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shalt find thyself invincible. What has he to fear, who is conscious of the goodness of his cause, who employs “the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God," and who goes forth conquering and to conquer in full confidence of divine conduct and support.
It is evident from the censure pronounced upon the violators of the temple, that their trade was every way unlawful. This transaction is recorded by all the four Evangelists with little if any variation. And by comparing them together we shall find, that the abuse exposed and condemned was a horrid mixture of impicty and dishonesty, of contempt of God, and robbery of man. Not only was “the house of prayer for all nations" abominably polluted by what fell from the flocks and herds for sacrifice, but it was literally perverted into" a den of thieves," who had entered into a wicked combination to prey upon the public, by enhancing the price of an article which was at once a necessary of life and of religion. These two enormities, however, generally go hand in hand. If there is no fear of God before a man's eyes, his neighbour has but a slender hold upon either his veracity or integrity, when the falsehood may be uttered, or the fraud committed without danger of detection. And, on the other hand, he who deliberately practises deceit upon 6. his brother whom he hath seen," cannot have a very high degree of reverence for “ God whom he hath not seen.”
While we contemplate with shame and sorrow the corruptions which disgraced the Jewish Church, is it possible to refrain from lamenting the equally deplorable corruptions which have disfigured the hallowed form of Christianity? Did not all history attest the truth of it, who would believe that there was a long period, not yet quite expired in some parts of Christendom, and that there was a succession of priest, called Christians, who presumed, for a piece of money, to grant a man indulgence to commit every species of wickedness, which his corrupt heart might suggest, and for any given period, with complete impunity ? Who could believe that this priest, in consideration of something cast into his treasury, would take upon him to issue a pardon of the most attrocious offences, and thereby screen the vilest of offenders from punishment; nay, confer the power of pardoning on stone walls and lifeless altars? The murderer who smote his brother to death in the open street, in broad day, had but to step into the next church, and it stood always open on purpose, to be protected from the vengeance of the law. Who could believe that a present or bequest to the Church was considered as a full compensation for all the crimes of a life of violence, and rapine, and blood, and as a fair passport to the kingdom of heaven ? That such things should ever have existed is most wonderful; that they should have maintained their ground over all Europe for many centuries together is most wonderful. But the scandalous usurpation is hastening to a close. And with the downfal of popery, may every remaining errour in the doctrine, discipline and practice of the churches of the Reformation finally terminate.
The disciples of our Lord possessed one great preparatory qualification for the exercise of their future ministry, acquaintance with the Scriptures of the Old Testament. Struck with this display of their Master's zeal for the honour of God, and for the purity of Temple-worship, they call to rememberance a text from the Psalms of David, which appeared to them a prefiguration of what had just passed. “And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up." We pretend not to affirm that, the words of the Psalmist amount to a prediction of what Chris: felt, and said, and did upon this occasion. David unquestionably uttered his own feelings, though there was as yet no temple at Jerusalem dedicated to the most High God. But the expression amounts to this: Whatever affects the character and worship of Deity, I make my personal concern. "The zeal of Vol. vu.
thine house hath eaten me up:” ardent regard for the honour of thy sanctuary, like a secret flame pent up in my breast must either have vent or consume me : and the sequel is in the same spirit, “and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me." But though we may not hare here a direct prophecy of a future event, we have a powerful assimilation between two most eminent personages, at very distant periods, breathing one, and the sarne spirit, aiming at one, and the same end : and this similitude partakes of the nature of prophecy. And the whole leads us to this conclusion, that there may be predictions, resemblances, analogies in Scripture, hitherto concealed even from the wise and prudent, to be hereafter unfolded, or perhaps reserved for the instruction and delight of the kingdom of heaven, when there shall be in Scripture nothing obscure, or hard to be understood. What a motive is this, now to listen to the command of Christ. “ Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of
In this passage of our Lord's history, as in all Scripture, we have many things “ profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”
1. We have a humiliating view of the treachery and deceitfulness of the human heart. The very persons who considered it as a crime to “ eat bread with unwashen hands," could quietly digest the profanation of the temple and of the worship of God. Such self-delusion do men practice every day. They ireat their own infirmities as some mothers do very homely, wayward, or even deformed children, who not only shew them all possible indulgence themselves, but are offended if others adopt not their fondness and partiality, At the same time, the slightest blemish in the character of another is quickly seen and severely censured. The deception is frequently carried much farther. A man shall actually discern and rigidly condemn in his neighbour, the very fault to which he himself is notoriously addicted. The proud person can endure no one's pride but his own; the passionate stand astonished at the transports of those who are hasty like themselves : and who are so severe upon hypocrisy as the hypocritical ? Every lesson taught by the great Teacher has a foundation in human corruption, and has a tendency to correct it, and this is an important one: “ Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine owo eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye : and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.” To which I subjoin, the prayer of the Psalmist : “Search me, O God, and know my heart ; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
2. If such were the dignity which the Son of God assumed, and the authority which he exercised, while he tabernacled with men upon earth, attended by a few simple Galileans, is it not a matter of very serious concern to meditate on the majesty and importance of his coming to judge the quick and the dead? If his presence was thus awful and tremendous when armed with only “a scourge of small cords," what must it be, when “the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ : who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” In this judgement to come we are all equally interested, and we are furnished with a pres
ent rule of judgement in the decisions of conscience and the dictates of the word of God. Happy is that man who understands, believes and improves the testimony of those faithful and true witnesses ; who, knowing the terrours of the Lord, is persuaded to flee from the wrath to come, and to lay hold on eternal life. “He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already ; because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest that they are wrought in God." These last words open a brighter prospect and disclose to us “the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory, and sending his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." Then shall he be “glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe.” Thus are good and evil, death and life, the blessing and the curse set before us. Thus all that is terrible in justice, armed with almighty power, addresses itself to our fear, and all that is amiable and alluring in unbounded goodness and love, expands to our hope, “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.” May we this day know him as a Saviour whom we must in that day ineet as a judge. May we have wisdom to comply with the counsel of him, as a friend, whom it is certain and utter ruin to encounter as an adversary. “Behold, now is the accepted time: behold, now is the day of salvation."
3. Take care, frail, ignorant, erring man, how thou proposest to thyself the purifier of the temple as a pattern of zeal. " It is good," saith the apostle, 66 to be zealously affected always in a good thing ;" but unless zeal be directed by prudence and knowledge, it may produce incredible mischief. There is a zeal about trifles, which diverts the mind from objects of serious importance. Battles have been fought, and volumes written to determine the posture in which the sacrament ought to be received, and the habit to be worn by the priest in reading the service of the Church. While contention about such non-essentials waxed hot, the spirit of piety and prayer grew cold. There is a zeal which is the offspring of prejudice and habit. It actuated Saul of Tarsus, when“ he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women, committed them to prison ;” and while he “yet breathed out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord :" and when, speaking of himself, he says: “I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem ; and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests: and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.” There is a vainglorious, ostentatious zeal, which cannot bear to pass unobserved, which must be sed with public attention and admiration. Such is that which inspired Jehu, when he exultingly challenged applause : “Come with me and see my zeal for the Lord.” There is a malignant, intolerant zeal, which pities not, spares not. Even the disciples James and John were under its influence, when a village of the Samaritans refused to receive their Master, “Lord,” say they, “wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did ?" and it received a just and severe reprehension from the mouth of Christ : “ He turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." The disciples themselves became the victims of this fiery, exterminating zeal, as Christ predicted concerning them. “They shall put you out of the synagogues : yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.” Thus the hard measure which they would have meted to others, was measured out unto themselves. But there is a zeal, as well as a doctrine, " which is according to godliness :" a pure and lambent flame of love to God, which admits of no mixture of human passion, which views every object through the medium of Deity, and aims but at one end, that God may be glorified. This excellent spirit will never think of doing God service, by shewing unkindness or cruelty to man. But it is so rare and so easily counterfeited, that even its emotions are to be regarded with a jealous eye, for there is no small danger of a man's mistaking the ebullitions of his own mind, for the impulse of God's spirit, especially in cases where guilt is to be condemned and vengeance executed. Darid made a wise and a happy choice, when constrained to submit to one of three great evils. “I am in a great strul;" said he, “ Let us fall now into the hand of the Lord, (for his mercies are great) and let me pot fall into the hand of man." I like not to see the scourge, the sword, the torch voluntarily assumed by one of like passions with myself. In vehement attempts to reform abuse, I should tremble to think of their degenerating into a rage to destroy. The tremendous attribute of vengeance, God will confide to no hands but his own, but he permits man to carry the imitation of divine mercy as far as he can. “ Dearly beloved, arenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath : for it is written, vengeance is mine: I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore, if thine enemy hunger, feed him ; If he thirst, give him drink : for in so doing thou shall heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome, of evil, but overcome evil with good."
4. Mark the power of conscience, and learn to secure its testimony in your favour. What made cowards of those gross and brutal men ! An ill conscience. What chased away a multitude before one man ? An ill conscience. What overawed a rapacious priesthood and a licentious populace ? An ill 'conscience. Conscience drove our guilty progenitors to seek concealment " from the presence of the Lord God, amongst the trees of the garden." Conscience sent out murderous Cain" a fugitive and a vagabond in the eartb," under the dire apprehension that every one who found him would slay him. It is conscience that dictates the unavailing cry to despairing wretches, wbo jn bitterness exclaim " to the mountains and rocks, fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand ?” But what, in opposition to this, is the source of a Christian's composure and satisfaction ? us Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world." Herein consisted the triumph of the Apostle over the fear of the Roman governor, and over the oratory of Tertullus: “Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men.” And this constitutes the triumph and the security of every believer in Christ Jesus: “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ : by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribu. lacions also : knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, expe. rience; and experience, hope : and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us."
Though the buyers and sellers were abashed and put to flight, some of the consequential cavillers, who are to be found in every age, and in every society, maintain the ground, and call for the commission under which Jesus acted. “ Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, what sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things ?" This furnished him with a fair occasion of bringing forward the peculiar and distinguishing doctrine of his religion, the resurrection of the body, which was soon to be exemplified in his own resurrection from the dead, as the first fruits of them that sleep."
This will accordingly constitute the subject of the next Lecture. “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection, on such the second death hath no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ."