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of His blessing, both in this life and in that which is to come.
The object proposed by the ministry of the gospel is to be noticed in the last place. This is intimated when the apostle observes, Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach and so ye believed. It was in order that faith might come by hearing, that the gospel of Christ was preached. Unless it be believed with all the heart by those who hear it, it is preached in vain. It is said of some, that the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. 36 It is of great importance then that we should believe the word of God. If we hear it, without believing it, it will rise up in judgment against us to our condemnation. If we truly believe it with all our hearts, it will be the means of the salvation of our souls. We have reason therefore to fear lest we should enjoy the means of grace without being profited by them. It should be our concern that we may be numbered among them that believe to the saving of their souls.36 Let us then examine ourselves, whether we be in the faith.37 Let us look into our own hearts, and see whether the grace of God operates in us. Unless we are under its influence, we cannot heartily believe the gospel of Christ. We may hear that Christ died for our sins, but we shall hear it in vain. We may believe the historical fact, but it will be to no purpose. It is the most awful state in which hearers can be, to have the judgment informed on the subject of Divine truth, and yet the heart to remain unaffected by it; to know and assent to the theory of the gospel, to be persuaded of the truth of the holy scriptures, and not to have the affections influenced by it, so as to produce love to Christ in the heart, and holy obedience to His blessed will in the life. Let me beseech you not to receive the grace of God in vain,37 nor to hear the gospel in a careless manner, as though it were a matter of indifference whether
36 Hebrews iv. 2; x. 39.
37 2 Corinthians xiii. 5; vi. 1.
believed it or not. But while you hear it, pray for Divine grace to be bestowed upon you. Pray for a new heart to be given you, and a right spirit to be put within you. Seek to treasure up the word of God in your memory, pray that it may be written upon your hearts, that you may not be forgetful hearers, but doers of the word, receiving it with pure affection, and bringing forth the fruits of the Spirit in your life and conduct; that the God of all grace may be glorified; and your immortal souls may be eternally saved.
TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.
THE TWO DISPENSATIONS.
2 Corinthians iii. 9.
FOR IF THE MINISTRATION OF CONDEMNA
TION BE GLORY, MUCH MORE DOTH THE MINISTRATION OF RIGHTEOUSNESS EXCEED
In the Epistle for this day, the Mosaical and the Christian dispensations are contrasted with each other, and a description is given of the peculiar characteristics of each ; of which the text also affords a specimen. A right understanding on this subject is of great importance; for, through not observing the distinction which subsists between them, many humble and self-diffident persons are held in a state of bondage and disquietude, which makes them uncomfortable through life, and full of fears as to the issue in
eternity. The text naturally divides itself into two parts, to both of which the context affords illustration. Let us consider the topics here presented to us, with prayer that the Holy Spirit would be pleased to vouchsafe to us His blessing, that our meditation on His holy word may not be in vain.
The supposition with which the text commences, If the ministration of condemnation be glory, is intended to convey the strongest affirmation that the Mosaical dispensation was truly a glorious one. And that it was so appears evident, when we compare the state of the persons to whom it was vouchsafed, with that of the other nations of the earth during the time of its continuance. The Israelites were so fully persuaded of its superiority to every thing else in the world at that time, that they said, with gratitude to their Divine Lawgiver, He showed His word unto Jacob, His statutes and His judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation; and as for His judgments they have not known them. Praise ye the Lord.38 In reference to this Divine dispensation, their lawgiver Moses asked them, What nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous, as all this law, which I set before you this day?39 This dispensation was glorious in its delivery. The power and glory of the Divine
38 Ps. cxlvii.19, 20. 39 Deut. iv. 8. 40 Exod. xix.16,18,19; xx.20.
Majesty were displayed in the most awful manner at the giving of the law. There were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud, so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice.40 Here was every thing calculated to produce a deep and lasting impression upon the mind, and a dread of the consequences of disobedience to that Divine Being, whose power and glory were displayed in so conspicuous and awful a manner. The threatenings of the law against disobedience were enforced by an exhibition of Divine power sufficient to appal the stoutest heart.
And it was designed to excite such feelings as might deter those who witnessed it from the commission of sin. Moses said unto the people, who were alarmed at this manifestation of the Divine
power, Fear not, for God is come to prove you, and that His fear may be before your eyes, that ye sin not. 40 But howtransitory those feelingswere, notwithstanding they produced such terror in the first instance, appears from the people falling into idolatry, while Moses was yet in the mount with God, and the devouring fire was still before their eyes