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(2.) Let us view the bride as in a st«te of grace, and fee -what a strange alteration free grace makes upon her. This is also set forth in Ezek. zvi. by an elegant metaphor, from ver. 6—14.
1. He quickens her and gives her life, ver. 6. "I said unto thee, Live."
2. He casts the skirt of his everlasting righteousness over her, ver. 8.
3. He takes her Unto a marriage-relation with himself, within the bond of the covenant, ver. 8.
4. He washes and cleanses her with the washing of regeneration, ver. 9.
j. He anoints her with the oil of his Spirit.
6. He decks and adorns her with the ornaments of holiness, the graces of his Spirit, ver. II. 12.
7. He confers royal dignity upon her, ver. 12. at the close; puts a crown upon her head.
8. He makes her perfect and complete in himself, through the comeliness he puts upon her, ver. 14. Thus you fee tvhat the love of Christ doth for his bride, while yet only in time of espousals.
^3.; We might also view her in a state of glory, when the marriage shall be consummate at Christ's second coming, but this is what "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard," nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive. Only I refer you to two or three texts, that give us a glimpse of the glory that Christ will then confer upon his bride, Alatth. xiii. 43. "They shall mine forth as the fun in the kingdom of their Father." Dan. xii. 3. " They that be wife mail shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever." Col. iii. 4' "When Christ also who is our life mail appear, then shall ye appear with him in glory." 1. John iii. 2. "Beloved, no" are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we ihall be; but we know, that when he shall appear, we &*" be like him, for we shall fee him as he is," &c. Thus 1 have given you a short account of the bride in her natural state, and in a state of grace and glory.
IV. The fourth thing was to speak a little of the coming of the Bridegroom. Behold the Bridegroom comet h.
Now, to clear this matter, 1 would have you to know, that I do not at present sptak either of Christ's first coming i" the flefli, or of his second coming unto judgement. His hw coming in the flesh was to purchase a bride for himself byh'S
obedience and death. His second and last coming, at the end 0/ the world, will be to solemnise the marriage, and to fetch the bride home to the royal palace, the house of many mansions that he is preparing for her reception, when she lhall be made fully ready. I fay, 1 do not at this time speak of either ot these, however the last may be intended in this parable. At present I (hall speak a little of these intermediate visits that the Bridegroom makes unto his bride during the time of espousals, before he come at the last day to solemnise the marriage before men and angels.
\st, The Bridegroom comes and visits his church and people in the chariot of providence; I understand his favourable dispensations when he comes to build up Zion, he appears in his glory, and regards the prayer of the destitute. Thus when the Lord brought Israel out of their Egyptian bondage, with a high hand and outstretched arm, plaguing Egypt, flaying their first born, and at length bringing his church and people through the Red sea, while, at the fame time, he overthrew Pharaoh and his host, on which occasion llrael fang that song, Exod. xv. through the whole: So likewise, when he turned back their captivity from Babylon, and settled them again in their native land, and caused the city and temple to be rebuilt, and daily sacrifice and oblation to be offered, this was a favourable visit in the chariot of providence. Much like unto this, was the visit the Lord made in bis providence to this poor land, when, at our reformation from Popery, he spirited our nobles, gentry, and commons, to (bake off the yoke of Popish tyranny and idolatry, and to embrace the gospel of Christ, and authorise the true reformed 'eligion, by laws and acts of parliament, which stand in force to this day, and were adopted by this church in the year '638, and again authorised by law at the revolution, and since that time. These, I fay, were gracious visits that the wrd msdc to this church, riding in the chariot of providence, *'th the bright side towards her; and how often doth hu visit particular believers, by favourable dispensations of providence, when they expected nothing but death and destruction. He has interposed mercifully for their deliverance, and ■nade them to sing with David, Psal. cxvi. •' 1 was brought '0w, and he helped me." And Psal. ciii. "He redeemeth m7 life from destruction, and crowneth me with loving kind"*& and tender mercy."
Sometimes again the dark side of the chariot appears in gloomy and wrathlike dispensations, as when he sets up the nght hand of the cruel enemy over them, gives them like
"sheep "flieep to the flaughter, to be killed all the day lohg:" When he breaks them with breadi upon breach, and rushes upon them like a giant;" as in the cafe of Job: when he cast the three children into a siery furnace, and Daniel into the lions den. Thefe and the like difpenfations have a very black and difmal afpect; and in this cafe the church and people of God are ready to cry out with Jacob, " All thefe things are against us." And yet the black chariot of providence is bottomed and lined with love, grace, and mercy, as appeared in the cafe of Job, Daniel, the three children, and Jacob; and fo the fcripture comes to be fulsilled, that "all the ways of the Lord are mercy and peace to them that love him," Pfal. ciii.; and Rom. viii. 28. "All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpofe."
But I do not at prelcnt fpeak fo much of the vifits that the Lord Christ makes unto his people in the chariot of providence, as the visits he makes to them in the chariot of the gofpel revelation, and ordinances of his appointment, fuch as word, facrament, prayer, meditation, Christian conference, and the like, which are fo many trysting places, in which the Bridegroom comes and visits his bride, manifesting forth his glory to her, fpreading his banner of love over her. Now, as to the visits that .Christ makes to his bride of this kind, in the chariot of the gofpel revelation, there are these few things I would remark concerning them.
1/?, Tie sirst visit of distinguishing love that he makes to the bride is in the day of converfion, when he draws by the veils of ignorance, unbelief, error, and prejudice, and manifests himfelf to her in his divine glory, fulnefs, fuitablenefs, and excellency, in fuch a way as raviihes her heart with his love and lovelinefs. This is called the time of efpoufals, Cant, iii. last, becaufe then it is that the confent of the bride is gained, and her heart drawn after the bridegroom with the irresistible cords of victorious love. Df this the Lord puts Ifrael in mind, when he lays, "1 remember thee, the kindnefs of thy youth, the love of thine efpoufals, when thou vventest alter me in the wildernefs, in a ltnd that wns not fown," Jer. ii. 2.
idly, The heart of the bride being thus hanked or catched with the glory of the Bridegroom, he, for holy and wife t-nds, withdraws commonly his sensible prefence, and leaves her with a promife cf his returning in due time; like that, John xiv. 18. "I will rot have you comfortlefs; 1 will come to you;" or that, John xiv. 21. 23. "He that lovct'i rr.j I flia'l shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and manifest myfelf unto him," 81c. or John xvi. 22. "I will fee you again, and your hearts shall rejoice," &c. You know it is not ufual for the bridegroom to stay or cohabit with the bride; even after the efpoufals, until the marriage be folemnifed, and then they take up houfe, and dwell together; but until that time come, he makes only pasfing visits, or comes aud goes j only when he goes, he leaves her with a promife of coming back. Juft fo is it in the prefent cafe, Christ leaves his people with a promife to fupport them in his abfence.
idly, I remark, that Christ is many times prefent with the bride and fpoufe, when fhe is not aware of it. An instance of this we have in the cafe of Jacob, Gen. xxviii. 16. The Lord there appears to him in a dream, and when he awakes, he fays, * Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it Dot;" and Mary, John xx. 14. she is weeping, and saying, "They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him." She was fpeaking to Christ himfelf, but knew not that It was Christ, but fupposing him to be the gardener, faid to him, "Sir, if thou hast borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I, will take him away," &c. So we fee the fame in the cafe of the difciples going 'o Emmaus, Luke xxiv. Christ was conversing with them, acd opening unto them the fcriptures, reproving them for their unbelief; and yet they did not know that it was he, until, upon reflection, they fay one to another, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked with us," &c .
Vbty, Every visit the Bridegroom of fouls makes unto his bride is an affured pledge of after visits, until he come to consummate the marriage at the end of the day; for, as we are told, Hof. vi. 3. "His going forth is prepared as the mornmg." As the break of day is a pledge of the fun's rising, and his rising is a pledge of his afcending to the meridian or mid-day j fo every visit that Christ makes to the foul makes way for further difcoveries of his glory, until the day of glory break, and all shadows for ever flee away.
$thly, The Bridegroom loves fometimes to furprife the bride with his visits, he comes even at midnight, when lhe is little looking for him, Cant. vi. 12. "Or eves I was aware, my foul made me like the chariots of Amminadib;" or, as it reads in the margin, "fet me on the chariots of my wiping people." So Ifa. xlftc. 14. 15. Zion is there faying, under a dark cloud of defertion, "The Lord hath forfaken lie, and my Lord hath forgotten me:" But, all on a fudden, the Lord comes, and fays, "Can a woman forget' iter Vol. 111. H h fucking fucking child, that flic fhould not have compaflion on the fon of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee."
6thly, Thefe senfible furprising visits of the Bridegroom, they are but rare, and of a fnort continuance: they are like a. bright Wink of the fun from under the cloud, which in a little is presently overcast with a new cloud, like that of the difciples upon Mount Tabor, at Christ's transsiguration, when th*y faw his countenance to shine as the fun, his raiment white as the light, and a voice faying, " This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased:" but ere ever they were aware, a dark cloud intercepts all. ^jttft- Why are the Bridegroom's visits fo rare, ami of a short continuance. An[iw. The Lord wilj have it fo,, to let the bride know that the marriage is not yet confummate, and fhe is only yet in a state of efpoufals: cohabitation only follows the confummation of the marriage in heaven. Again, the bride, while here away, in a state of i in pa sect ion, is not able to bear a constant fellowfliip with the Bridegroom, 1 mean bright senfible manifestations, the old bottles einnot bear much of that new wine. Paul himself was in danger of being lifted up with pride, through abundance of manifestations; and tlicrafore a messenger of Satan was sent to busset him. And, ae.sin, by this way he makes them long for heaven, where the Bridegroom and the bride fhall meet, never to part, faying, "I defire to depart, and be with Jefus, which is best of all."
"jtMy, !he Bridegroom may, and frequently doth intermit" his vifits for a very long fpace of time; he may absent himself not only for days, or weeks, or months, but for years, and many many years together. It is thought, that long twenty years intervened between Jacob's Bethel visit, Gen. xxxviii. 18. and his visit he got, chap. xxxi. 13. When the Lord appeared unto him, faying, "lam the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me." It is no strange thing for the faints to be walking in darknefs, and seeing no lij'ht: and, in this cafe, they are ready to cry with David, Pfal. xiii. 1. "How long, how long wilt thou hide thy face from me;" Pfal.Ixxxix. " Where are thy former loving kindnesses," &c.; Pfal. Ixxyii. " Hath God forgotten to be gracious? will he be favourable nomore?" &c. The reafon of this withdrawing is either fome idol harboured, or to hide pride from their eyes, or to quicken the foul's longing after himfelf, or to teach and train them up unto a life cf faith upon the premife; for here " we -walk by faith, and not by fight."
8/.Vy, Although the Bridegroom may be long abfent, yet