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Respecting these I would premise, that they are to be understood as a true description of the church, so far, and no farther, than she acts in character, and is conformed to the word of God. Ist. The Church is compared to the morning. “Who is she, that looketh forth as the morning ?" We have here a-striking and beautiful comparison. The morning rises out of darkness; or it succeeds a night of darka ness. st rises in the east, and looks forth, or spreads to the west. In like manner, the church Tises up out of a dark world ; a world darkened by sin, by ignorance and blindness of heart. It rises up, and looks forth, or spreads like the beams of the morning; and it will continue to spread, till it extends to the ends of the earth. As it
progresses, the darkness recedes-the darkness of ignorance, infidelity, and false religion. When the day breaks, the morning rises, and the shadows flee away.
The morning also makes a visible appearance. It comes forth to the view of beholders. So does the ehurch of Christ. It makes a visible appearance. It stands in the full view of the world, and is conspicuous to all. It is compared to a city set upon a hill, which cannot be hid.
The morning frequently appears mild and serene; and thus it is also with the church, when under divine influence. In the description given by the wise man, sheis beautiful as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, When Christ is present, the church, and all its members are calm and serene, resigned to the divine will, and rejoicing in the smiles of God.
2. The church is further described by being com*pared to tlie moon, “ Fair as the moon,” viz. when she is full, and walking in her brightness, as it is ex. pressed, Job xxxi. 26.
In several respects the comparison is very striking
The moon in itself is a dark hody ; and could afford no light, were it not for the sun. The church also in herself, is dark, ignorant, and guilty. She receives all her graces and beauty, from the fountain of light and life.
The light which comes to us from the moon, when compared to the light of the sun, though the same in kind, is dim; so the light which is in the church, and is exhibited by the members of it, is the same in kind, though not in degree, with that which is in the sun of righteousness.
The moon often changes, and shines not with full light; and is sometimes eclipsed, by the intervention of the earth ; so the church, in this imperfect state, is variable as to her shining. Sin often eclipses her beauty, and clouds her fairest appearance. This resemblance, however, seems not to be particularly res. pected in the text. The chief point of resemblance, which is there expressed, is that of beauty « fair aš the moon."
There is indeed in the moon something very beautiful and majestic, when it rises in a fair evening sky. With silent eloquence it speaks the praise of God, and declares in sensible accents, his wisdom, power, and goodness. So also does the church, when act. ing in character, appear fair and beautiful. She speaks the praises of her God and Redeemer; and clearly exhibits his power and wisdom-his infinitely free mercy, and sovereign, boundless grace. Well may the church therefore be said to be “fair as the moon."
3. The church, in the words of the text, is compared to the sun ; and in many respects there is a great resemblance,
The sun strikingly displays divine perfections ; $0 also does the church, when she adorns the doctrine of God her Saviour, according to his commandment.
The sun is, in its influences, friendly to the inhabitants of this world. Its rays are cheering to man and beast. It scatters clouds and vapors; and by its invigorating and genial heat, nourishes the fruits of the earth, and brings them to perfection. Most benign also is the influence of the church of Christ, upon the moral world, and upon all the interests of society. The people of God, in conformity with his word, extend their friendship and kind offices to all around. Their study is, to do good, and to communicate, and to advance the interest of liberty, science, and religion.
The sun, when he rises, kindly invites the laborer to the field ; and calls on the traveller to pursue his journey. The church also, bending her course through this vale of tears, towards another and a better country, even an heavenly, calls on a stupid stumbling world, saying, “ Come ye with us, and we will do you good, for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel.”
But the point of resemblance specially respected in the text, is that of clearness and brightness_clear as the sun, i.e. without any such dark spots, as are in the
This is to be understood of the church, in the same sense, as when she is said by the apostle, to be without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing. Such is her state now, by God's gracious acceptance of her in Christ, through his righteousness. Such she is also now, in some good degree, by the sanctifying influences of the Spirit ; and will be in perfection in the world to come.
4. The bride or church is further said in the text, to be “terrible as an army with banners.”
The church militant is here compared to an army, or body of men, equipped and prepared for war. She is represented, not only as making a beautiful and glorious, but very formidable appearance.
She is indeed furnished with weapons for her piritual war
fare. As an army is furnished with weapons for its defence, and for the annoyance and destruction of its enemies, so the church is furnished with weapons, which are mighty, througlı Christ, to the destroying of the works of darkness, and defeating the designs of the adversary. The weapons of our warfare,” said the apostle " are not carnal ; but mighty, through God, to the pulling down of strong holds.”
As an army has a commander or general by whom it is led on to battle ; so the church has a head and leader-She carries on the spiritual warfare, under the direction and influence of Christ, the great leader aud captain of salvation, by whose assistance she is sure of success.
Once more, as an army has its banner, or standard; so also hath the church its banner. This is the word of God. The followers of Christ lift up this, as their ensign and defence. They rally around it, and are safe ; for the truth is mighty, and will prevail, notwithstanding all the opposition with which it meets. While it encourages and strengthens the friends of Christ, it strikes a dread, and sends trembling into the hearts of their enemies.
Thus we have considered the comparisons in the text. We may now remark, that the design of them is, to exhibit various and different excellencies in the church. When taken together, they describe her as having the mildness and beauty of the morning, when it looketh forth, and scatters the shades the fairness and majesty of the moon, when walking in brightness-the clearness and splendor of the sun, when shining in his strength and the terror of an army, when set in battle-array.
II. We are to enquire and shew what that is, which renders the church so beautiful and glorious ; and so terrible to its enemies.
1. What is it, that renders the church beautiful and glorious ?
To this I reply, it is not splendid edifices for public worship-nor pompous rites and ceremonies invented by men-nor great worldly riches--nor multitudes of members. Had any, or all these been sufficient to give beauty and glory to a church, the church of Rome had been beautiful and glorious, amidst all its corruptions.
But we may observe affirmatively, that the church appears beautiful and glorious, when she expresses the true spirit and temper of Christ. When all the members have the same mind in them, which was also in him. When they express their love to God and men, by a careful observance of the divine commands, and a tender regard to the cause of truth. When they appear humble, peaceable, meek, ar:1 benevolent. When they unitedly and earnestly seek the glory of God-rejoice in his government-delight in his law, and in the doctrines of the gospel. When they keep close to the pure and distinguishing doctrines of Christianity; and in a spirit of love and unity, maintain the discipline of C.irist's house. * Behold,” says the psalmist,“ how good, and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard, thn. went down to the skirts of his garment. as the dew of Hermon, and as the cloud that descended upon the mountains of Zion, for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for ever more."
When the church feels this divine influence, and is united in love, she appears beautiful as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem. She looketh forth with the mildness and beauty of the morning, fair as the noon,
and clear as the sun.
2. What is that which renders the church not only beautiful and glorious, but formidable to her enemies---even terrible, as an army with banners ? To this I reply,