Billeder på siden

In the text it is said, that God set forth Christ as a propitiation for sin, through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness; that he may be just, when justifying him that believeth in Jesus. The End, for which Christ was set forth as a propitiation, is, that God, consistently with justice, may justify those who believe in Christ. The peculiar and essential nature of the faith of such, as believe in Jesus, is in one important particular exactly defined, also, in the text, when it is styled faith in his blood : the faith, through which alone he is exhibited in the text as becoming a propitiation to men. This faith, or as I shall take the liberty to call it, trust, or confidence; (for such I hope hereafter to show it to be) is not, indeed, nor is it here asserted to be, faith in the atonement only; but it is faith in the atonement pre-eminently. We are required to believe in the whole character, and in all the offices, of Christ; but we are required, peculiarly, to believe in him, as the great propitiatory sacrifice for sin. Every one, who is the subject of this faith, the real, and only means by which we become interested in this propitiation, is amply exhibited in the text as entitled to justification.

That every such believer will certainly inherit the favour of God cannot be rationally doubted. While he was yet a sinner, condemned and ruined, God, moved by his infinite benevolence, sent into this world his beloved Şon, to become incarnate; to become a subject of his law, and a substitute for mankind; to lead a life of humiliation; and to die the accursed death of the cross; that he might redeem such sinners from the curse of the law; from a guilty character, and the endless miseries of devouring fire. The condition, proposed by himself, on which we become entitled to the blessings of this redemption, are all summed up in this single phrase: Faith in Christ, and pre-eminently in his atonement. This condition the believer has performed; and is, therefore, entitled to these blessings. His title is secured to him by the covenant of Redemption, by the immutable promise of God to him, by the glory and excellency of Christ's mediation, and by that amazing and immense purpose of infinite love, which proposed, and accomplished, all the parts of this wonderful work. 'Who can doubt for a moment, that He, who proposed, He, who accomplished, this astonishing design, will go on to accomplish every thing, which it draws in its train? 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? Can any thing be too dear to be given to those, for whom Christ was given? Can any thing he too great to be expected by those, who are united to the Son of God, as members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones; who are become his seed in the everlasting covenant; and to whom, unasked, he has from his own overflowing goodness given the glory, which he had with the Father before ever the world was ?

Let every believer, then, de completely assured, that his cause

I am

is safe in the hands of God. He has chosen the good part, and it shall never be taken from him. He, who has begun to befriend him in this infinite concern, will never leave him nor forsake him. All the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord. Though he full, yet shall he rise again ; and his mercy God will not utterly take from him. In the seed, sown in his heart, there is a blessing; the beginning of immortal life. Cold and wintry as is the climate, beneath which it has sprung; unkind and barren as is the soil, in which it grows; doubiful and fading as we often see its progress; it cannot die. The hand, that planted it, will cultivate it with unceasing care; and will speedily remove it to a happier region, where it will flourish, and blossom, and bear fruit, for ever. persuaded, says St. Paul, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

2dly. It is equally evident, that those, who reject the atonement of Christ, are without any hope of the divine favour.

The favour of God is proffered to the inhabitants of this world through Christ alone; and those only are promised an interest in it, who cordially believe in him, as the expiation of sin. Had there been any other condition, upon which this glorious blessing could be communicated, the same benevolence, which planned and accomplished our redemption, would undoubtedly have communicated it to us. No such communication has, however, been made. On the contrary, it is often declared in the most explicit language, that he who believeth not shall be damned.

Even if the Scriptures had been silent, and no such awful declarations had been found in them, the nature of the subject holds out the strongest discouragement to every presumption of this kind. After such amazing efforts, made on the part of God, to bring mankind back from a state of rebellion, and to restore them to virtue and happiness, it cannot but be believed, that their obstinate continuance in sin must be regarded by him with supreme abhorrence. His law condemned them, for their original apostacy, to final ruin. To the guilt of this apostacy, unatoned, unrepented of, and therefore remaining in all its enormity, they, in this case, add the peculiar guilt of rejecting the singular, the eminently divine, goodness of God, manifested in this wonderful provision for their recovery. In what manner they could more contemptuously despise the divine character, in what manner they could more insolently affront ihe divine mercy, it is beyond my power to conceive. No other offer can be so kind; no other blessing so great ; no other display of the divine character, of which we can form a conception, so lovely. The ingratitude, therefore, is wonderful; the insolence amazing; the guilt incomprehensible. If, then, the righteous scarcely be suted, where shall these unbelieving, ungodly sinners appear? If it be a fearful thing for all men, for heathen and for MohammeVOL. II.


dans, to fall into the hands of the living God; what must it be for these men, to whom Christ is offered freely, daily and alway; who sit, from the cradle to the grave, under the noon-day light of the Gospel, and bask, through life, in the beams of the Sun of righteousness.

Whence do these persons derive their hope ? From their character? That could not save them under the law. It is the very guilt, for which they are condemned. From their repentance ? They exercise none. Even if they did, it could never be accepted. A perfect repentance, as has been heretofore proved, cannot become an expiation for sin. But such repentance was never exhibited by men. Their repentance is not even a sorrow for sin. On the contrary, it is the mere dread of danger; a mere, terrified expectation of punishment. Who, however abandoned, does not, at times, experience such repentance, as this? Who ever dreamed, that the dread of death ought to excuse the felon from the gibbet?

Let every unbeliever, then, tremble at the approach of the judgment. Let him no longer say to himself, Peace, peace; when sudden destruction is coming upon him. Let him turn lo the strong hold, while he is yet a prisoner of hope. Let him turn to the Lord with all the heart, with fasting, with weeping and with mourning ; for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. Who lenoweth, if he will turn, and repent, and leave a blessing behind him?

3dly. It is evident from the observations, made in these discourses, that mankind are infinitely indebted to Christ for expiating their sins.

Christ by his atonement has redeemed mankind from under the curse of the law. The sufferings, to which they were doomed by this curse, were endless sufferings. Without an expiation, a déliverance from these sufferings was impossible. Equally impossible was it for any other person, beside Christ, to make an expiation. From mere compassion to our ruined world, he undertook the arduous labour of delivering us from these stupendous sufferings; and accomplished it, at the expense of his own blood. Infinitely rich, for our sakes he became poor, that we through him might become rich. For him we had done nothing, and were disposed to do nothing. For us, influenced by his' own overflowing goodness, he did all things. He taught us, as our prophet, all things pertaining to life and godliness. He lived before us, as our example; he died for us, as our Propitiation; he rose from the dead, as the Earnest of our resurrection to endless life. He entered heaven, as our Forerunner; he assumed the throne of the Universe, as our Ruler, Protector, and Benefactor. At the end of the world he will appear as our Judge and Rewarder; and will conduct to the mansions of eternal life, all those, who have cordially accepted of his mediation; and will there, throughout interminable ages, feed them with living bread, and lead them to fountains of living waters. To the obligations, conferred by such a benefactor, what limits

can be set? Our deliverance from sin and sorrow is a boundless good; our introduction to endless virtue and happiness is a boundless good. But of all this good the atonement of Christ is the foundation, the procuring cause, the commencement, and the security. Worthy is the Lamb, that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. Such is the everlasting song, to which the four living creatures in the heavens subjoin their unceasing Amen.

With this glorious subject in our view, can we fail to be astonished at the manner in which the Saviour of the world is treated by multitudes of those, whom he came to redeem? By what multitudes is he regarded with cold-hearted unbelief, and stupid indifference? By what multitudes, with open opposition and avowed hostility? By what multitudes, with shameless contempt, insolent sneers, and impudent ridicule? How often is his glorious name profaned, and blasphemed, by those, whom he died to save from endless perdition? How many miserable wretches, tottering on the brink of eternal ruin, while in the house of God, while in this house, and while his agonies, endured for them, are resounding in their ears, quietly compose themselves to sleep, or busily employ themselves in whispering, amusement, and mirth; forgetful, that they have souls to be saved, or lost; and destitute of a wish to be interested in the Saviour. Had Christ been as regardless of these miserable beings, as they are of him ; nay, as they are of themselves; what would have become of them in the day of wrath? What will become of them in that dreadful day, if they continue to treat Christ, as they have treated him hitherto ?

4thly. It is evident from these observations, that the Gospel alone furnishes a consistent scheme of salvation to mankind.

The Gospel takes man, where it finds him, in a state of sin and ruin, condemned by the law of God to final perdition, and incapable of justification, by his own righteousness. In this situation, it announces to him a Saviour, divinely great and glorious, divinely excellent and lovely, assuming his nature, to become an expiation for his sins; revealing to him the way of reconciliation to God; and inviting him to enter it, and he saved. The acceptance of this expiation it announces from the mouth of God himself. The terms, on which we may be reconciled, it discloses with exact precision and perfect clearness ; so that he who runs may read; so that beggars and children may understand, and accept them. Faith in the Redeemer, repentance towards God, and holiness of character, involve them all. They are terms, reasonable in themselves, easy to us, and productive of incomprehensible good to all who embrace them. To overcome the stubbornness of our hearts, Christ has commissioned the Spirit OF GRACE to sanctify us for himself; to draw us with the cords of his love; to guide us with his wisdom; to uphold us with his power; and to conduct us under his kind providence to the heavens. In this scheme is contained all that

we need, and all that we can rationally desire. The way of salvation is here become a highway, and way-faring men, though fools, need not err therein.

The Religion of the Gospel is a religion designed for sinners. By the expiation of Christ it opens the brazen door, which was for ever barred against their return. Here the supreme, and otherwise immoveable, obstacle to the acceptance of sinners, is taken away. If sinners were to be accepted, it was not possible that this cup should pass from Christ. The next great obstacle in the way of their acceptance is found in their unholy, disobedient hearts, propense to evil only, and continually; and the next, their perpetual exposure to backsliding, and to falling finally away. These obstacles, immoveable, also, by any means on this side of heaven, the Spirit of grace by his most merciful interference in our behalf entirely removes. Man, therefore, in the Gospel finds his return from apostacy made possible; made easy; made certain ; actually begun ; steadily carried on in the present world ; and finally completed in the world to come.

But no other scheme of religion presents to us even plausible means of removing these difficulties. Natural religion, to which Infidels persuade us to betake ourselves for safety, does not even promise us a return to God. Natural religion is the religion of law ; of that law, which in the only legal language declares to us, Do these things, and thou shalt live: but the soul, that sinneth, shall die. These things, the things specified in the requisitions of the law, we have not done ; and therefore cannot live. We have sinned, and therefore must die. It has been formerly shown, that the law knows no condition of acceptance, or justification, but obedience. Concerning repentance, faith, forgiveness, and reconciliation, concerning the sinner's return to God, and his admission to immortal life, the law is silent. Its only sentence, pronounced on those who disobey, is a sentence of final condemnation.

Whatever we may suppose the law to be, we have disobeyed its precepts. Nothing has been ever devised, or received, by man as a law of God, which all men have not disobeyed. Infidels cannot devise such a law, as they will dare to call a law of God, and publish to men under this title, which they themselves, and all other men, have not often disobeyed. From the very nature of law, a nature inseparable from its existence as a law, disobedience to its precepts must be condemned: and, if nothing interfere to preserve the offender from punishment, he must of necessity suffer. To what degree, in what modes, through what extent, these sufferings will reach, the Infidel cannot conjecture. To his anguish no end appears. Of such an end no arguments can be furnished by his mind; no tidings have reached his ear; and no hopes can rationally arise in his heart. Death, with all the gloomy scenes attendant upon a dying bed, is to him merely the commencement of doubt, fear, and sorrow. The grave, to him, is the entrance into a world,

« ForrigeFortsæt »