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to perfection? As to the first, we may venture to say, we can by searching find him out; but by searching what? No doubt, his word, and his works. We see in each an evident proof of his existence. But, as to the second question, we cannot possibly know him to perfection;' because both his word, and the comparison of his nature with our own, represent him as altogether incomprehensible to our minds, and therefore forbid the possibility of such knowledge. So far as he hath taught us in his word, we may know him; but no farther. We there see him eternal, almighty, omnipresent, omniscient; we there see him infinitely just, infinitely holy, infinitely merciful; a bountiful Creator and Provider; an awful Governor; a compassionate Saviour; a kind Comforter; we there see him distinguished into three divine personalities, each whereof is employed in a distinct office, while they all, with one unbounded power, one unbounded wisdom, one unbounded mercy, pursue the blessed work of our reformation and happiness. No essential part of this work is left to the ministry of creatures. The glorious spirits of all orders superior to our own act only an underpart in it. The renovation of the moral world had too much of creation in it to admit the agency of limited beings. They are sufficiently honoured in being permitted to carry messages between God and his other intellectual creatures, to publish the approach, or to follow in the train, of him who was to perform any primary part in a scheme infinitely transcending the capacities and powers of all limited natures. Besides, though the angels had been capable of taking a higher or greater share therein, it was by no means fit they should, inasmuch as such an interposition might have diverted the current of our gratitude to God, who, as he is the author of our being, and the donor of our happiness, ought also to be the sole object and centre of our love. God therefore chose to tread the winepress of this warfare alone;' and he alone. was equal to it; for he was 'mighty to save.'
This now is the most glorious, the most gracious discovery ever made to mankind; a discovery wherein every necessary intimation, and even mystery, is laid open for our instruction; every virtue exemplified for our imitation; every condescension vouchsafed; every frightful danger encountered; every seemingly insurmountable obstacle re
moved; and, O the inconceivable goodness of God! even every disgrace and misery, banishment, poverty, death, endured; that we may become the children of God, and heirs of eternal life.'
What an understanding! what a heart! how low! how narrow! how despicable! that meets the boundless love of God, thus exemplified, with nothing but cavils and objections; that cavils, when it should wonder! that objects, when it should adore! that either proudly slights the immense obligation! or sneakingly pays its thanks for it to a creature!
Let others attack this truth with as much boldness as they please; I thank God for it, I have had the grace, knowing it to be a truth, to defend it with fear and trembling. The infinite dignity of the subject, and the miserable indignity of the preacher, would have held me back, had not an honest zeal, and an unhappy necessity, arising from the odious treatment given in this detestable age to the great fundamentals of our religion, forced me forward. But I will end where St. Augustine began. "After all I have said, I shall neither be grieved, in case I hesitate, to inquire; nor ashamed, in case I mistake, to learn. Furthermore, whosoever hears, or reads, what I have said, where he is alike certain, let him go on with me; where he is alike in doubt, let him search with me; where he discovers his own error, let him return to me; where he discovers mine, let him call me back; so may we, entering the road of charity together, press forward towards him, of whom it is said, 'Seek ye his face' evermore."
And now, O infinitely gracious Being, be pleased so to enlighten our understandings, and move our hearts, that we may both see and feel what we ought to know of thee; and at the same time to bless us with such humility, as may prevent in us the presumptuous sin of all farther inquiries. Grant us this in compassion to our miserable infirmities, for the sake of our dear Redeemer; to whom, with thee, O merciful Father, and thee, O Holy Spirit, be all might, majesty, dignity, and dominion, now, and for evermore. Amen. * St. Augustine, lib. i. de Trinitate.
CHRIST THE TRUE AND PROPER SACRIFICE FOR SIN.
1 COR. XV. 22.
As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
WITH the doctrine of the ever-blessed Trinity is connected. that of Christ's incarnation, and sufferings for the sins of men; and so close and necessary is this connexion, that neither Scripture nor reason will suffer us to receive the one without the other. If Christ had no being before he was conceived in the womb of the Virgin, what sense is there in these and such like expressions? A body hast thou prepared for me; Heb. x. 5. He took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham,' Heb. ii. 16. The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us,' John i. 14. And, if he had not a being from all eternity, that is, if he was no more than a creature, he could not make an atonement for the sins of other creatures; for it is, at least, as much as the best creature can do, to be solvent for himself; more, infinitely, than he can do, by his highest merits, to bring in God his debtor for eternal happiness. How, then, can he merit this for another? An angel cannot do it; for God chargeth his angels with folly; Job iv. 18. Every creature, as such, is fallible, corruptible, and perishable; but we neither were,' nor could have been, 'redeemed with corruptible things-but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish, and without spot; 1 Pet. i. 18, 19. He,' who by his blood obtained eternal redemption for us,' Heb. ix. 12, is the First and the Last,' Rev. i. 17, and, consequently, neither did nor could sin.
'The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord;' Rom. vi. 23. Sin, we see, is punished with death, that is, with a separation
of soul and body here, and from God both here and hereafter. If the Scripture had not assured us of it, we should, by a parity of reason, have concluded, that righteousness must be rewarded with life, temporal and eternal; because the opposition between sin and righteousness must, according to the rules of justice, be found between the reward of the one, and the punishment of the other.
Here, however, we must distinguish as the apostle hath done, who calls' death the wages of sin,' because it is deserved; whereas he calls eternal life the gift,' and elsewhere the free gift of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord,' because our highest righteousness could never entitle us to it. Although, therefore, the wicked are said to be punished in the strict and proper sense of the word, the happiness, of the righteous is represented not as a proper reward, nor as an effect of justice, inasmuch as they are not properly righteous; but an effect of divine grace and goodness. Yet now, that eternal life or happiness is stipulated for by the covenant, we in some sense ascribe it to justice, and call it a reward.
It is farther to be observed, that if in Adam all die, in him also they must all have sinned, and forfeited their title to eternal life, as the apostle informs us, Rom. v. 12. By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed on all men,' as the wages of sin. On the other hand, if in Christ all shall be made alive,' all must first be made righteous in him; because eternal life is the gift of God to righteousness alone. If faith and reformation have qualified us to receive this gift, we shall all be made alive at the last day,' that is, shall not only live in a reunion of soul and body, but also in an eternal reunion with God the source of life, through Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.'
If this doctrine is sound and true, it teaches us to believe, that, beside the good or evil of our own actions, the sin of Adam, and the righteousness of Christ, are imputed to all who derive by natural descent under the former, and by grace and faith under the latter. But, for the farther establishment of this doctrine, I shall endeavour, with the assistance of God's word, first to clear the imputation, on which it is founded, of the difficulties wherewith some think
it clogged; and then to prove the satisfaction made for sin, by the death of Christ, so fully, as to leave no doubts on that subject in the minds of my hearers.
In the first place, then, among the many arguments, or rather cavils, raised against this imputation, I shall only take notice of such as the Scriptures seem to give some weight to; for I speak not now to those who reject the Scriptures.
It is objected by some, that justice can never allow one man either to be punished for the sin, or rewarded for the righteousness, of another; and that, accordingly, God tells us by Ezekiel xviii. 20, The soul that sinneth, it shall die; the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.'
These words, and a good deal more in that chapter to the same effect, are God's reply to the Israelites, who, alluding to the second commandment, had said, 'Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father? The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.' They are likewise a close paraphrase on Deut. xxiv. 16. 'The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children, be put to death for the fathers; every man shall be put to death for his own sin.' Now as the second commandment, was a part of the moral, so this is a part of the judicial, or civil law given by Moses; and therefore the one is, as to the Mosaic economy, appositely returned in answer to the other. Yet herein it is, by no means said, God will not, in his general and providential economy, visit the sins of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation.' These words of the second commandment must be true, as well as those of the prophet; as true, I mean, in respect to God's providential visitations, as those of the prophet are in respect to the aforementioned precept of the judicial law: which precept is here made the basis, for so much, of a new and spiritual dispensation, namely, of the Christian; for it does not appear, that, from the days of the prophet to those of Christ, the Jews were on a different footing, as to this matter, from that on which they had been before the prophecy was uttered.