« PreviousContinue »
wicked as ever? If it did so, no one would say that he was an object of clemency or mercy, let the clemency and mercy of the prince be in themselves ever so great. Wherefore, I repeat, that whenever the ease and comfort which we draw from the contemplation of God's mercy, in respect to past sins, is carried forward to the future, so as to make us with more readiness give way to temptation, it is grievously and dangerously abused.
But, secondly, the method above described is an indirect method of applying the mercy of God to the encouragement of our sins; that is to say, the consideration of God's mercy renders us easy under the past; and ease under past transgressions, serves to make us less scrupulous and difficult in complying with returning temptations. But there is also a more direct way in which we carry our presumption upon God's mercy to the deceiving of our consciences; and that is, when we argue with ourselves in this manner; when in deliberating concerning any particular sins which we are induced to commit, we say within ourselves, if God be so gracious, forgiving, and merciful, as religion teaches us that he is, he will not be extreme to condemn me for this single offence, this one addition to the number of my sins. Now this is what may be called sinning upon a plan, and making the goodness of God the foundation of the plan ; which is a very different case from resorting to the mercies of God in the case of past sins. Suppose a prince of the mildest and most placable character should be informed concerning a malefactor, that he had committed the crime of which he was accused, expressly depending upon forgiveness beforehand; would not this be a reason for withholding the mercy which had been thus perverted ? It certainly would.
Again, thirdly, this reliance beforehand goes sometimes to a greater extent. It goes the length of keeping men in a course of sins; because so often as men think of their condition, the first thing that fills their thoughts, is the abounding, inexhaustible mercy of God; and the first effect of that meditation is, that if it so abound, and be so inexhaustible, they may still hope for salvation, although they go on to continue their pleasures and their practices. Now I will tell you what is properly meant by calling God's mercy abounding and inexhaustible. This is meant by it; that whatever be the quantity, or amount, or kind, or degree of our past offences, if we sincerely and truly repent and cease from them, their former enormity need not make us despair of pardon; but it relates solely to the past; it has nothing to do with the future, because it is then only applicable, when a reformation for the future takes place. Extensive as that mercy is, the case of a person intending to continue in sin does not come within it; that intention totally excludes the application.
Upon the whole, the brief statement of the case is this. It is certainly true that God is merciful, but we are not authorised to use or apply the consideration of God's mercy any otherwise than to guard us against despair for our past sins, to quicken and incite us to reformation for the future, and to support and comfort us when we feel that reformation in ourselves beginning. If we go farther than this, and think of God's mercy when we are deliberating concerning soms sin which we are about to commit, either concerning our continuance in some old, or entrance upon some new, course of sin, we are sure to think of it improperly, and to build hopes and conclusions upon it which we are not authorised to entertain. I know nothing which can be a more powerful preservative against this turn of mind, and this fatal delusion, than the wise and solemn warning of the text; concerning propitiation, be not without fear to add sin unto sin, and say not, His mercy is great, he will be pacified for the multitude of my sins; for mercy and wrath come from him, and bis indignation resteth upon sinners.'
THE EFFICACY OF THE DEATH OF CHRIST.
HEBREWS IX. 26.
Now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sac
rifice of himself.
The salvation of mankind, and most particularly in so far as the death and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ are concerned in it, and whereby he comes to be called our Saviour and our Redeemer, ever has been, and ever must be, a most interesting subject to all serious minds.
spoken a manner. , in referwhich is, the is no diri.
Now there is one thing in which there is no division or difference of opinion at all; which is, that the death of Jesus Christ is spoken of, in reference to human salvation, in terms and in a manner, in which the death of no person whatever is spoken of besides. Others have died martyrs, as well as our Lord. Others have suffered in a righteous cause as well as he; but that is said of him, and of his death and sufferings, which is not said of any one else. An efficacy and a concern are ascribed to them, in the business of human salvation, which are not ascribed to any other.
What may be called the first gospel declaration upon this subject, is the exclamation of John the Baptist, when he saw Jesus coming unto him; · Behold the lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. I think it plain, that when John called our Lord the lamb of God, he spoke with a relation to his being sacrificed, and to the effect of that sacrifice upon the pardon of human sin ; and this, you will observe, was said of him, even before he entered upon his office. If any doubt could be made of the meaning of the Baptist's expression, it is settled by other places, in which the like allusion to a lamb is adopted ; and where the allusion is specifically applied to his death, considered as a sacrifice.
In the Acts of the Apostles, the following words of Isaiah are, by Philip the evangelist, distinctly applied to our Lord, and to our Lord's death. He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearers, so opened he not his mouth ; in his humiliation his judgment was taken away, and who shall declare his generation ? for his life is taken from the earth ;' therefore it was to his death, you see, that the description relates. Now, I say, that this is applied to Christ most distinctly; for the pious eunuch, who was reading the passage in his chariot, was at a loss to know to whom it should be applied. "I pray thee,' saith he to Philip, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself or of some other man?' And Philip, you read, taught him that it was spoken of Christ. And I say, secondly, that this particular part and expression of the prophecy being applied to Christ's death, carries the whole prophecy to the same subject; for it is undoubtedly one entire prophecy; therefore the other expressions, which are still stronger, are applicable as well as this. "He was wounded for our transgressions; he was 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.' There is a strong and very apposite text of St Peter's, in which the application of the term · lamb' to our Lord, and the sense, in which it is applied, can admit of no question at all. It is in the 1st chapter of the 1st epistle, the 18th and 19th verses; • Forasmuch as ye know, that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.' All the use I make of these passages is to show, that the prophet Isaiah, six hundred years before his birth ; St John the Baptist, upon the commencement of his ministry; St Peter, his friend, companion, and apostle, after the transaction was over, speak of Christ's death, under the figure of a lamb being sacrificed; that is, as having the effect of a sacrifice, the effect in kind, though infinitely higher in degree, upon the pardon of sins, and the procurement of salvation; and that this is spoken of the death of no other person whatever.
Other plain and distinct passages, declaring the efficacy of Christ's death, are the following; Hebrews ix. 26. Now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.' And in the xth chap. 12th ver. This man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sin, for ever sat down on the right hand of God, for by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. I observe again, that nothing of this sort is said of the death of any other person; no such efficacy is imputed to any other martyrdom. So likewise, in the following text, from the epistle to the Romans; • While we were yet sinners Christ died for us; much more then being now justified by his blood we shall be saved from wrath through him ; for if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more being reconciled we shall be saved by his life.' • Reconciled to God by the death of his Son ;' therefore that death had an efficacy in our reconciliation ; but reconeiliation is preparatory to salvation. The same thing is said by the same apostle in his epistle to the Colossians; · He has reconciled us to his Father in his cross, and in the body of his flesh through death. What is said of reconciliation in these texts, is said in
other texts of sanctification, which also is preparatory to salva· tion. Thus Hebrews, X. 10. •We are sanctified ;' how? namely, by the offering of the body of Christ once for all;' so again in the same epistle, the blood of Jesus is called the blood of the covenant by which we are sanctified.'
In these and many more passages, that lie spread in different parts of the New Testament, it appears to be asserted, that the death of Christ had an efficacy in the procurement of human salvation. Now these expressions mean something ; mean something substantial. They are used concerning no other person, nor the death of any other person whatever. Therefore Christ's death was something more than a confirmation of his preaching ; something more than a pattern of a holy and patient, and perhaps voluntary, martyrdom ; something more than necessarily antecedent to his resurrection, by which he gave a grand and clear proof of human resurrection. Christ's death was all these, but it was something more; because none of these ends, nor all of them, satisfy the text you have heard, come up to the assertions and declarations which are delivered concerning it.
Now allowing the subject to stop here; allowing that we know nothing, nor can know any thing concerning it, but what is written; and that nothing more is written, than that the death of Christ had a real and essential effect upon human salvation; we have certainly before us a doctrine of a very peculiar, per- . haps I may say, of a very unexpected kind, in some measure hidden in the councils of the Divine nature, but still so far revealed to us, as to excite two great religious sentiments, admiration and gratitude.
That a person of a nature different from all other men; nay, superior, for so he is distinctly described to be, to all created beings, whether men or angels; united with the Deity as no other person is united; that such a person should come down from heaven, and suffer upon earth the pains of an excruciating death, and that these his submissions and sufferings should avail and produce a great effect in the procurement of the future salvation of mankind, cannot but excite wonder. But it is by no means improbable on that account; on the contrary it might be reasonably supposed beforehand, that if any thing was disclosed to us touching a future life, and touching the dispensations of God to men, it would be something of a nature to excite admiration. In the world in which we live, we may be said to have some knowledge of its laws, and constitution, and nature; we have long experienced them; as also of the beings with whom we converse, or amongst whom we are conversant, we may be said to understand something; at least they are familiar to us; we are not surprised with appearances which every day occur. But of the world and the life to which we are destined, and of the beings amongst whom we may be