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THE GROUNDS OF THE BELIEVER'S TRIUMPH
IN THE CROSS OF CHRIST.
DELIVERED ON À SACRÀMENTAL OCCASION
BY THE REVEREND
DAVID TAPPAN, D. D. LATE, HOLLIS, PROFESSOR OF DIVINITY, IN HARVARD COLLEGE,
GAL. vi. 14. But God forbid that I sbould glory, save in the Crois of our Lord Jestis
PERHAPS, there is no surer criterion of a man's inward and ruling character, of the noble or base sentiments of his heart, than the quality of the objects in which he principally glories. If we see a man exulting in exterior advantages, in a graceful person or address, or in worldly wisdom and power, wealth and reputation, and the tinsel splendor which accom. panies them, we immediately pronounce him to possess a superficial, contracted, and ignoble mind. But if a person appears to place his chief glory in intel. lectual, moral, or religious accomplishments, his character strikes the judicious eye as in some degree noble and excellent. Yet even here, there is room for fatal deception : for a character, remarkable for attachment even to the cause of religion, may be very defective, yea worthless, in the view of Heaven; ben cause it may want the main spring and soul of moral excellence, and be only a mere artful or refined modi-. fication of ruling selfishness and pride.
Such in fact was the complexion of many christian professors, and even teachers in the apostolic age. A spurious set of religious instructors had insinuated themselves into several of the churches, and that of Gallatia in particular, and poisoned the minds of many of its members. These teachers and their proselytes gloried in their zeal for religion ; that is, for the external appendages of it, for the showy but antiquated ceremonies of the Jewish ritual; while they overlooked and opposed their true spirit and design. The apostle, having with great force of argument and eloquence vindicated and established the true gospel scheme, against the corrupt mixtures of these heretical seducers, proceeds at the close of this excellent epistle, to sum up their character, and contrast it with his own.. They gloried in making a fair shew in the flesh, and in seducing over great numbers to their own party." He glories, not in the shadow or pompous parade of religion, but in the reality; not in gaining proselytes to his own cause, but in enlisting the souls of men under the banner of a crucified Redeemer. God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.'
This solemn declaration of St. Paul, respecting himself, presents the moral picture of every genuine christian, and therefore fairly leads to the following inquiry--
On what grounds does the christian believer so highly estcem and even triumph in the cross of Christ?
The phrase here employed to express the object of tlie apostle's triumph, denotes, not barely the visible scene, much less the material engine, of our Lord's sufferings on Mount Calvary ; but the whole series of of his humiliation, of which his deathon the cross, was the most eminent and the crowning instance. These sufferings of the Saviour, and the virtue or obedience which he exercised in them, viewed in all their connexions, exhibit a spectacle most august
and magnificent; a spectacle, which God himself be. holds with divine satisfaction, and which angels contemplate with awful rapture, No wonder then, that redeemed men, that penitent and humble believers, who owe their life, their hope, their all, to the bleed. ing cross, regard it with high esteem and exulting joy.
For, in the first place, they behold in it the most majestic and the most endearing display of the divine perfections.
The atoning sacrifice of Christ holds up the mo. ral character and government of God to the view of the intelligent system, in a light equally and transcendently awful and amiable. Awful, as it repre. sents him devoting the favorite of his bosom to th most complicated and unparralleled sufferings, rather than he would shew the least indulgence to sin. Amiable, as it represents this terrible display of justice, to flow, not from any want of tenderness towards the excellent sufferer ; for the Saviour himself was at all times the object of his Father's inconceivable affec, tion, and was now doing that, with which he was infinitely well pleased : and the whole scene of his humiliation was also the appointment and fruit of the richest love and compassion in God toward our revolted, miserable race, This manifestation of divine severity, therefore, on the person of our representa, tive, was evidently dictated by a wise, impartial, comprehensive benevolence, by the supreme regard which Jehovah, as the head of the moral world, owes to his own honor and the public good.
The cross of Christ, then, is the most striking, practical comment on that most amiable character of Deity--- God is love.. For it collects all the scattered rays of divine excellence to a point, and unites them in one blaze of glorious love. It exhibits the divine wisdom and power, holiness and justice, as but so many different modes, or exhibitions, of enlightened, unbounded benevolence, by which it inva
riably seeks, and most effectually reaches, it's one favorite object, the universal good.
In the cross, we behold the divine greatness endeared by goodness, and goodness enhanced and awfully dignified by its union with greatness. We see the stern face of justice softened into the gentle, alluring aspect of mercy; while mercy is sacredly guarded, and made an object of veneration, by the union of justice. In a word, the divine character, in its various branches or modifications, is here unfolded to view, in a manner peculiarly marvellous and surprising, plain and familiar, harmonious and complete, benign and endearing,
No wonder, then, that the gospel believer, who possesses a good moral taste, who is a cordial friend to God and his glory, should be supremely delighted with the cross of Christ ; should triumph in a display of Deity at once so glorious and so beneficent; especially when he beholds those very circumstances enhancing this display, which to a superficial eye seem most to eclipse it. The pain, the disgrace, the appearance of criminality and baseness, attending that kind of execution, to which the founder of our reli. gion submitted, have been urged by its foes, as the greatest objection against it. But this seeming badge of infamy is one of the brightest ornaments of christi. anity For hereby the death of its great author was made to correspond with his life. It was fit, that a life of such voluntary, extreme poverty, meanness,
and sorrow should be completed by a death uncommonly bitter and odious; that the union of both, might form one entire and glorious sacrifice to the cause of truth and virtue, to the honor of God, and the happiness of man. It was fit that He should publicly die a repuited malefactor before men, who had espoused the cause of real and notorious criminals in the sight of God; that He should be condemned and executed, by the sentence of public justice, and of God's visible
minister here below, who had undertaken by his death to satisfy the public justice of the Supreme Ruler of the universe. "In a word, it was wise and congruous, that the sufferings of such a public character should be marked with a degree of infamy and sorrow, which might best suit and demonstrate, both the greatness of his own love and zeal, and of our criminality and ill desert; which might best illustrate the grandeur both of the divine perfections, and of the future inheritance hereby procured for his followers; and which might exhibit to them the most complete and encouraging pattern of patient, constant, self-denied virtue and obedience; and so mark out to their feet, the path which must lead them through affliction to glory.
Which leads us to observe farther, that in the cross we have the brightest manifestation of the glories of the redeemer. The depth of his abasement operated as a foil to set off the majesty of his person and the splendor of his character. Never did He display before to equal advantage, such composed, gentle, condescending dignity. The successive stages of his last sufferings, in the garden of Gethsemane, in the hall of the high priest, in the court of Herod, at the tribunal of Pilate, on the hill of Calvary, were so many theatres, on which he publicly acted the sublime of virtue ; on which he displayed his immoveable constancy in the cause of truth and rectitude; his triumphant meckness and patience under the most inju. rious treatment and the most grievous afflictions; his entire resignation to the will of God, and peaceable submission to the law and power of man; his invincible attachment to the divine honor and our happiness; his unshaken faith and trust in his heavenly father, under so sharp a trial ; his unexampled charity and greatness of soul in pitying, excusing, and praying for his very murderers. These excellent virtues shine forth from the ignominious cross, with