« הקודםהמשך »
III. Then we consider the call to “ Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world."
I shall confine myself to the exact import of the words, as spoken by John; but refer likewise to several other Scriptures of a similar nature.
Is There is no God else beside me, a just God and a Saviour ;-look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” Isaiah xlv. 21, 22. “ As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John iii. 14, 15. “ Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who, for the joy set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame; and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb. xii. 2. The Baptist may be supposed to have addressed his disciples to this effect. You want pardon of your sins, and deliverance from the power and pollution of iniquity : “ Behold then the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world.” He alone can confer these blessings ; apply to him, become his disciples, rely on him entirely, and follow implicitly his directions; thus you will be saved, and be made instrumental to the salvation of your fellowsinners!
But we may understand the call in a more comprehensive sense, as an exhortation to meditate seriously and frequently on the great doctrines thus revealed; to behold and contemplate the person and redemption of Christ with fixed attention, and humble faith. He seems to address us from the cross, and
“ Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me; wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger.” Lam. i. 12. Let us then turn our thoughts from all other subjects, and with believing application to ourselves, contemplate the interesting scene, which we this day commemorate.
We cannot well enter on such meditations, without adverting to the language of the sacred writers, concerning the essential and eternal deity of Christ, One with the Father, the Creator and Upholder of all worlds, the object of universal worship and adoration. We consider this glorious person coming in the flesh to be the Saviour of the world, to seek and save the lost, from mere love and compassion to deservedly perishing sinners. The spotless purity of his human nature; the perfection of his obedience to the divine law; the depth of his voluntary humiliation; the poverty, and contempt, and the contradiction of sinners, which he endured through life, demand our most serious attention. He effected not his gracious purposes in our behalf, as a monarch or a conqueror : he taught not as a philosopher or a moralist : “ but he took upon him the form of a servant,” and “ gave his life a ransom for many."
We should, however, especially contemplate the variety and intenseness of his sufferings, in the closing scene of his humiliation: the excruciating pain he endured from the scourge, the thorns, and the nails, and when hanging on the accursed tree; with the anguish of mind he felt when agonizing in the garden, and when on the cross, he exclaimed, “ My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" It is very important for us to reflect on what the Redeemer suffered from men ; from the base treachery of Judas, the unfaithfulness of Peter, the cowardice of the disciples; the cruel injustice of Caiaphas, the scribes, priests, council, and even their servants ; from the Contempt and indignity put upon him by Herod and his men of war; the Cruelty and scorn of Pilate's soldiers; the lingering tortures of the cross, the ingratitude of the insulting multitude, and the revilings even of the malefactors. We should recollect likewise, that this was the hour and power of darkness : and what gloomy imaginations, and detested thoughts might be presented to the mind of Christ, by the subtle and energetic influence of evil spirits, may be best conceived by those who “ are not ignorant of their devices." “ He suffered, being tempted, that he might be able to succour them that are tempted :” and the assault of Satan in the desert may convince us,
that he would do his utmost, when permitted, to bruise the heel of Him, who came to crush his head and destroy his works.
But we are also taught, that " it pleased the Lord to bruise him, and to put him to grief: and to make his soul an offering for sin.” Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of Hosts ; smite the shepherd.” Zech. xiii. 7. “ He spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all.” And when we compare our Lord's agony in the garden, and his exclamation on the cross, with the conduct of his own disciples under the severest tortures : we must be convinced that his cup was embittered inconceivably more than theirs, and that consolations and supports were vouchsafed them, of which he was wholly left destitute.-We cannot explain this subject.-We may be certain, that remorse of conscience, despair, and the prevalence of hateful passions, which will eternally increase the misery of condemned sinners, could have no place in the mind of the holy Jesus: but whatever pain, shame, wrath, curse, agony, or misery, he could possibly endure; whatever the justice of God, the honour of the law, and the instruction of the universe in the evil and desert of sin, required ; all this the Redeemer suffered, till he could say with his expiring breath, “ It is finished.”
It should likewise be remembered, that our Lord most willingly submitted to all these sufferings, from love to our souls and regard to the glory of God. No man had power to take away his life: the prince of this world had no part in him; no personal transgression exposed him to the sentence of death ; but love, that passeth knowledge, moved him to give himself a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins! The meekness, patience, and persevering fortitude, with which our Lord suffered, should not pass unnoticed. “ He was brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before his shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth." “ Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that ye should follow his steps; who, when he was reviled, reviled not again : when he suffered he threatened not.” i Pet. ii. 21-23.
The circumstances attending his crucifixion, also form a proper subject of meditation. The sun was miraculously darkened, as a token of the divine displeasure, and an emblem of the gloom which overspread the Sun of righteous
Yet in this deep humiliation of the Lord of glory, he rescued one perishing sinner from the jaws of destruction, and took him with him to paradise. When he expired, “ the vail of the temple was rent;" the rocks were torn by an earthquake, the graves were opened, and the preparation made for the resurrection of those saints, who were appointed to grace the triumph of the rising and ascending Saviour. For the event of his sufferings in his personal exaltation, and the complete salvation, in body and soul, of all the unnumbered myriads, which ever did, or ever shall believe in him, is the last particular, to which our present meditations should be directed. But it is time for us to proceed,
IV. To consider the peculiar instructions to be derived from these contemplations.
The worth of our immortal souls is most emphatically taught us by the cross of Christ. “ What is a man profited if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Could any one literally gain the whole universe, as the price of iniquity, and keep it with every imaginable advantage during the term of human life ; it could neither preserve his body from the grave, nor his soul from eternal misery ! “ It costs more to redeem the soul: that must be let alone for ever." View the Saviour agonizing in Gethsemane, and expiring on the cross! Did he endure these unknown sufferings to preserve men from temporal poverty, pain, or death? By no means : but to deliver them from the wrath to come; where “ their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” Who can doubt then, that an immortal soul is man's principal treasure? It is possessed by the meanest, and it infinitely exceeds in value all the distinctions of the mightiest. He who made the sonl knows its worth : and he deemed
it so valuable, that he ransomed our souls from ruin, at the price of his own blood. Shall we not then deem the salvation of them our grand concern, and regard all interfering objects as unworthy our notice in the comparison ? If we would never succeed in any one thing all our lives, except in this main concern, our felicity will be congratulated by angels to eternity ; if we should prosper in all other respects, and fail here, our folly and misery will be lamented and execrated for ever.
Our children also have immortal souls. Does then our love of them induce us to use every means of providing for their comfort in this world? and shall it not influence us to proportionable earnestness in seeking their salvation ? O cruel and infatuated parents, who take excessive care about the bodies of your children, and leave their precious souls to perish everlastingly for want of diligent instruction; or perhaps even help to murder them by indulging their sinful dispositions, and setting them a bad example! Nay, let us further learn to consider, that our relatives, neighbours, and enemies, have immortal souls, because they are so valuable. “ He that winneth souls is wise :" let us then think nothing too much to expend or attempt in promoting that grand object, for which the Son of God shed his precious blood.
But viewed in this glass, how vain does the world, and all things in it appear! “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom the world is crucified to me, and I unto the world.” What are empires, or the loss of them? What renown, or infamy? What affluence or poverty? What the most exquisite pleasure or torturing pain, when put in competition with eternal happiness or misery? or when viewed in connection with the cross of Christ? Had he not so loved us, all possible prosperity could not have prevented our everlasting misery: if we believe in him, all possible adversity cannot prevent our everlasting happiness. Let us not then envy the wealthy and successful, but pity and pray for them : let us not covet worldly things, repine for want of them, or lament the loss of them : let us not join in the vain mirth of condemned sinners, or be satisfied with any thing short of the joy of God's salvation.
By contemplating the cross of Christ, we may learn the perfection of God's justice and holiness, the excellency of his law, and the desert of sinners. In the condemnation of fallen angels and wicked men, and in many other awful ways, the Lord hath proclaimed his abhorrence of iniquity, and his determination to magnify his holy law: yet his mercy not being visible in those events, it might have been thought, either that he was incapable of shewing mercy, or that in exercising mercy he would abate from the demands of justice, and connive at transgression. But the subject before us, well understood, confutes all such vain imaginations. When mercy triumphed most illustriously, justice was most gloriously displayed, the law most honoured, and sin most exposed to universal detestation. Rather,” says the Saviour, ‘will I bear the curse of the divine law, and the punishment of sin, in my own person, and make an expiation of infinite value by my sufferings and death upon the cross, than eitlier leave sinners to perish without help, or allow the law to be dishonoured, and justice to be relaxed for their benefit.'
« Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid, yea we establish the law.”
Here again we may learn repentance, and abhorrence of our iniquities. “ They shall look on me, whom they pierced, and mourn.” The more lovely and glorious the divine perfections appear, tle more excellent the holy law, and the more hateful and destructive transgression are found to be; the deeper should be our sorrow and remorse, while we recollect and review all our numerous and heinous offences, and all their aggravations; and the more ought we to dread and hate those evil propensities, from which all our crimes proceed, and which continually aim, as it were, to “crucify the Lord afresh, and put him to open shame.” When we view the miseries of the world, and the ravages of death, we may well inquire, “ Who slew all these?” And the consideration may help to abase us for sin, and excite us to oppose and crucify our lusts, which are the murderers of the whole human race, and menace our destruction. Yet the cross of Christ, when duly contemplated, suggests far more powerful motives for contrition and self-abhorrence, and will far more effeetually influence us to seek the destruction of those hated enemies, that crucified the Lord of glory.
But the same object will likewise teach us, that neither our repentance or amendment, nor any thing else we can do, will at all serve to expiate our guilt, or justify us in the sight of God. “ If righteousness come by the law, then Christ died in vain.” Men set up a variety of reasonings against the express and numerous testimonies of God to this leading truth ; and thus vainly “ go about to establish their own righteousness.” But a serious view of the Lamb of God, as taking away the sin of the world, may convince us that every hope they form of escaping condemnation or obtaining life, except by faith in a crucified Saviour, will most surely prove fallacious and ruinous: for if any thing else would as effectually have answered the purposes of God, he would doubtless have spared his own Son, and saved sinners in some other way.
On the other hand, we here behold the riches of the divine compassion, and tender mercy towards the sinful children of men. “ Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” If then God so loved us when enemies, what may not those expect from him, who renounce every other plea, and flee for refuge to lay hold on this hope set before them? In every penitent who supplicates mercy for the sake of Christ and his atoning blood, the Redeemer “ sees of the travail of his soul, and is satisfied :” for this very purpose he suffered and died on the cross,
“ that he might become the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him:” and on this ground we say, “ Let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord.” And, if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more being reconciled we shall be saved by his life.” “ He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all; how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”
But while we mingle our tears of godly sorrow with joyful thanksgivings, and glory in Christ Jesus amidst all our tribulations ; let us also, my brethren, look to the cross, and learn our obligations to the most self-denying and devoted obedience. Can we, with this object full in view, deem any expence too great, any sacrifice too costly, any cross too heavy, or labour too severe, which his glory, the authority of his command, or the benefit of his purchased flock, call us to undergo ? Surely the constraining love of Christ will render every loss or suffering tolerable, yea pleasant, to the thankful believer ; while he beholds the Lamb of God, expiring on the cross to take åway that sin, which would otherwise have eternally ruined his soul; and to purchase for him everlasting and unutterable felicity!
Here too we must look, that we may learn patience, meekness, spirituality, and every part of that holiness to which we are called. Hence we must draw our motives and encouragements; and here we must view that perfect example, which we are required to copy. Forgiveness of injuries, love of enemies, perseverance in well-doing, amidst insult, contempt, and ingratitude, and compassion to perishing sinners, are best learned by looking to the cross; by witnessing the triumph of divine love in the sufferings of Emmanuel, and hearing him mingle his dying groans with prayers for his cruel and insulting murderers.
Meditation on this subject may also convince us, that we must expect tribulation in the world, and the enmity or contempt of unbelievers, if we belong to Christ, and bear his image. His wisdom, holiness, and love, were perfect: yet no one of our race ever experienced such hatred and insult from all ranks, orders, and descriptions of men, as the spotless Lamb of God ! Malefactors commonly meet with some pity amidst their tortures, however merited; but Jews and Gentiles, rulers, scribes, priests, soldiers, and the multitude, could unite in cruel mockery of the holy Jesus, when expiring on a cross ! Away then with all those flattering sentiments of human nature, resent it as loving and delighting in genuine excellency: the cross
and the sufferings of his most faithful servants in every age, form
trative confutation of the proud delusion! And if our hearts have vuon venged by divine grace, so that we love and imitate the lowly and holy Saviour; let us count our cost, expect scorn and hatred from men, tribulation in the world, and peace and consolation from the Lord alone. Let us also look beyond the cross, and contemplate the glory which followed ; that we may not be wearied and faint in our minds. We too have a joy set before us : let us then endure our lighter cross, and despise the shame; assured that if we suffer with Christ, we shall reign with him in glory.
But my fellow-sinners, where will you appear at his second coming to judge the world, if you now neglect his great salvation? If you join his enemies; and, by cleaving to your sins, prefer Barabbas to Jesus, sell him as Judas did for a few pieces of silver, or determine you will not have him to reign over you? Still he invites you to come to him that you may have life eternal : Oh that you would seek to him as a Saviour, who will shortly come to be your judge.
In fine, contemplating the cross of Christ teaches us most effectually every lesson contained in the sacred Scriptures. Let us then, my brethren, further prosecute our meditations at the Lord's table; and while we remember the love and sufferings of our Redeemer, let us renew our repentance and acceptance of his salvation, and give up ourselves to his service; that, “ as bought with a price, we may glorify him with our bodies and spirits, which are his.”
PREACHED ON EASTER-SUNDAY, 1796.
ON THE RESURRECTION.
1 Cor. xv. 20.
Now is Christ risen from the dead.
We learn from this chapter, that certain persons among the Corinthians had denied the doctrine of a resurrection; probably explaining away the apostolical language on that subject figurative, and only meaning conversion, or that change which took place in the world by the introduction of Christianity. 2 Tim. ii. 17, 18. In confuting this dangerous error, the apostle called their attention to the resurrection of Christ as an undeniable fact : and he shewed, that the denial of a resurrection was equivalent to saying that Christ was not risen ; and thus tended to subvert the foundation of Christianity, and to destroy the hopes and comforts of believers. “ If there be no resurrection of the dead, then is not Christ risen: and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain: yea, and we are found false witnesses for God. And if Christ be not raised-ye are yet in your sins: then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” All the joys and supports of Christians are inseparably connected with future and eternal felicity; without the hope of which they would have nothing to counterbalance their peculiar trials and conflicts.
If Christ were not risen, believers were yet in their sins, and even the martyrs had finally perished. But were not the primitive Christians converted from idols to serve the living and true God? Did they not repent