THE PRESE TATIO OF CHRIST I THE TEMPLE. REV. RICHARD CECIL, A.

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And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel ; and for a sign which shall be spoken against ; (yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also.) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.— Luke ii. 34, 35. [1806.] St. Luke records many circumstances not mentioned by the other Evangelists ; among which is this account of Simeon, a just and devout man, who was waiting for the consolation of Israel. When Joseph and Mary brought in the child Jesus to present him to the Lord, according to the law respecting the first-born, Simeon, by direction of the Holy Spirit, came at the same moment into the temple, embraced the infant Saviour in his arms, and bore an honorable testimony to him as the true Messiah.

148 ORIGI AL THOUGHTS. In discoursing upon this subject, I shall endeavor, I. To CO FIRM THE WORDS OF THE TEXT. II. To IMPROVE THEM. I. To CO FIRM THE WORDS OF THE TEXT. Bchold this Child, as the " precious Corner-stone," placed here with this very design, " for the fall and rising again of many in Israel/' ot as the instrument, but as he would prove the occasion. Jesus Christ was set for the fall of many, not as the end of his appointment ; on the contrary, it was an effect directly opposite to that end ; but inasmuch as his coming into the world would prove to many an occasion of falling. We may here regard two things : 1st, the fact, as manifested in ancient limes ; and 2ndlv, as obvious also in modern times. 1st. Christ, "the chief Corner-stone," proved the occasion of the fall of many hi ancient times. He was

mdeed " the true light, that lia;hteth everv man that CD ' O ./ Cometh into the world :" but " the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not." He was to them '' for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock of offence," — words directly prophesied of by Isaiah. "Sanctify the Lord of Hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he shall be for a sanctuaiy ; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem." This text must be an everlasting riddle, an enigma, if we do not see, that Christ not only was, but is still, "a stone of stumbling." He became a stumbling-block to the Jew by the simplicity of his appearance ; and foolishness to the Greek by the character of his doctrine. But was he not, in truth, " the power

PRESE TATIO OF CHRIST I THE TEMPLE. 149 of God, and and the wisdom of God" to every one that beheveth ? But, 2ndly, let us come to modern times ; what is the fact now ? I do not send you to China or Barbary ; we will look at home, where " the true light now shineth ;" where the Gospel is brought to our doors. Christ is come ; his birth is commemorated ; and how ? A day is indeed publicly set apart ; but how is it kept — and that, b}^ a people calling themselves Christians ? In revellings and banquetings, in gluttony and drunkenness ; with a scornful disregard of the event they propose to celebrate ! Is this the fact ? Is not then the text applicable to modern times ? Is not Christ made an occasion of falling to all such persons ? But Christ was also to be ''for a sign which shall be spoken against." We preach Christ, as the light of the world : but with many, and perhaps with some here, such preaching is called "the cant of a sect:" they find that the preaching of Christ disturbs them ; they wish to live in carnal ease. But woe to them that sew pillows to all arm-holes ! woe to them who

save the souls alive that should not live, by lyinpj to the people who hear their lies ! Ezek. xiii. 17 — 23. One will say, " I do not deny the coming of Christ, but wiiy say so much about it?" "I do not like the doctrine," says another : " it is a sort of mysticism." Then this Scripture applies to you, this day : the thoughts of your hearts are revealed : the preaching of Christ is to you " a stumbling-stone !" Christ is for you " a sign which shall be spoken against." " Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish : for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you." Acts xiii. 41. Some say, " I do not understand how Christ can be the life of the soul : I do not know what j-ou mean by being grafted

150 ORIGI AL THOUGHTS. into Christ the True Vine : and as to the doctrine of the atonement, I think it a doctrine of licentiousness : then, I may throw the reins on my lusts, and live as I like." Indeed ! what, then, becomes of the doctrine of sanctification ? of holiness in heart and life ? of good works, as the fruits of faith ? But these objections are as old. as St. Paul's time : there were some which said then, *' Let us do evil, that good may come ;" but of such it is added, '' whose damnation is just." The doctrine of justification by faith is fully set forth by St. Paul : listen to his own words. " It is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith ? God forbid : yea, we establish the law." Rom. iii. 30, 31. Again, "But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin ? God forbid. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor." Gal. ii. 17, 18. To bring forth fruit unto God, requires a living faith : but these objectors know nothing of Christ's character, or of the real designs of his coming, though living in one of the most enlightened parts of Christendom. But the text speaks of Christ, not only as set for " the fall of many," and " for a sign which shall be spoken

against," but also, as set for " the rising again of many in Israel." I am of opinion, with a very able biblical critic, that two distinct descriptions of persons are here spoken of. Those who " fall," are those who stumble at " the stumblins-stone" above referred to in Isaiah viii. 14. Those spoken of as " rising again," are such as obtain a spiritual resurrection from a death in trespasses and sins. To such as receive the Gospel, it is ''a savor of

PRESE TATIO OF CHRIST I THE TEMPLE. 151 life unto life ;" while " to those who stumble at the word being disobedient" it becomes " a savor of death unto death." We are told in the twenty-eighth chapter of the Acts, that " Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no man forbidding him." They came to inquire " concerning this sect," . . . . " everywhere spoken against ;" but by means of whose preaching there should be a resurrection of many in Israel. " The rising again," or resurrection, is so termed in consideration of our state by nature : for, as the poet says, " Plung'd in a gulf of dark despair, We wretched sinners lay ; Without one cheerful beam of hope, Or spark of ghmmering day." But by the preaching of the Gospel we become " prisoners of hope :" " for God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world ; but that the world through him might be saved." Christ " came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name : which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." ow, was not this a resurrection ? Let us consider this fact, namely, that Christ was set for " the rising again" of

many in Israel, in relation both to ancient and modern times. Here is Simeon, a just and devout man, waiting with patience for Christ's coming, as " the consolation of Israel :" he is raised even into the spirit of pro-

152 ORIGI AL THOUGHTS. phesy ; " the Holy Ghost was upon hhn," and enabled him to speak things above himself: he arrives at a holy contempt of life, and says, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation." Anna, a prophetess, who " served God with fastings and prayers night and day," coming in at the instant when Christ was presented in the temple, " gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem :" z\ e. she made an open profession of her faith concerning this child ; and, as a prophetess, instructed others concerning him. Though athanael, under his first prejudices, asks *' Can there any good thing come out of azareth ?" yet, "when he comes to Christ, and is convinced of his omniscience, he exclaims, " Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, thou art the King of Israel :" i. e. the King of Israel whom we have been long waiting for. icodemus, a ruler of the Jews, though at first approaching Christ timidly by night, yet afterwards he owns him publicly, by doing honor to the body of Jesus, together with Joseph of Arimathea. So in the case of the centurion, he owned Christ's divine power : *' Speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.'* How did Christ's disciples bear testimony to their divine Master ! " Lord ! to whom shall we go ? thou hast the words of eternal life." And after his ascension, how did Christ appear for " the rising again" of Saul the persecutor ; Lydia a seller of purple ; and the jailer of Philippi ! All these had their hearts opened to receive Christ ; and were raised from a death of sin unto a life of righteousness. They all seem to say,

" This is the stone set at nought by the builders, but

PRESE TATIO OF CHRIST I THE TEMPLE. 153 marvellous in our eyes." How were the noble army of martyrs raised up to a holy courage in suffering ! or do we want witness in modern times that Christ is "set for the rising again of many." I believe that the Gospel is nowhere faithfully preached, but this " sign" accompanies it. It is made " to prosper in the thing whereto it is sent." The blind may lead the blind for a century ; but when the light of truth appears, the scene is changed. I speak of facts. In this place, a person who was ninety years of age, experienced the great and essential change of spiritual regeneration : he was enabled to take hold of Christ by faith; "I need/' said he, " that ' fountain opened for sin and uncleanness' — ' that wedding-garment' to clothe me ; I need his support to lead me ; his shield, to defend me !" He then confessed that Christ had become his life, his portion, and his joy ! This was his dying testimony. I have seen proofs of this fact in many, who could say with Job, " I know that my Redeemer liveth :" and with Paul, " I know whom I have believed ; and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day." Are not these facts proving the truth of the text ? Mary, the mother of Jesus, had them fulfilled not only when she was raised up in strong affection for the promised Seed, but when she sank in grief at his cross. Then truly " a sword pierced through her soul :" for he was to be a suffering Jesus ; and she, from the nearness of her relation, and the strength of her affection, should suffer also, at his crucifixion, more than any other of his relatives. Many understand these words as a prediction of her martyrdom, and some of the ancients say that it had its accomplishment literally in that fact. — I now proceed,

154 ORIGI AL THOUGHTS. II. To IMPROVE THE SUBJECT,

Christ is to this day a touchstone of many hearts ; " that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." We behold the FonnaHst, the Socinian, the Trifler — all saying, " ot this man, but Barabbas !" The Christian will show what he is by his taste, his manners, his companions ; but above all, by his open confession of Christ. When Peter answered, " Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," it was said to him, " Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona : for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." Brethren ! I have shown you Christ as *'' set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel ;" I now direct your eye to him as a Touchstone of character ! The subject is instructive : hear what the Lord says by the Prophet Malachi : " Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me ; and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in : behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming ? and who shall stand when he appeareth ? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap." The subject is therefore searching : let us not flatter ourselves, and generalize it, till it has no meaning at all. What then is meant by these words — " That the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed ?" I fear, that many would find Christ set up for their fall, if the thoughts of their hearts were revealed ! I remember trying, when I was a wicked, thoughtless young man, to find objections against religious books, when given to me. My thoughts were known by the answers I then gave. But God's counsel will stand, whatever

PRESE TATIO OF CHRIST I THE TEMPLE. 155 may be our objections. Christ was not only rejected by the Jews, but he is scorned by many, even in professedly Christian countries ; where thousands reveal what their thoughts are, by speaking against him in all that respects his true dignity, and the nature and ends of his mission. Thus, Christ is a touchstone of the

human heart : his doctrine detects, and makes manifest its wickedness ; and, under the influence of his Spirit, restores it to holiness and to God. Brethren ! your thoughts will be revealed by answering this question. How do you receive Christ? Christ , is come here — to this neighborhood ; how do you receive him? Do you say, like Simeon, "Mine eyes have seen thy salvation ?" The consideration of this prophecy is a serious call. to our hearts : it says, " Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him." Remember, where a dispensation of grace is not improved, it will soon be removed. Prov. i. 24 — 32. Let me sa}^ to Christians : — Every step in the ways of God brings fresh evidence that they are ways of pleasantness and peace. Every step we take from the table of the Lord to-day to the table of his kingdom above, we shall be more and more certain of the truth of the Gospel. " If any man," says Christ, " hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." Rev. iii. 20.

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