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mer. The truth contained in it is proposed, not to our curiosity as the subject of speculation, but to our faith. I do not attempt to explain it. But what God expressly declares, we are bound, upon the principles of right reason, to believe. For he is Truth, and cannot deceive us. 'There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and Holy Spirit.'* These three are frequently spoken of in the Scripture-to each of them a distinct part in the economy of salvation is ascribed; to each of them the perfections and honours of Deity are attributed. Yet there are not three Gods, but one. Consequently these three are one God. This doctrine may be above our comprehension, but cannot be contrary to our reason, if it be contained in a revelation from God. If it be simply received, upon the authority of the Revealer, it approves itself to be true, for it is found to be a key to the whole Scripture, which renders the general sense and scope every where consistent and plain. They who proudly reject it, and yet admit the Bible to be a divine revelation, are involved in difficulties from which all their sagacity and learning cannot free them. In vain they labour by singular interpretations, by the minutiae of criticism, and by an appeal to various readings and ancient versions, which, in a few passages, differ from the copies more generally received-in vain they endeavour by these refinements, to relieve themselves, when pressed by the obvious and natural sense of a thousand texts, which confirm the faith and hopes of plain Christians. The Gospel is designed for the poor. But the poor and unlearned would be at a great disadvantage, if the Scripture could not be rightly understood, without the assistance of such learning and such criticism as we often see pressed into the service, But the Holy Spirit graciously leads those who pray for his teaching, into such views of this high subject as are sufficient to comfort their hearts and to animate their obedience. The faith of those who are taught of God, is exercised in their approaches to him under two different modifications. Both are Scriptural, and therefore both are safe, and witnessed to by his gracious acceptance and blessing.
1. They come to God by Christ. They have access through him. Unworthy to speak for themselves, they bow their knees in his name. Christians are sufficiently distinguished and described by saying, 'They come to God by him.' They come to God, they cannot live without him in the world, as they once did. They are now conscious of wants and desires, which only God can satisfy; but they are conscious likewise that they are sinners, and therefore they durst not approach him, if they had not the in
* 1 John, v. 7. + Eph. ii. 18.
Phil. ii. 10.
Heb. vii. 25.
vitation of his promise, and an assurance of an advocate with the Father."
2. They come to God in Christ. He is the great temple, in whom the all-fulness dwells.'t and they are not afraid of idolatry, when they worship and honour the Son even as the Father. This distinct application to God, in the person of the Son of his love, perhaps becomes more frequent and familiar, as they advance in the knowledge of their Lord and Saviour.' They who seek to him for deliverance from sin and misery, at first, I believe, chiefly consider him as the Advocate and High Priest ; who, by the virtue of his atonement, and the prevalence of his intercession, is able to save to the uttermost. But when the apostle distributes Christians, according to their growth in grace, into the state of babes, young men, and fathers, he speaks of a more distinct and appropriate knowledge of him who is from the beginning, as the peculiar privilege and distinguishing attainment of the fathers. He speaks of him that is from the beginning, so often, that we can be at no loss to determine whom he intends by the expression. He applies it to him who was in the beginning with God, and whom he and the other apostles had heard and seen with their eyes, and touched with their hands. An eminent divine** points out some special seasons in the Christian life, in which he thinks the peculiar pressures of the soul may obtain the most sensible and immediate relief, by direct application to the Saviour. But there are some believers who find themselves almost continually in one or other of the situations which he marks as occasional. However this may be, I am ready to take it for granted, that they who really and cordially believe the Deity of Christ, do, at least at some seasons, and upon some occasions, expressly direct their prayers to him. If precedents be required to warrant this practice, the New Testament will furnish them in abundance. I shall select but a few. The apostle Paul bowed his knees to the God and father of our Lord Jesus; but he often prayed to the Lord Jesus. He prayed to him in the temple,†† and when he obtained that answer, My grace is sufficient for thee.' To him the prayer of the apostles and disciples was addressed previous to the lot, which was to determine a successor to Judas. And to him Stephen committed his departing spirit ;|||| an act of trust and worship of the highest kind, and at the most solemn season. In short, it is a strange inconsistence, if any, who acknowledge his Deity, question the propriety of praying to him. What is it, more or less, than to question the propriety of praying to God?
IV. This solemn worship and praise is referred ultimately to to him who sitteth upon the throne. To the great and glorious God, thus known and manifested, in and by, and with, the Lamb that was slain.
The mediatorial kingdom of Christ will have a period. He will reign as mediator till he has subdued all enemies under his feet, and perfected his whole work. Then his kingdom in this sense will cease; he will deliver it up to the Father, that God may be all in all. This passage is difficult, that is, the subject is too great for our faculties, in their present state of imperfection, fully to comprehend; for the difficulties we meet with in the Scripture are more properly to be ascribed to our ignorance. The Son, as man, is even now subject to the father; and God is undoubtedly all in all, at present, and from everlasting to everlasting. But his kingdom here is to be taken figuratively for the subjects of his kingdom, his people, whom he received as a trust and a treasure. These he will deliver up, and the form of his administration and government over them will be changed. They will then have no more sins to confess; there will be no more dangers requiring the care and tenderness of a shepherd, no enemies to be controlled, and the ordinances and means of grace, accommodated to their wants and weakness while in this world, will be no longer necessary. But MESSIAH, the Lamb that was slain, will ever be the head and Lord of the creation, the medium of communication of the light and love of God to his people; and God in him, the object of their eternal adoration and praise.
Then the grand, ultimate, final cause of all the manifestations of God will be completely obtained. The glory of the great Creator and Lawgiver, the splendour of all his perfections, will for ever shine, without a veil or cloud, and with a brightness which could not have been known by creatures, had not the entrance of evil given occasion for a display of his wisdom and love, in over-ruling it to the praise of his glorious grace.
Thus, according to the measure of my ability and experience, I have endeavoured to point out to you the meaning and importance of the well-chosen series of Scriptural passages, which are set to music in the Oratorio of the Messiah. Great is the Lord MESSIAH, and greatly to be praised! I have attempted to set before you a sketch of what Scripture teaches us concerning his person, undertakings, and success; the misery of those whom he came to save, the happiness to which he raises them, and the wonderful plan and progress of redeeming love. But who is suffioient for these things? Alas! how small a portion of his ways
* 1 Cor. xv. 28.
are we able to trace! But I would be thankful, that the desire of attempting this great subject was put into my heart, and that having obtained help of God, I have been preserved and enabled to finish my design. Imperfect as my execution of it has been, I cannot doubt that the various topics I have been led to insist on are the great truths of God. For what is properly my own, the defects and weaknesses which mix with my best services, I entreat his forgiveness, and request your candour. But I do not hesitate to say, that the substance of what I have advanced deserves and demands your very serious attention.
It is probable that those of my hearers who admire this Oratorio, and are often present when it is performed, may think me harsh and singular in my opinion, that of all our musical composition, this is the most improper for a public entertainment. But while it continues to be equally acceptable, whether performed in a church or in the theatre, and while the greater part of the performers and of the audience are the same at both places, I can rate it no higher than as one of the many fashionable amusements which mark the character of this age of dissipation. Though the subject be serious and solemn in the highest sense, yea, for that very reason, and though the music is, in a striking manner, adapted to the subject; yet, if the far greater part of the people who frequent the Oratorio, are evidently unaffected by the Redeemer's love, and uninfluenced by his commands, I am afraid it is no better than a profanation of the name and truths of God, a crucifying the Son of God afresh. You must judge for yourselves. If you think differently from me, you will act accordingly. Yet, permit me to hope and to pray, that the next time you hear the Messiah, God may bring something that you have heard in the course of these sermons, nearly connected with the peace and welfare of your souls, effectually to your remembrance.
I would humbly hope, that some persons, who were strangers to the power and grace of MESSIAH when I entered upon this service, are now desirous of seeking him with their whole hearts. Yes, I trust I have not laboured wholly in vain. The Gospel is 'the rod of his strength,'* which, when accompanied by the power of his Spirit, produces greater effects than the wonderworking rod of Moses. It causes the blind to see, the deaf to hear, and the dead to live. A faithful minister will account a single instance of success a rich recompense for the labour of a life. May this joy be mine! May the Lord encourage you to go on seeking him! Then he will surely be found of you. An
*Psalm cx. 2.
open door is set before you ;* and if you are truly willing to enter, none shall be able to shut it.
But may I not fear that I am still speaking to others, who, to this hour, have no cordial admiring thoughts of the great Saviour? Alas! should you die in your present frame of mind, let me, once more, entreat you to consider what your situation and employment will be, when all his redeemed people, and all his holy angels, shall join in worshipping and praising him, in the great day of his appearance.
Unless you repent, lay down your arms, and submit to his golden sceptre, your doom is already pronounced. Awful are the words of the Lord, by the prophet, and very applicable to your case, if, (which may his mercy prevent!) you should die in your sins. Therefore, thus saith the Lord God, Behold, my servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry behold, my servants shall drink, but ye shall be thirsty behold, my servants shall rejoice, but ye shall be ashamed: behold, my servants shall sing for joy of heart, but ye shall cry for sorrow of heart, and shall howl for vexation of spirit.' If the Scribes and Pharisees were filled with envy and grief when the children in the temple sung Hosanna to the Son of David ; what must be their anguish and remorse, their rage and despair, when the whole creation' shall join in his praise? If your thoughts of him now are like theirs, tremble at your danger; for unless you repent, your lot must be with them hereafter.
*Rev. iii. 8.
Isa. lxv. 13, 14.
Matth. xxi. 15.