Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

SERMON IV.

THE LORD COMING TO HIS TEMPLE.

MALACHI iii. 1-3.

The Lord whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple;

even the Messenger 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 ? anul who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap- And he shall purify the sons of Ledi-that they may jfer un'o 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 taken up with contriving inethods of ainusing themselves, that they may pass 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 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 groundwork 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 : he requires, yea, he entreats them to submit. He points out a way in wbich their confession and submission shall be certainly accepted; and in this way, which he 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

* Lule vii. 31.

sung

for their diversion, accompanied with the sound of cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of instruments*. Surely, if such a

case as I have supposed could be found in real life, : though I might adınire 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 most serious sense actually realized amongst ourselves? 'I should insult your understandings, if I

[ocr errors]

# Dan. iii. 5.

VOL. IV.

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*. 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 his 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 in 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 humiliation, 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 supended 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.

* Rom. iii. 9.

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 sud“ denly 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 com

ing?” 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 aw

ful 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!

I. The names which are here ascribed to MESSIAH. II. The suddenness of his coming.

III. The searching power of it in general, expressed by “a 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 Adonai. 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

« PreviousContinue »