« ForrigeFortsæt »
wearied spirit, and the infidelity of mankind must have entered like a poisoned arrow into his pure and affectionate heart, and lacerating and cauterizing wherever it touched, have made an inlet for sorrow where there never could be found admission for sin. Yea, it must have been the very extremity of anguish, that the sight with which he was compelled to be most familiar, was that of beings whom he loved, whom he longed to clasp in affection, in amity, in brotherhood, lighting funeral piles for their own souls, and spurning him from them when he entreated that, with his own life's blood, he might quench the Gomorrah-like conflagration. And forasmuch as this spectacle was forced upon him by his having undertaken to die for us while we were yet sinners, then we argue from Christ's love of man, just as we before argued from his love of GoD, that his sufferings must have been vastly aggravated by the sinfulness of those amongst whom they were endured.
It is from incidental notices of this kind scattered up and down the Scriptures, that we obtain the keenest apprehensions of the Saviour's agonies. If a human artist study to set forth the sufferings of the Redeemer, then he has immediate recourse to the outward paraphernalia of woe-he must introduce the scourge, and the buffetings, and the crown of thorns, and the cross-and it is just by the accumulation of the apparatus (if I may so call it) of bodily torture, that he will work up his picture of the "Ecce homo." Yet there is more in the simple expression that Christ died for us "whilst we were yet sinners," than in all that the crayon ever produced, when the genius of a Raphael guided its strokes. We look in, if I dare use the expression, at the soul of the Redeemer —we are admitted as spectators of the solemn and tremendous workings of his spirit, and there is mapped out be
fore us a field of agony, in which are set up none of the material emblems of his excruciating passion, but which is occupied in its length, and in its breadth, by tokens of that mental conflict which doth most surely dislocate the energies, and putting out of joint the very faculty of endurance, casts man down to the earth, and leaves him to be trampled on as a worm.
We attempt not to examine too nicely into the awful matter of the Mediator's sufferings, suffice it, with respect to the baptism through which he passed, that there is not one amongst us who added not something to the fiery dew and the swelling surges not one who was ought else but a direct contributor to that weight of sorrow which seemed for a time to confound him and to crush him. "GOD calleth those things which are not, as though they were;" and we had all, though yet unborn, passed before Him in our degradation and in our pollution
"we were yet sinners"—and He took our transgressions just as well as those of the myriads then living upon the earth, and cast them into the rushing deluge, and then it rolled on, an immensity of wrath, and the innocent surety bowed down and trembled, and sank beneath the impetuous torrent. And ye cannot put aside the strictness of the proof, that if Christ's sufferings were bitterly aggravated by the sinfulness of those among whom they were endured, then it follows that "GOD commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." The proof is most accurate and most logical-our being yet sinners, heightened, to an inconceivable degree the Mediator's trials
nevertheless love could not be daunted by woe even in this its most colossal stature—and advancing in the very front of the mighty trouble, became certainly commended or displayed with a vigour and a vividness to which
creation had heretofore been a stranger. dictates of the amplest charity, and
BUT I HASTEN TO THE SECOND DI-
that it is not possible to conceive of
PART OF THOSE FOR WHOM THEY WERE
ENDURED. Now in the commencement of his dealings with our race, God had proceeded according to the measures of the strictest benevolence. He had appointed that Adam should stand as a fœderal head or representative of all men; had Adam obeyed, all men would have obeyed in him-just as when Adam disobeyed, all men disobeyed in him. And this arrangement we affirm to have been dictated by the most consummate loving-kindness, inasmuch as there was an infinitely greater probability that Adam, with the fate of millions in his keeping, would have watched with a most diligent circumspection against the assaults of temptation, than that any individual of his descendants, left to obey for himself and to disobey for himself, should have preserved, untarnished, the raiment of his fidelity.
And if this reasoning be sound reaSoning, then it necessarily follows that every tongue must have been silent, had GoD abandoned mankind to the issues of apostacy; and had he left this planet, blighted and blackened by the curse, to walk among the stars, a monument of his wrath against transgression. We are born, indeed, under condemnation, and for a rebellion in which we took no actual share, we are the outcast and the alien; but if it be true that the dispensation of which these are the consequences was the produce of infinite benevolence, that it was a dispensation whose excellence even reason herself is constrained to admit, then where is the claim which can be urged for mercy? and how would the loving-kindness of Deity have been, in the smallest degree, compromised, had he never interposed between man and ruin, and had this earth never been made a stage which drew on it the regards of the whole intelligent creation, whilst the high transactions went forwards of the suretyship of our Immanuel ?
No, brethren, there is nothing but the insolence of impiety which can dare to arraign either the justice or the goodness of the appointment which involved posterity in the disobedience of their earliest ancestor—and if this appointment cannot be arraigned, then it must be idle to speak of any claims which the fallen have upon the Creator; and whatsoever is done on their behalf must be in the largest sense gratuitous, and whatsoever is undertaken for their rescue must be sublimely independent on titles or demands. If it could be shown that love stamped not its impress on the arrangement which constituted Adam the repre
I would press this consideration upon you, for it is one of paramount importance. We were not in the strictest sense parties to the transaction which gave into the hands of Adam the destinies of his posterity; it is undeniable that we did not ourselves elect Adam to act as our representative-but I hold it to be, at the least, equally undeniable, that if we had had the power of electing we should have elected Adam, and that there would have been a wisdom in such procedure, which is vainly looked for in any other. I hold that reason, warped though she now be, and weakened, finds herself, nevertheless, compelled to pronounce as her verdict, that in appointing mankind to stand or fall in Adam, God dealt with them by the
sentative of mankind, why, then, (with reverence be it spoken) the creature, who inherited a birth-right of wretchedness, might have pleaded for deliverance with some semblance, at the least, of equity. But if the arrange. ment were one, as we maintain it was, which love had charactered with her most brilliant lineaments, into which (if it be lawful thus to speak) the love which prompted the creation of man gathered and condensed its beauty, and its majesty, and its fulness, and its tenderness, then we lay it down as an unasailable proposition that the compassions of the Most High towards our race might have closed themselves up as within a wall of brass, and they might never have sent forth a lonely throb of sensibility over our sinburdened provinces, and, nevertheless, the inscription, "GOD IS LOVE" would have been graven upon our archives, and the lying tongue of blasphemy alone would have dared to throw doubt on its accuracy. But the love of GoD -oh, it was a love which could not be content with having just done enough, with having vindicated itself, and thus taken away all justice from murmurings-it was a love which must commend itself-a love which must triumph over every thing which could quench love—a love which must bring down its possessor to the level of its object, and give him to taste the bitterness of human allotments, and to drain out the dregs of mortal wretchedness and where, then, is a truth more unquestionable than that "God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
We were sinners, but, nevertheless, God loved us, loved us in our degradation, loved us in our ruin, just as he had loved man when bright with the freshness of early innocence. We were unworthy-oh, there was a depth in our unworthiness, and a
heighth in it, and a breadth in it, which we cannot measure-if we would scale it, "the path is one which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture's eye hath not seen"-if we would pierce it "we must enter into the springs of the sea, and walk in the search of the depth"-if we would scrutinize its boundaries, lo, "the cloud is its garment, and thick darkness its swadlingband"—we were unworthy; the least mercy, we had no claim to it-the minutest benefit, we had no right to itbut GoD commended his love towards us; and wonder, O heavens, and be astonished, O earth, whilst we were yet sinners, whilst the loathsomeness of disease was upon us, whilst the leprosy was in our veins, and the treason-cup in our hands-whilst we were yet sinners Christ died for us, the just for the unjust; and "God made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of GOD in Him."
Now, I think, brethren, that if you gather together the several portions of our argument, you will find St. Paul's assertion in the text completely exemplified. I have contended, in the first place, that the sufferings of the Redeemer were vastly aggravated by the circumstance, that it was amongst those that were yet sinners, these sufferings were endured. In the second place, I have shewn you, that since the interposition was on hehalf of sinners, the sufferings undergone were irrespective of all claim on the part of those for whom they were sustained. We learn from the first argument how intense were the sufferings to which love submitted; and from the second, how absolutely voluntary were those sufferings; and if the fact of Christ's having died for us while we were yet sinners hath conducted to these several conclusions, it follows with a kind of mathematical precision, "that Gon commendeth his love towards us, in
that, whilst we were yet sinners, Christ | have nothing to do with enquiring died for us.”
whether the Irish are, what is termed, Thus far have I laboured to set before deserving of relief. They are in want, you the clear illustration of our text, and they are in wretchedness, and unlo trusting that you will all along have creatures who, like ourselves, had kept in mind those bearings of the sub- nothing but their want and their ject on the occasion of our assembling, wretchedness to recommend them to which I indicated in the early part of the guardianship of the Most High, this discourse. Once more I ask of you, want and wretchedness should be the where should we have been, where best passports when any of our lineage would have been the fathers, where the sue to us for succour. children, had the principle been applied Neither do I suppose that the preto us of unworthiness intercepting be sent is the season for enquiring into nefit, and of want of desert justly shut the possible neglect or misrule of the ting up the bowels of compassion? Is Irish peasantry, by those who are the it true, or is it not true, that when re- rightful lords of the soil. bellion was at its height, and corrup- be, or there may not be—I presume not tion most inveterate, and profligacy to decide—a want of attention to the most daring, the Son of the Eternal poor on the part of those whom God One came amongst us on a mission of hath made, in a certain sense, their mercy, and wrestled, and sorrowed, and natural protectors. If the charge be a agonized, and died, and all on behalf of just one, then the matter calls imperprodigals who had wasted their sub-atively for judicial interference—but of stance, and of infidels who were wed this I am persuaded that the day of ded to wickedness? Is it true, or is it starvation is not the fit day of legisnot true, that if God had dealt with lation—and that which we are bound us after our sins, and if he had rewarded to, as christians and as men, is to us according to our iniquities, the earth lighten the misery first, and to legislate beneath our feet must have been as against its recurrence afterwards. iron, and the firmament over our heads It were but to sicken you with the as brass; and we who now are the sons horrible recitals if I entered minutely and the daughters of beautiful hope, into the details of that fierce desola. for whom the present is paved with tion which is now wasting the westein loving kindness, and before whom the districts of Ireland. Thousands, yea, future expands itself in the spreading tens of thousands of our fellow men of the azure and vermilion, we must are enduring the sternest privations have been the heirs of a blasted inhe- which can fall to the lot of humanity. ritance, and have writhed through In the emphatic and piercing words weary years beneath the scorpion of the Book of Lamentations, scourge of despair, and have sunk tongue of the sucking child cleaveth to down in death with the worm of wrath the roof of his mouth for thirst-the gnawing at the core of the heart? young children ask bread, and no man “With what measure ye mete,” said breaketh it unto them.” “ They that Jesus himself, “it shall be measured be slain with the sword are better than to you again”-and we are bound to they that be slain with hunger-for take good heed that we apply not to these pine away, stricken through for our fellow-creatures in temporal con- want of the fruits of the field.” Ye cerns, a principle which must have con- are men-ye have heartsand these signed us to utter perdition, had it been hearts are not made of the stern stuff applied to ourselves in spiritual. We which is wholly impervious to the
to-morrow the same quiet shelter. If I brought tears, and intenseness of entreaty, and vehemence of supplication to the advocacy which I have undertaken, could I add any thing to that wail of distress which has been borne across the waters, the wail of perishing thousands, a wail which shall enter into the ears of the Lord of Sabbaoth, and bring down a curse upon ourselves if we give no heed to its accents?
I have nothing to state but that the cause is so peculiar and pressing, that every shilling churlishly withheld may produce the death of a fellow-creature. Yes, it is the life of multitudes for which I plead, and he who gives not to the full of his ability, I dare tell him that he tampers with life, and does his part towards hurrying into eternity the souls of many of his brethren.
enterprize which proposes, by GoD's assistance, to upheave that tremendous mass of ignorance which hath long rested, as an incubus, upon Ireland. The distress is temporary; but the relief, with which we meet it, must be quickly administered-and it is an affecting thing to be told, as we are by an eye-witness, that the fields of the suffering districts are now blushing with the promise of a plentiful harvest, so that the peasantry lie down to die on land, which yet a few weeks longer shall yield abundantly the means of subsistence. Alas! if we aid them not during this little interval, the sun may shine, and the showers may descend upon the rising crops, but they who should have gathered the fruits will have tottered into the grave, looking wistfully at the blossom which seemed to tell them to struggle yet a little while with misfortune, and then there should be food for father, and mother, and child.
What shall I say to excite you to liberality? Eloquence would avail nothing, if the cry of the famished prove not a thrilling oratory. Pathos would be an idle weapon, if you are not moved by the thought of the old man and the suckling lying down in one common grave, and the grave itself left, it may be, open, because the deathgrasp is on others who will need
And finally, I beseech you, beloved in the Lord, by the amazing love of which ye have yourselves been the subjects-I beseech you, by the agony and bloody sweat, by the cross and passion of him who commended his love towards you in that he died for you whilst you were yet sinners-I beseech you to open wide your compassions, and thus to show your obedience to the apostolic injunction: "beloved, if GOD so loved us, we ought also to love one another."
DELIVERED BY THE REV. H. Mc NEILE,
AT ST. BRIDE'S CHURCH, FLEET STREET, ON BEHALF OF THE LONDON FEMALE
Luke, xv. 2.-" And the Pharisees and Scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them."
If any of you had a transaction of business with a man-a neighbourbusiness of such importance, as that it involved all your property and all
your prospects; and if the nature of your connexion with that man were such that, throughout the transaction, you were completely in his power,