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Temper and Conduct-the more ardent in their Zeal, generous in their Intentions, and active in their Gospel-labours--the greater, in proportion, is their interest in the Promise ; especially as it respects sensible enjoyment of their Lord's presence, and final success in his Cause.
THIRDLY, The Implications of the Text. They may be classed under two heads:
1. Those which concern the Character, Duty and Dependence of the Church, and
2. Those, which respect the Honour, Purpose and Grace of our Redeemer.
1. Of the Church then, is implied, that it is a body of men, a holy society standing in special relation to the Son of God, as his Kingdom upon earth; and consists of persons who, being called and fitted to his service, are used by him as honoured instruments for maintaining his Cause, and for displaying his Glory among mankind. They are living Stones in his spiritual Temple, and form a “ Habitation for God through the Spirit.” « The Church is the Pillar and Ground of the Truth :” A monumental Pillar, erected to the honour of the Divine Majesty, on which are inscribed the Law of Righteousness, the Counsels of unerring Wisdom, and the Worders of Redeeming Love.
2. Being advanced to this honourable station-appointed to this sacred use, saints have an arduous, interesting service to perform in the Cause of God: each has an important personal concern, in the improvement of his talent, and the advancement of his soul in the divine life; but as a member of the Church of Christ, and of the Human Family, he has a more extensive concern in whatever respects the increase of his Lord's Kingdom at large. To the interests of this Kingdom the weakest Christian may, through Grace, contribute; to do so, all are laid under indispensible obligations; and to excite our attention to wards the great object, our Lord has taught us thus to pray, “Thy Kingdom come."
3. The Church's Weakness, and dependence on the Redeemer, are implied. Never should his saints forget those words, “ Without me ye can do nothing."—Who can master his own Corruptions, withstand the Frowns and Allurements of the World, and maintain a successful conflict with infernal spirits, those malignant, mighty Powers of Darkness, but by the Power of Omnipotent Grace?
But if continual aid from Heaven be necessary to crown the Christian's efforts with success, while working out his own sal. vation, how insufficient must all the exertions of merely human power be, in attempts to effect the conversion of sinners, to maintain the Cause of Truth against the oppositions of Earth
and Hell, and to conduct aright, the various, vast, sublime concerns of God's Church! The funds of Learning, mental Energies; powers of Eloquence, human Prudence, and incessant Labours must all prove abortive here, without the mighty Pow. er and Grace of our Redeemer.-Well may we exclaim with the great Apostle to the Gentiles, " Who is sufficient for these things !”But with him, again, may each faithful minister of the gospel say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me!”
2. Concerning Christ are implied.
1. His Divinity. Did he in enjoining the ordinance of Baptism assert his divine honours, and claim them as being equal with those of the Father, and of the Holy Ghost, while they are presented to our view as the united Objects of our faith and Adoration; he now renews the claim, by promising to his militant Church universally, his gracious presence. Who but a divine--an infinite person can be at once in heaven, and in all places on earth, where two or three are met in his name: and with millions of individuals, in every age, who are found employed in his service? Could he have any regard to his veracity and sacred honour in thus promising, were he not in possession of infinite perfection? Verily, “ He is the Brightness of the Father's Glory, the express Image of his Person, and in him dwelleth the Fulness of the Godhead Bodily." True, by the assumption of our nature he is really Man; but in his divine nature he is as really God.
2. His determined purpose of accomplishing the great Design of his Mediatorial Kingdom; by bringing to their completion, the schemes of Providence and Grace, in the advancement of the Divine Glory. On this grand object the Redeemer's heart had been set from eternity; when in the counsels of peace on the subject of man's Salvation, in the Covenant of Redemption, “Conceived at once, and signed without debate, in perfect union of the Eternal Mind," he offered himself, as a surety and sacrifice, for the salvation of his people. All the terrors attendant on his state of Humiliation, even the bitter Death of the Cross, could not deter him from prosecuting the great Design: and he will not leave his work incomplete. “The Top Stone shall be brought forth with shouting, crying Grace, Grace unto it!"
3. The Condescension and Grace of our Divine Lord, are here implied.
What are men at best, that the exalted Son of God should be thus mindful of them? He knows also all the errors and infirmities of his people—their Unbelief, Ingratitude, Neglect, and Disobedience--their Pollutions of Heart and of Life; and his immaculate Purity is by these unspeakably offended; yet such is his Mercy, that he pities their Weakness, pardons their Ini
quities, and with Divine Constancy continues Juis Favour towards them. Still the Lord of Angels, the King of Glory abides with the unworthy Children of Men; hearing their prayers, affording them the aids of his Grace, and giving them consolation in the day of their Distress! While the Believer, convicted of his unworthy conduct towards his Lord, is constrained to reproach himself, and say to his soul, “ Is this thy kindness to thy Friend?” How must he admire the Grace, and adore the Perfections of him, who “Is a Friend that cleaveth closer than a Brother!
In the Improvement of the subject, our attention will be given principally to the Lirection, Encouragement and Consolation which the Promise affords.
First, Let all our Endeavours to attain true Religion, and promote its Interests, whether we act Individuals or Churches, be made in humble dependence on the Grace of Christ; and under the direction of his word and spirit. By him alone, we find access to God and obtain heavenly Peace. Christ is the way, the Truth, and the Life:” no man cometh to the Father, but by him; and he is the source of Divine Life to the Soul. As the Branch cannot bear Fruit, except it abide in the Vine, no more can we, except we abide in him.
This shows the importance of Faith—of that Faith in the Son of God, by which the saints live, and by which they derive their Blessings from his immense Fulness. Faith must fix with reliance on what the Redeemer has already done for our salvation, by his Incarnation, Atonement, Resurrection, and Appearance before his Father's Throne. But it must equally regard what he has promised to do, in the communication of Grace to his Church, for their Conservation, Prosperity, and ultimate Glorification. Is Christ with the Church; does he walk in the midst of the Golden Candlesticks; and are all transactions and services which are performed in his sanctuary brought under the particular notice of his eye ; that eye which penetrates the very heart, observing every motive and every thought: how concerned should we then be to render him our services in simplicity and holiness, with reverence and Godly fear? The Motive, in a religious view, is of the last importance. If Love to Christ, and a Regard to his Glory do not influence our conduct, we are at best as “ Sounding Brass, and a tinkling Cymbal.” We may labour much in the Gospel Ministry, have our minds zealously affected, and preach the doctrines of truth ; even those which are the most evangelical, and yet do all from wrong motives. One
real design may be to excel in the profession and character we have assumed without any just regard to the Redeemer's ho. nour, and without sincere Love to him. O! then, let us have a strict regard to our motives.
But this is not all: we must do his Will, and render him the best of our services. Then are we his Disciples, when we do whatsoever he hath commanded us. And this is the proper Evidence of our Love. “If ye love me,” said the Saviour, “keep my Commandments."
SECONDLY. Here is ample encouragement for the humble Christian, and faithful Minister. The blessed Redeemer is with his people; and will not forsake them. He is a “Wall of fire round about them, and the Glory in the midst of them.” The gracious restraints, the sanctifying influence, and precious consolations of his Spirit, he will afford to them as individuals. He will also visit his assembled People, bless the Provisions of his House, own the Ordinances of his appointment, support and animate his Ministering Servants, and give success to their Ministrations, in the conversion of sinners, and in the edification of saints, even to their perfection in the divine life. Opposition to his Gospel, like the Great Mountain before Zerubbabel, in the prophetic Vision of Zachariah, shall give way, and become a Plain. Though the servants of God be called to preach his Gospel to those who may be compared to dry bones, divine influence, like breath from the four Winds of the Heavens shall animate them. They shall arise and live, an exceeding great army; be enlisted under the banner of the Cross, and become courageous in the Cause of God. Stubborn Prejudices, perverse Passions, the influence of idolatrous, infidel Priests, Philosophers, and Rulers of the Earth ; Ignorance and Error; Casts and Shasters; the Rage of Tyrants, and the Power of Devils shall all yield to the omnipotent Arm of him who is the Captain of our Salvation. “Though the Enemy come in like a Flood, the spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard againsť him.” “If God be for us, who can be against us?”
Be courageous then, ye servants of the living God! Enlarge your expectations, let your hopes arise, and exert all your powers in the honourable, holy service of your Redeemer.
THIRDLY, If the gracious Presence of Emmanuel be with his saints, and shall not be removed from them, what ineffable consolations are secured to the Church by this blessing! Hail happy Zion! highly favoured City of our God! A never failing source of Joy is opened to thee: thou shalt be watered with streams from the River of Life, which flows from the Throne of God and of the Lamb!
While we reflect on the great things God has already effected in the earth by means of the gospel, and behold the state to which the Church is even now advanced under the
protection of her glorious Head-comprehending Covenant Blessings, Gospel Privileges, Gracious Influence and Gracious Experiences ; numerous Members, ministerial Gifts, eminent Talents, the improvements of Science, Influence on civilized Nations, and the means of intercourse with the rest of the world ; the laudable Zeal which operates in the breasts of thousands for the enlargement of Christ's Kingdom, the Schemes adopted by men of an apostolic Spirit for the diffusion of Gospel-Light, and these going into successful operation under the smiles of a benignant Providence ;-viewing these, it is natural to look forward with pleasing anticipation to those blessed days which Prophecy has made known, when the triumphs of the Cross shall extend to the remotest parts of the habitable globe; the knowledge of God cover the earth, as the waters do the sea; and the Kingdoms of the World become the Kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; when Wars shall cease, the Revolutions of Empires terminate, Fraud and Oppression be banished from the earth, and Benevolence, Harmony and Love prevail.
Nor do our views terminate here ; guided by the Light of Revelation, and inspired by the Christian's Hope, the Soul rushes forward, overleaps the narrow bounds of Time, and contemplates the second Advent of the Son of God; the transactions of Judgment, the Dissolution of the World, and the Consummation of the Saints in Heavenly Bliss. Then shall Pain, Sorrow, Death and Sin be known no more. The Redeemed of the Lord shall rest from all their toils, triumph over all their Enemies, be satisfied with the full enjoyment of Divine Love, see Christ as he is, and ever be with the Lord to behold his Glory.
In the intervening time, however, Conflicts are to be endured, Privations to be suffered, and arduous Services to be performed. But whether the saints be present or absent, on the land or the sea, among friends or enemies, the gracious Presence of the Redeemer will be with them; and in the enjoyment of this Blessing, they shall be-must be happy.
These Considerations stimulate to vigorous Exertions in the Cause of Christ, and apply with peculiar force to the circumstances of our present meeting. At the call of Divine Providence we are here assembled, to consult on measures the most eligible, for sending the blessed Gospel to the Heathen, and to nations destitute of pure Gospel Light. Electrified, as it were, by the considerations which the united Voice of Scripture and Providence have presented to our minds, we have suddenly as