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There is nothing in man, or by man, or belonging to man, or bearing the superscription and the image of man, either in Paradise, or on Sinai, or on Olympus,- in the forum, in the academy, or the Stoa—in the palace, the school, or the hut,that has in it any redeeming power, any regenerating or lifegiving energy whatever. If man will be saved, he must take the place, humiliating as it is, of a lost undone soul, saved by grace alone, and by nothing besides. All history is the melancholy record of man's effort, without Christianity, to regenerate himself; and viewed as that record, its every chapter is a descent, its every page a witness to the weakness of man; and sounding along the corridors of ages, the ear of the Christian can hear the moaning and despairing cry, ever rising up from the heart of poor helpless humanity : “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean ? Not one."
II. Let us now examine the religion of the Priest, whose language, is “Look to me ;" to me, in some of my formulas, to me in some of my “developments," if I may use a favorite expression, “and be ye saved.” In one of these he bids you look to the Church ; she, he alleges, is the directress to heaven, the sure way to eternal joy. “ Hear the Church,” he cries, “and be happy.”.
Such religion is Churchianity ; it is not Christianity. Christianity means the religion where Christ is all; Churchianity, the religion where the Church is all. But what is this Church ? let me ask. It is the company of believers, if it be the true Church ; the company of the baptized, if it be the visible Church, made up of good and bad, of tares and wheat. But the whole Bible tells us that a church without Christ is a body without a head; a robe, without the Divine wearer; the richly-chased cup, but without the wine.
I cannot see that there is any more chance of being saved by a Church, than there is of being saved by a College, or by a Royal Exchange. There is no more connexion in the way of merit between the one and salvation, than there is between the other and salvation.
Another formula in which the Priest's religion develops itself is, “Look to the sacraments—they will save you; be baptized, and you need not doubt that you are regenerated; take the Lord's Supper, and you are sure there is communion with Christ." There is no regenerative virtue inherent in, or inseparable from, baptism ; for baptism is not the Holy Spirit. There is no saving and expiatory virtue in the Lord's Supper ; for the Lord's Supper is not the Lord Jesus Christ. We may not place baptism in the room of the Holy Spirit, nor the eucharist in the place of the Lord Jesus. We must look far above and beyond them both. Were both to become vocal, they would say, We are not, the one the Christ, nor the other the Holy Spirit. Lift your eyes far above us ; we must decrease, He must increase. We are ordinances; do not degrade us by dishonoring the Lord of the ordinance. Arrayed in glories that belong not to us, we cease to be of service.
The Priest further says, If not to these, look to the priesthood and be saved. The Apostle says: “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed ?" The minister is glorious only in the reflected light of his Master. A true minister will try to hide himself in the shadow, lest he should intercept one ray of light and love streaming from “the brightness of the Father's glory." It is his grand effort to turn every eye and every heart from himself to Jesus,—to be content to be nothing, that his Lord may be seen to be all. By so doing, he proves his unction from on high ; he carries credentials visibly authenticated, and souls won by his ministry are its fruits and proofs. His language-earnest and affectionate language ever is—"Look not to me; behold the Lamb of God; He only is the Christ the Saviour ; He only has the words of eternal life.” So taught the Apostles, and so teaching we vindicate ourselves to be their successors. Thus we preach not man, not ourselves, but Christ the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Christ's sake.
The last formula of the religion of the Priest that I shall mention is, his bidding you look to Repentance. Repentance is not a Saviour. The tear of repentance is expressive of the inward contrition we feel, not expiatory of sin that we have been guilty of. We are not to seek to repent first, and to believe next; but we are to believe at once on the Saviour, just as we are, for He then is exalted to give repentance and remission of sins.
III. There remains then, lastly, the religion of God our Saviour, in which alone I proceed to show you is eternal life.
Christ our Saviour is God. Fallen as man is, it is unworthy of him; nay, I will say with all soberness, degrading even to him, to look to any being for everlasting happiness short of God. Ruined as the soul is-weak, stained, paralysed as it is,mit is too noble a thing to bow itself in religion before any except the living and only true God. To bring man directly to God just as he is, is the grand characteristic of true religion, to keep man from God, and detain him with the Priest, the sacraments, the ceremony, is the grand effort of all false religions. But no angel, no saint, no created being, however pure or exalted, may dare to come between me, a believer, and God my Saviour. If I cannot, my dear friends, have a God to take care of my soul, I will risk the experiment of taking care of it myself. It is to great to be commited to an angel ; too precious to be trusted to a creature. Arm of flesh may fail, an angel may fall, either may forget or change; if, therefore, I cannot have God to take charge of my soul, no creature instead shall : whoever, short of God, offers to take charge of it, to him I would say, be he angel, or saint, or priest, or prelate, or pope, as Abraham said to his servants of old, “Stand you at the bottom of the mount,” while I go up alone to its sunlit pinnacle, and there speak face to face with my God, and hear from his own grand lips those glorious accents, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, for I am God, and there is none else." I must hear the original, the echo will not do. I must drink from the fountain, the canonized cup is not sufficient. The first aspect of the religion of man is, that it brings us to man; of the religion of the Priest, that it brings us to the priest; but of the religion of God, that it brings us to God just as He is and just as we are.
In looking to Christ, I not only see forgiveness, and receive that forgiveness, but I also see a process and a preparation of sanctification for me in and through him, and for his sake. For what did Christ say ? That when he should go to the Father, where we now look to him, he would “send the Comforter, the Spirit of truth ;" that Spirit who is the sanctifier, whose fruits are declared by the Apostle, in the Epistle to the Galatians, to be love, joy, peace, temperance, patience, godliness. So that in looking to Christ, I not only receive forgiveness or justification, which is my title to heaven, but I receive the Holy Spirit, to dwell in my heart, as his distinctive promise, to fit and prepare me for heaven.
As a Christian, I feel it is not enough to escape from sin's curse,--I must also get rid of sin's poison. I shrink from sin, not from what it leads to merely, but from what it actually is in the sight of God. And, therefore, Jesus is exalted to give that Spirit, who creates in the believer a new heart, regenerates the believer's affections, makes him a new creature, makes all things new.
I have in Christ's work, the title, and in the Spirit's work, the new nature, which is my fitness. Justification is the act that entitles. Sanctification the work that qualifies. Heaven is a purchased place for a purchased peoplema prepared place for a prepared people.
I now turn your attention to the process. “Look unto me, all the ends of the earth.” Have you ever noticed that almost everything that man does is cumbrous ; everything that God does is simple ? Only recently has science in its greatest achievement made an approximation to something of the simplicity of God. The wire that connects two countries together, and enables London to converse with Paris, and Paris to reply to London, is simple, exquisitely simple. It is therefore grand. This is man's nearest and closest pursuit of the footsteps of his Maker, in thus laying hold of the red lightnings, and making them to do his errands; it is the noblest feat that man has ever done ; and yet it is not creation, but merely the combination of God's materials. Everything in God's world is simple ; out of a little sap, or water, and a few combining elements of oxygen and carbon, he forms all fruit, and flower, and leaf, and blossom ; by a single power called gravitation he binds worlds together, and makes each march in its orbit as if it were evermore listening and evermore responding to the bidding of the great Controller of all. And so, when God calls on sinners to be saved, he does not bid them do some great thing, but this simple thing “Look, and be saved.” Is it not, my dear friends, strange, and yet you know it is true, that it is easy to prevail on man to do some great thing in order to be saved, but very, very difficult-so difficult that it needs the Spirit of God to enable him—to prevail on him to do nothing at all. Bid a man do a painful and laborious penance, and he will do it. Bid man “look, and live," and he will say: “I thought, he will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel ?”
But God cleaves to his prescription, which is—not do, not suffer-mark the words—but simply, “Look, and be saved." Let us analyze this word “Look" for one moment. What a look is to the outward eye, faith is to the inward man. Hence the Apostle, when he defines faith, says, “ Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Just as clearly as my outward eye sees things that are seen, so clearly my inner eye, that is, faith, sees things that are unseen. “ Look, and be saved," is then just equivalent to “Believe, and be saved.” “Whom having not seen,” says the Apostle, that is, with the outward eye,“ we love, and whom, though now we see him not,” that is, with the outward eye, “yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." This emblem, “ looking,” or seeing with the eye, is a most appropriate symbol of faith. When I look at the sun, the moon, the stars, the beautiful flowers, the green earth, the glorious panorama around this sanctuary, or at the human countenance, with all its chromatic phases, aspects, and transitions, my eye is purely receptive : it does not add one atom of beauty to it, it merely receives what is presented; my look adds nothing to the outward object; the eye is entirely passive, purely receptiveit merely takes in whatever is contributed by that object.
Is not this the true description of faith? Faith is not a contribution to Christ; it is no addition of our righteousness to his; it is not an addition to his sacrifice, of something of ours, to enable his expiation to be sufficient ; it is simply the reception of those bright beams that the Sun of Righteousness transmits to me-of that perfect righteousness he has brought in for me—of the virtue of that expiatory sacrifice he has made for me.