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If the Christian church have apostatized from the weightier matters of the gospel, as the Jewish church did from those of the law; and if it have, like the Jewish church, paid more attention to outward ceremonies and traditions, than it has to faith, hope and charity, the three precious jewels of the gospel; then it is plain, that the christian church, being in a similar situation to that of the Jewish church, is justly chargeable with the like offences. If the same spirit of persecution has raged in the Christian church as did in the Jewish church, then we may see why it is written in Rev. xv, 6, For they shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink ; for they are worthy.' If there have, or do exist, in the Christian church, an order of clergy who perfectly resemble the ancient scribes and Pharisees, whom Jesus called hypocrites, and a generation of vipers, no reason can be given why they do not as much deserve the damnation of hell. If the blessed Saviour was moved with pity and compassion towards that generation of vipers, and spoke of a time when they should see him, and say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; if there be any now who possess that spirit of Jesus, they surely feel pitiful and compassionate towards those who are of a similar character, and can pray for the time to come when they may see the Saviour, and welcome him to their penitent hearts.
Wisdom undoubtedly directs all denominations of christians, and every individual professor, to examine with caution whether they have the oil of the sanctuary in their vessels with their lamps, or whether they are like the foolish virgins, possessing nothing but the outward forms of religion and godliness, without the power.
Christian prudence undoubtedly directs all to the rational inquiry, what they are doing with their Lord's money; whether they are improving by growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, or whether they are contenting themselves with the old manna their fathers collected. If the Jews who rejected the spirit of that pure religion which visits the fatherless and the widow in their afflictions, were therefore condemned for not administering to Christ in his necessities, is it not of importance that professors of the gospel ascertain how their conduct stands, in comparison with theirs who were found on the left hand, in the parable?
The close of the legal dispensation was the end of the world, in which Christ came to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself; and then the Jewish church were judged according to their works under that dispensation, and cast into outer darkness, as we read in Matt. xxv, 30: And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' The close of the reign of antichrist, as described in Revelations, is the day of judgment to the antichristian church, which must be judged according to its works. See Rev. xviii, 5, &c. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities. Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works in the cup which she hath filled, fill to her double. How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow. Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burnt with fire;
for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her. And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication, and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning, standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, alas, alas! that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come. And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more.' These are the merchants who have sold the treasures of mystery Babylon, or the treasures of the mystery of iniquity. These, like the scribes and Pharisees of old, are unprofitable servants, and must now appear in the judgment, on the left hand, and be cast out into outer darkness; now shall they weep and lament, that no man buyeth their merchandise any more; now will they gnash their teeth on those who burn their city with fire.
As those who received Christ and followed him in the regeneration, had thrones appointed them, so is it now; those who come out of Babylon, and rise in the spirit of life, which reanimates the two witnesses, are those whose voices are heard in heaven. See Rev. xi, 15: And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ and he shall reign forever and ever.' These are they who in the present age, answer to those in the parable, who entered into life eternal.
'Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth.'-Luke iii, 5.
THE foregoing verse is a quotation from Isaiah xl, 4; who, by inspiration, spoke of the coming of Messiah, and the glory which should follow. And a more beautiful representation of the universal and glorious effects of the gospel of our salvation, is not, perhaps, to be found in all the allegories recorded in Scripture. This parable affords the following pleasing and soul rejoicing truths:
1. By every valley being filled, we are taught the blessings of the gospel on the low, meek and suffering part of mankind. The meek are charmed with the glad tidings of salvation; the low despairing soul, shut up in darkness, beholds with rejoicing eyes sin finished on the cross, and immortality brought to light through the resurrection of the all-glorious conqueror of death. Suffering mortals, bound in chains of bondage, crushed with the ponderous weight of absolute power, are taught the divine certainty of the destruction of that illy exercised power which renders even life itself vexatious; and are blessed with the consolations of that hope which raises them, from dust and chains, to contemplate the goodness of the great Arbiter of nations.
2. By every mountain and hill being brought low, we understand the reduction of pride, unlawful ambi
tion, and all earthly power standing opposed to the divinely meek principles of Emmanuel and his glorious kingdom. How humiliating is that grace, which pardons the many follies of our lives, to that towering ambition and pride so incident to mankind. How weak and impotent is that soul, who is reduced to say, 'Lord, save, or I perish.' But, O! the destiny of a tyrannical power. Ye tyrants of the earth, ye have magnified yourselves, ye have raised yourselves to opulence, and bathed yourselves in luxury with the sweat of vassals groaning beneath insupportable burdens, imposed by injustice on servile men. Ye have set no bounds to your ambition, by which millions are devoted to death; but your kingdoms are numbered, and finished; ye are weighed in the balance and found wanting! The high mountains of your strength must be brought low, and all your power must become as the chaff of the summer threshing floors. See Daniel ii, 35; vii, 9.
3. By the crooked being made straight, we learn, that man, who has become crooked and perverse by the serpent's guile, will, by the power and grace of the serpent's bruiser, be brought to divine rectitude.
4. The rough way shall be made smooth.' This undoubtedly refers to the way of which we read in Isaiah xxxv, 8: 'And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called, The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be for those : the wayfaring men, though fools shall not err therein.'
The way of life, which was represented by Christ, in a former parable as straight and narrow under the law, by the gospel is made plain, smooth, and so easy of passage, that he who reads may run, and even fools may walk and not err. In the verse succeeding our