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But every member of this mystical temple, being by nature afar off from God, experiences a previous change, which may be not unfitly described by the terms of my text. Before the Lord take possession of his people, and in order to it, “He shakes the heavens and the earth. Their former views of God, and of
' themselves, are altered by a light which penetrates the soul. All that they have been building in religion, till then, is shaken and overturned. Their vain hopes are shaken to the foundation. This concussion makes way for the perception of his glory as a Saviour. In this day of his power they are made willing to throw open the gates of their hearts, that the King of Glory may enter.
But as I do not stand here to amuse you with a declamation on a subject in which you are not immediately interested, and as my office as a preacher both warrants and requires me to address myself not only to your understandings, but likewise to your consciences, I must be allowed, before I conclude, to propose this question to your consideration, Is Messiah, the desire of all nations, the object of your chief desire ? How much depends upon the answer! Do you wish to know your present state in
! the sight of God? If you are faithful to yourselves you may be satisfied, provided you will abide by the decision of the Scripture: God is well pleased in his Son; if you are well pleased with him, if he is precious to you, and the desire of your soul is supremely directed to him, then you assuredly possess the beginning, the fore-taste, and the earnest of eternal life. If you so enter into the descriptions given in the Bible, of his person, love, office, and glory, as to place your whole dependence upon him, to devote yourselves simply to him, and to place your happiness in his favour, then you are happy indeed! Happy, even at present, though not exempted from a share in the afllictions incident to this mortal state. For your sins are pardoned, your persons are accepted in the Beloved ; to you belong the promises of guidance, protection, and supply through life, victory over death, and then a crown of glory which fadeth not away. To say all in a few words, God is your Father, and heaven is your
home. But, on the other hand, if you trust in yourself that you are righteous and good, at least comparatively so; if your attachment to the business or the pleasure of the world engrosses your thoughts and application, so that you have no leisure to attend to the record which God has given of his Son, or no relish for the subject, you have been hitherto guilty of treating the most glorious display of the wisdom and goodness of God with contempt. Many persons thus employed and thus disposed, bear respectable characters in civil life, from which I do not wish to VOL. III.
detract. But, however amiable you may be in the judgment of your fellow creatures, you are a sinner in the sight of God, and will be treated by him as an enemy to his government and glory, if you finally persist in a rejection of bis Gospel. The great point which will determine your state for eternity, will be this, What think you of Christ ? For it is written, If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.'* He must and will fall under the curse and condemnation of the law, and be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and the glory of his power. To-day, therefore, while it is called to-day, (for to-morrow is not ours,) may you hear his voice, and fee for refuge to the hope set before you,
THE LORD COMING TO HIS TEMPLE.
Malachi, iij. 1-3.
The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple ; even the Messen
ger of the covenant whom ye delight in ; behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming ? and who shall stand when he appeareth ? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fuller's soap -And he shall purify the sons of Levi-that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.
• WHEREUNTO shall we liken the people of this generation, and to what are they like?'+ I represent to myself a number of persons of various characters, involved in one common charge of high treason. They are already in a state of confinement, but not yet brought to their trial. The facts, however, are so plain, and the evidence against them so strong and pointed, that there is not the least doubt of their guilt being fully proved, and that nothing but a pardon can preserve them from punishment. In this situation, it should seem their wisdom, to avail themselves of every expedient in their power for obtaining mercy. But they
are entirely regardless of their danger, and wholly iaken up with • contriving methods of amusing themselves, that they may päss
away the term of their imprisonment with as much cheerfulness as possible. Among other resources, they call in the assistance of music. And amidst a great variety of subjects in this way, they
*1 Cor. xvi. 22.
| Luke, vii. 31.
are particularly pleased with one. They choose to make the solemnities of their impending trial, the character of their Judge, the methods of his procedure, and the awful sentence to which they are exposed, the ground-work of a musical entertainment, And, as if they were quite unconcerned in the event, their attention is chiefly fixed upon the skill of the composer, in adapting the style of his music to the very solemn language and subject with which they are trifling. The King however, out of his great clemency and compassion towards those who have no pity for themselves, prevents them with his goodness. Undesired by them, he sends them a gracious message. He assures them, that he is unwilling they should suffer : be requires, yea, he entreats them to submit. He points out a way in which their confession and submission shall be certainly accepted; and in this way which be condescends to prescribe, he offers them a free and a full pardon. But instead of taking a single step towards a compliance with his goodness, they set his message likewise to music; and this, together with a description of their present state, and of the fearful doom awaiting them if they continue obstinate, is sung for their diversion, accompanied with the sound of cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of instru
Surely, if such a case as I have supposed, could be found in real life, though I might admire the musical taste of these people, I should commiserate their insensibility !
But is not this case more than a supposition? Is it not, in the Inost serious sense, actually realized amongst ourselves ? I should insult your understandings, if I judged a long application necessary. I know my supposition must already have led your thoughts to the subject of the Messiah, and to the spirit and temper of at least the greater part of the performers, and of the audiences. The Holy Scripture concludes all mankind under sin.f It charges them all with treason and rebellion against the great sovereign Lawgiver and Benefactor ; and declares the misery to which, as sinners, we are obnoxious. But God is long-suffering, and waits to be gracious. The stroke of death, which would instantly place us before his awful tribunal, is still suspended. In the mean time he affords us his Gospel, by which he assures us there is forgiveness with him. He informs us of a Saviour, and that, of bis great love to sinners, he has given his only Son to be an atonement and mediator, in favour of all who shall sue for mercy his name.
The character of this Saviour, his unspeakable love, his dreadful sufferings, the agonies he endured in Gethsemane, and upon
the cross are made known to us. And as his past hu
* Dan. iii. 5.
* Rom. iii. 9.
miliation, so his present glory, and his invitation to come to him for pardon and eternal life, are largely declared. These are the principal points expressed in the passages of the Messiah. Mr. Handel, who set them to music, has been commemorated and praised, many years after his death, in a place professedly devoted to the praise and worship of God; yea, (if I am not misinformed,) the stated worship of God, in that place, was suspended for a considerable time, that it might be duly prepared for the commemoration of Mr. Handel. But, alas ! how few are disposed to praise and commemorate MESSIAH himself! The same great truths, divested of the music, when delivered from the pulpit, are heard by many admirers of the Oratorio with indifference, too often with contempt.
Having thus, as I conceived myself bound in duty, plainly and publicly delivered my sentiments of the great impropriety of making the fundamental truths of Christianity the subject of a public amusement, I leave what I have said to your serious reflections, hoping it will not be forgotten ; for I do not mean to trouble you often with a repetition of it. Let us now consider the passage before us. If you read it with attention, and consider the great ideas it suggests, and the emphatical language with which they are clothed, you will not, perhaps, think the manner of my introducing it wholly improper.
Malachi confirms and unites the prophecies of Isaiah and Haggai, which were the subject of our two last discourses. John is the messenger spoken of in the beginning of the first verse, sent to prepare the way of the Lord. Then the Lord himself shall come suddenly to his temple,' that is, immediately after the appearance of his forerunner, and with regard to the people in general, unexpectedly.
The question, Who may abide the day of his coming ?' intimates the greatness and solemnity of the event. If we take his coming in an extensive sense, to denote the whole of his sojourning upon earth, from his incarnation to his ascension, it is unspeakably the greatest of all events recorded in the annals of mankind; and though he lived in the form of a servant, and died the death of a malefactor, the vast consequences which depend upon his appearance under these humiliating circumstances, rendered it a manner of coming every way worthy of himself. It afforded a more awful discovery of the majesty, glory, and holiness of God, than was displayed upon mount Sinai, and proved a closer and more searching appeal to the hearts and consciences of men. To enter more into the spirit and meaning of the question here proposed, we shall briefly take notice of the following points which the words offer to our serious meditation. May the Holy Spirit,
whose office it is to glorify the Saviour, enlighten our hearts to understand them, with application to ourselves !
1. The names which are bere ascribed to MESSIAH. II. The suddenness of his coming.
III. The searching power of it in general, expressed by refiner's fire,' and by fullers' soap.'
IV. Its purifying power on the sons of Levi,' the priesthood in particular.
I. The names ascribed to MESSIAH.
• The Lord.' It is a general rule with our translators to express LORD in capital letters, where it answers to Jehovah in the Hebrew, and there only. But this place is an exception. The word here is not Jehovah, but Adonia. It is, however, a name of God, though not incommunicable like the other, being frequently applied to kings and superiors. It properly implies authority and rule; as we say, A Lord and Master: 'In this connexion it is undoubtedly a divine name. The Lord is said to come to his temple, to his own temple. It was a house consecrated to the God of Israel. The first temple he honoured with tokens of his presence; the second, he visited in person ; on which account it exceeded the first in glory. MESSIAH, therefore, who appeared in our nature, and was known amongst men, as a man, and who is now worshipped both in heaven and upon earth, is the God of Israel. He came to his own. This doctrine of God manifest in the flesh is the pillar and ground of truth : the only foundation on which a sinner, who knows the just desert of his sin, can build a solid hope of salvation, is, that Jesus Christ is the true God and eternal life.'* Unless this be admitted, the whole tenour, both of the Old and New Testament, is unintelligible. To say that this doctrine approves itself to human reason in its present fallen, depraved state, would be to contradict the apostle, who asserts, that no man can say that Jesus Christ is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.'t But it is higly reasonable to those who see that they must perish without such an atonement as shall declare the righteousness of God, po less than his mercy, in the forgiveness of sin ; who feel the necessity of holiness, in order to happiness; and are acquainted with the nature and variety of the snares, temptations, and enemies to which they are exposed. Such persons cannot venture their eternal concerns upon the dignity, or care, or power, or patience of a mere creature, however exalted and excellent; they must be assured that their Saviour is almighty, or they dare not trust in him; nor would they dare to honour the Son as they honour the Father, to love him
*1 John, v. 20.
f 1 Cor. xi. 3.