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SERMON XXXII.

MALACHI, iii. 1, 2.

And the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddedly come to

his temple, even the Messenger of the Covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, He shall come, saith

the Lord of Hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming ? and who

shall stand when he appeareth?

We have already considered the several characters by which the Messiah is described in this text of the prophet. He is the Lord of the temple at Jerusalem : he is, besides, the Messenger of that everlasting covenant of which the establishment is so explicitly foretold by the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel : he is also the Lord whom the profane seek not, - the Messenger in whom they delight not ; that is, he is the appointed Judge of man, who will execute God's final vengance on the wicked. We are now to consider the particulars of the business on which the person bearing these characters is to come.

It may seem that the text leaves it pretty much undetermined what the particular business is to be ; intimating only in general terms that something very terrible will be the consequence of the Messiah's arrival : “ But who may abide the day of his coming ?

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and who shall stand when he appeareth ?” You will not wonder that the appearance of that “ Sun of Righteousness, who hath arisen with healing on his wings,” should here be spoken of in terms of dread and apprehension, if you bear in remembrance what I told you in my last discourse, that the prophet is speaking to the profane and atheistical,

- to those who had nothing to hope from the mercy of God, and every thing to fear from his justice. To these the year of the redemption of Israel is to be the year of the vengeance of our God. The punishment of these is not less a branch of the Messiah's office than the deliverance of the penitent and contrite sinner : they make a part of that power

of the serpent which the seed of the woman is to extinguish. But the prophet opens the meaning of this threatening question in the words that immediately follow it; and which, if you consult your

will find to be these : “ For he is like a refiner's fire and a fuller's soap: and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver : and he shall purify the sons of Levi, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. And I will come near to you to judgment; and will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, saith the Lord of Hosts.” Here you see the Messiah's business described in various branches ; which are reducible, however, to these, — the final judgment, when the wicked shall be destroyed; a previous trial or experiment of the different tempers and dispositions of men, in order to that judgment; and something to be done for their amendment and

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improvement. The trial is signified under the image of an essayist's separation of the nobler metals from the dross with which they are blended in the ore: the means used for the amendment and improvement of mankind, by the Messiah's atonement for our sins, by the preaching of the Gospel, and by the internal influences of the Holy Spirit, all these means, employed under the Messiah's covenant for the reformation of men, are expressed under the image of a fuller's soap, which restores a soiled garment to its original purity. One particular effect of this purification is to be, that the sons of Levi will be purified. The worship of God shall be purged of all hypocrisy and superstition, and reduced to a few simple rites, the natural expressions of true devotion. " And then shall this offering of Judah and Jerusalem (i. e. of the true members of God's true church) be pleasant unto the Lord.” These, then, are the particulars of the business on which the Messiah, according to this prophecy, was to come.

It yet remains to recollect the particulars in which this prophecy, as it respects both the person of the Messiah and his business, hath been accomplished in Jesus of Nazareth. And, first, the prophet tells us that the Messiah is the Lord, and should come to his temple. Agreeably to this, the temple was the theatre of our Lord's public ministry at Jerusalem : there he daily taught the people; there he held frequent disputations with the unbelieving Scribes and Pharisees : so that, to us who acknowledge Jesus for the Lord, the prophetical character of coming to his temple must seem to be in some measure answered in the general habits of his holy life. It is remarkable that the temple was the place of his very first public appearance; and

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in his coming upon that occasion there was an extraordinary suddenness. It was, indeed, before the commencement of his triennial ministry: he was but a child of twelve years of age, entirely unknown, when he entered into disputation in the temple with the priests and doctors of the law, and astonished them with his accurate knowledge of the Scriptures. And in this very year the sceptre of royal power departed from Judah ; for it was in this year that Archelaus the son of Herod the Great was deposed by the Roman emperor, and banished to Lyons, and the Jews became wholly subject to the dominion of the Romans. Thus the prophecy of Jacob was fulfilled, by the coincidence of the subversion of the independent government of the Jews with the first advent or appearance of Shiloh in the temple.

But there are three particular passages of his life in which this prophecy appears to have been more remarkably fulfilled, and the character of the Lord coming to his temple more evidently displayed in him. The first was in an early period of his ministry ; when, going up to Jerusalem to celebrate the

passover, he found in the temple a market of live cattle, and bankers' shops, where strangers who came at this season from distant countries to Jerusalem were accommodated with cash for their bills of credit. Fired with indignation at this daring profanation of his Father's house, he overset the accounting tables of the bankers, and with a light whip made of rushes he drives these irreligious traders from the sacred precincts. Here was a considerable exertion of authority. However, on this occasion he claimed not the temple expressly for his own ; he called it his Father's house, and appeared to act only as a son.

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He came a second time as Lord to his temple, much more remarkably, at the feast of tabernacles

; when, « in the last day, that great day of the feast, he stood in the temple, and cried saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto ME and drink : he that believeth on me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” That you may enter into the full sense and spirit of this extraordinary exclamation, it is neces. sary that you should know in what the silly multitudes to whom it was addressed were probably employed at the time when it was uttered : and for this purpose

I must give you a brief and general account of the ceremonies of that last day, the great day of the feast of tabernacles; the ceremonies, not the original ceremonies appointed by Moses, but certain superstitious ceremonies which had been added by the later Jews. The feast of tabernacles continued eight days. At what precise time I know not, but in some part of the interval between the prophets and the birth of Christ, the priests had taken up a praetice of marching daily during the feast round the altar of burnt offerings, waving in their hands the branches of the palm, and singing as they went “ Save we pray, and prosper us!” This was done but once on the first seven days ; but on the eighth and last it was repeated seven times : and when this ceremony was finished, the people, with extravagant demonstrations of joy and exultation, fetched buckets of water from the fountain of Siloam, and presented them to the priests in the temple : who mixed the water with the wine of the sacrifices, and poured it upon the altar, chanting all the while that text of Isaiah, “With joy shall ye draw water from the fountain of salvation.” The fountain of salvation, in the language of a prophet, is the Messiah ; the

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