« PreviousContinue »
and purpose of obedience. The virtue of that atonement, as we well know, is inseparable from its reforming influence on the character ; and the faith which justifieth is an active, growing principle of piety and virtue. Surely, you discern in this sacrifice for sin a great moral purpose, and will derive from it a powerful moral influence. You perceive that it has added an irresistible weight and confirmation to the law of universal righteousness; enforcing the divine commandment with a wondrous majesty, and an infinite pathos. You will feel, in the absolution of your guilt through such a mediation, the force of new and peculiar arguments for obedience to the will of God, and will iterate your efforts after an amendment of life, and a rectitude of spirit. You will make progression in all excellencies of character, “adding to your faith virtue ;* and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherlykindness; and to brotherly-kindness charity.”+ You will conceive no partial and limited ideas of your moral obligations; but you will nourish an appetite for all goodness, and meditate perfection. Like your great philosopher, who,
* Courage or fortitude. p 2 Pet. ii. 5.
in his own words, “took all knowledge to be his province,” you will take all virtue to be your province; omitting no helps or opportunities to improve your better nature, and to honour the religion of your Saviour, “ who was delivered for your offences, and was raised again for your justification."* And to fortify your holy resolutions, we exhort you to revolve the invaluable assurance, that God, though just, is the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus, and imputeth not to him iniquity—to ponder the worth of so great an immunity, that you may obtain from it that independence and tranquillity of mind which properly belong to it. You are assailed, it may be, by the reproaches and calumnies of your fellow-mortals; but of what account is the judgment of man against us, if we have no quarrel to agitate with the Supreme, and can live on terms of reconciliation and friendship with the Author of our being? What, if men despise, abhor, malign, or execrate us, if God be merciful and forgive ! Were it possible that the just and the good could be universally defamed, how idle and impotent were the condemnatory judgment of all mankind, to the man who could lift up his head at the bar of eternal justice, and confront his accusers with the challenge of St. Paul“ Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? it is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.”* What indeed is there in existence that could vanquish and crush us, could we appropriate and heartily unite in that sentiment of the Apostle ? What losses-what disasters could then break down our fortitude, or overmatch our consolations? In the large variety of human suffering, there is strictly no evil which is incurable or intolerable but the sense of unexpiated guilt,—the remorse of a troubled, desponding conscience; and if that be drained off from the cup of mortal wretchedness, the ingredients which remain may be taken with a firm aspect, and an untrembling hand. For no other evils take deep and abiding hold upon us. They touch not the life of our immortal mind; and if death have no sting, and the grave no victory, then is that mind essentially unhurt and invincible
* Rom. iv. 25.
-inaccessible to fatality or ruin. Yes! the absolution of our sins is the soothing of all sorrow—the awakening of all hope—the anni
* Rom. viii. 33, 34.
hilation of despair. Are we faithful to the privileges of the Gospel acknowledged and professed amongst us? Then is it no fiction of enthusiasm, but a dictate of the calmest reason, that all pains of body or of mindsickness, poverty, ingratitude, desertion, bereavement—all ills—may be borne. For they press not on a fearful, defenceless conscience; they betoken no wrath in heaven, and augur no coming retribution ; but are means of abstracting us from the hopes and prospects of an inferior life—modes of gracious discipline instituted by our heavenly Father — and together with this unstable world, this merely introductory season of our being, will, at no distant period, have ceased for ever.
HEBREWS x. 4.
For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of
goats should take away sins.
St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Colossians, in a direct allusion to the religious ceremonial of the Jews, imposed upon them through the ministry of Moses, appears at once to have determined its typical, prophetic character, by comprehending its various institutions under the single title of “a shadow of things to come.”* Now, Sacrifice was the principal ordinance of the Jewish ritual, and one in which the sacred writers recognise a type of the death, the sacrifice of Christ. To this rite, therefore, as illustrated and applied in the New Testament, we may justly refer for the true import, in which our Saviour is said to
* Heb. ii. 16.