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God, in the redemption of a lost world by his own eternal Son, is such a fresh discovery to them of the riches of his nature, as employs their deepest attention, fills them with devout admiration of his glory, and is their new and everlasting song of praise, in union with the redeemed, “ Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever;" Rev. v. 13. That you may be of this happy number, and die out of this world, only to join in the triumphant song of angels and glorified spirits, the Saviour, Jesus Christ, is now offered to you. If you come to him in humility and thankfulness, with know. ledge of his benefits, and desire to be made partakers of them, you will, as St. Peter here tells you, be built into him as lively stones, in one spiritual house ; you will enter upon your eternal employment now, and become
an. holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” And this leads me to the design I have in discoursing upon these words : “ To whom coming," i. e. to the Lord Jesus Christ, mentioned in the verse before, “as unto a living stone, dis
, allowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." I shall, therefore, with
” God's help,
I. Consider what we come to Christ for.
II. What it is to come to him, or when we may be said to do so. And the opening of these two heads will afford me occasion to explain to you the several expressions in the text. The Lord give you the hearing ear, and open all to your hearts !
1. What we come to him for. We come to him for
what he is, and is here called, “ a living stone." Our Lord had been spoken of by the prophet Isaiah under this appellation, and he himself appealed to it in his reasoning with the Jews; and therefore St. Peter seems to delight in dwelling upon it, takes it up again in the three following verses, and has unfolded all the instruction contained in it: which I hope to set before next opportunity; and shall confine myself, at present, to the expression in the text, “ a living stone." A stone, solid foundation, or rock, as being able to sustain the weight of what is built upon him, and support it against all the storms, and all the assaults of men and devils to destroy it; and he is here called “ a living stone," as being risen from the dead, and having life in himself from all eternity ; to carry our thoughts beyond any earthly foundation, or building upon it, to what he is in himself, and to that spiritual house, which Christians are when they are grounded on him. And to show how all is upheld and strengthened by him in every respect, he is likewise called, and calls himself, “ the chief Cornerstone, in whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord;" Eph. ii. 21. So then we come to him, that we also may be as lively or living stones, quickened by him, and in him“ builded together, for an habitation of God, through the Spirit," as St. Paul says; or, as St. Peter here says,
up spiritual house.” Not like the Jewish temple, however adorned with goodly stones, nor any other edifice consisting only of dead materials, but a temple of the Holy Ghost, spiritually alive in every part and member of it; a temple of the living God, wholly consecrated to his service, in which he dwells and walks with us, and we glorify him in our bodies and spirits. And in this temple, the living stones in it, all together, and every one singly, are said to be “ an holy priesthood." The Jews
had their high priest, and a whole tribę set apart to the office of ministering to God for the people. But this was an imperfect dispensation in 'many respects; the people by this means being kept, as it were, at a distance from God, and not allowed access to him; neither could the sacrifices which were offered by the priests on their behalf, obtain for them complete remission of sins, purge their consciences from “dead,” or deadly“ works, to serve the living God," as pure in his sight, and clean from all spot of sin. Whereas now, the way to the holiest, or the presence of God, is laid open to all, and we are encouraged “ to come boldly to the throne of grace,” as children to a father, and without any dread upon our spirits on account of sin; the guilt of it being wholly removed, and the wall of separation betwixt God and us broken down. We may now draw nigh' to him as holy and spiritual,“ having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water," i. e. cleansed from all outward and inward defilement, in full assurance of faith that our sins are forgiven, and that God, according to his covenant, remembers them no more. I say what I do, not only upon the warrant, but in the very words of Scripture; and I wish you knew and perceived it, that you might know and be thankful for your privilege. The conscience of a sinner is purged, not by having no sin remaining, but none which God sees and imputes as such; the guilt which tormented, the load which lay heavy upon the soul, is taken off, and conscience has no more right to accuse and terrify the man for sin, than if it had never been committed. Is not this a most noble privilege, a desirable and happy change of our state, and what any one labouring under a sense of guilt, and dreading the displeasure of Almighty God, would give the world for? Hear, then, what St. Peter says: “We," all believers,
" are an holy priesthood ;" which we cannot be, while God sees ' any spot or blemish of sin about us; and that I am sure can never be by any will, work, or cleansing of our own. Seeing, then, we must be pure, to approach
, to God in his worship, and our own hearts bear witness against us, that in ourselves we are wretchedly impure, and at an infinite distance from such a state, it is evident at once, that we can only be so by Jesus Christ. This, therefore, is one special end of our coming to him. And be it ever remembered, and assuredly believed, with great rejoicing in the conscience, and many thanksgivings, that through him, our great High Priest, and as parts and members of his body, we are clean, spotless, holy, and in him sanctified for the great purpose of offering spiritual: sacrifices, acceptable to God.
But notwithstanding the offer of such a privilege, though he came to a world of sinners, and was chosen
« of God,” as every way qualified for the work of our redemption, precious to God as his only begotten Son, precious in himself, and a most precious gift of God to: man, yet we are here told, we know, he was “ disallowed of men.” His own people, the Jews, rejected and persecuted him, and at last crucified him as a malefactor and a blasphemer; because he appeared amongst them as a spiritual deliverer, took the covering from their hearts, beat down their pride and high esteem of themselves, stripped them of their fancied righteousness, brought a heavy charge of sin against them, and called them to repentance, and the hope of salvation by him, instead of boasting of their works, and trusting in their own righteousness. For the same reason, however chosen of God, and precious, he is still disallowed. It is hard for men to see the accursed nature of sin, and more especially their own sinfulness; and till they do, they will not, they cannot repent, nor see their want of such a Saviour. Their pride blinds
them, their ignorance ruins them. They do not come to Christ as a living stone, and as dead in themselves, to be built up, and made lively stones in him; but in the bottom of their hearts entertain a higher opinion of themselves for salvation, than they do of him, thinking they have life in themselves, and vainly attempting to build a tower of Babel that may reach to heaven, upon the rotten foundation of their own works. They will be priests to God, unholy as they are, not seeing their miserable unworthiness; how unfit they are to offer any sacrifices to God, how ytterly impossible it is for them to offer any spiritual, acceptable, sacrifices to him, of a pure worship from a pure conscience, but by Jesus Christ, and als cleansed and sanctified by him for that office. My brethren, this deceit lies deep in the heart of man. And that you may not be carried away with it, to the hazard of your souls, to the loss of Christ, on whom you are to be built as your foundation for life, in whom alone you can be an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, and by whom alone you are acceptable to God; let me now advise you,
II. To consider how we come to Christ, or when we may assure ourselves that we do. He is a living, lifegiving stone; we are dead as stones, without power, without the will or thought to help ourselves; but may live, and be lively, by being built into him, the rock of our salvation. We were made and sent into the world to offer up spiritual sacrifices, to present our souls and bodies, a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, as our bounden duty, and reasonable service. Alas! we have no such hearts, no such wills; and are naturally averse to any pure, spiritual offering of ourselves, to the high and holy God, though our dependence on him, union with him; and worshipping of him in spirit and in