« הקודםהמשך »
some adequate cause: but what adequate cause of this astonishing effect can be assigned, unless we allow that Christianity was of God, and man could not overthrow it, or prevent its success and triumph? I will only add, that every instance, which at this day occurs, of notoriously wicked persons, converted by the preaching of the gospel from their evil ways, and afterwards walking in newness of life, constitutes a proof that Christ is risen, has all power in heaven and earth, and is efficaciously present with his faithful servants, “ always, even to the end of the world.”
We may now I trust confidently say, that no other past event was ever proved by such an accumulated body of evidence. Who doubts whether Alexander conquered Darius, or Julius Cæsar, Pompey? Yet who can produce the tenth part of the proof in respect of these events, which hath even at this time been stated of our Lord's resurrection? But men can believe that Alexander conquered Darius, without either parting with their sins, or feeling uneasiness of conscience : while the truth of the gospel is very alarming to all that walk according to the course of the world, and neglect the salvation of Christ.
It would be difficult to find out any satisfactory method of further attesting the Redeemer's resurrection, which could have possibly been devised, For had he openly appeared to the whole Jewish people, and had they with one accord embraced Christianity; the Gentiles would naturally have considered it as a concerted plan to aggrandize the nation: and had the Jews, in their pride and prejudice, still persisted in unbelief and opposition, the gospel would have laboured under additional disadvantages in other countries, and future ages could at last have had no other human testimony, than that of the individuals whose writings should have been transmitted to them. In short, should the Lord grant the presumptuous demand of those who refuse to believe without the testimony of their own senses, and should the Saviour appear to every individual through successive generations, how could men be sure that this was the identical person crucified on Mount Calvary? Or how demonstrate that the transient vision was not an illusion? Universal uncertainty and doubt must therefore be the consequence of rejecting such unanswerable and multiplied evidences as the Lord hath mercifully vouchsafed us, of that great event which we this day commemorate.
II. We proceed to shew what inferences may be deduced from the subject before us.
It would be the grossest inconsistency, and the most absurd trifling, to contend earnestly that Christ is risen, and then overlook or deny the peculiar doctrines which his resurrection was intended to authenticate. We infer therefore from our subject, that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, “ One with the Father,” “ God manifest in the flesh." On account of various expressions which He used in speaking of himself, he was charged with blasphemy, and of making himself equal with God. For this crime he was condemned by Caiaphas and the Jewish council, who said before the Roman governor, “ We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.” John xix. 7. The centurion who attended his crucifixion, could not but know for what crime he suffered: when therefore he witnessed the miracles which accompanied his death, he cried, “ Truly this was the Son of God.” “ Certainly this was a righteous person !" When incredulous Thomas was at length convinced that Christ was risen from the dead, all that he had before heard, seen, believed, or hoped, seems at once to have rushed into his mind, and he exclaimed in adoration, “ My Lord, and my Gol.” Thus was Jesus “ declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead." He was demonstrated to be the promised Messiah, the Seed of the woman, the Seed of Abraham, the Son of David, Emmanuel, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, “ The Lord our righteousness ;” and whatever the prophets from the beginning had spoken concerning the expected glorious Re
“ I and my
deemer.-All that he had spoken of himself was likewise thus fully proved to be true; it now was manifest that he was warranted to say, Father are One :" “ He that hath seen me hath seen the Father:" “ Before Abraham was I AM:” “ I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no man cometh to the Father but by me:" “ No man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son shall reveal him :" “ I am the Light of the world :" “ I am the resurrection and the life.” “ If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink :" “ The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son; that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father that sent him.” In short, the resurrection of Christ not only demonstrates the truth of Christianity, but the infallible certainty of all its doctrines, and authenticates the whole Scripture as divinely inspired. His testimony proves it in respect of the Old Testament, and the New was penned by his chosen witnesses, and attested by all the miracles they wrought in his name. So that the Lord now speaks to us, in every part of Scripture, as far as it respects our dispensation, and suits our case, with as much authority as he did to Israel from Mount Sinai, but with words of mercy and grace, instead of terror and dismay.
For if Christ be risen from the dead, then is his atonement accepted. “ He died for our sins, and rose again for our justification.” He was, as it were, arrested for our debt, and cast into the prison of the grave: but as full payment had been made, he was speedily liberated. Having overcome the sharpness of death, he hath opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.' The foundation of our hope is now surely laid : the way of access to a throne of grace is now made manifest ; for the risen Saviour is also ascended into the heavens to appear in the presence of God for us; and he is “ able to save to the uttermost all them that come to God by him: seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”
The resurrection of Christ assures us, that “all power in heaven and earth are given to him ;" and that “he is made Head over all things to his church.” He both died, and rose again, and revived, that he might be the Lord both of the living and the dead.” “ Angels, principalities, and powers, are made subject to him ;" “ he has the keys of death and hell." "He is King of kings and Lord of lords :" all nature obeys him : all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are laid up in him: he has unsearchable riches, and invincible power: the fulness of the Spirit resides in him: “All the fulness of the Godhead dwells in him bodily." “ He is become the Author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him :” and he must reign till all his enemies are made his footstool.-It is therefore no light matter that we are considering. “Yet,” saith Jehovah, “ I have set my King upon my holy hill of Zion.—Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish.”. Every individual must either bow to the sceptre of his grace, or be broken in pieces by the iron rod of his omnipotent indignation. 2 Thess. i. 8—10.
We are also taught that true Christians are conformed to Christ, in his death, resurrection, and ascension. By motives and grace derived from their crucified and risen Redeemer, they died to their former hopes, pleasures, and pursuits; their sensibility to temporal things is deadened ; carnal self-love, the main spring of their activity in past times, is broken: “ They are crucified with Christ, nevertheless they live ; yet not they, but Christ liveth in them.” They know him and the power of his resurrection ; new principles, feelings, and actuating motives, are communicated. They account themselves dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God.” “ They live no longer to themselves, but to him that died for them and rose again.'
They are risen with Christ, and seek those things which are above." “ Their conversation is in heaven;" and in proportion to the degree of their faith and grace, they ascend and reign with Christ, in the nature of their joys and the temper of their hearts. Thus they are prepared, whenever they leave this world, to share that fulness of joy, and those pleasures, which are at God's right hand for evermore.
As our risen Redeemer ever liveth and reigneth in heaven, to manage all the concerns of his people, and make all ready for their reception ; we may adopt with exulting joy the apostle's words . “ 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.” Rom. v. 10. “ 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, is risen again: who is even at the right hand of God; who also maketh intercession for us.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ ?" Rom. viii. 33–35. Surely our Friend, who died and rose again for us, will take care that none shall pluck us out of his hands, and will come at death to “ receive us to himself, that where he is, there we may be also.'
Finally, as Christ is risen from the dead, he “ is become the first-fruits of them that slept." “ The hour cometh, when all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good to the resurrection of life: and they that have done evil to the resurrection of damnation." At that awful period, he will ascend his tribunal, finally to separate his people from his enemies : and “these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.” The bodies of the wicked will be rendered incorruptible, and capable of enduring the vengeance reserved for them, “ where their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched." Mark ix. 48—50. And those of the righteous will be raised spiritual and immortal, and fitted to participate the holy joys of heaven. “ The Saviour, the Lord Jesus, shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” Phil. iii. 20, 21. In this prospect, the believer, when strong in faith, may adopt the apostle's words and say, “ O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law: but thanks be unto God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” III. We conclude with a few hints by way of application.
may be useful, especially to young persons, to contemplate the prevailing scepticism and infidelity of the age, in connection with the subject we have been considering. God hath vouchsafed us a revelation of himself, and of his will concerning us, authenticated in the most unanswerable manner, most beneficial in its nature and tendency, and exactly suited to our circumstances: yet this revelation is opposed, reviled, or ridiculed by numbers who pretend to virtue ; and affirm that unbelief at most can only be an harmless error, neither very criminal nor dangerous,--but the Scripture speaks a very different language. We read of an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God. Our Lord says, “ How can ye believe who seek honour one of another?” “ Light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.” Unbelief therefore is the offspring of ambition, love of sin, and dislike to God and holiness. It rejects the remedy which everlasting wisdom and mercy have provided for our miseries; it makes God a liar; it despises his Grace, and defies his power and justice, and is therefore inseparably connected with eternal damnation. “Let no man deceive you with vain words.” Men oppose the Scripture because it opposes their favourite pursuits, and denounces an awful sentence against all who do not humbly repent, believe the gospel, and become the faithful subjects of the holy Jesus. They do not in reality need more evidence; but a more unprejudiced, teachable, and spiritual mind. they believe not Moses and the prophets,” or the apostles and evangelists, “ neither would they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.” Beseech the Lord therefore to remove from you all hardness of heart, and contempt of his word and commandment;' “ to open your understandings that you may understand the Scriptures ;” and “ to give you repentance to the acknowledging of the truth ; that you may recover yourselves out of the gnare of the devil, who takes sinners captive at his will."
But beware also of a dead faith, which may keep men in the way of in. struction, but is wholly unavailing to salvation. The faith demanded by our Lord is a living active principle ; it receives him for all those purposes which he came into the world to effect; it applies to him, depends on him, and follows his directions; and “working by love," “ purifying the heart," and “ overcoming the world,” it produces unreserved obedience to Christ, and careful imitation of his most perfect example.
The subject before us is peculiarly suited to the burdened conscience and desponding heart of those who are poor and of a contrite spirit, and tremble at God's word. Did the Son of God so love and pity proud obstinate rebels and enemies, as to give himself a sacrifice on the cross for their sins ?. And will he now on his glorious throne, refuse to stretch forth his powerful arm, to rescue the humble penitent, who earnestly supplicates his mercy ? No, my brethren, he delights to save! Come to him, wait on him, wait in the appointed means, and you shall soon know the power of his resurrection, the depth of his condescension, and the riches of his grace.
But if we have tasted that the Lord is gracious, and can rejoice in having such a representative and advocate, to manage our concerns in heaven, let us remember, that we are honoured to be his representatives on earth; to shew the excellency of his religion by our example ; to be useful to his redeemed people, and to promote his cause in the world. Let us then ask ourselves whether Paul, when constrained by the love of Christ, would have declined any service as too mean, laborious, self-denying, expensive, or perilous, which the command and honour of his Lord called him to perform? And whether he would not have more fully improved even our talents and advantages than we have hitherto done? Let us review our conduct, and consider what ability or opportunity we have of honouring Christ among men: let us reflect on our obligations and prospects, and see to it, that our lights be burning, and our loins girded, that when he cometh we may be found watching, and employed in a proper manner. And may the God of peace, “ who brought again from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make us perfect in every good work to do his will ; working in us that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ. To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."
PREACHED ON WHITSUNDAY, 1795.
ON THE AGENCY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
ISAIAH, XXXII. 16.
Until the Spirit be poured upon us from on bigh.
In the beginning of this chapter, the evangelical prophet foretels the auspicious advent, and benign government of the Messiah ; perhaps with some reference to Hezekiah's equitable and prosperous reign over Judah. He then denounces sentence on the careless, obstinate, and unbelieving Jews, in language aptly descriptive of their condition, ever since the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans: and then he declares, that these desolations would endure, “ until the Spirit were poured upon them from on high ;" the happy effects of which gracious dispensation he predicts in the most energetic language. This seems to be the prophetical meaning of the chape
ter, the concluding verses of which have not hitherto received their accomplishment.-But the present occasion fixes our attention to the words of the text, and I shall endeavour from them,
I. To explain what is meant by the pouring “out of the Spirit from on high."
II. To consider more particularly the nature and effects of this promised blessing.
III. To make some remarks on the emphatical word, “ Until.”
IV. To point out some instructions more immediately arising from the subject.
I. I would explain the words here used. The apostle calls Christianity “ the ministration of the Spirit.” 2 Cor. iii. 8. And it is certain, however it may be overlooked, that the promise of the Spirit pervades the New Testament, in the same manner as that of a Messiah does the old. The language used concerning this subject evidently implies the personality and deity of the Holy Spirit. He is represented as hearing, speaking, willing, commanding, forbidding, receiving, and erecuting a commission : and this not in allegories and parables, but in histories, didactic discussions, laws, and grants, where precision is indispensably necessary, and a literal interpretation peculiarly suitable ; and without doubt these are personal actions. At the same time divine perfections and operations are ascribed to him. He is said to dwell in the hearts of all believers, as in his temple, to search the deep things of God, to raise the dead, and to effect a new creation. He is called the Spirit of holiness, the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of life, the Spirit of power, the Spirit of wisdom and knowledge, the eternal Spirit, and the Comforter. If then the Holy Spirit be a person possessing divine perfections, and performing divine operations; and if the same be true of the Father, and of the Son also, the ancient doctrine of the Trinity is evidently Scriptural, though we can neither explain or comprehend so deep a mystery.
If we further examine the subject, we shall find, that the Scriptures uniformly ascribe all miraculous powers, prophecy, and inspiration, to the immediate agency of the Holy Spirit ; so that the wonderful works of Christ himself, and the exercise of his mediatorial offices on earth, are spoken of as performed by his anointing ; “ the Holy Ghost was not given by measure unto him ;” John iii. 34. Acts i. 2. x. 38. and St Paul particularly describes the diversity of gifts communicated by the same Spirit, “ dividing to every man severally as he willed.” 1 Cor. xii. The predictions of the prophets concerning the pouring out of the Spirit in the days of the Messiah, Isaiah xliv. 3. Joel ii. 28. as well as our Lord's promises to his disciples, may have a special reference to these extraordinary gifts and powers; and to that display of the ascended Redeemer's glory and majesty, which was made on the day of Pentecost; but it should also be noted, that effects were produced, at that important season, by the same divine agent, which were far more valuable to those by whom they were experienced.
If we accurately study the language of the Sacred Oracles, we shall be convinced that the Holy Spirit is there spoken of, as the immediate Author of all that is holy and excellent in man: and that spiritual death, and a total incapacity of delighting in God and heavenly things, universally prevails in the human heart; till “ the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus makes us free from the law of sin and death.” “ Except a man be born again-born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot see-he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” He is “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God, to enlighten the eyes of our understanding, that we may know the hope of our calling.” Eph. i. 17, 18. He “ convinces the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment:" he glorifies Christ, for he receives of his, and shews it unto us. It is his office to " teach us all things, and lead us into