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ledged him. But the bulk of the nation could not abide the trial which his appearance exposed them to, they were proved by it to be but reprobate and counterfeit silver. The thoughts of many hearts were revealed *. Many specious characters were detected. The
pretended sanctity and outward strictness of the Scribes and Pharisees, was evidenced to be mere hypocrisy. He exposed them in their true colours, and upon many occasions put them to shame and to silence. And where his word did not cleanse like soap, it burnt like fire, and the persons and places that rejected him were rendered inexcusable. Their great privilege of seeing his wonderful works, and hearing his gracious words, being abused, aggravated their guilt and condemnation, and made their doom heavier than that of Sodom and Gomorrah. To them the day of the Lord, which in their own sense they professed to desire, was darkness, and not lightt. If he had not come and spoken to them himself, they had not had sinf. That is comparatively; he found them great sinners, and they would have been such if he had not visited them. But after he had spoken to them, and spoken in vain, they had no cloak for their sin. From that time they were deprived of every shadow of plea, excuse, or extenuation. And all their former wickedness was light, compared with the enorinous crime they were guilty of in rejecting and crucifying the Son of God. By refusing him, they rendered their case helpless and hopeless, because there is no other name but his, given among men, whereby they may be saved. But he cleansed those who received him, he removed their guilt, their fears, their ignorance. He
gave them a clean heart, and a new spirit. Yet to these also he
* Luke ii. 35.
+ Amos v. 18.
# John xv. 22.
was as a refiner's fire, and as fullers' soap. They likewise bad prejudices and selfish tempers, which were not at once removed. He called them to a state of suffering and self denial, to forsake all, and to take up their cross daily for his sake.
In another sense, his coming is not restrained to a particular time. Wherever his Gospel is preached, the Lord is come. It is by the Gospel he rides forth prosperously, conquering and to conquer*. Thus he has promised to be present with his ministers, “and wherever two “or three are met in his name,” to the end of the world. Thus he is come to us. And the effects are the same as when he was personally upon earth. His Gospel still discovers the thoughts of many hearts. Many persons who till then were reputed religious, by the contempt they cast upon this wonderful expedient of infinite wisdom and love to save sinners, manifest their ignorance and hatred of the law and holiness of God, and that the religion they pretend to is an empty lifeless form, destitute of life and power. To them, though in itself a savour of Life, it proves a savour of death. It provokes their enmity, increases their obduracy, and leaves them without excuse. But it is life indeed to those who receive it. They are raised by it from a death of sin, unto a life of righteousness and peace. Their tempers, desires, pursuits, and hopes, are changed and elevated. Old things pass away, and all things become new to them, according as it is written, “ If any man be in Christ "Jesus, he is a new creaturet.”
He comes to individuals by the power of his Spirit. This makes the word of his Gospel effectual. For the kingdom of God is not in word only, but in power, When he thus visits the hearts of sinners, bis word is like fire and soap; "quick and powerful, sharper than "a two-edged sword*.” Then they feel and tremble, and cry out with the prophet, “Wois me, I am un
* Psal. xlv. 4.
+ 2 Cor. v. 17.
done.” But in this way their dross is consumed, their defilement removed. When he thus wounds, he likewisc heals. Ile gives them faith ; by faith they look, unto him, and are enlightened and saved.
We surely expect that he will come again. Not as he once came, in a state of humiliation. The Babe of Bethlehem, the Man of Sorrows, who hung, and bled, and died upon the cross for our sins, will return in glory. “Behold he cometh in the clouds, and every
eye shall see hims.” Concerning this day, emphatically called the day of the Lord, we may well say, “Who may abide it?” To those who have not been the subjects of his refining operations here, he will then be a consuming fire. That great day, (for which all other days were made,) “when the Lord shall descend " with the voice of the archangel and the trump of
God, will burn like an oven, and all the proud, and “all that do wickedly, shall be as stubble," and the day that cometh “shall burn them up." Where then shall the impenitent ungodly sinner appear? But it will be a joyful day to them that love his appearing. He will arise upon them, as the Sun of Righteousness, with healing on his wings; he will wipe away their tears, vindicate their characters, acknowledge them before the assembled world, and say unto them, “ Come,
ye blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for yous.”
* Heb. iv. 12. Mal. iv. 1
+ Rev. i. 7.
Matth. xxv. 34.
IV. It is particularly said, “He will purify the sons " of Levi,” that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. “ The Sons of Levi,” the priests, the officiating ministers of God, “were gone out of the
way, and had corrupted the covenant of the Lord, " and thereby had caused many oto stumble* ; they dishonoured their office, and became themselves vile and contemptible. Thus they went on from bad to worse, till the men of that generation filled up the measure of the iniquity of their forefathers, by the rejection of MESSIAH. Ile also rejected them. The blasted barren fig-treet, which withered to the very root at his word, was an emblem of their condition. In a little time, wrath came upon them to the uttermost; they saw the temple in which they had trusted, and which they had profaned, destroyed by fire, and the greater part of them perished. But a remnant of them was purified. We read, that after his ascension, a great company of the priests were obedient to the faithf. And his apostles and disciples were sent forth with a new spirit, and in a new character, to offer and to serve in righteousness. The purport of this passage has been repeatedly exemplified under the Christian dispensation. A declension from the simplicity and purity of worship, principles, and morals, was visible very early in the church. The progress of it was rapid, especially from the time of Constantine. When persecution ceased, and a tide of wealth and worldly honours flowed in upon those who, by their profession, were bound to be patterns of humility and self-denial to others; from that period till the Reformation, ecclesiastical history affords us little more than a detail of such instances of pride, intrigue, oppression, and cruelty, under the pretext of religion, as had not been known among the Heathens. And the nations which were relieved from the chains and darkness of Popery at the Reformation, did not long preserve much more than a name and a form to distinguish them. In most countries the state became the idol of the church, and the church the creature of the state. How it is with us in this nation, I need not say. Facts speak for themselves. It is a mournful fact, that the ministry is become contemptible; nor is it difficult to assign the cause. But we are favoured with the Gospel, and are eye-witnesses of its purifying power. It still produces the effects which marked its progress when it was preached by the apostles. It enlightens the dark mind, softens the hard heart, heals the wounded spirit; and many persons who before were burdensome to society, are rendered by it ornamental and useful. When every other argument and motive has failed of success, the consideration of the mercies of God in Christ, revealed by the Gospel, constrains the believing sinner to present himself a living, willing, holy sacrifice unto God, Thus being purified by the blood of Jesus, he offers to the Lord a sacrifice in righteousness. Such principles and aims are essential to a Christian minister. He knows the terrors of the Lord, and has tasted of his goodness. He is constrained by love, the love of Christ, and the love of souls. He preaches, as the apostle did, Jesus Christ, and him crucified; a subject which, though despised and reproached by the forınal Jew and the sceptical Greek, is evidenced by its efficacy to be the wisdom and power of God. Such ministers may be, and
* Mal. ii. 8, 9.
† Matth. xxi. 19.
| Acts vi. 7.