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brews, (chap. ix. 14.) “ Through the eternal Spirit, he offered himself without spot unto God.”
Here then is sunshine without a cloud. Around the throne of God, and of the Lamb, all is bright meridian splendour. What pity is it that any gloom should sit upon our minds ? “ In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that they might live through him.” 1 John ix. 9. The love of Christ was no less clearly manifested in his “Giving himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God, for a sweet-smelling savour." Eph. v. 2.
These two memorable and interesting sentences, like the cherubims which covered the mercy-seat, have their faces looking one towards another; and both smile with complacence upon every returning prodigal. For to connect them together, and bring them bome to ourselves, I need only direct your attention to a third passage of Scripture, where faith in the Son is expressly enjoined as an act of obedience to the will of the father: (1 John iii. 23.) “ this is the command of God, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ." Let us this day unite them all in the serious meditations at the table of the Lord; and improve them, as we ought to do, for the establishment of our faith, and hope, and joy. We are not straitened in God: let us not be straitened in our bowels; for this is the call which he addresseth to each believer in particular, “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it." Amen.
This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal
life: and this life is in his Son.
WHY do not all to whom these good tidings are published, receive them with humble gratitude and joy ? Are they expressed in terms so dark and ambiguous, that their meaning and import cannot be fully ascertained? or is the offer of life loaded with such hard condia țions, as exceed the powers of those to whom it is addressed? Were either of these the case, unbelief would be furnished with something more than a plausible exeuse. But every body must be sensible, that neither of these objections can, with any colour of justice, be charged upon the record as it lies before us in my text. To what then shall we attribute the cold reception it meets with from the bulk of mankind; the contemptuous rejection of it by many; and the violent opposition that is made to it by not a few.
I shall not pretend to enumerate all the different cau. ses that might be assigned. There is one which, however it may appear a paradox to some, doth, in my opinion, unfold the most dangerous and fruitful source of infidelity. It is briefly this:- The gospel-record is too plain to be understood, and too gracious to be believed.
Here is nothing above the level of the lowest capacity; nothing beyond the reach of the most degenerate among men. It requires no acuteness to discover what
is meant by a gift; and if the gift be free and disencumbered, all to whom it is offered are equally qualified to receive it. This pulls up at once the deepest laid foundations of pride and vain-glory, and thwarts that love of distinction and pre-eminence which, from the date of the apostacy, hath been the fatal inheritance of the human kind. We cannot bear the thought of being fed at a common table, how richly soever that table may be furnished. Each of us would wish to have a portion peculiar to himself; something that might denote a preference to others, and flatter that partial opinion which every one fondly cherisheth of his own personal importance.
Hence it is, that the record of God hath either been altogether rejected, or so interlined with the glosses of vain philosophy, as to alter its very frame, and render it not only ineffectual, but even adverse, to those salutary purposes for which it was intended.
The Almighty Independent Sovereign of the universe hath been tried at the bar of his own rebellious subjects. There it hath been decided what is fit and becoming the high station be bolds. Plans of administration have been laid down for him, formed upon those systems of human government, which to each daring projector appeared the most complete: whereas the absurdity, as well as the arrogance, of all such attempts, are detected and reproved by two very plain questions, which the apostle Paul proposes in the 11th chapter of his epistle to the Romans, at the close; “ Who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor ? Or who bath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?” No man of common understanding will hesitate a moment in giving an answer to these questions, but will readily reply,--None bath been bis counsellor, neither is there any who hath first given to God; “ for," as it immediately follows, “ of him, and through him, and to him, are all things.” And yet how obvious, and how important, are the consequences of such acknowledgments ?
For if noue bath been his counsellor, it is plain that none can know his mind till he shall be pleased to reveal it; por even then can it be known any further than it is revealed. To supply what is concealed, with conclusions drawn from the reasonings of our own minds, would be the height of presumption: We must take his counsel as it lies before us in the record he hath given us, without adding to it or subtracting from it. Again, if none hath first given to him, how erroneous must it be to measure the divine administration even by the most perfect models of government among men? Nay, if it would not seem another paradox, I could almost venture to affirm, that the more perfect any constitution of human government is, the less it is adapted to be a standard in this matter. We reckon that system the most excellent, because most agreeable to the soundest principles of reason, by which the original equality of all men by nature is most effectually preserved; where established law, to which the highest are subject, restrains the hand of violence, and supports the meanest individual in the possession of those privileges which, without such protection, he might be unable to defend. But here no parallel can be drawn with regard to the divine government; nor is there room to reason from the one to the other, even by the remotest analogy. The frame of human policy, the whole system of legislation, is built upon the basis of private right and property; whereas, in the kingdom of God, there is, there can be, no such thing as property on the side of the governed :
All the subjects are the creatures of the Supreme Ruler; and whatever they possess, they derive from him. The more they receive, the greater debtors they are to his bounty; and when they improve their trust to the ut. most extent of their capacity, they have no merit to plead ; their fidelity can amount to nothing higher than innocence; while the least failure renders them crimi. nal and liable to punishment.
So that, in the very nature of things, whatsoever God bestows upon the most perfect of his creatures, must be the effect of pure grace and favour. And if all be favour to the innocent, who bave never left the station in which he placed them; surely what is bestowed upon the guilty must flow from the purest grace, the most condescending exercise of sovereign mercy.
And this is the light in which my text presents to our view the record of God with regard to fallen man; where the whole contents of the gospel-constitution are comprehended in this short but emphatical sentence,
God hath given us eternal life: and this life is in his Son.
It consists, you see, of two parts.
I. The first part of the record represents the great Lord of all, in the endearing character of a muvificent benefactor and tender-hearted father, regarding his guilty creatures with an eye of pity, and graciously interposing for their relief, after they had wilfully destroyed themselves.
I need not detain you with a tragical description of the fatal effects of our apostacy from God. It may suffice to remind you of what is written, (Rom. v. 12.) “ By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin.” This