A Privileged Nation

Sacramental Meditation III

By John Willison, Practical Works (London: Blackie & Son, 1844), 246-7

“He hath not dealt so with any nation” (Psalm 147:20a).

The nation of Israel was singularly privileged above others; they were taken into covenant with God, they had God’s word and ordinances, the means of conversion and salvation, they had the gospel revelation, the knowledge and promises of the Messiah. But we under New Testament times, and in [this land], are yet more peculiarly privileged with clearer light and discoveries of the Messiah than the nation of Israel had. They lived under a darker and harsher dispensation of the covenant of grace by Moses, whose first miracle was the turning of water into blood; but we live under the clearer and sweeter dispensation of it by Christ himself, whose first miracle was the turning water into wine, that cheers the heart. The nation of Israel were called a people near unto God; but in gospel times we are allowed yet nearer access to God than they had. The children of Israel were not allowed so much as to touch the mount on which the Lord came down, the men of Beth-Shemish had not liberty to look into the ark the place of his residence :—But, behold, we are allowed to take a near view and steady look of a crucified Jesus in the sacrament who is the image of the invisible God, the brightness of His Father’s glory, and the express image of His person; yea, we have liberty not only to look to Him, but also to touch Him, handle His wounds, embrace His person, and lodge Him in our hearts.

The advantage of a clear revelation of a crucified Christ in the gospel ordinances, and particularly in the Lord’s Supper, is an invaluable privilege. If the royal Psalmist admired the divine goodness in causing the sun, moon, and stars to shine in the firmament for man’s [benefit], and therefore cries, what is man that God is thus mindful of him? How far greater cause have we to say so, when we observe how God causes the Sun of Righteousness to shine so brightly in the firmament of gospel ordinances, and the day spring from on high to visit us with the light of saving knowledge, and of eternal salvation through him?—Again, if the Psalmist exalts God’s goodness so much in His giving the beasts of the field, fowls of the air, and fishes of the sea, to be food for man; what ground have we to admire and praise God’s infinite mercy, in giving us the flesh and blood of His own dear Son, to preserve the lives of our souls? O what rare gospel feasts are these which God allows us in the land wherein we dwell? And, O how wonderfully are they preserved and continued with us, from time to time, by the miraculous working of God’s mercy and power; while others are visited with cleanness of teeth, and a famine of the Word of God! He hath not dealt with every nation as with us.

And, Lord, how distinguishing is thy goodness unto me a most unworthy creature! By Thy mercy I was born in a valley of vision; and I dwell in a lightsome Goshen, when multitudes of others, in pagan and Popish nations, are covered with Egyptian darkness, and sit in the region of the shadow of death. I hear heaven’s free market days of grace proclaimed, when others have silent Sabbaths; I am invited to a rich banqueting house, when others are starving for want of the bread of life. O that I could value my mercies aright! It is a great privilege that I am allowed to speak to the great God in prayer, and to hear Him speak to me in His Word! But still he puts a greater honour upon me, by calling me to enjoy intimate communion and fellowship with Himself, yea, inviting me to sit down with Him at His table, and feast upon the fruits of Christ’s death; and benefits of His purchase!—Oh, I am not worthy of the least crumb that falls from the children’s table, and far less of being set down at the table with the children to eat of their bread, and share of the dainties provided for them by their heavenly Father. If Peter, after having seen Christ’s glory and his own vileness, judged himself unworthy to be in the same ship with Christ, and therefore cried, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man,” how should I, the chief of sinners, adventure to sit at the same table with Him, and feed upon His flesh and blood? Amazing condescension!

O what distinction doth God make among nations, in sending the gospel to them, with clear views and pressing offers of a crucified Jesus to perishing souls! And what cause have we, in these nations, of admiring the distinguishing goodness of God to us in this respect beyond others! Would we not admire His goodness, if He caused the sun to shine only in our horizon, as He did on Goshen, when other nations were covered with darkness, as the land of Egypt was? Yet surely the gospel sun is by far a greater mercy. The gospel is, indeed, a joyful sound, Psalm 89:15 so called, with allusion to the silver trumpets made use of under the law to call the people to the solemn assemblies, and to intimate to them the feast of the passover, which represented the love and sufferings of the Messiah. A joyful sound the gospel is indeed if we compare it with the sound of the law’s curses and threatenings thundered from Mount Sinai against sinners. But, behold, this joyful sound, bringing salvation, comes from heaven, even to heaven daring sinners, who had openly rebelled against the God of heaven! Glad news! Blessed are they who know this joyful sound; know it so as to believe it, admire it, entertain it, and comply with it, so as to receive Christ offered therein to lost sinners.

Lord, I make this joyful sound welcome; it is music to my ears, and a cordial, to my heart. I reckon their feet beautiful who bring such glad tidings to my soul. O how welcome would men make them, who should bring them an invention that would secure their estates from consuming, their houses from burning, or their bodies from dying! But here we have the sure news of an invention that doth much more for us than all this, even a device that secures us from hell, and ensures us of heaven. Ought I not then cheerfully to comply with this joyful sound, and fall in with the call thereof? God forbid that I should stop my ears at it; it had been better for me then never to have heard of it at all: How dreadful would my case be at the judgment day! How would devils, Turks, Heathens, and my own confidence, upbraid me in hell to all eternity for my folly in slighting this joyful sound! Surely God may slight the mournful sound of their prayers in time of distress, who slight the joyful sound of His gospel in time of health. But, Lord, I bless thee for it, I love it, I receive it, I welcome it, I fall heartily in with it, and will admire it forever. Amen. W