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unworthy of our attention:- -Who ever experienced his blessings, and found them of no value? or whom has he ever deceived, that we dare not trust him?---Let us at least remember what an alternative we prefer; we reject life, and happiness, and glory, and embrace death and misery as our eternal portion-->0 that God might prevail at last! that we might now accept his gracious offers; and be made partakers of present and everlasting felicity!]
CHRIST A STRONG HOLD.
Zech. ix. 12. Turn ye to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope:
even to-day do I declare, that I will render double unto thee.
IF the declarations of God be humiliating, and the denunciations of his vengeance awful, we must acknowledge that his invitations and promises afford us all the encouragement we can desire; inasmuch as they are addressed to persons in those very circumstances wherein we are-Nor should we be averse to confess the truth of our state, when we see what provision God has made for our happiness and salvation--The words before us lead us to consider I. The persons addressed
All men, as sinners, are condemned by the law of God, and may therefore be considered as prisoners arrested by divine Justice, and sentenced to eternal death --But they who hear the gospel are "prisoners of hope" 1. Though they be prisoners, yet they have an hope
[Those, who have died in their sins, are utterly without hope, being reserved in chains of darkness unto the judgment of the great day-- But as long as we continue in the world, we need not to despair-The invitations of the gospel are sent to us; nor can any thing but an obstinate rejection of divine mercy cut us off from the blessings of salvation—Though we are condemned, and are every hour in danger of having the sentence executed upon us, yet there is a way opened for us to escape, and we
mercy even at the eleventh ħour
2. There is however but one hope, unto which all
are shut up
*' Gal i, 23.
(Christ is set before us as the way, the truth, and the life; nor is there any other name given under heaven whereby wé can be saved-We are all inclosed as the prophets of Baal, and the order is given, Go in and slay:b but Christ says, “I am the door;'c and if we will flee out at that door, we shall live; if not, we shall perish in our sins-Christ came on purpose to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound: to them that are sitting in the prison-house he says, Go forth, and shew yourselves But if we spend our time in devising other methods of escape besides that which he has provided, the hour appointed for execution will come, and we shall suffer the punishment which our sins have merited-]
Thus while we see that all, who need the provisions of the gospel, are addressed by it, let us consider II. The invitation given them Christ is here represented as a strong hold
[Christ is evidently the person referred to in the whole preceding context He is that meek but powerful king, who comes to subdue all nations to himself, not by carnal weapons, but by speaking peace to them; and who confirms his kinda ness towards them by a covenant sealed with his own blood• --He is represented as a strong hold to which, aot the righte, ous only, but the most ungodly, may run for safety–Here may be some allusion to the cities of refuge io which the manslayer was appointed to flee, and in which he sound protection from his blood-thirsty pursuerf-Such a refuge is Christ, an impregnable fortress, which defies the assaults of earth and hell-] To this we are all invited to turn
[The gospel thus exhibits Christ, not as an abstract speculation, but as a remedy which we greatly need: and, in exhorting us to “ turn to this strong hold,” it recommends us to renounce all false refuges, to regard Christ as our only Saviour, and to seek in him that protection which he alone can afford us-It stretches out the hand to us, as Christ did to Peter, when he was sinking in the waves-It urges us to go without hesitation, and without delay, to him, who alone can deliver us from the wrath to come, and bring us into the liberty of God's children-To the same effect it speaks in numberless other passages: it calls the thirsty to come for refreshment, the weary to come for rest, and to the dying says, “ Look unto Christ and be
6 2 Kin. X. 18-25.
© John x. 9.
But because even the most needy are apt to turn a deaf ear to the calls of the gospel, we would direct your attention to III. The promise with which the invitation is enforced
The terms in which the promise is conveyed, are somewhat obscure
[The expression of “rendering double" will be best understood by comparing it with other passages of the same kinds-From them its import appears to be, that God will give us blessings in rich abundance; not according to the sufferings we have endured," but double; not corresponding to the punishment we have deserved, but double: not equal to the blessings enjoyed by our fathers, but double-Or perhaps it may be best explained by the apostle's declaration, that God will give us " abundantly, exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think”-Certainly the promise implies, that we shall not only be delivered from prison, but be restored to the favour of our God; not only have our debt discharged, but be enriched with a glorious inheritance
The manner in which it is given is peculiarly solemn and energetic
[God is desirous that we should give implicit credit to his word: hence he speaks as one who would on no account re. cede from it: he speaks as in the presence of ten thousand witnesses; and pledges all his perfections for the performance of his promise And as the day of our desponding fears is long remembered by us, and as we, in that day, find a want of all the support which God himself can administer, he dates his promise as made to us in that very day; not at a time when our difficulties were not foreseen, but when they were at the height, and when nothing but the immediate hand of God could deliver us—Yea, God would have us consider the promise as made to us this day, this very day, this very hour, when we most need the application of it to our souls; and, that every individual may take it to himself and rely on it as intended for himself alone, the promise is made, particular, while the invitation is general] OBSER'VE
1. How astonishing are the condescension and com. passion of God!
[Behold the Judge offers mercy to the prisoners, and urges them in the most affectionate manner to accept it.--Me
& Isaiah xl. Ü. und lxi. 7.
Ps. cx, 15.
thinks prisoners in general would need no intreaty to leave
[Zeal is approved in every thing, but in that, which most
[Now we are prisoners of hope! bụt soon we may be in that prison from whence there is no escape, and into which not one ray of hope can ever enter-Shall we not then turn, while the strong hold is open to us? Shall we stay till the gate is shut; and thus, instead of obtaining double mercies, procure to ourselves an aggravated condemnation?-To-day God invites and promises; to-morrow may terminate our day of grace-Let us then no longer delay; but “to-day, while it is called to-day, let us hear his voice," and “ fee for refuge to the hope set before us”-]
CCCCXXIX. CHRIST'S OFFER OF THE SPIRIT.
John vii. 37, 38. In the last day, that great day of the feast,
Fesus stood and cried, saying, if any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water,
OUR blessed Lord incessantly laboured for the salvation of men
Nor could their ungrateful returns at all divert him from his purpose
His life was sought, and he knew that persons were sent to apprehend him-
Yet, instead of rejecting them with abhorrence, he sought to win them by love
And importuned them to accept his richest blessings
His address to them on this occasion contained I. An invitation
The time and manner of the invitation are worthy of notice
[This was a day of peculiar sanctity, and of uncommon festivitya
And it seems that some customs, not required in the original institutions of the law, obtained among the Jews at that timeb
Happy to improve the opportunity, Jesus stood in the most conspicuous place, and, with an exalted voice, claimed their attention
And, despising equally the censures of the uncharitable, and the persecutions of the proud, he made them fresh overtures of mercy-]
The invitation itself was beyond measure gracious and kind
[While they only panted for his blood, he longed for their salvation
He pointed himself out to them as the only fountain of livé ing waters
a It was the eighth and last day of the feast of tabernacles, Lev. xxiii. 34, 36.,
o It is said that on this day they went annually to the pool of Siloam, and drawing water from thence returned with it in procession to the temple, where they poured it out with all possible demon. strations of joy. At what time this custom arose, it is not easy to determine; but probably it commenced after the Babylonish captivity; and was adopted in reference to that prediction, Isaiah xii. 3. Nor is the design of it precisely known: but it seems most likely that they then commemorated the giving of water out of the rock in the wilderness; and called upon God for rain, which was so necessary to them at that season. Perhaps the more spiritual among them. might pray also for those spiritual blessings, which their proinised Messiah was appointed to bestow. These circumstances served as the foundation of our Lord's address, and reflect much light upon it.