Jerusalem Lamented.

Adapted from a sermon by

George Burder

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.

(Luke 19:41-42 ESV)

Jerusalem Lamented. That is the title of our sermon this morning adapted from George Burder. And the text is Luke 19:41-42: And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.

Jesus Christ had a tender heart. Compassion to the miserable was the leading feature of his character. At all times, we observe this in his conduct towards the suffering and sorrowful; this was his prevailing disposition; he was himself "a man of sorrows,"(Isaiah 53:3) and he always had an ear to listen to the sad story, a heart to feel for the afflicted, and a hand to give them relief.

But the display of his compassion, at the time referred to in the text, deserves particular attention; for what were his circumstances, when he wept, and uttered these moving words? It was at the only time in his sojourning here on earth, that we see him enjoying any kind of triumph: he was approaching Jerusalem for the last time, when a vast multitude of people, perhaps more than a million, were in that great city; numbers of whom had come from Galilee, and other parts of the country, to celebrate the feast of the Passover. Having heard that he was about to enter the metropolis, in a more public manner than he ever did before, they were overjoyed with the thought of seeing him, hearing him, and witnessing his miracles: so that, in great multitudes, they went out to meet him.

This more than usual curiosity was excited by a miracle which he had recently performed: he had raised Lazarus, his friend, from the dead, in a little town not far from Jerusalem---there were many respectable witnesses of the fact; it was reported around the country, and great multitudes had been induced to believe in him, as it is said, in the gospel of John, “because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus. The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel."(John 12:12-19) And as you see in the 37th verse of this chapter, "as he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen."(Luke 19:37)

The enthusiasm of the multitude, however, did not comfort him; "he knew what was in man,"(John 2:25) and he foresaw that many of the multitude who were now crying "Hosanna," would just as loudly cry, "Crucify, crucify him."(Luke 23:21) Let us also beware of placing much confidence upon human applause; for a very little matter will turn the scale of public opinion, and the warm friend of today may be the bitter enemy of tomorrow.

Other thoughts occupied the holy, the benevolent mind of Jesus. From a small distance, he commanded a view of this great city; great in extent, population, and magnificence; great especially on account of the sumptuous temple that was erected there; and, although the Savior had already suffered many hardships from the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and well knew that he should suffer still more in a few days; yet, such was his divine benevolence and compassion, that, forgetting himself, he bitterly wept at the foresight of those dire and unparalleled calamities which he knew would, in a few years, befall that guilty and doomed city; for, as he says, "the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you."(Luke 19:43-44)

All this actually came to pass; and the Romans, who besieged Jerusalem, thought it necessary to build a wall, extending nearly five miles, entirely round the city, to prevent its inhabitants from escaping; and by reducing them to famine, and other means, bringing upon them irretrievable ruin, so that in a course of time, more than a million Jews were put to death: eleven thousand of them were crucified, and they only stopped crucifying them because no more wood could be found to make crosses; while many of those who were not put to death were sold at a penny a man.

Our Lord foresaw all this, and he wept. But doubtless he looked further than to the destruction of Jerusalem; he looked forward to the eternal state of the multitude. Probably, far the greatest part of this multitude, "died in their sins;"(John 8:24) and he also looked to the future consequences of this destruction and consequent dispersion of the nation; he foresaw what would befall the condemned race of Judah in future years; during which, the far greater part have died in ignorance and sin. Well might he, who foresaw all this, weep. He wept, amid his own meek triumphs; far more concerned for others than himself; and notwithstanding the foresight of his own approaching sufferings, as he afterwards said to some of the women who lamented his fate, "Do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children."(Luke 23:28)

Now the case of Jerusalem speaks loudly to us.

I. There are things which belong to our peace;

II. There is a limited time in which we may acquire the knowledge of these things; and

III. There is a worse destruction than that of the Jews awaiting us, if we finally disregard them.

These are the three parts of our intended discourse.

I. There are some things which are absolutely necessary to be known, in order to our eternal peace, "Would that you had known the things that make for peace."

"It is not good," said the most knowing of mankind, "for a soul to be without knowledge"(Proverbs 19:2) for, indeed, it is eternal life to know God, and his Son Jesus Christ.(John 17:3) What are the things that must be known? As they are called in the Scriptures, they are the things of the Gospel;(1 Peter 1:12) "the things of God;"(1 Corinthians 2:10 NKJV) "the things of the Spirit of God."(1 Corinthians 2:14) These were the things which Christ and his apostles had set before the Jews: and these are the things which the great God now sets before us; especially, the things which relate to the salvation of our souls by Jesus Christ. It is necessary to know the doctrine of the Gospel, the power of the Gospel, and the practice of the Gospel.---But to mention a very few particulars.

It is necessary that we should know our real state and condition as sinners; as being apostate, depraved, polluted, and helpless creatures. The value and utility of self-knowledge is great, especially in religion. To know ourselves aright, we have to know that we are "by nature, children of wrath;"(Ephesians 2:3) for "those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick."(Matthew 9:12) We have to be convinced of our actual guilt, and that we are under the curse of the broken law; for "it is written,---cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them."(Galatians 3:10) We have to so know these things that our mouth must be stopped, and we must become confessedly guilty before God;(Romans 3:19) we have to know that "the wages of sin is death;"(Romans 6:23) we must not plead for sin as many do, for "the end of those things is death."(Romans 6:21) We have to know our own helplessness, or inability, by anything within our own power, to relieve ourselves; for we have destroyed ourselves, and our help is found in God alone.(Hosea 13:9 NKJV) We must understand this doctrine of Scripture as applied to ourselves; and we must be sincerely and habitually concerned to be delivered from this state.

This must be the grand desire of our souls,---the "one thing that is needed,"(Luke 10:42)---so as to induce us, from the heart, to cry, "God be merciful to us sinners."(Luke 18:13) It is necessary to our true and spiritual peace, that our natural and carnal peace should be disturbed; that the security we feel through ignorance should disappear; for "when a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace,"(Luke 11:21) we do not naturally seek the salvation that is from above; but this peace being happily disturbed, we are glad to seek peace from another place.

Besides this, we have to be acquainted with the gospel of Christ, as providing us with the only, and the all-sufficient remedy---we must be acquainted with the gospel in order to know the way of peace with God, and safety to the soul; and this is abundantly revealed in the gospel. Christ alone is our peacemaker; he has "made peace by the blood of his cross;"(Colossians 1:20) "in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them,"(2 Corinthians 5:19) Jesus having been "made to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God;"(2 Corinthians 5:21) and, as the apostle Paul tells us in the 5th Chapter of Romans, and at the beginning, it is by being justified through faith, that we come into a state of peace with God,(Romans 5:1) "we have obtained access,"(Romans 5:2)---free admission and introduction into an excellent and permanent state of full acceptance with God, as persons acquitted of every charge, and brought into a condition of safety and honor, so that we may "rejoice in hope of the glory of God."(Romans 5:2) These are some of the things that belong to your peace, and things that must be known.

II. There is a certain, limited time, in which the knowledge of these things may be acquired.

Our Lord says in the text, "Would that you had known on this day." The Jews had their day; their season of visitation; for, "at many times and in many ways, God spoke to their fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he spoke to them by his Son."(Hebrews 1:1-2) "Would that you had known," says the Lord, "even you, Jerusalem! O highly favored place, distinguished as it is above all the cities upon the earth ---would that you had known---and may this not be applied to our case, as a nation which has been favored of God, at least in the recent past, with the means of religious light and information? May it not be said to many a person here present, "Would that you had known?" May it not be said to those who have had a religious education---who have had opportunities, from their childhood, to become acquainted with the things that belong to their peace---"Would that you had known?" Surely, to such, they should be known, at least, now, after so long a time. Now, if not before; at least, now!

The Jews had long enjoyed the means of grace; but their season of visitation was then drawing to a close---about forty years, and there would be a complete end. They had treated the gospel with contempt, and, as our Lord declared, they would go their way, and would seek him, but they would not find him.(John 7:34)

But we may apply the term "day," to peculiar and favorable seasons---"Would that you had known on this day."

In the first place, life, generally, may be called "a day;" indeed it is but a day; a short day, and a winter's day; but it ought to be a working day---"Would that you had known on this day." "Are there not twelve hours in the day"(John 11:9) in which men should work? how is it then that some continue "idle all the day long,"(Matthew 20:6) when this is the great business of life---the "one thing that is necessary!"(Luke 10:42) It is said, by the wise man, most emphatically, "the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding,"(Job 28:28) and Solomon, at the close of his book of Wisdom, having solemnly and repeatedly declared the vanity of the world, says, "The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man," (Ecclesiastes 12:13) the whole of man (for the word duty is added by the translators) this is the great concern; the interest, business, and life of man.

We may add likewise that youth is the season in which it is peculiarly proper to attend to the things which belong to our peace; "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth."(Ecclesiastes 12:1) What can be more reasonable and proper than that the first and chief of all objects, should have the first and chief regard; and doubtless the season of youth is the most suitable and agreeable for this purpose. There are infirmities and hindrances which occur to the aged, who are constrained to say of their latter days, "there is no pleasure in them."(Ecclesiastes 12:1) O young people, consider, do consider well and seriously, these words of Christ as addressed to you---Would that you, even you, had known on this day---the day of youth, and health, and activity, these important things.

Further, let me observe that the Lord's Day is a very proper and favorable time for attending to these great concerns. On this holy day, people should not have the same excuses as on other days. Worldly affairs ought to be put aside and "the things that make for peace" should be "the order of the day," and nothing ought to interfere with them; especially when they are presented to our minds by the preaching of the gospel. They are then brought, as it were, before our eyes, so that as the Scripture speaks, we need not say, Who shall ascend into heaven to bring them down, or who shall dive into the deep to fetch them up? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that is, the word of faith that we proclaim."(Romans 10:7-8)

Let the hearer of the gospel know this, that the kingdom of God is brought near to him. God, angels, and devils too, observe what attention we pay to the heavenly message, and what effects are produced by it. Angels gladly bear the report of good impressions; and upon the conversion of sinners they gladden heaven with the news; and if angels could weep, (as the Lord of angels did) it would be at the folly and madness of sinful men disregarding the proposals of salvation.

This time of hearing is an important time---more important than many realize. To many a person it may seem an unimportant matter whether he hears the word seriously and attentively, or allows his imagination to wander; but it is absolutely certain, that by every sermon a man hears, he is taking a step nearer to heaven or nearer to hell; he is either receiving a benefit to his soul, or he is hardening his heart.

And may not these words be emphatically addressed to the aged, "at least in this your day?" Verily it may be said to the aged people, "Now, or never;" hear the word of God, lest you should die in your sins.

Thirdly and lastly. It is an unspeakably tragic thing when this opportunity is lost.

Our Lord when he thought of it wept; he wept when he uttered these words, "Would that you, even you had known---but now they are hidden from your eyes." The calamities of the Jews, which he clearly foresaw, were extremely great; they were unparalleled in the history of nations; the world, with all its troubles, never saw the like before, nor ever will again; the discord, the malice, the famine, the disease, the self-murders, the burning of houses, and falling of buildings, the death of multitudes---all contributed to form that sum of unspeakable calamity which our Lord foresaw, and the prospect of which made him weep.

But fearful as this destruction was, yet the misery of damned souls in hell will be far greater; indeed, the sufferings of each individual soul will, at some future time, have been greater than the sum total of all the sufferings, endured by the hundreds of thousands who perished in Jerusalem!---So think of eternity; think of thousands and thousands of years past, and thousands and thousands more to be added to their number; indeed, millions of ages---as many millions of ages as there have been drops of rain from the beginning of the Creation; as many millions of ages as there have been leaves upon all the trees, or sands upon the seashore---and supposing all these to have come, and to be past---yet, eternal ages more are still to come. The vast mind of Him who was himself, from eternity, could not but weep when he contemplated these distant objects; and, surely our hearts must be as hard as stones, if we can think of them without feeling compassion both for ourselves and for others.

But when may it be said that these things are hid from men's eyes?

In the first place, when the means of grace are removed. The Lord threatened the church of Ephesus, when she left her first love, that he would "remove her lampstand from its place;"(Revelation 2:5) the lamp signified the ministry of the gospel in the church. When the Lord removes the preaching of his gospel from a particular place, in a town or a country, it is an awful event. How often has it happened in such cases, that a faithful minister has been replaced by a poor blind guide! thus also it frequently happens, in the course of human affairs, that persons have been removed from places where they heard the gospel faithfully preached, to situations where it was not to be heard.

There are many who hear the word in consequence of their living in pious families; but, in time, they are removed, and either attend no place of worship at all, or if they do, hear nothing but error: then, sadly! are these things hid from their eyes. Many there are, who, having no love for the gospel, do not hesitate to leave, for the sake of convenience, to situations where the gospel is not preached, and then these things by their own negligence are hidden from their eyes. And, in large congregations, perhaps a Sabbath does not pass, on which some persons are hearing the truth for the last time; so that, though they may perhaps live many years after, yet they never again hear the gospel! It is an awful thought to ministers, and ought to be so to all their hearers.

Again, these things may be said to be hidden from men's eyes when the heart becomes hard and insensible; and this is no uncommon thing. "Take care," said the Apostle of the Gentiles, "lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God---that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."(Hebrews 3:12-13) Many hearers of the word become "Sermon-proof." They have heard the solemn truths of the Scripture so frequently, and to so little effect, that, at length, they make no impression at all.

We rarely hear of the conversion of persons at an advanced period of life, who have long heard the gospel in vain. Yet, this is not impossible, for nothing is too hard for the Lord.(Jeremiah 32:27) Habits of sin dreadfully harden. When conscience has long protested in vain, it ceases to protest; and an offended God, whose patience is wearied out, may justly say to the confirmed sinner, as to Ephraim of old---"Ephraim is joined to idols; leave him alone!"(Hosea 4:17)

Above all, it may be truly said, and with an awful emphasis, that these things are hid from men's eyes, when life comes to an end---comes to an end, sadly, before the great business of life is finished, or even begun; and, O how soon, and sometimes, how suddenly, does life end for what is it but a "mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes."(James 4:14)

How many instances are there of persons suddenly removed, some, it may be, sitting at the table, others walking in the streets, and others while lying on their beds, who retired to rest in usual health! And what security do we have, that this may not be the case with us? And should sudden death not prove our lot, how often does it happen that the body is visited with such distracting pains, as entirely to prevent any serious thoughts! How often does fever almost totally incapacitate the mind for reflection! Restlessness, attention to medicine, to sleep, and so on, so occupy the mind, that after all, death comes at an unexpected moment; and when death closes the scene, then are these things hid, forever hid from our eyes.

On such occasions, no doubt pious relations would weep, as Christ wept on this occasion; and how bitter must be such sorrow! O my wife, my husband, my child! had you but known the things that belonged to your peace! but, I fear, that now they are hidden forever from your eyes. This is the bitterness of sorrow---the very "gall of bitterness."(Acts 8:23) But when a relation or a friend dies "in the Lord,"(Revelation 14:13) we feel immediate consolation, assured that our loss is his eternal gain---I am mourning, but he is rejoicing.

On the contrary, if there is reason to fear the worst, ministers also must bitterly lament, and say, "All day long we have held out our hands to a disobedient and contrary people."(Romans 10:21) "Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?"(Isaiah 53:1) But, if others lament this catastrophe, how must the lost soul herself lament it! this will be the very emphasis of suffering in the eternal world! O fool that I was, how did I spend my time? What was I doing all the days of my life? How did I come to neglect my Bible? How could I shut my ears to the calls of ministers and friends? What wretched trifling will this life appear when the business of life was wholly neglected, and the amusements of sense occupied her time! Many a soul will say---"O had I spent my time in reading my Bible and in prayer, instead of spending it in vain conversation, amusements, and the vanities of the world, I might have avoided this misery; but now, these things are hid from my eyes."

And so we have seen; 1. That there are things which belong to our peace; 2. That there is a limited time in which the knowledge of these things may be acquired; and 3. That it is unspeakably tragic when they are neglected, and are hid forever from men's eyes.

To conclude. As these are things necessary to be known, let no one then plead for ignorance, or foolishly pretend that they know enough already. This is the language of many, but it is a sure proof that as yet they know nothing as they ought. If there are things that belong to our peace, and they must be known, do we apply our hearts to wisdom? Do we know them?---especially our state by nature, and the means of salvation by Jesus Christ? Is there a limited time in which they must be known? Would that you would well and truly then seize the golden opportunity.

Why should men not be as wise for eternity, as for time?---for their souls as well as for their bodies? In the management of human affairs, we seek to take advantage of the proper season. The farmer does this, the mechanic, the tradesman, the merchant, the student, all have their proper seasons, and they attend to business, if they are wise men, at those proper seasons. O let us do so, in those things that belong to our peace; let us not neglect the Bible, or the means of grace, or prayer. We have now another Lord's day to spend; let us spend it profitably; do not let these golden hours be lost in folly, but, while it is called today, let us hear the voice of the Son of God, and live.

Finally. Let those rejoice and be thankful, who have attended to these things, so that the great affair is settled; the great business of life is accomplished! Praise God for his goodness. Upon such an occasion, Christ rejoiced, and said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will."(Matthew 11:25-26)

Let us praise God for his special, distinguishing grace, and give him glory, now, and forevermore.