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[For the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity.]
2 Cor. ili, 5.
For the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.
N the epistle for the day, the apostle
compares the gospel of Jesus Christ with the law of Moses, and shews the vast glory and excellence of the former over the latter ; and how much greater benefits and blessings it had conferred on mankind, than the Mosaical dispensation. “ The letter," says he, in the words of the text, “killeth :" that is, the law of Moses, by insisting on perfect obedience, and making no provision for the redemption of mankind, left us still sinners; and, consequently, liable to the wrath and punishment of God; whereas, “ the Spirit giveth life;" that is, the spiritual religion of the gospel, restores us " to life from the dead," by revealing to us these blessed truths;—first, the atonement of our sins through Jesus CHRIST ; secondly, the assistance of the Holy Spirit in our christian course, and thirdly, immortal happiness in heaven, if we have endeavoured to fulfil the christian duties of repentance, faith, and obedience, here upon earth. In the following discourse, I propose to consider, particularly, these three great truths, which make the foundation of the believer's trust, hope, and joy, in the Lord.
There was a time, my friends, in the hisiory of man, when he required no Saviour, and stood in need of no atonement. The Bible tells us, when God had created the heavens, and the earth, and all that therein is, and “ saw that it was good,” that He compleated his glorious work by forming man “ in his own image.” “In the image of God, “ created He him ; male and female, created “ He them.” To understand this expression, exactly, may perhaps be difficult; but of this we may be sure, that as man was created “ in the image of God," so he must have;; been without sin, innocent and holy, and as perfect as it was possible that a creature should be, who was formed " out of the dust of
“the earth.” The dwelling in which he was placed, was suitable to the excellence of his nature; for it was the Paradise of God. A garden planted by God's own hand,
out of which grew every tree that is
pleasant to the sight, or good for food; the “ tree of life also in the midst of the garden, 66 and the tree of knowledge of good and “ evil.” Here our first parents were placed, “ to dress and to keep it;" that they might have employment sufficient to prevent idleness, and preserve health ; and which, at the same time, would leave sufficient leisure for the great business of their life, the praise and adoration of that Almighty Being who had created them. How long our first parents enjoyed this blessed state of holiness and peace, we are not informed ; nor is it necessary that we should know; but of this, we may be sure, that whilst they remained good, so long they continued to be happy. The time, however, at length arrived, when the scene was dismally changed. The Devil, lost, himself, to all holiness and happiness, envying a felicity which he could not enjoy, and desirous of bringing those who possessed it, into the same state of reprobation and misery with himself, deluded our first parents with lies, and tempted them to eat of the forbidden tree, and break the commandment of their Maker. From this moment man became the object of God's wrath. No longer fit for the blessed abode of Paradise, he was driven into the world; which was cursed for his sake. Here, thorns and thistles were to supply the place of the beautiful plants of Paradise; and “the “ herb of the field” to be his food, instead of the wholesoine and delicious fruits which he had before enjoyed. Toil and labour were now to be his portion, in the room of that ease and peace which his state of innocence afforded, and in the sweat of his brow, and in sorrow of heart, was he condemned to eat his food all the days of his life. But this was the lightest part of his bitter portion. The sentence of the ALMIGHTY reached beyond the things of this world. He was doomed to death eternal.
« In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt
surely die ;” or, in other words, become subject to the penalty of everlasting perdition; was the decree now to be executed upon him: and not upon Adam only, but upon all his posterity through him; for, as the author of the second book of Esdras says, “Oh! Adam, what hast thou done? “For though it was thou that sinned, thou
art not fallen alone, but all we have perished with thee.” A fact further confirmed by the apostle Paul; “ by one man, sin came " into the world, and death by sin ; and so " death passed upon all men, for that all “ have sinned.” Behold, then, my brethren, the unhappy state of man ; dead in sin; reprobate, lost, and undone ; the wrath of God hanging over his head ; and death, final and everlasting, waiting to receive himy when he should have passed the few and evil days which were given him here upon earth. But mark the infinite mercy of Him“ with or whom we have to do." At this awful moment, JESUS CHRIST
our LORD presented himself to be a propitiation for the sins of mankind; to reconcile GoD to man by his own blood-shedding; to offer himself up as an atoning sacrifice, not only for the original offence of Adam, but for all the offences of his posterity, which shall be thoroughly repented of, to the end of time. Here, then, my brethren, you see both the reason why an atonement was necessary for mankind; and in the death and passion of our Lord and Saviour, you see also this necessary atonement actually made. You behold your Mediator reconciling us to God by the blood of his covenant ; you behold him forgiving your sins ; blotting out the handwriting of condemnation, which was “ against
us, and taking it out of the way, nailing