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Your present pastor, though he has always doubted the expediency of dwelling, largely, upon the wisdom of God in a mystery, or the hidden wisdom, before a mixed assembly, has had many an anxious hour, to find so many persons in this place, and particularly, in this church, apparently opposed to the very language of the scriptures used in reference to this subject. Milk is as necessary here as it ever was at Corinth; and for the same reason. My predecessor, for ought that I know, might have spent his days here had he been less urgent, upon some points; and whoever may succeed me, may leave you as he did, should he pursue the same course. Let me improve this opportunity to enter my solemn protest against every scheme of religious doctrine which makes the salvation of man, in any measure, to depend upon himself; which leaves out of view the great mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh, and which supposes divine agency unnecessary to renew and sanctify the heart, that it may be prepared for the service and enjoyment of God on earth and in heaven.
THE SECOND COMING OF THE LORD.
I. THESSALONIANS iv. 16, 17.
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout; with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive, and remain, shall be caught up together with them, in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
THESE words were designed for comfort to the believers at Thessalonica, in their seasons of bereavement and sorrow; and they are precious words to all believers, and in all circumstances; especially when trials are so great, that nature is ready to sink under them.
The apostle did not intend to forbid, or discountenance sorrow of every kind, but only that which has no hope connected with it; for sorrow may be so indulged, as to be very proper, and very profitable. If we part with our friends, expecting never to see them again, the scene will be sorrowful, in proportion to the strength of our attachment; but if we realize a future state, we shall anticipate a future meeting; and one attended with peculiar advantages to the children of God; so that instead of gloom there will be much comfort in parting.
Upon the religion contained in the word of God we are dependant for an extensive prospect. When the Sun of righteousness shines upon the soul, the effect is the same as when the natural sun appears, and scatters the fog which, concealing distant objects, made the circle of vision narrow.
To all unbelievers, whether they be called Pagans; Mahometans; Jews; or Christians; the grave is the termination of sight. Faith only can discover to us another state of being, and show us how interesting is our connection with it. Things of the first importance are brought up to view in our text; of the first importance to us all, for they concern each one. Let us take them up in their order.
First, The Lord here spoken of, is undoubtedly the Lord Jesus Christ. From the history which we have of him we may derive many particulars with regard to his character. He has been in our world, in the condition of humanity; with this difference only between him and other men, that there was no sin attached to him; for he was actually born of a woman, and his first place of repose, after he was born, was a manger; circumstances forbidding him better accommodations. Notwithstanding the cradle of this infant was the manger where the cattle fed, the angels thought themselves honored in coming down to communicate the intelligence of his birth to the shepherds and to sing a song of praise to God for an event so auspicious. Wise men from the east, regardless of the expense and fatigue of a long journey, sought the place where this wonderful child was; and having found him, by the guidance of that new star which was intended for the purpose, whatever respect they paid to his mother, they fell down and worshipped him; and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him, gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. Simeon, and Anna, two aged persons who had been waiting for the consolation of Israel, manifested their exceeding joy in beholding in this little child, one whom they were taught to consider as the Savior of the world. Herod was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him, when it was said, that one was born who was to be king of the Jews.
At twelve years of age, his parents carried him to Jerusalem, to attend the feast of the passover; and there he took his seat in the temple among the doctors, or public teachers, that he might have on opportunity to hear them, and to ask them questions. He was probably much among his aquaintance and friends; and his parents set out for home, concluding that though he was not with them, he was some
where in the company. Having travelled a whole day however, without finding him, they returned, with anxiety, to Jerusalem; and after a diligent search of three days, they found him to their great amazement, and satisfaction. The gentle reproof which his mother gave him, furnished him with an opportunity to make a reply, which though she did not understand it, she laid it up carefully in her heart. Wist ye not that I must be about my fathers business? The understanding manifested in his questions and answers in the temple, astonished all who were witnesses; and doubtless, the Jewish doctors no less than the rest.
When he was about thirty years of age, he commenced his public ministry, because that was the age at which the priests, under the law, entered upon the duties of their office; and as they were washed, or baptised, as a preparatory measure, so he received baptism from John, that he might fulfil all righteousness; or illustrate those typical ordinances by which he had been represented. The circumstances attending the baptism of Christ, are unparalleled and deserve to be kept in the remembrance of his people. And Jesus, when he was baptised, went up straightway out of the water; and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the spirit of God, descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And, lo, a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. A long series of temptations succeeded the baptism of Christ, for we are informed, that he was led up of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil. This enemy, knowing who he was, and what was his business, could not have expected to succeed in his mischievous endeavors; but his malice prompted him to exert himself even in a desperate
The life of Christ was a life of poverty, reproach, and suffering, but he accomplished his work without being hindered by any of the attempts which were made to hinder him in the performance of it. He called from their secular employments those whom he chose to have for his disciples, and the propagators of his religion; and he qualified them for the business which he had for them to do. He fulfilled the prophecies respecting himself, in his meek and lowly
deportment, for he came not to be ministered unto, but to minister; and he washed his disciples feet to set them an example of kindness and condescension, When his time was come to die, he submitted to the painful, and ignominious death, which his enemies had chosen to subject him to, and breathed out his soul upon the cross between malefactors.
It will not be wondered at, that he should be called the Lord, who appeared in such a state of humiliation, if his whole history is taken into consideration; for then it will be seen with what authority he spoke, and acted. As if they were a herd of submissive animals, he drove out the trafficers from the temple, having no means of compulsion, but a scourge made of small cords. The winds ceased from roaring, and the waves from raging, when he said to them, Peace; be still. Evil spirits obeyed his order, and immediately departed from those persons whom they had possessed; nor could they enter into the swine without first obtaining permission from him. His voice when employed for the purpose, was heard in the caverns of the dead; and in obedience to it, the departed spirit returned to dwell again in the body, which had been lifeless long enough to be putrid. He forgave sins, though every sin is committed against God; and though God only can pardon sin. The union of two natures in Christ; one divine, and the other human, will account for what he did, and for what he suffered; and this union must be admitted to make the whole consistent. Having finished the work which he came into the world to accomplish; and having laid down his own life and taken it up again, he ascended to heaven; and when he shall appear a second time it will be for a different purpose, and in far different circumstances. With respect to this we have various representations; and one very sublime one, is contained in the passage now under consideration.
Second, Let us inquire what we are to understand by the shout by which the Lord, will be attended when he shall descend from heaven. The angels will accompany him, and doubtless they will come shouting, for they hailed his first appearance, and ministered to him afterwards, and have