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“ Come ye blessed of my Father, receive the Kingdom prepared for you,” will also say, “ Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." This remark will fully justify the Minister of the Gospel (if justification be wanted) in setting forth “ the terrors of the Lord;" while it ought to silence those, who would presumptuously blame him for so doing. In fact, they cannot censure him for discharging this part of his office, without censuring Christ himself. Nor would Christ have fulfilled the predictions respecting his own ministry, had he confined himself to the “ prophesying of smooth things :” for we find it expressly foretold in the text, that He should be anointed to proclaim “not only the acceptable year of the Lord,” but also “ the day of vengeance of our God.”
Whence we may justly infer, that to alarm as well as to comfort, to hold forth the threatenings no less than the promises, the judgements no less than the consolations of Scripture, is the duty and the office of the Preacher of the Gospel
To discharge this duty, to fulfil this office, on the present occasion among you, my brethren, for your benefit, and to the glory of Jesus Christ, shall be my humble endeavour : and with this view, I purpose, (and may the
Spirit of God assist and bless the purpose !) to set before you life and death, a blessing and a curse; to proclaim to you, in the language of the text on the one hand, “ The acceptable year of the Lord,” and on the other, “ The day of vengeance of our God.” - Let me begin with endeavouring to give a general explanation of the two Periods here stated, and to show their respective Meaning
I. The Acceptable Year of the Lord.
The Prophet, in using this expression, seems evidently to have alluded to that divine institution, which formed so remarkable a feature in the Jewish dispensation, the Year of Jubilee. This institution, which is supposed to have derived its name from some peculiar sound of the trumpet with which it was proclaimed, was appointed to take place in every fiftieth year: and it might be called in a very appropriate sense “ the acceptable year.” For it was a year of general release; a year of general restitution to forfeited privileges and to lost possessions. In this year, not only every Israelite who had been reduced to a state of servitude or bondage, was set free, and restored to his liberty and friends; but every estate also, which from any cause had been alienated, reverted to its original possessor, or to his family. These were the words in which the institution was
appointed, “ Thou shalt cause the Trumpet of the Jubilee to sound, in the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of Atonement, shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land. And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof. It shall be a Jubilee unto you, and
ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.” * Surely a year thus divinely appointed for such important purposes, and bringing with it such distinguishing privileges, might well be called the acceptable year of the Lord :" and with very singular propriety might the Prophet, when speaking of the office of Christ, allude to this institution, as illustrating the blessings of that dispensation, which He, by His preaching, would introduce. In fact, the whole institution of the Jubilee was a typical institution. While it served to distinguish and to benefit the people to whom it was prescribed, it was designed also to exibit to them a lively representation of the spiritual privileges which the Gospel would bring with it. What indeed are those privileges, but a deliverance from bondage, and a restoration to our original inheritance? What does the
* Lev. xxv. 9, 10.
Gospel propose, but to redeem us from sin, and to bring us to heaven? The Gospel finds us in a state of spiritual bondage, by nature and by practice sinners, bound over -unto judgement, and under the dominion of sin. But it offers to free us from this state. It “proclaims liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prisons to them that are bound.” It offers to deliver us from condemnation, from the strength and power of sin, from the tyranny of Satan, from the sting of death, from the prison of the grave, from the pains of hell ! On the other hand, it also opens to us the kingdom of heaven. It proposes to invest us with a new title to this our forfeited inheritance. It promises to put us in possession of it, and perfectly to qualify us for the enjoyment of its pure and spiritual delights. Such are the privileges, such are the blessings, which the Gospel brings with it. And after this statement, there can be no difficulty in showing what is meant by the period mentioned in the text. “ The acceptable year of the
Lord,” in the sense in which the Prophet uses the expression, evidently denotes the period of the Gospel-dispensation ; the times, during which the spiritual privileges of the Gospel should be freely offered to all who will accept them. This period Christ proclaimed, when coming into Galilee He
preached the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, and said, “ The time is fulfilled, the Kingdom of God is at hand: Repent ye, and believe the Gospel.” This period He proclaimed, when in the synagogue of Nazareth He declared to those who were present, that the passage connected with the text was in that day fulfilled in their ears. This period He proclaimed throughout the whole course of His ministry. This period He commanded His Apostles to proclaim, saying to them, “ Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.” This period He has since continued to proclaim by the publication of His written Word, and by the voice of His faithful Ministers : one part of whose office, like His own, has ever been, and still is, to preach “the acceptable year of the Lord.”
But there is another Period also to be proclaimed
II. “ The Day of Vengeance of our God.”
We find in the writings of the Prophets, frequent mention made of “a Day of Vengeance ;" thus in the thirty-fourth chapter of Isaiah, the Prophet, in the midst of the most tremendous description of predicted Judgements, declares, “ for it is the Day of the Lord's Vengeance, and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion.” So again, in the sixty-third chapter, we find the