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ungratefully doth a wicked world treat the authority of Christ in his absence: but he shall return; and then the authority they will not adnit for their good, will be turned to their destruction-Those mine enemies rohich would not that I should reign over them, bring hither and slay them before me. Not all the powers upon earth can hinder the execution of this command—bring them hither—wherever these offenders shall then be, they will all be found; even the grave shall not hide them, the dust shall not cover them; but the ministers of vengeance will drag them forth, and present them before that king whom they hated and affronted. Some there are, who send their message after him in terms of open treason and defiance; while others explain away the sense and authority of his kingdom with subtilties of logic and a mask of piety. But let them speak or reason as they please, the proudest of them all are under the power of Jesus Christ: those who do not allow of his spiritual authority in his kingdom 'the church, are still within the reach of his justice. Happiest are they, in whose hearts the kingdom of God is established according to those words which were spoken of it-the kingdom of God is within you ; and who can pray daily, as they are commanded, that his kingdom may come ; that it may prevail over our affections, and direct all our doings, till at length it shall be manifested over all, and the king himself, shall appear
in his gloryThe judgment passed by the magistrate in this world against crimes is founded on the law of God, and is an administration of his justice for the time being; an earnest of that more equal and perfect administration which is to come. Every tribunal before which criminals are summoned is a prelude to
the day of doom, when the judgment shall sit, and the dead, small and great, shall stand before God, and the dead shall be judged out of those things that are written. This may seem distant to us now, in our blind
of considering things; but in the language of the scripture it is otherwise: behold, saith St. James, the judge standeth before the door, ready to enter, and to bring every secret work, and every neglected and perverted cause into judgment.
Other figures of the scripture are taken from the state in which mankind are engaged under the dangers of war. As men are troubled with violence and treachery from one another; so is there another warfare more hazardous, to which all Christians are enlisted under the captain of their salvation, against enemies whom no can see; active, subtle, vigilant, malignant spirits; for, we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers. As men prepare for an earthly war, so are we to prepare ourselves that we may stand in the evil day: we are to put on the whole armour of God, as the apostle hath described it; we are to take the shield of faith, the sword of God's word, the helmet of salvation ; and to pray that we may be inspired with fortitude, and assisted in the use of them. We have treachery as well as force to guard against. There are deceitful lusts which assume the mask of pleasure, while they are warring against the soul, as it were by sap, to undermine and destroy it.
No man can use a sword with skill, but he who hath been instructed in the art of defence, and hath practised it long: so can no man handle the word of God aright, that sword of the spirit, but he that has studied it diligently.
With unskilful handling by the ignorant, or the ill-disposed, it may wound our.
selves, and our friends, like a sword in the hands of a child or a madman.
Amongst the occupations of men, the chief is that of husbandry; and it will afford us much instruction. As the field is the subject of man's labour, so man himself is a field under the cultivation of God: ye are God's husbandry, saith the apostle. All the particulars in the course of husbandry are fulfilled in our hearts, For as the ground is broken and cleared, so is the heart to be prepared by repentance: whence the prophet Hosea thus calls upon the people; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord. In the parable of the sower, the seed is the word of God, quick and powerful with the principles of life; and the different kinds of soil denote the various dispositions with which men receive the word of God; some few into an honest and good heart; many more into hearts open as the common high-way to the lusts of the world and the visits of satan; and as such people understand nothing spiritual, they immediately lose what they receive. Some, whose minds are shallow, cannot retain it, as not having depth enough for the word to be rooted, so as to withstand trials and temptations, signified by the scorching heat of the sun upon a stony soil. Some are so full of care and business, that the word can no more thrive, than seed among thorns and thistles.
I would propose this parable of the sower as a specimen of the excellence of that figurative mode of instruction so constantly pursued throughout the scripture.
See how much doctrine, enough to fill a volume, is here comprehended in how few words; in a form striking to the imagination, and plain to every capacity!
Another sort of husbandry, not so familiar to us in
this climate, is the cultivation of the vineyard. In countries nearer to the sun, vines are cultivated in the fields, and employ many hands to plant and dress them, and gather their fruits. In the 5th chapter of Isaiah there is a mystical song, which considers the church of Israel as the vineyard of God, planted in a fruitful situation on the holy hill of Sion, cleared, fenced and guarded, furnished with every thing that could render it complete and keep it in its perfection. Instead of good fruit it produced wild grapes, as bad as if it had been left without cultivation. For this, its hedge was to have been taken away, and it was to be eaten up; that is, the heathens round about it were to be let in upon it to devour it, and it was to be trodden down: no rain was to fall upon it; the blessing of divine grace from heaven was to be withheld; and thorns and briars, all sorts of wicked people, under the figure of every worthless, troublesome and accursed plant, were to prevail in it.
In the 80th psalm, the spoiling of the church is lamented under the same image. It is described as a vine brought out of Egypt by the hand of God, to be rooted in Canaan; from whence the heathens were cast out to make room for it, as the ground is cleared of stones and rubbish for a new plantation. But for its unfruitfulness, the boar out of the wood laid it waste, and the wild beast of the field devoured it. Such ever was and ever will be the fate of the church: when it becomes degenerate, and unworthy of the hand that planted it, the world is let in upon it; who are as eager to plunder, lay it waste, and trample it down, as the swine to root up the ground and destroy a plantation.
In the new testament, the members of the church are considered more particularly as branches of Christ; I am the true vine, says he, and my father is the husbandman : as the branches of the vine are dressed, so are the members of Christ under the discipline of God: correction is as necessary to them as the pruning knife to the vine; and as the branches bear no fruit but as they belong to the tree, so can no member of the church bring forth any fruit but by abiding in Christ; for without him we can do nothing. The unprofitable branch, that bears no fruit, is taken away from the tree, to be burned ; and the fruitless Christian must expect to be cast forth in like manner, and then gathered up for the fire.
The offices of men are applied to the same purpose as their occupations. God is pleased to take upon himself the office of a shepherd, and his people are related to him as a flock. Two of the psalms are composed upon this plan ; expressing the reliance of believers on the pastoral care of God, and their joy and thankfulness to him for admitting them to such an honourable relation: The Lord is my shepherd, therefore can I lack nothing: he shall feed me in a green pasture, and lead me forth beside the waters of comfort. Such is the language of the 23rd psalm. The 100th psalm is an invitation to a solemn act of thanksgiving, with songs and instruments of music in the temple. The people of all nations being admitted into the flock of Israel as the sheep of God's pasture, ought to assemble within the fold of his church, for the public celebration of his truth and mercy. The obligation is particular and special upon Christians, since our Lord appeared personally to men in this character; verifying that prediction of the prophet; he shall feed his flock like a shepherd, he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and curry them in his bosom. To every act of care and kindness proper to a shepherd did he conde