« AnteriorContinuar »
Ess. x.] General Observations.
369 in his reign of glory; that he by whom, in the beginning, all things were created, is yet upholding all things by the word of his power, and, in an auful day to come, will fold up the heavens and the earth as a vesture; that he who, before his incarnation, was the spiritual governor and inspirer of his people, poured forth the Holy Spirit after his ascension, and is still the author, as well as the minister of every Christian grace; that he, who originally thought it not robbery to be equal with God, is now a joint object of prayer and praise with the Father, at whose right hand he is for ever exalted—when, in perfect correspondence with these evidences, we view, as the centre of our subject, that glorious delineation, presented to us in the Gospel, of the Son of God, actually manifest in the flesh, and yet assuming the character, exercising the attributes, and receiving the honours of deitywhen, lastly, we reflect on the interesting fact, that Jesus Christ is denominated God or Jehovah, in connexion succcessively with his preexistence, his birth, his ministry, his death, his resurrection, his reign, and his judgments—when we bring all these points together, compare them, and mark their coincidence-we are obliged to confess that evidences at once so diversified, and so accordant, at once consisting of so many parti.cular parts, and constituting so harmonious and perfect a whole, are complete and irresistible.
For my own part, I may venture to acknowledge a firm conviction, (grounded on long-continued study and reflection) that I must either give up the inspiration of Scripture, and with it, perhaps the truth of Christianity itself, or allow the absolute and eternal divinity of Jesus Christ. In choosing my alternative, I cannot for a moment hesitate ; for as, on the one hand, the inspiration of Scripture and the truth of Christianity rest on a basis which the profoundest 370 Conclusion.
(Ess. x. thought and widest investigation serve only to establish, so, on the other hand, the glorious doctrine of “God manifest in the flesh," although, as to its mode, deeply mysterious, will ever be considered worthy of all acceptation by those who are acquainted with the depth of their natural degradation, and know their need of an omnipotent Redeemer.
ON THE REDEMPTION OF MANKIND.
IN the two preceding Essays we have been engaged, on the one hand, in contemplating the fall and moral ruin of our species; our loss of the image of God, and with it of eternal happiness; our subjection to the dominion of Satan; and our liability, under the curse of the law, to everlasting destruction, and, on the other hand, we have surveyed the evidences of Scripture respecting the person and nature of the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ—a survey which, I trust, has been amply sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of the doctrine of his proper and unchangeable divinity. Such a course of investigation will be found to afford the most suitable introduction to that comprehensive and all-important topic of Christian theology—the Redemption of mankind.
What, we may justly inquire, was the mighty and equivalent purpose for which this infinitely-glorious Person, the Son of God, who is one with the Father in the divine nature, and is, therefore, himself JEHOVAH, did so marvellously humble himself—took our nature upon him, in that nature underwent every species of contumely and contradiction of sinners, and finally died, on the cross, a cruel and shameful death?
When we reflect on the perfect adaptation which always subsists, and is generally apparent, in the ope
372 The Equivalent Purpose, [Ess. XI. ration both of nature and of Providence, between the cause and the effect, the means and the end—when we thus take analogy as the guide of our reasoningwe can scarcely avoid perceiving how strong an improbability attaches to the supposition that SUCH A ONE should not only come into the world, but should live, suffer, and die, as a man, for the single purpose of revealing the truth. Experience teaches us that any inspired person, whose divine mission was attested by miracles, might have been an edequate instrument for such a purpose : for it is evidently on this simple ground that Christians are unanimous in giving their credence to the doctrines delivered to the Jews by Moses, and to the followers of Jesus Christ by his apostles. No doubt, to reveal the truth was one of the offices of our blessed Saviour, that chief of prophets; nor ought we ever to forget that it was another of his offices, by his holy and charitable life and conversation on earth, to institute that perfect pattern, by which the conduct of his disciples, in all ages, was to be formed and regulated. For, Jesus Christ is the Image of the invisible God; and the perfection of the Christian character consists in its conformity to that Image-in its resemblance to the divine model.
But, important and salutary as these offices were, the peculiar circumstances of the case are such as inevitably lead us to believe, that, in humbling himself from the height of his divine glory, in assuming our frail and suffering nature, and in submitting, even to the death of the cross, the Son of God (in unison of counsel with the Father who sent him) had yet higher, nobler, and more comprehensive, purposes in view. When we consider the infinite dignity of our Heavenly Visitor, and the marvellous condescension which he displayed in visiting us, it seems impossible for us not to conclude, that such a dispensation of di
Ess. xi.] for which Christ came, vine mercy towards us was intended to supply ALL our spiritual need.
It is true that we need information respecting heavenly things; for, without such information, we are, by nature, in great darkness. It is true also, that, as moral agents, we require, at the hands of our Heavenly Father, a revelation of his law; for, unless it is revealed to us, we are unable to obey it. Nor can we deny that it is a vast advantage to our weakness, to behold the requisitions of that law embodied in a public and perfect example. Nevertheless, were information, precept, and example, the only blessings conferred on us, through the dispensation of the Gospel, all our need would be far indeed from being supplied. Powerless and corrupt as we are, we should still be left to perish in our sins; and the light thus communicated to us, if unaccompanied with further help, would only aggravate our woe, and render our destruction more terrible. Where is the individual who understands the " plague of his own heart," who is not aware that he stands in need, not only of information, but of reconciliation with God; not only of light, but of life not only of precept and example, but of power to obey the one and to imitate the other? Unquestionably, the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is no message of glad tidings to us, unless it proclaims to us indemnity and curethe forgiveness of sins that are past, and a deliverance from sin for the future. Thus, and thus only, does it offer to us the supply of all our spiritual need.
This plain course of reasoning, grounded on scriptural principles already recognized, leads us, with little difficulty, to the conclusion, that the Son of God did, indeed, come into the world in order to bestow upon us, not only information, precept, and example, but in. demnity and cure; or, in a single word, REDEMPTION. But, happily, this is a subject on which we are not left to