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SERMON I.

The Relative Duties of CLERGY

and PEOPLE.

Preached the ist Sunday after Induction*.

MAL. ii. 7.
For the Priest's lips should keep knowledge,

and they should seek the law at his mouth:
for he is the Messenger of the Lord of
Hofts.

A

§ they who have been witnesses

SERM. of God's terrible and great judg- I.

ments, and even smarted themselves under the rod of his displeasure, have the strongest and most powerful motives that can be to Obedience ; so if these motives have not a suitable influence upon them, if they can feel this rod, without hearing bim who has appointed it ufo; this is no doubt a very weighty aggravation of their crime, and represents their Sin as more exceeding hinful I.

* N. B. This Sermon being too long to be delivered at once, several Paragraphs were omitted in the preaching + Mic. vi. 9.

Rom. vii. 13 Voi. III.

B

This

SERM. This is the complaint which we find
I. often made of God's antient people the

Jews, who, even whilst they smarted under
chastisement, turned not always unto him that
Smote them * ; or if they did it for the time,
yet no sooner was that uneasiness removed,
than they went back again to their abomi-
nations. They were too prone (it seems)
to vice, to bear prosperity with equal minds,
and to withftand thofe temptations which
it furnished them to fin. The remembrance
of past troubles made but a faint impres-
fion : So long as there was present respite,
they had present opportunity: And with
Pharoah they seem to have been hardened
but the more t.

Had any judgment been sufficient to
have reclaimed this stubborn people, one
would have expected it from their capti-
vity at Babylon, which lasted till a new ge-
neration of men was risen up, unacquainted
with the vices of their Forefathers, and
trained

up

themselves in the school of adversity, absent in long exile from the holy land, and after their return meeting with such opposition, as for many years obstructed their rebuilding the Temple, and thereby such celebration of Divine Worship as the law prescribed. And yet after all, we find, by this Prophet Malachi, they were but too little touched with the fense

+ Exod. viii. 15.

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* Ilai. ix. 13

of

of these adversities; and however they had Serm. learnt to keep clear of Idolatry, or the

I. worship of false Gods, they had yet but little relish of their mighty privilege in being admitted to approach the true one in their religious solemnities; they robbed him therefore of his tithes and offerings *, they counted it a vain thing to serve God t, and thought there was no profit in the keeping of his ordinances. Nay, and which was worst of all, the Priesthood itself did not escape the general pollution. They whose office obliged them to teach others their duty, should first have been careful to reform at home. But instead of this, we find them in the head of the delinquents. They offered the polluted bread upon the altar, and imperfect sacrifices I, and then they pretended to blame the institution, and said, The table of the Lord is polluted, and the fruit thereof, even his meat, contemptible ||.

By such practices as these, no wonder if they made the people to abhor the offering

the Lord ** ; and (as the Prophet speaks in the verse after the Text) caused many to stumble at the law off. For however it be true that Religion depends not in reality on the regular behaviour of its Ministers, but founds the truth of its Doctrines on the infallible assurance of divine testimony, and * Mal: ïïi. 8, 9.

+ Ver. 14,

# Mal. i. 7, 8. | Ver, 12: ** I Sam. ii. 17

tt Mal.ji. 8. B 2

.

derives

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Serm. derives the obligation of its laws from the
I. authority of the supreme Lawgiver ; yet it

cannot be denied but the generality of men,
who are governed, not so much by reason,
as affection, will from their approbation or
dislike of those that speak, be induced to
give more or less credit to what they shall
deliver. And therefore, when once the
Persons of the Priests shall become (as the
Prophet observes these were among the
Jews) contemptible and base before all the
People *, their function falls of course into
discredit with their Persons, and Religion
will hardly maintain its reputation after
them.

This being the true state of the case,
the Prophet was sent in time to correct these
iniquities of the Priests, which were like
to be attended with such fatal consequences.
To this purpose he denounced against them
very grievous judgments, in case of their
impenitence. And the better to induce
them to comply with his advice, he lays
before them the original institution of their
order in the person of Aaron, and observes
how much better their ancestors had an-
swered the design of their function, to the
end they might perceive how scandalously
they themselves had deviated from the du-
ties of it. My covenant (says God) was with
bim of life and peace, and I gave them to him

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* Ver. 9.

for

for the fear wherewith be feared me, and SERM. was afraid before my name. The law of truth 1. was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips : he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity *. And then follow the words of the Text, declaring the nature of the Priest's Office, in that part of it more especially which is directed to the people. For the Priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth, for he is the Messenger of the Lord of Hofts.

)

From hence you may please to observe with me these three things, viz.

I. The Dignity of the Priesthood : for be is the Mesenger of the Lord of hosts.

II. The Duty of those who are called to this Office, implied in the first clause of the Text : for the Priest's lips should keep knowledge. And

III. The Duty of the People with regard to them : they (says the Prophet) should seek the law at his mouth,

I. First then, I begin with the Dignity of the Priesthood, as implied in the character here given of the Priest ; for he is the Mefsenger of the Lord of hosts,

For the better explication of which point, it will be necessary to enquire into the ori* Ver. 5, 6.

ginal

B 3

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