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which he is known, these are strikingly descriptive of his Person, "the repairer of the breach, and the restorer of paths to dwell in!" Isa. lviii. 12.
The great question of the gospel, therefore, and proposed by our Lord himself, ariseth out of those views of the subject:-" What think ye of Christ ?" What have you been divinely taught concerning him? For, until we have a knowledge of his Person, we can no have knowledge of his works, no knowledge of ourselves, and of our lost estate by nature before God; neither knowledge of our want of salvation, and of the fulness and suitability in Christ for salvation; much less of our own personal interest in that salvation. The language of holy scripture on these momentous points is, "They that know thy name will put their trust in thee," Ps. ix. 10. But none can trust an unknown God; though, through grace, we have faith to live upon an unseen God. Hence, it is said, speaking of our most glorious Christ," whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory; receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls," 1 Pet. i. 8, 9. And let it never be forgotten, that there can be no real true apprehension, either of the Person of Christ, or of the salvation by Christ, but spiritually : and until we are regenerated we have no spiritual life, and without spiritual life there are no faculties for apprehension. The Holy Ghost hath stated this solemn truth, in terms so plain and clear, as cannot be mistaken, "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned," 1 Cor. ii. 14. Observe, it is not said, that the natural man will not receive them, but that he cannot; he hath no spiritual faculties alive to receive them: and hence the mighty act of God in regeneration, in which the people of God, who by nature are "dead
in trespasses and sins," are quickened into a spiritual life in Christ. God, who (at the old creation) commanded the light to shine out of darkness, shineth (in this new creation) in the heart, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ," 2 Cor. iv. 6.
In proposing the question to the church-"What think ye of Christ?" I am not going to give in before them a statement of the Person of Christ, or of the glory of Christ. I consider, that I am addressing the spiritual church of Christ, with whom those things are in their familiar life and conversation. It cannot be necessary upon the present occasion to go over the scripture ground to remind the Lord's people of what they are supposed to be in the daily enjoyment of, namely, "communion and fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ, through the anointings of the Holy Ghost." I take for granted, that every truly regenerated child of God, by which he is brought into an apprehension of being a member of Christ's mystical body, and belonging to the spiritual church of Christ, (and it is the spiritual church for whom my new year's gift is meant) hath been divinely taught of Christ, and by divine power is living upon Christ. He will know that our most glorious Christ possesseth, and hath possessed from all eternity, in common with the Father and the Holy Ghost, all divine attributes and perfections: and when, as one of the Persons in the Godhead, he came forth for the salvation of his people, he assumed our nature into union with his divine; and he it is, as the apostle describes him, "whom as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all God blessed for ever. Amen." Rom. ix. 5. The question, "What think ye of Christ ?" is specially and personally addressed to every one of them, and for them and them alone is it calculated. To ask the world of unrenewed inen, in the ignorance of nature, their views of Christ,
would be not unsimilar to that of desiring the deaf to describe sounds, or the blind colours. My present address is of a very different tendency. In the awful and portentous signs of the present times, the spiritual church of our most glorious Christ are supposed not only to be on their watch-tower, like the prophet of old, looking on with the most lively apprehension for the eventual consequences of things, but marking the footsteps of the Lord in the design of those dispensations towards his church in the multiplied and multiplying systems of infidelity, arising every where around, they cannot but discover that the Lord is carrying on his own holy purposes: and though, like the vision of Ezekiel, the machine he saw of wheel within wheel was too vast and complicated for the prophet to unravel, yet, when he beheld the mighty One above the firmament on the throne guiding the whole, the man of God was sure that all was conducting with unerring wisdom, and that order would finally arise out of all seeming confusion, Ezek. i. 26. Such are or ought to be the views of the Lord's people, in what is going on in this nineteenth century of the church. And while the word of God is confirmed by the very dispensations themselves, which forewarned the church "that in the last days perilous times should come," the reason in part, as far as it concerns the people of God, is also stated, "that there must be heresies (saith the apostle) among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you," 1 Cor. xi. 19. The momentous question, therefore "What think ye of Christ ?" seems to meet the Lord's redeemed ones, at every renewed account of blasphemy which they hear of, or with which their eyes or ears are assaulted. Scarce a month passeth without some new production against the distinguishing doctrines of our holy faith: the press teems with them, and each is directed to outstrip his fellow. The prophet saith, "The Lord's voice crieth
unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name: hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it!" Micah vi. 9. And I know not if I mistake, but in my apprehension there is a great sweetness in the question of our most glorious Lord, if considered as personally directed to each of his chosen-" What think ye of Christ ?" Jesus is regardless what others think; but he takes great interest in all they think of him, and all that concerns his people.
I am inclined to hope that I shall be doing no unacceptable service to the Lord's people under the Lord's teaching, if we trace the pestilential disease of the present times to its source; and mark a few of the more deadly symptoms, which, more or less, made their appearance in the world even from the days of the apostles. They who are acquainted with ecclesiastical history cannot but know, that an aberration from "the faith once delivered unto the saints" took place, and blasphemies of the most daring kind against the Person and Godhead of our most glorious Christ, sprung up inmediately after the inspired apostles had fallen asleep in Jesus; yea, the old disciple John spake of antichrist being then in the world before his departure, 1 John ii. 18. I can only propose, however, to notice a few of the more striking; the limits I must observe, will not tolerate many. But before I enter upon this service, I earnestly and affectionately beg the spiritual church to mark with me, how graciously the Lord in every age did then, as the Lord doth now, watch over the interests of his people, and rendered that which the enemy meant for evil the instrument of good. The church hath been all along, and is now, and will continue to be to the very end of time, garrisoned with the divine presence. Beautifully and blessedly the glorious Lord is described as being unto his Zion," a place of broad rivers and streams, wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ships
pass thereby." O no! what line of battle ship would venture to make war, where God himself is the very sea, into which that ship must pass to annoy God's people? What fleet would approach against him "who gathereth the winds in his fists, and hath bound the waters in a garment?" Isa. xxxiii. 21: Prov. xxx. 4. Arise what may, let infidelity abound, let the enemies of our God and of his Christ rage; the event is not doubtful: the Lord hath founded his church," and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
Among the earliest heresies from the days of the apostles, the first seems to have been that which was directly levelled against the Person and Godhead of Christ. It is noticed by the apostle John, but whether in a way of prophecy of what would soon come, or whether as the relation of what had begun to appear, is not said: the sacred writings describe it, as the spirit of antichrist, which "confessed not that Jesus Christ was come in the flesh," 1 John iv. 3. Here was at once an attempt to annihilate the very fundamental principles of the gospel; for the grand and distinguishing character of the gospel was and is, that "the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us," John i. 14. And this implied his prior being and existence, and consequently his eternal power and Godhead: and his coming in the flesh, as plainly proved his having assumed for that purpose our nature, and by the union of both, that he was and is what he was prophesied to be, "Immanuel, God with us.” And consequently, the compound of the human nature with the divine rendered him the real, and true, and the only prophet, Christ.
And much about the same time there was forged as another link in the same chain of heresy, the awful doctrine that the Holy Trinity, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, was in reality no Trinity of Persons, but only names of office; and only meant literally