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of time. But if you have observed that this is the constant style of prophecy, that when a long train of distant events are predicted, rising naturally in succession one out of another, and all tending to one great end, the whole time of these events is never set out in parcels, by assigning the distinct epoch of each; but the whole is usually described as an instant, — as what it is in the sight of God; and the whole train of events is exhibited in one scene without any marks of succession ; — if you consider that prophecy, were it more regularly arranged, and digested in chronological order, would be an anticipated history of the world, which would in a great measure defeat the very end of prophecy, which is to demonstrate the weakness and ignorance of man, as well as the sovereignty and universal rule of Providence; — if you take these things into consideration, you will, perhaps, be inclined to think, that they may best interpret the ancient prophecies concerning the Messiah who refer to two different and distant times as two distinct events, — his coming to make reconciliation for iniquity; and his coming to cut off the incorrigibly wicked. Again, if you consider the achievements which the prophets ascribe to the Messiah (which are such as cannot be accomplished but in the course of many ages), and that the general judgment must in the reason of the thing be the last of all, — if
you consider that the Messiah was to come in humility before he should be revealed in glory, you will be convinced that the prophets cannot be understood of a single advent. If you recollect that the Messiah was to be cut off before he should reign, you will probably allow that the history of the New Testament is the best exposition of the types and oracles of the Old : and in Jesus of Nazareth, who came in all humility, and was cut off, but not for himself, you will acknowledge Messiah the Prince ; and you will look for him a second time in glory.
Your faith will be much confirmed, if you recollect that the particulars of the business upon which the Messiah was to come appear no less evidently in the performances of Jesus than the personal characters in his person. The Messiah was to try the tempers and dispositions of mankind. This Jesus does, by the duties to which he calls us, and the doctrine he has left with us, — duties in which faith alone can engage us to persist ; a doctrine which the pure in heart ever will revere, and the children of this world ever will misinterpret and despise. “ Thus many shall be purified, and made white, and tried ; but the wicked shall do wickedly.” Messiah was to purify the sons of Levi. The doctrine of Jesus has in many nations reformed the public worship of God; and we trust that the reformation will gradually become general. Us of the Gentiles he has reclaimed from the abominations of idolatry; and hath taught us to loathe and execrate the rites whereby our forefathers sought the favour of their devils (for they were not gods), — the impure rites of human sacrifice and public prostitution ; things which it were unfit to mention or remember, but that we may the better understand from what a depth of corruption the mercy of God hath raised us. Blindness, it must be confessed, is at present upon Israel ; but the time shall come when they shall turn to the Lord, and when we shall unite with them in the pure worship of God, and in the just praises of the Lamb. “ Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord : " then shall the Lord Jesus come again, to execute what remains of the Messiah's office, — to absolve and to condemn. God grant that every one here may be enabled to “abide the day of his coming, and to stand when he appeareth !”
LUKE, i. 28.
Hail, thou that art highly favoured ! The Lord is
with thee. Blessed art thou among women.*
That she who in these terms was saluted by an angel should in after ages become an object of superstitious adoration, is a thing far less to be wondered at, than that men professing to build their whole hopes of immortality on the promises delivered in the sacred books, and closely interwoven with the history of our Saviour's life, should question the truth of the message which the angel brought. Some nine years since, the Christian church was no less astonished than offended, by an extravagant attempt to heighten, as it was pretended, the importance of the Christian revelation, by overturning one of those first principles of natural religion which had for ages been considered as the basis upon which the whole superstructure of Revelation stands. The notion of an immaterial principle in man, which, without an immediate exertion of the Divine power to the express purpose of its destruction, must necessarily survive the dissolution of the body, — the notion of an imHow a person
* Preached on Christmas-day.
mortal soul -- was condemned and exploded, as an invention of heathen philosophy: death was represented as an utter extinction of the whole man ; and the evangelical doctrine of a resurrection of the body in an improved state, to receive again its immortal inhabitant, was heightened into the mystery of a reproduction of the annihilated person. once annihilated could be reproduced, so as to be the same person which had formerly existed, when no principle of sameness, nothing necessarily permanent, was supposed to enter the original composition, how the present person could be interested in the future person's fortunes, why I should be at all concerned for the happiness or misery of the man who some ages hence shall be raised from my ashes, when the future man could be no otherwise the same with me than as he was arbitrarily to be called the same, because his body was to be composed of the same matter which now composes mine, - these difficulties were but ill explained. It was thought a sufficient recommendation of the system, with all its difficulties, that the promise of a resurrection of the body seemed to acquire a new importance from it; (but the truth is, that it would lose its whole importance if this system could be established ; since it would become a mere prediction concerning a future race of men, and would be no promise to any men now existing ;) and the notion of the soul's natural immortality was deemed an unseemly appendage of a Christian's belief, — for this singular reason, that it had been entertained by wise and virtuous heathens, who had received no light from the Christian, nor, as it was supposed, from any earlier revelation. It might have been expected, that this anxiety to