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SENM. of its rise and progress in the world, yr. Through all this discourse, which he
delivers in the language of parable, he stiles his Church the Kingdom of Hea
He calls it a Kingdom, because it imposes a law and exercises an authority over mankind: he calls it the Kingdom of Heaven, because it is governed by a King, who came from heaven, and is returned to heaven, and though established upon earth for a season, yet will it be transferred to heaven for all eternity.
The gentle, yet rapid and extensive growth of this divine Kingdom is represented here by two Similitudes, adapted to the common employments of either sex, the one from rural, the other from domestic life. The Kingdom of Heaven is like to a Grain of Mustard Seed, which a Man took and sowed in his field; which indeed is the least of all seeds; but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof. The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto Leaven, which a Woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole wus leavened.
Now these two parables in their de- serM. sign and interpretation are one. Alike relating to the Kingdom or the Church of Christ on earth; they equally represent its gentle nature and diffusive increase. To avoid a confusion of images I shall confine my attention to the former of these similitudes; on which I chuse to treat in preference, because it is frequently employed by the Prophets, when they describe the character and progress of our Saviour's Kingdom. And surely none can be more expres. sive, than that of a stem insensibly rising from the least of seeds to the height and compass of a tree. Thus Isaiah, more peculiarly the Prophet of the Gospel, after describing the fall of temporal Kingdoms under the image of a Forest hewn down with iron, and of Lebanon falling by a mighty hand, proceeds with a reference to our Saviour's spiritual Kingdom to say; And there shall come forth a Rod out of the Stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his Roots a Şuch also is the language of the Prophet Jeremiah; Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will
SERM. raise unto David a righteous Branch; and
a King shall reign and prosper, and exe* cute judgement and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely. And this is the name whereby he shall be called, The Lord our Righteousness b.
And to sum up all with a beautiful description of the Psalmist, which refers in its primary sense to the Jewish constitution, but applies with fuller emphasis to the Kingdom of Christ : Thou hast brought a Vine out of Egypt: Thou hast cast out the Heathen and planted it. Thou mailest room for it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedar trees. She sent out her boughs unto the Sea, and her branches to the River
Now all these prophetic images were clearly and completely fulfilled in the mild and diffusive growth of the Christian doctrine. In order to display their exact accomplishment, it may be proper to give some brief account of the rise and progress of that dominion, which had been the constant argument
Jer, xxiii. 5,6.
< Psalm 1xxx. 8, &c.
of ancient prophecy, and which it was serm. the object of our Saviour's coming to establish in the world.
We cannot conceive a more humble beginning of any kingdom, than of that which our Saviour came to found. A poor unlettered Peasant, neither distinguished by birth or education, came forth from an obscure city of Galilee, announcing to mankind that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand. To outward appearance he had nothing to recommend him to the regard of men. He had no pleasures for the voluptuous, for he required of men self-denial and suffering for his sake: he had no riches for the covetous, for he required of his followers not to set their affections on worldly possessions: he had no honours for the ambitious, for the lesson which he first inculcated was humility and poverty of spirit. Thus according to the language of the Prophet he grew up as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground; he had no form nor comeliness; and when men saw him, there was no beauty that they should desire him d.
& Isa. lii. 2.
Yet humble as he was to all outward vi. appearance, he had an embassy from Ww Heaven of the greatest importance to
mankind; for he had a law to impart for their constant observance in this life, and he had an assurance to yield them of a recompence in another life accorda ing to the tenour of their obedience. And as an evidence that God was with him, he was invested with miraculous powers, which he was continually exere cising to beneficial purposes. He went about doing good, as well to the bodies as to the souls of men, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the Kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease amonga the people.
Yet notwithstanding all these tokens that he came from God, and that he bore good will to men, as the Prophet continues his description, he was despised. and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him notf. After he had walked some time upon earth, he was betrayed into the hands of those who
Matr. iv. 2%
Isa. liii. 3, 6.