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(PREACHED ON EASTER DAY.)
St. MATTHEW, xxviii. 20.
Lo! I am roith you alway, even unto the end of the world.
Our blessed Lord has on this day by His resurrection from the dead established the kingdom of God. While He was on earth it could only be said that the kingdom of God was at hand,—it was not actually come. But as soon as He rose from the dead, He opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers, and that state of things was then begun which is to go on till the time of His coming again.
Long as the time might be before His second coming, still the kingdom of God was never to fail, nor would Christ ever forsake His people. His words are, “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Yet in a short time He was to leave His disciples and return unto His Father, and He was not, and could not be with them as heretofore. Not as heretofore, but yet He was to be with them; insomuch that where no signs of His presence are manifest, there cannot be His people; but a people who, whether called by His name or no, are really strangers to Him. For God's promises never fail but through man's fault: if Christ has promised to be with His people always to the end of the world, and if He is not with them, or with any of them, those from whom He is so absent must have cut themselves off from being His. He was ready to be with them, but they would not receive Him.
So considered, all the Scripture promises are full of instruction, alike when fulfilled or not fulfilled. Every Scripture promise not fulfilled . speaks a solemn lesson. God cannot lie; but His promises always imply that we do not set ourselves against their accomplishment; He will do His part, the means of grace shall be given, the blessing is ready to fall upon the use of them; but still He will not overrule man's will so that he shall of necessity use them. And if man will not use the means of grace, then he cannot see the fulfilment of the promised blessing. And thus whenever the promised blessing is wanting, it is the visible sign of something left undone, or done
ill on our parts, which, so long as it continues, must for ever, as now, keep the blessing from us. But instead of this true and wholesome way
of regarding God's promises, men have had recourse to another. Instead of seeking for the cause of the non-fulfilment of a promise in themselves and their own evil, they have declared that the promise was fulfilled. They have deceived themselves and others; lying against the most evident truth, and declaring that to be, which, with the most positive certainty, was not. They have, for instance, in this very passage found Christ's promise to be fulfilled where it was not, thus leading men to think that He was present when His absence ought to have set them rather to seek for Him, and to ask why He was absent. They have talked of His being present in a fancied succession of • ministers, in baptism, and in the Lord's supper;
as if, supposing only we had these things, then we must have Christ ; as if the fulfilment of His promise was to be found in any outward ordinances, even in those of His own appointing, much less in things of man's mere device which he never commanded at all. They have talked of a secret presence, not secret merely as to the manner of it, but secret as furnishing no evidence of itself; so secret that none could discern. or feel it with any sense or power of our nature, whether of body, soul, or spirit. And by this notion of a secret presence of Christ, or of Christ's Spirit, they have conceived what is not only a folly gross as that of the grossest idolatry of old, but they have directly contradicted our Lord's words, where he says of the Spirit, that although no man knows whence it cometh, or whither it goeth, yet that he hears the sound of it. Conceive what he would say who were to insist that the wind was blowing, when not the faintest stir was heard in the air, and the smallest leaf on the lightest spray was resting motionless. Yet he would not speak more madly, nor nearly with so deadly a falsehood, as those who say that Christ and Christ's Spirit are necessarily present, where there is neither to be seen wisdom, nor righteousness, nor love.
In the old dispensation God deigned to abide visibly amongst His people when He did not abide in their hearts; and when the light and glory were departed from the mercy seat, men did not fondly insist upon it that they were still there, and that the glory of the second temple could not be less than that of the first temple; they saw, and knew that it was less, and good men mourned for it, and comforted themselves with the word of prophecy, which told them that the glory of the second house should one day be greater than that of the former, because the Lord Himself with a more perfect manifestation of Himself should visit it. But when Christ was less present
with His people under the new dispensation, when the outward signs of His power were withdrawn, and falsehood and sin began to pollute His living temple, men did not open their eyes to see and acknowledge the change, but they closed them harder and harder, and went on repeating that Christ must ever be present, and that His church must ever be possessed by His Spirit, when their own lie was driving His Spirit, which is the Spirit of truth, farther and farther from them, till not Christ nor Christ's Spirit, but the very great enemy himself took his seat in the holy precinct, and called himself God, and was called so by those who worshipped him.
So it was; and again voices are busy in repeating the same falsehood; in talking loudly about holy times, and holy things, and holy places, and saying that Christ is there. Oh! blessedness above all blessedness, if indeed He were there, for then were the church perfected! For if He be verily present always in His ordinances, and much more if He be present indeed in any place made with hands, it must show that He is indeed truly present in His church, that is, in the hearts of His people, and that out of the abundance of His presence there, even outward things partake of it. For so it is, that when the most inland creek begins to feel the coming in of the tide, and the living water covers the blank waste of mud and