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Of this description is the awful and sublime passage in the Revelations, which I have selected for the subject of my meditations. It transports us to the beginning of time, and discloses the eternal counsels of divine wisdom, and the provisions of infinite benevolence, for restoring fallen helpless man to the image of his maker, and to the favour of an offended God: it disperses the dark cloud, which sin had spread over the newly created world; it announces the opening of the gates of immortality, which had been closed against man in consequence of his disobedience and demerit; and it reveals to us the fountain in which alone the defilement of sin can be cleansed, that of the blood of "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world."
To this object let us direct our devout contemplations; it is the rock of our faith, the source from which piety derives all its hope and confidence, a sure refuge against the calamities of this life, the promise of an eternity of bliss. "The Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world," is no unmeaning metaphor; it is Jesus, "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." This is the mystery which angels desired to look into, and which, in fulness of time, was revealed for the consolation of a guilty, desponding, and perishing world.
This is he, who was obscurely announced to our first parents, as the redeemer of their fallen race. It is to him, that the promise of the Almighty to Abraham refers, "In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." The circumstances of the sacrifice of Isaac, afford a typical representation of the solemn and important sacrifice of the Son of God. The various expiations for sin, prescribed by the ceremonial law of the Jews, prefigure the oblation and atonement on the cross. This was the star that was to come out of Israel; and the sceptre, seen in prophetic vision by Balaam which should rise out of Jacob. This is Jesus, whose coming and sufferings are so minutely foretold and pathetically described by Isaiah. This is the son of the virgin, predicted by the same prophet; and his triumphant exclamation, "for unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace," is verified and fulfilled in the person of Jesus, "the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world."
"What is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou visitest him?" was the pious effusion of the royal psalmist on contemplating the wonders of the visible creation.
How would his astonishment, his rapture, his devotion have been excited, if he had seen the incarnation and sufferings of the Son of God, for the redemption of mankind. The magnificence of the orb of day attracts the admiration of the world, and his effulgence dazzles the eyes of all beholders: brilliant as he is, he is but the creature of the Almighty, appointed by him to measure time, to diffuse warmth and light, to give vigour to life, and life to vegetation. But Jesus, the sun of righteousness, the true object of spiritual contemplation, was begotten of his Father, before all worlds, dwelling in his glory from all eternity; his beams are the rays of divine mercy and benevolence, dissipating the gloom of sin, cheering the sinner's heart, kindling the flames of devotion in the pious breast, and by their animating powers recalling the dead to life, and reproducing the divine image, obscured and defaced by the pollution of sin.
Is this the language of truth or of mystery? It is both; but God has spoken, and it is our duty to believe, to be grateful, and to adore. The world by wisdom knows not God, and we know no more of him, than what he hath thought proper to reveal of himself. All creation is a mystery; our birth, our life, our death, and the ways of Providence, are not less mysterious to our finite understandings than our resurrection from the dead, and the redemption of mankind through the atoning blood of a crucified Saviour.
Behold here the malignity of sin, which could require so great a sacrifice! Behold, the merciful love of God which could provide it! Whilst our souls dwell in the flesh, the foul nature of sin, in its full enormity, may not be conceivable by us. We feel ourselves affected and disordered by it; and the soul, gloomy and restless under its dominion, is incapable of perceiving the mercy and benevolence of its Creator, and of that return of gratitude and affection, which his mercy and goodness every moment claim.
The diabolical explosions of malice, hatred, revenge, lust, and jealousy, which so frequently excite our detestation and abhorrence, are visible; but the malignant quality, which engenders and nourishes them, is no sensible object; nor can our observation reach all the consequences of sin. The effects of a single act of iniquity, though we cannot trace them, may extend to generations unborn; and as earthquakes and tempests disfigure and disturb the earth and its atmosphere, so sin disorders and agitates the moral world. But the moral government of the Almighty, like all his perfections, is infinite: it is not circumscribed by the sphere which we inhabit; and the contagion of human iniquity, (I mention the supposition with diffidence,) may have an influence be
yond the limits of our earth, like the principle of attraction which, to us invisible, operates between the sun and the revolving planets. Sin is rebellion against the sovereign Ruler of the universe, it is enmity to him, and the grossest offence against his purity and holiness. Light and darkness, the concentrated splendour of a thousand suns opposed to the deepest gloom, affords a faint elucidation of the infinite opposition between the impurity of sin and the purity of our Creator. All elucidations derived from human ideas, or sensible analogies, must be infinitely inadequate to describe it; but the atonement made to divine justice for the expiation of sin, which naturally rouses all the efforts of the imagination to conceive the malignity of it, is alone a stupendous and all-sufficient demonstration of its character.
He by whom the Father made all worlds, the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person, who upholdeth all things by the word of his power, to whom the Father saith, "Thy throne, O God! is for ever and ever;" this divine person laid aside his glory, became man, and suffered his blood to be shed, as an atonement for the sins of the world!
The punishment of sin in the world to come, is described, in the New Testament, in terms of terrific import, in language suitable to the magnitude of the atonement required for it. The Son of God is the expiatory sacrifice: the worm that never dies, the fire that is never quenched, mark the dreadful nature of the punishment which inevitably awaits impenitent sinners. If the death of the Son of God were necessary to redeem his people from their sins, what conclusion can the consideration suggest, as to the nature of that punishment, but that indeed it must be most terrible?
Enough has now been said on the character of sin, to impress our minds with the deepest humiliation, (which, but for the light of revelation, would sink into despair,) when we reflect upon ourselves as the polluted offpring of a corrupt stock. On this point, the word of God is positive and explicit. Behold I was shapen in iniquity, says David, and in sin did my mother conceive me. How can he be clean that is born of a woman? says Job; yea, the stars are not pure in the sight of God, how much less man, that is a worm. There is none righteous, no not one; there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God: all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God, says St. Paul.
If God be of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, as the prophet Habakkuk teaches, well may we ask, in the words of Job, How can man be justified with God? Let us, then, as becometh
creatures formed out of the dust of the earth, as sinners and suppliants, prostrating ourselves before the throne of divine grace, ask of him who can alone resolve the question. His answer is ready,— Through the blood of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world; for the blood of Jesus cleanseth from all sin.
If such, then, be the character of sin, what shall we say to those who make a mock of it, who consider the grossest violations of the laws of God as venial trespasses, and indulge their sensual appetites without fear or restraint? Poor, deluded, infatuated mortals, whom the majesty of Omnipotence awes not, who deride the terrors of his vengeance, who reject the gracious offers of his pardon and mercy, and, in the language of the New Testament, crucify Christ again. Yet think, ere the grave closes upon you, ere eternity opens to receive you, that hope will then be no more. You will then call upon the mountains and rocks, ❝ Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb." May the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ere yet it be too late, awaken your fears, and rouse you to repentance; and may the Holy Spirit imprint this awful truth upon your souls, and enable you, through faith in Christ, to live up to the sense of it: "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord."
If such, again, be the character of sin, and such the state of human nature under the dominion of it, what shall we say to others, who professing themselves believers in Christ, consider the scriptural expressions of the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, as terms of no signification, or application, to christians of these days? Are the words of our Saviour to Nicodemus of no meaning," Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God;" and, "that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit?" Heaven is the residence of the spirits of the just made perfect; carnal ideas have no admittance there, and the atonement on the cross will not avail without that spiritual renewal, that purification of the heart and affections, which the gospel throughout inculcates as indispensably necessary to salvation, and ascribes to the operation of divine agency on the heart of man. To them, I also say, poor, deluded, infatuated mortals, may you, through the grace of God, be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God; and that being created anew in Christ Jesus unto good works, you may not be estranged from God.
Blessed, thrice blessed, are those, whom the Holy Spirit enables to see in Jesus, as it were personified, the love of God
reconciling man to himself: who rejoice in their salvation through Christ, like a bird escaped from the snares of the fowler, like a child finding refuge in its parent's arms from impending destruction, or like a banished criminal restored to his country, and the society of his friends. Such is the joy of a true believer in Jesus, when he compares the period of his estrangement from God, with the consolations of his regenerate state. With passions subdued, and affections spiritualized, inflamed with love for God and Christ, and filled with charity to man, he finds all joy and peace in believ ing: he feels himself liberated from the chains of sin and death, and sees the portals of heaven unbarred for his admission, by the power of him, who first rose from the dead, and brought life and immortality into the world. He rejoices in hope, but with humility, trusting solely in Christ, who, he knows, will not suffer one of those to be lost, whom God hath given to him. In this confidence, with all patience and gratitude, he prepares to attend the bridal feast of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, and assumes his wedding garment "washed white" with his blood. Believing yet humble, animated but not presumptuous, hoping yet fearing, he lifts up his eyes and his hands to God and his Saviour, and joining the chorus of the angelic host, exclaims with pious rapture, blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever. Amen. Ch. Ob.
MALACHI IV. 2. "The SUN of righteousness shall arise with HEALING IN HIS WINGS."
I LATELY met with an explanation of this metaphor, so descriptive of the Redeemer's character, which was not more agreeable and satisfactory to me, than I am persuaded it must be to the readers of the magazine. An English divine having received information from a correspondent at Smyrna, of a wind which there begins to blow at the rising of the sun, so salubrious in its effects, as to be generally spoken of under the name of the doctor, it occurred to him, that " the wings of the wind" is a scripture phrase, and that Malachi might have known the healing virtues of the wind mentioned by his correspondent: he therefore concluded, that the prophet from thence takes his image, of the sun rising on the wings of healthful winds, to represent the benefit which men receive from the knowledge, the efficacy, and the Spirit of Christ, by the benefit which they receive from the rising sun, attended with breezes which refresh the spirits, and brace the nervous system.