Imágenes de páginas

without the expiation of sins. This subject the apostle discusses at large in the Epistle to the Hebrews, from the seventh chapter almost to the end of the tenth. But the sum of the whole is this; that the sacerdotal dignity belongs exclusively to Christ, because by the sacrifice of his death he has abolished our guilt, and made satisfaction for our sins. The vast importance of this we are taught by that solemn oath which "the Lord hath sworn, and will not repent; Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedec." (u) For there is no doubt that God intended to establish that capital point; which he knew to be the principal hinge on which our salvation turns. And as we have observed, there is no access to God, either for ourselves or our prayers, unless our priest sanctify us by taking away our sins, and obtain for us that grace from which we are excluded by the pollution of our vices and crimes. Thus we see, it is necessary to begin with the death of Christ, in order to experience the efficacy and utility of his priesthood. Hence it follows, that he is an eternal intercessor, and that it is by his intervention we obtain favour with God. Hence proceeds not only confidence in prayer, but also tranquillity to the consciences of the faithful; while they recline in safety on the paternal indulgence of God, and are certainly persuaded, that he is pleased with whatever is consecrated to him through the Mediator. Now, as under the law God commanded victims to be offered to him from the flock and the herd, a new and different method has been adopted in the case of Christ, that the sacrifice should be the same with the priest: because it was impossible to find any other adequate satisfaction for sins, or any one worthy of so great an honour as to offer to God his only.begotten Son. Besides, Christ sustains the character of a Priest, not only to render the Father favourable and propitious to us by an eternal law of reconciliation, but also to associate us with himself in so great an honour. For we, who are polluted in ourselves, being "made priests" (w) in him, offer ourselves and all our services to God, and I nter boldly into the heavenly sanctuary, so that the sacrifices of prayers and praise, which proceed from us, are "acceptable,"

(u) P9tlm ex. 4. (w) Rev. i. ft


and "a sweet.smelling savour" (*) in the Divine presence. This is included in the declaration of Christ: "For their sakes I sanctify myself:" (y) for being arrayed in his holiness, he having dedicated us, together with himself, to the Father, we, who are otherwise offensive in his sight, become acceptable to him, as pure, unpolluted, and holy. This is the meaning of the " anointing of the Most Holy," (2) which is mentioned in Daniel. For we must observe the contrast between this unction and that shadowy unction which was then in use; as though the angel had said, that the shadows would be dissipated, and that there would be a real priesthood in the person of Christ. So much the more detestable is the invention of those, who, not content with the priesthood of Christ, have presumed to take upon themselves the office of sacrificing him; which is daily attempted among the Papists, where the mass is considered as an immolation of Christ.

[ocr errors][merged small]

Christ's Execution of the Office of a Redeemer to procure our Salvation; his Death, Resurrection, and Ascension to Heaven,

ALL that we have hitherto advanced concerning Christ is to be referred to this point, that being condemned, dead, and ruined in ourselves, we should seek righteousness, deliverance, life, and salvation in him: as we are taught by this remarkable declaration of Peter, that " there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (a) The name of JESUS was given him, not rashly or by a fortuitous accident, or by the will of men, but was brought from heaven by the angel, the herald of the supreme decree, and also with this reason annexed to it; "for he shall save his people from their sins:" (b) in which words may be remarked, what we have before hinted, that the office of a Re Jeemer was assigned to him in order that he might be our Saviour. Never.

(x) Eph. v. 2. (j/) John xvii. 19. (*) Dan. ix. 24

(a) Acts iv. 12. (A) Matt. i. 21.

theless, the redemption would be incomplete, if he did not by continual advances carry us forward to the ultimate end of salvation. Therefore, as soon as we deviate from him, though but in the smallest degree, we gradually lose sight of salvation, which resides entirely in him; so that those who are not satisfied with him, voluntarily deprive themselves of all grace. And the following observation of Bernard is worthy of recital: "that the name of Jesus is not only light, but also food: that it is likewise oil, without which all the food of the soul is dry: that it is salt, unseasoned by which, whatever is presented to us is insipid; finally, that it is honey in the mouth, melody in the ear, joy in the heart, and medicine to the soul; and that there are no charms in any discourse where this name is not heard." But here we ought diligently to examine how he has procured salvation for us; that we may not only know him to be the author of it, but, embracing those things which are sufficient for the establishment of our faith, may reject everything capable of drawing us aside to the right hand or to the left. For since no man can descend into himself and seriously consider his own character, without perceiving that God is angry with him and hostile to him, and consequently he must find himself under a necessity of anxiously seeking some way to appease him, which can never be done without a satisfaction; this is a case in which the strongest assurance is required. For sinners, till they be delivered from guilt, are always subject to the wrath and malediction of God, who, being a righteous Judge, never suffers his law to be violated with impunity, but stands prepared to avenge it.

II. Before we proceed any further, let us examine by the way how it could be consistent, that God, who prevents us with his mercy, should be our enemy, till he was reconciled to us by Christ. For how could he have given us a special pledge of his love in his only.begotten Son, if he had not previously embraced us in his gratuitous favour? As there is some appearance of contradiction, therefore, in this representation, I shall solve the difficulty. The Spirit speaks in the Scriptures nearly in this manner, That God was an enemy to men, till by the death of Christ they were restored to his favour; (b) that they were

(A) Rom. v. 10.


under the curse till their iniquity was expiated by his sacrifice;(c) that they were separated from God, till they were restored to union with him by the body of Christ, (d) Such modes of expression are accommodated to our capacity, that we may better understand, how miserable and calamitous our condition is, out of Christ. For if it were not clearly expressed, that we are obnoxious to the wrath and vengeance of God and to eternal death, we should not so fully discover how miserable we must be without the Divine mercy, nor should we so highly estimate the blessing of deliverance. For example: let any man be addressed in the following manner: "If while you remained a sinner, God had hated you and rejected you according to your demerits, horrible destruction would have befallen you; but because he hath voluntarily, and of his own gratuitous kindness, retained you in his favour, and not permitted you to be alienated from him, he has thus delivered you from that danger." he will be afflicted, and will in some measure perceive how much he is indebted to the Divine mercy. But if on the contrary he be told, what the Scripture teaches, " that he was alienated from God by sin, an heir of wrath, obnoxious to the punishment of eternal death, excluded from all hope of salvation, a total stranger to the Divine blessing, a slave to Satan, a captive under the yoke of sin, and, in a word, condemned to, and already involved in, a horrible destruction: that in this situation, Christ interposed as an intercessor; that he has received and suffered in his own person the punishment, which by the righteous judgment of God impended over all sinners; that by his blood he has expiated those crimes which rendered them odious to God; that by this expiation God the Father has been satisfied and duly atoned; that by this intercessor his wrath has been appeased; that this is the foundation of peace between God and men; that this is the bond of his benevolence towards them:" will he not be the more affected by these things in proportion to the more correct and lively representation of the depth of calamity from which he has been delivered? In short, since it is impossible for the life which is presented by the mercy of God, to be

(c) Gal. iii. 10—13. (rf) Col. i. 21, 22.

embraced by our hearts with sufficient ardour, or received with becoming gratitude, unless we have been previously terrified and distressed with the fear of the Divine wrath, and the horror of eternal death; we are instructed by the sacred doctrine, that irrespective of Christ we may contemplate God as incensed against us, and his hand armed for our destruction, and that we may embrace his benevolence and paternal love only in Christ.

III. Now though this is expressed according to the weakness of our capacity, yet ^t is strictly true. For God, who is the perfection of righteousness, cannot love iniquity, which he beholds in us all. We all therefore have in us that which deserves God's hatred. Wherefore in respect of our corrupt nature and the succeeding depravity of our lives, we are all really offensive to God, guilty in his sight, and born to the damnation of hell. But because the Lord will not lose in us that which is his own, he yet discovers something that his goodness may love. For notwithstanding we are sinners through our own fault, yet we are still his creatures; notwithstanding we have brought death upon ourselves, yet he had created us for life. Thus by a pure and gratuitous love towards us, he is excited to receive us into favour. But if there is a perpetual and irreconcileable opposition between righteousness and iniquity, he cannot receive us entirely, as long as we remain sinners. Therefore, to remove all occasion of enmity, and to reconcile us completely to himself, he abolishes all our guilt, by the expiation exhibited in the death of Christ, that we, who before were polluted and impure, may appear righteous and holy in his sight. The love of God the Father therefore precedes our reconciliation in Christ; or rather it is because he first loves, that he afterwards reconciles us to himself, (e) But because, till Christ relieves us by his death, we are not freed from that iniquity which deserves the indignation of God, and is accursed and condemned in his sight; we have not a complete and solid union with God, before we are united to him by Christ. And therefore, if we would assure ourselves that God is pacified and propitious

(0 1 John iv. 19.

« AnteriorContinuar »