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they compare these petty hindrances with the dreadful dangers which could not prevent the apostles and early christians from meeting on this day to shew forth the death, and to celebrate the resurrection, of the Mighty Redeemer.
And, secondly, our reverence for the Lord's day, and our anxiety to join in the public prayers and praises, which the Church of Christ, on this day, offers up to His name, may be greatly increased, by considering the promise which our public, yet more than our private, devotions, have received from Christ, of favour and protection. “If two of you," saith our Saviour, “shall agree on earth, as touching any thing that they shall ask in my name, it shall be done for them.” And in another place, He uses those celebrated words, of the truth of which the event recorded in this day's Gospel is a sufficient pledge: 66 Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”2—This promise was, as you have heard, visibly performed on the first Lord's day, which was celebrated ; and is doubtless still, though not visibly, yet effectually, true of every Christian congregation : and on every returning Sunday, the Lord Jesus Christ is, in an especial manner, present to heal our griefs, and to hear our supplications : and, however plain the building, and however poor
1 St. Matthew, xviii. 19.
2 St. Matthew, xviii. 20.
the flock, the Church, no less than the Temple, hath its resident Divinity; and the Lord is among them, as in the Holy place of Sinai. If such be the case, (and if we believe the promises of God made to us in Scripture, no doubt of its truth can be entertained,] how necessary must it seem, to keep our foot, when we come to the House of the Lord ; – to watch over every thought; and to govern every motion of the body; as well knowing in whose presence we
Are we filled with awe in thinking of the Day of Judgement; and of the appearance of Christ, when He shall come to reward all men according to their works ? — and do we forget, that, here also, He is present in the midst of us; His eye observing our actions, and reading every thought of the heart ? If we do not believe this, how are we Christians ? If we do believe it, can we refrain from crying out, with the patriarch Jacob, on an occasion not very different, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not; how dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God: and this is the gate of Heaven.”
The manner, thirdly, of our Lord's salutation, though it were at that time, and still continues, the usual form of expressing friendship, or civility among the eastern nations, yet, when
I Genesis, xxviii, 16, 17.
it is compared with the avowed object of His coming into the world, may well deserve our serious attention ; and may instruct us, perhaps, both in what place, and in what manner, we may best hope to obtain a blessing similar to that, which He thus bestowed on His disciples, that peace, which the world cannot give.
In all former ages, and by every prophet who foretold the Messiah's coming, had His reign been spoken of, as a period of uninterrupted peace. In those days, saith Isaiah, they shall beat their swords into plough-shares, and their spears
into pruning-hooks; nation shall not rise against nation ; neither shall they learn war any more. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb; and the calf, and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them : they shall not hurt nor destroy, in all My Holy Mountain, saith the LORD.
When Christ was born into the world, the angels sang peace and good will to mankind ; and the title of “ Prince of Peace” was that, which best appeared to suit His benevolent errand. Nor can any doubt be entertained, that, so soon as the knowledge of those virtues, which the Gospel enjoins, shall really be universal among mankind ;-[and that this blessed day must come, when the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, the sure word of prophecy doth not cease to assure us,] there can be no doubt, I say, that, when all men, not only in name, but in very truth and sincerity, are Christians, - war and fighting, which, as St. James assures us, spring only from unchristian lusts', must cease from that time forward ; since conquest and offensive war will be no more thought of; and since defensive war will be, therefore, unnecessary. The conqueror and the tyrant will cease to exist; and the brave defenders of their country will therefore have no occasion to continue their honourable exertions ; but, to the strife of blood, a new and nobler contest may succeed; — which, among the nations, can do most worthy honour to God and His Son ; — which can outstrip the rest in the splen. dour of its charitable and religious institutions, and in the Christian education of the poor.
But though the Church of Christ will be thus blessed and glorious in its rest and its destined triumph, it was not to be supposed, that such happiness was to be procured by any means but by a long and patient endurance, for His sake, of oppression and offence and cruelty. The Church triumphant is destined to repose in peace; but the Church militant must first be tossed in the storm : and the very character of Christ's pure and peaceable religion would, as being utterly opposed to the spirit of the world,
1 St. James, iv. 1.
produce, of course, by that diversity, disturbance and difference among mankind. said Christ, “ that I am come to send peace on earth. I tell you nay, but rather division.' And accordingly, as if compelled by this necessity, in the last hour of His life, and at the time when that guardian care was about to be withdrawn from His disciples, which had hitherto preserved those defenceless sheep, unharmed amid the wolves, He not only permits, but commands, His disciples to provide themselves, for their own defence, with the necessary instruments of death. A total absence of war and bloodshed is not, then, to be expected in a state of human society, so imperfect as the world still offers to us; and as the promise of Christ to His disciples, and of the angels to the shepherds, was immediate, and without any exception of place or time, it is plain, that another kind of peace and tranquillity is signified in both places; distinct from, and independant of, all chances and changes of this mortal life; and the seat of which is, consequently, in the mind :— that peace, I mean, which subsists between a man's heart and himself; - that peace, which is declared by a Merciful God to a repentant and pardoned creature. For, if we consider the power, which the being thus at peace in ourselves confers on the human heart, — to bear not only with patience, but with cheerfulness, the bitterest draught of