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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. 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
ever taken a deep interest in the work of redemption. Many thousands of angels are spoken of as present, when God appeared upon mount Sinai to give the law to Moses; but all the holy angels are to come with the Son of man, the Lord of angels, when he shall come upon the interesting occasion, we are now considering. How loud a shout must that be, which will be made with the united voices of an innumerable company of angelic beings!
The spirits of just men made perfect, all the saints who shall be at that time in heaven, gathered from all countries, and from every generation, will join in the shout; for they will feel infinitely interested in the descent of the Lord from heaven, as the consummation of their bliss will depend upon it. We are taught to expect a still greater revolution or manifestation of the glory of Christ, in the salvation in which his people are concerned, when he shall raise their bodies and unite their souls with them, and pass that sentence of approbation, which will be a public testimony of his everlasting love. Though there is no uneasiness in heaven therefore, we may conclude, that those who have so much in prospect, will exult to have the day come which will realize their expectations, and add so greatly and so essentially, to their enjoyments.
Another class of holy beings who shall join in this shout will be composed of those believers who will then be upon earth. There are always inducements enough to those who are in the exercise of faith, to wish for a removal from such a world as this; for as every year brings its own vegetation with it, so every year brings its own troubles with it, and every season, and every moment. But the days of millennial happiness are to be succeeded by days of uncommon wickedness, and opposition to the truth, and all who embrace it; so, that when the Lord shall come he will find his people in great difficulty, and of course greatly transported at his appearance, for he will appear for their redemption. If a deliverance from evils is viewed as a great favor, even by those who are to continue in an evil world, and in a condition which will expose them to evils again; what must their feelings be who see their Lord coming to grant them a complete and final deliverance from evils of every de
scription! They will join the loud shout began by the inhabitants of heaven; and make it much louder by the addition of all their voices.
This shout will be a mingled one, not only because it will unite the voice of different orders of holy beings; but because the wicked likewise, of every class will take a part in it. The devils inquired of Christ, when he was upon earth, whether he had come to torment them before the time. What they intended by the time of which they spoke, we may well understand, for we are informed that they are reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day. When this interesting time shall actually arrive, and the Lord their judge shall actually appear, will not their horror and anguish be extreme; and will they not cry out, with the most doleful and vociferous lamentations! As the day of judgment will be a day of peculiar darkness and distress to those apostate angels who will then receive their sentence, so it will be also to all those wicked men whom they shall have drawn into their dungeon of despair; for it will greatly increase the evils of a condition altogether evil before. Can they therefore be silent, and indifferent, spectators of a scene to them so infinitely interesting, and tremendous as this? Will not their cry be as loud as their strength will permit them to make it?
When the Lord shall descend, he will find a multitude of wicked people in this world, whom he will come upon by surprise, and disappoint in their expectations; disconcerting and bringing to an end, all their schemes of wickedness. Such an arrest, from the hands of that Almighty Being, to whom they must hasten to give an account of their conduct, must be productive of feelings unutterable, and of lamentations never before witnessed.
It may be thought by some persons, that the shout of which we have been speaking is nothing more than the acclamation of the angels, by whom the Lord will be accompanied; and it must be acknowledged, that shout is a term, which in its general acceptation carries in it an idea of joy, and exultation. But there can be no doubt, that saints, in heaven, and on earth, will join with the angels in