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THE following sermon having made a great noise through this and several other corners of the land; lest any should think the author is ashamed of his doctrine he there delivered, he allows it to come abroad to the world with the last sermon in the preceding volume. He had begun to preach from that text, Is. ix. 6, in November 30, 1731; and having spoken to the first two clauses, he took occasion, June 4, 1732, namely Sabbath evening, after the celebration of the sacrament at Stirling, to insist upon the clause immediately following, The government shall be upon his shoulder, as he has been insisting upon the following part of the verse ever since.
Some were of opinion, that the subject was unsuitable to the occasion, after people had been at a communion-table. But it would appear, that such as think so, do not consider, that Christ did wade to the throne and government of his mediatory kingdom through blood. For my part, I do not know how one can be better entertained, either at, or immediately after he has been at the Lord's table, showing forth his death, than by letting him know, that he who was dead is now alive, and lives for evermore, having the keys of hell and death in his hand. What more comfortable to a believer, than to hear that the Lamb slain is now in the midst of the throne, with the reigns of government in his hand, especially, in a day of trouble, and of treading down, and of perplexity from the Lord God of hosts in the valley of vision? Others judged it amiss on such an occasion, to touch upon the
act of assembly respecting the settlement of vacant congregations, which had been passed a few days before. All that is needful to be said in answer to which is, that the public wound given by that act was fresh, and the hearts of the poor people of God bleeding, to see themselves spoiled by those who should have been the guardians of their spiritual rights and privileges; and what could be more proper than to panse the green wound, and pour in some of the healing balsam of gospel-consolation, arising from the government of their great King, who rules in the midst of his enemies?
The author never pretended to deliver every particular word or sentence contained in his notes, which to him would be the greatest slavery and confinement. But as the sermon stood in his notes, so it comes abroad; and he supposes that there will be but very inconsiderable variations. Only, the preamble, when he entered upon the text, is added, without which it would have looked somewhat abrupt; besides something he had not time that evening to overtake, at the end of the discourse. He preached two other sermons on the same clause of the verse, the Sabbath following, which there was no time to transcribe for the press, otherwise the discourse might have been more perfect, and the omissions quarrelled by some been supplied.
THE GOVERNMENT UPON CHRIST'S SHOULDER.*
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of peace.ISA. ix. 6.
THE great design of God, in his whole works of creation and providence, is to manifest and make known the glory of his power, wisdom, goodness, and greatness to the children of men: hence says David, (Psalm xix. from the beginning,) "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge." And if it be asked, What the great design of God is in the scriptures? I answer, It is just to bring a lost world to the knowledge of a Saviour, "who is the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person." All the prophecies, promises, histories and doctrines of the word, point us to him, as the needle in the mariner's compass points to the pole-star: "To him bore all the prophets witness." And when apostles under the New Testament were sent to all nations, with the silver trumpet of the everlasting gospel in their mouths, what was the great theme of their sermons? It was just to make Christ known among the nations; he was the Alpha and Omega of their whole ministry; "it is Christ," says Paul to the Colossians, "whom we preach;" and, writing to the Corinthians, he declares, that he desired to know nothing among them, but Christ, and him crucified." In short, sirs, our preaching, and your hearing, is in vain, unless we bring you to the knowledge of Christ, and an acquaintance with him; he is "the foundation God hath laid in Zion, and other foundation can no man lay." Our design in preaching, and yours in hearing, should
* Preached on sabbath evening after the sacrament at Stirling, June 4, 1732.
be to make you truly gracious and religious; but how shall ever a man be acquainted with the power of godliness, if he be a stranger to him who is the great mystery of it, even "God manifested in the flesh?" How shall we ever fulfil the law as a covenant, but by acquaintance with him, who is "the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth?" How shall we ever fulfil it as a rule, but by faith in him, who is "the glory of our strength?" And how shall we ever come to God, from whom we are separated, but by him who is "the way, the new and living way," and without whom there is no coming to the Father? So that all the lines of religion meet in him as their centre. That I may commend him to you, I have read this text of Scripture, which is as full of Christ, as any that we meet with in the scriptures of truth: and the more of Christ be in any text, the more marrow and fatness, the more savour and sweetness, will be in it to the soul that knows him. Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, &c.
The prophet, in the close of the preceding chapter, having spoken of dark and dismal days of trouble and distress, comes, in the beginning of this, to comfort and encourage the hearts of true believers, with the great and good things which were coming in the days of the great Messiah; and there are three great New Testament blessings he descants upon.
1. Great light should spring up to a lost world: ver. 2: "The people that walked in darkness, have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." This world, particularly of the Gentile nations, before the coming of Christ, was a dungeon of darkness; it was a valley of the shadow of death, for want of the gospel-light; for "where no vision is, the people perish." But by the coming of Christ, whose "goings forth were prepared as the morning," in the dispensation of the everlasting gospel," life and immortality are brought to light;" on which account we in this land may join issue with Zacharias in his song, Luke i. 78, 79: "Through the tender mercy of our God, whereby the day-spring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." Oh that there were a suitable prizing of gospel-light, among those who have it in the external dispensation of it! But, alas! is not that word of Christ too applicable to many, "Light is come into the world, and men have loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil?"
2. A second great New Testament blessing the prophet speaks of, is joy in the Lord: ver. 3: "Thou hast multiplied