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already laid unto the root of the trees ; and every tree which brought not forth good fruit, was to be hewn down, and cast into the fire, ver. 9. and this Messiah, this Redeemer of mankind, was to come with his fan in his hand, thoroughly to purge his floor ; to gather the wheat into his garner ; but to burn the chaff with fire unquenchable, ver. 17.
Ah! if at this period of the gospel dispensation, when we are exercising, in some manner, the function of John Baptist, if in these days wherein we come to announce the revival of the reign of Jesus Christ in the midst of us, by the celebration of his incarnation and birth; by the commemoration which we are to make next Lord's day in the sacrament of the supper: if at this season, when we are crying aloud to you in the words of St. John, prépare ye the way of the Lord: should you, with the multitudes who attended his ministry, inquire, saying, and what shall we do? We would reply, wait for the consolation of Israel, as Simeon waited for it: bring forth fruits worthy of repentance.
Prepare the way of the Lord, ye great ones of the earth; lead the way in a procession of penitents, as the king of Ninevah did, when the preaching of Jonah thundered impending destruction in his ears, Jon. iii. 4, 9. Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, 1 Pet. v. 6. by whom kings reign, and princes decree justice, Prov. viii. 15. Employ the power with which Providence has entrusted you, not in a vain display of furniture more magnificent, or of equipages more splendid; not by assuming a deportment more lofty and intimidating; but in curbing bold and insolent vice; but in maintaining the cause of truth and justice; but in wiping away the tears of the widow and the orphan; but in rewarding services rendered to the
state; but in procuring respect to the solemn institutions of religion ; but in preventing the circulation of indecent and corruptive publications; and, as far as in you lies, in levelling to the ground that monster infidelity, which is rearing its daring forehead in the midst of you.
Prepare the way of the Lord, ye pastors of the flock. Distinguish yourselves from private individuals, not only by the habit which you wear, and by the functions which you discharge; but by your zeal for the church' of Christ; by your unshaken firmness and fortitude in opposing those who imprudently transgress; but by preserving a scrupulous distance from every thing characteristic rather of the slaves of this world, than of the ministers of the living God.
Prepare ye the way of the Lord, professing Christians. Celebrate your solemn feasts, not only by frequenting our religious assemblies, but by a holy abstinence from those secret abominations, and those public scandalous practices, which have so long inflamed the wrath of heaven against us ; which even now are scattering the seeds of discord through these provinces; which are draining the resources of our country, which are tarnishing her glory, which present to our eyes, in a lowering futurity, vicissitudes still more calamitous and more deeply ensanguined, than those which have already cost us so many tears and so much blood.
This, this is the only effectual method of waiting for deliverance and redemption. Far removed from us be those frivolous terrors, which would suggest, that to be subjected to the yoke of Jesus Christ, is to derogate from his merits! And let us not deceive ourselves; there is not a single particular in the system of the gospel; there is not a single article of Christian theology, but what preaches terror, if we are destitute of that righteousness, and of that fear of God, with which Simeon waited for the consolation of Israel. In order to our having an interest in the pardoning mercy, which the Messiah has purchased for us, we must fear God, as Simeon did; we must be justi as he was; we must hold sin in detestation, we must be of a poor and of a contrite spirit, Isa. Ixvi. 2. because of it; we must cease to do evil, and learn to do well, Isa. i. 16, 17. In order to
, qur having an interest in sanctifying grace, and, in the spirit of regeneration, communicated to us from the Messiah, we must fear God, as did Simeon;;; we must be just like him; we must love wisdom 5 we must askit of God.... nothing watering, James i. 5, 6. or, as the passage of St. James, to which I refer, might be rendered, not balting, or hesitating between the choice of wisdom and folly ; we must not be like a wave of the sea, which seems to be making a movement towards the shore, but anon returns with 'impetuosity into the gulf from which it issued.
Farther, in order to our having a knowledge of, the doctrines which were tauglit; by the Messiah; we must fear God as did: Simeony we must be just like him ; for the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant, Ps. xxv. 14. and if any man will do his will, he shall lenocor of the doctrine whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself, Jo. vii, 17. In order to our having an interest in the promises
, of the glory to be revealed, which are made to us by the Messiah, we must fear God, as did Simeony; We must be just like hims for yoithout holiness no man, shall see the Lord, Heb. xii. 14. and having these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from all , filthiness of the fleste and of the spirit, 2 Cor vii. 1.
If we would attain the assurance of salvation, we: must fear God, as did Simeon, we must be just like him: Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall, 1 Cor. x. 12. and if God sparent not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not ther, Rom. xi. 21.
3. Finally, we are informed by the evangelist, that the Holy Ghost was upon Simeon : and it was revealed to him by the Holy Ghost; that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
On this particular, I shall confine myself to a sin gle reflection. It supplies us with an explication of several ancient oracles, and particularly that of the prophet Joel: And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all fleshy, and your sons and your daughters shall pros pkecy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions, Joel ji. 28. The Jews themselves acknowledge, that the spirit of prophecy was one of the prerogatives which had been denied to the second temple. This gift seems to have ex: pired with the Malachi.. For an uninterupted series of more than four hundred years no prophet had arisen. This high privilege was not to be restored to the church till the latter days should come; and, conformably to the style of the Old Testa ment, the latter days denote the dispensation of the Messiah. Here, then, we have the commencement of the latter days. Here we behold the
prophetic illumination' re-appearing in all its lastre. Here the hallowed fire is rekindling, and celestial revelations enlightened a dark world. These exalted: privileges are communicated first to Zacharias, who beholds an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense, Luke i. 11. They are next bestowed on the blessed Virgin, whom
the angel thus addresses, “ Hail thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among womer, ver. 28. They are extended even to the shepherds, to whom another angel announces the birth of the Saviour of the world, and who suddenly hear a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, glory to God in the highest, and on earth pence, good will towards men, Luke ii. 13, 14. They are poured down upon Simeon, and we shall presently behold the whole Christian church inundated with an overflowing flood of divine irradiation. Let this suffice as to the character of Simeon.
II. We are to attempt to unfold the import of the devout rapture which he felt. And here let us give undivided attention to the object before us, and let every power of thought be applied to discover, and to display, the emotions by which this holy man of God was then animated. He takes Jesus Christ in his arms: he blesses God, and says, Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation. Lettest thou thy servant depart: the Greek phrase, literally rendered, is, thou unloosest, or settest free thy servant. The sense of the expression cannot, in my apprehension, be disputed in this place. To unloose, in the writings of certain profane authors, and the meaning is the same in our text, signifies that act of Deity which separates the soul from the body. Thou liberates thy servant in peace, that is, thou permittest thy servant to die in peace. This object, which strikes the eyes of Simeon, is to him a complete security against the terrors of death. Wherefore should he wish to live longer in this world? Could it be to behold some wonderful eventy or to acquire some