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SERMON LXIX.

THE PRESENCE OF THE MESSIAS, THE GLORY OF THE SECOND TEMPLE.

For thus saith the Lord of hosts, yet once, it is a little, while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land: and 1 will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shad come, and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts. The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts; and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts.—Haggai ii. 6-9.

THE author of this prophecy was the first of the three prophets, which God sent to the people of Israel after the captivity; and this prophecy contains several messages from God, to the princes, and elders, and people of Israel, in which he reproves their slackness and negligence in the building of the temple, and encourageth them thereto, by the promise of his assistance; and tells them, that how ever in respect of the magnificence of the building, and the rich ornaments of it, it should be incomparably short of Solomon’s temple (which some that were then alive had seen in its glory) yet in other respects it should far excel it: for the time would come, that this second temple should be graced with the presence of the Messias, which would be 288a greater glory to it, than all the riches of Solomon’s temple.

And this is fully expressed in the words which I have read unto you: “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, yet once it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; and I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come, and 1 will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts. The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts; and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts.”

Now, that it is some very great thing which is here foretold and promised, for the honour of this second temple, no man can doubt that considers in what a solemn manner it is here expressed; this great and glorious title, “the Lord of hosts,” being no less than five several times used within the compass of these four verses; the like instance whereto is not, perhaps, in the whole Bible: “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens and the earth.” (ver. 6.) And I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts, (ver. 7.) The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts;” (ver. 8.) and twice, (ver. 9.) “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts; and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts.” So that by the solemn manner of expressing it, we may imagine, that it is some very great thing which is spoken of, and such as the like had never been before; and such was the incarnation and coming of the Messias.

I know that the modern Jews will by no means 289have this text to be understood of the Messias, and not without cause; for he that is spoken of in the text was to come into the second temple, which hath now been destroyed above one thousand six hundred years ago; and they do not believe the Messias to be yet come; and therefore whatever shift they make, they must interpret this text of some other person than the Messias: but then it is plain for what reason they do so, it being evident from their own Talmud, that the ancient Jews did understand it of the Messias; but being hardened in their unbelief, they pervert all those texts where by they might be convinced, that Jesus our blessed Saviour was the true Messias.

And, indeed, whoever carefully considers the several expressions and circumstances of this prediction, cannot understand it of any other. To make this evident I shall explain the several expressions in the text: “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, yet once, it is a little while. Yet a little while,” so it is in the Hebrew. “Yet once more,” so the LXX render it, and so it is quoted from the LXX in the New Testament, (Heb. xii. 26.) and this sense the Hebrew word may likewise bear, and our translation of the text takes them both in; “yet once it is a little while.”

If we take the words in the first sense, “yet a little while,” they signify, that God was then beginning those changes in the world, which were to precede and make way for the coming of the Messias. This indeed was not till about four hundred years after; but a great while before that time God began those changes in the world, which were to prepare the way for his coming; and, considering the long time which was past from the first promise 290made to Abraham, four hundred years in comparison of that may seem but a little while. But I rather choose the latter sense of this phrase, “yet once more; 1 because the Hebrew will bear it, and because it is so quoted in the New Testament; as if the prophet had said, that God had before done a great thing in the world, and accompanied with great miracles; viz. the giving of the law by Moses, which was attended with great commotions, both in Egypt, by bringing the people of Israel out from thence with a mighty hand, and by destroying the nations before them, whose land God gave them for a possession; but now he would do one greater thing more—the sending of the Messias, and the planting his religion in the world; in order whereunto there should be much greater and more universal commotions and changes in the world, and more and greater miracles wrought. “Yet once more, and I will shake the heavens and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land, and I will shake all nations.” From which words the apostle to the Hebrews argues the abolishing of the Jewish dispensation, and the bringing in of another that should be unalterable. (Heb. xii. 27.) “And this word, yet once more, (says the apostle) signifies the removing of those things that are shaken, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.” And this I shall have occasion to explain more fully in the following parts of this discourse.

“Yet once more I will shake the heavens and the earth,” &c. For the understanding whereof we are to consider, that the Hebrews have no one word whereby to express the world, and therefore they do it by an enumeration of the principal parts of it. So (Gen. i.) when Moses would express the creation 291of the world, he says, “in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” And so St. Peter, when he would express the revolution of all things, after the universal conflagration of the world, calls it, a new heaven and a new earth. (2 Pet. iii. 13.) “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens, and a new earth;” that is, a new world, a quite other frame and state of things, than that which we now see. And so the prophet here in the text, to express the great commotions and changes that should be in the world before the coming of the Messias, says, that God “will shake the heavens and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land;” that is, he would cause great revolutions in the world; there should be great wars and confusions, and the empires of the world should pass from one hand to another. And thus we find this expression interpreted, (ver. 21, 22.) of this chapter: “I will shake the heavens and the earth, and I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations.” And to shew that, by shaking the heavens and the earth, is meant great changes in the world, and as it were an universal commotion of it, he adds in the text, by way of farther explication, “and I will shake all nations.”

And then it follows, u and the desire of all nations shall come.” This we (as the ancient Jews also did) take to be a plain character and description of the Messias: he is “the desire of all nations;” he whom all nations had reason to desire, because of those great blessings and benefits which he was to bring to the world. Thus interpreters generally understand these words, and it is very true the Messias was so: but this does not seem to be the true 292importance of this phrase: for the Hebrew word signifies expectation as well as desire, and so I should rather choose to render it, “the expectation of all nations shall come;” which signifies, that about the time of the coming of the Messias, not only the Jews, but other nations, should be in a general expectation of some great prince then to appear; which was most eminently accomplished in our blessed Saviour, as I shall shew by and by.

” And I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts,” speaking of the second temple, which was then in building, which though it fell very much short of Solomon’s in point of state and magnificence; yet by being honoured with the presence of the Messias, it should be much more glorious than Solomon’s temple. “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts;” not that God wanted the command of gold and silver, to have made the second temple equal to Solomon’s in outward glory and splendour; he could easily have made it so in that respect: and Josephus tells us, that not long before the time of our Saviour’s coming, Herod had built and beautified it to that degree, that in some respects it excelled Solomon’s; and of this some understand the next words: “the glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former;” namely, that this was accomplished in that beauty and magnificence which was added to it, when it was re-edified by Herod the Great: but how ever that be, this is certain, that it was much more glorious in another respect, namely, that it entertained the Messias, “the great expectation and blessing of all nations.”

” And in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts.” Some understand this of that universal 293peace which was throughout the world, when our Saviour was born in the reign of Augustus Caesar. Others with great probability interpret this of the Messias himself, who is called here by the name of Peace; and so some of the ancient Jews understood it; “in this place will I give peace,” that is, the Messias. For the Hebrew word signifies all kind of happiness, and so it includes all those blessings and benefits, that happiness and salvation, which the Messias brought to the world. And this will appear very probable, if we consider, how frequently in Scripture this title is given to the Messias. (Isai. ix. 6.) He is called “the Prince of Peace; and (Zach. ix. 10.) it is said of him, that he should speak peace to the nations: and the apostle to the Hebrews parallels him with Melchisedech in this particular, that “he was King of Salem,” that is, “King of Peace;” and, which is very little different from this, he is frequently in Scripture called “Salvation,” which signifies the happiness of being rescued and delivered from all kind of evil; as peace signifies all kind of good. (Isai. xlix. 6.) “I will also give thee for a light to the gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation to the end of the earth:” and (Luke ii. 30.) when Simeon had our blessed Saviour in his arms, when he was first brought into the temple, he calls him the Salvation of God; “mine eyes (saith he to God) have seen thy Salvation;” and (John iv. 22.) “Salvation is of the Jews;” that is, the Messias was to be of that nation. But, which is more express, Christ is called “our peace.” (Eph. ii. 14.) Nay, he is expressly called—peace, or the peace. (Micah v. 5.) “And this man (speaking of the Messias) shall be the peace;” that is, one of his names or titles shall be “Peace.” So that I 294make little doubt, but that in this expression in the text, of “giving Peace,” is meant, giving the Messias; and that this is rendered as the reason, why the glory of the second temple should be greater than of the first, because in that place the Messias should appear, and remarkably shew himself. God could have given this second temple, if he had thought fit, as much outward glory and beauty as that of Solomon’s building; for “silver and gold are his,” and all the riches of the world are at his command; but he chose to put a far greater honour upon it than that of silver and gold, and to make it much more glorious in another respect, “the glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former;” because in this place I will give the Messias, the peace, and happiness, and salvation of mankind, and incomparably the greatest blessing that ever was given to the world.

The words being thus explained, it will now be easier to shew how the several parts of this prediction do agree to our blessed Saviour, and to no other.

I. That there should be great changes and commotions in the world before his coming: “I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land, and I will shake all nations;” and then he should come.

II. That about the time of his coming, the world should be in general expectation of him; “and the expectation of all nations shall come.”

III. That he should come during the continuance of the second temple; for it was his coming that should fill that house with glory, and in that place the Messias, who is called peace, is promised to be given: “and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts.”

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IV. That this coining of the Messias should be the last dispensation of God for the salvation of men, and consequently should be perpetual and unalterable: “yet once more, and I will shake the heavens and the earth—yet once more,” from whence the apostle to the Hebrews argues, that the gospel should be a perpetual and unalterable dispensation. Of these I shall speak severally, and as briefly as I can.

I. Here is a prediction of great changes and commotions in the world before the coming of the Messias: “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I will shake the heavens and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land, and I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come;” plainly signifying hereby, that before the coining of the Messias (who is here called the desire and expectation of all nations) there should be very great commotions and changes in the world, that the empire of the world should be overturned; for so I have told you, that this expression of shaking the heavens and the earth is explained, (ver. 21.) of this chapter: “I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and will overthrow the throne of kingdoms.” And this was fulfilled in a most remarkable manner, between the time of this prophecy, and the coming of our blessed Saviour, during which time (though it was but four hundred years) there happened greater commotions, and much more considerable revolutions, in the great kingdoms of the world, than had done in above two thousand years before, and in almost one thousand seven hundred years since: so that it is no wonder, that the prediction of these things is by God himself expressed in so very solemn a manner, as I observed before.

At the time of this prophecy, the empire of the 296world was newly translated from the Assyrians to the Medes and Persians; and, not long after, the Grecians, under Alexander the Great, quite over threw the Persian empire, and that by as sudden a change as was ever perhaps made in the world, possessing themselves by so swift and speedy a conquest of a great part of the then known world, as if to pass through it and to conquer it had been all one.

After the death of Alexander, the empire of the Grecians was shared among his great captains, whom the Romans by degrees conquered, besides a great many other kingdoms which Alexander never saw, and some of them perhaps had never heard of. And at last the empire of the world, in all its greatness and glory, was possessed by Augustus, in whose time our blessed Saviour was born.

So that here were mighty commotions in the world, wonderful changes of kingdoms and empires, before the coming of the Messias; far greater, and of much larger extent, than those that were in Egypt and Palestine, at the bringing of the children of Israel out of Egypt, and the giving of the law from mount Sinai. And these did not only go before the coming of the Messias, but they made way for the more easy propagation of his doctrine and religion; for the Grecians, and especially the Romans, settled their conquests in such a manner, as in a good measure to propagate their language among the nations which they conquered; and particularly the Romans did make the ways for travel and commerce much more easy and commodious than ever they were before, by employing their armies, when they had no other work, to make high- ways, for the convenience of passage from the station of one legion to another; the benefit and effect whereof we in England enjoy 297to this day (a pattern to all princes and states that have necessary occasion for armies how to employ them): and this very thing proved afterwards a mighty advantage for the more easy and speedy spreading of Christianity in the world.

II. Another part of this prophecy is, that about the time of the coming of the Messias, the world should be in a general expectation of him; “and the expectation of all nations shall come:” and I doubt not but this character of the Messias is taken out of that famous prophecy concerning him: (Gen. xlix. 10.) “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah till Shiloh come: (and by Shiloh, the ancient Jews generally understood the Messias) “and to him shall the gathering of the people be;” or, as it is rendered by the Septuagint, and several other translations, “and he shall be the expectation of the nations.” In allusion to which ancient prophecy concerning him, he is here in the text called, “the expectation of all nations;” and so by the prophet Malachi (chap. iii. ver. 1.) “And the Lord whom ye expect,” or look for, “shall suddenly come into his temple.” Now this part of the prediction in the text was most eminently fulfilled in our blessed Saviour: for about the time of his coming, the Jews were in a general expectation of him, as appears not only from that ancient and general tradition of their’s from the school of Elias, that “at the end of the second two thousand years of the world, the, Messias should come” (and our blessed Saviour’s coming did accordingly happen at that time); but likewise from that particular computation of the Jewish doctors, not long before our Saviour’s coming, who, upon a solemn debate of the matter, did determine that the Messias would come within fifty 298years. And this is farther confirmed, from the great jealousy which Herod had concerning a king of the Jews, that was expected to be born about that time; and from that remarkable testimony in Josephus, who tells us, that “the Jews rebelled against the Romans, being encouraged thereto by a famous prophecy in their Scriptures, That about that time a great Prince should be born among them, that should rule the world:” and Josephus flattered Vespasian so far as to make him believe that he was the man; and thereupon persuaded him to destroy the line of David, out of which the tradition was, that the Messias should spring; as if the accomplishment of a Divine prediction could be hindered by any human endeavour.

And this was not only the general expectation of the Jews about that time, but of a great part of the world; as appears from those two famous testimonies of two of the most eminent Roman historians, Suetonius and Tacitus. The words of Suetonius are these: Percrebuerat oriente toto vetus et constans opinio, esse in fatis, ut Judaea profecti rerum potirentur. “There was an ancient and general opinion, famous throughout all the eastern parts, that the fates had determined that there should come out of Judea those that should govern the world;” and he adds what I quoted before out of Josephus. Id Judaei ad se trahentes rebellarunt. That “the Jews taking this to themselves, did thereupon rebel.” Now it is very remarkable, that the very words of this tradition seem to be a verbal translation of that prophecy in Micah, that “out of Judah shall come the Governor.” Ut Judaea profecti rerum potirentur. The other testimony is out of Tacitus, and his words are these: (lib. 21. § 13.) luribus persuasio 299 inerat antiquis sacerdotum libris contineri, eo ipso tempore fore, ut valesceret oriens, profectique Judaea rerum potirentur: “A great many (says he) were possessed with a persuasion that it was contained in the ancient books of the priests, that at that very time the east should prevail, and that they, who should govern the world, were to come out of Judea.” By the “ancient books of the priests,” he in all probability means the ancient prophecies of Scripture; for the last expression is the same with that of Suetonius, taken out of the prophet Micah; and the other, that “the east should prevail,” does plainly refer to that title given to the Messias by the prophet Zachary, (chap. vi. 12.) where he is called “the man whose name is צמח,” which signifies oriens and germen, both the east and a branch: our translation hath it, “the man, whose name is the Branch;” but it might as well be rendered, “the man, whose name is the East. “Thus you see this character of our Saviour in this prophecy most literally fulfilled, that he was “the expectation of all nations.” I proceed to the

III. Third circumstance of this prediction, That he, who is here foretold, should come during the continuance of this second temple; because it was his presence that should “fill that house with glory;” and it was in that place that the Messias, who is called—the peace, is promised to be given: “and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts.” And this is likewise most expressly foretold by the prophet Malachi: (chap. iii. 1.) “Behold I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me; and the Lord, whom ye look for, shall suddenly come into his temple; even the Messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold he shall come, saith the 300Lord of hosts:” and accordingly Jesus, our blessed Saviour, came during the second temple: he was presented there by his parents, and owned by Simeon for the Messias: he disputed there, and taught frequently there, and by his presence “filled that house with glory.” For that the Son of God taught publicly there, was a greater honour to it, than all the silver and gold of Solomon’s temple.

And not long after his death (according to his express prediction) this second temple was destroyed to the ground: “so that not one stone of it was left upon another.” And when, some hundred years after, it was attempted to be rebuilt three several times, the last whereof was by Julian, the apostate, in opposition to Christianity, and to our Saviour’s prediction, fire came out of the foundation; and destroyed the workmen: so that they desisted in great terror, and durst never attempt it afterwards. And this not only the Christian writers of that age, in great numbers, do testify, but Ammianus Marcellinus (a heathen historian who lived in that time), does also give us a very particular account of this memorable matter. So that if by “the expectation of the nations” be here meant the Messias (as I have plainly shewn), then he is long since come, and was no other than Jesus, our blessed Saviour, who, according to this prophecy, was “to fill the second temple with glory;” which hath now been demolished above one thousand six hundred years, and the rebuilding whereof hath been so often and so remarkably hindered from heaven. The consideration of all which were sufficient to convince the Jews of their vain expectation of a Messias yet to come, were they not so obstinately rooted and fixed in their infidelity. There remains now the

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IV. Fourth and last circumstance of this prophecy, viz. That the coming of the Messias was to be the last dispensation of God, for the salvation of men, and consequently, was to be perpetual and unchangeable: “Yet once more, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land: and I will shake all nations, and the expectation of all nations shall come.—Yet once more;” from which words the apostle to the Hebrews argues the perpetuity of the gospel, and that it was the dispensation which should never be changed. (Heb. xii. 27.) “And this word, yet once more, signifies, the removing of those things which are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which can not be shaken may remain.” And then it follows, “Wherefore, we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved,”&c. It was usual with the Jews to describe the times of the gospel, by “the kingdom of the Messias;” and accordingly the apostle here calls the dispensation of the gospel, “a kingdom which can not be moved:” in opposition to the law, which was an imperfect and alterable dispensation. For this is plainly the scope of the apostle’s reasoning; namely, to convince the Jews that they were now under a more gracious and perfect dispensation than that of the law. (ver. 18.) “Ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire;” meaning mount Sinai, which was a sensible literal mountain, “a mountain that might be touched,” in opposition to the mystical and spiritual mount Sion, by which the dispensation of the gospel is described: which, by the way, prevents the objection of its being called “the mountain that might be touched,” when it was forbidden to be touched upon pain of death: “Ye are not come 302to the mount that might be touched;” that is, I am not now speaking of a literal and sensible mountain, such as was mount Sinai, from whence the law was given; but of that spiritual and heavenly dispensation of the gospel, which was typified by mount Sion and by Jerusalem: “but ye are come to mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.” And then he cautions them to take heed how they reject him that came from heaven, to make this last revelation of God to the world, which, because of the clearness and perfection of it, should never need to receive any change, (ver. 25.) “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh; for if they escaped not, who refused him that spake on the earth, (viz. Moses, who delivered the law from mount Sinai) much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven; whose voice then shook the earth: (alluding to the earthquake at the giving of the law) but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more, I shake not the earth only, but also heaven;” that is, the whole world, in order to the coming of the Messias, and the planting of the gospel in the world: and then he argues from the words “once more,” that the former dispensation should be removed, to make way for that which should perpetually remain.

And indeed there is no need of any farther revelation after this, nor of any change of that religion which was brought from heaven by the Son of God; because of the perfection of it, and its fitness to reform the world, and to recover mankind out of their lapsed and degenerate condition, and to bring them to happiness; both by the purity of its doctrine and 303the power of its arguments, to work upon the minds of men, by the clear discovery of the mighty rewards and punishments of another world.

And now the proper inference from all this discourse, is the very same with that which the apostle makes, from the consideration of the perfection and excellency of this revelation, which God hath made to the world by his Son. “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh; for how shall we escape if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven?” And at the 28th verse of that chapter, “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom, which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear;” that is, let us live as becomes those to whom God hath made so clear and perfect a revelation of his will. We have all the advantages of the Divine revelation which the world ever had, and the last and most perfect that the world ever shall have: we have not only Moses and the prophets, but that doctrine which the Son of God came down from heaven on purpose to declare to the world; God hath vouchsafed to us that clear and complete revelation of his will, which he denied to “many prophets and righteous men, who desired to see the things which we see, but could not see them, and to hear the things which we hear, but could not hear them.” There were good men in the world under those imperfect revelations which God made to them; but we have far greater advantages, and more powerful arguments to be good than ever they had. And as we ought thank fully to acknowledge these blessed advantages; so ought we likewise, with the greatest care and diligence, to improve them.

And now how does the serious consideration of 304this condemn all impenitent sinners under the gospel, who will not be reclaimed from their sins, and persuaded to goodness, by all that God can do; by the most plain declaration of his will to the world, by the most perfect precepts and directions for a good life; by the most encouraging promises to obedience, and by the most severe threatenings of an eternal and unutterable ruin, in case of disobedience; by the “wrath of God, revealed from heaven, against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men;” by the terrors of the great day, and the vengeance of eternal fire; by the wonderful and amazing condescension of the Son of God appearing in our nature; by his merciful undertaking for the redemption of lost and sinful man; by his cruel sufferings for our sins, and by the kindest offers of pardon and reconciliation in his blood, and by the glorious hopes of eternal life.

What could God have done more for us, than he hath done? What greater concernment could he shew for our salvation, than to send his own Son, his only Son, to seek and save us? And what greater demonstration could he give of his love to us, than to give the Son of his love to die for us? This is the last effort that the Divine mercy and goodness will make upon mankind. So the apostle tells us in the beginning of this Epistle, chap. i. 1; that “God, who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in times past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken to us by his Son:” and if we will not hear him, he will speak no more; after this it is not to be expected that he should make any farther attempts for our recovery, he can send no greater and dearer person to us than his own Son. If we despise him, whom will we reverence? If we reject him, and the great salvation which he brings 305and offers to us, we have all the reason in the world to believe that our case is desperate, and that we shall die in our sins. This was the condemnation of the Jews, that they did not receive and believe on him whom God had sent. And if we who profess to believe on him, and to receive his doctrine, be found disobedient to it, in our lives, we have reason to fear that our condemnation will be far heavier than theirs: for since the appearance of the Son of God for the salvation of men, the wrath of God is “revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,” especially against those who detain “the truth of God in unrighteousness;” that is, against those who entertain the light of God’s truth in their minds, but do not suffer it to have its proper effect and influence upon their hearts and lives; and make that a prisoner which would make them free. So our Lord tells us, that “the truth shall make us free;” but if, after we have received the knowledge of the truth, we are still the servants of sin, our condemnation is much worse than if the Son of God had never come: for the Christian religion hath done nothing, if it do not take men off from their sins, and teach them to live well.

Especially at this time, when we are celebrating the coming of the Son of God, to destroy the works of the devil, we should take great heed that we be not found guilty of any impiety or wickedness; because this is directly contrary to the main design of “the grace of God which brings salvation, and hath appeared to all men (and the appearance whereof we do at this time commemorate) for that teacheth men to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly and righteously, and godly, in this present world:” and we cannot gratify the devil more, 306than by shewing ourselves more diligent than ordinary to uphold his works, at this very time when the Son of God was manifested on purpose to dissolve them: we cannot possibly choose a worse, a more improper season to sin in, than when we are celebrating the birth of the blessed Jesus, who came to save us from our sins. This is, as if a sick man, for joy that a famous physician is come to his house, should run into all manner of excess, and so do all he can to inflame his disease and make his case desperate. Not but that our inward joy may lawfully be accompanied with all outward innocent expressions of it: but we cannot be truly thankful, if we allow ourselves at this time in any thing contrary to the purity and sobriety of the gospel. It is matter of just and sad complaint, being of great scandal to our Saviour and his holy religion, that such irregular and extravagant things are at this time commonly done by many who call themselves Christians; and done under a pretence of doing honour to the memory of Christ’s birth; as if, because the Son of God was at this time made man, it were fit for men to make themselves beasts.

If we would honour him indeed, we must take care that our joy do not degenerate into sin and sensuality, and that we do not express it by lewdness and luxury, by intemperance and excess, by prodigal gaming and profuse wasting of our estates, as the manner of some is; as if we intended literally to requite our Saviour, “who, being rich, for our sakes became poor.” This is the way of parting with houses and land, and becoming poor for his sake, for which he will never thank nor reward us. This is not to commemorate the coming of our Saviour, but to contradict it, and openly to declare that we 307will uphold the works of the devil in despite of the Son of God, who came to destroy them. It is for all the world like that lewd and senseless piece of loyalty, too much in fashion some years ago, of being drunk for the king. Good God! that ever it should pass for a piece of religion among Christians, to run into all manner of excess for twelve days together in honour of our Saviour! A greater aggravation of sin cannot easily be imagined, than to abuse the memory of the greatest blessing that ever was,—Christ coming into the world to take away sin, into an opportunity of committing it; this is to represent the Son of God as a patron of sin and licentiousness, and to treat him more contumeliously than the Jews did, who bowed the knee to him and mocked him, and called him king, and spat upon him; and under a pretence of rejoicing for his birth, to “crucify to ourselves afresh the Lord of life and glory, and to put him to an open shame.”

I will conclude all with the apostle’s exhortation: (Rom. xiii. 12, 13, 14.) “Let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk decently as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof.”

Now to our most gracious and merciful God, the great friend and lover of souls, who regarded us in our low and lost condition, and cast an eye of pity upon us, when we were in our blood, and no other eye pitied us, and when we had lost and ruined ourselves, was pleased, in tender compassion to mankind, to send his only-begotten Son into the world, to seek and save us; and, by the purity of his doctrine, 308and the pattern of his life, and the sacrifice of his death, to purchase eternal life for us, and to direct and lead us in the way to it: and to him also, the blessed Saviour and Redeemer of mankind, who came down from heaven, that he might carry us thither, and took human nature upon him, that we thereby might be made partakers of a Divine nature; and humbled himself to death, even the death of the cross, that he might exalt us to glory and honour; and whilst we were bitter enemies to him, gave such a demonstration of his love to us, as never any man did to his best friend: “Unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb that was slain; to God, even our Father, and to our Lord Jesus Christ, the first begotten from the dead, and the Prince of the kings of the earth; to Him, who hath loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to Him be glory and honour, dominion and power, now and for ever. Amen.”

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