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4. The subject teaches us the importance of a diligent improvement of the divine word.
The word, as I formerly showed, and as the text teaches, is the grand instrument of the sanctification of the church. "That he might sanctify her by the word, having cleansed her by the washing of water.” Baptism is the sign, the word is the instrument; and I need scarcely remark, that of the two functions, that assigned to the word is the more important. Such precisely is the representation elsewhere given of the office assigned to the divine word. "Sanctify them through the truth, thy word is truth." "The engrafted word is able to save your souls."
If such be the office assigned to the word, in the economy of salvation, of what importance is it that we diligently improve it. Be exhorted, then, to read the word of God, to read it daily, to do it with attention and consideration, with a humble and teachable disposition, with self-application and prayer. "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me." Recollect that "all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."
Be exhorted not only to read the divine word, but to hear it as explained and enforced by your religious instructors. Recollect that salvation comes by faith, and faith by hearing. Recollect that God begets men by the word of truth. Let every man, therefore, be swift to hear. If you would have the word become effectual to your salvation, or your sanctification, you must attend on it with diligence, preparation, and prayer.
Thus, then, I have illustrated a few of the practical lessons which this subject teaches. I shall conclude by addressing a brief exhortation to those who do not
belong to the Church of Christ. And I would begin by remarking, that we ought not to take it for granted that we are vitally united to the Saviour, and members of the church invisible, merely because we make a profession of religion, and have been admitted into some visible community of christians. "They are not all Israel which are of Israel; neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children. Not every one that saith to me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me ye that work iniquity."
The only satisfactory evidence of a vital connexion with the Saviour, and with his mystical body, is a faith operating by love, and producing good works. "If any man be in Christ he is a new creature; and in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature."
Let us all try ourselves by that test, and if we have any doubt of our interest in the Saviour, let us come to him, as if we had never come before, and join ourselves to him by a covenant never to be forgotten.
Let no man imagine, whatever may have been his past conduct, that there is any barrier to prevent his admission to that holy society, which the Lord Jesus will at last present to himself a glorious church. There is no barrier, except what is formed by his own reluctance and his own indifference. "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways: for why will ye die, O house of Israel." Many have entered
the church in the days that are past; but "yet there is room." The gospel table is stored with an abundance of spiritual provisions for perishing souls; and the gospel testimony, and the gospel invitation, is this: "All things are ready, come unto the marriage. The spirit and the bride say, come; and let him that heareth say, come; and whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely. Ho, every one that thirsteth come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money come, buy and eat, yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price."
THE EXALTATION OF THE SAVIOUR.
PSALM lxviii. 18.—Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive; thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them.
THIS psalm is one of the most striking and beautiful, but, at the same time, one of the most difficult and obscure of the psalms of David. There are many expressions in it to which it is almost impossible to attach a definite meaning; and yet in every paragraph we meet with expressions fitted to impart instruction as well as to excite delight and admiration. Like many other portions of the Old Testament, it may be compared to a magnificent landscape, which is seen indistinctly; but every object in it that meets the gazer's eye is evidently characterized by surpassing sublimity and beauty.
It is the general opinion of commentators that this psalm was composed by David on occasion of the removal of the ark to Mount Sion, a transaction of which you will find an account in the sixth chapter of 2d Samuel. The opinion seems to be manifestly countenanced, if not indubitably confirmed, by the contents of the psalm. It commences with the solemn invocation employed by Moses when the ark set forward on its journey; it next calls on the righteous to rejoice in God; and in the subsequent verses, amid many
"things hard to be understood," it contains unequivocal allusions to the most memorable events in the history of the nation of Israel-their deliverance from Egyptian bondage; their march through the wilderness; the promulgation of the law from Sinai; the manna; the conquest and expulsion of the nations of Canaan. It has been conjectured that that part of the psalm with which the text is more immediately connected, was intended to be sung when the procession had reached the hill of Sion, and deposited the ark in the place prepared for it; and to such an occasion it seems naturally adapted. "Why leap ye" (or, as some render it, "why look ye askance with envy) ye high hills? This is the hill which God desireth to dwell in; yea, the Lord will abide in it for ever. The chariots of God are twenty thousand (or, more literally, the cavalry of God are myriads) thousands of thousands of angels; Jehovah is among them as on Sinai Mount; (that is, the scene at Sinai is renewed in Sion.) "Thou hast ascended on high; thou hast led captivity captive; thou hast received gifts for men ; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them."
Such, then, it is probable, was the occasion on which this sacred ode was composed, and such are the transactions to which it refers in its literal and primary import. That various expressions in it are intended to convey a spiritual or mystical sense, and to refer to future events more important and glorious, might have been presumed, even if no part of it had been thus applied in the New Testament. But with regard to the text, this is put beyond all dispute by the application made of it in the fourth chapter of the epistle to the Ephesians?" But unto every one of us is given grace, according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Where