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And that book is now open, its seals are now broken, its contents are now divulged and as there has been cautious progress, as there has been irregular revolution, now these things have been made more apparent and explicit to them. But still, there is something they have not been able to comprehend, something they have not been able to learn; and they "desire to look into these things." All economies and dispensations, all figures, all types, all promises, all predictions, all institutions, all services, were but the rudiments which they must study, were but the tasks which they must perform: and thus their knowledge has risen to its present height, and thus their minds have been filled with this heavenly vision; and now they still "desire to look into these things;" the charm is not faded, and the relish is not dulled.
Fourthly, these things they desire to look into as they contrast and oppose themselves more forcibly to those events which the angels will naturally best remember, and in which they take their most natural interest.
In the history of this world they had often perceived, that no sooner had sin been perpetrated, than punishment was enforced. They have frequently been assessors of such judgment, executioners of such sentences. They barred the garden against our race. They saw, and forewarned a few of the favoured, of the coming storm, when fire and brimstone was rained from the Lord out of heaven on the cities of the plain. Doubtless their agency might have been introduced when the world was swept with universal deluge. By their hand a mighty army is blasted and withered into instantaneous death. And a thousand recollections will rush on your minds that they have been so commissioned and invested, raised up by God to punish sinners, and to set the seal of eternal detestation upon sin.
But yet, in their perusal of our history, and their view of our race, they will mark something that cannot fail to affect them, and equally to astonish them. They must sing of judgment, but they must also sing of accompanying mercy. They must behold severity, but they must, with that severity, behold the goodness of God. Every thing argues, even in the case of those who are most wicked, that the vengeance of heaven does not always burn. There is always a suspense, there is always a restriction, as though the Divine Being stayed himself in his wrath. There is always something of kindness and something of mitigation, where his judgments are confessedly the most sweeping, the most unreserved. But see how much must recur to them. All that they had ever seen or known would have even demonstrated the impossibility of such an arrest upon vengeance, of even a momentary delay; for nothing that they had ever heard or contemplated was at all on the side of such delay, but proved, that if vengeance was awakened, vengeance would fall. "There was war in heaven :" you mark the vacant throne. "There was war in heaven:" where is Satan and his confederate crew? "There was war in heaven:" the solitude is marked, and there was no place found for them. But they might well further have argued, that there was no tendency in the course of human history to a different result. Every bias was in favour of punishment, of unarrested purishment, and undelayed vengeance. Every tendency and every bias looked one way, and operated according to one law. And then the archives of heaven they need not to explore: precedent there was perhaps but a precedent-but that precedent how applicable, how pointed! Who can turn it aside? Wherein could consist its character, if this precedent was not now preserved?
My hearers, you may now understand why angels "look into these things." There is every thing opposed to, and contrasted with, that which they had known, with that which they could have expected. Take two such passages as these, put them together, and then say, how different the conduct of God to fallen angels, and the conduct of God to fallen man! "He spared not the angels that sinned, but❞—(see how sudden, see how undelayed)—" but cast them down to hell;" "He spared not his own Son, but gave him up for us all." Here is the great line, and heaven has marked it. Who shall assign the cause, or resolve the reason? He doth as it pleaseth him in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. Well may we say, what angels have long since felt, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his determinations, and his ways past finding out!"
Angels desire to look into these things, because these things present the most perfect display of the infinite excellency.
To know God, and always to see his face, and always to stand in his presence, are their delight: this is their fountain of life, this is their source of joy -to know the Divine Being, to serve him, and to resemble him. And, therefore, that which speaks of the Divine Being most intelligibly and the most comprehensively, is the spectacle to which they are naturally attracted, and in which they most perfectly delight. Now, we deny not that there must be in all the furniture and apparatus of nature, that there must be in all the course and eventuation of Divine Providence, much that marks the divine nature and supports the divine claim. But where shall we look? There is an instinctive reply, Where shall we look for the glory of God as in a glass? Where shall we look for God, the whole Godhead as in Christ, when God reconciled the world unto himself? Where is there a view of the divine perfections so detailed, so combined, so energetic, so efficient? Where is there a display of the divine excellency so perfect that we cannot distinguish where the one commences or where the other terminates? There is no abrupt edge, there is no sudden line: it is as the effulgence of colourlessness, the natural tint of unde composed sun-light, where all is seen, and all is equally seen, and all is fully seen; and mercy and truth meet together, and righteousness and peace embrace each other. You will never find the divine perfections antagonized; and to speak of there being harmony produced between the perfections of the Deity is false, for there never could have been discord. But it is in the light and blessing of redemption, that especially we see how all these perfections, without possible conceivable rivalry, are placed as in the same point, and combined as in the same centre; why justice can say in the very language of mercy, "Deliver them from going down into the pit ;" and mercy can say in the very tone of justice, "Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God!" Where are the perfections of the Lord our God seen as in the cross of Calvary? Wisdom, there thou dost shine with thy perfected plan, with thy consummated scheme, and thy defeat of every other! Justice, there amidst all wrong and outrage, thou dost acquire each right, and dost resent each injury! Holiness, there dost thou pour forth the splendour of thy full orb-countenance, where the sun retired into its portentous and unnatural eclipse! Truth, there dost thou stand while earth is rocking to its centre, unbending and unmoved! Mercy, there dost thou prevail with softest beauty, and smile with mildest grace, where
heaven most darkly lowered, and earth most fiercely rioted, and hell most victoriously reigned! And they "desire to look into these things."
There is another thought to which I only just advert-they desire to look into these things, forasmuch as these things affect the divine justice, and open a scope for their own benevolence.
Whatever their piety, and whatever their philanthropy, they are thus conciliated and thus delighted. Their piety, you perceive, must regard the divine character and government. You must conceive of the divine character and government, not as just from any arbitrary arrangement, or any particular purpose and will. It is the necessity of the infinity of perfection that God should be just; for even human creatures almost always place justice as the first of cardinal virtues; and the orator of antiquity says, " Domina et regina virtutis”—the mistress and the queen of all the virtues. Now in their piety, or whatever brings them near to God, near in contact, and near in sympathy and taste-O, how is the Divine Being vindicated! How must they have loved him more than they could otherwise have loved, as he is seen more clearly than he could otherwise be seen!
But especially is there a field given for the expatiation of their benevolence. Hitherto there had been a barrier and a restriction, and how could they exercise their charity to men? Behold and admire! They receive the announcement that the guilty is taking one step in his return to God, that there is one movement of his heart towards penitence and contrition: there is joy in the presence of these angels; there is acclamation, festivity, and jubilee. Every eye glistens, every palm waves: the river of life flows with a stronger current, and the tree of life abounds with still more luxuriant fruit. It is new life; their joy is full, their joy overflows. It is something that exceeds all that they have known; it is glory eclipsing glory; it is heaven upon heaven.
They desire to look into these things as these things may affect their own interest and their own well-being.
There seems in the dim twilight of a partial revelation, a great probability that they owe their very stability as the elect angels to some connexion of their destiny with the scheme of the cross. There is but a gleaming of the subject; we have but to feel our way and pursue our darkened course. But when we are told they are gathered together in Christ, one with us in Christ, they raise the presumption that they are not without a partial benefit, and that their well-being is in some degree promoted by them, and that even as debtors to these things they may desire to look into them. But how much must their well-being be promoted, when it is remembered that these things most assuredly supply them with new faculties of intercourse with Deity. For now that the glory of that form of Deity is diffused through the Mediator, and all that blaze is softened and attempered, is it possible that it can only be adapted to mortal eye, and not be equally so to angelic gaze; so that God is more known, and their intercourse with him more unembarrassed? Consider what a new companionship has been raised up to them, out of every nation, kindred, tongue and people, under heaven. Now these are wound round their natures, and they feel themselves more identified with God and one with themselves. Their heaven, too, has become far brighter, for it is the heaven in which the incarnate Deity unveils his glory; it is the heaven where the language of redemption for ever reverberates, and we come to an innumerable company of angels,
and those angels made subject to the Son of man: and we may all feel that we are raised above the angels themselves; and while they desire to look into these things we are more absolutely partaking of the benefit itself, and our song is, "We were redeemed by thy blood-Worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us!"
I commenced with this remark-what must be our confusion and our guilt while these natures, more impartial, bend over these things, discuss them, and investigate them, if we believe them slightly, and only regard them superciliously! Is this the guide of our intellect—is this the loftiness of our understanding that we must treat as foolishness the things which are declared to be the wisdom of God, and the things into which angels desire to look? Is it thus we raise ourselves above the beasts that perish? Is it thus we would be wise? Is it thus we would assert the predominancy of that intellectual nature which we believe is to prevail on earth, and which is to be our destination? O! why then should we spurn those lessons which are now imparted? Why should we deride those monitions which we have now received? And if we want to know whether we shall be justified in giving all our mind to them, see those angels, seraphim with their six wings, how they " desire to look into these things."
Is it possible that any of us can coolly resolve to live in the neglect of these things of which angels are students, but of which we should be beneficiaries? They are not for the life of angels, but they are for our life. In them is the very light of our souls; without them we are undone-hopelessly, unmitigably undone! What will be the reflection of the human spirit to whom those things have only presented an aspect of ridicule, who have always regarded them with a feeling of unconcern! What will be his reflection when he is met not by any who "desire to look into these things," but by demons who have heard of these things from afar. Mechanically they would say, "Give way, make room; here arrives a new rebel; a new form of iniquity is entered among the domains of the perished and the lost. We never rejected a Saviour: we never neglected his great salvation; we never set at nought his cross; we were never enemies of the cross of Christ as that cross was exhibited or presented to themselves. Here is another style of rebels; here is a new form of delinquency. Give room, and make way! Art thou become weak as we? Art thou become lost as we? But this is fire prepared for the devil and his angels: it was not kindled for you-it is not fit for you: there must be another blast in order to awaken its fierceness; there must be another element in order to infuriate its rage. It was prepared for the devil and his angels:' we feel it, we suffer it, amidst these chains which are never, never to be dissolved! Pass on to your own pit, and find your own hell. This, with all our agonizing recollections, never torments us-a salvation despised, a Redeemer refused." Christian brethren, I congratulate you this morning that you have had the display and the enforcement of these things so long in this sanctuary. Loving the Gospel you will feel it your duty to support the Gospel, into whose profundities the "angels desire to look." Here it has its home and its shrine. May this sanctuary fall: " Raze it, raze it, even unto the foundation thereof," when there is heard in it another Gospel, when Christ shall be cast down in it from its excellency, and when despite shall be done unto the Spirit of grace. Never may such a catastrophe ensue: but while it is the home and the shrine of the Gospel, may it obtain your present and your future support!
THE BEATITUDES—POVERTY OF SPIRIT.
REV. J. Rudge, d.d.
ST. SEPULCHRE'S CHURCH, SNOW HILL, NOVEMBER 14, 1824.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit; for their's is the kingdom of heaven."-MATTHEW, v. 3.
In the last discourse on these words, I suggested some general observations on the nature and character of that blessedness to which they refer. And our present employment is, to inquire into that heavenly temper of mind and disposition of soul, to which our Lord has annexed a beatitude, viz. poverty of spirit: "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for their's is the kingdom of heaven." And here, paradoxical as it may seem, poverty of spirit is one of the brightest jewels which adorn the Christian's crown, and one which he must never fail to wear during the whole of his pilgrimage through this earthly Canaan : nor must he dream that he can ever attain unto the heavenly one, the celestial Canaan, without this grace and ornament of the angels in light, and of the saints in glory. A man must be poor in his own spirit, before God fills him with the graces, and makes him rich with the gifts of his Spirit; and he must be sensible how lost and undone he is by nature and by wicked works, before he can obtain the health, and mercy, and salvation, which are by Jesus Christ. "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance; and not unto the whole, but to the sick; I am sent as a physician, to heal their maladies, and absolve them from their sins." Let them but feel their wound, and I will apply the cure-even the health and salvation of their souls. Thus to embrace the proffered medicine, and the healing remedy, all that is proud in thought, and lofty in imagination must be brought low, and humility must conduct the contrite spirit, where all, who sue for mercy, can alone find it, at the feet of Jesus.
That poverty of spirit is absolutely requisite, in order to obtain blessedness, is evident from the considerations to which I shall now advert. May they impress your minds with seriousness, and, by the Spirit of God, may this indispensable possession be now and everlastingly yours.
First, it is utterly impossible that we can ever receive the graces which are necessary to salvation, until we are "poor in spirit." While we are filled with lofty ideas of our own importance and self-sufficiency, we are not fit objects and recipients of divine grace. He that is full, requires nothing more; and he who is righteous in his own eyes, will not aspire to become nolier and better nor is the heart, which is full of pride and vanity, the proper soil upon which the seeds of the Spirit can be sown, and the fruits of righteousness can vegetate.