« PreviousContinue »
of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice's den.” If by that promise that all shall know the Lord from the least even to the greatest, we are not to understand that every individual heart shall be made holy, still so many hearts will be sanctified that the prevailing influence on earth shall be a religious influence, and the paramount affection love. How easily then will all bad habits be corrected, how useless be bolts and bars, and criminal laws, and fortifications, and how done for ever litigations, and scandal, and alienations, and broken hearts, and ruined character, and bankruptcy, and imprisonment. Then this world, so long a raging ocean, will become at length a peaceful pool, reflecting the image of its Maker. Then God will delight in us, and angels love to watch over us.
4. The subject will lead us to think with pleasure of heaven. How pleasant is the thought of being removed from all this misery, and of being where there will reign a universal benevolence. Every angel, and every redeemed spirit will be willing that other angels, and other spirits should be as happy as himself. And the grand employment of heaven will be to communicate happiness. God they will love supremely, but as God is infinitely happy, and will not need their service, they will no doubt be employed everlastingly in making other beings happy. Thus they will be workers together with God: for it is thus that God is employed, and thus angels. See them at Sodom, see them at Babylon with Daniel, see them at Bethlehem, with the shepherds, and in the garden with the agonizing Redeemer. O, it is pleasant in this dark and perturbed world, to have a heaven to think of, and a heaven to hope for, where there will reign for ever an unqualified friendship, and our prayer, and our song, and our employ be the prayer, and the song, and the employ of all.
5. The subject renders a place of misery desirable. O, let these discordant passions one day find a world where they may live alone! If it does not comport with the purpose of God to eradicate them all, by sanctifying the hearts in which they predominate, let them be all congregated together, and no more disturb the peace and the quiet of those in whose hearts they do not reign. It is verily believed that when the whole design of digging a bottomless pit, and kindling a quenchless fire shall be known, and the beings judged who are there congregated, it will be seen that the universe could not have been perfect without a hell any more than a town or county could have done without a prison and a gallows. And all the people shall say amen.
CHRIST CONDUCTS TO HEAVEN A HOLY PEOPLE.
TITUS II. 14. Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a
peculiar people, zealous of good works.
MORE than eighteen hundred years since, we were visited by a stranger from a foreign world. Two questions were immediately agitated. Who is he? and What his errand ? He settled them both; but they have come up, again and again, to the present day. A previous discourse had a bearing upon the first of these questions, and the text now before us will require us to attend to the second. It is selected, you will remember, from that very book which he left with us, on purpose to answer every inquiry that men would need to make respecting himself and his mission. We learn in the context, who it was that thus gave himself for us: “The great God, even our Savior Jesus Christ.”
My readers are aware, that the same men, who deny that our Savior Jesus Christ is the great God, differ as widely from the apostle, relative to the part he acted for us. They would allow that he was commissioned to make known to us the will of God, especially the fact of a resurrection, which nature did not reveal, and establish Christian ordinances, and set us an example of virtue. That his death was vicarious, or a substitute for our condemnation, they would generally, and I presume universally deny.
Now, if we need a Savior to do more for us than this, then we need, not the one they offer, but whom the apostle exhibits to our view in the text. If my sins must be atoned for, if an evil heart of unbelief must be removed, and when sanctified, I must still be accepted through the merits and the righteousness of another, then I need a Savior to do more for me than teach me truth, and give me ordinances, and be my pattern in virtue.
Had my ruin consisted merely in having lost a knowledge of God and duty, an angel might have become my instructor, and his example would have answered me the same purpose, as that of the Son of God. It would have seemed in that case wholly unnecessary, that God should be manifest in the flesh. But if the whole heart was faint, as well as the whole head sick; if there hung over us the curse of a broken law, and we were so alienated from God as to be content in perpetual exile from his service and his fellowship; then both instruction and example, if nothing more were done, would be wholly lost upon me.
What can it avail to present truth or exhibit purity, before a mind that disrelishes moral beauty, unless provision is made to subdue the aversion of the heart? And even then, how could I be happy with the curse of a broken commandment pendent over my head? O, give me such a Savior as Paul describes, or when all is done, there is left undone the main thing requisite to my obedience and my blessedness. If the Lord Jesus Christ came merely to instruct me, so did the prophets and the apostles; and their example, had their hearts been perfectly holy, would have been all I needed on this point; and thus either of them might have been my Savior as really as he who is now frequently exhibited as the only Redeemer.
If I must be content with a Savior who is merely my schoolmaster, I am led to ask, Why so much said of him previously to his advent? Did prophets anticipate his approach many thousand years; and martyrs hang their hopes, on him so long; and angels announce his ingress, soon as the time was out; and spent the night by his manger; and a voice from heaven name him the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world; and was this mighty personage, who so long held a world in agonized suspense, merely some teacher coming to do for us what any man, if commissioned, could have done as well? Is Jehovah accustomed thus to pour honor upon a creature, sent on an errand no more grand than this?
“ Is ocean into tempest wrought,
To waft a feather, or to drown a fly ?”
No man can have a very deep sense of sin, and not feel his need of having done for him more than all this. He who owes ten thousand talents, and has nothing to pay, will need a Savior who can take that debt upon him. He who has drawn upon himself the denunciations of his Maker's law, will need a Savior to bear that burden for him. He who has a carnal mind, that is enmity against God, is not subject to his law nor can be, will wish a Savior who can subdue that heart to loyalty and duty. And he who, after all this is done, dare not hope for heaven, unless taken by
the hand by some mighty Prince, and led every inch of the way till he is within its threshold, will inquire if no such Captain of his salvation is provided? And he will open his Bible, and read a single sentence, and there, the great God, even our Savior Jesus Christ, for whose appearing to judge the world his people are looking, is the very protector and friend he needs; “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” The text furnishes a natural division of thought, and will need the aid of no numerical distinctions.
Who gave himself for us. His presentation at the altar of justice, as our victim, was his own act. He is not seized and bound, as the barbarous nations secure their victims, willing or unwilling; nor comes to the altar as Isaac did, not knowing where the lamb was for a burnt offering. He had power to lay down his life, and power to take it up again. Not merely was he given, although this was true, but he gave himself. And it was not merely his time, and strength, and patience, that he gave, as instructers do, but his life. How easily could he have blighted all our hopes in that dark hour. Had he sent Judas to his own place, or rendered him an honest man, when he came to steal the betraying kiss; or had he struck lifeless that midnight band, that came to apprehend him; or had he let down into hell that senate chamber, with its mass of hypocrisy; and paralized the sinews of that soldiery that crucified him; then had there been none to betray, arrest, or murder the Lamb of God. And he had all this power in himself, else he did not give himself. He who goes to death without his choice, by a power, human or divine, that he cannot control, cannot be said to lay down his life : his life is taken from him.
But the Sufferer of Calvary, when he left the bosom of the Father, had his eye fixed, and through his whole life kept it fixed upon the scene of the cross, as the finishing act of his humiliation, and felt not that his work was done till he yielded his life. Hence, while it is true that the Father gave his Son, it is equally true that the Son gave himself. He was as voluntary in redeeming the world, as in the act that built it.
Who gave himself for us. Here each word has meaning. Who are we to understand by us ? Not Paul himself and the good brother in the gospel to whom he wrote, merely. If another apostle may decide, the Lord Jesus Christ was “the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” I have no wish now to enter the list in that controversy, which never should have been among brethren who hold the Head, whether the atonement, as distinguished from redemption, is general or limited. Those who do not distinguish atonement from redemption, must limit it, or avow the salvation of all men; and those who do thus distinguish, may with propriety make atonement general, and still are not accountable for a consequence, which is made to follow, not on their principles, but that of their opponents.
Is there not a common ground, where those who love the truth can and must meet? Neither of the parties to whom I now refer, assert, that God has purposed or will accomplish the salvation of all men, through the atonement of Christ; nor on the other hand, will deny, that the atonement places the human family at large, in circumstances happily differing from that of devils. To men there go out overtures of mercy, to devils none. But does it not follow, that if mercy is offered, and the offer sincere, salvation is possible; that is, the obstructions are removed on the part of God, that would have kept men from heaven, even had they repented ? and this is precisely what I understand those to mean, who make the atonement general. The death of Christ rendered it possible for God to save, without dishonoring his law, or weakening his government, as many as it should please him to sanctify.
And what is the force of the preposition, for us? Can it mean less or more, than that the death of Christ was a substitute for our condemnation? This idea is certainly consonant with the whole drift of revelation. “He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; he was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him ; and with his stripes we are healed:--the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all :-for the transgressions of my people was he stricken.” Thus the griefs, and the sorrows, and the wounds, and the bruises, the chastisements, and the stripes, all fell on him by substitution, and were borne instead of the everlasting miseries of hell, which we must have borne, had he not offered himself as our ransom.
The apostle proceeds to make known to us the design with which the Savior gave himself for us, “ That he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify us." There are here included pardon and sanctification.
First, pardon. The sinner can neither be considered as redeemed from iniquity, or purified, while his conscience is polluted with unpardoned sin. He is still under the curse of the law, has