« 前へ次へ »
obligations to divine mercy for the present, perhaps some influencing futurity; and what different things he might have expected at every stage of his life, if he had had to deal with divine justice, and to receive not according to God's mercy, but according to his own deserts. And yet all this present bounty may seem light compared with our obligation to the same principle,
2. In respect of futurity. For if it be said that“ mercy rejoiceth against judgment," it must be meant chiefly in this respect; that God having decreed a positive sentence against every species of guilt described in the law, has mercifully enabled those who are willing, to escape such sentence in the way that I shall presently have to describe. For we are not considering now of the forgiveness of trespasses, or not of their judicial forgiveness, but of their abolition by the knowledge of Jesus Christ. And I shall not do justice to the Christian system, or Christian modes of thinking and doing, if I do not observe in the first place their advantage over all heathen modes, or Jewish either, in respect of this peculiar doctrine. For peculiar it is to them: other systems have their doctrine, such as it is, of a future state; they have also their doctrine of a future judgment; they have their three judges ; they have their furies, their torments,- all this they have: but they have not the God of mercy, as well as judgment; one Chief in fact, to order every purpose, as we Christians hold, and as he asserts of himself, “See now, that I, even I am he, and there is no God with me. I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.” (Deut. xxxii. 39.)
Then; as we are taught by Christian revelation the being of that blessed Object; so are we taught thereby the way to his favour and mercy, especially in reference to this great matter of judgment: the way being in itself very simple and direct, and its paths all of one Author ; as it is written, “All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth nto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies:” (Ps.
xxv. 9:) yet it is distinguishable enough at the same time by a variety of means and degrees which the Author throws into it: as a road may be divided by its stages and accommodations. For example, there is l, his own personal Agency, for one part; 2, the Ministration of Angels; 3, the Ministration of Men; 4, the Subjects of Cooperation for themselves : through which might be traced the whole route of God's mercy, not only in respect of our present state, as I have shewn, but also in respect of the future which I am now considering; as for example,
1, Through the Divine Agency: the effect of which is at once both Exculpatory and Restorative in a Christian view; as signified in that beautiful address of David to the God of mercy,
“Have mercy upon me, O God, after thy great goodness: according to the multitude of thy mercies do away mine offences. Wash me throughly from my wickedness : and cleanse me from my sin. Turn thy face from my sins: and put out all my misdeeds. Make me a clean heart, O God: and renew a right spirit within me.” (Ps. li. 1, 2, 9, 10.) In which double regard this prayer of the pious Psalmist is paralleled by that observation, or precept, of St. John, “ If we say, that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us: but if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, (1) to forgive us our sins; and (2) to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (John I. i. 8, 9.) To understand the doctrine of both parties in perfection, we should accompany Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews in his visit to Jesus by night, and listen with him to that heavenly Lecturer. He had been teaching the ruler, who seems to have been an honest man enough for one of his class, in few words and high meaning, the substance, grounds and evidences of his mission upon earth: showing how himself who came down from heaven, being at the same time still in heaven, was the only person to speak of heavenly things; how the whole race of Adam being dead to God and objects of his wrath, must needs be quickened
or regenerate themselves, and due atonement also made for their offence, before they could hold or enjoy any portion in that blessed state; also, how be, the son of God, was deputed from God as aforesaid for this purpose, and ordained to be lifted up for our healing and exaltation, “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness :" (John ir. 14:) and all through the mercy of God, and the measures of divine justice. “For God so loved the world, (said he) that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world, to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (Ib. 16, 17).
As every inferior agent will have his motives to action from without agreeing with the principle or impulse of which it partakes--be the same of malice or of love, soʻ has the Supreme Being likewise, one motive; but not without, a motive in himself,--one central impulse, and only one, which is love. “God is love:” (John I. iv. 8:) whatever he does, love is the root of it; and whatever blessings we may derive from him, hereto they must be referred. So that, to have an adequate idea of all our obligations in that quarter, we have need to reckon up all the advantages that we ever enjoy in the instance of our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but more especially in that superlative expression of divine mercy, God's sending his only begotten Son into this wretched world “for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory--that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If we would endeavour to appreciate the goodness of God in this instance, it is not the magnitude or benevolence either of the undertaking only that we must consider, but equally if not more, the sacrifice with which it was accompanied; and which, though we call it ours, was more God's in fact, since he GAVE THE SPIRIT, IF MAN GAVE THE FLESH. “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us." (John I. iii; 1).
· For peace and security and other political advantages there is not a kingdom upon earth that will bear even the shadow of a comparison with the Kingdom of God in Christ: yet a sovereign of the least fortunate among these would be very loath, I imagine, to send a son of his, how many soever he might have, to preside in a colony of convicts; still less would he intentionally send him to be crucified by their guilty hands: but if it was the sovereign's only begotten son, or the whole of his immediate issue, and at the same time, most deservedly dear, the beloved son, in whom he was well pleased—I am sure he would not send him on such terms, to save the whole colony from plunder and ruin. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us”— “the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” (Rom. v.8; Pet. 1. iii. 18.) Which was such a specimen of divine love, as if admitted and rightly considered must take away even from the most timid and distrustful all remains of doubting. For, as St. Paul beautifully reasons in the eighth chapter of his forecited epistle to the Romans, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Whoshall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?-I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. viii. 32, &c.) · He is the same of whom the Father has said, “Behold I lay in Sion a stumbling stone and a rock of offence : and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed." (Rom. ix. 33, &c.) Which is taken from the Prophets : but we also read in the Gospel, how this same Cornerstone that was relatively to the building, Second only in operation with regard to the work, met eleven earthly coadjutors on a certain mountain by appointment soon after his resurrection, and having signified, that all power (including salvation of course) was given to him in Heaven and in earth, commissioned them accordingly; saying, “ All power is given unto me in Heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the vame of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.' (Adding for the encouragement of his eleven coadjutors aforesaid, and theirs again, and theirs for ever.) And lo I am with you alway even unto the end of the world.” (Matt. xxviii. 18 -20.) So it will all be his doing at last.
And hereupon I observe, that if the teaching of all nations be still proceeded with, and the presence of the Son in spirit be still evinced by the existence of a few, suppose only eleven, confederates, whether known to each other or not, in an age-who may deserve the name of a church; then may we believe, that he rose from the dead himself, and that by the same virtue by which he rose and vanquished death and hell for himself he will also raise his people and conquer again for them. The name and authority here proposed for our highest allegiance, that is, of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, stand also on the same evidence as the Saviour's resurrection and our consequent hopes : so that these, namely the authority of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and our hopes of mercy in the life to come, are plainly inseparable. The letter is here very clear, genuine and authentic, and the spirit or meaning is immutable: it is a rock worthy to bear that divine building, the church. It seems an additional happiness to enjoy in this stage the letter as well as the spirit of mercy and salvation ; for which we are bound to thank our heavenly Father, who has vouchsafed to call us to the knowledge of his grace and faith in him: but the only part to be regarded as indispensably requisite to these ulterior blessings, is the enjoyment of the Spirit; by