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centuries, the voice of prophecy had been silent, enough had been recorded to point to a period when his advent should take place. That period arrived. The Jewish nation was in anxious expectation; “the Desire of all nations" was generally anticipated, when an angel of God was sent from heaven, to foretell, first, the birth of his forerunner, the Baptist, and afterwards the birth of the Messiah. Both were accomplished, as the angel had foretold. The Baptist grew up, and fulfilled the prediction that he was to be “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” (Isai. xl. 3.) The Virgin became the mother of Him who ever was, and ever will be, the eternal Son. A multitude of the heavenly host announced his birth, and sang, “ Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men.” When baptized by John, and on the eve of entering upon his public ministry, the Holy Ghost descended upon him like a dove; and the voice of the Father, from the opened heavens, declared, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Then follow the records of his holy example, his glorious ministry, his amazing miracles, his wonderful transfiguration, his dreadful agony, his notorious crucifixion, his sacrificial death, his glorious resurrection, and his triumphant ascension to the right hand of the Father. In all these, instead of the darkness, the tempest, and the devouring fire of Sinai, or the dazzling brilliancy of the Shekinah, which only the High-Priest was permitted to see, we have the Only-Begotten of the Father, by whom all things were created, made flesh, and dwelling among men. Instead of the awful “voice of words,” which made even Moses exceedingly fear and quake,—or the humble voice of the Prophet, saying, “ Thus saith the Lord,” we have the gracious words of God's beloved Son, assuring us that he “is come not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” Instead of miracles of judg. ment, as frequently exhibited under the law, he exerts his power in miracles of mercy and beneficence. Instead of the typical lamb, and his emblematical blood-shedding, we behold, in the death of Jesus, the “ Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world,”—who died “ for our offences, and rose again for our justification,"—who is also passed into the heavens, where he ever liveth as our great High Priest, to make continual intercession for us. Seriously contemplate this amazing manifestation of the love of God towards man. What surpassing glory is here! What are patriarchal visions, deliverances from the Red Sea, the descent of the manna, and the streams of the desert; what is Sinai, with all its grandeur, and the shining of Moses's face; what are prophetic announcements ; when compared with this ? All these were harbingers of this glory, which throws all other into the shade. To the outward eye it may not, indeed, be so dazzling; but to the spiritual it far excelleth. Divested of those external appendages of Deity, which render the vision too powerful for the
human frame, we have the true glory of the Only-Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. He stooped low, and became poor ; but it was to make us rich, and to exalt us to his eternal glory. If his cross be a stumbling-block to many, it is because men will not acknowledge the “exceeding sinfulness of sin," and the necessity of an infinite atonement. In the eye of faith, the cross of Christ is not less glorious than his throne. On Calvary he triumphed over the principalities and powers of hell; and by the doctrine of the cross shall the world be subdued and saved. Angels, with the redeemed in heaven, never grow weary in contemplating “ the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that shall follow.” O let our hearts be rightly affected with this display of his love ! “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”
2 The Gospel is “the ministration of righteousness.” The meaning of this expression may be satisfactorily determined by the parallel word, “ condemnation.” Instead of condemnation, the Gospel ministers pardon for sin, the justification of our persons before God, full and complete reconciliation to him. In this sense the word is often employed by the sacred writers, and especially by the Apostle Paul; who informs us, that “ Christ Jesus is made of God unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption;" (1 Cor. i. 30 ;) that he “is the end of the law for righteousn
usness to every one that believeth ;' in other words, that the design of the law is to bring men to Christ for justification or righteousness. As the procurement of this righteousness was the immediate design and fruit of the death of Christ, and its diffusion is the principal work of the Holy Spirit, we therefore consider the former manifestation of the glory of the Gospel, before that which it has by “the Spirit.”
This righteousness the moral and ceremonial law could not impart; the former requiring perfect obedience, which man could not render ; and the latter, only serving to remove ceremonial guilt, or "sanctifying to the purifying of the flesh.” (Heb. ix. 13.) “If there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law." (Gal. iii. 21.) But, in all its glory, the necessary atonement, and the requisite power to renew our corrupt nature, were wanting. The proper source of mercy and holiness for man lay undiscovered, behind the veil of its types and symbols. Whatever mercy or righteousness was obtained under that dispensation, flowed from thence; and this it was which rendered the Old-Testament saints so desirous to see the days of the Messiah, and the Prophets diligently to study “ what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify.” (1 Peter i. 11.) In short, all the true Israel of God, under that dispensation, felt that they could not rest therein, as a complete institute of itself; and, therefore, reached forth, in earnest expectation and hope, towards the promised Redeemer, who was "to
make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness." (Dan. ix. 24.) How great, then, the glory of the Gospel which reveals this mystery, hid for ages, wherein the righteousness of God, as the Lawgiver and Judge, is gloriously maintained ; and yet pardon, full and free, is provided for all mankind! The sacrificial death of the incarnate Son of God, as a voluntary substitute for the human race, is declared to be God's appointed method for restoring man to his favour. It was the death of Him who, equally with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is the Source of all being and blessedness. It was the death of Ilim whose infinite holiness and justice had been offended, and who best knew the extent of atonement which was necessary. The plurality of Persons in the Godhead admitted of this manifestation of mercy in our behalf. The high and unbending demands of the law were met in the death of the Almighty's Fellow; and unto us it is given to know the full evangelical meaning of the passage,—“Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth ; for I am God, and there is none else.” (Isai. xlv. 22.) By his own blood he has redeemed the world, and procured righteousness for man. He wills, also, that every one should accept this mercy. He makes this known in his word, and commits the ministration of his righteousness to faithful men, who themselves are partakers of his grace; saying, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.” “Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world.” Whether we regard the extent and magnitude of our individual guilt, the multitude of transgressors, the unspeakable value and importance of that reconciliation to which we are invited, or the wonderful manner in which the claims of divine justice against us have been satisfied,—it is evident that no human sentiment is capable of describing its glory. Inspiration calls it, “The glory of God in the face of Jesus :” a glory in which “the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the Prophets ; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins, through the forbearance of God: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” (Rom. iii. 21–26.)
Nor is pardon all. Our nature being defiled by sin, and we its slaves under the power of Satan, require a righteousness of nature to enable us to produce righteousness of life. The Gospel, therefore, announces to us, that “Christ gave bimself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” (Titus ii. 14.) “That we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holi
ness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.” (Luke i. 74, 75.) And, in order to this, to as many as receive him he gives power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in his
Such persons can say, “ We have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” Being “ in Christ Jesus,” they feel that “there is therefore now no condemnation to them: for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made” them “free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh : that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in them who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom. viii. 1—4.) Their “members” are “no more instruments of unrighteousness unto sin; but, being made free from sin, and become servants to God, they have their fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” (Rom. vi. 13, 22.) Here, then, we have another remarkable view of this glory. Through the mediation of Christ, we have the fulness of spiritual life and power opened. Though “dead in trespasses and sins," we may rise to newness of life ; be created anew in Christ Jesus unto good works, and strengthened by his glorious power; and be more than conquerors over every sinful habit, the world, and the devil. What a striking contrast is this to the state of those who are enslaved by their appetites and passions ! or of those who, in helpless bondage, say, “The good that I would I do not, and the evil that I hate that I do. O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?” How dignified and happy is he whom the Son hath made free, and who brings forth the fruits of righteousness to the praise of God! What a sublime and God-like glory is that of the Gospel, that not only provides pardon for every man, but summons our prostrate, enchained world to righteousness of heart and life, and to become partakers of the divine nature! “I am come," said the Saviour, “that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” “I give unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” Hasten, Lord, the joyful day, when this righteousness shall “cover the earth as the waters cover the sea !"
Once more: the glory of the Gospel appears in the simplicity of its requirements. The load of ancient ceremonies is removed : we have now no costly and troublesome observances. “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision ; but a new creature.” To obtain pardon, instead of presenting the blood of bullocks or of goats, the sacrifice of a broken and contrite spirit, and the faith of the heart in the blood of Jesus, are what God requires. Nor does it matter where this sacrifice is presented. “Neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem” only, must God be worshipped. The beautiful sanctuary, the humble school-room, the domestic altar, the
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shade of the fig-tree, or the seclusion of the closet, are all alike to him, when worshipped in spirit and in truth. And while “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” he does not bind himself exclusively, in the conveyance of his mercy, to the ministrations of any peculiar class of men. The faithful Pastor is God's ordinary and chief instrument; and through his ministrations all the subordinate instrumentality of the church derives its life and energy; yet in numerous instances he employs even the unofficial members of the church, to bring inquirers to the Saviour. The parent is often the instrument of conversion to the child, and the child to the parent. The believing husband or wife “gains” the unbelieving partner; and even the pious servant is sometimes made useful to the unconverted master. All are exhorted to let their light so shine, that others seeing their good works, may glorify their Father which is in heaven. Thus he shows himself to be the God of love, willing that all men should be saved : he is not only accessible to all, but he is rich in mercy unto all that call upon him. Nor does this freedom of access on the one hand, or the requirement of faith in the contrite, as the only condition of pardon, on the other, make void the law, or in any degree weaken its obligations. This objection was advanced in the times of the Apostles; and it is now put forth by those who claim to be their exclusive successors. By the former it was indignantly repelled. then," said they, “make void the law through faith? God forbid. Yea, we establish the law." This is secured by the abhorrence and renunciation of sin implied in faith; by the richness of mercy, which binds the soul to God in grateful and obedient love; by the creation of a new nature, which gives power both to will and to obey; and by keeping the soul constantly dependent upon God for continued acceptance in the exercise of faith, which is of the operation of his Spirit. In this arrangement the wisdom and love of God conspicuously appear; and hereby his people are led to higher walks of holiness than seem to have been generally attained under the former dispensation. “The end of the commandment is love, out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned."
3. The Gospel is the ministration of the Spirit. The Son of God having accomplished our redemption by his sacrificial death and glorious resurrection, it was not meet that he should remain in his human nature upon earth, but that he should “enter into his glory.” A divine agency was necessary to carry out the purposes of redeeming merey in their application to man; and as the Father is represented in Scripture as the Source, or first moving Cause, of our recovery,
and the Son had actually rescued man by his most precious blood, the propriety of this agency devolving on the Holy Spirit is obvious. Thus each Person in the holy Trinity performs a part in the work of our salvation which no creature could possibly accomplishı; and hence the infinite love of the Triune God is gloriously manifested.