« PreviousContinue »
withal, mercy to the transgressor : the first, as signifying that thus the offerer deserved to have been treated ; the last, as accepting a substitute in his stead. In the sacrifice of Christ, both these sentiments were expressed in the highest degree : God sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, (or by a sacrifice for sin,) CONDEMNED sin in the flesh. He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? In proportion as God's own Son was dear to him, and, as possessed of divine dignity, estimable by him, such were the batred of sin, and the love to sinners, manifested än smiting him. If
mercy had been exercised to man without such an expression of displeasure against their sin, it must have appeared to the crea tion to be connivance, and the character of God must have sunk in their estimation. He must have appeared to be very strict indeed in bis precepts, and severe in his threatenings ; but as lax in enforcing them, as though he had known, from the beginning, that they would not bear to be acted upon. The fallen angels, in particular, must have felt, that it could not be justice that consigned them to hopeless perdition ; for justice is impartial. If the Creator could connive at sin in one instance, he could in another. Thus the bands of moral government had been broken, and the cords which held creation together, cast away.
But, by the atonement of Christ, a way is opened for the consistent exercise of mercy. There was a kind of atonement made by the vengeance taken on the old world ; also by that on the Benjamites, as recorded in the last chapters of Judges. Each of these events served to express the divine displeasure against sin, and each made way for the exercise of mercy: the one, toward: Noah and bis posterity; and the other, toward the remnant that had taken refuge in the rock Rimmon. Thus, in the death of Christ, though he died the just for the unjust, yet God herein expressed his displeasure against sin, and, having done this, could be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. There is now no bar, in respect of the government of God, why any sinner should not, on returning to him in the name of bis Son, find mercy. On this ground, sinners, without distinction, are actually invited to come unto him, and be saved. The only bar that remains is a spirit of pride and unbelief. If they can believe in Jesus, receiving salvation as God's free gift through him, all things are possible to him that believeth.
When, on visiting a dying man, I hear him talk of having made his peace with God,' I tremble for him. If our peace be made with God, it is by the blood of the cross. What are our confes. sions, or prayers, or tears? Can they heal the awful breach? If so, God would have spared his own Sop, and not have delivered him up to be made a sacrifice. It had then been possible for the cup to pass from him, and it would, no doubt, have passed from him. If without the shedding of blood there be no remission ; and if it were impossible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take away sin, the consequence is, that either Christ must be the sacrifice, or we must die in our sins, and perish. He hath made peace by the blood of his cross : it is not for us to assume to be peacemakers, but to accept of his mediation.
2. The blood of Christ, as proclaimed in the preaching of the gospel, is the appointed mean of bringing sinners near to God. It is the doctrine of salvation through the blood of Christ, that is, by way of eminency, called the gospel. It was this doctrine which Christ commissioned bis disciples to preach to every creature : Thus it is written and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be PREACHED IN HIS NAME, AMONG ALL NATIONS, beginning at Jerusasalem! This doctrine is good news to every creature ; and that, whether it be received or rejected. It is good news, that a way is opened, by the death of Christ, for any sinner to return to God, and be saved ; and that, if any sinner walk therein, he shall be saved. It is the ministry of reconciliation, in which the servants of Christ, as though God did beseech by them, pray men in Christ's stead, saying, Be ye reconciled to God. Its being made light of by the greater part of men does not alter its nature; and this they shall know another day. God brings near his righteousness, even to them that are stout-bearted and far from righteousness. Into whatsoever city ye enter, said our Lord, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you : and heal the sick that are there.
in, and say unto them, THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS COME NIGH UNTO
But into mhatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say,
Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding, be yé sure of this, that THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS COME NIGA UNTO YOU. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city.
3. By the doctrine of salvation through the blood of Christ, we are actually brought nigh. As the prodigal was brought home to his father's house and family, so we are brought home to God. It is thus that we become actually reconciled to God. If when we were enemies,says the Apostle, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son; much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. The term reconciled is here manifestly used in different
In the first instance, it refers to the making of atonement : in the last, to our believing acquiescence in it; or, as it is expressed in the following verse, to our receiving the atonement. It is in this way that our sips are forgiven; that we are justified, or accepted, in the Beloved ; that we are invested with the privilege of being the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty ; that God is our God, and we his people, by a new and better covenant ; that we have access to him as our heavenly Father, and to all the ordinances and privileges of his house : finally, it is as believing in him that died and rose again, that we live in hope of eternal life.
There is a term used by the Apostle in Ephes. iii. 12, which conveys a very expressive idea, not only of the pearness to which believers are admitted by the faith of Christ, and which is denoted by the term access, but of their being introduced by him, as by one taking them by the hand, and presenting them to the King. * We could not be admitted into the divine presence by ourselves ;. but our Mediator, taking us as it were by the hand, presents us to God. It is thus that we are accepted in the Beloved on our first believing, and in all our approaches to the throne of grace, bave access to God.
* ITpruzazó, Introduction, manuductioa, or being led by the hand.
To conclude : If we have been made pigh, it becomes us, not only to be thankful for so great a favour, but to feel a deep and anxious concern for others, who, at present, are far off. Whether we consider the state of heathens, of Mahometans, or of our own unbelieving countrymen, they have each a claim on our compassion. And, if Christ withheld not bis blood to bring us nigh, it surely is not for us to withhold any labour or expense in carrying bis gracious designs into execution.
THE NATURE AND IMPORTANCE OF LOVE TO GOD.,
JOSHUA xxiii. :1.
Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the Lord your God.
It is an interesting account that we have of the last days of Joshua. He is very anxious, that, when he should cease to be their leader, Israel should cleave unto the Lord. To make as deep an impression upon their minds as possible, he first called for the elders and leading men among them, and delivered a serious charge to them : after this, he gathered all the tribes together before the Lord in Shechem, where he solemnly rehearsed the dealings of the Lord with them, and bound them, by every consideration that he could suggest, not to forsake him, and go after the idols of the heathen. It is in this connexion that he introduces the words of the text, Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the Lord your God; intimating, that in order to be obedient to the Lord, and secure against idolatrous departures from him, it was necessary, not merely to own him as their God, but to be cordially attached to bis name and government. The word rendered yourselves, in the text, is, in the margin rendered your souls; denoting, that it is not a superficial inspection of the conduct that is meant, but a looking to our iomost motives, seeing to it that we love the Lord from our very hearts. Vol. VII.