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Thus we christians become much richer in divine promises, than all the ancients, having a common interest in all the most valuable ones of the Old Testament, as well as a peculiar property in those of the New. What an invaluable and everlasting treasure are these erceeding great and precious promises which God has given us in Christ Jesus? It is by these we are made partakers of the divine nature, that is, the image of God, and by these we are enabled to escape the corruption that is come into this degenerate world through lust ; 2 Pet. i. 4. It is by these we are quickened when we are slothful, we are supported when we are sinking, we are encouraged to run the race of duty, and to combat with every opposition. It is from these that christians derive courage in their dying moments, and they triumph over death itself, the last enemy, when a promise sets the prize of eternal life and the crown of glory just before them. Be thou faithful to the death, and I will give thee a crown of life; Rev. ii. 10.
And how are all the invitations of grace in the Old Testament animated by the Son of God come in the flesh ? How many new ones are superadded? And how much is their force of persuasion increased, when the power and success of them has appeared in such wondrous instances as the New Testament sets before our eyes? How are the worst of sinners encouraged to lay hold of a promise of mercy, and to rest upon it, when our blessed Saviour received publicans and other notorious criminals, when Levi and Zaccheus were so favoured by him, when Mary Magdalen found pardon for the guilt of a public and shameless life, when Paul the persecutor and blasphemer obtained mercy, and was made a favourite and an apostle, and when he assures us that his conversion was designed to this blessed purpose, as a pattern of abounding grace; 1 Tim. i. 16.
How powerfully are humble and despairing christians supported, and backsliders encouraged to return to God in a way of dutiful obedience, when Peter who fell in the hour of temptation and denied his Lord, was recovered to repentance by a compassionate look of Christ, and not only received to forgiveness, but advanced to the first rank of office in the kingdom of Christ, and did glorious service for him? But it is time to put an end to this discourse, and it shall be concluded with a few inferences.
Inference I.-" Though every part of our bible be sacred and divine, yet the latter part of it is much more valuable to us than the former :" The New Testament far exceeds the Old, because it reveals to us this better covenant, and makes us possessors of these better promises. The books of Moses and the proplets, and the Psalms of David, contain admirable discove
ries of the majesty and mercy of God, but where the beams of Jesus the Sun of Righteousness shine, there is not only a more glorious light to direct our steps, and to enliven our spirits, but there is a new lustre shed abroad over the psalms and the ancient prophets, and the typical ceremonies and promises of Moses. So that in Great Britain and in our age, we understand those ancient divine writings much better than the Israelites in the land of Canaan could understand them, even better than Moses and the prophets understood wliat they themselves were inspired to write. John the baptist was greater than all the prophets, because he could point to Jesus the Messiah, Behold the Lamb of God; John i. 29-36. And since the death and resurrection of Christ, and pouring down of the Spirit, the least minister, or perhaps the least wember in the kingdom of Christ, knows much more of the Messiah and his kingdom than Johu did, and than all the former ages, and the writers that lived in thein.ffat. xi. 11.
II. “ What abundant thanks and praises are due to the Blessed God, who brought us forth into the world under this last and best dispensation, who hath trained us up in the christian doctrine, and not made us Jews !” We are not called to that troublesoine, and expensive kind of worship, which eonsists in the killing and burning of bulls and goats, and the choicest lambs of the flock. The bleeding flesh of animals, and fire and smoke, make no part of our religious solemnities. Jesus the Lamb of God is already offered as an all-sufficient sacrifice: there is no need of another atonement: He has by one offering for ever perfected them that are sanctified; Heb. x. 14. We are not obliged to travel three times a year to distant parts of the nation where we dwell, in order to adore our Maker, at one single tabernacle or a temple, for in every place, that God who is a Spirit is worshipped now, even by public assemblies, in Spirit and in truth ; John iv. 23. We are not forced to spell out the mercies of God by types and dark figures ; but we see his overftowing goodness, in the person and offices of his beloved Son Jesus; we read the pardon of our sins in his blood, and our sanctification by his Holy Spirit. There is no such veil spread over the invisible world as covered the ancient dispensation. Heaven and hell, and all the awful and eternal things that belong to them, are discovered in a clear and surprizing light. We are not left to live upon the promises of temporal good things, and to search out the spiritual blessings that are covered and wrapped up in them; but the spiritual and everlasting mercies which are provided for the saints, stand open to sight, in the promises of the New Testament: They seem to court our embraces, and iuvite us to rejoice in hope. We need
Ro longer be “ subject to a bondage of spirit through fear of death, for death is conquered by the Son of God; life and immortality brought to light by the gospel, and God hath not given us the spirit of bondage, and terror under the christian dispensation ; but the spirit of courage, and faith, and love, and joy unspeakable;" 2 Tim. i. 7-10. For ever blessed be the Lord, who hath called us to be christians.
III. “ Do we enjoy the privilege of knowing this better covenant, and shall any of us content ourselves without a certain interest in the blessings of it?” Do we hear of these better promises, and shall we be satisfied without a title to them? Shal we belong to that wretched tribe of despisers, who behold this great salvation, and wonder, and perish?" Acts xiii. 41. What double anguish will seize our consciences, when the Judge shall pronounce at the last day, Go ye cursed into endless misery; ye had all the glories and joys of heaven brought nearest of all to you in this better covenant, and offered to you in these betier promises, and yet ye refused to accept them.
IV. “ If we ebristians live under a better covenant, and enjoy better promises, we must needs reproach ourselves if we find our faith and obedience fall below that of the Jews.” Have we nobler assistance in our holy race to heaven, aud yet shall we move on slower than they, and lag behind them? Have we brighter encouragements, and yet shall our zeal be colder? Are our duties set before us in a far clearer light, and shall our obedience be more defective? Does divine mercy reign in the promises of the gospel with superior glory, and shall our faith in these promises be more feeble and wavering? O let us set the pattern of Abraham and David, and other ancient saints before us, and shame ourselves out of this earthiness of spirit, our lazy bumour, our cold affection to divine things, and our languishing hope of immortality. Let the name, and pattern, and Spirit of the blessed Jesus inspire us with new vigour to follow him, who is the Mediator of this new and better covenant, till he shall have brought us to the accomplishment of all these better promises. Amen.
The Exultation of Christ to his Kingdom, and his sending
down the Holy Spirit.
Acts üi. 33.—Therefore, being by the right-hand of God exalted, and having
received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he bath shed forth
this which ye now see and hear. IT
was a strange amazement that seized the hearts of the mal. titude who came up to Jerusalem at the days of Pentecost, when they heard the apostles speak so many new languages: The Jews and the Gentiles of various nations were struck with one general surprize, when they found fishermen, and persons of no learning, declare in every tongue the wonderful works of God and his grace: And while they were busy in their enquiries into the cause of this great event, Peter, standing up with the eleven, lift up bis voice as their speaker, and beginning with the prophecy of Joel concerning the pouring out of the Spirit upon all flesh, preaches to them the life and death and resurrection of Christ, and assures them that these miraculous gifts descended upon the apostles from that Jesus whom the Jews had crucified and slain : " But we are witnesses,” says he," that God has raised him from the dead; and being exalted by the right-hand or power of God, be has shed forth these wondrous gifts of the Holy Ghost, which the Father had promised him, and of which your own eyes and ears are present witnesses.”
The two great subjects of my appointed discourse, are evidently contained in this
text, viz. "The exaltation of Christ to his kingdom, and his pouring down of the Holy Spirit.
In pursuit of the first of these I shall shew you wherein consists the exaltation of Christ, and what are the several parts of it; and here I might take notice,
I. That at his ascension to heaven there was a glorious change passed upon his body to make it fit for the heavenly state. For though Christ was raised from the dead, yet being designed to continlie forty days on earth, he was not raised in a glorified body; Luke xxiv. 39. He pronounces his “ body to be flesh and bones, and bid his disciples handle lim;" but St. Paul assures as; I Cor. xv. 50. T That flesh and blood cannot in
herit the kingdom of God, nor can corruption inherit incorruption;" and therefore the bodies of the saints at the resurrection must be all changed into spiritual and incorruptible, that is, such as are fit for the services of a glorified spirit, and for an immortal life. Such a change passed upon the flesh and bones of our blessed Lord, when the bright cloud received him out of the sight of his disciples, and conveyed him upward to the mansions of light and immortality; Acts i. 8.
II. I might also take notice in the next place. That it is part of the exaltation of Christ to be delivered from all possible sorrows and pains and temptations, to which he was exposed in our world ; to be placed above the reach of the malice of earth and hell, as well as to be delivered from all mortal infirmities, and to be filled with inward satisfaction and joy unspeakable. He is exalted to “the right-hand of God, where there are pleasures for evermore;" Ps. xvi. 1). His holy soul, which once endured such terrible, conflicts and agonies, now sits triumphant in eternal peace beser to be ruffled and disquieted again. He now enjoys those sweet and sacred satisfactions of heart which arise from the review of his own finished labours and sufferings; tiresome labours indeed, and tremendous sufferings, but never more to be repeated! He is now for ever drinking in fuller pleasures from the indwelling godhead, from the smiles of his Father's face, and shall never more complain, “ My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Mat. xxvii. 36. He, “for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, and despised the shame;" Heb. xii. 2. and these are the joys which he is now possessed of as a just and divine recompence.
III. He has authority given him by the Father to govern the world as long as it stands, and to judge it at the last day." He is exalted to be both a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance to men and forgiveness of sins ;" Acts v. 31. He calls those who are given him out of the world, and makes them parts of his church : He changes their sinful natures, he makes them the children of God, and pardons all their iniquities. Nor doth his kingdom reach only to his own church, who are his willing and joyful subjects, but it extends over the whole world ; the rebellious and infidel nations are under his reign and controul. His lordship not only includes all mankind, but it reaches over angels and devils, over all the regions and the inhabitants of heaven, earth and hell : All things are put into his hands and placed under his dominion; he is Lord of all; Mat. xxviii. 19. Acts x. 36. He doth not reign only in Sion as heretofore, and as King of the Jewish nation, but the heathens are now made his inheritance, and the utmost ends of the world his possession; Ps. ii. 8, 9. Not only his own followers and friends are under his government, but