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The King of Salem.

by Isaac Williams

from Sermons on the Epistles and Gospels for the Sundays and Holy Days

throughout the Year, Vol. I. Advent to Whitsuntide 

Rivingtons, London, 1875 [New Edition.]

Second part of Sermon I. for the First Sunday in Advent.
 Rom. xiii. 8-14.    St. Matt. xxi. 1-13.
Behold, Thy King cometh unto thee.ST. MATT. xxi. 5.
(for the first part, on the Epistle.
...Thus the Epistle for to-day is like the herald voice in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord; make His paths straight.  It sounds all of preparation for His appearing in light and glory.  But the Gospel carries us back to His former Advent, and His visiting us in great humility.  It is the account of His great kingly entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. As the Great High Priest that was to be, He offered up Himself on the Cross; as the Prophet,. He foretold of Heaven and Hell, and of all future things pertaining to His Church; but as the promised King of the Jews He showed Himself on this occasion;—condescending to take upon Himself something as it were of earthly pomp, yet with such extreme lowliness, that the circumstance is precisely of the same character as when He was born in a stable; when He girded Himself as a slave to wash His disciples’ feet. The Prophets had described Him as a King, and as a King He appears to fulfil the Prophets, and by such fulfilment to strengthen the hearts of those who would hereafter look upon these things as fulfilled in Him. As a King indeed, but as one Whose kingdom is not of this world, and Whose only manifestation here below is in more exceeding lowliness; as a King indeed, but to the eyes of this world having in His appearance something so little kingly, as not to have alarmed the Roman, nor given occasion to Chief Priests, nor exalted any disciple with ambition.

When they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, says St. Matthew, and were come to Bethphage, unto the Mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her; loose them, and bring them unto Me. And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them, and straight-way he will send them. Never was a royal procession, a kingly entrance into a kingdom, like unto this; for where are the carriages, and the horses, the attendants, and the soldiers? it is as much the opposite to any-thing of this kind as words can describe. It is an ass— the humblest of all beasts to ride on; nor this only, but the foal of an ass, the colt with the dam by her side, as of one but half fit to ride on at all; and both together as signifying all meek love and tenderness, as shown by the mother and her colt, neither separated from the other; both combined setting forth something very unlike kingly state and pride. And not this only—for the Great King has not even this of His own, it is borrowed; but borrowed of one whose heart He knew and governed as King of kings; say, “The Lord hath need—and he will send them.”

But what occasion was there for all this at all? The Evangelist then explains the reason of it; which the disciples, says St. John, did not observe at the time, but they afterwards understood. All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell, ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. Not the Law only, but the Prophets also, did our Lord with the greatest carefulness fulfil, that no one mark or tittle of the letter should fail of the Word of God.

And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them: and brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set Him thereon.  And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way.  And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. The reason of this concourse was, that Christ had come the day before to Bethany, which was about two miles from Jerusalem, and many of the Jews had come there from Jerusalem to see Him, and also Lazarus whom He had raised from the dead. And on this occasion they fell in with many coming from Jerusalem to meet Him for the same cause; and therefore it was in fact as acknowledging in Him the power of the Resurrection; as the King who had not only the keys of David, his kingly authority, but also the keys of hell and of death; as the King who was putting under His feet every enemy, visible or invisible. But in this they knew not what they did. Their hearts were in His hand and He moved them. But they were probably nearly all of them poor people; and these, with the little children who caught up the strain, and sang afterwards, when He came into the Temple, and the blind and the lame who came there to be healed, were His most meet kingly retinue. Let us, too, join them as on this day, and say, Blessed is He that cometh, the Infant of days, with the babes and sucklings His attendants ! Blessed is He that cometh in our hearts, the King of Peace, Who inviteth us the blind and the lame into His kingdom! Blessed is He that cometh, the King of glory !

And what were the feelings of our King Himself on this His great kingly coming; His entrance into His own festival city; His triumphal entrance as Conqueror of death? They also were suitable to this occasion of His great meekness, for St. Luke says, that when He came in sight of the city He wept over it. His entrance was meet for the “Man of Sorrows,” it was with a heart full of tears; as suited to Him who now in a few days was, by the hands of His own people whom He loved, to be lifted up upon His throne, and His title of King to be written thereon in every language, and this His throne was the shameful and painful Cross. He wept at the grave of Lazarus, because he was dead; He wept at the sight of Jerusalem, because it was as a whited sepulchre without, and within worse than dead.

Thus was He now approaching as one goeth on his way weeping. But as He moved the hearts of men to do Him this little appearance of honour, so did He also move His own city at His appearing, that they might afterwards, when they had crucified Him, know and remember how this was He to whom the Prophets had borne witness.

And when He was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? And the multitude said, This is Jesus the Prophet of Nazareth of Galilee. This was the answer of the multitude, for the common people were not ashamed of the lowly Nazareth, and the despised Galilee; while the fact of His coming from these obscure places was an offence to the great, and the rich, and the learned.

What a wonderful contrast is all this to His next appearing, for which we daily wait, when all the dead shall be moved at His coming, and all the living; when the sun, moon, and stars shall fall, and earth and Heaven shall take wing before His face, and when there will be no more asking, Who is this? For all shall know Him, from the least to the greatest—all shall know Him as “Jesus the Prophet “—the Prophet, indeed the more than’ Prophet, bringing about the fulfilment of all things—the Prophet of Nazareth of Galilee, Who “rideth upon the Heavens as it were upon a horse ;“ Who maketh the clouds His chariot; Who cometh with ten thousands of His Saints, when some He will “bring with Him,” them that are “with the Lord;” and some shall go forth to meet Him at His coming, the saints that are on earth.

But now, when He came in so much meekness without, and with so much sorrow of heart within, He showed by a remarkable sign what was the occasion of that sorrow remarkable, as differing from every other action of His life, when He came not to judge but to save; remarkable as showing that in the Lamb of God Who came to offer up His life for us all, there is also wrath hidden which shall one day break forth, that the King Who is the Lamb of God, is also the Lion of Juda. For the account thus proceeds.

And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple; and overthrew the tables of the money-changers, and the seats of them that sold doves; and said unto them, it is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. Now what is this transaction to us? Much no doubt in every way, as it is the only act of judgment and wrath recorded in the Gospel, it seems to put us back when we would approach Him, Who in meekness and mercy received all men, and warns us to pause and consider. “The Lord is in His holy Temple.”

But what is the peculiar lesson which our Lord would teach us with such altered tokens of His gracious Presence? There can be no doubt but it signifies that it is of the very utmost importance how we keep holy the House of Prayer. This lies at the very heart of all religion; it is the very fountain-head and spring from which flows the stream of life, and if this be polluted, all must be full of hypocrisy and wickedness. Judgment must begin at the house of God. Surely there was great evil then in Jerusalem; in the councils of the Chief Priests, in the court of Herod, in the popular keeping of this festival; but one thing only made the wrath of the Lamb to burst forth as a flame anticipating the last Judgment, and this was want of reverence in God’s House. This is the most obvious and important lesson it would impress on us. Worship God aright, and all will be well. Come before Him without fear, and all your life will be as a city over which Christ weeps.

But again; when our Lord spoke of the temple—of destroying it and rebuilding it—lie was under that symbol speaking mysteriously of His own Body, which evil men took literally, but good men, when they afterwards thought of it, understood what He meant. It is right, therefore, that we should reflect whether by this action in the Temple our Lord did not intend us to consider its application to that spiritual Temple made without hands, which is His own Body the Church.

Nay, further, to bring the case more closely home to each one of us, the body of every Christian is called in Scripture the Temple of the Holy Ghost; it should be the House of Prayer. It is of infinitely more value in God’s sight than the Temple of the Jews was of old; and He comes to it in the day of visitation,—in various ways giving us tokens and warnings whenever He discloses Himself. He will come to it in the day of Judgment, and be revealed therein in mercy or in wrath. What have we to regard with awe and reverence so much as the Presence of Christ in our own souls ?

To conclude; we are to look to the Gospels as the treasure-house of all mercies, and therein to study all meekness, love, and goodness as in the face of Jesus Christ, and so to prepare for the coming of our King, Who will receive as His own the poor in spirit, the meek, and the merciful,—this is putting on the armour of light, putting on the Lord Jesus Christ, and preparing ourselves for His coming. But then in the same Gospels we must remember the dreadful judgments lie has declared will await impenitent sinners at His next appearing, and this awful token He has given us of the same when He appeared in His Temple of old.

“Behold, the Lord, Whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His Temple, even the Messenger of the Covenant, Whom ye delight in: behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts. But who way abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when lie appeareth ?" (Mal. iii. 1,2.)