.e., making melody in our hearts to the Lord, in the assemblies of God's saints! How often does it occur, that, when there has been a spirit of heaviness and dullness during the first part of the meeting, the tide turns and the time of blessing sets in with the breaking of bread. It is not the singing of hymns that stirs up the heart when there is a spirit of heaviness, but, if in spirit and truth, singing is the result of a heart moved by the grace of God, and by His Spirit.
"O Lord, we know it matters not,
 How sweet the song may be;
No heart, but by the Spirit taught,
 Makes melody to Thee."

On the other hand, there may be in an assembly, a happy spirit of worship from the beginning; but if the act of breaking of bread — the great central-act of the meeting — and the blessed pause of musing on the death of Christ have been in the Spirit, the rest of the meeting will be sure to be of a still deeper and higher tone of worship, with increasing power in the liberty and unction of the Holy Ghost, until at last, having partaken of that "Cup of blessing, which we bless" (mark, reader, the stress that is laid by the Spirit on that Cup!), the heart itself becomes a cup filled with blessings, running over with peace, joy, and thanksgiving to God, the fountain of all blessings. But this leads us to the all-important question of worship, upon which I desire to offer a few remarks, beginning with the opening word of our verse, the little, but important word, "thou."

"Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over."

My reader will remember the change of expression we noticed when meditating on the fourth verse, His staff and rod in the "Valley of the Shadow of Death." We then observed the change of the word "He," as speaking of the Lord, to "Thou," as addressing the Lord Himself, instead of speaking about Him to others. The change of expression, there, was the natural result of the surrounding scene, with its dangers and conflicts, as the "Valley of the Shadow of Death," and of the confidence of the timid sheep in the Shepherd's love. The happy change from "He" to "Thou," then continues throughout the second half of our Psalm, but from very different reasons. The "Thou" of the heavenly worshipper. when addressing his God and Saviour, is, in motive and character, very different from the "Thou" of the preceding verse. Its motive is not in the solemn aspect of the scene around, and the feelings inspired by it, but in Him Who fills the whole scene, a heavenly scene of worship, with His own blessed person.

"And I beheld, and lo! in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts [or, living creatures], and in the midst of the elders, stood a lamb, as it had been slain."

Here (Rev. 5) we again meet with those different expressions, "Thou" and "He." It is the blessed privilege, by grace divine, of the twenty-four Elders, to address God and the Lamb in the second person, with the holy familiarity of nearest and dearest relationship, as implied in that little word "Thou." Neither the Cherubim, connected with the glory of God in government, nor the Seraphim,* the heralds of His holiness, are entitled to address God and His Son with "Thou." Neither Michael, the Archangel, who, whilst contending with Satan for the body of Moses, could say, "The Lord rebuke thee," and whose voice will be heard again, when he will come with the Lord to give the signal for the first resurrection; nor Gabriel, the familiar angelic servant who "stands in the presence of God," and who was honoured by Him with the heavenly message of good news to the man who was "greatly beloved" of God, and to her who was highly favoured and blessed among women; neither of these can address God in this way. Most honoured and blessed servants of God as they are; excelling in strength and doing his commandments, and hearkening unto the voice of His word — yet they are not entitled to use that little word "Thou." They are "ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation," them who address God as "Abba, Father." Neither is any other "creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them" entitled to do so; though they all at last take part in that wondrous and glorious scene of heavenly worship: for they are all in the place of mere "creatures." And, just as on a state-occasion at a royal court, every servant, from the highest dignitary down to the lowest, and every one of the whole company has his place assigned to him; and all are required to keep their places and speak in the terms prescribed by the law of royal etiquette, because perfect order becomes the presence of royalty; so, and much more, in the heavenly courts above. God is a God of order; and if He wills order in His Church, the assembly,** (where even His angels, accustomed as they are to divine and heavenly order, would be grieved to see a woman with uncovered head), and in our divers earthly relationships, surely this royal principle of order must rule supreme among His own heavenly surroundings above. There are those nearest ("round about") the Throne, seated on twenty-four thrones, with crowns on their heads; and there are the angelic hosts, standing farther off. There are those who have harps and sing the new song — even the twenty-four — and there are those who only "speak." It is the twenty-four Elders who are seated close around the throne, and have harps and sing, who say, "Thou art worthy;" it is they, who are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and have been made sons, brought to glory by the Cross of the Captain of their salvation, when He was made perfect through sufferings; it is they, not the angels, who have been made kings and priests unto His Father and God: and they alone, therefore, are entitled through the blood of the Lamb of God, to address God and the Lamb with that blessed "Thou," as the expression of the nearness of their relationship as children of the Father, and as the Bride of the Lamb.

{*i.e., "Burners."

**i.e., Divine order. Human order in divine things, is nothing but disorder.}

In our Psalm the "Thou" is addressed by the grateful flock to our Good Shepherd, Who died for us, and, before He gave His life, prepared for His sheep this divine repast, not to be found even in the green pastures at the opening of our Psalm.

"Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies."

Where are these our enemies to be found? No doubt in this world around us, for all who will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution. But we must remember that, as those who are called to love their enemies, and to bless them that curse us (our position and character being totally different from that of saints of the Old Testament — being heavenly, and on the ground of grace, not of righteousness), we are not to look at these, nor even to think of them, as our enemies, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against wicked spirits in high places." (Eph. 6:12; Comp. Eph. 2.). It was those hosts of invisible fiends, under their terrible leader, the prince of the power of the air, who brought all their fearful influence to bear upon the children of disobedience, and upon the son of perdition — the enemies on earth — in that night when the Lord Jesus was betrayed, and when the Good Shepherd prepared a Table for His flock in the presence of their enemies. But, as observed already, the enemies then were around and above them in the air. As to us they are above, wicked spirits in heavenly places.

Wondrous place of perfect safety and triumph, which only the love of our blessed gracious Shepherd could give us, Whose victory is our own. To sit down at His Table, to think, not of our spiritual enemies, but of Him Who has triumphed over them openly on the Cross. Then they seemed to triumph when, in the presence of His enemies around and in their hearing, the cry went up, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" And when they derided and taunted Him with, "Aha! so would we have it!" "He saved others, himself he cannot save!" "If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross!" It is in their presence we are now seated at this wondrous Table and sing the song of triumph, feeding upon His death, Who, through death, destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. He Who once was crucified in weakness, and liveth in the power of God, has, in His marvellous love and grace, given us a seat at that Table! Truly, there is no place on earth like that! What king could spread a table like that? Well it behoves us to say: —

"Lord, why am I a guest?"
in the sense of our utter unworthiness; without being occupied with our unworthiness, but filled with the sense of the all-worthiness of the Lamb once slain for us.

"Do it in remembrance of me," was the parting, loving injunction of our Good Shepherd. Now the word "Remember" has a twofold meaning. First, it implies something past, and something, or somebody, who has been present where we are now, but is now absent. Thus, as present in the body and absent from the Lord, we feed at His Table upon a dead Christ. Now a dead Christ is not One Who is living on Earth, nor One Who is risen and ascended in heavenly glory. We feed upon His death, as a thing of the past, but ever present and dear to our hearts and minds at His Table. We do so in remembrance of Him as our absent Lord, (else it would not be remembrance), though as those who are in His presence, and among whom He is present, and, I believe, nowhere more so than at His Table. It is at the same time, as risen with Him, as seated together in Heavenly Places in Him, that we worship at His Table. Thus we are there in a double character. As Israel, whilst passing through the wilderness, kept the Passover, remembering that ever memorable night in Egypt, when the Lord "passed over," having provided a hiding-place for them in the blood of the lamb, and the Red Sea, where He encompassed them with songs of deliverance; so we, whilst passing through the wilderness as pilgrims and strangers, keep the Passover, remembering that night when the sword was to awake and smite the Shepherd, the Man Who was God's fellow, when He was to be delivered for our offences that we might be delivered from the wrath to come. We remember those waters of death, which were (like those of the Red Sea) — death to Egypt life for us; judgment to Pharaoh and his host, but deliverance for us.

But when Israel kept the Passover in Canaan after they had crossed Jordan, they not only looked back from the banks of that river to the shore of the Red Sea, the waters of life and deliverance for them but to the waters of Jordan that had only just returned into their natural bed, the way of entrance for them into Canaan. Dry-shod they had crossed the Red Sea; dry-shod they had crossed Jordan. The waters of the former were no death nor judgment for them, as to Egypt; and the waters of Jordan were no barrier to them, as to the promised land; on the contrary, they were only its threshold, its entrance. This we have in Col. 3.

We, therefore, at the Lord's Table, like Israel in the wilderness, remember Christ Who died for us (the Red Sea); but we do this, as those who are dead with Him, and risen with Him, seated together in the Heavenlies in Him. But let us always remember that the spring and motive of worship at His Table, is not the thought of what we are in our heavenly position and union with Him and in Him, and as dead and risen with Him; but the thought of Him Who died for us, whilst, as to our position as worshippers, we look from the Canaan — banks of Jordan as it were — back towards the waters of death into which Jesus, in His wondrous love, entered for us.

"The Lamb was slain — let us adore."

It is the musing, the feeding on His death, that produces and forms the chief motive for worship here; not our blessings in the Heavenlies, although, of course, this forms an ingredient, and a most blessed one, too, of worship. It is the sense of the love of Him Who died for us, and of the grace of our blessed God and Father Who gave that Son for us; Who not only so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son, but Who "spared not His own Son" (when this world and His own people hated Him without a cause), "but delivered Him up for us" when we were His enemies. But it is Christ Who died for us, the Lamb slain, which is the integral and central theme of worship at His Table.

"We'll sing of the Shepherd that died."
It is He as the Good Shepherd Who gave His life for His sheep, Whom we remember here, not as the Great Shepherd Who has been brought again from the dead. But then worship, having sprung from the musing upon the Cross of Christ, as the highest proof of the Son's and of the Father's love, goes up in the power of the Spirit — that well* of water springing up into everlasting life — and rises up to that glory from whence that blessed Spirit of glory came down to dwell in us. As the Spirit of adoption by which we cry, "Abba, Father," He acts in us as the Spirit of liberty; as the Spirit of glory, He points upwards to glory, where we "see Jesus, crowned with glory and honour," seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high. We know God looks at the face of His Anointed One with the supreme delight of a God and of a Father. And by His Spirit, throughout the whole of Hebrews, that precious epistle of worship, He directs the eye of faith towards the same blessed Object. The Father loves His Son because He "laid down His life for us" in perfect obedience to His gracious will; and we love Him because He "loveth us, and has washed us from our sins in His own blood." Thus God in His marvellous grace has enabled us to meet with Him in the same common object of delight. He thus feeds our souls, not with angels' food as He did Israel, but with His own bread, "the bread of God." Wondrous privilege of His grace! But solemn responsibility for those who neglect that food; far more solemn than for those who esteemed the food of angels "light bread."

{*In our character as worshippers the Holy Spirit does not act in us as Exhorter, nor as Comforter (Paraclete) because that does not belong to the Heavenlies; but as the "well of water in us springing up into eternal life."}

A few words upon the position of the worshipper (though the subject may be familiar to most of my readers), for any who labour under the deplorable confusion that prevails on this all-important subject.

It is in the sweet incense of Christ's own acceptance before God that the worshipper draws nigh unto God, as "accepted in the beloved." The worshipper (I mean the believer who has settled peace and knows his union with Christ) is enabled, through grace, not only to say in a mere negative way, "No spot within, no cloud above; but he can add in a Positive way: There is now One at the right hand of God, One to whom I can point and say: There is my Righteousness! God has made Him unto me wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. All His excellences, as the accepted Man before God, are mine, for I am before God in Him, accepted in the Beloved. His finished glorious work upon the Cross is the basis of my relationship with God; and in His glorious Person is my standing before God. My peace with God is as settled and perfect as the blood of Jesus upon the Cross could make it; and my standing and acceptance before God is as perfect as the Person of Christ in Heaven can make it. Upon the Cross before God He was identified with what I was as a sinner; for He, who had done nothing amiss, bore my sins on the Cross; and He, who knew no sin, was made sin for me, that I "might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5). And in Heaven, before God, I am identified with what He is as "the Righteousness of God;" yea, more, as the Beloved One of God, for we are accepted in the Beloved,"

It is not my intention here to enlarge in a doctrinal way upon the truth of our union with, and our standing in, Christ. But as there is so much uncertainty and confusion on this point in the minds of many dear and sincere believers, I could not well enter upon the all-important subject of worship without referring to that which forms the only foundation, and qualification, title, and passport for a worshipper (one who draws nigh to God) — that is, the value of the work and Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. But Jesus Christ not only has purged the sins of the believer; He also purges his conscience by sprinkling upon his heart (i.e., by applying to it through His Spirit) the virtue of His own Blood which cleanseth from all sin. Thus the heart has got rid of an evil conscience; and the saved one draws nigh as a worshipper with a true heart and a perfect conscience.

"Having, therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; and [having] an High Priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water."

A few words on worship before entering more closely upon the meditation of the remainder of our verse.

What is Christian worship?

Worship, in a Christian sense, is the tribute of our hearts and lips offered up to God, for what He is in Himself, and towards us, as revealed in the unspeakable gift of His dear Son Jesus Christ.
1. The object of worship, therefore, is, our Saviour-God.
2. The basis of worship is, the work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. The Power of worship is, the Holy Spirit.
4. The place of worship is, the heavenly Sanctuary, where our High Priest has entered; and —
5. The position of the worshipper is, in resurrection. (Col. 3 and Eph. 2.)

"All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord, and thy saints shall bless thee." And why? Because He has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the Heavenlies in Christ.

When Israel had crossed Jordan and entered into the Land of Promise, the manna ceased, and they fed upon the old corn of the land. Here (in the Ephesians and Col. 3) we have the old corn of the land to feed upon.

Blessed as it is to feed upon Christ as the Manna, the Bread come down from Heaven, God manifest in the flesh — to contemplate His humanity, perfect in humility, meekness, lowliness, and grace — this is not feeding upon the "old corn of the land," i.e., Christ in Heaven. The manna belongs to the wilderness, but the "old corn" to Canaan. Our fellowship and union is with a risen, ascended, and glorified Christ, sitting at the right hand of God; not with an earthly Christ, of Whom the apostle of glory said, "Henceforth know we no man after the flesh; yea though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more." Precious as it is, I repeat, to have our hearts feeding upon all the excellencies and perfections of the gracious, lowly Jesus on Earth, for the stay and comfort of our hearts; yet such a feeding would be impossible, unless in fellowship and union with a risen, ascended, and glorified Christ, Who had to die first, to bring us unto God, and into union and fellowship with Himself. The corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die, else He would have abode alone. A Christ after the manner of Thomas a Kempis will not do for us.

Jesus, when on Earth, was not the One Who "was dead and is alive for evermore;" but it is Jesus risen and ascended, Whom God has made Lord and Christ, Who died for me. Israel ate of the old corn of the land the day after they had eaten the Passover; and the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten of the old corn of the land.

The Passover* (a Christ Who died for us) must be the first thing. (2 Cor. 5:14.) Then comes the feeding upon the old corn of the land (2 Cor. 5:15, and Col. 3:1-2); and then the manna (i.e., the "knowing Christ after the flesh") ceases.** (Israel will know him thus at a future time).

{*Kept in Canaan as a memorial; not in Egypt, as the basis of redemption.

**I need hardly say that this does not imply a neglect of, or slight of the Gospels. On the contrary, Christ the manna, as presented in the Gospels, will be doubly precious to the heart, and can be so only whilst we feed upon the Christ above.}

One word more, and I have done. There is an important truth laid down in those words of the Lord to His worshippers in Israel, "None shall appear before me empty." Now I am afraid there are but too many of us who come to the Lord's Table, as Joseph's brethren came to Egypt to fill their empty sacks, i.e., to get blessing. Such will not get an overflowing cup; and it will soon be empty again. The Lord wills that our joy should be full. If one of His flock during, the week has allowed himself to be reduced to such a culpable emptiness by neglecting "the green pastures" and "still waters" of our loving Shepherd; and has sunk into a state of despondency; such an one will approach the Lord's Table in something like the spirit, if not in the words of Esau, "Bless me, even me also, O my father! Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me?" It is a poor thing to be like a crane with a lame wing, hopping along the shore, and looking after his happier companions flying away to brighter regions; and to exclaim, "From the uttermost part of the earth have I heard songs, even glory to the righteous. But I said, my leanness my leanness! woe unto me!" If we have neglected the "green pastures" and the "still waters" of our loving Shepherd, we cannot expect the full blessings of His "table" and His "cup," though it would be worse still to stay away from His Table, and thus slight it, on that account.

But mark, reader, it is in this portion of our Psalm, in the Heavenly place of worship, that we get the overrunning cup and the anointing oil of gladness. The "still waters" connected with the "pasture" do not give us the overrunning cup." And why not? Because, feeding upon His Word, blessed and indispensable as it is for the comfort and strengthening of our souls, yet is not the feeding upon His death. His broken Body and His Blood shed for us, is food different from the "green pastures" and the "still waters."

"This is my body which is broken for you," and, "This is the new testament in my blood," is not the same as, "Thy word is sweeter than honeycomb." It is thus, as seated in the Heavenlies on the Canaan-side of Jordan, that we feed upon His death, — looking at the glory-ward side of His Cross as Heavenly worshippers, that we get the overrunning cup. The heart is thus filled and overflowing with Christ, Who fills God's own heart, and fills all heaven before Him, as He has fulfilled all His counsels of glory, wisdom, love, and grace. The heart is filled with the sense of the "unspeakable gift of God."

And, beloved fellow-believer, is not the love of such a Father and God Who gave His Son; is not the love of such a Son, Who gave Himself unto God for an offering and sacrifice; Who did not spare Himself, nor please Himself, but died for us and rose again; is that love not enough to make every heart that has the sense of it, and muses on it, an overflowing cup of joyful worship and adoration in His presence?

"None shall appear before me empty."

Again, Christian reader, let us ask: What about our hearts when we appear as worshippers before Him, and sit down at His Table, the very sight of which reminds us of that love which was strong as death? Alas! how often it occurs that saints appear on the morning of His glorious resurrection, at the Table where we show the death of Him Who loves us and has washed us from our sins in His own Blood, with hearts that, during the week, have known very little of the power and atmosphere of that resurrection; and, perhaps, still less of that Cross where perfect love and holiness were blended, and where mercy and truth kissed each other. The Lord will not have us to appear before Him, like Joseph's brethren as mentioned above, to fill our empty sacks; but to empty our full hearts before Him and before His and our Father and God in worship, whilst feeding upon His death; and thus to get them in return filled to the very brim, yea, overflowing with peace, joy, and praise. It is quite true that God delights to fill empty vessels, but not if their emptiness is caused by their having been bottom-upwards during the week, as another has said. If the heart, during six days, has been turned after earthly pursuits and provisions for the flesh, it is a poor thing to go on the Lord's day to His Table to get blessing. We know that our blessed Shepherd in His restoring grace, even for such, has blessings at "His table," provided there has been real confession and self-judgment previously. He does not despise sacrifices that come from "a broken spirit and a contrite heart." But all-essential as such a condition of heart and spirit is for every one that appears at the Lord's Table, it is not worship. A saint who, like a true sheep of the Shepherd's flock, has been feeding upon His pasture; led in and out by Him; knowing His will, and hearing His voice, and following Him; appears at His Table like a vessel filled with Christ, ready to empty itself before God in worship, and then to be filled to overflowing, whilst musing, feeding upon His death. But if his heart has been engrossed with earthly things, he appears like a vessel that has first to be emptied, that he may receive the blessing that such rich, pardoning, and restoring grace and love has in store even for such.

May we ever remember that the first place in Canaan where Israel kept the Passover, was Gilgal, which means the taking away of the reproach of Egypt, and there they were circumcised.

"We are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,"

O blessed Saviour, Shepherd and Bishop of Thy flock, whom Thou hast bought with Thine own Blood, keep, through Thy grace, every sheep and lamb of Thine close to Thy feet and near Thy loving heart; so that, on that bright resurrection-morning, when we meet at Thy Table "to sing of he Shepherd that died," our hearts may be more fully responding to such wondrous love, whilst partaking of its provision.
"We'll sing of such subjects alone;
 None other our tongues shall employ,
Till fully Thy love becomes known
 In yonder bright regions of joy."*

{*In conclusion, I give two instances — one of an overrunning cup, and the other of a more solemn, but still happier character.

The first is that of a dear brother, who, towards the end of a meeting, amidst general praise (if I recollect rightly, during the singing of —
"Hope of our hearts, O Lord, appear,
 Thou glorious Star of day."
suddenly exclaimed, "O blessed Lord, stop, stop, the poor vessel cannot hold it; stop, or it will burst!"

The second is that of a converted Roman Catholic young woman who was dying in consumption. After she had found peace, she broke bread at her father's house. The Lord's Supper being ended, she said, "I believe I am going to be with Christ," and departed — at the Lord's Table — His memorial — to be for ever "with Christ, which is far better."

Which was the happier — the thief that went up from the cross to be with Him in Paradise — or this dear sister who fell asleep at His Table, just to step into His presence —
"In yonder bright regions of joy,"}

But blessed be Thy providing love, that whilst thus feasting on the Divine repast, Thine own hands did spread before they were pierced, we can exclaim with grateful and joyful hearts and lips:‑

"Thou hast prepared a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with all; my cup runneth over."