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the meaning of it is, that the ransomed of the Lord shall not only be freed from bondage, and rescued from the hands of their spiritual enemies, but shall likewise be advanced to such honour and happiness, as shall wipe off all the shame of their servitude, and fill them with the most transporting joy.
In the 90th Psalm, at the 15th verse, Moses, the man of God, prays for the church in these terms: “ Make us glad, according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen grief.” He only asks joy in proportion to the grief they have felt; but the bounty of our gracious Lord doth far exceed the prayers and expectations of bis servants; for here he says, I will render unto thee, not barely according to, or in proportion to thy former sufferings, but I will render double unto thee. Even in this life, he may pour into your souls such measures of joy and consolation, as shall not only balance your past sorrows, but far outweigh them, and cause them to appear very light and inconsiderable. At any rate, he will render unto you double in another world; all tears shall there be wiped away from your eyes; your light afflictions, which are but for a moment, are, in the mean time, working for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; and, ere long, “you shall return and come to Zion, with songs and everlasting joy upon your heads; then shall you obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away."
I would further observe to you, in the
2d place, That the comfort of this promise is greatly heightened by the manner of publishing it; Even to-day do I declare. It is uttered with great solemnity, and expressed in the most resolved and peremptory manner.
I do not say it slightly; 1 declare it ; I pledge the credit both of my power and faithfulness to make it good.
The circumstance of time, too, makes a remarkable addition. I declare it ever to-day; in this dark and cloudy day, when your misgiving minds are meditating nothing but terror. Even on this day, when the event is most unlikely, I give you the promise of complete deliverance; to-day, when your hearts are emptied of selfconfidence, when every other refuge fails, I give you my word, my oath, to lay hold upon; and I do it to-day, whilst your feelings are most painful, that the depth of your distress may help you to form some conception of the high joy that awaits you at that happy time when I shall render double unto thee.
But I apprehend there is still an emphasis on these words to-day, beyond any thing I have yet mentioned. Here God, as it were, prefixes a date to his promise, which, in human obligations, has always been judged an essential formality: as if he had said, let it be recorded, that on this day I have passed my word for your salvation; for though I need no tokens to remind me of my everlasting purposes of grace, yet, as you need them to strengthen your faith and hope, therefore, in pity of your weakness, I give you every kind of security you can ask from one another. Let it then be remembered, that to-day, I declare I will render double unto thee.
Upon the whole, then, let me once more repeat the call in my text, Turn ye to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope. Bring all your cares, your doubts, your temptations, to that mighty Saviour on whom your help is laid. He hath declared to you in his word, that he will render unto you double ; " for what things soever were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort of the Scripture,
might have hope." The promise, though addressed to believers many ages ago, extends even to us; because he who made the promise is always in one mind; "the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.” Nay, so great is his condescension, that he is just now willing to have it dated afresh under one of the authentic seals of his covenant.
Let us then, my brethren, humbly adore the goodness of God which hath provided so liberally for the relief and comfort of the prisoners of hope; and in the entrance to the solemn service of this day, let us look up to him who is the God of hope;" praying, in the words which his own Spirit hath indited, that he would "fill us with all joy and peace in believing, that we may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost." Amen.
1 PETER ii. 25.
For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now re
turned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.
HUMILITY is both the strength and beauty of the soul; it is its best defence, as well as its fairest ornaments. “ Happy is the man that feareth always; but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief;" 6 for God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the bumble." No sooner had David said, " I shall never be moved," than he suddenly experieneed a sad reversé of fortune,
and found cause to utter that mournful complaint, “Thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled.”
Various means have been employed in every age of the church, to banish pride from the hearts of men, and to beget and cherish that lowliness of mind which be. comes dependant, guilty creatures. This was the obvious tendency of the most solemn rites under the old dispensation. The annual sacrifice of the paschal lamb, besides its typical use, or reference to the great atonement, had likewise an important moral signification; and the lessons it taught were humility and gratitude. “ It shall come to pass," said Moses, by the command of God, “that when your children shall say unto you, What mean you by this service ? ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord's passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses." In like manner, when they brought the first fruits as an offering to the Lord, which was another solemnity that returned every year, the form of dedication was prescribed in these words: (Deut. xxvi. 5, 6, &c.) “A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous. And the Egyptians evil intreated us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage. And when we cried unto the Lord God of our fathers, the Lord heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labour, and our oppression. And the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt, with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders. And he hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, even a land that floweth with milk and honey. And now, behold, I have brought
the first fruits of the land, which, thou, O Lord, hast given me.”
Thus did God train up bis ancient people " to serve him with reverence, and to rejoice before him with trembling." Their thank-offerings, as well as their oblations for sin, obliged them to recognize the meanness of their original, and the ignominious servitude from which God had redeemed them; and every act of worship taught them to say, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?”
The ordinances of grace in the New Testament church breathe the same spirit, and dictate the same language; nay, they do it with greater force and energy.
The gospel-passover, which we are this day to celebrate, commemorates a deliverance from spiritual thraldom; of which the release of the Jews from the Egyptian yoke affords but a faint and imperfect emblem.
In those complicated sufferings which were the price of our redemption, we not only discover the unsearchable riches of divine love, but we likewise behold the full demerit of sin, and all the horrors of that misery into which we had plunged ourselves by our fatal apostacy; so that our triumph in the great salvation, by recalling to our minds the low and helpless state in which mercy found us, gives check to every self-exalting thought, and constrains us to ascribe to the free and unmerited favour of God, the sole, the undivided praise of all that we have, or hope to enjoy.
To those views, and to this becoming exercise, we are naturally led by the words of my text; which have frequently occurred to me as a most proper form of address for introducing communicants to the table of their Lord. Ye were as sheep going astray, but are now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.