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the magnificent treasures of the earth. Ask danger of having that God for your enemy, him to reveal to you the God, who hideth who holds your destiny in his mighty hands, himself,' Isa. xlv. 15. Ask him the cause of and whose commands all creatures obey. those endless disorders, which mix with that Come with an eager desire of reconciliation profusion of wisdom which appears in the to him. Come and hear the voice of the world. Ask him whence the blessings come Prince of Peace, who publishes peace; which we enjoy, and whence the calamities peace to him that is near, and to him that is that afflict us. Ask him what is the origin, far off,' Isa. lvii. 19. While Moses is mediathe nature, the destiny, the end of man. Of tor of a covenant between God and the Israelall these articles, the Counsellor will tell you ites on the top of the holy mountain, let not more than Plato, and Socrates, and all the Israel violate the capital article at the foot of philosophers, who only felt after the truth, it. While Jesus Christ is descending to reActs xvii. 27, who themselves discovered and concile you to God, do not declare war against taught others to see only a few rays of light, God; insult him not by voluntary rebellions, darkened with prejudices and errors. after he has voluntarily delivered you from the slavery of sin, under which you groaned. Return not again to those sins which 'separated between you and your God,' Isa. lix. 2, and which would do it again, though Jesus should become incarnate again, and should of fer himself every day to expiate them.
You need support under the calamities of this life, and this also you will find in the king Messiah. He is THE MIGHTY GOD, and he will tell you, while you are suffering the heaviest temporal afflictions, although the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, yet my kindness shall not depart from you, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed,' chap. liv. 10. Under your seve rest tribulations, he will assure you, that 'all things work together for good to them that love God,' Rom. viii. 28. He will teach you to shout victory under an apparent defeat, and to sing this triumphant song, 'Thanks be unto God, who always causeth us to triumph in Christ,' 2 Cor. ii. 14. In all these things we are more than conquerors, through him who loved us,' Rom. viii. 37.
This is the first idea of the king Messiah; this is the first source of the duties of his subjects, and of the dispositions with which they ought to celebrate his nativity, and with which alone they can celebrate it in a proper manner. To celebrate properly the festival of his nativity, truth must be esteemed; we must be desirous of attaining knowledge; we must come from the ends of the earth, like the wise men of the East, to contemplate the miracles which the Messiah displays in the new world: like Mary, we must be all attention to receive the doctrine that proceeds from his sacred mouth; like the multitude, we must follow him into deserts and mountains, to hear his. admirable sermons. This is the first duty, which the festival that you are to celebrate next Wednesday demands. Prepare yourselves to keep it in this manner. You want reconciliation with God, and this is the grand work of the king Messiah. He is the Prince of Peace. He terminates the fatal war which sin has kindled between God and you, by obtaining the pardon of your past sins, and by enabling you to avoid the commission of sin for the future. He obtains the pardon of sins past for you. How can a merciful God resist the ardent prayers which the Redeemer of mankind addresses to him, in behalf of those poor sinners for whom he sacrificed himself? How can a merciful God resist the plea of the blood of his Son, which cries for mercy for the miserable posterity of Adam? As the king Messiah reconciles you to God, by obtaining the pardon of your past sin, so he reconciles you, by procuring strength to enable you to avoid it for time to come. Having calmed those passions which prevented your knowing what was right, and your loving what was lovely, he gave you laws of equity and love. How can you resist, after you have known him, the motives on which his laws are founded? Every difficulty disappears, when examples so alluring are seen, and when you are permitted, under your most discouraging weaknesses, to approach the treasures of grace, which he has opened to you, and to derive purity from its source. Does gratitude know any difficulties? Is not every act of obedience easy to a mind animated by a love as vehement as that, which cannot but be felt for a Saviour, who in the tenderest manner has loved us?
This is the second idea of the king Messiah, this is the second source of the duties of his subjects, and of the dispositions essential to a worthy celebration of the feast of his nativity. Como next Wednesday, deeply sensible of the
This is the third idea of the king Messiah and this is the third source of the duties of his subjects, and of the dispositions which are necessary to the worthily celebrating of the festival of his nativity. Fall in, Christian soul! with the design of thy Saviour, who, by elevating thy desires above the world, would elevate thee above all the catastrophes of it. Come, behold Messiah, thy king, lodging in a stable, and lying in a manger: hear him saying to his disciples, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head,' Matt. viii. 20. Learn from this example not to place thy happiness in the possession of earthly good. Die to the world, die to its pleasures, die to its pomps. Aspire after other ends, and nobler joys, than those of the children of this world, and then worldly vicissitudes cannot shake thy bliss.
Finally, you have need of one to comfort you under the fears of death, by opening the gates of eternal felicity to you, and by satiating your avidity for existence and elevation. This consolation the king Messiah affords. He is the everlasting Father, THE FATHER OF ETERNITY, his throne shall be built up for all generations,' Ps. lxxxix. 4; he has receiv ed dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations. and languages, should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed,' Dan vii. 14, and his subjects must reign eter
nally with him. When thou, Christian! art confined to thy dying bed, he will approach thee with all the attractive charms of his power and grace he will say to thee, Fear not thou worm Jacob,' Isa. xli. 14, he will whisper these comfortable words in thine ear, 'When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee: and when through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee,' chap. xliii. 2. He will open heaven to thee, as he opened it to St. Stephen; and he will say to thee, as he said to the converted thief, To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise,' Luke xxiii. 43.
This is the fourth idea of the king Messiah, and this is the fourth source of the duties of his subjects. How glorious is the festival of his nativity! What grand, noble, and sublime sentiments does it require of us! The subjects of the king Messiah, the children of the everlasting Father, should consider the economy of time in its true point of view, they should compare things which are seen, which are temporal, with things which are not seen, which are eternal,' 2 Cor. iv. 18. They should fix their attention upon the eternity, fill their imaginations with the glory of the world to come, and learn, by just notions of immortality, to estimate the present life; the declining shadow; the withering grass; the fading flower; the dream that flieth away; the vapour that vanisheth,' and is irrecoverably lost, Ps. cii. 11; Isa. xl. 7; Job xx. 8; and James iv. 14.
These, my brethren, are the characters of your king Messiah, these are the characters of the divine child, whose birth you are to celebrate next Wednesday, and in these ways only can you celebrate it as it deserves. We conjure you by that adorable goodness, which we are going to testify to you again, we conjure you by that throne of grace, which God is about to ascend again; we conjure you by those ineffable mercies which our imaginations cannot fully comprehend, which our minds cannot sufficiently admire, nor all the emotions of our hearts sufficiently esteem; we conjure you to look at, and, if you will pardon the expression, to lose yourselves in
these grand objects; we conjure you not to turn our solemn festivals, and our devotianal days, into seasons of gaming and dissipation. Let us submit ourselves to the king Messiah; let us engage ourselves to his government; let his dominion be the ground of all our joy
O most mighty! thou art fairer than the children of men. Grace is poured into thy lips, therefore God hath blessed thee for ever! Ps. xlv. 3. 2. The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion, saying, Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies! Thy people shall be willing in the day, when thou shalt assemble thy host in holy pomp!"* Yea, reign over thine enemies, great King! bow their rebellious wills; prevent their fatal counsels; defeat all their bloody designs! Reign also over thy friends, reign over us! Make us a willing people! Assemble all this congregation, when thou shalt come with thy host in holy pomp! Let not the flying of the clouds, which will serve thee for a triumphal chariot; let not the pomp of the holy angels in thy train, when thou shalt come to judge the world in righteousness;' let not these objects affright and terrify our souls: let them charm and transport us; and, instead of dreading thine approach, let us hasten it by our prayers and sighs! Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly, Amen.' To God be honour and glory, for ever and ever Amen.
* We retain the reading of the French Bible here; because our author paraphrases the passage after that version. Ton peuple sera un peuple plein de franc vou loir au jour que tu assembleras ton armee en saincte pompe. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness. The passage seems to be a prophetical allusion to one of those solem festivals, in which conquerors, and their armies, on their return from battle, offered a part of their spoil, which they had taken from their enemies, to God, from whom the victory came. These free-will offerings were carried in grand procession. They were holy, because agreeable to the economy under because they were not exacted, but proceeded from which the Jews lived; and they were beautifully holy, the voluntary gratitude of the army. In large conquests, the troops and the offerings were out of number, like the drops of such a shower of dew, as the year. See 2 Chron. 13.-15, and xv. 10-15. We the morning brought forth in the youth, or spring of have ventured this hint on a passage which seems not very clear in our version.
THE VARIETY OF OPINIONS ABOUT CHRIST.
MATTHEW xvi. 13-17.
When Jesus came into the coasts of Cesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I, the Son of man, am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist; some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven.
I said, my brethren, that if any prejudices make deep impressions on the mind of a rational man, they are those which are produced by a variety of opinions. They sometimes drive men into a state of uncertainty and skepticism, the worst disposition of mind, the most opposite to that persuasion, without which there is no pleasure, and the most contrary to the grand design of religion, which is to establish our consciences, and to enable us to reply to every inquirer on these great subjects, 'I know, and am persuaded,' Rom. xiv. 14.
IF any prejudice be capable of disconcert-, savour of the spirit of the times, because ing a man's peace, it is that which arises from they are the livery of the world. observing the various opinions of mankind. We do not mean those which regard uninteresting objects. As we may mistake them without danger, so we may suppose, either that men have not sufficiently considered them, or that the Creator may, without injuring the perfections of his nature, refuse those assistances which are necessary for the obtaining of a perfect knowledge of them. But how do the opinions of mankind vary about those subjects, which our whole happiness is concerned to know? One affirms, that the works of nature are the productions of chance: another attributes them to a First Cause, who created matter, regulated its form, and directed its motion. One says, that there is but one God, that it is absurd to suppose a plurality of Supreme Beings, and that to prove there is one, is thereby to prove that there is but one: another says, that the Divine Nature being infinite, can communicate itself to many, to an infinity, and form many infinities, all really perfect in their kind. Moreover, among men who seem to agree in the essential points of religion, among Christians who bear the same denomination, assemble in the same places of worship, and subscribe the same creeds, ideas of the same articles very different, sometimes diametrically opposite, are discovered. As there are numerous opinions on matters of speculation, so there are endless notions about practice. One contents himself with half a system, containing only some general duties which belong to worldly decency: ano-lishment. ther insists on uniting virtue with every cir cumstance, every transaction, every instant, and, if I may be allowed to speak so, every indivisible point of life. One thinks it lawful to associate the pleasures of the world with the practice of piety; and he pretends that good people differ from the wicked only in some enormities, in which the latter seem to forget they are men, and to transform themselves into wild beasts: another condemns himself to perpetual penances and mortifications, and if at any time he allow himself recreations, they are never such as
Against this temptation Jesus Christ guarded his disciples. Never was a question more important, never were the minds of men more divided about any question, than that which related to the person of our Sav iour. Some considered him as a politician, who under a veil of humility, hid the most ambitious designs; others took him for an enthusiast. Some thought him an emissary of the the devil: others an envoy from God. Even among them who agreed in the latter, some said that he was Elias, some John the Baptist, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets.' The faith of the apostles was in danger of being shaken by these divers opinions. Jesus Christ comes to their as sistance, and having required their opinions on a question which divided all Judea, having received from Peter the answer of the whole apostolical college, he praises their faith, and, by praising it, gave it a firmer estab
My brethren, may the words of Jesus Christ make everlasting impressions on you! May those of you who, because you have acted rationally, by embracing the belief, and by obeying the precepts of the gospel, are sometimes taxed with superstition, sometimes with infatuation, and sometimes with melancholy, learn from the reflections that we shall make on the text, to rise above the opinions of men, to be firm and immoveable amidst temptations of this kind, always faithfully to adhere to truth and virtue, and to be the disciples only of them. Grant, O Lord!
We will enter into a particular examination of the reasons which determined the Jews of our Saviour's time, and the inspired writers with them, to distinguish the Messiah by the title Son of man. Were we to determine any thing on this subject, we should give the preference to the opinion of those who think the phrase Son of Man, means man by excellence. The Jews say son of man, to signify a man. Witness, among many other passages, this well-known saying of Balaam ; "God is not a man that he should lie, neither the son of man that he should repent,' Numb. xxiii. 19. The Messiah is called the Man, or the Son of Man, that is, the Man of whom the prophecies had spoken, the Man whose coming was the object of the desires and prayers of the whole church.
It is more important to inquire the design of Jesus Christ, in putting this question to his disciples, Whom do men say that I am?' It is one of those questions, the meaning of which can be determined only by the character of him who proposes it; for it may be put from many different motives.
Sometimes pride puts this question. There are some people who think of nothing but themselves, and who imagine all the world think about them too: they suppose they are the subject of every conversation; and fancy every wheel which moves in society has some relation to them; if they be not the principal spring of it. People of this sort are very desirous of knowing what is said about them, and, as they have no conception that any but glorious things are said of them, they are extremely solicitous to know them, and often put this question, Whom do men say that I am? Would you know what they say of you? Nothing at all. They do not know you exist, and except a few of your relations, nobody in the world knows you are in it. The question is sometimes put by curiosity, and this motive deserves condemnation, if it
be accompanied with a desire of reformation. The judgment of the public is respectable, and, to a certain degree, it ought to be a rule of action to us. It is necessary sometimes to go abroad, to quit our relations, and acquaintances, who are prejudiced in our favour, and to inform ourselves of the opinions of those who are more impartial on our conduct. I wish some people would often put this question, Whom do men say that I am? The answers they would receive would teach them to entertain less flattering, and more just notions of themselves. 'Whom do men say that I am?' They say, you are haughty, and proud of your prosperity; that you use your influence only to oppress the weak; that your success is a public calamity; and that you are a tyrant whom every one abhors. Whom do men say that I am?' They say, you have a serpent's tongue, that 'the poison of adders is under your lips;' Ps. cxl. 3, that you inflame a whole city, a whole province, by the scandalous tales you forge, and which, having forged, you industriously propagate; they say, you are infernally diligent in sowing discord between wife and husband, friend and friend, subject and prince, pastor and flock. 'Whom do men say that I am? They say you are a sordid, covetous wretch; that mammon is the God you adore; that, provided your coffers fill, it is a matter of indifference to you, whether it be by extortion, or by just acquisition, whether it be by a lawful inheritance, or by an accursed patrimony.
Revenge may put the question, Whom do men say that I am? We cannot but know that some reports, which are spread about us, are disadvantageous to our reputation. We are afraid, justice should not be done to us, we therefore, wish to know our revilers, in order to mark them out for our vengeance. The inquiry in this disposition is certainly blameable. Let us live uprightly, and let us give ourselves no trouble about what people say of us. If there be some cases in which it is useful to know the popular opinion, there are others in which it is best to be ignorant of it. If religion forbids us to avenge ourselves, prudence requires us not to expose ourselves to the temptation of doing it. A heathen has given us an illustrious example of this prudent conduct, which I am recommending to you: I speak of Pompey the Great. He had defeated Perpenna, and the traitor offered to deliver to him the papers of Sertorius, among which were letters from several of the most powerful men in Rome, who had promised to receive Sertorius into Italy, and to put all to death who should attempt to resist him. Pompey took all the papers, burnt all the letters, by that mean prevented all the bloody consequences which would have followed such fatal discoveries, and, along with them, sacrificed that passion, which many, who are called Christians, find the most difficult to sacrifice, I mean revenge.
But this question, 'Whom do men say that I am?' may be put by benevolence. The good of society requires each member to entertain just notions of some persons. A magistrate, who acts disinterestedly for the
tle of Macheron, on the birthday of the king He showed the same indulgence to her, that Flaminius the Roman showed to a court lady, who had requested that consul to gratify her curiosity with the sight of beheading a man. An indulgence, certainly less shocking in a heathen, than in a prince educated in the knowledge of the true God. It was a common opinion among the Jews that the resur rection of the martyrs was anticipated. Many thought all the prophets were to be raised from the dead at the coming of the Messiah, and some had spread a report, which reached Herod, that John the Baptist enjoyed that privilege.
The same reasons, which persuaded some Jews to believe that he, whom they called Jesus, was John the Baptist risen from the dead, persuaded others to believe, that he was someone of the prophets,' who, like John, had been put to a violent death, for having spoken with a similar courage against the reigning vices of the times in which they lived. This was particularly the case of Jeremiah. When this prophet was only fourteen years of age, and, as he said of himself, when he could not speak, because he was a child, Jer. i. 6, he delivered himself with a freedom of speech that is hardly allow able in those who are grown grey in a long discharge of the ministerial office. He cenin-sured, without distinction of rank or character, the vices of all the Jews, and having executed this painful function from the reign of Josiah to the reign of Zedekiah, he was, if we believe a tradition of the Jews, which Tertulian, St. Jerome, and many fathers of the church have preserved, stoned to death at Tahapanes in Egypt, by his countrymen there he fell a victim to their rage against his predictions. The fact is not certain; however, it is admitted by many Christians, who have pretended that St. Paul had the prophet Jeremiah particularly in view, when he proposed, as examples to Christians, some who were stoned,' Heb. xi. 37, whom he places among the cloud of witnesses.' However uncertain this history of the prophet's lapidation may be, some Jews believed it, and it was sufficient to persuade them that Jesus Christ was Jeremiah.
good of the state, and for the support of re-
The disciples answered: Some say that thou art John the Baptist; some Elias; and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets. They omitted those odious opinions, which were injurious to Jesus Christ, and refused to defile their mouths with the execrable blasphemies, which the malignity of the Jews uttered against him. But with what shadow of appearance could it be thought that Jesus Christ was John the Baptist? You may find, in part, an answer to this question in the fourteenth chapter of this gospel, ver. 1-10. It is there said, that Herod Antipas, called the Tetrarch, that is, the king of the fourth part of his father's territories, beheaded John the Baptist at the request of Herodias.
Every body knows the cause of the hatred of that fury against the holy man. John the Baptist held an opinion, which now-a-days passes for an error injurious to the peace of society, that is, that the high rank of those who are guilty of some scandalous vices, ought not to shelter them from the censures of the ministers of the living God; and that they who commit, and not they who reprove such crimes, are responsible for all the disorders which such censures may produce in society. A bad courtier, but a good servant of him, who had sent him to prepare the way of the Lord, and to make his paths straight,' Luke iii. 4, he told the incestuous Herod, withou equivocating, 'It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother Philip's wife,' Matt. xiv. 4; Herodias could not plead her cause with equity, and therefore she pleaded it with cruelty. Her daughter Salome had pleased Herod at a feast, which was made in the cas
As Elias was translated to heaven without dying, the opinions, of which we have been speaking, were not sufficient to persuade other Jews that Jesus Christ was Elias; but a mistaken passage of Malachi was the ground of this notion. It is the passage which concludes the writings of that prophet; Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord,' Mal. iii. 5. This prophecy was per fectly plain to the disciples of Jesus Christ, for in him, and in John the Baptist they saw its accomplishment. But the Jews understood it literally. They understand it so still, and, next to the coming of the Messiah, that of Elias is the grand object of their hopes. It is Elias, according to them, who will turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers,' ver. 6. It is Elias who will prepare the ways of the Messiah, will be his forerunner, and will anoint him with holy oil. It is Elias, who