« IndietroContinua »
them away with a stroke of his vengeance, or, giving them up as past recovery, leaves them to their chosen ways, to fill up the measure of their iniquities. This is the melancholy experience of millions of individual sinners, and of not a few families, cities, and nations. The Lord chastises till his chastisements, like his mercies, tend only to evil-embitter the spirit-harden the heart into adamant-sear the conscience-and arm the soul to make a more desperate resistance; and then, weary of chastising, and weary of the blindness, and hardness, and fault-finding, and blaspheming of the miserable and guilty beings who are proof alike against mercy and judgment, love and wrath, he pronounces their doom : “ Ephraim is joined to idols ; let him alone.
When a man has grown so bad that no trial, affliction, or threatening seems to make him better, but only worse (which afflictions never fail to do if they do not humble and convert the soul) he is in extreme peril; and the removal of the rod is but the proof of his abandonment to the work and doom of his transgres
He has reached a point at which Hope turns back, and beyond which no goodness wins, or wrath or judgment restrains. What shall reclaim such an one ? Past mercies have only made him forgetful of God. Past judgments—it may be made severe, and oft-repeated—have only made him more rebellious than ever before. And having passed through so much affliction, and grown worse continually, what, short of death and the thunder of final judgment, shall open his eyes and make him feel? So with families. If God visits a family with sore and repeated afflictions, and yet they will not call upon him or amend their ways, that house “is nigh unto cursing;" and though he may forbear for the present, and smile on them in his providence, he will, when his own good time has come, pour out his “fury” upon it. The same is true of nations. So long as judgments, threatened or executed, have a good effect upon the moral sentiments and feelings and conduct of a people, we have reason to expect that God will hold over them the rod, and inflict it just as often and just as severely
necessary to gain their attention, correct their errors, and fit them to profit by his blessings. But nations have often, like Israel and Egypt, so rebelled against chastisements, peculiar and decisive, that in righteous anger God has withheld the rod, and left them to the dominion of pride, luxury, lust, unbelief, and every evil thing which they desired, and thus their prosperity has proved a snare, and their unrestrained indulgence brought slow but sure and utter ruin upon them, in the ordinary course of things; or, provoked beyond endurance, he has by one terrible stroke of judicial vengeance, blotted them from the map of nations.
In these times of severe judgments, when God has seemed to "come out of his place,” to rebuke and chastise the earth; when war, famine, and pestilence, the chief instruments of his punishment, have combined their force and terror to afflict our race, it becomes every man, every family, every church, and nation, to inquire : "Are these judgments of Almighty God disciplinary or retributive? Have we reason to think they are ordered in mercy or unmixed wrath, after mercies have failed and milder means proved fruitless ? Are they doing for us and upon us the works of mercy—abasing our souls in the dust before the offended Majesty of Heaven, inducing repentance and forsaking of sin, and constraining the exercise of prayer ;-or are they doing the work of wrath, only serving to sink us into a state of greatly increased insensibility and profligacy?
To sin with a hard and unbelieving heart under such a visitation as the nation and the world have just received from the hands of God, is to defy him in the terribleness of his power and rush madly upon destruction. Sinners who remain stupid and unconverted through such seasons of trial, will have occasion to take up a doleful lamentation over their eternal prospects. Greatly do we fear, that thousands will so have hardened their hearts in the day of our recent rebuke and peril, and will so quickly and thoroughly relapse into all their evil practices from which fear may have deterred them for a little season, as that no means nor motives shall hereafter have any power to bring them to repentance. At the close of this year of startling and terrible chastisement, the insulted and set at naught Jehovah will say of them, in mingled grief and anger: “ Why should ye be stricken any more? Ye will revolt more and more.
THE PERSEVERANCE OF CHRIST. " He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the
earth: and the isles shall wait for his law.”--ISAIAH 42 : 4.
The holy evangelist applies this prophecy to Jesus of Nazareth. It is a revelation of his untiring perseverance in his mediatorial work. Perseverance is a high virtue. We admire it even apart from its object. In a good cause it indicates a deep conviction of its importance, sincerity in principle, and fidelity in purpose. There are many noble examples of this virtue among men, but the most illustrious in history is the Son of God. Let us consider THE PERSEVERANCE OF Curist IN
ITS CONDITIONS, ITS ACTION, AND ITS TRIUMPHS.
I. THE PERSEVERANCE OF CHRIST IN ITS CONDITIONS.
1. His unfailing merit.--The necessity of merit in the world's Redeemer had its origin in the relation of man to law, and to salvation. The claims of law were imperative and unchanging on all that man possessed. Law, therefore, as the expression of immutable truth, must require the unreserved appropriation of his powers to the service of his Maker; and, as disobedience could have no tendency to diminish the extent of his obligations, its claims must have been as absolute in all respects after, as before the fall. Besides, as a single act of rebellion must imply contempt of Jehovah's authority and defiance of his justice, man must have been obnoxious to all the penalties of the law. And as no act of obedience can have any effect to counteract an instance of disobedience, and as the necessary result of rebellion was the depravation of the whole man, his condition as a sinner was legally hopeless. Finally, as the claims of law must be at each subsequent moment precisely what they would have been, if man had retained his original perfection, and as his disabilities must remain what they were in the fail, an infinite accumulation of guilt was legally certain. The relation of man to law was therefore that of a sinner under sentence of death, with no possibility of selfredemption.
In his relation to salvation, as guilty, he was a candidate for pardon; as morally dead, he was a candidate for regeneration; as
impure, he was a candidate for sanctification; and as immortal, he was a candidate for heaven.
Now, the infinite difference between what man was as a sinner, and what he would be as saved, must constitute the ground and measure of the merit needed, to render the offer of salvation possible. Without this merit, pardon would assault the law in its spirit; regeneration, in its penalties ; sanctification, in its effects.
The fact of infinite merit in the Redeemer is rendered certain by the fact of salvation; for the law having infinite claims, no one of which ever has been, or can be met by the sinner, and he being saved in the face of the law, either his claims have been compromised, or the merit of the substitute has been equal to his demerit; and as the former is impossible, the latter is certain. It is also confirmed by the character of the Redeemer. He was God-man. And we rest the extent of his merits not upon the amount of his sufferings, but upon the dignity of the sufferer. As we should suppose, a priori, that nothing less than an infinite nature could offer a sacrifice of infinite merit, so the Father has demonstrated in the gift of Emmanuel for the offering. Let then the problem be putin its severest form—the law unyielding, how to save the sinner ? —And the answer is, “ We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
“ The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all, that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.'
The philosophy of merit is deep as the bosom of God, and, of course, to us fathomless. But this, to the student of nature, tends strongly to confirm the fact; for he finds inexplicable phenomena everywhere, and the suffering of one in behalf of another is so common as to excite neither surprise nor attention. Besides, if the Christian scheme were comprehensible by us in all its principles and facts, it would be human, and hence valueless. That the sufferings and acts of Jesus should be a substitute for legal demands upon sinners, addresses not our reason but our faithfaith divinely produced in the soul, greatly strengthened by the analogy of nature, positively commanded by the evidence of revelation, and fully vindicated by experience. The clear development of this profound philosophy is in Scripture and in history. Its last expression is the will of God. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
The history of merit is the history of Jesus. The surrender of life was a central crisis in that history. But it is not to this alone that we are to look for merit in behalf of the race. We have only to reflect that no single remedial act of the adorable Redeemer could be in any way necessary to himself; that every such act was so much more than was due from him, to be impressed with the truth that they are all meritorious, and parts of
the one great offering in behalf of the world. The work of salvation in progress for more than four thousand years, before the crucifixion, argues the efficacy of mediatorial acts, and strongly indicates their existence. Now the frequent appearance of a Divine Person remedially engaged in the history of the pre-advent church, comes in to confirm this conviction. Grant that all these acts would have availed nothing without the death-scene. It is also true that these were indispensable conditions of that scene —that the existence of one meritorious act involves the principles and certainty of all essential ones—that from the earliest date of determined redemption, this world has been given up to the Messiah for the sole purpose of an effort to save it--and its history has hence been the product of this effort in action with depraved humanity. Merit--not of a single act merely—but of the Son of God of the Saviour as the whole. in character, and action, begins therefore with man's probation, and must extend to its close.
The effect of this view of the necessity of merit-of the fact of merit—the philosophy of merit—and the history of merit, is to show that the resources of the Saviour in this respect are like bis nature infinite, and hence unfailing; and this is the first great condition of his unexampled perseverance.
2. His unlimited power.–Our idea of power is an inference from the fact of power. Limited acts indicate the agency of limited power. Those acts which to us are illimitable suggest the idea of infinite power. Hence Divine Revelation, to teach us the infinite power of Christ, ascribes to him the work of creation in its absolute, universal, and special sense ; and informs us that he will fold up this vast universe as a vesture and lay it aside. These are acts which, by the laws of our being, suggest and prove the infinite power of Christ. When, after this, we learn from authority that he is invested with the awful attribute of omnipotence, we believe it. But this is physical power. A higher ne. cessity exists. Spiritual changes are required to prepare man for endless happiness, which demand a moral power as infinite as that physical power which made the world. What less than this can rouse a sinner from his slumber of death-crush the rebellion of his heart-roll away the burden of his guilt-cleanse his soul from its deep-struck pollutions—and bring him to a permanent residence in heaven? What less than this can break down the barriers which sin has raised to the progress of truth, and hold up the throne of infinite justice, while the work of saving sinners
And here also our evidence both of authority and of fact is perfectly decisive. “ All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” Not the physical power by which he made the worlds, certainly. This he always had. But the power in heaven to arrest the avenger of blood-to hold the thunders of Divine wrath in abeyance, and to send out the waves of truth, and love, and glory, to deluge the earth. The “ power on earth to forgive sins” and “to cleanse from all unrighteousness.” This