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Richard Sibbes :: The Second Sermon - Isaiah 25:6

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THE GLORIOUS FEAST OF THE GOSPEL
The Marriage Feast
Between
Christ and His Church

 


The Second Sermon — Isaiah 25:6

 

In this Mountain shall the LORD of Hosts make unto all people a Feast of fat things, a Feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wine on the lees well refined.

I have showed that Christ and his benefits are compared to a Feast, and in what respects they are fitly resembled by a Feast and have pressed that we should prepare for it, first by getting large hearts. Now in the second place that we may have comfort at this Feast, we must labour for spiritual appetite; for to what end and purpose is that man at a Feast that hath no stomach? I shall therefore show what means we are to use, to get eager stomachs and holy appetites alter this Feast.

First means to get appetite: sour herbs, a sense of sin and misery

 

The Appetite is raised with four things, as anguish of spirit, and mournfulness of heart for sin. If we will ever relish Christ aright, we must labour to have a quick apprehension of our sins. We must do as the Jews did at the Passover. They eat it with sour herbs that they might thereby have the sharper stomachs. So must we. We must cast our eyes into our own hearts and consider what vile wretches we are; how full of sin and vanity and this will be as sour herbs to the Paschal Lamb. We must join the sweet benefits and privileges that we have in Christ with the consideration of our own wretched and miserable condition, and then this heavenly ordinance cannot but be sweet and comfortable to our souls. I beseech you enter into your own souls and consider seriously under what guilt you lie, and this will whet your appetite. A full stomach despises the honeycomb (Proverbs 27:7). But in this appetite there is sense of emptiness, from that sense of emptiness pain, and from pain an earnest desire of satisfaction. Thus it is in spiritual things, we want Christ and all the spiritual comforts that flow from him. There is an emptiness in us and we see a need every day to feed upon the mercies of God in Christ. There is an emptiness in our souls. There must be a sense of that emptiness and pain from that sense, which must stir up a strong endeavour to follow after that that we do desire. Then Christ indeed is sweet, when we find our souls hungering and thirsting after him.

Second means

 

Again if so be, we would have that appetite of spirit that is fit for this Feast, we must purge our souls from the corruptions of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1). We must cleans our souls from those lusts and passions that daily cleave unto them, all crudities must be taken away that the edge of the stomach may not be flatted, for while these earthly carnal corruptions lie upon the soul, we can expect no spiritual appetite to heavenly things. Let us therefore examine ourselves what filth lies upon our souls, and what corrupt inclinations are there, that so they may be purged, and our desires be carried fully after Christ in the Sacrament.

Third means

 

Another means to get appetite is to consider thoroughly what is required of a Christian well to maintain the trade of Christianity. It’s another manner of thing than we take it for to entertain communion with God, to perform holy duties in a holy manner, to bear the yoke as a Christian should do. Here is a great deal of strength required and because corruptions will mix themselves amongst our best performances, there must be a great deal of mercy from God to pardon them. And whence is all this but by the death of our blessed Savior Jesus Christ? For his sake God hath a forebearing eye. Now if we consider what a degree of spiritual strength and vigor we should have to go through with these duties, this would sharpen our stomachs and spiritual appetites, to furnish ourselves with grace from Christ to go through with these holy services. There must be an exercising of all the duties of Christianity, which is an estate that must be maintained with a great deal of charge and labour. A man can do no service acceptable to God but by grace, and grace must feed the soul with fruitful knowledge in the power of faith, and when the soul feels a necessity of grace, O then beloved, it hungers and earnestly thirsts after the love of God in Christ. We need to every trade a great deal of knowledge; then surely the calling of Christianity needs a great deal. A Christian must expect much both in prosperity and adversity, as the Apostle saith, I have learned to want and to abound, to be in honour, and to be in disgrace, and I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me (Philippians 4:12-13). Now because there is so much goings out for the maintenance of Christianity, we must also bring in much grace, and faith, and love, and holiness, or else we shall never be able to uphold this condition. Where there is an exercise of Christianity, there will be an appetite to heaven. That is our best calling; for when we have done all that we can, that that we must have comfort from is Christianity. Therefore labour with all labour, to be holy and able Christians. All other callings are but for this present life, but that that is for eternity, is this calling of Christianity. And this is only to fit us here in this world for an everlasting condition of glory in the world to come.

Fourth means: acquaintance with those that are good

 

Again, if we would have a desire and appetite to heavenly things, we must labour to get acquaintance, and constantly converse with those that are good. The old Proverb is, Company will make a man fall to, especially the company of those that are better than ourselves, for very emulation men will be doing as others do. When men live amongst those whose hearts are framed this way, they must be equal. Conversation with those that have good relish of spiritual things and show forth grace in their lives, sets an appetite upon our desires to desire the same things that they do. Thus St. Paul writes to the Gentiles to stir up the emulation of the Jews (Hebrews 10:24). Therefore receive this likewise for the procuring of a spiritual appetite.

Fifth means: We know not how long we have to live

 

To go on. The next thing that may stir up our desires to get an appetite to the best things is seriously to consider that we cannot tell how long we have to live, or may enjoy the benefit of the means of grace. Those that sit at table and discourse away the greatest part of dinnertime in talk, had need at last to fall to so much the faster, by how much the more negligent they had been before in eating.

 

We cannot tell how long we may enjoy this spiritual Feast that God makes for us; therefore be stirred up to get spiritual appetites, for we know not how long God will spread a table for us. We know not how long we shall enjoy our lives and if we be surprised on the sudden, we may suffer a spiritual famine, a famine of the soul if we have nothing to comfort us beforehand. And of all famines, a spiritual famine is most grievous, most fearful. Therefore do as Joseph did and be wise. He in the seven years of plenty, gathered for seven years of famine that was to come upon the land of Egypt.

We should hold out against hunger to come

 

Alas, if we have nothing laid up beforehand, what will be our end? We shall lie open to God’s wrath and anger; nothing can support our souls in the evil time. Wherefore as you desire at that day to have comfort of those things ye shall stand most in need of, labour to get a good appetite. For to perish and starve at a Feast is a shame; to famish in the liberty of the Gospel and plenty of spiritual meat is shameful and dishonourable. Thus you see, beloved, (not to be large in the point) how you may procure such an appetite, as is fit for such a holy Feast. First, by getting a sense of sin. Secondly, by seeing a necessity of Christ. Thirdly, by purging out those lusts that lie upon the soul. Fourthly, by conversing with those that are spiritually minded. And lastly, by considering the time to come.

Get a spiritual disposition of soul to heavenly things

 

It is not enough to have stomach, but we must have a spiritual disposition of soul to heavenly things, as we have to outward things. Labour to have a taste of good things and a distinguishing taste of heavenly things from other things. God is the God of nature and hath furnished us with five senses, and as he hath given us sense to apprehend, so he hath furnished the creature with varieties of excellencies suitable to all our several senses. He will not have objects in the creature without sense, nor sense in man without objects. He hath furnished man with senses, and variety of senses, and given fit and proportionable objects for those senses.

The soul hath her senses

 

The soul also hath her sense, wheresoever there is life there is sense. God having given spiritual life to the soul, he doth maintain that life with spiritual food. As in a Feast there is sight, and the eye is not only fed there with rich furniture, but with variety of dainties. The ear likewise and the smell is satisfied, the one with music, the other with sweet favors. So in this Feast there is to delight both the ear, and the smell of the soul, the one with hearing the gracious promises of Jesus Christ, and the other in receiving the sweet savour of that sacrifice that was offered up once for all. Nothing so sweet to the soul as the blessings of Christ; he is sweet in the Word, as the vessel that conveys him into our souls. Thus you see in this Feast all the senses: the sight, the smell, the taste, and hearing, all are satisfied. And a great care had in the provision for the Feast, that our outward man may be pleased. And shall the LORD of Hosts make a Feast, and not content the whole man? He is for our sight, if we have spiritual eyes to see; the ear, if we have ears to hear; all the senses are exercised here. What is the reason why carnal men cannot relish a pardon for sin, a justification, and sanctification, and holiness, nor go boldly to God?

 

It may be they have good sweet notions of these, but they have no spiritual taste or relish of them, and all because they want spiritual life. None but a Christian can have spiritual taste answerable to a spiritual life. Taste is a kind of feeling, one of the most necessary senses, and a Christian cannot be without relish and feeling. Yea it is the very being of a Christian to have a taste of spiritual things. Of all other senses there is a stronger application in taste; the other senses fetch their objects afar off, but as for taste there is a near application in it, and therefore most necessary. Every life is maintained by taste. Taste and see how good the Lord is (Psalm 34:8).

Two things in spiritual taste

 

Now taste doth two things, it doth relish that that is good and disrelish the contrary; there must be a spiritual taste to discern of differences. There can be no spiritual taste, but it must know what is good and profitable for the soul and what is not because God will not have our tastes to be wronged. Ye see what course he takes: first the eye sees what things we taste on, and if the eye be displeased, so also is the smell. Thus God lays before us spiritual things, knowledge of good and bad, and gives us many caveats, and all because he would not have us to taste things hurtful for the soul, nor poison instead of meat. Now when we have tasted that which is good, let us take heed it be not a taste only, lest we fall into the sin against the Holy Ghost.

We must labour for a digestion of spiritual things

 

Again, beside taste, there must be a digesting of what we taste, and that thoroughly, in our understandings, when we apprehend a thing to be true and good it must be digested thoroughly into the affections. Love to the best things, must be above all other love whatsoever, yet this must be digested. Men oftentimes have sweet notions, but alas they are but notions, they do not digest them into their affections. It is the last digestion that nourishes and when any spiritual truths are understood thoroughly, then comes in spiritual strength. And hereupon the soul comes and sucks in that virtue which is for the nourishment of it, thus it is in the soul upon digestion, there is nourishment.

 

Again there must be a faculty to retain what we have received that it maybe digested. Ye have many that love to hear, but they do not digest. If there be nothing in the soul, nothing can be extracted. And therefore we must learn to retain necessary truths that so upon occasion they may come from the memory into the heart; though indeed they are not in their proper place when they are in the memory only, yet notwithstanding if they are there, they may with care be brought down into the soul.

We must walk in the strength of spiritual favour

 

Then we must labour to walk in the strength of spiritual things. For what is the use of this Feast, but to cherish both soul and spirit? The use of spiritual things which we have through Christ is to cherish and enliven. It conveys strength to us, that we may walk in the strength of Christ, as Elias did forty days in the strength of his food.

 

And consider, though in our consciences and conditions we have variety of changes, yet in Christ we have several comforts suitable to all our several conditions. If to be our sins trouble us, we should watch over ourselves, that we be not overmuch cast down, but feed upon spiritual things in consideration of pardon for sin in the blood of Christ. This is the grand issue of all that Christ hath traced out in the forgiveness of sins. He is not, he cannot be divided. Where he pardons sins, he sanctifies; where he sanctifies, he writes his law in their hearts; so that there is a chain of spiritual favours. Where the first link is, all the rest follow; where forgiveness of sin is, there is the spirit and that spirit sanctifies, and comforts, and is an earnest of everlasting life. Therefore feed especially upon the favours of God and get forgiveness of sins and then all the rest of the chain of grace and spiritual life will follow.

 

Sometimes we stand in need of present grace and comfort, and we are undone if comforts and grace are not at hand, never considering the promises that are to come. As that promise of Christ, I will be with thee to the end of the world, fear not; (Matthew 28:20), no temptation shall befall us, but we shall have an issue out of it (1 Corinthians 10:13), and it shall work together for the good of all those that fear God (Romans 8:28). This is Aqua vita to the soul of man, therefore the gracious promises of Christ and his Holy Spirit we should ever remember to get into our souls. For when all other comforts fail, then comes in the comforts of the Spirit, who will be with us and uphold us in all extremities. If we had nothing in this world to comfort our spirits, yet let us rejoice in hope of glory to come. Our life is hid with Christ, we have the hidden Manna, in him we rejoice in hope of glory (Romans 5:2). And the way to maintain a Christian holy life, is to make use of all the privileges of Christianity, and of those promises that convey these privileges to our souls.

 

Now that we may the better do this, observe continually what it is that hinders us, that we cannot feed upon spiritual things as we should do, whatsoever it is, we must labour constantly to remove it.

Consequence of this Feast is spiritual cheerfulness

 

Now what must follow after this Feast? Why spiritual cheerfulness. If we find this in our duties of Christianity, it is a sign we have fed upon spiritual things. The nature of a spiritual Feast is to empty the soul of sin and to fill it full of gracious thoughts and actions. Instead thereof it moderates all things, it makes us use the world as if we used it not. When we can do this, we may certainly know that our souls have tasted of abundance of benefit by this Feast.

 

A man that hath no spiritual joy is drowned for the most part in the contentments of the world, drowned in riches and honours; and these are like to strong waters immoderately taken, instead of cheering the spirits, exhaust and kill them. He that hath the joy of heaven here by faith is mortified to all other base delights, he only minds the things above, where Christ is (Colossians 3:1). And therefore the exhortation, or rather command, seek the things that are above (Colossians 3:2; Matthew 6:33), hath this promise in fit method annexed unto it. And then all other things shall be cast in upon you: riches and honours in the world, and if not them, yet so much as is necessary, and mortification of our sins, and the lusts of the flesh.

Thankfulness

 

Again, if we have fed upon spiritual things for our souls, we shall be thankful. That man that hath tasted how good and gracious the Lord hath been to him in this world, and how full of joy and comfort he will be to him in another world, in consideration of this, his soul cannot choose but be thankful to God.

Justify the ways of God against carnal slanders

 

Here we see how to make this spiritual food fit for our souls, that Christ provides for us. And if there be such joy as we have said there is in spiritual things, what use should we make further of them but labour from hence to justify the ways of godliness against our own false and carnal hearts, and against the slanderous imputations of the world. When our hearts are ready to be false to us, and hanker after the contentments of the world and are ready to say the best contentment that they can enjoy is in the things below, let us answer our base and false disputing hearts, that the ways of wisdom, the ways that God directs us to, they only are the ways of pleasure. And religion is that that makes the hearts of the children of men joyful, and a good conscience only makes a continual Feast, so long as man liveth. But especially at the hour of death, when all the, comforts of the world cease, then conscience stands our friend.

Religious people are melancholy; it’s because they are not more religious

 

But the world’s objection is that of all kinds of men in the world, those that profess religion are the most melancholy. But if it be so, it is because they are not religious enough, their sins are continually before their eyes. They have pardon for sin and freedom from the guilt of sin but know it not. They have good things, and do not know them. And so in regard of spiritual comforts, God’s people may have spiritual joy, and inward consolation, and yet not know of it. There may be such a time when they may be sad, and droop, and that is, when they apprehend God doth not look pleasantly upon them; but the true character of a Christian is to be cheerful, and none else can be truly cheerful or joyous. Joy is usurped by others, there is no comfort in them that can be laid to be real. All the joy of a man that is a carnal man is but as it were the joy of a traitor. He may come to the Sacraments and Feast with the rest of God’s people, but what mirth or joy can he have so long as the Master of the Feast frowns upon him? Where Christ is not, there God is not reconciled; no joy like that joy of him that is assured of the love of God in Christ.

A man may be ignorant of his comforts

 

A man may sometime through ignorance want that joy that belongs to him, rejoice ye righteous, and be glad (Psalm 32:11). It belongs to those that are in Christ and to the righteous to rejoice, for joy is all their portion. They only can justify the ways of God against all reproaches whatsoever; but the eyes of carnal men are so held in blindness, that they can see no joy, no comfort in this course. As it is said of Augustine before his conversion, he was afraid to turn Christian indeed, lest he should want all those joys and pleasures that the world did then afford him. But after he was converted, then he could cry, “Lord I have stayed too long from thee,” and too long delayed from coming in to taste of the sweetness of Jesus Christ.

A Christian at the worst is happier than a worldling at the best

 

Take a Christian at the worst, and he is better than another man, take him at the best. The worst condition of God’s children far surpasses the very best condition of graceless persons. The issue of things shall turn to his good that is a member of Christ, a child of God, an heir of heaven; the evil of evils is taken away from him, take him at the worst, he is an heir of heaven. But take the wicked at the best, he is not a child of God, he is a stranger to God, he is as a branch cut off, and as miserable a wretch as ever Belshazzar in the midst of his cups, trembling and quaking with fear and astonishment when he saw the writing on the wall. When a man apprehends the wrath of God hanging over his head, though he were at the greatest Feast in the world, and amongst those that make mirth and jollity, yet seeing vengeance ready to seize upon him, it cannot but damp all his joy and all his carnal pleasures. And therefore only a Christian hath a true title to this Feast.

Labour to partake of this Feast; all invited

 

I beseech you let us labour earnestly to have our part and portion in the things above; but what shall they do that as yet apprehend no interest in Jesus Christ? Why, let them not be discouraged, for all are compelled to come in to this Feast; both blind and lame, the servants are sent to bring them in. The most wretched people of all, God doth invite them; all are called to come in to this Feast that are sensible of their sins. And that God requires at our hands, or else we can have no appetite to taste of this Feast. God saith, come all; I but saith the poor sinful soul, “I have no grace at all.” Why but yet come, buy without money; the Feast is free (Isaiah 55:1). God’s thoughts are not as thy thoughts are, for as heaven is high above the earth, even so are his thoughts above thy thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). Poor wretch thou thinkest thou hast led a wicked life, and so thou hast. I but now come in, God hath invited thee, and he will not always be inviting thee. Therefore come in and study the excellencies of Christ. When much persons as these see they need mercy, and grace, and reconciliation, and must either have it, or else be damned for ever; now they are earnest to study the favour and love of God in Christ. Now they bestir themselves to get peace of conscience, and joy in the Holy Ghost. Now they see salvation to be founded only on Christ and all other excellencies belonging to Christianity. And therefore he goes constantly provided with grace and holiness, so in this life that he may not lose his part in glory in the life to come. Think of this and pray for it, as they in the Gospel, Lord evermore give us of that bread. Here is hope that thou man be saved because thou art invited to come in.

We are sure to perish without Christ

 

To what end is the ministry of the Gospel, but to entreat thee to be reconciled? O let this work upon our souls, when we hear of the excellencies of these things, and together with them consider of the necessity that is cast upon us to obtain them, and that we must have them or else be damned eternally. We must do as the lepers did, who said one to another, Why sit we here till we die; if we say we will enter into the City, why the famine is in the City, and we shall die there, and if we sit still here, we shall also die.

 

Now what course took they? They said one to another, let us enter into the camp of the Syrians, there is meat to feed us (2 Kings 7:3-5). So saith the soul, if I go into the City of the world, there I shall be starved; if I sit still, I shall also perish; what shall I now do, I will venture upon Jesus Christ, he hath food that endures to eternal life, and if I perish there, I perish (Esther 4:16); If I have not Christ I must die; the wrath of God hangs over my head and I cannot escape. Alas poor soul, now thou seest thy wretchedness, cast thyself upon him and come in. If thou venturest, thou canst but die; adventure therefore, put thyself upon God’s mercy, for he is gracious and full of compassion (Psalm 111:4).

Honour God by taking allotted comforts

 

Those that have given up themselves to Christ, let them study to honour God and Christ (2 Timothy 2:15), by taking those comforts that are allotted to them. When any man invites us to a Feast, he knows if we respect him, we will fall too. God hath bestowed his Son upon us and will he not with him give us all things? (Romans 8:32). Let us not therefore dishonour the bounty of our good God, but come in and labour to have our hearts more and more enlarged with the consideration of the excellency of these eternal comforts. The fullness of Christ is able to satisfy the soul, though it were a thousand times larger than it is. If it were possible that we could get the capacity of angels, it could not be sufficient to show forth the fullness of pleasures that are provided for a Christian. Let us therefore labour with all labour to open our hearts to entertain these joys, for we cannot honour God more than of his bounty to receive thankfully what he freely offers. To taste plentifully in the covenant of grace, of these riches and joy, and hope of things to come, glorious above all that we are able to think of (Ephesians 3:20); I say, this is the way to honour God under the Gospel of hope of things that are infinite. The more we take, the more we may take and the more we honour him that gives. Let us therefore enter deeply into our special sins, there is no fear of despair; think of all thy wants, and of all thy sins, let them be never so many, yet there is more to be had in Christ than there can be wanting in thee. The soul that thinks itself full of wants, is the richest soul, and that that apprehends no want at all, no need of grace or Christ, is always sent empty away; grieve therefore for thy sins, and then joy that thou hast grieved, and go to God for the supply of all thy wants. The seeds of joy and of comfort are sown in tears, and grief in this world, but yet we know we shall reap in joy in the world to come (Psalm 126:5).

 

Remember this, we have we know not what to go through with all in this valley of tears. That speech of Barzillai was good and excellent, who being by David himself invited to the Court, answered, “I am now grown old, I am not fit for the Court, for my senses are decayed and gone” (2 Samuel 19:34-36). Even so the time will come when our sense of relishing earthly pleasures will utterly be lost. We are sure to go to our graves and we know not what particular trouble we may meet with in this world and go through if we live to a full age. Alas, what are all comforts here, to the comforts of eternity? When our days are spent on earth, then comes in the eternity of pleasure, or everlasting sorrow. O then, if (when we shall leave all behind us) we have the joy of the Holy Ghost in our hearts, it will advance us above all the suggestions of sin or Satan, and bring us cheerfully above to the tribunal seat of Christ. Labour therefore to have a spiritual relish of soul, to grow in grace and comforts of the Holy Ghost. For the time will come when we shall wish that we had had more than we have; everyone will repent of looseness and slackness in the ways of holiness. Therefore let us labour earnestly to be good husbands for our souls for the time to come.

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The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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Passwords should have at least 6 characters.
Usernames should only contain letters, numbers, dots, dashes, or underscores.

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Error: That Email / Username is not registered

Enter Your Email or UsernameUsername or Email Address

 

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