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been : a time is spoken of when “ the false Christs and false prophets shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” Something of this, no doubt, occurred before
the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans : Matt. xxiv. but whoever reads with attention the chapter
which contains these words, will see that the nearer and the more distant coming of Christ are throughout mixed up together; and what applies only partially to the first, will be accomplished, according to the usual course of Scripture prophecy, more entirely at the last. But whatever be the nature of the times to come, the present has temptations enough, and we have need of all our efforts, added to all our prayers, to struggle against them with success. He who looks for complete certainty, and the removal of every difficulty in the way of our belief in Christ, is confounding earth and Heaven together; there we shall enjoy perfect knowledge, and our service will be one of untroubled love : but here we must walk by faith, not by sight, and the enemy of our souls will never cease his assaults against them. Certainty, therefore, we must not expect to find; we must, after all, live by faith; that is, we must take much upon trust; we must sow the seed
in patience, believing that the harvest will come; we must abound in the work of the Lord, believing that our labour is not in vain in the Lord. All our practice in common life is founded upon belief, not upon certainty: we cannot be sure that a single plan we form will answer ; we cannot be sure that a single step we take will lead to our good. But do we therefore sit still and do nothing ? No; we are none of us so foolish in worldly matters : we act upon a probable prospect, where we cannot have a certain one : we do that which is most likely to answer, after we have fully weighed risks on one side and on the other. And this, which is worldly wisdom, is heavenly wisdom also. Heaven and Hell will not be opened before our eyes, God will not show himself in a visible shape, nor will he make his thunder convey to us in articulate words the promise of eternal glory. So then we may believe or not, as we choose ; and herein lies our trial. We may act as we please, and take the
consequences: nor can any one say, till the day of judgment comes, that his decision has been proved the right one. But on the faith of their master's word, Christ's servants are willing to abide the issue : they are satisfied that they have made the best choice, and are
determined through the strength of their Lord, to go on boldly in the way on which they have begun, trusting that it will bring them at last to the haven where they would be.
MALACHI iii. 16.
Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another:
and the Lord hearkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.
In the preceding sermon upon these words, I wished to show how much we were placed in a situation similar to that of the Jews in the time of Malachi ; and how much reason we had to be convinced of the truth of Christ's promise, that he would come again the second time to take his servants to himself; when we saw that the promise of his first coming, which was the comfort of good men in the days of Malachi, has been already actually fulfilled. I said also, that we were tempted now to doubt of Christ's second coming, just as men then doubted of his first, because there were no visible signs of God's interference in the world, but all things seemed left to take their own natural course ; and, that as bad and thoughtless men disbelieved
then, and do the same now; so good and thoughtful men clung still to their trust in God amidst all their difficulties, and had an especial promise that their faith, thus standing the fiery trial, should be recompensed with an exceeding great reward.
But there was one part of the text which I did not then dwell upon, because it seemed to call for more of our attention than could then have been afforded it, and was capable of being considered with more advantage by itself. I mean, that part in which the Prophet describes the method used by good men to confirm themselves in their faith. “
“They that feared the Lord,” he says, “ spake often one to another.” It was their surest means, by God's
grace, of resisting the temptations of their enemy, and so it is our's. It was the greatest earthly blessing of their lives, and so it is of our's. An earthly blessing indeed it ought scarcely to be called; for it reaches from earth to Heaven. The communion of saints which is begun here will go on for ever and ever; only that whereas now, they who fear the Lord speak to one another of him ; hereafter he will himself join their company, and they shall be one in him and in the Father.
It has been well observed, that when Christ sent forth his seventy Disciples during his own