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When God at the beginning, surveyed every thing that he had made, behold, it was very good.'* All was beauty and harmony, till sin introduced disorder and a curse. But far worse than what we suffer immediately from the providence of God, are the evils which we bring upon ourselves and upon each other. The dreadful consequences of war, rapine, discord, hatred, ambition, avarice, and intemperance, furnish part of every page in the mournful history of human life, and are felt in every nation, city, village, and family. Want, cares, and diseases, prey upon individuals. Disappointment, dissatisfaction, vanity, and vexation of spirit, are experienced by persons of every rank and in every stage of human life. How much more desirable would it be, were it not for the hope of the Gospel, to share with the brute creation, than to bear the name of man in his fallen state! The brutes have few wants; their propensities, and the means of gratifying them, are suited to their natures, adapted to their powers, and conducive to the preservation of the species. They neither regret the past, nor tremble under apprehensions of the future. It is far otherwise with man. His boasted pleasures end with a sting, and often he cannot bear his own reflections on them. He suffers almost as much from imaginary fears, as from real afflictions. The more he possesses, the more are the sources of his anxieties multiplied and enlarged. And after having been long wearied with a train of mortifications, pains, and inquietudes, he must, at last, however unwilling, yield to that stroke of death, the thought of which, when strongly realized to his mind, was always sufficient to embitter the happiest hours of his life.
But publish the glad tidings from the mountains, and let the joyful sound diffuse over the plain-'Your God cometh.' MESSIAH establishes a new, a spiritual kingdom upon the earth; and his happy subjects are freed from the misery in which they were involved. They commit all their concerns to him, and he manages for them. Their fears are removed, their irregular desires corrected, and all that is really good for them is secured to them by his love, promise and care. Afflictions still await them, but they are sanctified. To them the nature of afflictions is changed. They are appointments graciously designed for their advantage. Their crosses, no less than their comforts, are tokens of God's favour;† they have them only because their present situation requires discipline, and they could not be so well without them. They are assured of support under them,‡ and a final deliverance out of them all, for there is a happy hour approaching, when all their troubles shall cease, and they shall enter upon a state of eternal, uninterrupted, inconceivable joy.|| * Gen. i. 31. † Heb. xii. 6, 7. 12 Cor. xii. 9. Isa. Ix. 20. Rev. xxi. 4.
For these purposes the Son of God was revealed. The prophets saw his day affar off, and proclaimed his approach- Thy God cometh! Though truly a man, he is truly God. Neither man nor angel could remove our guilt, communicate to us a spiritual life, relieve us from misery, and give us stable peace in a changing world, hope and triumph in death, and eternal life beyond it. But his wisdom and power are infinite, and his purpose unchangeable. He would not have invited the weary and heavy laden to come to him, if he was not able and determined to give them rest. None that seek him are disappointed, or sent empty away a sufficient proof that his compassion, his bounty, his fulness, are properly divine. Therefore the apostle, speaking of the riches of his grace, uses the epithet, Unsearchable.'* His treasure of life and salvation is inexhaustible, like a boundless, shoreless, bottomless, ocean; like the sun, which, having cheered the successive generations of mankind with his beams, still shines with undiminished lusture, is still the fountain of light, and has always a sufficiency to fill innumerable millions of eyes in the same instant.
Does the language of my text cause joy to spring up in your hearts or is it nothing to you? If you heard the Messiah, you were, perhaps, affected by the music of the passage; how much are you to be pitied, if you are hitherto unaffected by the sentiment! Yet, once more, hear-Thy God cometh!" He did come in the fulness of time, according to the prophecy; and the word of prophecy assures us, that he will come again. 'Behold he cometh in the clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also that pierced him.'t Prepare to meet thy God.'
THE MORNING LIGHT.
ISAIAH, lx. 1—3.
Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee and the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
ONE strong internal proof that the Bible is a divine revelation, may be drawn from the subject matter; and particularly that it *Ephes. iii. 8. ↑ Rev. i. 7. Amos. iv. 12.
is the book, and the only book, which teaches us to think highly and honourably of God. I say the only book, for there is no right knowledge of God where the Bible is not known. What is the Jupiter of Homer, compared with the God of Israel, as he is represented to us by his servants the prophets? And if the Heathen philosophers, in some detached passages, have sentiments not altogether unworthy of him, history honestly tells them how they obtained them. They travelled, and they are generally said to have travelled into Phoenicia or Egypt to the confines of that people who alone thought rightly of God, because to them only he had made himself known by a revelation. If such a description as we have in the fortieth chapter of Isaiah, from the twelfth verse to the end, had been known only of late years, recovered, we will suppose out of the ruins, of Herculaneum, there is little doubt but it would have engaged the attention and admiration of the learned world. For the most admired writings of antiquity, upon a candid comparison, are unspeakably inferior to it. The inimitable sublimity of the prophets is natural, just, and unforced, and flows from the grandeur of their subjects, because they were influenced by him who alone can speak worthily of himself.
A song so vast, a theme so high,
Calls for the voice that tun'd the sky.
With them, the whole compass of the creation is but as dust upon the balance, in respect of the great Creator. His purpose is fate, his voice is power. He speaks, and it is done. Thus he called the universe into being; and thus, as the great Lord and Proprieter of all, he still maintains and governs it, directing the frame of nature, and every particular event and contingence, to the promoting of his own glory, the last and highest end of all his works.
The principal of these is, the exhibition of his perfections in the person of his Son. The prophecies we have already considered, announce this event with a gradual increase of clearness and precision, as the period of accomplishment is supposed to draw nigh. We lately heard the command to proclaim his approach from the hills and tops of the mountains. Here the prophet begins to contemplate the effects of his actual appearance. The earth is considered as involved in a state of gross darkness but the sun, the Sun of Righteousness, is about to arise, and to fill it, by his beams, with light, life, and glory. These effects, indeed, will not extend to all, for many will love darkness rather than light. But he will not shine in vain. There will be a peo
ple prepared to receive him, and to rejoice in his light. They shall arise as from sleep, as from the grave, and his light, reflected upon them, shall cause them to shine likewise. Darkness shall still cover those who reject him; yea, their darkness will be increased. But the glory of the Lord shall be seen upon all who believe, and their numbers from age to age, shall be enlarged. Nations shall come to him; and kings shall be subservient to the spreading of his kingdom. Such is the scope of the passage before us. I shall briefly consider a few of the leading par
ticulars contained in it.
1. As the sun is the source of light to the natural world, so is MESSIAH to the moral and spiritual world. Light, and its opposite, darkness, are figuratively used in Scripture. The latter is applied to a state of ignorance, sin, and misery, as in the following texts: He that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.'* 'If we say we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.'f Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' The former, therefore signifies true knowledge, holiness, and happiness. Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.'S When I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me.'|| 'Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.' I select but one instance of each kind; an attentive reader of the Scripture will meet with many expressions of a like import. But there is, likewise, an intermediate state; light advancing from the early dawn to the perfect day. This twilight, no less than day-light, is from the sun. Such was the state of the Old Testament Church. MESSIAH was the source of their knowledge, hope, and joy; but he was (if I may so speak) below the horizon, as to them. Though believers, under that dispensation, were a people saved of the Lord, they were trained up under types and shadows, were influenced by a spirit of comparative bondage and distance like children under age; and rather longed for, than actually possessed, the gracious liberty which the children of God enjoy under the Gospel. But the Sun arose, and the shadows vanished, when the Son of God incarnate dwelt and conversed with men, honoured his temple with his personal presence, and superseded all the Levitical sacrifices, by the one offering of himself upon the cross. The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.' But more especially we date the beginning of his visible kingdom from the
*John, xii. 35. †1 John, i. 6. Matth. xxv. 30. Eph. v. 8. || Micah, vii. 8. Psalm xcvii. 11.
day of Pentecost, which followed his ascension. Then he signally bestowed the gifts which, as Mediator, he had received for men, and, by the power of his Holy Spirit, authorized and qualified his servants to go forth and preach salvation in his name. Then the partition-wall between Jew and Gentile was taken away, and his righteousness was openly shown in the sight of the Heathen.' Abraham, Moses, Elijah, and other servants of God, had been bighly favoured and highly honoured; but we are assured, by our Lord himself, that none born of woman had been greater than John, his fore-runner; and yet, he added, the least in the kingdom of heaven,' that is, in the New Testament or Gospel church, is greater than he.'* The apostles were happy in the peculiar privilege of attending on his person; yet he told them, 'It is expedient for you that I go away.' There were still greater privileges depending upon the influence of the promised Comforter, who was to abide with the church for ever. By the power of his Holy Spirit, the Lord is now present with all his ministers and people in every place, whether retired in secret from the view of men, or assembled together in his name ; and though the great events upon which their hopes are founded, his life, passion, death, resurrection, and ascension, took place long ago, he so realizes the declaration of them in his word to their hearts, that they are no less assured of what they read, than the apostles who saw him with their own eyes. Thus the Gospelstate is a dispensation of light. The Sun is risen with life and healing in his beams; and they who have the eyes of their understanding opened, enjoy a bright and marvellous day. They see, admire, adore, rejoice, and love.
II. The subjects of MESSIAH's kingdon, the living members of his church, are so irradiated by him, that they shine likewise; as the moon shines, but with a borrowed light derived from the sun. Beholding, in this glass, the glory of the Lord, they are changed into the same image, from glory to glory,' according to the measure and growth of their faith. Two points may be observed under this head.
1. The fact, that they do thus shine. Though they were once darkness, they are now light.|| A dark, ignorant, wicked, selfish Christian, is a contradiction in terms. There may be such, there are too many such, amongst those who make profession of the name of Christ; but they who truly know him, walk in the light, as he is in the light.' They have knowledge, 'a good understanding.' Perhaps the greater part of real
*Matth. xi. 11. 2 Cor. iii. 18.
+ John, xvi. 7.
Matth. vi. 6. xvii. 20. Psalm cxi. 10.