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His own greatness, filling her with His own glory, as He filled the bush with fire. I AM is with her, founding her on Himself as on a sure foundation, establishing her upon that rock which is Christ, making His own Son her corner-stone, so that as He is so she is, as He is I AM and must be, so she must be, and cannot be destroyed. The gates of hell itself shall not and cannot prevail against her ; for “Lo I AM with you always," is a sure promise, and He is pleased by His own word to keep her, “even unto the end of the world.” She is the body of Christ. She is the spouse of Him who before Abraham was, was I AM, and can no more cease to be than He can who is her Head. She is a kingdom set up on earth, but she is the kingdom of heaven. She is salted with the salt of sacrifice. The fire which is in her is living, light-giving, saving, and preserving fire.
In her is fulfilled the glowing prophecy, “ Arise, shine, for thy light is come and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold darkness shall cover the earth and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. . shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee ; but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory.”
The Church must stand because God is with her, and yet she seems to be at all times perishing. The bush burns continuously, and yet the wonder is that it is never burnt out. The Church is never free from trial. Her history is a series of fiery trials, each one of which would have consumed a kingdom which had not been divine. But she survives them all. They
purge, they purify, they burn away the dross; but they do not consume. The fires which God suffers to be lighted against her are only the fires of a refiner. Because He loves He chastens her. He sits as a refiner over her, watching till the silver melts, and the dross floats
upon the surface to be skimmed away, and He sees reflected on her the image of His own holiness. If she were not silver or gold indeed, she could not bear the fire; but, because she is fine gold, because she is gifted with His own eternal properties, dying she lives, persecuted she triumphs, when weak she is strong, and having nothing she possesses all things. It is a great sight, a most astounding spectacle. For eighteen hundred years a world has looked on and wondered ; asking how it comes to pass that fire burns and yet consumes not; knowing nothing of that fire which is not consuming,—unable to comprehend the wonder, -because it knows not Him 66 who dwelt within the bush,” and who, to the Gentile Church is as truly light and glory, as to His enemies He is consuming fire.
This, then, is that great sight. The fire in the bush which burned and yet consumed not is nothing else but God within the Church. And this is a fixed and standing revelation-" This is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.” So that, if we would see God as He is on earth, and behold His manifested glory, there is but one direction in which we may look for Him. We must look for Him within the Church.
III. And to do this we must follow Moses. Moses turned aside. He was attracted by the spectacle. A distant view was not sufficient for him; he turned aside; he moved towards it; he went nearer, till he almost went too nigh; and then a voice came to him, “ Draw not nigh hither; put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” As though it had said, “It is well to look, but thou must look with reverence. Thou art treading upon mysteries. Thou art dealing with truths which hide themselves from the wise and prudent, but are revealed to babes.
We must often turn aside from our more common thoughts and worldly occupations, as Moses from the flock which he was keeping in the desert of Horeb, if we would see this great sight,--the bush which burns with unconsuming fire,—if we would learn the knowledge of God, and be able to see Him as He is pleased to show Himself in His flaming Church. The world beholds this sight and is confounded ; seeing from afar the mystery which it has watched for ages, and will not cease to watch till time ceases, but not knowing what this bush is, or why it is not burnt, because it looks carelessly and does not trouble itself to turn aside and see. But men like Moses, men of wisdom, men of deep meditation, men of true eyes and true ears, men of prayer, and of spiritual insight gained by prayer, men who seek truth and live not for the world but for God,--such men turn aside. Not only do their eyes—the eyes of their mind-see this great sight, this most stupendous vision, but their eyes are caught by it; they wonder, they think, they study, they search ; and as they draw nigh a voice speaks to them—the voice of God Himself. The bush becomes vocal, for God is in it, and tells them not to draw too nigh, not to come profanely, but to approach with the profoundest awe and reverence, with childlike faith, with deep humility, with the prostration of every faculty of soul and body, because I AM—the “Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel”-is in the midst, and the place whereon they stand is therefore holy ground. Then, when they have thus drawn nigh, they see that this strange fire is not fire but glory, because the Church is the Shekinah, and the kingdom of heaven is set up on earth, and the “Holy,Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come,” is her shield, her sun, her glory. Fire is round about her. Trials are her lot. Reproach is her portion. The world knows her not, as it knew not Him who founded her. The wicked hate her without a cause, as they hated Him who bought her with His blood. But trials, and reproach, and ignorance, and hatred, and all besides from which she suffers, though fire, are not consuming fire. They are fire which destroys the dross within her, leaving pure the ore which is her true essence. They are the tokens of her mission and the pledge of the
presence of her Lord. They are fire from heaven. They are the light divine by which she is in part transfigured now, and by which she will shine hereafter as the sun, in the kingdom of the Father.
My beloved brethren, I would that you would turn aside “ to see this great sight.” I would that from your desks, from your business, from the receipt of custom, from all your common work, you would often turn to gaze upon this fire in the desert world, this glory shining in thickest darkness, this diamond in the mine. To each one among you Dost thou know God ? Knowest thou I AM? Knowest thou Him who is; who must be; whose being is the ground of all being, and of your own being; who has given you a share of His own life, in order that you might live with Him for ever?
Knowest thou Him whom not to know is death, eternal death, and whom to know truly is life everlasting ? Knowest thou the Son who reveals the Father, who is I AM in flesh and blood, whose own words we have heard in this day's gospel, telling the astounded Jews, who thought Him a blasphemer, “ Before Abraham was I AM?" Knowest thou Him? Hast thou turned aside to see what kind of man He is? Hast thou seen in Him“ the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of His person," yet mellowed as by softly-coloured glass, through the human nature, so that thou canst see at once, with one look, in one Person, thy God, who is from all eternity, and yet thy fellow-man, thy brother? Knowest thou His majestic loveliness, aweful yet most attractive, drawing all men to Him? Hast thou tasted His celestial sweetness, ravishing the spiritual sense ? Hast thou said to Him as Himself, the bridegroom, says to the Church, His spouse, in that
song of Solomon, “Let me see Thy countenance, let me hear Thy voice; for sweet is Thy voice and Thy countenance is comely ?” Hast thou told Him with the voices of thine heart, 'I must live for Thee and for Thee only, for I can find life nowhere but only and alone in Thee ? Knowest thou the Church, which is the body of the Spirit, the bush which burns but is not burnt out? Knowest thou that heavenly fire, and the bush which, though planted on earth, was brought to earth from heaven? Knowest thou the Church Universal—the palace of Christ, “the fulness of Him who filleth all in all," “ the pillar and ground of the truth,” built on a rock, founded apon twelve foundations, with twelve gates, and every gate a pearl, and with streets of “pure gold, as it