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master." Ine blessed Redeemer labored incessantly in the great work of saving sinners from their sins. He exercised his miraculous powers to convince men of the divinity of his mission, he taught the people the unchangeable love of God to sinners, he loved sinners himself, and his very breath seemed to be forgiveness. We are called on to exercise all our abilities in this blessed cause of salvation. That we may do this to the utmost, we must strive to increase in the knowledge, and grow in the grace of divine truth, that we may be enabled to communicate it to others. Jesus said to his disciples; "Let your light so shine before men, that they beholding your good works, may glorify your Father who is in heaven.' If the vain imagination were true, that the work of saving sinners was accomplished by Jesus' suffering some penalty of the divine law, of which we have no account in the oracles of truth, of course further labor would not be needed. But if the salvation of sinners, consists in delivering them from their ignorance of God, from the power of darkness, from the death of sin, and from alienation to a blessed reconciliation to God, then all that we can do, by the help of Grace, to enligten our fellow men, to recommend the character of God to sinners, to magnify the beauties and excellences of a life of piety and virtue is of service in the cause of Christ. But let us remember, first of all, that example is more than precept; and that this "Grace of God, which bringeth salvation to all men, hath appeared; teaching us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and puriyfy unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."
DIVINE CHARACTER THE SOURCE OF ALL THE GRACE MANINESTED IN THE GOSPEL; AND THE STANDARD FOR OUR IMITATION.
MATTHEW v. 48.
"Be ye, therefore, perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."
EVERY scheme, whether human or divine, must, in order to be rationally planned, have some principle as its foundation. This foundation must, in all respects, be sufficiently extensive and firm to support the superstructure to be raised on it.
The gospel or doctrine of Jesus Christ, being a scheme planned by infinite wisdom, is established on a principle which is in all respects, both in regard to its extent and stability, amply sufficient to support the divinely glorious edifice designed to rest upon it. These remarks are evidently analogous to the subject of our text, and correspond with the manner in which it was presented to those who listened to the gracious words of the divine teacher. In his sermon on the mount, Jesus noticed many particulars, which had formerly been taught to the people and religiously believed by them, which were not consistent with the heavenly wisdom and grace of the gospel. He therefore, endeavored to present to the people the distinction between those traditions which had long been established, and that which was harmonious with that special grace and truth," which came by him.
The particular subject under consideration is introduced as follows: "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, aud hate thine enemy; But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to
rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and unjust.' What the doctrine of Jesus requires of his disciples is here plainly laid down; and the reason why love and good offices to enemies were enjoined is shown in the manifest goodness of God to the evil and good, to the just and to the unjust. The divine teacher then proceeds to illustrate the propriety and fitness of his doctrine as follows; "For if ye love them that love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?"
Having thus evidently shown, that coming short of that love and goodness to enemies which his doctrine requires, was to stand on the same ground and to act on the same principle which characterise the most illiberal and irreligious worlding, he enjoins as expressed in our text; "Be ye, therefore, perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.' Our text, thus introduced, seems to invite the attention of the hearer to the consideration of the following proposition, as a distinct subject for investigation; (viz.) The gospel of Jesus Christ is a dispensation of grace which naturally and necessarily flows from the nature of God, and obtains its peculiar character from the love of God to sinners.
What we mean when we say, the gospel of Jesus Christ flows naturally from God is, that all the causes which produce it, or cause it to flow forth to man, are in the nature of the divine Being. He is self-move ed in all he does, and of course he is self-moved in the dispensation of his grace. Even the Mediator himself, who is stiled "the Captain of our salvation," had no occasion to influence the Father of our spirits to be merciful to sinners, for it is the unchangeable nature of God to be gracious. The divine being is wrongly represented, when it is said, as it often has been, that Christ has, by his life, death and resurrection opened a way for God to be merciful to sinners. because this evidently supposes, that he was not merciful to sinners before this door was opened.
The testimony of Jesus evidently corrects this error, and abolishes at once all vain imaginations which have been built upon it. Hear his words; "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." It is surely a very great error to suppose that the gift which the Father's love pestowed influenced him to bestow it. Such a mistake we may presume, never was made on any other subject or in any other case. Were the unhappy children of wealthy parents, whose prodigality had reduced them to wretchedness and want, to receive from them a gift of immense value, would they be likely to conclude, that the worth of this invaluable treasure was the cause of their parent's love and pity? No; but however highly they might justly prize the favor sent, they would consider it as the evidence, not the cause of parental affection. This is evidently the sense of the Apostle who says; "But God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." Here notice, the death of Christ was not the cause, but the commendation of the love of God toward us, while we were yet sinners. Again; "Herein is love, not that we love God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." This propitiation for our sins, so far from opening a door for God to be gracious, was an effect and a manifestation of the divine favor.
These arguments are designed to illustrate the proposition, that the grace of the gospel flows naturally from God to his enemies.
It is believed that no subject in divinity is of greater moment than the one under consideration. For if it be not the nature of God to be gracious, and to love his creatures, and to do them good, even though they are enemies to him by wicked works; but if he require vindictive retaliation on his enemies; and cannot, consistently with his true character, show any favor to transgressors, without being first reconciled and influenced so to do, it is to that which produces this reconciliation and effects this influence, that we
are to look for mercy, and not to God. Moreover, this doctrine, could it be maintained, would overthrow the doctrine of our text. "Be ye, therefore, perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,' by loving your enemies, by blessing them that curse you, by doing good to them that hate you, and by praying for them that despitefully use you and persecute you. If it be allowed, that our Father in heaven so imputed men's trespasses to them as to render it impossible for him to extend mercy to any until his vindictive wrath was appeased, then may we reply to the requirements of the Saviour in our text, and say; First let us have satisfactory vengeance on our enemies, then we will love them and do them good. Suppose our Redeemer had taught the people, as our professed christians believe, that he had undertaken to appease his Father's wrath toward's man, by suffering the penal tortures which vindictive justice had laid on the sinner; and that by this means he should procure the favor of God for them, would he not thereby have furnished them with a reply to his injunctions expressed in our text and context? Might they not have said, When we can obtain as ample vengeance on our enemies, as you have to suffer in order to render it proper for God to love his enemies, then we will love ours? But no such doctrine can be found in the recorded testimony of Jesus. Whatever the blessed Redeemer is to us, he is made such by the Father of our spirits. Speaking to the Corinthians of Christ Jesus, the Apostle says; "Who of God is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption." To the same church, speaking of the ministry of reconciliation, the same author says; "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them." But the error which we disprove, supposes that God did impute our trespasses to us, and that Christ reconciled him.
There is a passage the common use of which is against our present argument, which we will here notice. "We have an advocate with the Father."