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following texts. “It pleased the Father that in him should all. fulness dwell; and having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself, by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven; and you that were sometimes alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, now hath he reconciled.” Col. i. 20. Again, Eph. ii. 15, St Paul, speaking of the Jews and Gentiles, declares, That Christ hath now by his death abolished all distinction between them; that having made of twain one new man, he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross; so in other places, God is said to reconcile us to himself by Jesus Christ; to be reconciling the world unto himself. The preaching of the gospel is called the word and the ministry of reconciliation. The same distinction holds concerning some other phrases which occur in the writings of the apostles. God is never said to be at enmity with us, or an enemy to us, or alienated from us, but we are said to be at enmity with God, enemies to God, alienated from God; and all by the wickedness of our lives. ‘A friend of the world,” saith St James, ‘is an enemy of God.” “You that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works; ” so the Gentiles were said to be alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that was in them. I proceed, in the second place, to prove, that the redemption of the world, instead of being undertaken by another, to appease the wrath of an incensed or austere God, was itself a thing provided by God; and was the effect of his care and goodness towards his human creatures. The texts I shall lay before you, in support of this proposition, are the following; “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ John iii. 16. Again, in the sixth chapter of the same gospel, Christ speaks, ‘I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me; and this is the Father’s will who hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing.” These are Christ's own words; and in what way does Christ describe his office and commission ? not as coming of himself to pacify God the Father, who was alienated from and averse to the race of mankind, but as sent by God the Father to reclaim and reform this degenerate race; to save them, by turning every one from his sins, and so to bring those back who were gone far astray from their duty, their happiness, and their God; in other words, Christ's coming was the appointment of God the Father, and that appointment was the effect of God the Father’s love. These declarations of our Saviour's own are followed up by many passages in the writings of the apostles, which speak of Christ's coming into the world, of his ministry, and more especially of his death, as concerted and determined of old in the counsels of the Almighty Father. “Him being delivered,” saith St Peter, “by the determinate counsels and foreknowledge of God ye have taken.” “Against the holy child Jesus they were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined to be done.” But the mission of Christ was not only the counsel and design of God the Father, but it was a counsel of supreme love to mankind. ‘God commendeth his love towards us, in that whilst we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also give us all things?’ But the text the fullest and the plainest to our purpose is in the fourth chapter of the epistle of St John. “In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” ‘Herein is love ; not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Now in these various texts you will remark the same thing, which is, that they do not describe the redemption of mankind, as if a milder and more benevolent being went about to propitiate the favor of another who was harsh and austere, who was before incensed at the human race, had cast them off, or was averse to their welfare; that certainly was not the idea which dwelt in the mind of those who delivered such declarations as I have now read to you ; but it was all along the design and the doing of that Being, the effect of his love, the fruit and manifestation of his affection and good will. But it will be asked, if God the Father was always gracious, and merciful, and loving to his creatures; always ready to receive, and desirous to make them happy, what necessity was there for a redeemer, or for the redemption of the world at all 2 I answer that there was still the same necessity to reform and recover mankind from their sins, and there was likewise a necessity for a propitiation for sin. It was a law of God’s moral government, that mankind could not be made happy in their future existence without holiness, at least without endeavours after holiness, without turning away from their sins, without a pardon obtained through Jesus Christ his Son. Perhaps the whole rational universe, angels as well as the spirits of departed men, may be interested in the maintenance and preservation of this law. Here God’s love to his creatures interposed, not to break through or suspend a rule universally salutary and necessary, but to provide expedients, and to endeavour, if we may so say, to bring the human race, lost in an almost total depravity, within the rule which he had appointed for the government of his moral creation. The expedient which his wisdom made choice of, and which it is for us to accept with all humility and all thankfulness, was to send into the world the person nearest and dearest to himself, his own and his only begotten Son, to instruct the ignorance of mankind, to collect a society of men out of all nations and countries of the world, united together by faith in him, and through the influence of that faith, producing the fruits of righteousness and of good works. It seemed agreeable, also, to the same supreme wisdom, that this divine messenger should sacrifice his life in the execution of his office. The expediency of this measure we can in part understand, because we can see that it conduced with other causes, to fix a deep impression on the hearts and consciences, both of his immediate followers, the living witnesses and spectators of his death and sufferings, and of those who, in after ages, might come to a knowledge of his history. It bound them to him by the tenderest of all reflections, that he died for their sakes. This is one intelligible use of the death of Christ. But we are not to stop at this; in various declarations of scripture coneerning the death of Christ, it is necessary also to acknowledge that there are other and higher consequences attendant upon this event, the particular nature of which consequences, though of the most real and highest nature, we do not understand, nor perhaps are capable of understanding, even if it had been told us, until we be admitted to more knowledge than we at present possess, of the order and economy of superior beings, of our own state and destination after death, and of the laws of nature by which the next world will be governed, which probably are very different from the present. But that there are such benefits arising from the death of Christ, various passages of scripture declare, and cannot be fairly interpreted without supposing them. We are sure that the whole was a wise method of accomplishing the end proposed, because it was the method adopted by the wisest of all beings. Perhaps it was the only method possible; but what I am at present concerned to point out is, that it is to be referred to the love of God the Father. It is to be regarded as an instance, and the very highest instance, of his paternal affection for us. You have heard, in the several texts which I have read to you, that it was so regarded and so acknowledged by our Lord himself, and by his apostles. What remains, therefore, but that, whilst we cherish in our remembrance and our hearts a lively sense of gratitude towards the divine person, who was the visible agent, the great and patient sufferer, in carrying on the redemption of the world, we look also to the source and origin of this, as of every blessing which we enjoy, the love and tender mercies of God the Father. ‘Blessed therefore be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, to the praise of his glory in Christ, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved, in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”
I CorINTHIANs XV. 3–9.
I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the scriptures; and that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve ; after that he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that he was seen of James; then of all the apostles; and last of all, he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time; for I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
AMongst the various testimonies that have come down to us of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and which, by consequence, ensure to us the hope of our own, no one possesses greater evidence, or carries with it stronger credentials of truth and authenticity, than that which is contained in the words which I have read to you.
I shall employ the present solemn, and surely if any ever was so, this joyful occasion, first, in laying before you such remarks and explanations as the words themselves may seem to
suggest; and secondly, in addressing you concerning the author and authority from which they proceed. St Paul, previously to his writing this letter to the Christians of Corinth, had himself been in that city preaching the gospel amongst them in person. Those to whom he now writes, whilst he was absent upon the same business in another country, were they whom he had some time before taught face to face; and most of them persons who had been moved by that his teaching to embrace the new faith. After having finished some occasional subjects which he was led to treat of in the epistle, he proceeds, as was indeed natural, to bring to their remembrance the great topics which he had set forth amongst them when he appeared at Corinth as an apostle of Jesus Christ. “I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand, by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.” He then introduces that short but clear abstract of the fundamental part of his doctrine, which composes our present text; and he introduces it with this remarkable preface; “I delivered unto you first of all.” This was the first thing I taught you ; intimating that this is the fundamental and great essential of the christian system. In correspondence with which declaration you will find that the fact of Christ's resurrection from the dead, and what appeared to be, and what is, a plain and undisputed inference from it, that God will fulfil his promise by raising up us also at the last day, were in reality the articles of information to mankind which the apostles carried with them wherever they went; what they first disclosed to their converts, as the groundwork of all their addresses, as the cause and business of their coming amongst them, as the sum indeed and substance of what they were bound to deliver, or their disciples to believe. In proof of this, I desire it to be particularly remarked, that when the apostles, at Peter’s suggestion, chose out from the followers of Christ a new apostle in the place of Judas, the great qualification insisted upon in that choice was, that he should be one who had accompanied the other apostles at the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out amongst them, that he might be, together with them, a witness of his resurrection. This circumstance shows that what they regarded as the proper office and business of an apostle was, to testify to the world from their own knowledge, and the evidence of their own senses, that he whom they preached had died, been buried, and was raised up again from the dead. After