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the brand of infamy upon him, and the badges of death around him. Hence, when he believes, and pardon can be administered, without injury to the Divine government, his cleansing from the defilement of sin is begun. There is a text in one of the minor prophets, which though spoken with reference to the Church, is beautifully expressive of this first act of God's mercy to sinners. "Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgressions of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighted in mercy. He will turn again; he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea." And in another text it reads, "Their sins and their iniquities will 1 remember no more." And we have the delightful idea of forgiveness in this text, "That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more, because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God." The very first act of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, secures this blessing, and we stand, though not on the same footing as if we had never sinned, yet the same as relates to our exposedness to the penalties of the law. The transgressions of the law, that had been minuted against us in the record of the Divine mind, are blotted out. God even speaks as if he would forget them, and never suffer them to come into his mind again.
But pardon, as rich a blessing as it is, to a sinner made sensible of his gross and dreadful departure from God, holds a place second in importance to that of sanctification. Hence to purify us, was an important part of the work which the Lord Jesus Christ came to do for us; by which I understand, delivering us from the power of sinful affections. This is done through the immediate agency of the Holy Spirit, and is ascribed to the Lord Jesus Christ, inasmuch as the Spirit acts a part in the economy of redemption, subordinate to that of the Mediator, and is spoken of as sent by him. He takes away the heart of stone and gives a heart of flesh, and creates us anew in Christ Jesus unto good works. Christ is formed in his people the hope of glory; his image is impressed on the heart; and the lineaments of that image are drawn out to view in deeds of loyalty and duty.
Thus the Lord Jesus Christ brings his people to feel like him, to love his character, his law, his government, and kingdom, and all the duties of piety, and benevolence. And his purpose and promise is, that where he has begun a good work he will carry it
on, till all moral pollution is eradicated. Thus the character of man, under the transforming influence spoken of in the text, is changed, till, in a moral point of view, he is no longer the same man. From being a child of wrath fitting for destruction, he becomes an heir of God, and a candidate for glory, honor, immortality, and eternal life. The desire to be holy, and so like his Master, becomes his ruling passion. In his estimation conformity to God, in the whole temper of his mind, is the greatest good; and no hope gives him such a joy, as when he can say with confidence, "Then shall I be satisfied when I wake with thy likeness."
While the followers of the Lord Jesus are thus under a process of sanctification, they become, as a matter of course in a world like this, a peculiar people. They have desires, and hopes, and enjoyments, and fears, and aversions, such as are found in no other people. They have another employment, and form other habits, and sustain new relationships, and enter new society, and in their speech and demeanor, embracing a thousand nameless things, become a peculiar people. Whatever pains they may take to conceal their peculiarities, they become and continue like no other people on the face of the whole earth. And the more they act in character; the nearer they live to their Master, the more sure are they to widen the contrast between themselves, and the world of the ungodly. Hence the world will soon know them, and break from their fellowship, and cast out their names as evil; and Christ will receive them, and be a God unto them, and they shall be his people.
"They are zealous of good works. Here perhaps more than at any other point is seen their peculiarity. The promptness, the pains, and the sacrifices manifested in doing good, render them the perfect contrast of anything seen in the habits of unsanctified men. Hence the fact is not to be disputed, that the personal efforts, and charities that have been expended upon human misery, degradation, and contempt, have been the efforts and the charities of this peculiar people. On the list of this world's benefactors their names are arranged alone, and the catalogue will tell to their advantage in that day when the Savior shall be heard to say, “I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me."
The ungodly may have fits of charitable feeling, when provision is to be made exclusively for the life that now is; but their chari
ties do not usually extend in their effects beyond the grave. When urged to enlighten those that know not God, or snatch from death those that have not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; they lack the faith that can give importance to these religious and spiritual realities. And yet here, where the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel, is the very spot where the godly display their warmest zeal, and make their best, their mightiest efforts. The zeal of God's people is uniform and extensive, and does not, like "crackling thorns and burning coals, make a great blaze and die." It grows out of the combined influence of the Christian affections, or rather is the Christian affections concentrated, and pouring out their energies upon the object of their commisseration or praise.
Christian zeal aims to render this world what God would have it; to draw it back, from alienation and misery, to subjection and enjoyment. It would cure every species of plague and suffering, and render holy, respected, and happy every child of the fall. And when men need not its aid, would compassionate the animal creation, till not a worm should suffer. Thus will operate the zeal that piety begets, and thus the redeemed of Jesus Christ, will be rendered, in a world cold and friendless like this, a peculiar people. There is still another thought in this text, which though last is not least. These redeemed, and peculiar, and zealous beings, Jesus Christ is said to purify unto himself. I see a very precious thought here: they belong finally to him. They were given him in the covenant of redemption. Hence, we hear him say, in that remarkable prayer just before he suffered, "I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world." And lest any should draw a wrong inference from the fact that as Mediator he was a recipient, he addresses the Father again, and says, "All mine are thine, and thine are mine." His people are to be his associates for ever; his family; his friends; his admirers, and his worshipers. "I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory."
There is something in this thought which to me bespeaks the Savior Divine. Were he a mere servant, were he less than the very builder and proprietor of this world, he could not have been given a commission of such a nature, as to entitle him to possess, and call his own, the beings he should save: else it would not be true, that the Eternal cannot give his glory to another. Thus the Lord Jesus Christ came to redeem to himself, by his death, a peculiar people, zealous of good works. I close with a few paragraphs of
With such as cannot relish this mortifying gospel. I am fully aware, and lament it, that every position taken in this discourse is controverted; and my apology for the view I have given, is, that I could in honesty give no other.
Man's lost and desperate condition, requiring an atonement, is found in one shape and another, on almost every page of the Bible, and his safety depends on knowing it, and the gospel was sent to acquaint him with it; hence this must be a radical truth in every message which we carry from God to man. Moreover, we see men exhibit that temper, and form those habits, which would teach us their ruin, if we had not been taught it from heaven. Now a truth that comes to us so confirmed, we must receive, and must proclaim; and if men will not believe it, or if they do not choose to lay it to heart, we can only say with the prophet, "If ye will not hear, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride." If you can keep your apostacy a secret from your fellow-men, or from angels, or from devils, do; and if you can hide the shame of it, do; and if by such a course you can escape the dire consequences of that apostacy, do. We wish you safe, and wish you happy, and if you know of a safer or happier course than this gospel presents, you have but to make the experiment. But then remember, if your experiment fails, and you do not find out your ruin till death, you must not calculate that your mistake can then be corrected.
If you are conscious of some depravity, and still cannot make up your mind to owe your redemption to the death of Christ, then you must reject the Bible or explain it as you can. The text says he gave himself for us. And we hear him say, "I lay down my life for the sheep." And many scriptures that have been quoted, and more that might, seem evidently to put his blood in the place of ours, and heal us, if we are ever healed by his stripes.
Why object to the idea that he died for us. Does it too much degrade and blacken the human character, that we must thus come as it were to the place of execution, and have the halter about our neck, and there stand and see another take our place, and hang upon the tree in our stead? I know it will be the everlasting disgrace of our world, that we should have so conducted as to render it necessary that Christ should die for us. But it will deepen our disgrace, if we deny the fact, and assign some other reason, not the true one, why the Lord of glory was hanged on a tree. We shall crucify him afresh, and put him to open shame.
If his was not a vicarious death, why did he die? Do you answer, "Death hath passed upon all men for that all have sinned." Then it seems you make him a sinner? But the good Book assures me, that there was no guile found in his mouth. Satan came and found nothing in him. He was a Lamb without spot. Do you say that he died to finish out his obedience? Obedience to what law? Does the law of God require that his perfectly obedient subjects should die? or is death there made the wages of sin? I see no demand for his death, unless he died for us, or was a sinner. If you are not driven to the same alternative and can invent a third reason, more satisfactory, you must adopt it, and make the Bible bear you out in it if you can.
Do you object to this gospel because it requires that you be purified? Then it seems you doubt whether sin has polluted you? And if so why have any gospel? or do you choose to carry all your moral deformity with you into the grave, and into eternity? and if so, then we understand you. You have only to let the gospel alone then, and let others, who would not choose to die in their sins, have the benefit of its overtures.
A gospel that shall not render men holy, can be worth nothing. It may gather, and baptize, and cast the enclosures of a covenant, about a congregation of worldlings, but if it have no purifying effect, it will leave them still the children of their father the devil. They will be as fair candidates for perdition, when such a gospel shall have exerted upon them its mightiest influence, as when its first accent broke upon their ear. But a gospel like that which Paul preached, must urge the claims of the Divine law, and press men to break off their sins by righteousness, and turn their feet to God's testimonies. It will gather motives to holiness from all worlds, from the fear of hell, from the hope of heaven, from the comfort of the present life, and especially from the love of Christ; for it will "thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again." Now let us be prudent enough to have this very gospel, or none. If we wish merely to be amused, let us not employ a gospel to do it, but the pipe, the timbrel, and the dance. If we care not how much pollution adheres to us when we are judged, then let us cast the gospel and the whole Bible from us, and enter into a covenant with death, and make an agreement with hell, and eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.
But you dislike the peculiarity urged upon believers in the gos