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questions. Nothing has yet happened to blot out our reverence for the cross. Sudden beams of scientific light have shot themselves athwart the scene and for a moment have seemed to obscure the star which has lit the pathway of so many heavenward, but they have been as the meteor flashes of an autumn evening, that have died out in the darkness only to impress us with their transient character; while the light that has flashed from this cross has never flickered since the moment when it fell upon the soul of the dying thief.
Of course our wonder at the great transactions of Calvary must always be commensurate with our reverence, and our humility will prevent our formulating in a dogmatic spirit the truths that may seem to cluster around a dying Saviour. And if we formulate for ourselves, we dare not thrust our formulas upon our brethren. We know that there are infinite depths in that great work of Christ, which neither reason nor faith can fathom, while reason is trammelled by its own imperfections and faith is overcast with clouds of sin. We may have discovered veins of truth which our brethren cannot see, or they may have reached to a profounder depth of the mystery than we have fathomed. Because we are so jealous of our own views, we shall grant them the liberty of holding theirs. But while we do not press for laboured definitions of the atonement which shall be universally accepted, we stand up for the simplest and most literal interpretation of those words, He died the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." We cannot, while the Fifth of Romans and the Third of Galatians remain to us, admit that the death of Christ was little more than a martyrdom for the defence of a principle, a mere expression of the wrath of God against sin, or simply a vindication of the Majesty of Law. We must put side by side with the historical testimony, the apostolical explanations and arguments, and the Cross will become to us as it has been to the saints through all the ages, the symbol of a substitutionary work, of the punishment of the Saviour instead of the punishment of the sinner. This was doubtless the burden of the apostolic testimony. The faith of the early preachers was centred here. Take away Calvary from your theological system and we will accept your Saviour. "Let him come down from the cross and we will believe him," was the challenge of the philosophers of the day. The answer of one was the answer of all, I determined to know nothing among men save Jesus Christ and him crucified," because the inspiration of one was the inspiration of all, "The love of Christ constraineth us ;" and when they died-some in sheeted flame, some in cheerless dungeons, some in the Roman amphitheatre, some in Nero's Gardens, some in dreary catacombs-the epitaph of one became the epitaph of all: "men that have hazarded their lives for the name of the Lord Jesus."
We who maintain that the ancient faith is truer and better than the modern systems, are constantly and wickedly misrepresented as holding a debtor and creditor account between God and the sinner, preaching so much blood for so much sin, without teaching the moral aspect of the atonement in cleansing as well as saving the soul. It is a wilful slander upon our creed. No one can hold more distinctly the vast extent of the atonement. We believe that the doctrine of a particular redemption is perfectly consistent with God's revelation of the infinite character of
the great gift of his Son. We do not measure salvation by any commercial theory, or profess to reckon how many souls may be saved by each drop of precious blood. The work of Christ is too solemn a matter to be dealt with as merchants deal with their ledgers, or as pedlars with their wares. The fulfilment of the divine purposes concerning the elect is not the exhaustion of the virtue of the atonement upon the elect. And although we believe in the redemption of a chosen people who shall be called out from among men, we do not thereby proclaim that the power of the Saviour is spent. If the salvation is limited, it is not circumscribed by a deficiency of might in God, for "The Lord's arm is not shortened that he cannot save," and he has given to Christ power over all flesh that he should give eternal life to as many as God has given him. And if the salvation is secured, absolutely and eternally, it is not at the expense of God's moral government over the saved man, for that is certainly bound up with his own idea of salvation; "for he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, without blame before him in love."
Nor do we teach that there is thus any waste of the divine resources. There can be no such thing as waste with God. The sunlight is not wasted that pours itself upon the barren rock or the thankless sea; nor the wild herbage of the forest that springs forth under the influences of a genial spring, and perishes when the autumn winds are let loose; nor the myriad flowers that breathe their sweetness on the desert air, with no one to scent their perfumes or admire their hues; nor the waters of the cataract that tumble over the rude precipice into the deep pool from which neither man nor cattle ever drink. We rejoice in the superabundance in nature, such as becomes a God. We admire the profuseness as well as the variety of his benefactions. We believe that hidden purposes are served by mysterious arrangements of providence, although philosophy has never discovered what those purposes are. It is the fulness that is the beauty of his administration; and it is "the fulness of the Godhead bodily" that we admire in Christ, "the fulness of him that filleth all in all." It is of his fulness that we have all received, and grace upon grace, and it is the fulness of his power to save that awakens our admiration as we gaze upon the cross, and that gives wings to the message which we delight to utter: "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish but have everlasting life.”
We are living in a throbbing, restless age. He who will put down his ear to listen to the cry which rises from the fevered lips of dying humanity, may construct out of the almost inarticulate sounds the sentence, "Give me to drink." A thousand hands lift up as many chalices, each containing a potion that is warranted to allay the fiery thirst. But as the physicians pass in array before the suffering patient, and offer him their cups, and he tastes them all, it is but to turn his head away with a sickening faintness, and to moan out in more painful and distresing accents the words, "Give me to drink," for each sip has sent coursing through his veins another burning stream of anguish. But in the moment of his despair there is handed to him by one of lowly garb and humble mien, a cup more simple in its construction and less gaudy in its ornamentation than all the rest, but with a golden
light playing round its rim, and in its depths a draught of the colour of the ruby; and he who places it to the burning lips whispers, "This is the only cup which can quench the world's thirst, the cup of God's salvation, for that thirst is caused by sin, and only the blood of the cross can take away sin." No sooner have the thirsting lips touched this cup than they resume their pristine hue, the flush of health returns, and a shout of triumphant praise rises to the throne: "Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift." Ours, my brethren, is the work of placing that cup to the lips of the perishing sons of men.
Let us remember, then, that we are not the apostles of science, nor the ministers of philosophy. We honour those who are, so long as they do not meddle with the ark of God Men must always fail to measure God by their earthly base line. In vain do they attempt to weigh his work in the delicately poised scales in which they weigh their chemicals, or to submit his teachings to the crucible in which they test their metallic substances. Alas! that when they profess to answer the question, "What is truth," they only plunge us into a sea of doubtful speculation for its answer. We are simply ministers of Jesus Christ. This narrows our sphere in one way, but widens it in another, for our subject being the grandest of all subjects, if we can pluck gems or flowers wherewith to adorn it, from any or all of the sciences, we may do so, provided that the crown we place upon the Redeemer's head is not so brilliant with its factitious glory, that we gaze upon the tinsel and forget the brow which it adorns; so long as the fading flowers do not droop over the sufferer's face, so that men cannot behold the wrinkles of sorrow, the scars of anguish and the lines of grief which constitute its chief adornment. Be it ours never so to deck out our theme that we hide its subject, and never so to allow philosophy to dominate over our faith that it ceases to be the central power of our theology. Let us remember that the highest philosophy is a simple unquestioning acceptance in a childlike spirit of God's testimony concerning his Son. And if we sometimes shudder when we cry out, "O the depths," let it not be the shudder of unbelief, but of wonder and reverence; because the salvation is all through so Godlike that it passes human comprehension and baffles human thought.
Our faith in the cross, as those who are chosen of God to preach, will be greatly influenced by the impressions that may remain on our minds of our own conversion to God. Doubtless such impressions continue much more vivid with some than with others. This may probably be accounted for by metaphysical facts. The complexion of the mind, its distinctive peculiarities, the depth of the emotional faculties, the strength of the perceptive powers, the swiftness or slowness of the sympathetic instincts which are wrought upon by the Holy Ghost, will give their own appropriate tone to such impressions. Doubtless one man will receive Christ with an ecstacy of feeling which appears to be the transient effervescence of a new sensation, while another may receive him with the calmness which enters into every transaction of his life;the change in him being a development from a seed of grace which has been dropped in a secret moment into the heart, rather than a sudden growth into the symmetrical beauty of a godly life. There will be found amongst us many illustrations of this divine method. But
the fact of conversion remains the same. We are new creatures in Christ Jesus. We do not assent to a creed or sign articles of religion without having subscribed with our hands unto the Lord. An unquickened ministry is a ministry of damnation to him who exercises it, instead of a ministry of salvation to those who are brought beneath its power. Each one of us professes to be a regenerated man, although the Spirit may have come, as the wind cometh, from a secret place and with unseen influences to each soul. Unless the divine change has taken place, may our tongues cleave to the roof of our mouths rather than we should ever again breathe the dear name of the Lord into the ears of men. But, brethren, is the fact of this change ever before us in our ministry; or has the impression of the divine work been dissipated by a cold professionalism? I do not wonder that our faith in the cross flags if our connection with its transactions is merely a dream of the past, or our salvation through the substitution which it represents, a fact only half remembered. But, we have not forgotten it. Christ was real to us, then. He was, by the Holy Ghost, visibly set forth crucified. We heard his deep despairing cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me." We waited till the moment of the agony had passed, and then caught his triumphant exclamation, "It is finished." We went from seeing him bearing our sins, to following him and bearing his cross. We saw ourselves dead as we were baptised, risen as we rose from the water, one with him by faith as we sat at the table of his fellowship. We then said, "We know;" shall we now say, "I think?" We then said, "Thou art the Christ;" shall we now say, "I know not the man ?" We then set to our seal that God was true. Shall we now question the veracity of his utterances? We then, as little children, received him into our hearts, and when our hearts were full, our intellects were full; have those intellects so expanded that he is not great enough to fill them now? If so, we shall soon find the spiritual power of our ministry beginning We shall talk as theorists or statisticians talk, instead of speaking as those who are commending to others what they have felt and tasted and handled of the word of life. That there is such a tendency in us all you will admit. We forget the things that are behind in a sense contrary to the meaning of the apostle. We let that page of our life lie open to the influences of the world, until it is bleared with the smoke, and scorched by the sun, so that its characters are well nigh effaced, instead of keeping it closed, except when the fingers of memory open it that the eye of faith may take again and again a glimpse of its glory to strengthen our courage which else might fail us in the battle. In that richly suggestive paper upon a revival of religion read at the Congregational Union, by the Rev. Mr. Hebditch, he urges with intense earnestness the necessity of ministers having more time for private devotion. With similar earnestness, I would urge you frequently to go back upon your personal convictions of sin, your early wrestlings, your deep-felt need of a divine Redeemer, your joy when that Redeemer came to you and wiped away your tears, your vows that you would never forget him, the spirit with which you entered the ministry, and your determination, because of what he was to you, to no man save Jesus only."
Need I say that no theological teaching can ever be of such value as the experience of our own hearts. The deepest truths are those which are within us, written not with the pen which is held by human fingers, but by the Holy Spirit of God; printed not with ink but with the branding-iron of conviction. Let us then frequently look into our own hearts, and read there the experience of our early dealings with Christ, asking ourselves what form our faith assumed when we first heard the words, "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, as it is written, cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." If we do this, we shall preach old truths as if they were new; uttering no apology for reproducing the well-worn story, but believing that from our hearts, thus sensible of the wondrous change, there shall flow a stream of living sympathy into all Christian souls that hear us, and a word of quickening into the hearts of the unsaved.
It would not be difficult to shew that this faith in the cross is intimately bound up with the views we hold in regard to Christian ordinances. Those views are peculiar to ourselves, and will divide us from the great bodies of Christendom, even though large schemes of comprehension should embrace the majority of the sects. Let it be distinctly understood that we are not a sect, even according to the definition of the dictionary, for we have not separated from the Established Church. We are the spiritual offspring of that baptised community which was created under the effusion of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost. We claim to descend from the apostles in a line which has never been broken. We can date the beginning of the denominations with tolerable accuracy, but we claim a more ancient ancestry. Our present vitality is a witness to our divine origin, for no body of believers have had more edicts passed against them, or more fires kindled in their behalf, or more numerous attempts made by infidels, heathens, and professed Christians, to crush them, than we have. And I am free to say that none have ever been more bold for Christ, or less swerving in their testimony. We are the sons of worthy sires.
"Our blood is fet from fathers of war proof."
I speak as to wise men, acquainted with Baptist history; judge ye what I say. We shall always hold our own against all comers, because we stand side by side with him upon whom, as he ascended from his baptism, the Dove rested, and the words fell from the Father's lips, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." If ever other bodies should unite with us, it must be upon the sole condition, understood and enforced, that no union must close our lips, or make our testimony upon this point less empathic than it is to-day. Absorption into one great ecclesiastical corporation upon condition of this point being given up, or our own mode of baptism being put side by side with what we regard as a spurious method, is impossible! And why? Because we reckon that the deep principle of confessing Christ in his own way lies at the very root of our separation from all those who have diverged from his simple command. The word non-essential has acquired in the lips of those who are careless about this ordinance almost the force of a classical quotation. It is a kind of charm-word which they use to disarm criticism and quiet conscience. Now, what is