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with all their heart, and soul, and strength; to devote themselves absolutely to his service, and to expect their supreme happiness from his favour and approbation, if they did not know that he is over all, God blessed for ever.
With respect to the inferior character he sustains in our nature, and for our sakes, as the Father's servant, he is styled, “The Messenger of the covenant.' He is the Gift, Promise, Head, and Substance of the everlasting covenant. And he came himself to establish the covenant, and to declare and bestow the blessings it contained. “God, who had before spoken, at divers times and in sundry manuers, by his prophets, spoke, in the fulness of time, by his Son ;* testifying to bim by a voice from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, hear him ; in him I am well pleased.'t To the same purpose our Lord spake of himself. He prefaced his gracious invitation to all, without exception, who are weary and heavy laden, to come to him for rest, with a declaration of his commission and authority, saying,' All things are delivered unto me of my Father, and no one,'(oudels) “ knoweth the Son but the Father, neither knoweth any one the Father, save the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.'I The law was given by Moses ;$ the moral law, to discover the extent and abounding of sin; the ceremonial law, to point out, by typical sacrifices and ablutions, the way in which forgiveness was to be sought and obtained. But grace, to relieve us from the condemnation of the one, and truth answerable to the types and shadows of the other, came by Jesus Christ.
It is further said, “ The Lord, whom ye seek, and the Messenger in whom ye delight. Messiah was the hope and desire of the true Israel of God, from the earliest times; and when he was born into the world, there was a prepared people waiting and longing for him, as their consolation. The people at large, likewise, professed to expect great things from the coming of Messiah. But their expectations were low and earthly. They supposed that he would deliver them from the Roman yoke, and give them victory and power over the Heathen nations. The more grievous bondage of sin under which they were enslaved, they were not sensible of, nor had they had a disposition suited to the privileges and hours of the kingdom which he designed to establish; and therefore, their understandings being darkened by prejudice and prepossession, they could not discern his character. The prophecies, which were read in their synagogues every sabbath, marked out the time and circumstances of Messiah's appearance, the places which he should principally visit,
* Heb.i, 1.
Matth. iji. 17.
I Matth. xi. 27.
John, i. 17.
the doctrine he should teach, and the works which he should perform; but though all these particulars exactly applied to Jesus, they obstinately rejected him, and proceeded to fulfil what was further foretold of his sufferings and death, with such a minute punctuality, as if they had designedly taken the prophecies for the rule of their conduct. Thus, by giving neither more nor less than thirty pieces of silver to his betrayer ; by, buying the potter's field, and no other, with the money afterwards ; by casting lots for one of his garments, and making a distribution of the rest; by piercing his side, contrary to the customs in such punishments; and by omitting to break his legs, which, from their treatment of the malefactors who suffered with him, seems to have been usual—in these, and several other instances, they acted, though unwittingly, as if it had been their design and study to accomplish the Scriptures, to their own confusion and condemnation.
II. This was the reason why his coming to bis temple was to them sudden. Though long foretold and long exexpected, and though the precise time of his advent, and the accompanying signs, were accurately defined and described, yet, when the season arrived, he came suddenly, unlooked for, and unknown. He came upon them in an hour that they thought not of, and in a manner of which they were not aware. When he stood in the midst of them, they knew not that it was he. How dreadfully does sin harden and infatuate the hearts of men ! The Jews, in our Saviour's time, furnish us with a striking instance, that it is possible for people fatally to miscarry with the greatest advantages and means for information in their possession. They accounted themselves the people of God, made their boast of his law, and their relation to Abraham. But they hated Messiah, and crucified him who was the object of Abraham's faith. The opposition of their leaders and teachers was the most malicious; for many of them acted against the light of their minds, and were often convicted in their consciences, though they refused to be convinced. But an ignorant attachment to these blind guides was ruinous to their blind followers; who, though they sometimes, from a view of his mighty works, were struck with astonishment, and constrained to say, 'Is not this the son of David ?' were at length influenced by their priests to prefer a murderer to him, and, with a clamorous importunity, to compel Pilate to put bim to death. The like misapprehensions produce the like effects among professed Christians at this day. We, likewise, have the Scriptures ; but how many who admit their authority in words, live willingly ignorant of their contents, and act in direct contradiction to their tenour ! The power of
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the Saviour is likewise displayed among us : his preached Gospel is daily made effectual to the great purposes for which it is vouchsafed, yet multitudes reject it with no less pertinacity than the Jews rejected him in person. “At length death surprises them, and they sink into darkness, beyond recall. To them the Lord may be said to come suddenly, for they think not of him till they actually find themselves at his tribunal. And this not only when ihey are cut off by a sudden stroke, but often when their dissolution is most gradual, and every one about them can perceive its approach by their countenances ; they themselves, though wasting with disease, and worn out with pain, still flatter themselves with hopes of amendment and recovery, to their last gasp ; and a lingering death is to them no less sudden than if they were killed by a flash of lightning.
III. It is asked, . Who may abide the day of his coming ?' The effect is compared to a refiner's fire, and to fullers' soap. the refiner's fire penetrates the metal, and thereby searches, discovers, and consumes the dross. The fullers’ soap also, though it does not destoy the texture of the cloth, cleanses it, by remove ing, and, as it were, consuming the spots and defilement which are found in it. The idea conveyed by these illustrations is the
The day of his coming is a day of trial, a trial which issues in the purification of the work of God in his church, and in the detection and destruction of every thing in it which is contrary to his will.
The coming of Messiah may be taken in several senses.
To the Jews, according to the promise of God, repeated from age to age, he came in
person. "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among them.'* The term in the original alludes to the visible symbol of the divine presence, which resided in the tabernacle and temple. Thus, for a season, he resided among them, in a temple not made with hands, but formed by the immediate agency of the Holy Spirit, in the womb of a virgin. This was a happy time to those who received and acknowledged him. But the bulk of the nation could not abide the trial which his appearance exposed them to ; they were proved by it to be but reprobate and counterfeit silver. The thoughts of many hearts were revealed. Many specious characters were detected. The pretended sanctity and outward strictness of the Scribes and Pharisees, was evidenced to be mere hypocrisy. He exposed them in their true colours, and upon many occasions put them to shame and to silence. And where his word did not cleanse like soap, it burnt like fire, and the persons and places that rejected
* John, 1. 14.
| Luke, ii. 35.
him were rendered inexcusable. Their great privilege of seeing his wonderful works, and hearing his gracious words, being abused, aggravated their guilt and condemnation, and made their doom beavier than that of Sodom and Gomorrah. To them, the day of the Lord, which in their own sense they professed to desire, was darkness, and not light.*
If he had not come and spoken to them himself, they had not had sin.t That is, comparatively; he found them great sinners, and they would have been such if he had not visited them. But after he had spoken to them, and spoken in vain, they had no cloak for their sin. From that time they were deprived of every shadow of plea, excuse, or extenuation. And all their former wickedness was light, compared with the enormous crime they were guilty of in rejecting and crucifying the Son of God. By refusing him, they rendered their case helpless and hopeless, because there is no other name but his, given among men, whereby they may be saved. But he cleansed those who received him, he removed their guilt, their fears, their ignorance. He gave them a clean heart, and a new spirit. Yet to these, also, he was as a refiner's fire, and as fullers' soap. They likewise had prejudices and selfish tempers, which were not at once removed. He called them to a state of suffering and self-denial, to forsake all, and to take up their cross daily for his sake.
In another sense, his coming is not restrained to a particular time. Wherever his Gospel is preached, the Lord is come. It is by the Gospel he rides forth prosperously, conquering and to conquer. Thus he has promised to be present with his ministers, and wherever two or three are met in his name,' to the end of the world. Thus he is come to us.
And the effects are the same as when he was personally upon earth. His Gospel still discovers the thoughts of many hearts. Many persons who, till then, were reputed religious, by the contempt they cast upon this wonderful expedient of infinite wisdom and love to save sinners, manifest their ignorance and hatred of the law and holiness of God, and that the religion they pretend to is an empty, lifeless form, destitute of life and power. To them, though in itself a savour of life, it proves a savour of death. It provokes their enmity, increases their obduracy, and leaves them without ex
But it is life, indeed, to those who receive it. They are raised by it from a death of sin, unto a life of righteousness and peace. Their tempers, desires, pursuits, and hopes, are changed and elevated. Old things pass away, and all things become new
† John, xv. 22.
| Psalm, xlv. 4.
Amos, v. 18.
to them, according as it is written, “If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature.'*
He comes to individuals by the power of his Spirit. This makes the word of his Gospel effectual. For the kingdom of God is not in word only, but in power. When he thus visits the hearts of sinners, his word is like fire and soap ; - quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword.'t Then they feel, and tremble, and cry out, with the prophet, Wo is me, I am undone. But in this way their dross is consumed, their defilement removed. When he thus wounds, he likewise beals. He gives them faith ; by faith they look unto him, and are enlightened and saved.
We surely expect that he will come again. Not as he once came, in a state of humiliation. The Babe of Bethlehem, the Man of Sorrows, who hung, and bled, and died upon the cross for our sins, will return in glory. • Behold he cometh in the clouds, and every eye shall see him.'1 Concerning this day, emphatically called the day of the Lord, we may well say, 'Who may abide it ? To those who have not been the subjects of his refining operations here, he will then be a consuming fire. That great day, (for which all other days were made, when the Lord shall descend with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God, will burn like an oven, and all the proud, and all that do wickedly, shall be as stubble,' and the day that cometh shall burn them up.'|| Where, then, shall the impenitent, ungodly sinner appear ? But it will be a joyful day to them that love his appearing. He will arise upon them, as the Sun of Righteousness, with healing on his wings; he will wipe away their tears, vindicate their characters, acknowledge them before the assembled world, and say unto them, 'Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.'s
IV. It is particularly said, 'He will purify the sons of Levi,' that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. • The Sons of Levi, the priests, the officiating ministers of God;
were gone out of the way, and had corrupted the covenant of the Lord, and thereby had caused many to stumble ;'T they dishonoured their office, and became themselves vile and contemptible. Thus they went on, from bad to worse, till the men of that generation filled up the measure of the iniquity of their forefathers, by the rejection of MESSIA. He also rejected them. The blasted, barren fig-tree,** which withered to the very root at his word, was an emblem of their condition. In a little time,
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* 2 Cor. v. 17. + Heb. iv. 12. | Rev. i. 7. || Mal. iv. 1. $ Matth. xxv. 34. 1 Mal.ji. 8, 9. ** Matth. xxi. 19.