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A Wondrous Condescension

by A. T. Pierson

"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." Revelation iii. 20

A. T. PiersonThis is at once a picture and a parable: a picture, for it has in it the pictorial form of representation; a parable, for it teaches us through symbols a most precious lesson. There are four conspicuous places in the New Testament in which the same figure is used; a door opening into some apartment, a key wherewith to open it, and the door either shut or open, as the case may be. For instance, in Matthew, the 7th chapter and 7th verse, we read: "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." There the door is the door of supplications. If we knock, the door will be opened. In the 25th chapter of Matthew, in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, when the marriage procession entered into the marriage chamber or place of festivity, the door was shut. Afterwards the foolish virgins came and knocked and called in vain. He, from within, said, "I know you not." Then in the Epistle indited to the church at Philadelphia we have the door standing open, having been unlocked by the key of David in the hand of the omnipotent and omniscient Redeemer. And now we have in this passage a door shut. The door in the 25th of Matthew is the door to celestial blessing and privilege. The door in the Epistle to Philadelphia is the door of opportunity and access. The door here is the door to the human heart.

I think there is, perhaps, scarce a single passage in the New Testament that combines more encouragement with warning than these words of Christ to the Laodicean Church, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear My voice and open the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him, and he with Me."

Now, obviously, there are three great prominent thoughts here. The first is the request; the second is the response; and the third is the result.

It is one of those pictures, those pictorial parables, that a little child can understand. It is not couched in language with which we are not familiar. It is not itself the suggestion of an illustration from any of the obscure sciences, or from historical facts, or events that are not generally known. Here we meet the most familiar objects almost that can have impressed our vision. It is impossible to go a hundred steps in any city without coming upon a house with a doorway, and with a knocker and a bell. You can scarcely go anywhere in the rural districts for any distance without coming upon a mansion or an obscure hovel. And we all know what the door means, and what the knocking means, and what the coming in means, and what the supping means. How blessed and gracious that the Lord should have put instruction for us in such a form that a little child can comprehend and apprehend it, by a pictorial illustration like a picture book for our instruction. Here, in the first place, is Christ without and the soul within. Then there is the soul opening the shut door, and Christ enters and Himself is within.

Now, first, look at Christ outside, and then let us look at Him inside. Then see how He comes inside, and what a difference it makes.

First He is outside. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock."

The first thing that impresses me in this wonderful picture is condescension. Who is this that is asking to come in? Who is this whose pierced hand knocks at the door, and whose gentle voice calls the soul by name and asks to be admitted?—for you notice that the knocking is accompanied by a calling. That is an Oriental custom. When Peter went out of his prison down to the house of Mary, the mother of John, where many were gathered together praying, he knocked at the gate, but he called also; and when Rhoda came to hearken she heard Peter's voice, and she went in and told how he stood before the gate. We go and knock, but we do not often call. But in Eastern lands they accompanied the knock with the voice of the one who knocked. And so our Lord says, "If any man hear My voice," not simply My knock—"if any man hear My voice and open the door." Look at the condescension.

If I were asked to say what it is that distinguishes the Christian religion above all other religions, what do you think would be the answer? What is it that peculiarly distinguishes the Christian religion above all others? It is not incarnation, for other religions have taught that God was manifest in the flesh. It is not sacrifice, for other religions have taught even bloody rites of sacrifice. It is not worship, for worship is common to all religions. What is it? The Christian religion is mainly peculiar for this: it is the only religion among men that has ever represented God as seeking man. Other nations represent man as seeking God. That is the uniform peculiarity of them all, from the lowest fetish worship to the highest form of Brahminical idolatry, or Mohammedanism without either. Man is always represented as seeking God. But in the Christian religion alone, God is represented as seeking man. You may look in any other religion in vain to find such a phrase as you will find in the 4th chapter of the Gospel according to John, at the 23rd verse: "For the Father seeketh such to worship Him." Men seek to worship God, even under false forms. But the only God that ever sought worshippers is Jehovah. The only God that ever looked down on rebels and said, "How shall I put thee among the children?" is our God. The only God that ever came down among men to lift men up to Himself is God in Christ.

Now, here you have the very Saviour Himself, the incarnate Son of God, coming and standing before a human soul that has rejected and repelled Him, and, knocking at the door, and standing knocking, and calling patiently to induce the soul to open the door to His incoming.

Now let us try to get, first of all, this magnificent conception of the condescension of grace, that God did not leave men to find Him, but found them; that God did not leave men to love Him, but loved them; that God did not leave men to seek Him, but sought them; that God did not leave men to make the first approaches unto Himself, but made the first approaches to them. And I believe that that is, after all, the substance of the doctrine of election, that God loved us when we hated Him, that God sought us when we rejected Him, that God atoned for us when we hated Him, and that the whole of the grand plan and its execution and its application begins and ends with Him.

Now see how this very passage of Scripture indicates the condescension of Christ. To whom were these words addressed? To the church of the Laodiceans, to whom also has been addressed the most scathing rebuke that is to be found in those seven epistles. In fact, I do not know that there is a more terrible message in the Word of God than that message to Laodicea. "I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My mouth." Yet it is to this very people to whom this epistle addresses this scathing, scourging message, in which the precious Saviour is represented as standing outside the door, knocking on the door, standing knocking as though not easily discouraged by the indifference of the soul within, and calling with the sweet voice of gracious intonation that He might win the rebel soul to open unto Him.

This is a wonderful picture. You cannot find anything like that in any other religion. The Christian religion alone ever set the Son of God before the closed door of the human soul, knocking, and calling, and asking to come in.

Now what is the condition of the soul? The door is closed, and Christ is without. What a picture of the desolation and destitution of sin. God not in all the thoughts; God not in all the affections; God not in all the resolutions, and plans, and purposes; God unspoken of except in the language of rebellion, of hatred, perhaps of blasphemy; God deliberately shut out from a man's life, conversation, conduct, hopes, desires, projects; God forgotten, though He is merciful; God ignored, though He is sovereign; God despised, though He is gracious; God resisted, though He is a God of love; destitution as well as desolation; poor, wretched, miserable, blind, naked, and yet like an idiot, like a lunatic, who clothes himself in rags and sits on a three-legged stool and waves a rod in his hand and plaits thorns and puts them on his brow, and then he is a king. Thou knowest not that thou art wretched. Poor and miserable, and blind and naked, he says: "I am rich, and increased in goods, and have need of nothing." That is the condition of any soul when God is outside. There are poverty and misery and desolation and destitution inside, but withal there is an ignorance of the actual state of things. Men go about to establish their own righteousness, and do not submit themselves to the righteousness of God. They look on their filthy rags, and they think that they are royal robes, and they imagine that they could go before the presence of the Almighty in those filthy garments, for they do not see the filth or the rags.

Now look at the other side of this picture. Christ is without. Let us see Him within. See His marvellous works. "If any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me." "I will come in to him." Entrance. "And will sup with him, and he with Me." Communion. When Jesus Christ comes into the soul everything that is divine comes in with it—eye-salve that anoints the eyes so that we see the rags and the filth, and see Him in His glory; the gold tried in the fire that makes rich; and the white raiment of divine righteousness to clothe our nakedness. That is a wonderful guest that knocks on the door. If He comes in He comes in not to be entertained, but to entertain. He comes in not to live on your bounty, but to have you live on His. He comes in not to take of your hospitality, but to become the host while He is the guest and to spread a table before you in the presence of your enemies, and to anoint your head with oil, so that your cup runneth over. There never have been any visitors on earth come to the hovels of the poor in such a fashion as that. Christ comes to bring with Him everything you need, to displace desolation by beauty, and to displace destitution by wealth. He comes to supply your poor table with the bread and the water of life and all the delicacies of God. He comes to fill your wardrobe with raiment such as angels might covet, and crowd your house with the gold of the celestial city.

I want you to notice, too, how remarkable is the reiteration, the apparent repetition here. "I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me." Of course, if a man sups with me I sup with him. But Christ would make it plain that it is not only a conferment of blessing, but a mutual participation. And this, again, can only be understood by reference to Oriental custom. You are going through Palestine, we will say, at the present day. A man sees you passing by the house when a meal is served, and he has nothing, it maybe, but a few dried dates or raisins, and a little bread and water, and he asks you to come and sit down with him and enjoy his simple repast. Now, if you had such an invitation it would be considered a kind of insult if you did not partake of what was offered. He expects not only that you will sit down at his table, but that you will share in his repast; and that sharing in his repast is a kind of covenant between you and him. If you partake of the salt of his dish it makes you both friends. It is the salt of covenant, and he can never lift his hand against you, nor you lift your hand against him henceforth. I remember that many years ago there was an Arab who was travelling among those nomadic tribes in the East, and he came, unknown to himself, on the very tent of his arch enemy. He did not recognise the other robber chieftain in whose tent he was, and at whose board he was sitting; but the robber chieftain, who was his arch enemy, recognised him, and he knew that if that man should take salt at his repast he could never again lift his hand against him; so he managed to get out of the tent and leave others to conduct the repast; and then when the man had left the tent and gone on his way he pursued him and killed him. Now, our blessed Lord, speaking to Oriental people, speaking to them in the language of Oriental life, says, "I will come in to him and will sup with him, and he with Me; and for us to partake of the same salt of the covenant shall make us everlastingly one." It is union and communion. It is participation in the same blessed privileges and provisions.

And there is another very sweet and beautiful thought about it. This suggests the idea that our Lord not only confers a blessing but receives one; that He not only gives us satisfaction in His presence, but gets satisfaction out of our presence. I think this is one of the most beautiful thoughts presented to us in the Bible, that "The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear Him, in them that hope in His mercy." You often think of what God can do for you. Do you ever think of what you can do for God? We often talk about our trusting God. Have we a holy ambition to be such men and women as that it shall be possible for God to trust us? We think of our loving God. Do we ever think of His loving us? We think of God's giving us pleasure. Do we ever think of our giving Him pleasure? And yet our blessed Lord indicates that if the door is opened to Him, and He comes in to a soul that has hitherto excluded Him, He is going to bring a blessing and to get blessing; He is going to confer good and to receive it; He is going to impart joy, and His own divine heart is going to get a thrill of joy from the obedience, and the confidence, and the communion of the willing soul.

Now let us look, in conclusion, at the way in which Christ gets inside, and at the marvellous change that takes place.

Just two things. "If any man hear My voice and [will] open the door." Now, is there a child that does not understand what that means? You are inside a closed door, and somebody else is outside. You hear a knock; you hear a call; you go and listen. The knock is repeated, and the voice utters a name, the name of him who is knocking, and the name of you who are inside. You turn the key, withdraw the bolt, and turn the knob. You open the door: "Friend, enter." Anybody understands what that means. Hearing means attending to the voice; and opening the door means responding with the will. And so I say to those who are enquiring the way to Christ, there is no need for enquiring any more, for it is perfectly simple. Have you heard the invitation of the gospel? Then, the first condition is fulfilled—"If any man hear My voice." Are you ready to open? Do you choose Christ as your Saviour? Do you say, "Lord, come in, Thou blessed One, and occupy my whole being. I no more reject Thee and rebel against Thee and repel Thy presence. I gladly welcome Thee"? Then, the second condition is fulfilled: you open the door. Why, that is so simple that I am afraid of making it obscure by saying anything more about it.

But I want to add this. It is a very important thing that we should understand—and I never like to obscure this fact—that the Lord Jesus Christ never enters a house without taking possession of it. Sometimes, when a guest comes to our house, we open the guest-chamber and the drawing-room and the dining-room, but the rest of the house is shut. We should not like to have it explored. It is not quite in order, and we do not like our guests to go where they are not asked to go. But when the Lord Jesus Christ comes in, if He comes at all, the whole house is His. There is a provision in law in America that in the exchange of property in real estate—a house, for instance—to retain one single apartment, though it is nothing but a cupboard or a pantry or a wardrobe in that house, vitiates the deed of transfer. In America such an act of transfer would not stand one single hour. If you say, "I transfer to A or B this entire piece of property, only reserving to myself this cupboard under the stairs," the law would show that it is no transfer. The whole property must go, or you cannot transfer the house at all, for if you retain that cupboard under the stairs you retain the right to get to it, and go to and fro to put what you will in it and take what you will out of it. That implies a passage way through the house, and the right to come in at the door, and come in when you please. That is no kind of transfer.

There are a great many people that pretend to open their hearts to Jesus Christ, but who have got a locked cupboard somewhere. They are willing that He should come into the drawing-room, especially if it is cleaned up and made all nice and beautiful. They are willing that He should go into the guest-chamber and tarry. They are willing that He should come into the dining-room, especially if He sets the table Himself with His own dainties. But they would like to have the rest of the house locked up. There are some idols there that they do not want Him to see. There are some bad thoughts that they do not want Him to explore. There are some hoarded treasures of sin there which they do not want to have cast out. And so, as my dear friend Mr. Meyer once said, "When the Lord comes into a house, and finds that a part of it is shut against Him, He walks out again with a sad look, and, perhaps, with a tear in His eye." Christ considers that if you hold back any part of yourself from Him you have not surrendered anything to Him. If you let Him in on a Sunday, and exclude Him during the week, you have not let Him in at all. If you let Him in by day, and exclude Him by night, you have not let Him in at all. If you let Him in during a day of fasting and prayer, and in a day of business exclude Him, there has been no real entrance. He wants the whole man, or none of it. "I would thou wert cold or hot. So then, because thou art lukewarm...I will spue thee out of My mouth."

I wish that I could tell you what a blessed thing it is just to be wholly the Lord's. There never comes any comfort to a human soul until Christ takes entire possession. When He takes the candle of the law, and goes with you through the house, and opens every locked cupboard, every place, every room, large or small, and when the house becomes cleaner from top to bottom, so that there is nothing whatever in it that He does not understand, and nothing whatsoever in it that you would, for a moment, hide from Him; when you can say with the Psalmist, "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me and I shall be whiter than snow: try me, O God, and know my heart: prove me and know my thought: see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting"; when you come where you would not have a thought that you would hide from Christ, or an affection that you would not have to center about Him, or a resolution that you would not have twined about Him, or a conscientious judgment that you would not have according to His will, or a purpose or a plan which He is not in the midst of, and of which He is not the inspiration; then, indeed, you have thrown the door open to Christ and He is inside.

Is not that very simple? Now, this precious truth demands immediate action. You hear His voice, do you not? Is your hand on the lock? You have the key. He will not force an entrance. He never comes into a human soul where the obstacles to His coming are not removed, and where He does not get a warm welcome. When He comes you may have been like Saul of Tarsus up to that moment, fighting against God, and shutting and locking and bolting the doors of your heart, lest the Son of God should come in. It makes no difference. If you now hear His voice, and turn the key in the lock, and turn the knob, and fling open the door, and say in penitence and faith, "My Lord and my God, come in and take possession: there shall be nothing withholden from Thee," it will not be a moment before He is inside. It takes but an instant for a man to pass from without to within when the door is open; and, great as the change is, it can all be accomplished as quickly as I can raise my hand if there is a willing heart, if there is a submissive will, and if there is a real desire for the Lord and Saviour.

Oh, how many times I have been visited by people who are called "enquirers," who say that they do not see how to be reconciled to God: they do not see how to accept Jesus Christ. I think the reason is that people imagine to themselves a great ceremony, something that will be involved and delicate and difficult to manage, something that takes time to manage, something that requires a certain amount of preparation in order to accomplish it. But the Lord says, "I am outside, and you are inside. If you hear My voice and open the door, I will come inside and sup with you, and you shall sup with Me." And if we understand the parable and the picture, it means simply this—that if you, to whom the message of salvation comes, no longer want to exclude Him, but want to admit Him, and will do your part in the opening of the closed door, He will do His part in coming in; and you will find all the blessings that His coming in involves. But! if you shut Him out now—hear this—if you shut Him out now, the time will come when you will stand at another closed door, as He stands at a closed door now, and, although you knock, although you call, the only answer will be, "Depart from Me," and it will be a terrible thing when the same voice that has said, "Open unto Me, and I will come in and bless you," is compelled to say, "Depart from Me. The door is shut."

From Dr. Pierson and His Message... edited by J. Kennedy Maclean. London: Marshall Brothers, [1911?].

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