The Royal Procession!
Archibald G. Brown, November 7th, 1869, Stepney Green
"We have seen Your procession, O God — even the procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary!" Psalm 68:24
This sublime, comprehensive, and beautiful psalm was without doubt composed in commemoration of the triumphant entry of the ark of the Lord into Jerusalem. For some time it had been detained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite; but David the king, hearing that the Lord had blessed the house of Obed-edom while the ark was in it, gathered from that fact that the Lord was willing to have it removed from that house and brought to the hill of Mount Zion.
In the second book of Samuel, sixth chapter, you read the account of the joyful and festive occasion when, amid the shoutings of the people, the sound of the trumpet, and with the rejoicing monarch in front — the ark was brought from the house of the private individual, and taken triumphantly into Jerusalem.
Now the ark was the symbol of God's presence; so when it was carried up Mount Zion, and through the streets of the city, the people did not sing "we have seen the ark of the Lord," but "We have seen Your procession, O God." The ark was lost, in that which it typified. The type fades into nothingness before the grand antitype which it represented. When the ark came in view of Mount Zion, the place of its fixed residence for the future, and in all probability when they began to ascend it, then is it supposed the people chanted the 15th verse which, as I observed in our reading, may be understood in the form of a question, "The hill of God, is it as the hill of Bashan? Bashan may boast of its proud eminence and its cloud-cleaving summit — but is that the hill where God will fix his residence?" No — but in the humbler yet more honored mount of Zion.
It is worthy of notice that this verse may be read in the following manner: "We have seen your marches in procession, O God; even the marches of my God, my King, in the sanctuary." This throws light on the subject we desire; namely, the jubilant songs of praise arising from the royal procession of Jehovah before the assembled hosts of Israel.
This evening's subject has been suggested by passing events. Yesterday there was but one theme on every lip — almost one desire in every heart; from early morn you could hear the tread of ten thousand hosts as they wended their way to the great metropolis; there was one subject-matter in the hearts and thoughts of men, and it was this — that there was to be on that day a royal procession through the metropolis of England.
Now, we remember this day, there is an assembled host of people; not lining the thoroughfares of our cities — but crowding our chapels and sanctuaries, and many of the theaters. What has brought it together? What is the one desire of the hearts of the vast majority? It is this — to see the King pass by! And oh, may our God grant that this evening throughout the sanctuaries of the land, whether in those of the metropolis or in the humbler abodes of worship in the country, the shout of the King may be heard in the camp; and may the universal experience of the people be, "We have seen Your procession, O God!"
We purpose, by God's help, to make the "royal procession" of yesterday, illustrative of this evening's subject, and so we will view our text in three ways.
First of all, we will notice the people viewing the procession, "We have seen Your procession, O God!"
Then secondly, we will notice the procession itself, "Even the procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary!"
Then lastly, we will notice the purpose of the procession; namely, to open a fresh thoroughfare.
I.Let us first notice, The People Viewing the Procession. The first thought that occurs to us is this, that in the assembled crowds that yesterday lined our streets, the great majority came on purpose to see the Queen herself. If you had over-heard the conversation of the people, it would have been something after this sort: "I wonder whether we will get a view of Her Majesty — whether from this or that position we can obtain a clear view of royalty itself." And as many flocked from the country who had not seen Her Majesty's face before; the one desire of their heart was that in coming up to the metropolis, they might not only see the pomp and show — but the features and face of Majesty itself; and after the procession I do not doubt that in a thousand homes it was said, "We managed to obtain a view of our Queen's face!"
Now in the assembled hosts of God's people, in the various sanctuaries and tabernacles of the land, what has the majority come for tonight? To see the King Himself! Was it not the desire of our heart as we came here, that we would see, not the minister, not the mere outward show of the service, not the pageant — but that we would see Jesus! And oh, will we not go to our homes this evening miserably disappointed, if we cannot say we have seen the King himself?
But doubtless in the thronging multitude of yesterday, there were many who wished to see the face of the Queen, because they had never seen it before. And in the sanctuaries tonight, how many are there longing to see the face of the King, because they have never seen it yet? Doubtless there are some here saying, "Would that I could get a glimpse of Jesus — that I could see that loving countenance that I have never yet beheld! My eye has often desired to see him — I have heard others speak of his matchless charms — I have heard others declare that he is altogether lovely — would that my eyes could see him!"
Friend, as you wended your way here tonight, was the language of your heart, "O that I could see the King tonight, for I have never seen him yet?" The Master is passing in royal procession through this place; now may your eye be directed towards him; and when you leave the sanctuary, may the joyful exclamation of your heart be, "I have seen Your procession, O God!"
There were also many yesterday who had seen Her Majesty before — but it was some time back, and they wanted to see her again. And how many of God's saints there are tonight whose eyes have seen Him, and beheld his lovely countenance. They know what it is to be ravished with the sight; but alas! it is months back; and since then, there has been a long and dreary interval of soul-barrenness.
There has been no royal procession before your weary eyes for many a long day. The remembrance of past joys only makes your present gloom the harder to bear. Having once seen the face of your King, you can never forget its beauty — and you yearn yet once again to behold the beloved of your soul. You have often come to the sanctuary with the most intense desire that you might behold the procession of your God in it; and as often you have left without the sight. You have heard the shout of the people. They have told you how gloriously he appeared to them — until you envied their bliss, yet you have obtained no view.
And now, once again, you have come with the throng, once more you are found with the waiting multitude. I can see you, brother, standing in yonder doorway. I can mark your anxious eye. I think I can read its language, it is "I would see the King tonight!" May God grant that you may have your desire, friend. May the king pass so closely to you, that you will be enabled to touch his garments. May old days of joy return with tenfold bliss, and may you be able to say tonight what you have so longed to say, "I have seen the royal procession of my God in the sanctuary."
But in yesterday's concourse there were many who did not go to see the Queen — but simply to view the pageant. With them, it was as much to be seen — as to see. They went because others went, and because it would help to pass away some idle time. As the procession passed by, they were quite content to hear the sound of the trumpets, to see the horses and riders, and behold the military; they took in the procession as a whole — but had no heart of loyalty for the Queen.
Just so, we have to come to the conclusion, that in the houses of God tonight, there are many who have only sought them in order to see the pageant. They will return to their homes perfectly satisfied, though their eyes have never caught a glimpse of Christ. They come to hear the preacher — to criticize the singing — to see the congregation. They are perfectly content if there is an attractive service, even if the King is missing in the midst of it. If there are such present this evening, people who have come to see the service — but not the Christ; to hear the preacher — but not his God — may the Lord touch their traitorous hearts, and from this evening may those hearts beat in loyalty to Him who is our God and our King.
In yesterday's concourse there were all grades of society represented. There were not only dukes and ambassadors from eastern countries, flashing in their jewels; but there were those who had come from the house of business, and the word "care" could be seen written on all their countenances. Yonder stands the honest artisan who has obtained a holiday with difficulty; his hands are rough and hard with work — but his manly voice shouts forth a loyalty, as true as any. And there were the poor poverty-stricken ones who had wended their way from the purlieus of the ghettos to express their gladness. All grades of society were assembled.
Blessed be God, it is so tonight; in many of the sanctuaries throughout the land there are great and noble to be found. We have now our godly earls; we have now some of the noblest scions of our aristocracy who feel their highest honor is their union with their Savior. And here we have the artisan, the laborer, the workman, the man of business, the clerk — men who know what it is to earn their bread by the sweat of their brow. But do you think that the external appearance of the men in any way affects their loyalty to their Lord? Not one iota! Beneath a ragged coat — a heart may beat as true and loving as ever beat beneath a mink coat, and vice versa. The same desire brings both — the same prayer is the prayer of both — the same sight will give equal joy to both — and to the King passing by, the loyalty of both is equally welcome.
It is one of the glories of our religion, that it makes men in different grades of social life forget their distinctions while bending together at their common mercy-seat, or while congregated together to see the royal procession of their One King. These minor differences that belong only to earth are lost, forgotten, swamped, drowned in the great ocean of their mutual experience as Christians. The confession of the poor man, is the confession of the rich. The praises of the noble, are the praises of the pauper. The sight that floods the soul of the godly earl with joy, is the very sight that makes the poor man sing in his poverty.
And now, lastly, on this first division, I would observe that of those who went to see the procession, some obtained much better views than others — they were not all on the same level. Hundreds were fortunate enough to obtain raised seats and positions of eminence that lifted them far above the surging multitude below, and gave them a clear and uninterrupted view of all that was to be seen. All that could have proved a barrier to their sight was below them; and through their vantage ground they beheld with ease, while others failed to behold.
But there were thousands with a far less happy experience. Despite all their exertions, they never succeeded in getting what they wanted — a sight of their Sovereign. They were crushed — crowded — and forced by the sheer weight of numbers, into some wretched position, where they could only see those who were beholding what they desired to behold. If for a moment there was a break in the ranks through which they perceived that the procession was passing close by them, it was sure to be closed the next moment by a multitude of heads. A great amount of trouble to see — and very little result, was their day's experience.
So is it with the vast congregations of tonight. Some are obtaining a blessedly clear view of their Lord with only a little trouble to themselves; and others, with all their striving, are only suffering disappointment. Thanks be to God, many of his saints are tonight occupying exalted positions. They are raised in spirit far above all distracting thoughts and circumstances. The cares of the world do not jostle them, nor are they crowded with doubts and unbelief. They can look down with calmness upon a seething world, and sing,
"Oh, this is life! Oh, this is joy,
My God to find You so;
Your face to see, your voice to hear,
And all your love to know!"
But there are many others who, though almost dying to see the King, find it next to an impossibility to get even a glimpse. They are hemmed in on every side with the cares of business — or perhaps I should rather say, the cares arising from the lack of business. They are well-near crushed with anxiety; and by the sheer force of unhappy circumstances, they are being thrust from the front rank of spectators.
Do you not think there are in this Tabernacle tonight, men and women struggling bravely with themselves, doing their utmost to cast aside their wandering thoughts — and yet failing to obtain more than a momentary glimpse of Jesus? Yes — and many of them.
II. The Procession Itself.
Turning from the spectators, to that which they assembled to behold — I would observe first, that the procession passed along an appointed way. If anyone failed to see it, it was not because they were left in ignorance of the route it was to take. Public notices were placed in the most conspicuous positions possible, with the course the royal visitor was to take, clearly and definitely stated. As described, so the route was taken. It would have been sheer nonsense for anyone to plead ignorance as the cause for not seeing the procession. Royalty fulfilled its part faithfully.
But suppose, after reading the prescribed order, a man still remained in the back streets of Stepney? Why, he would have no one to thank and no one to grumble at but himself, for having seen nothing. He was out of the way, and he must pay the penalty for it. All he had to do was place himself in one of the appointed thoroughfares — but he never did that one thing. I have no pity for him in his disappointment — he richly deserves it.
Friends, our King has marked out the road along which He passes, and if we do not see Him, it is because we have not gone into the right way. If we are backsliders in heart, and instead of standing in the highway of God, we are found even now in the slums of sin — then don't let us wonder why we do not see anything. Too often we are like unhappy Thomas, conspicuous by our absence when King Jesus visits his people. We wonder how it is that we do not have the same joys as others, nor obtain the same gladdening sight of our Lord — forgetting that it would be a wonder if we did; considering that they are in the way, and we are out of it. The backslider is his own punishment — and he scourges himself by his own folly.
But as our King passes along an appointed route, it is only fair that you should ask the question, "What is that route?" I reply first, the royal procession is announced, in the language of our text to pass through the sanctuary. The assembled hosts of his people tonight have ground to expect a view of their sovereign, for they are in the high road. They are found in the place where he loves to pass by.
Let some would-be extra-spiritual people sneer if they like at the great gatherings of the sanctuary, and dub them as foolish. We have, however, found by experience that there are views of the King obtained in them that are obtained nowhere else.
But if the King were only to be seen in the sanctuary, it would go hard with those on beds of sickness, and I do not know what the dying would do. So in the King's route, I find marked out . . .
the sick room,
the chamber of death,
the abode of suffering,
and the home of sorrow.
If you went into many a sick room this evening round about here, and asked the dying Christian, "Where does the King pass by?" He would tell you, "I am even now beholding him."
Go into the abode of grief — go there where all are weeping, where the tokens of bereavement are around you; ask the broken-hearted mourners where is the King? And, they will say, "He comes into the abode of sorrow."
Yes, he passes by whenever he is sought aright — but I think especially at His table. There is the place to get a glimpse of Him — it is there we expect to be raised above the crowd, and beyond the cares of life. It is when we sit around the table of our Lord, with the emblems of his dying love before us, that we expect to see the King in his beauty, because he always lingers there.
But, "What did the joy of the procession consist of?" It was a procession of royalty. Our widowed queen, who for many years had been hidden from the eyes of her subjects, was about to appear again — and that constituted the joy of the procession. It was the queen appearing as queen.
And what, beloved, will constitute the chief joy of our hearts tonight? Surely our King appearing as King, in his royalty. Christ has already made some royal processions — but they were incognito. Let me explain what I mean.
It was over eighteen hundred years back that infinite mercy said, "I will pass through the world." But before our King came to this earth, He removed the diadem from off his brow, He bade his courtiers remain behind — and as a carpenter's son He made his entry in this world. True, once He did make a triumphal entry into the capital — but then it was remarkable for its simplicity. It was made meek and lowly, sitting on the foal of an donkey.
Our King has, moreover, had (O, wondrous fact) a royal procession of shame, in which, instead of being greeted with jubilant shouts, he was only hailed with roars of execration, and pelted with bitterest sarcasms.
Let us for a few moments take our position and view this marvelous sight. Where will we stand? Well, first in a place called Gethsemane. 'Tis night, and all is wrapped in gloom. Hark! hark! I hear his footsteps. Do you see him as he walks with tottering steps? Do not speak — but let us see the end. He falls upon his knees — now upon his face — he groans and cries with tears — a blood sweat stands thick upon him, then drops upon the ground and dyes it red!
And now the rabble have found him out, and with many a jeer and blow they drag him to a mock tribunal. From Pilate's hall the procession of shame wends its way to Herod's court then back again. They tie him to the whipping post, his sacred shoulders are bared — but again clothed with a crimson mantle, as the blood fast flows before the furious blows of the Roman scourge.
From there, shame's pageant slowly passes on to Calvary. The road is lined with thousands of spectators — but there was no eye to pity. "Worthy of a felon's death!" is the shout that greets him. In no carriage of state — but staggering with faintness and loss of blood, our King walks by, while on his bleeding shoulders he bears the rugged cross. Do you see Him — "the deer of the morning" — hounded on by the dogs of Hell? Do you hear their barking and growling? Do you mark how they "worry" him, even in his dying moments? Can you hear that ringing death shriek which he utters when his heart breaks? Truly, we have seen a royal procession to death!
Time fails us, or we would like to say how we have seen our God's processions in his church. Our King has sometimes made a royal procession by the outpouring of his Spirit.
He made one in the sixteenth century, when the ark of the Lord was carried forward by such men of God as Luther and Calvin. A glorious procession that was. Then the earth shook and the mountains flowed down at his presence. Before the thunder of that march, the papal throne tottered, and swarms of hooded priests like night owls disturbed with a glaring light, flew here and there, screeching in wild dismay!
Our King made one of his royal marches through the land of brown heather and rugged woods (Scotland), when from end to end of the land, the ark was borne upon the stalwart shoulders of the lion-hearted John Knox.
Many and many a time has heavenly royalty swept through this land of ours with men for outriders such as a Wycliffe, Latimer, Wesley, or a Whitfield. And even in our day, there are glorious indications that our King is "on the march."
But this brings us to the last point on this division of our subject. We have yet to behold the procession of supreme royalty — royalty decked in all its magnificence. This will take place when our Lord comes the second time without sin unto salvation. Let me for a moment sketch the position, the present position of the church.
For ages it has been anxiously expecting the return of its glorious Lord. Far back in the dim distance, yet burning like a beacon light, stands the promise, "I will come again!" John 14.3. For centuries the church has sent back the echo "Amen, even so come, Lord Jesus." Rev 22.20. Long has it listened, and it listens still for the rumble of his chariot wheels. Sometimes, almost wearied with the long suspense, and sick with hope deferred, the cry goes up from the waiting host, "O Lord, how long?"
But beloved, the day draws near apace when the "Desire of all Nations" will come. Sometimes we think we can discern with the eye of faith the eastern horizon blushing rosy with the rising sun. Sometimes the ear of faith thinks it can catch the sound of preparation for the march. Expectation is at the height, and the general feeling is "It can't be long!" This one fact is certain: every moment brings it nearer. Every chiming hour is one hour less of waiting. The hour must at last strike, when throwing wide the doors of Heaven, our King shall come with ten thousand of his saints attending! Then, amid the waves of melody that roll throughout the universe, this shout shall be heard from the jubilant multitude: "We have seen Your procession, O God — even the procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary!"
III.And now in conclusion, let us notice the purpose of this procession. For what intent was the royal visit of yesterday made? What brought our Sovereign again before her people? The answer is quickly given: to open a new thoroughfare. Surely in this respect, the pageant of yesterday may serve as an illustration of our subject.
For what intent did our Lord appear? What mighty motive brought him from the palaces of Heaven — to mingle with earth's sinful inhabitants? Why that marvelous procession of shame and ignominy, terminating in the bloody tragedy of Calvary? I answer, he came to open wide a thoroughfare to Heaven. He came first of all not only to open — but to be the road to the Father!
The old road called innocence was blocked up by Adam's fall, and that was done so effectually that no one has ever been able to travel by it since. Men then had to go round by a wondrously circuitous route. They had to go by way of the sin-offering, the burnt-offering, the peace-offering, and the brazen altar. There was no direct road revealed — but an endless road of sacrifice and symbol.
Christ came to put away forever this way that only wearied — and show poor fallen man a way, as direct as it was wide, and as free from obstructions as the former was full. The old way may now be abandoned, for the new is declared open.
"Priest of God, put out that altar fire! Unbind the victim! Sheath the knife!" The true Lamb of God has come! The substance of all the types now stands in your midst. The new and living way has already been opened by Calvary's royal procession. Christ has, moreover, opened a new way to the mercy-seat. The old road by earthly priests and high-priests is done away with. We now need no Aaronic priest, with purple robe and flashing breastplate to appear in some "Holy place" on earth for us. Our great high priest is in the heavens, even Jesus, and there,
"The names of all his saints he bears
Deeply graven on his heart!"
Out with an earthly priesthood, and all men who allow the name to be applied to their vocation. It is a miserable attempt to keep open an old way that God has emphatically declared closed! The road to the mercy-seat is open and free to all — and as free to all as to one.
Our King has also opened a high road to Heaven itself. So straight and direct is this road, that the moment we by faith place our feet on one end of it, we can behold the gates of pearl at the other. True, between us and the city of the New Jerusalem, there rolls the river of death; but over that there has been flung a bridge, so that the ransomed of the Lord pass over dry-shod.
Do you still suggest there remains the dark grave? I answer that the thoroughfare passes through that also. It is no dark vault in which the road terminates — but only a shadowy tunnel, in the passage through which the light at the far end can be discerned. Our King has marched in royal procession before us here, and he solemnly declares the way to be opened!
And now, lastly, may we this evening prove that in our experience, the King has opened a fresh thoroughfare of communion with Himself. Many of us came here, hoping with all our hearts that we might enjoy some fellowship with him, yet hardly daring to expect it. It seemed to us as if there were a thousand obstacles in the road, all forbidding the very idea. Home cares — business troubles — life's anxieties — earth's disappointments — all these, and hundreds of things besides, occupied the heart, and threatened to hold it in possession. We were pressed in by the crowd of our "multitude of thoughts," and saw no way of deliverance.
But how is it now? Thank God, that doubtless with many of us, there has been a blessed change. Our King has passed by, and before his march, barriers have been removed. We have been lifted up out of the press of the crowd — we have seen our King in his beauty, and are now prepared to sit around his table, in the full expectation of deep and intimate fellowship, for between him and our souls a fresh highway of communion has been royally thrown open!
May God grant that this may be the experience of all present for Jesus sake. Amen.