Page images

dom? The demands upon his love are seen in the fact that his efforts are required for the good of the race alone. No necessity for one of them exists in the nature or wants of the Son of God. For man he must have had a love so deep, so infinite as to move him to all his mediatorial acts. And he must toil not merely for the needy and the wretched, but for the corrupt, the guilty, - the rebellious." His vast preparations extending through thousands of years were expressly for a mission to a world in arms against the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! A mission not to destroy, but to save! What depths of holy love must have dwelt in his infinite mind to have moved him to this! It was sufficient. It brought him from the realms of light. It beamed from his countenance. It breathed in his language. It was the ruling element of his acts. It mingled in his miracles, in his private interviews with his chosen ones, and in his stern rebukes to the hypocrites, by whom he was surrounded. It carried him to the cross. It gushed from his heart in the very agonies of death. It bore him to the intercessor's throne. It has sustained him there to this hour. And it is impossible for us to conceive of a necessity greater than that which has demanded his love, since the morning of redemp: tion dawned upon the race, of a principle of love in possible, not already in actual requisition. Our faith in the infinity of Jesus' love wants not a single quality of indubitable evidence. Whatever therefore his unfailing merit would justify; whatever his unlimited power can accomplish, and his infinite wisdom vindicate, his exhaustless love moves him to do. And this is enough. Other causes there doubtless are causes that lie deep in the in. finite intelligence -- but these are satisfactory to us. In merit, and power, and wisdom, and love," he shall not fail.” He will therefore not be "discouraged."

II. THE PERSEVERANCE OF CHRIST IN ITS ACTION. 1. It is righteous in its character.—He has been engaged in no selfish work -- no attempt to overreach or destroy his enemies. Not a single act of resentment can be traced in all his history. But he saw that the laws of God had been set aside in this earth, trampled upon by the very beings for whose protection they were designed. That man had risen up against his fellow-man, that war and blood had followed in the train of angry passion, proud selfishness, and ungodly ambition. That "justice had gone away backward," retreating in anger from a world in which she bad been insulted and defied. “To set judgment in the earth," and give his righteous law to the isles of the sea, was therefore his great and glorious work. The darkness which hung like the night of Egypt over the earth was to be dispersed — man's attention to be engaged to a Divine voice, speaking to his inner nature — his thoughtfulness of God, spirit, law, duty, death, heaven, and hell to be raised to a habit - godly sorrow for sin to be wrought in his heart — faith to supersede infidelity. Sin in all its guilt to be pardoned — the soul, dead to God and truth, to be brought to life - polluted, to be cleansed from sin. This for the individual.

For society, the purity and power of a Christian civilization were to be extended to the remotest parts of the earth. A bigher, holier life was to be poured through the social system. War, aggression, and injustice of every form to be superseded by goodwill to men.

The universal brotherhood of humanity to become a recognized reality. Jehovah enthroned in the hearts of men to become the acknowledged Sovereign of the race, and "the earth be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.'

This is the work in which the Son of God is engaged. Verily it is righteous in its character, compared either with the laws of eternal rectitude, or the commonly received opinions of men. Righteous in view of the wants and woes, the bliss and the destiny of the race. Righteous ?--Nay, it is benevolent; it is gracious in every principle it involves, in every impulse it gives to human thought and feeling; it is glorious in every issue revealed to sense, or consciousness, or faith.

2. It is various in its expedients. --The Divine Redeemer bas confined himself to no single mode of carrying out his gracious purposes. His anxiety to succeed, and our vast debt of gratitude are indicated by the almost infinite variety of the means he has adopted.

Look, for instance, at the general system of rewards and punishments - the invariable connection established between virtue and happiness, vice and misery -- the manifestations of himself as the remedial governor of this revolted province of Jehovah's empire. He swept an entire race of sinners from the earth ; He elected the family of Abraham to be the witnesses of his power and medium of communication with the whole world. He delivered his law amid the thunders of Sinai; He moved before Israel in the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire; He scourged the rebels of Palestine by war, and pestilence, and death; terrible vengeance fell upon Sodom and Egypt, Idumea and Babylon; the tabernacle, the temple, and the cross revealed the Divine authority of law, the exalted dignity of worship, and the ineffable glories of redemption. The self-consciousness, the language and the acts of the righteous attest the power of pardon, the wonders of a spiritual resurrection, and the moral splendors of a holy life. Faith disarms the tyrant death ---snatches from the grave its victim, and lights up eternity with the smiles of the Godhead. But proud, rebellious sinners, in war with Jehovah, by guilty millions, “ bite the dust," doomed and damned forever. Thus does the adorable Redeemer seek to guard the laws upon which the harmony of the universe depends, and retrieve the affairs of earth.

Look also at miracles and prophecies.—To emancipate Israel from the thraldom of Egypt, he turned her river into blood, and slew her first-born. He led his people triunphantly through the divided waters, and overwhelmed their raging enemies. In the might of his providence he poured the torrent from the smitten rock, sent bread from heaven, and brought quails upon the camp

[ocr errors]

of Israel. He divided Jordan by his power, and established his colony upon the soil of his foes. He selected a few from the ranks of his people, and fixing their gaze toward the coming future, he drew aside the veil which concealed the latter days. They saw with prophet's ken a sufferer hang upon a cross. They saw the blood that gushed from his wounds. They saw the light that beamed from his soul, flashing through the earth and the heavens. Before the power that went out from the dying Christ they saw types and shadows fleeing away -- pagan temples crumbling to dust - souls by millions leaping from the chains of superstition into the glorious liberty of the sons of God - dynasties and kingdoms falling, rising, forming and partaking of a new, a strange, a potent life. They saw, and wrote, and shouted, “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ.” And he came as was predicted. This sinful world saw its Creator veiled in humanity ; saw him "without sin,” the model of perfection ; saw him assert by his miracles his sovereignty over nature's laws; heard the gracious words that fell from his lips; saw him die amid the convulsions of nature, and rise in triumph from the tomb. A risen Christ walked abroad in the midst of his foes, and mingled with his disciples, breathing kindness and consolation to their hearts. Sinners upon earth verily saw their Lord and Saviour ascending to heaven! What a demonstration of the reality of souls, and of resurrection-bodies -- of the spirit-world, and our relation to it! What displays of goodness bad passed before the eyes of men! What redeeming merit had been concentrated in his death! What triumph in the fulfillment of prophecy, and the demonstration of the whole Christian scheme ! wonder that the truth established amid such displays of love and power proves too mighty for the "gates of hell ?" Thus was this great expedient, upon which all others depended, tried in the sight of angels and men.

But others were to follow. "I will send the Comforter" was his gracious promise to his desponding disciples—" I will send the Comforter" – the glorious announcement to a world in anguish! And the Comforter came, but no mortal could tell the extent of the gift. He was light to the benighted—reproof to the obdurate --consolation to the sorrowing---sanctification to the impure! In short, a constant message from eternity, calling spirits away from this stranger-land to a congenial home in heaven-the might of God rescuing souls from the grasp of the Devil-a guide to im. mortality so bright with the effulgence of Divinity as to light up the path of the pilgrim through time and the grave to the land of the blessed.

And when Christ had gone, it was found that he had left behind him the elements of a holy fellowship, a spiritual brotherhood, a living church; that these, by their own celestial affinities, approached each other -- combined and formed an imperishable unity, the outward manifestation of which was the kingdom of God on earth, visible to men. Thenceforward, as before, it should be impossible to say there is no God in history. His very habitation should be palpable to the senses, and his reign upon earth a living, distinguishable, powerful fact, to deny which, would be to assail all faith in verities, and resolve universal being into phantasms; and thus the church has stood, varying in her external forms, but indestructible in her essential being -a veritable theocracy in the midst of anarchy, despotism, and misrule — "the light of the world”—"a city set upon a hill.”

This Divine institution included many of the gracious expedients relied upon by the Saviour, for the redemption of man.

Her sacraments were not only signs and seals of the spiritual covenant between Christ and her members—they were monuments of her organization, her principles and her heroism. To this day they attract the gaze of a sinking world, as a light upon the shore does that of the tempest-tossed mariner. They defy the shafts of infidelity, and bless the world by their support and diffusion of Divine truth.

Her Bible had been early commenced. “Holy men of old wrote and spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” The Son of God took his place in the revelation. The apostles recorded their message, and the sacred canon closed. Like the death of Christ in relation to his atoning acts, this Holy Book is central in relation to the means of moral illumination; it is pure light directly from Heaven; it is God teaching by language ! declaring the attributes of his nature—the rights of his sovereignty-the rebellion of man, and the way of salvation! Appealing by law to his sense of duty — by threatenings, to his fears — and by promises, to his hopes; addressing his reason by the loftiness of its truths, the force of its diction, the grasp of its literature, and the sublimity of its science - to his sensibilities, by the benevolence of its proposals, the energy of its pathos, and the power of its love. With these mastering qualities it is sent through the church into all the world, a Divine expedient for the salvation of the race.

Her ministry is appointed by Jehovah himself. They are men of like passions with ourselves, sent out to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ. From the lips of our brethren, whose integrity we know, we hear intelligence from the spiritual world from the throne of grace -- from God, the Holy Trinity. From hearts imbued with a Saviour's love they proclaim mercy for sinners. By Divine authority they summon us to a holy life; they teach us how to glorify God; they offer us peace and triumph in death, and eternal happiness in heaven. From the sacred oracles they instruct

, convince, and persuade us. They “ warn us night and day with tears” to “flee from the wrath to come”-- to make our calling and election sure. What a gracious expedient is this!

And besides all these, the Redeemer will use the governments of earth for the purposes of his mercy. Monarchs and subjects, consciously or unconsciously, shall conspire to prepare the way for bis triumphant march. "The very wrath of man shall praise him;" the laws of nature shall obey his will: science shall bring her ample treasures, and lay them submissively at his feet. Surely the perseverance of Christ is various in its expedients.

4. It is against great difficulties.—Sin, of course, in all its forms, stands opposed to the work attempted by the Saviour. With this Satanic influence is largely combined. "But there are four discouraging facts in the habits of men, which must be considered.

The first is the earthliness of sinners. However it may have been originally, it cannot be denied that there is at present a strong affinity between man and this lower world. To matter far more naturally than to spirit he looks for the relief of his woes, and the gratification of his desires. The "things that are seen, have far more power to attract and charm him than "the things that are not seen.” Hence the acquisition of treasure here occupies much more of his attention than the laying up of treasure in heaven! What he shall eat, and drink, and wear absorb bim so completely, that he has no time to study how be may glorify God! Life here is so dear to him, that he will not inquire how he may prepare to die, nor what is the value to him of life eternal! Indeed, such is his exceeding earthliness, that the most powerful influences from above can only rouse him to a few moments' reflection upon the wants of his higher nature, when, like the needle to the pole, he turns at once to his worldly pursuits, and grasps his treasures with the tenacity of despair. This is no extraordinary development of fallen humanity. It is peculiar to no age, to no land. From as far back as the dark history of man can be traced, it bas mastered his intellect, absorbed his sensibilities, and controlled his will. The Saviour has met it at every step, in his persevering attempts to “set judgment in the earth.” Hard, indeed, is the struggle by which it is overcome: ever and anon it rallies to the conflict; and after all the triumphs over it for near six thousand years, see what amazing strength it still possesses ! Amongst the millions of earth, where moments are spent in spiritual employments, ages are devoted to earthly! For one who in thought, and feeling, and action, claims kindred with the skies, you meet with thousands who assert affinity to the earth. The perseverance of Christ is against all this, and still he is "not discouraged.”

Next, the fondness for the ideal, in preference to the real. It is a painful fact that men are living, in the main, in an ideal world --are practicing upon themselves a gross and nearly universal fraud-exchanging, as sources of gratification, the Divine realities of time and eternity, for the phantoms of nature and sin. It is not the resources of his present condition, but of an imaginary future one upon which he depends for his happiness. No real form of home, or equipage, or power, is the model of his satisfied state. In any of these there is enough to offend his taste, to degrade his ambition, to cramp his genius, and, upon the great whole, to reduce him to a level with his fellows. He soon learns enough of the trials and defects and dangers of any man he knows, not to wish exactly his position, and hence, an ideal existence, the forms of which are constantly floating before him, absorbs his attention, and enlists his feelings. To obtain this, he practically throws

« PreviousContinue »