« VorigeDoorgaan »
That a person of a nature different from all other men; nay superior, for so he is distinctly described to be, to all created beings, whether men or angels; united with the Deity as no other person is united; that such a person should come down from heaven, and suffer upon earth the pains of an excruciating death, and that these his submissions and sufferings should avail and produce a great effect in the procurement of the future salvation of mankind, cannot but excite wonder. But it is by no means improbable on that account: on the contrary it might be reasonably supposed beforehand, that if any thing was disclosed to us touching a future life, and touching the dispensations of God to men, it would be something of a nature to excite admiration. In the world in which we live, we may be said to have some knowledge of its laws, and constitution, and nature: we have long experienced them: as also of the beings with whom we converse, or amongst whom we are conversant, we may be said to understand something: at least they are familiar to us: we are not surprised with appearances which every day occur. But of the
world and the life to which we are destined, and of the beings amongst whom we may be brought, the case is altogether different. Here is no experience to explain things; no use or familiarity to take off surprise, to reconcile us to difficulties, to assist our apprehension. In the new order of things, according to the new laws of nature, every thing will be suitable; suitable to the beings who are to occupy the future
world; but that suitableness cannot, as it seems to me, be possibly perceived by us, until we are acquainted with that order and with those beings. So that it arises, as it were, from the necessity of things, that what is told us by a divine messenger of heavenly affairs, of affairs purely spiritual, that is, relating purely to another world, must be so comprehended by us, as to excite admiration.
But secondly; partially as we may, or perhaps must, comprehend this subject, in common with all subjects which relate strictly and solely to the nature of our future life, we may comprehend it quite sufficiently for one purpose; and that is gratitude. It was only for a moral purpose that the thing was revealed at all: and that purpose is a sense of gratitude and obligation. This was the use which the apostles of our Lord, who knew the most, made of their knowledge. This was the turn they gave to their meditations upon the subject; the impression it left upon their hearts. That a great and happy Being should voluntarily enter the world in a mean and low condition, and humble himself to a death upon the cross, that is, to be executed as a malefactor, in order, by whatever means it was done, to promote the attainment of salvation to mankind, and to each and every one of themselves, was a theme they dwelt upon with feelings of the warmest thankfulness; because they were feelings proportioned to the magnitude of the benefit. Earthly benefits are nothing compared with those which are heavenly. That they felt from
That, in my opinion, we
the bottom of their souls. do not feel as we ought. never ceased to testify, to acknowledge, to express the deepest obligation, the most devout consciousness of that obligation, to their Lord and Master; to him whom, for what he had done and suffered, they regarded as the finisher of their faith, and the author of their salvation.
THE EFFICACY OF THE DEATH OF CHRIST CONSISTENT WITH THE NECESSITY OF A GOOD LIFE: THE ONE BEING THE CAUSE, THE OTHER THE CONDITION, OF SALVATION.
ROMANS VI. 1.
What shall we say then? shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.
THE same Scriptures, which represent the death of Christ as having that which belongs to the death of no other person, namely, an efficacy in procuring the salvation of man, are also constant and uniform in representing the necessity of our own endeavours, of our own good works, for the same purpose. They go further. They foresaw that in stating, and still more when they went about to extol and magnify, the death of Christ, as instrumental to salvation, they were laying a foundation for the opinion, that men's own works, their own virtue, their personal endeavours, were superseded and dispensed with. In proportion as the sacrifice of the death of Christ was effectual, in the same proportion were these less necessary if the death of Christ was sufficient, if
redemption was complete, then were these not necessary at all. They foresaw that some would draw this consequence from their doctrine, and they provided against it.
It is observable, that the same consequence might be deduced from the goodness of God in any way of representing it: not only in the particular and peculiar way in which it is represented in the redemption of the world by Jesus Christ, but in any other way. Saint Paul, for one, was sensible of this; and, therefore, when he speaks of the goodness of God even in general terms, he takes care to point out the only true turn which ought to be given to it in our thoughts-" Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance, and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" as if he had said,-With thee, I perceive, that the consideration of the goodness of God leads to the allowing of thyself in sin: this is not to know what that consideration ought in truth to lead to it ought to lead thee to repentance, and to no other conclusion.
Again; when the apostle had been speaking of the righteousness of God displayed by the wickedness of man, he was not unaware of the misconstruction to which this representation was liable, and which it had, in fact, experienced: which misconstruction he states thus," We be slanderously reported, and some affirm, that we say, let us do evil that good may come." This insinuation, however, he regards as