תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

I. In darkness, as we are, about the glory destroy it. When we think of his law, it is and character of the Supreme Being, it a law which must be made honourable, would offer a violence even to our habitual even though, by the enforcement of its conceptions of him, to admit of any limit, sanctions, it shall sweep into an abyss of or any deduction from the excellencies of misery all the generations of the rebellious. his nature. We should even think it a lessen- And yet this God, just, and righteous, and ing of the Deity, were the extent of his true, is a God of love, and of compassion, perfections such, as that we should be able infinite. He is slow to anger, and of great to grasp them within the comprehension mercy. He does not afflict willingly; and of our understandings. The property of as a father rejoices over his children, does chiefest admiration to his creatures is, that he long to rejoice in tenderness over us all; they know but a part, and are not aware and out of the store-house of a grace that is how small a part that is, to what is un- inexhaustible, does he deal out the offers known; and never is their obeisance more of pardon and reconciliation to every one lowly, than when, under the sense of a of us. Even in some way or other does the greatness that is undefined and unsearch-love of God for his creatures find its way able, they feel themselves baffled by the in- through the barrier of their sinfulness; and finitude of the Creator. It is not his power, he who is of purer eyes than to behold as attested by all that exists within the iniquity,-he who hath spoken the word, limits of actual discovery; but his power, and shall he not perform it-he of whose as conceived to form and uphold a uni- law it has been said, that not one jot or one verse, whose outskirts are unknown.-It is tittle of it, shall pass away, till all be fulnot his wisdom, as exhibited in what has filled,-he holds out the overtures of friendbeen seen by human eye; but his wisdom, ship to the children of disobedience, and as pervading the unnumbered secresies of invites the guiltiest among them to the mechanism, which no eye can penetrate. light of his countenance, in time, and to the It is not his knowledge, as displayed in the enjoyment of his glory and presence, in greater and prophetic outlines of the his- eternity. tory of this world; but his knowledge, as There is no one device separate from the embracing all the mazes of creation, and gospel, by which the glory of any one of all the mighty periods of eternity. It is these attributes can be exalted, but by the not his antiquity, as prior to all that is visi-surrender or the limitation of another attrible, and as reaching far above and beyond bute. It is in the gospel alone that we perthe remote infancy of nature; but his an-ceive how each of them may be heightened tiquity, as retiring upwards from the lof- to infinity, and yet each of them reflect a tiest ascent of our imaginations, and lost in lustre on the rest. When Christ died, justhe viewless depth of an existence, that tice was magnified. When he bore the was from everlasting. These are what burden of our torment, the truth of God reserve to throne the Deity in grandeur inac-ceived its vindication. When the sins of cessible. It is the thought of what eye hath the world brought him to the cross, the not seen, and ear hath not heard, neither lesson taught by this impressive spectacle hath it entered into the heart of man to was, holiness unto the Lord. All the seconceive, that places him on such a height verer perfections of the Godhead, were, in of mystery before us. And should we ever fact, more powerfully illustrated by the be able to overtake, in thought, the dimen- deep and solemn propitiation that was made sions of any attribute that belongs to him, for sin, than they could have been by the -and far more should we ever be able to direct punishment of sin itself.-Yet all reoutstrip, in fancy, a single feature of that dounding to the triumph of his mercy.character which is realised by the living For mercy, in the exercise of a simple and and reigning God,-should defect or im- spontaneous tenderness, does not make so potency attach to him who dwelleth in the high an exhibition, as mercy forcing its light which no man can approach unto, way through restraints and difficulties, -as would we feel as if all our most rooted and mercy accomplishing its purposes by a accustomed conceptions of the Godhead plan of unsearchable wisdom,-as mercy had sustained an overthrow, would we feel surrendering what was most dear for the as if the sanctuary of him who is the King attainment of its object,-as the mercy of eternal and invisible had suffered violence. God, not simply loving the world, but so

And this is just as true of the moral as loving it as to send his only beloved Son, of the natural attributes of the Godhead. and to lay upon him the iniquities of us When we think of his truth, it is a truth all,-as mercy, thus surmounting a barrier which, if heaven and earth stand committed which, to created 'eye, appeared immoveto the fulfilment of its minutest article, able, and which both pours a glory on the heaven and earth must, for its vindication, other excellencies of the Godhead, and repass away. When we think of his holiness, I joices over them. It is such that, if sin offer to draw nigh, al. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ, which has devouring fire goeth forth to burn up and to l poured the light of day into all the intricacies of this contemplation. We there see) to paralyze him. In these circumstances, no compromise, and no surrender, of the there may be the conformity of the letter attributes to each other. We see no mutual extorted from him in the spirit of bondage; encroachment on their respective provinces, but the animating soul is not there, which -no letting down of that entire and abso- turns obedience into a service of delight and lute perfection which belongs to every part a service of affection. In Heaven's account, in the character of the Godhead. The jus- such obedience as this is but the mockery tice of God has not been invaded; for by of a lifeless skeleton; and, even as a skelehim, who poured out his soul unto the ton, it is both wanting in its parts, and death for us, has the whole weight of this unshapely in its proportions. It is an obeaggrieved and offended attribute been borne; dience defective, even in the tale and mea and from that cross of agony, where he sure of its external duties. But what percried out that it was finished, does the di- vades the whole of it by the element of vine Justice send forth a brighter and a worthlessness is, that, destitute of love to nobler radiance of vindicated majesty, than God, it is utterly destitute of a celestial chais the minister of vengeance had gone forthracter, and can never prepare an inhabitant and wreaked the whole sentence of con- of this world for the joys or the services of demnation on every son and daughter of the great celestial family. the species. And as the justice of God has And, on the other hand, if the man be suffered no encroachment, so, such is the satisfied, this very circumstance gives to the admirable skilfulness of this expedient, that righteousness that he would establish for the mercy of God is restrained by no limi- himself, the character of an insult upea tation. It is arrested in its offers by no God, instead of a reverential offering. It is questions about the shades, and the degrees, a righteousness accompanied with a certain and the varieties of sinfulness. It stops at measure of confident feeling, that it is good no point in the descending scale of human enough for the acceptance of the Lawgiver. depravity. The blood of Christ cleansing There is in it the audacity of a claim and from all sin, has spread such a field for its a challenge upon his approbation. Short invitations, that in the full confidence of a as it is, in respect of outward performance, warranted and universal commission, may and tainted within by the very spirit of the messengers of grace walk over the face earthliness, it is brought like a lame and dis of the world, and lay the free gift of ac- eased victim in sacrifice, and laid upon the ceptance at the door of every individual, altar before him. It is an evil and a bitter and of every family. Such is the height, thing to sin against God; but it is a suil and depth, and breadth, and length, of the more direct outrage upon his attributes, to mercy of God in Christ Jesus; and yet it is expect that he will look on sinfulness with a mercy so exercised, as to keep the whole complacency. It is an open defiance to tbe council and character of God unbroken, - law, to trample upon its requirements; but and a mercy, from the display of which, it were a still deadlier overthrow of its authere beams a brighter radiance than ever thority, to reverse its sanctions, and make from each lineament in the image of the it turn its threatenings into rewards. The Godhead.

sinner who disobeys and trembles, renders Now if the glory of God be so involved at least the homage of his fears to the truth in this way of redemption, what shall we and power of the Eternal, But the singer think of the disparagement, that is rendered who makes a righteousness of his infirmito him, and to all his attributes, by the man ties; and puts a gloss upon his disobedience, who, without respect to the work and the and brings the accursed thing to the gate of righteousness of Christ, seeks to be justified the sanctuary, and bids the piercing eye of by his own righteousness? It is quite possi- Omniscience look upon it, and be satisfied, ble for man to toil and to waste his strength --tell us whether the fire which cometh on the object of his salvation, and yet, by all forth will burn up the offering, that it may he can make out, may be only widening rise in sweetly smelling savour to him who his laborious deviation from the path which sitteth on the throne ; or will it seize on the leads to it. Do his uttermost to establish a presumptuous offerer, who could thus dare righteousness of his own, and what is the the inspection, and thrust his unprepared whole fruit of his exertion ?—the mere footstep within the precincts of unspotted semblance of righteousness, without the in-holiness? fusion of its essential quality,-labour with. And how must it go to aggravate the oiout love,-the drudgery of the hand, without fence of such an approach, when it is made the desire and devotedness of the heart, as in the face of another righteousness which its inspiring principle. If the man be dis-God himself hath provided, and in which satisfied, as he certainly ought to be, then a alone he hath proclaimed that it is safe for sense of unexpiated guilt will ever and anon a sinner to draw nigh. When the alternaintrude itself upon his fears; and a resist-tive is fairly proposed, to come on the merit less conviction of the insufficiency of all his of your own obedience and tried by it, or performances will never cease to haunt and I to come on the merit of the obedience of Christ, and receive in your own person the farther provocation of a slighted and rereward which he hath purchased for you, jected gospel. only think of the aspect it must bear in the II. We shall conclude, for the present, eye of Heaven, when the offer of the perfect these brief and imperfect remarks, by adrighteousness is contemptuously set aside, verting to the solidity of that foundation of and the sinner chooses to appear in his own peace, which the gospel scheme of mercy character before the presence of the Eternal. provides for every sinner who concurs in When the imputation of vanity and useless-it. It is altogether worthy of observation, ness is thus fastened on all that the Son hath how, under this exquisite contrivance, the done, and on all that the Father hath devised very elements of disquietude in a sinner's for the redemption of the guilty,—when bosom, are turned into the elements of comthat righteousness, to accomplish which, fort and confidence in the mind of a beChrist had to travail in the greatness of his liever. It is the unswerving truth of God, strength, is thus held to be nothing, by crea- which haunts the former by the thought of tures whose every thought, and every per- the certainty of his coming vengeance. But formance, have the stain of corruption in this very truth, committed to the fulfilment them—when that doctrine of his death, on of all those promises, which are yea and which, in the book of God's counsel, is made amen in Christ Jesus, sustains the latter by to turn the deliverance of our world, is the thought of the certainty of his coming counted to be foolishness, when the sinner salvation. It is justice, unbending justice, thus persists in obtruding his own virtue on which sets such a seal on the condemnation the notice of the Lawgiver, and refuses to of the disobedient, that every sinner who is put on, as a covering of defence, the virtue out of Christ, feels it to be irrevocable. In of his Saviour, - we have only to contrast Christ, this attribute, instead of a terror, bethe lean, shrivelled, paltry dimensions of the comes a security; for it is just in God to one, with the faultless, and sustained, and justify him who believes in Jesus. It is the Godlike perfection of the other, to perceive sense of God's violated authority which fills how desperate is the folly, and how un- the heart of an awakened sinner with the escapable is the doom of him who hath fear that he is undone. But this authority neglected the great salvation.

under the gospel proclamation, is leagued It is thus that the refusal of Christ, as our on the side of comfort, and not of fear; for righteousness, stamps a deeper and a more this is the commandment of God, that we atrocious character of rebellion on the guilty believe in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, than before,-and it is thus that the word as he has given us commandment. It is not of his mouth, like a two-edged sword, per- by an act of mercy, triumphing over the forms one function on him who accepts, other attributes, that pardon is extended to and an opposite function on him who de- the sinful; for, under the economy of the spises it. If the gospel be not the savour of gospel, these attributes are all engaged on life unto life, it will be the savour of death the side of mercy; and God is not only unto death. If it be not a rock of confi- merciful, but he is faithful and just in fordence, it will be a rock of offence, and it will giving the sins of those who accept of Christ, fall upon him who resists it, and grind him as he is offered to them in the gospel. Those into powder. If we kiss not the Son, in the very perfections, then, which fix and necesday of our peace, the day of his wrath is sitate the doom of the rebellious, form into coming, and who shall be able to stand when a canopy of defence around the head of the his anger is kindled but a little? We have believer. The guarantees of a sinner's punalready offended God by the sinfulness of ishment now become the guarantees of our practice,-we may yet offend him still promise; and while, like the flaming sword more by the haughtiness of our pretensions. at the gate of paradise, they turn every The evil of our best works constitutes them way, and shut him out of every access to an abomination in his sight; but nothing the Deity but one-let him take to that remains to avert the hostility of his truth one, and they instantly become to him the and his holiness against us, if by those works sureties and the safe-guard of that hidingwe seek to be justified. It will indeed be place into which he has entered. the sealing up of our iniquity, if our obe- The foundation, then, of a believer's peace, dience, impregnated as it is with the very is, in every way, as sure and as solid as is spirit of that iniquity, shall be set up in rival. the foundation of a sinner's fears. The very ship to the obedience of his only and well truth which makes the one tremble, because beloved Son,--if, by viewing the defect of staked to the execution of an unfulfilled our righteousness, as a thing of indifference, threat, ministers to the other the strongest and the fulness of his, as a thing of no value, consolation. It is impossible for God to lie, we shall heap insult upon transgression,- says an awakened sinner, and this thought and if, after the provocation of a broken law, pursues him with the agony of an arrow we shall maintain the boastful attitude of sticking fast. It is impossible for God to him who hath won the merit and the re- lie, says a believer; and as he hath not only ward of victory, and in this attitude add the said but sworn, there are two immutable

things by which to anchor the confidence gains peace to his own heart; and the jusof him who hath fled for refuge to the hope lice which beams a terror on all who stand set before him. He staggers not at the without, utterly passes by the shielded head promises of God, because of unbelief. He of him who hath turned to the strong hold, holds himself steadfast, by simply counting and taken a place under the shadow of his him to be faithful who hath promised. It wings, who hath satisfied the justice of God, is through that very faith, by being strong and taken upon himself the burden of its in which he gives glory to God, that he fullest vindication.

SERMON XVII.,

The purifying Influence of the Christian - Faith.

"Sanctified by faith."-Acts xxvi. 18. . III. It is a matter of direct and obvious tinue the same motives to abstain from sin, understanding, how the law, by its promises as those intelligible ones which the law and its threatenings, should exert an influ-furnishes, or even other motives of more ence over human conduct. We seem to powerful operation. We are quite sure that walk in a plain path, when we pass onwards ihere is something here which needs to be from the enforcements of the law, to the made plain to the understandings of a very effect of them on the fears, and the hopes, numerous class of inquirers,-a knot of difand the purposes of man. Do this, and you ficulty which needs to be untied,-a hidden shall live; and do the opposite of this, and step in the process of explanation, on which you shall forfeit life, form two clear and they may firmly pass from what is known distinct processes, in the conceiving of to what is unknown. There are not two which, there is no difficulty whatever. The terms in the whole compass of human lanmotive and the movement both stand intel-Iguage, which stand more frequently and ligibly out to the discernment of common | more familiarly contrasted with each other, sense; nor in the application of such argu-| than those of faith and good works; and ment as this, to the design of operating on this, not merely on the question of our acthe character or life of a human being, is ceptance before God, but also on the questhere any mystery to embarrass, any hidden tion of the personal character and acquirestep, which, by baffling our every attempt ments of a true disciple of Christ. It is to seize upon it, leaves us in a state of help-positively not seen, how the possession of less perplexity.

the one should at all stimulate to the per. The same is not true of the gospel, or of formance of the other,-how the peace of the manner in which it operates on the the gospel should reside in the same heart, springs of human action. It is not so rea- from which there emanates, on the life of a dily seen how its privileges can be appro- believer, the practice of the gospel, -how a priated by faith, and at the same time its righteousness that is without the deeds of precepts can retain their practical authority the law, should stand connected, in the acover the conduct of a believer. There is an tual history of him who obtains it, with a alarm, and an honest alarm, on the part of zealous, and diligent, and every-day doing many, lest a proclamation of free grace unto of these deeds. the world, should undermine all our securi-! There is much in all this to puzzle the ties for the cause of righteousness in the man who is experimentally a stranger to world. They look with jealousy upon the the truth as it is in Jesus. Nor does it at freeness. They fear lest a deed so ample all serve to extricate or to enlighten him, and unconditional, of forgiveness for the when he is made to perceive, that, in point past, should give rise, in the heart of a sin- of fact, those men who most cordially assent ner, to a secure opinion of its impunity for to the doctrine of salvation being all of grace the future. What they dread is, that to pro- and not of works, are most assiduous in so claim such a freeness of pardon on the part walking, and in so working, and in so painsof God, would be to proclaim a correspond taking, as if salvation were all of works, ing freeness of practice on the part of man. and not of grace. The fact is quite obvious They are able to comprehend how the law, and unquestionable. But the principle on by its direct enforcements, should operate which it rests, remains a mystery to the in keeping men from sin; but they are not general eye of the world. They marvel, but able to comprehend how, when not under they go no farther. They see that thus it the law, but under grace, there should con- l is, but they see not how it is; and they put it down among those inexplicable oddities | taste,-or will behold the sportive felicity of which do at times occur, both in the moral | animals, and thence obtain gratification to the and natural kingdom of the creation. | benevolence;-or will behold the precipice

But in all our attempts to dissipate this beneath, and thence obtain a warning of obscurity, it is well to advert to the total danger, or a direction of safety,--or may difference between him who has the faith, behold a thousand different objects, and and him who has it not. The one has the obtain a thousand different feelings and materials of the argument under his eye, different intimations. · and within the grasp of his handling. The Now the same of faith. It has been called other may be able to recognize in the argu- the eye of the mind. But whether this be ment, a logical and consistent process; but a well conceived image or not, it certainly he is at a loss about the simple conceptions, affords an inlet to the mind for a great which form the materials of the argument. variety of communications. The Apostle He is like a man who can perform all the calls faith the evidence of things not seen,manipulations of an algebraical process, not of one such thing, but of very many while he feels not the force or the signifi such things. The man who possesses faith, cancy of the symbols. His habits of ratio can be no more intellectually blind to one of cination enable him to perceive, that there these things, and at the same time knowing is a connexion between the ideas in the ar- and believing as to another of them, than gument. But the ideas themselves are not the man who possesses sight can, with his manifest to him. It is not in the power of eye open, perceive one external object, and reasoning to supply this want. Reasoning have no perception of another, which stands cannot create the primary materials of the as nearly and as conspicuously before him. argument. It only cements them together. The man who is destitute of sight, will And here it is, that you are met by the im- never know what it is to feel the charm of potency of human demonstration,-and are visible scenery. But grant him sight; and reduced to the attitude of knocking at a he, will not only be made alive to this door which you cannot open,-and feel charm, but to a multitude of other influyour need of an enlightening spirit,--and ences, all emanating from the various obare made to perceive, that it is only on the jects of visible nature, through the eye upon threshold of Christianity, where you can the mind, and against which his blindness hold the intercourse of a common sympa- had before opposed a hopeless and invincithy and understanding with the world, ble barrier. And the man who is destitute and that to be admitted to the mysteries of of faith, will never know what it is to feel the kingdom of heaven, you must pass into the charm of the peace-speaking blood of a region of manifestation, where the world Christ. But grant him faith; and he will cannot follow, but where it will cast the not only be made alive to this charm, but imputation of madness and of mysticism to a multitude of other influences, all emaafter you.

nating from the various truths of revelaWithout attempting to define faith, as to tion, through this intellectual organ, on the the nature of it, which could not be done heart of him who was at one time blind, but with other words more simple than but has now been made to see. This will itself, let us look to the objects of faith, and help, in some measure, to clear up the persee whether there do not emanate from them, plexity to which we have just now adverted. a sanctifying influence on the heart of every They who are under its darkening influreal believer.

ence, conceive of the faith which worketh First, then, the whole object of faith, is peace, that it has only to do with one docthe matter of the testimony of God ' in trine, and that that one doctrine relates to Scripture. So that though faith be a single Christ, as a peace-offering for sin. Now, it principle, and is designated in language by is very true, that it has to do with this one a single term,-yet this by no means pre-doctrine; but it has also to do with other cludes it from being such a principle, as doctrines, all equally presented before it in comes into contact, and is conversant, with a the very same record, and the view of all very great variety of objects. In this re-which is equally to be had, from the very spect it may bear a resemblance to sight, same quarter of contemplation. In other or hearing, or any other of the senses, by words, the very same opening of the menwhich man holds communication with the tal eye, through which the peace of the external things that are near him, and gospel finds entrance into the bosom of a around him. The same eye which, when faithful man, affords an entrance for the open, looks to a friend, and can, from that righteousness of the gospel along with it. very look, afford entrance into the heart for The truth that Christ died for the sins of an emotion of tenderness, will also behold the world, will cast upon his mind its apother visible things, and take in an appro- propriate influence. But so also will the priate influence from each of them, will iruth that Christ is to judge the world, and behold the prospeet of beauty that is before the truth that unless ye repent ye shall it, and thence obtain gratification to the perish, and the truth that they who have a

« הקודםהמשך »