Page images
[ocr errors]

quity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments." In his address to Israel given us in the fourth chapter of Deuteronomy, Moses greatly insists upon the exclusion of images from religious worship. Besides, "God is a Spirit, and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth." God is not in any way personally connected with matter. He is an uncreated, immaterial substance. He is an active, intelligent, infinite spirit. The Belgic confession well says: "We believe in heart, and confess with the mouth, that there is one only and simple spiritual essence, which we call God, eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, immutable, infinite, who is wholly wise, and a most plentiful well-spring of all good things." We cannot too carefully guard God's worship against all corruptions, all admix. tures of human inventions. Image worship is abominable idolatry. The Most High is not like the gods of the heathen. He dwelleth not in temples made with hands. Because he fills heaven and earth he cannot be placed in a niche or on the altar of any house. Nor can any true image of him be made or conceived. The most exquisite piece of art is no more like God, and is no more suited to give us just ideas of him, than the most unsightly daub, or the rudest block of wood or stone.

10. How amiable is the whole character of God. Love to him is as reasonable as it is obligatory. When a scoffing infidel thought to perplex a pious little girl, by asking, "How big is your God?" she replied, "He is so great that the heaven of heavens cannot contain him, yet he is so kind as to dwell in this little heart of mine." He dwells with all his people. He walks in them. "Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." What matchless love is here! He who is over all God blessed forever, condescends to take up his abode in our hearts. "The tabernacle of God is with men.” He that is higher than the highest, does not despise our low estate. How hateful is the arrogant littleness of man, compared with the condescending greatness of God. Our God is in the heavens, and yet he is the great comforter of man. If this is so, how we should love and fear, serve and obey, praise and adore him. "We should give him the same place in our hearts that he holds in the universe." We shall never be able to pay the debt we owe him. Let us give him all. Even that is but little; yet he will receive it.

Maker! Preserver! my Redeemer! God!

Whom have I in the heavens but Thee alone?

On earth, but thee, whom should I praise, whom love?

For thou hast brought me hitherto, upheld
By thy Omnipotence; and from thy grace
Unbought, unmerited, though not unsought-
The wells of thy salvation, hast refreshed
My spirit, watering it at morn and eve.

[blocks in formation]



"I have trodden the wine-press alone."-ISAIAH lxiii. 3.

THE passages in connexion with the text present to our view a grand and glowing picture of a triumphant, glorious conqueror. The scenes of the battle, and the victory, are described with the vividness of dramatic interest, and power. The whole, as some suppose, has a literal reference to the victories of Jehovah over his enemies in the land of Idumea; and he is represented as returning from the field of conflict, and complete conquest, in great majesty and might, covered with the blood of battle. As the grapes in the wine-press are crushed beneath the feet of him who treads it, and are unable to resist the pressure, so had the enemies of God been crushed by his strength, and in his fury.

These passages have also been thought to contain a prophecy concerning the future triumph of the Redeemer, in the destruction of anti-Christ, and the foes of his kingdom; and to refer to the same events that are spoken of in the book of Revelation, where the appearance of the conquering Saviour and his vengeance upon his enemies are alluded to in similar terms. "And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood, and he treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God."

But if we turn our attention to the work of Christ in the great plan of atoning mercy, we shall find that there was an object

to be accomplished, vast and glorious; a triumph to be achieved over obstacles difficult and stupendous; and in the mighty conflict with principalities and powers, that there was blood to be shed, and foes to be vanquished. And in this sublime enterprise of a world's redemption, we may not inappropriately apply the language of the prophet to the Son of God, "Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? This that is glorious in his apparel, traveling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the wine-fat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury, and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come. And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me."

The text has been selected as fitly describing the peculiar character of Jesus Christ as the only sacrifice for sin, and Saviour of sinners. No other person or being in the universe could occupy the place which he fills-no other could accomplish the work which he has wrought. Much of the prophet's language just quoted has a peculiar appropriateness to the Saviour's atoning work. He looked upon the fallen world, and there was none to help. And, in his sufferings and death, he trod the wine-press alone. There are several particulars, in reference to the work of redemption, in which the peculiar character and office of Christ are seen. Some of them let us consider. CHRIST ALONE -this is our theme.

I. He was alone in his personal undertaking of the work of salvation. It was God's purpose to make this sin-ruined world the theatre of divine communications and transactions, where should be displayed some of the brightest exhibitions of his benevolence, glory, and power. Here, where Satan had succeeded in alienating the human race from God, and bringing his wrath upon them, Jehovah determined to rear for himself a kingdom which should finally prevail against the foe, that where sin had abounded, grace might much more abound.

To remove the obstacles in the way of this difficult, but grand enterprise, and accomplish this glorious result, it was necessary that some one should undertake the execution of the work, who was adequate to meet all its exigencies. On whom shall the appointment fall? Where is the being qualified for the task? Who can pardon and rescue the guilty, and yet abridge not the claims of a broken law? Who can sustain the integrity of the Divine government, and yet cancel the rebel's transgression? Who can open the door, barred by Infinite Justice, and let the

prisoner go free? Who, though clothed with any one of the attributes of Jehovah, can effect the salvation of sinners? Mercy, heaven-descended, might pity and plead for them; but mercy could never atone for their guilt. Love, the very essence of Deity, might earnestly desire to redeem them from death, and lift them up into life and liberty; but Love cannot annihilate Justice. The guilty are sinners rightly condemned-the curse of that law, so glorious in its nature, so solemn in its sanctions, so awful in its penalty, and which they have violated, is resting, like the weight of eternity upon them. And that law, like its Divine Author, is unchangeable; it cannot be abridged or repealed. Who, then, is able to remove the difficulty-to vindicate the law-to satisfy justice, and yet pardon, and save the sinner? Can any one of the human race, the most virtuous and worthy of all, do this? Alas! such an one himself must perish unless that work be done for him! Unable to save himself, what can he do towards lifting a world up out of its condemnation! Is an angel adequate to the task? Angels are dependent beings. When they have done their utmost to serve and glorify God, in the spheres in which they move, they have only fulfilled their obligations to Him. They have no virtue to expend in atoning for the sins of others. They cannot save even one of the fallen spirits, that for their rebellion were expelled from heaHow then can they work out the redemption of the world? They may earnestly desire to look into the great mystery of salvation, and to scan its wonders; but, being finite in wisdom and power, the work itself is beyond the scope of their apprehension, and infinitely exceeds the utmost reach of their ability. The birds sing their glad welcome to the life and loveliness of a vernal season; but they have no power to renew the face of the earth. So angelic spirits, those immortal birds of Paradise, may fill all heaven with joy when a sinner repents: but they never could produce the new creation over which they rejoice. Even God himself could not do this work in his absolute character, and without the mediatorial intervention of his Son. There was but one being in the universe who could render the world's salvation possible, and that was Jesus Christ. "Lo, I come," said he, "to do thy will, O God."

II. Christ was alone in the Divine Incarnation. This was essential to the work of redemption. In this appears its wonderful adaptation-its astonishing efficacy. "In the fulness of time, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law." "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." "Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory." Here we have a sub


ject of infinite interest and importance. Here we are taught one of the most remarkable and marvelous truths contained in the whole compass of Revelation-the Incarnation of Deitythe coming of Christ into the world. This wonderful event stands by itself alone. Nowhere is there anything to correspond to it. Nothing in the universe is like it. Immanuel, God with us, becoming a helpless infant, and passing through all the stages of an earthly existence! Amazing fact! Mystery of mysteries! Jehovah-Jesus came into this world

"From the highest throne of glory,
To the cross of deepest woe;
Came to ransom guilty creatures."

The Almighty and glorious Creator, by whom, and for whom are all things, made his abode with sinful men, in the humblest walks of life.

This is a solitary instance. No being from another world has ever done the like. None has come from a distant sphere to make earth his home. Angels, at different times, have visited our world. But their visits have been few and brief. They have never become inhabitants of this realm of sin. There is no record of one's ever being born, or having died on these mortal shores. We, sometimes, in our communings with God, in our thoughts and visions of heaven, in a solemn proximity to death, under the power of disease, or in the departure of a pious friend, seem to linger on the confines of another world; but we have not yet entered it, have not respired its air, nor experienced its reality. So unseen celestial messengers, feeling a deep and strange sympathy in our behalf, may be around us, and among us, but they are not of us; we are not bound to them by any ties of kindred. But God, the Redeemer, came nearer to us than they. He crossed the awful chasm that lay between the Divine and the human. "He took on him the seed of Abraham," that he might grasp and encircle us with all the powerful sympathies of kindred and brotherhood. And O, what treasures, what gifts of life and love, of hope and immortality, he brought with him, and laid at our feet.

Great men have appeared in different ages and at distant epochs, who have shed upon the world the light of their genius, and changed by their deeds the current of its history. The heavens have opened at their glance, and in beautiful order, have gathered into constellations, spheres and systems. The earth, summoned and questioned by science, has revealed her laws and disclosed her treasures. And mind itself, acquiring new vigor from its investigations, has ventured on flights and made discoveries, not only astonishing in themselves, but to-day affecting all the interests of the world's civilization. Confucius, in wisdom towered above his countrymen like the princely oak in the forest. Socrates, rising superior to his age, seemed al

« EelmineJätka »