Page images

house, and in answer to their prayers (I trust) a more glorious display of the divine presence will be witnessed.

15. But while I go on hinting to you, in this way, the grounds of my hope that the glory of this latter house will exceed the glory of the former, I find myself secretly checked by a fear, lest as your congregation increases, and you grow more into repute in the town and neighbourhood, the spirit of the world should increase among you, and mar your rising glory. And I think it my duty to say, that it is not impossible, but our crafty adversary of whose devices you are not ignorant) may hope to bring evil out of this good, and make what ought to be the occasion of our rise the means of our fall. For while the greater commodiousness, not to say neatness and beauty of this lovely place, invites more of the rich and gay to associate with you in your worship, there is a danger lest this should be an introduction to that acquaintance with them, which indeed may and will, if you are faithful, do them an eternal good, and make them bless the day that ever they came within these doors; but if not, may gradually do you hurt, cause your “fine gold to become dim,” and “ intermix your wine with water." Leaving therefore the event to determine fully which house will exceed in glory, I hasten,

II. To call your attention to the gracious promise here made with regard to the Temple at Jerusalem, where the Saviour was to appear, and every place where his gospel is properly preached, and he is present by his Spirit, “ In this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of Hosts."

tions and ages,

1. To understand this divine promise, we must recollect that man is by nature at enmity with God. According to the doctrine of Scripture, a doctrine confirmed by the experience of all na

" all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, the whole world is guilty before God,” and all mankind 66

are by nature children of wrath," that is, are under condemnation, and exposed to divine wrath on account of their original depravity and actual transgressions. There is an eng mity on the part of man towards God: “ The carnal mind, (says St. Paul) is enmity against God, it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” And in consequence of this, there is wrath on the part of God towards man, " wrath revealed from heaven against the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.”


-2. Now as we were without strength in this matter, and could neither by our own works remove the wrath on God's part, and reconcile him to us, nor by our own power remove the enmity on our part, and reconcile ourselves to God, therefore God hath provided a Mediator between himself and us to make up this breach, in a way consistent with his own honour and our salvation. That he might be glorified while man was saved, that is, that the evil of sin might be manifested while its guilt was cancelled ; that God might display his justice in punishing it, while he manifested his inercy in pardoning it, he “ sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sacrifice for sin, thereby condemning sin in the flesh.” “On him he hath laid the iniquities of us all, hath wounded him for our transgressions, and bruised him for our iniquities, and caused him to bear the chastisement of our peace.” “ Him he hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God, to declare, I say, his righteousness," that is, his justice as well as mercy," that he might be just,” while he is the merciful “ justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.” This man, therefore, is said by Micah to be the peace, chap. v. 5. And St. Paul tells us, Col. i. 19, &c. “ that it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; and having made peace by the blood of the cross, by him to reconcile all things to himself. " He is the peace between Jews and Gentiles, (as we are assured, Eph. ii. 14.) "who makes both one, breaking down the middle wall of partition (viz. the ceremonial law) that was between them;" and much more is he the peace between man and God, “ reconciling us to God by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.”

3. To dwell a moment upon this : it appears from most of the passages just quoted, that Christ by his death not only atones for sin, and reconciles God to us, but also us to God. His death upon the cross being the most wonderful instance of God's love to a lost world, which ever was or could be given, has a manifest tendency, in its own nature, when discovered to the soul in all its mysterious grace, to soften, melt, subdue, and win over the whole heart to God. “ They shall look upon him whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn," says the prophet Zachariah. “If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto me," says Jesus. “ The love of Christ constraineth us, (says St. Paul,) while we thus judge, that if one died for all, then where all dead, and that he died for all, that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him that died for them, and rose again.”'

Thus-while I hear my Saviour God,
Couut o'er my sins, a heavy load,

He bore upon the tree;
Inward I blush with secret shame,
And weep, and love, and bless the name,
That knew nor sin, nor grief, nor shame,

But bore them all for me.”

It is true, the sufferings and death of Christ cannot produce this effect without the influence of the Holy Spirit, whose office it is to “ take of the things of Jesus and show them unto us.” But then his death also opens a way for our receiving that influence. For being “ delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification, he hath ascended up on high, led captivity captive, and received gifts for men, even for the rebellious ;" hath “ received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit,” to work repentance and faith in us, to subdue our enmity, and influence our hearts with peace

and love. 4. For be it observed, though peace with God is free for all ; though none are excluded from it who do not exclude themselves ; though the Lord proclaims “ peace, peace, to him that is near, and to him that is afar off ;" yet none can partake of it without

repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” As God will never be reconciled to an impenitent, unbelieving sinner, so such an one is not reconciled to God, and never can enjoy peace of mind; no, the wicked, the inwardly as well as outwardly wicked, the unconverted, the unregenerate, “are like the troubled sea which cannot rest : There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” Repentance, therefore, is absolutely necessary, yea, and fruits meet for repentance. Equally necessary is faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, without which, notwithstanding our repentance, we are still “ condemned, and the wrath of God abideth on us.'' And this faith, we must remember, must work by love, overcome the world, and purify the heart. When a true penitent comes to God by this faith, casting his soul, with all his sins, on the Lord Jesus, " the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world," and embracing the promises of God made through him, God becomes " merciful to his unrighteousness, and remembers his sins and iniquities no more." And“ being justified by faith, he has peace with God.”

5. Now the never failing fruit of this peace with God is peace of mind. For as 'i there is no condemnation from God, to those that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the Aesh but after the

[ocr errors]

Spirit,” so neither are they condemned in their own hearts. Their past sins being pardoned, and their present corruptions being conquered, it cannot be but they must have the answer of a good conscience, a conscience void of offence towards God and towards man.” Hence they must have confidence towards God, and will be enabled to cast their care upon him for all that they want for body and soul, for time and for eternity. And the fruit of this will be a serenity of mind, a tranquillity of spirit, which the apostle calls “ a peace that passeth all understanding."

“ Thou wilt keep him,” says Isaiah, “ in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee.” Pride, self-will, discontent, impatience, anger, malice, envy, distrust, anxiety, and other unhappy and uneasy passions, being subdued ; and humility, resignation, meekness, and love, taking place, they must (as our Lord expresses it) “ find rest to their souls,” and “ the peace of God will keep their hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

6. And will not such, “ as much as in them lieth, live peaceably with all men ?” Surely, they will not knowingly injure any man in his person, property, or character; and when others injure them, they will manifest a ineek, gentle, and forgiving spirit. Injustice, oppression, guile, fraud, covetousness, ambition, and other causes of quarrelling being removed, peace will take place in families and neighbourhoods; and in proportion as this religion gains ground, peace will spread its influence over all the earth, so that “ men shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks ; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” Such is the happy tendency of the religion of Jesus, a religion of peace and love !


[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

“ Sweet peace it brings wherever it arrives,

It builds our quiet, as it forms our lives,
Lays the rough paths of peevish nature even,
And opens in each breast a little heaven."

Such are the trophies of the Prince of Peace, whose nativity we are about to celebrate. Well might the heavenly host usher in his birth by proclaiming, “ Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good-will towards men.

7. Now this peace is represented in my text as the gift of God. " In this place will I give peace.” And whether we consider the great Peacemaker, the Mediator between God and man, who is the Father's gift to a lost world : or whether we consider the repentence and faith whereby we obtain an interest in him, which the


gifts of God and of the operation of his Spirit; or whether we consider the peace itself consequent hereupon, the expression is undoubtedly proper : The Lord gives peace. It is not purchased by our works, it is not effected by our strength, but it is the free, undeserved gift of the Divine mercy, brought into our souls by the inspiration of his Holy Spirit. Free grace bestows the inestimable blessing upon those that are utterly unworthy; guilty man, without any pretensions to merit, only receives it, and the Holy Ghost seals it upon the conscience, and diffuses it abroad in the heart. “ Thus all things are of God, who reconciles us to himself by Jesus Christ, and commits to his servants the word of reconciliation, They therefore are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech us by them : they pray us in Christ's stead to be reconciled to God. For God made him to be sin for us, though he knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

8. And because the Mediator between God and man, through whom we obtain peace, was to appear in this second temple, and while it stood, was to be offered a sacrifice for the sins of mankind; because the gospel of peace was to be published, and the Spirit of peace bestowed there; therefore the Lord says, “ in this place will I give peace.” A promise this, which, at least in a secondary sense, may be applied to every place where the same Mediator, though invisible, is present, the same sacrifice for sin held up, the same gospel of peace proclaimed, and the same spirit of peace conferred. Where God by his word reconciles sinners to himself; where he calls them to repentance, and enables them to believe in the Lord Jesus with their hearts unto righteousness ; where he justifies them from all things, and gives them peace with himself, and peace of mind; where he influences their heart with love to one another, and disposes them to live peaceably with all men; there surely he may properly be said to give peace. I doubt not but the event will show that he will give it here,

9. And when you observe the word preached here crowned with this gift, and made the means of communicating such an inestimable blessing as peace with God, to your fellow-creatures, a blessing that draws after it all the unsearchable riches of grace and glory, how will your hearts rejoice that the Lord inclined you to engage in and help forward this design, and how well bestowed will

think the little money that you have contributed towards it. And, it may be, that some person very near and dear to you may here find this pearl of great price, an intimate acquaintance suppose, a friend whom you love as your own soul, a brother, a sister, a wife, a child,


« PreviousContinue »