Billeder på siden

[All kinds of iniquity would be renounced, and all heavenly graces be kept in exercise. There would be no public wars, no private animosities, no wants which would not be relieved as soon as they were known. Evil tempers would be banished: the pains arising from discontent or malice would be forgotten. Peace and love and joy would universally abound. Surely we should then have a heaven upon earth. Let the Gospel be viewed in this light. Let us conceive the whole world changed like the converts on the day of Pentecost; and then we shall indeed confess its excellence, and pray that "the knowledge of the Lord may cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.”]



Tit. iii. 4—7. After that the kindness and love of God our

Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost ; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour ; that being justifiea by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

THE doctrine of the Trinity must be acknowledged to be deeply mysterious, and utterly surpassing our weak comprehensions. Yet is it so clearly laid down in the sacred writings, that we cannot entertain a doubt of its truth. Indeed, without admitting a Trinity of Persons in the Godhead, the Scriptures are altogether inexplicable. What interpretation can we put on those words which are appointed to be used at the admission of persons into the Christian Church?—they are to be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Here are evidently three distinct Persons, all placed upon the same level, and all receiving the same divine honour: to suppose either of them a creature, is to suppose that a creature may have divine honours paid to him ; when we are expressly told that God is a jealous God, and that he will not give his glory to another : and therefore, while we affirm that there is but one God, we cannot but acknowledge that there is, in some way incomprehensible by us, a distinction of persons in the Godhead. This is further confirmed by the manner in which the inspired writers set forth the work of redemption : they frequently speak of it as effected by three distinct Persons, whom they represent as bearing three distinct offices, and as acting together for one end : thus St. Peter says, “We are elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ:" thus also St. Paul, in the passage before us, having represented all men, Apostles as well as others, in a most wretched state both by nature and practice, proceeds, in the words of my text, to set forth the work of redemption. He begins with tracing it up to the Father, as the source from whence it springs : he then mentions the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ, the one as the Author who procures it, the other as the Agent who applies it ; and then he concludes with declaring that the glorification of sinful man is the grand end, for the accomplishing of which the Sacred Three co-operate and concur: “ After that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy, he saved us by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs, according to the hope of eternal life.”

From these words we will take occasion to unfold the glorious work of redemption, from its first rise to its final consummation ; and herein to set before you its original-procuring-efficient and final cause. I. Its original cause

The original cause of our redemption is represented in my text to be “ the kindness and love of God the Father.” God is love in his own nature ; and every part of the creation bears the stamp of this perfection: the whole earth is full of his goodness. But man, the glory of this lower world, has participated the fruits of his kindness in far the most abundant measure; having been endued with nobler faculties, and fitted for incomparably higher enjoyments than any other creature. In some respects, God has loved man more than the angels themselves : for when they fell, he cast them down to hell, without one offer of mercy: but when man transgressed, God provided a Saviour for him. This provision, I say, was wholly owing to the love of God the Father: it was the Father who, from all eternity forseeing our fall, from all eternity contrived the means of our recovery and restoration. It was the Father who appointed his Son to be our Substitute and Surety ; and in due time sent him into the world to execute the office assigned him: and it is the Father who accepts the vicarious sacrifice of Christ on our behalf. He accepts at the hands of his own Son the payment that was due from us, and confers on us the reward which was due to Christ. Thus the Father's love contrived, appointed, and accepts the means of our salvation; and therefore in my text he himself is called “ our Saviour ;" “ the love of God our Saviour.”

” This title belongs more immediately to the Son, who died for us : but yet, as the Father is the original cause of our salvation, he is properly called “our Saviour.” Nor is it the text only that represents the Father's love as the source of our redemption ; the Scriptures uniformly speak the same language : “God so loved the word, that he gave his onlybegotten Son :” “God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us :” and again, “ Herein is love; not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

This love, however, did not fully appear till after the ascension of our blessed Lord. The text says, “ After that the kindness and love of God our Saviour towards man appeared.The word in the original refers, I apprehend, to the shining forth of the sun. Now the sun shines with equal brightness when it is behind a cloud, or when this part of the globe is left in midnight darkness; only it is not visible to us till it actually appears above the horizon, or till the clouds that veil it from our eyes are dissipated. So the love of God has shone from all eternity; "He has loved us,” says the prophet, “ with an everlasting love." But this love was behind a cloud till our Lord had finished his course upon earth; and then it appeared in all its splendour : so that now we can trace redemption to its proper source; and instead of imagining, as some have done, that the Father was filled with wrath, and needed to be pacified by the Son, we view even Christ himself as the Father's gift, and ascribe every blessing to its proper cause, the love of God.

It is true, however, that much was necessary to be done, before this love of God could shed forth its beams upon us. We proceed therefore to set before you, II. The procuring cause of our redemption

This in my text is set forth both negatively and positively: it was not any works of righteousness which we have done, but it was Jesus Christ: they who are saved will no doubt abound in works of righteousness; but these works are not the procuring cause of our redemption. What good works did Adam perform before God promised to send him a Saviour ? What good works can any man do, before God endues him with his Holy Spirit ? Or even after our conversion, what works of ours can challenge so glorious a reward? Yea, when do we perform any work whatever, which is not miserably defective, and which does not need the mercy of God to pardon it ? Every one who knows the spirituality of God's law, and the defects that are in our best performances, will say with the Apostle Paul, “ I desire to be found, not having my own righteousness, but the righteousness which is of God by faith in Christ.” We may well acknowledge, therefore, as in the text, that we are saved, not by works of righteousness which we have done. The only procuring cause of our salvation is Jesus Christ. Every thing which we receive comes to us on account of what he has done and suffered: if the Father's love appear to us, or if the Spirit be shed forth upon us, it is, as the text observes, “ through Jesus Christ.” It was his death which removed the obstacles to our salvation : the justice of God required satisfaction for our breaches of the divine law : the dishonour done to the law itself needed to be repaired : the truth of God, which was engaged to punish sin, needed to be preserved inviolate. Unless these things could be effected, there could be no room for the exercise of mercy, because it was not possible that one perfection of the Deity should be exercised in any other way than in perfect consistency with all the rest. But the death of Christ removed these obstacles. Christ offered himself as an atonement for sin; and at once honoured the law, satisfied justice, and paid the utmost farthing of our debt: thus, “mercy and truth meet together, and righteousness and peace kiss each other :' yea, by this means,“ God is faithful and just, (not to condemn us, but) to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Nor is it in this view only that Jesus Christ procures our salvation : He has taken upon him the office of an advocate, which he is ever executing in heaven : “He ever lives,” says the Apostle, “to make intercession for us.” He pleads our cause with the Father: he urges his own merits on our behalf : like the high-priest of old, he presents blood, yea, his own blood, before the mercy-seat, and fills the most holy-place with the incense of his own intercession. Thus does he continually prevail for us; and we, for his sake, are loaded with all spiritual and eternal benefits.

That we obtain mercies thus, by virtue of his death and intercession, is evident also from other Scriptures; the Apostle says, that we have redemption through Christ's blood; and our Lord says, “I

« ForrigeFortsæt »