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to withdraw his restraining grace, and to give a man up to the dominion of his own corrupt passions ? Such men are filled with the inventions of their own wicked hearts, and cherish the most fatal delusions—delusions that beguile them on in the way of certain and inevitable destruction. For this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie ; that they all might be damned who believe not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. These terrible calamities befall men in consequence of cherishing the love and practice of sin, and rejecting the counsel of God. How bitter, then, must be the reflections of those who perish through their own neglect! And have we not reasons to fear that this may be the case of some who are present? Be entreated, then, to seek the Lord while he may be found, and to call upon him while he is near ; for now is the accepted time, and now is the day of salvation.
They, also, who merely engage in prayer formally, should lay these things to heart. Such persons, being more liable to deceive themselves, are in the greater danger. Our prayers must be fervent, in order to be effectual; the cold and formal offerings of the lips will never prevail with God. He demands the heart, the whole heart; and he will accept of nothing short of this. Our hearts must go out in prayer to God, if we would offer to him an acceptable sacrifice. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. God looketh at the heart, and requireth truth in the inward parts. Upon this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. God has even promised to do more than to look with a favorable eye upon such, he has promised to dwell with them: I dwell with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and revive the heart af the contrite ones. When our hearts are thus imbued with the spirit of Christianity, we shall be animated with a laudable zeal in the cause of our Master; we shall press with violence into the kingdom of heaven, and use all diligence to make our calling and election sure. Do we indeed possess this broken, this contrite spirit? and are our hearts inflamed with this holy ardor ? If they are not, rest not satisfied with a round of ceremonies. The form of godliness, without the power of it, can never avail to secure the favor of God; we must have the spirit of Christ, if we would be his true disciples.
Finally, this subject should be particularly remembered by those who profess godliness. Unless we stir up ourselves continually, we shall soon lose the divine presence. And when the presence of God is withdrawn, the soul will be dark and lifeless. It will resemble the dry and parched ground, when the showers and dews of heaven are withheld from watering it; or the cold and frozen earth, when the sun is withdrawn to the southern hemisphere. Our light and life come from God, and he imparts these in the same degree as we cherish and exercise the true spirit of prayer. How important, then, that we should guard against a spirit of formality
in prayer, and that we should stir up ourselves to take hold on God. He has declared that the prayer of the upright is his delight, and that he is as well pleased with the sighs and groans of a contrite soul, as with the songs of the angels that surround his burning throne. If we feel weak and languid, dull and heavy, cold and lifeless, let us endeavor to shake off this spirit of sloth and insensibility -let us bring home to our minds the most powerful considerations, to excite us to activity and diligence in the cause of our dear Redeemer-let us call into active exercise every Christian grace-let us be found continually in the way of duty-and let us add fasting to prayer, and obedience to faith, and charity to love, so that by any and every means, we may stir up ourselves to lay hold on God, and secure to ourselves the promise of eternal life.
The tokens of divine favor, which God has recently conferred upon us, are the pledges of greater mercies, if we will but secure them in God's appointed way. He is now stretching out his golden sceptre, and calling us into a divine and more sacred nearness to himself. He is calling upon us to open our mouths wide, with the endearing promise that he will fill them. He is stirring us up to the exercise of a stronger faith, a warmer love, and a more fervent spirit of devotion, that he may crown our efforts with a rich and plentiful harvest. He is doing more than all this, he is exciting a deep interest in the minds of sinners around us, and in the midst of us, and disposing them to ask an interest in our prayers. Surely, my brethren, in the midst of so much to interest and encourage us, we shall find it an easy and delightful employment to stir up our selves to take hold on God, and to cherish a strong, firm, and enduring faith in him.
The Sure Foundation.
“ He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am ? And Simon Peter answer. ed and said, Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona ; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and tue gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”—Matt. xvi., 15-18.
During the personal ministry of our blessed Lord, the public mind was greatly divided and agitated respecting a variety of opinions concerning him. Some regarded him as a politician, who, under a veil of humility, hid the most ambitious designs ; others took him to be an enthusiast. Some thought him an emissary of the dev. il; others, an envoy from God. And even among those who en
tertained the latter opinion, some said that he was Elias, some John the Baptist, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets. The faith of the apostles was in danger of being shaken by this diversity of opinion : for nothing is more directly calculated to make deep impressions upon a rational mind, than a variety of opinions. They not unfrequently drive men into a state of uncertainty, which produces doubts, and finally ends in skepticism. At this critical time, Jesus Christ comes to the relief of his apostles, and requires their opinion on a question which divided all Judea, for the purpose of establishing them in the true faith. Peter, who, on all occasions, appears to be the most forward, answers for the whole apostolic college. Jesus Christ confirmed the truth of the opinion which had been expressed by Peter, and declares that he had received it by a revelation from heaven. He then assured his apostles that the rock, which had been confessed by Peter, should become the foundation of his church, and that the gates of hell should never prevail against it.
I. In addressing you from the words which we have selected as a foundation of the following remarks, we propose to take them up in the order they lay before us. And, in the first place, it is, he declared that, Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
The doctrine of the divine Unity, is the first article of all natural and revealed religion. The works of nature not only declare the existence of a first cause, but they also bear testimony, by the unity of design, and harmony of plan, which is observable in their whole course, that this first cause is one. The Scriptures of truth are also plain and explicit on this point. They testify that there is but one living and true God, the Creator of all worlds, and source of all blessedness. They also testify that this living God is the Father, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But unto us there is but one God the Father, of whom are all things. They furthermore assert that Jesus Christ is the Son of this one living and true God.
The term, Son of God, is an ambiguous phrase, and used by the inspired penmen as expressive of very different ideas. It is applied to both angels and men, because they were created by God. As a Creator, God stands in the relation of a father to them; hence the propriety of calling them sons of God. Christians are said to be the sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus, because they have been regenerated by a divine influence, and born into the family of God. But Jesus Christ is spoken of in the holy Scriptures as the Son of God, in quite a different sense from that in which all others are called the sons of God. He is said to be God's only Son, his own Son, his beloved Son, his begotten Son, his only begotten Son. The phrase Son of God, when applied to Christ, may not always signify the same thing, but it most generally refers to the dignity of his person. The reasoning of the apostle, in the commencement of the first chap
ter of the epistles to the Hebrews, proceeds upon this principle. His design is to show, that Jesus Christ is superior to angels. This he does by proving him to be the Son of God. He commences by observing that God, who, at sundry times and in divers manners, spake in time past to the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, by whom also he made the worlds ; who being the brightness of the Father's glory, and express image of his person-being made so much better than the angels, as he hath obtained a more excellent name than they. Here Christ is called the Son of God, and this Son is said to be made superior to angels. The apostle evidently uses the term Son in this verse, to express the dignity of the person of Jesus Christ; and by this Sonship he has by an inheritance obtained a more excellent name than the angels.
II. We are furthermore taught in the text, that, in the second place. This Son of God is the Christ, the promised Messiah. Thou art the Christ, the very person promised from the foundation of the world. Thou art the seed of the woman—the seed of Abraham-the seed of David according to the flesh—the long expected Messiah of the Jews.
The term Christ, for the most part, refers to the divine mission of our blessed Lord, and not to the dignity of his person. Christ in the Greek, and Messiah in the Hebrew, are synonymous terms, and literally signify one who is anointed. When Jesus is called the Christ, or the Messiah, we are to understand that he is a divinely commissioned and inspired messenger of God to the world, whom God has sent to reveal his mind and will to his rebellious subjects : to set an example of piety and rectitude for them to imitate : and to recover them to a virtuous and holy life.
III. It is further stated in our text, that, in the third place. This Christ is the foundation on which the church is built.~Upon this rock will I build my church.
It is maintained by the church of Rome, that Christ in this passage intended to point out Peter as the foundation of the church, but this is a mistake. Jesus Christ is the foundation, and the only foundation of the Christian religion, 1 Cor. iii, 11. Christ had previously given to Peter the name of Cephas, which, in the Syriac language, is of the same import with Peter in the Greek : they both mean a stone. Now, says our Lord, thou hast acknowledged me to be the Christ, and I acknowledge thee to be justly and de servedly named Peter, and on this rock, myself, I will build iny church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Christ here declares himself to be the foundation, and recognizes Peter as a suitable stone to incorporate into the building. This is the true sense of the passage.
When Christ calls himself the foundation, it is not of his abstract person that he is speaking, but of his Messiahship. Christians are greatly divided in their opinions respecting the person of Christ :
some maintaining that Jesus Christ in his person is properly God, others contend that he is a mere man; while others have taken what is called the middle ground, that which we assumed in the first part of this discourse. Much confusion has arisen among these contending parties, and many uncharitable censures have been thrown out against those who confine supreme deity to the Father. They have been frequently charged with denying the Lord that bought them, and the only foundation of the sinner's hope. But this mistake has arisen from not paying a due regard to the express language of Scripture. However dignified Jesus may be in his person, it is not of his abstract person that he or his apostles speak when they call him the foundation ; but of him as the Christ, the anointed of God. Upon this rock will I build my church; this shows that the church is built on him as the Messiah. Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. The apostles here teach us that all who believe Jesus to be the Christ, are Christians ; consequently are on the foundation. Again, That if thou shalt confess, says the apostle with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, und shall believe in thy heart that God raised him up from the dead, thou shalt be saved. The resurrection of Jesus proved him to be the Christ, and as such, he is Lord of all. These, and many other passages which might be quoted if necessary, sufficiently prove that Jesus as the Messiah is the foundation God has laid in Zion for the hope of the guilty. All Christians fülly believe that Jesus is the Christ, and as such cordially embrace him. This necessarily includes his divinity ; that is, the divinity of his mission and office, his divine authority and powers, the divinity of his doctrine and works, and the divine gifts and blessings that came through him. As a divinely commissioned, divinely empowered messenger, who spoke the words of God to men, he is the foundation.
When the apostle speaks of Christ as the foundation, this necessarily includes the doctrine he revealed and taught. All that Christ is to us, he is by the gospel. The name Christ is sometimes used when his doctrine, the whole of what came by him, is meant ; as the name of Moses is used in some places in the New Testament, when not the person of Moses, but his law is intended. When we build on Christ as the foundation, we must receive his doctrine, and practice his precepts. It will avail us nothing to call Jesus Lord, Lord, and not do the things he says. Except we take up our cross daily, and follow him, we cannot be his disciples.
We will now notice more particularly of what Christ is the foundation; and,
1. He is the foundation of our faith as Christians. The word of faith, which we believe, was revealed by him; he is both the author and the finisher of it. This word is the gospel, which contains all that is necessary, both for the faith and practice of a Christian. No doctrine ought to be received as a Christian doctrine, but what is plainly taught in the New Testament. No practice ought