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This was literally the case with the Jewish church, after she came out of the wilderness; and every appearance seems to betoken the like spirit in the church at the present day. O that we could be wise, and learn, by the example set us by the Jews, that pride and selfsufficiency are always before a fall!
I know the objector will say, How can it be true, that the church is spreading her banners over a large portion of the world, sending her missionaries and the Bible into every nook and corner of the habitable globe, conquering and to conquer; and, at the same time, growing more and more impure herself, becoming haughty, selfrighteous, and ungrateful, corrupt and lukewarm in her faith and practice, idolatrous in her worship, and cold and indifferent to her first love? This, say they, is paradoxical.
I answer, Paradoxical as it may seem, it is no less true. Have I not shown that the Jews were thus paradoxical, when they entered the promised land ? Do not the description Solomon hath given us of the church in his Songs, the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians and Galatians, and the history of the church in the days of Constantine, all go to show, that when the church has been most prospered in her worldly standing with the nations, with whom she may come in contact, she has the more deeply corrupted herself?
This does not argue that she ought not to spread her banners, send her missionaries, translate and circulate Bibles, educate the rising generation, establish her moral societies, and do all, and every work, which God in his word has commanded; but it argues that the church is imperfect, and that, in times of prosperity, she ought to consider,
1st. Her proneness to idolatry, her liability to selfrighteousness, her excessive love for the world, the temptations on every hand.
2dly. She ought to consider that adversity is set over against prosperity, that her faith may be tried, her motives sifted, the body purified, and the sanctuary cleansed. 3d. She ought to consider that the designs of God
will be accomplished, that the work must be executed, that all power centres in him; and, although the church may be proud, self-righteous, and deeply corrupted by unbelief and sin, yet God will eventually be glorified, his kingdom established, his will done in earth as in heaven; and the time is at hand, when the saints will possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.
MATT. xvi. 3.
Our text is a question proposed by Christ to the Pharisees and Sadducees, at a time when they came to him, tempting him for a sign from heaven; and is a reproof upon them for their unbelief in the signs already given by the Old Testament writers, which they professed to believe, and which were actually fulfilling before their eyes, yet disregarded. The Pharisees and Sadducees were two of the most learned and popular sects among the Jews ; many of them were scribes, lawyers, doctors, and teachers of the law; yet so perfectly blinded, that they could not or would not apply the most simple rules of interpretation to the law or prophets. They would apply the rules of common observation and common sense to the weather, but neither the one nor the other were used in understanding the Scriptures. They were well versed in the skill to tell the weather for the morrow, but had no skill in the promises, prophecies, and word of God. “When it is evening, ye say it will be fair weather, for the sky is red; and in the morning, it will be foul weather to-day, for the sky is red and lowering. Oye hypocrites ! ye ean discern the face of the sky, but can ye not (by the samo simple rule) discern the signs of the times?"
All the signs given in the word of God, concerning the first coming and person of the Messiah, were fulfilling before their eyes; yet they were demanding more
and greater signs from heaven. Christ had, and was then performing miracles which no man on earth could perform, and they ascribed it to the power of Beelzebub, No evidence had or could be presented, which they were not ready to evade or deny; and yet they claimed all the learning, all the wisdom, and all the piety of that day. This was the character of those whom Christ calls hypocrites, and to whom he addresses the question, “ But can ye not discern the signs of the times?" And happy would it have been for us, who live in this day of gospel light, when the gospel shines with greater effulgence than at any other period of time since the world began, if hypocrisy had died with the Pharisees and Sadducees; but it was not so. Any man, of common capacity of mind, who can divest himself of prejudice, or who will try to see the character of man as developed at the present day in matters of faith, will discover the same unbelief, the same disregard, the same taunting, tempting spirit, concerning the second coming of the Messiah, as the Pharisees and Sadducees manifested in their conduct and conversation with our blessed Redeemer. And the question may with equal propriety, and I fear with tenfold force, be put to us at this day, if Christ was here, as then. And I have much reason to fear, that many may be found among our great, learned, and teachers of divine things, who would receive from our divine Master the same reproof, were he as then a teacher among us. • Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed, lest he fall.” I shall, then, in treating on this subject, use my text as a reproof to us.
I. I shall show a number of signs which the Jews had in that day, as evidences of Jesus being the true Messiab.
II. Show the signs that Jesus Christ, the prophets, and apostles have given us of his second coming, now fulfilling in this day in which we live.
Under first head, the signs of Jesus being the true Messiah, were,
1. The universal peace at his birth. Of this Isaiah ii. 3, 4, had prophesied 760 years before, “ And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to
the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” This prophecy was accomplished at his birth. For the temple of Janus was shut the very year our Savior was born, which denoted universal peace; and this must have been known to the Jewish rulers. Also the doctrines of Jesus Christ taught that they should forgive and pray for their enemies, and learn war
" Peace on earth and good will to men,” was sung by the heavenly band when they announced the birth of the Savior in the city of David.
2. The star that appeared and guided the wise men to the place of his nativity, prophesied of by Balaam, Num. xxiv. 17. “There shall come a star out of Jacob,” &c.
3. A root out of Jesse. Isa. xi. 10, “In that day there shall be a root out of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek,” &c. That he was a descendant of Dayid was well known to the Jews, for they were very scrupulous in their genealogies, and from the fact that he was born in the city of David when his parents went up to be taxed where their names were enrolled.
4. Born of a virgin. Isa. vii. 14, “ Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." This was evidently fulfilled.
5. At Bethlehem. Micah v. 2, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”. This was fulfilled, according to their own showing, to the wise men from the east.
6. Herod slaying all the children in Bethlehem, from two years old and under, prophesied of by Jeremiah, xxxi. 15, “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation