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Now, by this spiritual attestation of Christ's mission and atonement, God as God, apart from the Mediator, is also mediately justified. The Gospel is not only remedial, bringing salvation to men ; it is Theodicean, justificatory of God. (1) It vindicates Him as a Creator. The Demiurgic wisdom had to acquit itself before the intelligent universe of a seeming failure in man. As far as we know, and certainly as far as regards the mundane system, man a novelty in creation. In him were first united the animal and the spiritual. Already had Jehovah created celestial intelligences to reflect His glory and sing His praise. Already, through the vast pre-adamic ages, had the teeming earth and waters displayed the marvels of His plastic hand. It but remained that the two worlds should be joined by the connecting link of a being allied to both, and so the cycle of creation be complete. To human nature was committed this high destiny; but alas! at the first contact with evil, unassisted human nature broke down. It became necessary therefore, for the perfect vindication of the Divine wisdom, to show that sin was no necessary defect in humanity, no evil inseparable to matter, and that the task assigned to Adam was not impracticable. This was done when “God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” (2) The mystery of godliness vindicates God as the punisher of sin. So far as the knowledge of the Supreme, and His law, had become erroneous, distorted, and corrupt, so far the obligation of the creature was weakened, the bond which linked him to his Creator was loosened, and the distinction of right and wrong so broken down and obliterated, that the heinousness of sin was lost sight of, and the plea of ignorance could always be urged in its extenuation. The Incarnation put an end to this. No man, who has looked on the Christ of the Gospels, can plead ignorance as an excuse for sin. “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin; but now they have no cloak for their sin. He that hateth me hateth my Father also.” (3) The work of Messiah vindicates God's holiness as the pardoner of sin.
The forgiveness of sin, which the Gospel preaches, is not that act of simple good nature, that easy stroke of leniency, of which some dream. It is a forgiveness which exhibits the retribution of guilt more terribly than a lost universe would have done. Declaring thereby “his righteousness; that he might be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” (4) To all who accept Christ in His fulness He is the pledge of the Divine love to man- -(Titus iii. 4), and as such vindicates the Divine character in respect of those calamitous and untoward influences in the world, which otherwise, in the terrible havoc they make among the souls and bodies of men, might appal us with misgivings of God's love and wisdom. These evils now occupy much of the attention of that mass of semi-christianised mind, which lies outside the Church ; and they will not cease to trouble and bewilder men, who have caught from Christianity the sentiment of philanthropy, without submitting themselves to the obedience of faith. Yet it is an a fortiori argument that “he who spared not his own son, but delivered him up for us all,” stands pledged, so to speak, by all the perfections of his Godhead, to carry out the blessings of so costly a salvation to their widest and fullest realization. Moreover we know that Jesus was the Divine Philanthropist, who "went about doing good;" who gazed face to face on fallen humanity, probing its guilt, and gauging its misery, as we never can ; and yet that His hope for the race never waned, His love for it never chilled, while His faith in the Absolute never faltered. After three and thirty years spent amid sin and sorrow, when about to die for that sin, and drink that sorrow to the dregs, Jesus could look up with tearless eye, and say, “Father, I thank thee.” *
And thus is God "justified in the Spirit" (though carnal sense sees it not) when permitting evil.
* See this thought finely brought out in the concluding pages of the “ Restoration of Belief.”
(To be continued.)
The Young Man far away from his Father's Home- A postacy
in Unrestrained Development.
(CONTINUED FROM PAGE 52.)
66 And took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all,” &c. Luke xv. 13-16.
Analysis of Homily the Four Hundred and Elebenth. The first two scenes of this wonderful painting, namely, the young man discontented with his father's home-apostacy in sentiment; and the young man departing from his father's home-apostacy in action; we have already noticed. We have now to look upon the young man a long way from his father's house ;-"apostacy in unrestrained development." He is in a far country now. Many long leagues, perhaps, stretch between him and his father's house. He is a stranger in the land; he is not afraid of being recognized by any, and therefore in this far country he can do as he lists. The sinner, in a moral sense, is in a far country. He is far away from truth, virtue, God—the true centre and home of his soul. In this “far country” we find him in four graduated conditions of depravity.
I. UNBOUNDED RIOTING. He freely expends the property which his father gave him in "riotous living." He plays “the fast young man.” He gives full scope to all his appetites; the voice of his conscience is lost amidst the din of his passion; his reason is the mere tool of his lusts ; he luxuriates in animal gratifications.
“When means and lavish manners meet together,
This is a picture of a sinner in young life when free from all restraint. He will hear of nothing but carnal pleasure : the remonstrance of conscience, the voice of the Christian ministry, the appeals of pious friends—all these are despised. In this period of rioting religion is ridiculed. All the talents, possessions, time, with which our kind father has entrusted us, if devoted to these carnal pleasures, is a wasting of our substance; all is thrown away. “What fruit had ye in those things whereof ye are now ashamed ?” &c.
“ To be carnally minded is death.” Another and a worse condition in which we find him is :
II. CONSCIOUS WANT. “When he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land, and he began to be in want.” His money was gone; he had nothing wherewith to purchase food.
The usual habits of well-directed industry, the natural condition on which bread is bestowed, he never cultivated : his dissipation too, had most likely physically incapacitated him for labor. In connexion with this a famine had set in ;-"he began to be in want.” This is a stage to which unrestrained gratifications inevitably conduct. The riotous living will not always satisfy, even should the means continue. When a certain period of life arrives, desire faileth-the desire for such gratifications terminates.
“ The hey-day in the blood is tame, it's humble,
All the elements of animal gratification may be accessible, but Old Time has stolen the desire and capacity. Thus Byron felt before he had reached only half of the allotted period of human life :
“My days are in the yellow leaf,
The flowers, the fruits of love are gone ;
Are mine alone."
The deep feeling of want must come on in the history of sin. The soul feels its emptiness, and craves for the Infinite Something which it has neglected. It feels itself to be “poor, miserable, blind, and naked." In morals it is an eternal law, that waste brings want. He that wastes the blessings with which Heaven endows him, must be reduced to utter spiritual destitution.
Another and still worse condition in which we find him is :
III. BASE SERVITUDE. “And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine." What a change! Impatient of parental restraint he has left his father's house. He sought the liberty of indulgence and he had it for a time; but now he becomes a slave—the slave of a foreign citizen. Thus it is ever with sin ; the liberty which the sinner seeks must, in the nature of the case, lead him to slavery. Every sinful step leads to the prison ; every sinful act forges a link in the chain that will manacle the soul. The sinner, though he dwells in palaces, roams continents at large, harangues nations on the theme of liberty, is morally a hired servant, a miserable menial. Pleasure, gold, power, or fashion, are his iron masters. Sin is serfdom. Love for the Infinite is the soul of freedom. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
Another and get more sad condition in which we find him is :
IV. DESPICABLE DEGRADATION. “And he (citizen) sent him into his field to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks the swine did eat, and no man gave unto him.” What, in the estimation of the men of Judea could have been a more degrading work than to feed swine, denounced as unclean by the Jewish laws ? And what more abject position could a man be in than to ask to feed on the food of swine, and be refused it? This represents the last and the most wretched stage of sin on earth—the stage that leads right into hell ! Here is a degrading service. How
many millions of our race on earth are ministering to the baser and more swine-like passions of our nature ! they