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love each other, even "as Christ hath loved us, and given himself for us." St. Paul, in his second Epistle to the Corinthians, encourages, exhorts, admonishes the Christian converts, to submit to the sanctifying and purifying Spirit of the Gospel. "For the love of Christ, (says he) constraineth us, because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead; and he died for all, that they that live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them, and rose again."* The Apostle Peter, in his general Epistle, admonishes the brethren," be sober, hope to the end; for the grace that is brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ, as obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance, but as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation." "For as much as ye know that ye are not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation, by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb, without blemish and without spot." He exhorts them to be of one mind, having compassion one of another, to love as brethren, and
+1 Epist. i. 13-19,
* 2 Cor. v. 14.
to rejoice if they suffer for righteousness sake; placing before them the example of Christ, "who hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, to bring us near unto God."* St. John writes, "if we say we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not tell the truth; but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another; for the blood of Jesus Christ his son cleanseth us from all sin."t
Notwithstanding the obscurities in the Epistle to the Hebrews, which still occupy the attention of commentators, the grand design of the writer, through every part of that Epistle, is most obvious. It was to detach these Hebrews, from the obstinate predilection they entertained, for the rituals of the former dispensation, by demonstrating the superiority of the Christian, in the dignity of its founder, the efficacy of his death, and the encouraging assurances it conveys to the humble penitent, of a more complete forgiveness of iniquities, transgressions, and sins, than could have been obtained from all the oblations and sacrifices under the law. In the course of his argument, the writer warns them not to remain satisfied with an inactive
✦ 1 Cor. iii, and passim. ↑ John i. and passim.
belief, even in those doctrines which he has nounced to be of the highest importance; for these can alone be valuable, as they become operative of the great work of sanctification, or improvement in the moral nature of man. Therefore," says he, "leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith towards God: of the doctrine of baptism, and of laying on of hands," which were initiating and introductory, ordinances," and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment; and this will we do, if God permit."*
We now perceive in what manner, and to what an extent, the extraordinary merit of the Son of God is influential in the salvation of mankind. It has obtained pardon for their former offences, rescuing them from the condemnation of death, that they may serve God in newness of life. Neither doth Christ nor his Apostles speak of that kind of merit, in his mediatorial character, which is to become a substitute for personal holiness; or which will justify an impenitent sinner in the sight of God,
*Heb. vi. 1, 2, 3.
however confident his faith, or accurate the articles of his creed. "Think not," says the
great teacher of morals, "that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil; for verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot, or one tittle, shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
The righteous conduct of the ancient wor thies, which was so acceptable to God, as to render them the medium of conveyance of many blessings to mankind, was operative in a similar manner, although in so inferior a degree. They did not completely rescue from vice and misery, but they placed those whom they rendered the participants of the divine favour, in a more advantageous state, and enabled them to become participants of more exalted blessings.
The piety of Noah secured his own family and
* Matthew v.
their descendants, from the destruction which overwhelmed the ancient world; but they were not rendered pious or happy by his obedience to the divine command. Nor did it, in any respect, justify them while they were in a state of depravity. His sons were preserved from the contagion of evil example, by the dreadful event; and the moral state of a new race was obviously improved by the universal calamity. But it was through the medium of new inducements influencing their minds. It is also obvious from historical facts, that such inducements operated variously upon the posterity of Noah. Some of his sons, and their offspring, soon relapsed into a state of depravity; while of others the deportment was regular and virtuous. The faith and piety of Abraham, procured for his posterity privileges, by which they were wonderfully distinguished from the rest of mankind; but it depended upon themselves to render these privileges permanent sources of happiness. The decent character of Esau saved his descendants, the Moabites, from the conquering sword of the Hebrews, at their first entrance into the land of Canaan; but their subsequent depravity destroyed them. The piety of David suspended the calamities of the apostate Israelites but they did not repent, and they afterwards