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creature estranged from his Creator? He therefore, who had at first formed the earth for the use of man, and man to inhabit it, interposes once more.
He who had said at first, “Let us make man after our own image, in our likeness ;” now says again, Let us restore man to that image which he has lost, to that likeness which sin has defaced and deformed. “ Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord hath spoken :” hath spoken unto us by his Son, even by him who was in the beginning with God, and was God. And if
you hearken to his call, and obey his word, the revelation here made by St. John is the strong foundation of your hope and comfort. If he to whom you have fled, and sought refuge from the wrath to come, is “God over all, blessed for ever;" his greatness is your security. He who offers salvation, is not, as some would have it supposed, a prophet endowed with authority to reveal God's will, but still a mere man of nature like your own : but is He who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God. Why should we deface the Scripture, blot out its clearest characters, and write it as it were anew, (as we must, if we endeavour to clear it from the divinity of Christ,) and so make a vain attempt to disprove this truth, this precious and consoling truth? For is there not solid comfort in the thought? True, he is man, with our nature to pity ; but then he is also God, with infinite power to save. Such is the ground of the apostle's confidence.
- Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God
that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is now at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us."
To him then bring your wants, he is merciful to relieve ; to him disclose your fears, he is powerful to strengthen ; on him lay the burthen of your sins, " he is able to save unto the uttermost those that come unto God by him.” For he was in the beginning with God, and was God: and without him was not any thing made that was made.
THE WORD DECLARED TO BE THE LIGHT AND
LIFE OF THE SOUL OF MAN.
John i. 4, 5. 4. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5. And the light shineth in darkness ; and the darkness comprehended it not.
St. John had before declared that the eternal Word, whose incarnation is the subject of his Gospel, had been one with the Father from the beginning : and that “without him was not any thing made that was made.” He now adds, In him was life. On him life depended, and is by him imparted and communicated. "For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself: so the Son quickeneth whom he will." 1
1 ch. v. 26, 21.
But the life here spoken of, is something more than that which was “breathed into man's nostrils, and he became a living soul.” The life was the light of men. It is the spiritual, and not the natural life which is the light of man. And this life is in the Son, and is by him shed abroad upon the heart. Accordingly, in one of his epistles, this same evangelist describes him as “the Word of life :” (i. 1, 3;) “ That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life, that which we have seen and heard, declare we unto you.” And justly is he so termed, who generates in the soul a new existence, springing up to immortality. He is to the soul, what light is to the body of man. If the eye be without light, how great is the darkness ? But darker still the soul, without that light which proceeds from the Son of God, and enables it to answer the purposes for which it was created, and endued with understanding
Some seeds of this divine life, some sparks of this heavenly light, had always been scattered in the world. As it is in nature, before the actual rising of the sun, certain beams of light are visible, and however inadequate to all our wants, serve many useful purposes : so was it with that spiritual light which had now fully risen. It had long been glimmering in dim and partial rays, before the prophet's words received their certain accom
. Gen. ii. 7.
plishment, before it could be said of Jerusalem,
Arise, shine ; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.”3
It was by that earlier light that some of the heathen, wiser than their fellows, and emerging out of the general ignorance, were led to “ seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him." As certain of their poets said, “For we are also his offspring.” Led by this light, they worshipped the powers which they perceived to be above them, though they worshipped they knew not what : so that Paul, as he “ passed by and beheld their devotions, found an altar with this inscription, To the unknown God." And much further would that light have conducted them, if they had not too often quenched it, because they “ did not like to retain God in their knowledge.'
Still more among the Jewish people this life was the light of men. Many had come to the light; had received life, had feared God, and wrought righteousness, looking for glory, and honour, and immortality.” It was by this light that “ Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.” It was by this light that Enoch walked with God : that Abraham obeyed the call of God, and left his country and his kindred, looking for a better habitation, eternal in the heavens. It was by this light that Moses was enabled to look beyond the pleasures of sin for a season, which he might have enjoyed at the court of Pharaoh, and 3 Isa. lx. I.
4 Acts xvii. 27, 28. 5 Acts xvii. 23. 6 Rom. i. 28.
“ esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.” It was by this light that many prophets and righteous men, “ of whom the world was not worthy, died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”7
But still there was too just cause to say, as St. John goes on to add, The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not. The law was but“ a shadow of good things to come,’and could not be compared with “the very imageof the things,” which had now been manifested to the world. Prophecy was as “a light that shineth in a dark place :"9 and even they who uttered it, desired to see the things which were now seen, and had not seen them :
inquired and searched diligently, searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” The vast scheme undertaken by the Son of God, when he “came to give his life a ransom for many,” could be but obscurely perceived and imperfectly understood, before the facts threw light upon the predictions. The state of man, in regard to the things of God, in regard to present duties and future prospects, is exactly described in this expressive verse, The light shineth in darkness,
7 See Hebrews xi. 4, 5, 8, 26, 13. 8 Heb. x. 1.
9 2 Peter i. 19. 11 Peter i. 11.