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THE ULTIMATE TRIUMPH OF THE GOSPEL.
ISAIAH XI. 9; ST. MARK IV. 33.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.
And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it.
IN the last discourse I said that occasionally the Hebrew prophets almost anticipated the very teachings of the Gospel. This qualified form of statement I adopted not without design. For you will find scattered up and down the prophetical writings and among the inspired outpourings of the Psalms, many expressions, which if you do not examine them with a scrupulous eye, might be mistaken for the pure manifestations of Christianity itself. In like manner also in the writings of some heathen sages and poets both of the eastern and western worlds, there exist moral sentiments presenting a phase of so much beauty and truth that it has been asserted again and again, though always unadvisedly, that no advance has been made in ethical philosophy during two
thousand years. I cannot doubt that this intercalation of evangelic truth has formed a part of the divine plan for the moral welfare of mankind, inasmuch as we have the testimony of St Paul that thereby God has never left himself without a witness in the world,' and before that witness the thoughts of men in all ages have accused or else excused themselves. These gropings after moral truth have in their degree resembled the preludes and foreshadowings of thought, which we have seen invariably precede invention or discovery in the intellectual world. Fragments of truth they are, and scattered lights from the throne of God, which it was part of the divine arrangement for Christ Jesus to adjust and complete into integral portions of the Image of the Father, whom He was commissioned to declare to man.
At length then we have arrived at the final revelation of God's will to man. Final, because it is not, like the precepts of the patriarchal covenant, written by the finger of God on the intuitions of the mind, and transmitted by a family tradition; nor again is it, like the Mosaic Law, digested and written, partly as a code, and partly as the directory of a ritual; but the dispensation of the Gospel is final to us because it is the record and the embodiment of a life at once human and divine, and exposed in both these elements of the human and the divine, to the clear gaze of man. Final also because in that one perfect divine
IV.] Manifestation of the true man by Christ. 59
life all the great promises and types and prophecies during the four thousand years of the former covenants converge and are fulfilled. The Son of God in great humility clothes himself in the form of the Son of Man in the language of the most precise of our creeds, 'He takes the manhood into God.' As the Son of God, Christ in his life manifests the character of the Eternal Father up to the extent that our human faculties can bear: 'He that hath seen me,' says He, hath seen the Father.' As the Son of Man, Christ in all points being made like unto his brethren, is in all points tempted as they are tempted, yet exhibits the model of a perfect, sinless. human being. For three and thirty years he consorts with men. Being found in fashion as a child he throws the mantle of its true sanctity over childhood, so that the mother as she gazes upon her babe, recognizes its affinity to God: in the form of a boy he exhibits and enforces the true sanctity of boyhood in the full maturity of a human being he sanctifies and combines the gentler graces of womanhood in union with the sterner and more penetrating virtues of the man. To crown the whole he permits this pure and spotless life by wicked hands to be brought to an end in a cruel death, partly as the test and consummation of the self-sacrifice of his matchless love, 'for greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend;' and partly as that mysterious expiatory
60 Manifestation of the true God by Christ. [LECT. victim which in the severe counsels of God was necessary for the taking away of sin. The Cross had been the one great fact pre-shadowed since the world began; the Cross will form the one great retrospect as long as the kingdom of God endures. Without the shedding of blood there could be no remission.' You ask me-you ask yourselves-Why so? The heart may guess, but is speechless in the expression of its guess. 'Which things the angels desire to look into!' We bow the head, we wonder and we adore.
But it ends not here. had done battle with the
In life the Holy Jesus
Prince of Evil: the
Tempter had come to him in every form in which he comes to the sons of men, but he was foiled in his attempts, for there was 'nothing' in Him; no canker spot of sin, on which he could fasten, as there is in the sons of men-in you and in me. In death and the grave the contest is renewed, but Jesus wrested the keys of hell and of death from the power of darkness; for it was not possible He could be holden' of it, and in His resurrection we have the foreshadowing of our own. For a few days he once more went in and out among his disciples, not now as before in the form of a familiar friend, but at rarer intervals and with a significant reserve, sufficient indeed for them to see the wounds on His hands, on His side, and His feet-sufficient for them to recognize the power and tenderness and loving forethought, so often felt and so well remem
IV.] Observable progress in Christian morality. 61
bered, but insufficient to gratify the slightest movements of a curious spirit. At length He leads them out to the spot that had become the most sacred to their memories, and there in the act of blessing them a cloud removes Him out of their bodily sight, and a thin film penetrable by the eye of faith is all that separated them or which separates us from the abode of His glory. From that abode, unseen but ever nigh, He has never ceased to distribute the gifts of His Spirit among those who seek Him; the gift of penitence, of pardon, of inner strength, of joy, of peace; the gift of sacramental grace in the holy rite, the gift of the foretaste of the life of heaven.
Thus then this Gospel wherein the true God and the true Man are manifested; this Gospel wherein Life and Immortality are brought to light; this Gospel, I is the culmination of God's neverceasing acts of grace to His sinful creatures, after the lapse of four thousand years.
Twenty more centuries have now nearly rolled away, and what has been and what is now its reception in the world? They who are familiar with the gross and predominant pollution of the heathen world, they who read the terrible description which St Paul gives of it in his Epistle to the Romans, and then compare those appalling sins with the present moral condition, sad though it be, of the more highly civilized portions of the world, cannot, I think, fail to thank