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affections of a parent's heart are by no means inconsistent with that discipline, which carefully looks into every motive by which the heart of the child is actuated, and reproves, rebukes and inflicts according to the degrees of guilt which an impartial investigation is able to discover.
According to the errors which professed christians have imbibed, they have considered themselves as the subjects of the divine forgiveness; but those who do not subscribe to their creed, they view as the guilty, whom the Lord will in no wise clear. Hence arises the complacency which they manifest while they talk of the righteous and the wicked. They are the righteous, and their neighbours are the wicked. They read the testimony, which informs us that the wicked shall be punished; but they are no otherwise affected by this, than as they are affected by some calamity which they are informed some people in a far country may experience; they do not so much as think of themselves. It is now, and among us, my christian brethren, the great and the main question, which is agitated against the doctrine of the divine impartiality, when and where are the wicked to be punished? Thousands and thousands are now standing by themselves and thanking God that they are not like other men; the case would be vastly different if we had that true sense of ourselves, which would lead us to smite our breasts and say, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
The attributes of the divine NAME, which consecrated a place for religious devotion, under the legal economy, are, in the christian dispensation, manifested in the great apostle and high priest of our profession, to whom the eternal Father hath given a name which is above every name, that in his name every knee shall bow and every tongue confess, that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. But this name, as revealed in Jesus, displays a glory which was but faintly shadowed under the law; for Jesus “hath brought life and immor
tality to light through the gospel.” Hear this, o dying man, and lay hold of the hope which is set before us, which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast, and entering into that within the vail, where our forerunner hath for us entered.
A house of worship, dedicated to this name, which is above every name, and set open for the sacred ministry, which displays, in their most obvious and glorious light, the attribute of divine mercy in the forgiveness of iniquity, transgression and sin, and the justice of God, in a system of retribution, which renders to every man according to his doings; and which proclaims a risen and glorified Redeemer as the head of every man, in whom God has given to all men life and immortality, is a proper place for a christian assembly to feast on the fruits of the spirit, and to offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise.
2dly. The true nature and spirit of devotion next claims our particular attention...
It seems reasonable to suppose, that the feast set forth in our text is a suitable figure to represent the true nature and spirit of christian worship.
Almighty God abundantly blessed his people in the fruits of their lands, giving them corn, oil and wine, and multiplied their flocks and herds; and he required of them that they should honour him by collecting the tithes of his bountiful providence, and bringing them together to the place where he established his name, and there eat these good things before the Lord. Thus the acceptable wor. ship
of God consisted in feasting his people on the good gifts which he had bestowed upon them. The christian, who worships God in spirit and in truth, well knows the application of this figure. Almighty God blesses his church with the abundant incoines of the fruits of his spirit, which are love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance, and with these fruits he requires us to honour him in our de
votions It was not to make the Lord kind to his people that they were directed to feast, with joy and gladness, before him; but it was because he had already blessed them, and because this feast itself was one of the greatest blessings they enjoyed. Thus it is with the christian congregation; we worship God in spirit and in truth, not expecting thereby to induce our bountiful Father in heaven to bestow on us his favours, but because we already enjoy them, and because the solemn exercises of devotion constitute our most exquisite pleasures. Nor do we, when guided by the spirit of truth, vainly offer to the Lord our devotions, expecting thereby to pacify his wrath and disarm his vengeance, which a disordered imagination supposes are burning against us; but realizing the true doctrine of the divine name, we offer our grateful devotions to him, who is gracious and merciful, who forgives our iniquities, transgression and sin, through the mediation of him who hath loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.
Our heavenly Father requires nothing of us, but for onr own comfort and edification; and as it could not be well pleasing to one of us, who is a father, to see his children approach his table with horror, with dread, with fear and trembling, and eat and drink for no other purpose than to appease his wrath, so it cannot be consistent with the divine spirit, for us to adhere to those sentiinents which induce devotions corresponding with such horrible fears.
The entertaining exercises of that religion which is well pleasing to God, are represented in the scriptures by several emblems which are worthy of our careful notice. Looking forward to the day of the Messiah's grace, the prophet Isaiah, represented the sentiments of divine truth as follows; “And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast.” It is evident that the gospel dispensation was in the prophet's mind,
when he delivered this testimony, for if his views had been limited by the separating wall which divided the Jews and the Gentiles, the feast would have been made for Jew, but not for Gentile. But Jesus hath broken down the middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile, that of the twain he might make, in himself, one new man.
A feast made by our heavenly Father for all people cannot be designed to reconcile him who makes the feast to those for whom it is made ; nor can this feast be composed of sentiments which exclude any from its blessings. The same prophet, stimulated by the quickening energies of the nourishing qualities of this feast, exclaims as follows; “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? And your labour for that which satisfieth not? Harken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.”
As other emblems of this divine repast, the same prophet speaks of rivers of waters in dry places, streams in deserts, and pools in parched ground. All these beautiful representations are realized in Jesus, who declared himself to be the bread of God, which came down from heaven to give life to the world; and who said that the water which he should give should so satisfy, that those who drank of it should never thirst.
In view of Jesus, in this extensive character, we understand his testimony, in which he says; “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me;" in which declaration he speaks of the fulfilment of the words of Isaiah, who said: “And it shall come to pass, in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.”
The spirit of the christian religion, and that
which leads the devotions of the sanctuary, is unfeigned gratitude to our inerciful Father in heaven, who graciously forgives our iniquities, transgressions and sins;, and who never fails to administer those salutary chastisements, which, in his hand, are means of grace, mercy and peace; and who has endowed his holy child Jesus with power to bring life and immortality to light through the gospel; and a lively active benevolence towards all mankind, as the offspring of our universal Pa. rent, who is equally good unto all, and whose tender mercies are over all his works. Under the influence of this spirit, and in the enjoyment of this feast, which God hath made in Sion for all people, a christian assembly presents, in the exercises of devotion, the most pleasing and delightful entertainment that our imagination can conceive.
Where parents and children, neighbours and friends, the old and young, assemble to confess their sins and realize the mercy of a pardoning Redeemer, to offer prayers in faith for all needed favours, to feast their hopes with the bright progpect of immortal glory, and to offer anthems of praise to the giver of every good and perfect gift; while all the social affections are warmed and strengthened, we may justly call such a place an heavenly place in Christ Jesus. Of such a place, the pious Watts, expressing the sentiment of the sweet singer of Israel, says;
“I've seen thy glory and thy power
Through all thy teinple shine :
That vision so divine
Not all the blessings of a feast
Can please my soul so well,
And in thy presence dwell.” 3dly. We are to speak of the design or object to be promoted by the public worship of God.
This is definitely expressed in the last member of our text, as follows: “ That thou mayest learn to fear the Lord thy God always.”