you? What are we to think of the blindness | JESUS: for he shall save his people from

of your understandings, and of the depravity of your affections? Indifferent to him?What are we to think of your regard to your own safety and happiness? Can you find salvation in any other? What will you do without him when you come to die? How will you appear before him when he is seated on his great white throne?


For once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, and "to them that look for him will he appear a second time, without sin unto salvation." See the Babe of Bethlehem, the Judge of all! Behold, he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him. But who may abide the day of his coming, and who shall stand when he appeareth! Happy those who have loved and followed him "in the regeneration!" He will receive them to himself, "that where he is there they may be also."

"But where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?"




And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.-Matt. i. 21.

their sins."

Here is a "name above every name:" a name which" is as ointment poured forth"it is JESUS. This name was not only given by the order of God, but explained by the same order. Jesus signifies Saviour. But this name was not peculiar to him-others had worn it. The Hebrew name which answers to Jesus is Joshua; and two persons had this name expressly given them under the Old Testament: the commander who succeeded Moses; and the high priest concerned in the building of the second temple. The Levites also in the days of Nehemiah confess to God; "According to thy manifold mercies thou gavest them saviours, who saved them out of the hand of their enemies." Such a saviour was Gideon and Samson, with many others.

The name then is common; but not the reason of the imposition-"For he shall save his people from their sins." As if he had said "Others have been called saviours because they have rescued the body; they were temporal deliverers; they saved the Jews from the Egyptians, the Philistines, the Midianites. But this child is called a Saviour for a nobler reason-he rescues the soul-he is an eternal Deliverer. He saves his people from their sins.'"

By this explanation, the angel not only but opposes the favourite prejudices of the distinguishes Jesus from every other saviour, nation to which he belonged. The Jews expected a Messiah who should be called a Saviour; but by this name they understood a hero, a conqueror who should break the civil yoke, free them from the tyranny of Rome, and if not lead them to universal empire, at least restore them to all their original dignity in their own land. But, O ye Jews," says the Angel, "the Saviour is come to restore you, not to an earthly Canaan, but a better, even a heavenly country. He is come to deliver you, not from civil bondage, but from spiritual slavery: not from Cæsar, but Satan. He is come to save you from your greatest enemies; and these are not the Romans-but your sins."


It is a wonderful event which we have this day been called to commemorate. The fulness of time is arrived: the prophecies are Accomplished: the promises are fulfilled: the expectations of the Church are realized: "the desire of all nations is come-and we have been with the shepherds at Bethlehem, and have seen "the babe wrapped in swaddlingclothes, and lying in a manger."

For what purpose has the son of God assumed our nature, and in circumstances of the deepest humiliation entered our world? A new star has graced his birth: "wise men" have traveled from the East to do him homage; "and a multitude of the heavenly host have praised God and said, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men!" Thus heaven and earth have borne witness to the importance of this event. But wherein does the importance of it appear? By what title answerable to his character shall we acknowledge him? Wherein lies our concern with him? And why are we so interested in his birth, as to make it the subject of our greatest joy?


Let us call to mind the address of the angel to Joseph, when he announced his conception of the Virgin Mary-"And she shall bring

We talk of enemies. What should we think of an adversary, who, filled with malice, and armed with power, should invade our

forth a son, and thou shalt call his name country, ravage our fields, destroy our cot

Let us not pass over this. Jesus came, not to suggest improvements in agriculture;plans of commerce; theories of civil policy. He left the governments of the world as he found them: these are things which fall within the reach of our wisdom to devise, and our power to accomplish.-But who could save a soul from sin?


him. This is that which renders man, though
the work of his hands, filthy and abomina-
ble; and constrains even the God of love, the
Father of mercies, to say, concerning him,
“The wicked shall not stand in my sight, I
hate all the workers of iniquity.'
Behold sin in its names.



tages and mansions, our palaces and temples; who should despoil us of our goods, tear us from our families, deprive us of our liberty, and lead us away in irons, to terminate a wretched existence in a dungeon or a mine! And oh! were a deliverer to arise to crush the foe, and to save the captives-how should we prize him! If he had suffered in the struggle, his wounds would be deemed scars of honour. When the ear heard him, it would bless him; and when the eye saw him, it would give witness to him. Our very children, made familiar with the story, would never see him pass along without exclaiming, Hosannah, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord!" But this enemy would be a friend, compared with sin: and such a deliverer, therefore, would be nothing, comHow is pared with the Saviour of sinners. it then that we feel so much indifference towards him; that we are not continually uttering the memory of his great goodness! "Let the that we are not daily praying whole earth be filled with his glory!" It is because we do not believe the enemy to be so dreadful. The reason is-that we entertain slight notions of sin. To judge of the importance of a remedy, it is necessary to know the malignity of the disease: to ascertain the claims of a benefactor to our gratitude and love, it is necessary for us to know the evils from which he delivers us.


For what term is there, expressive of reproach or misery; what image is there, that can produce aversion or fear; that is not employed by the Scriptures to represent sin? Sin! it is disobedience: it is rebellion: it is treason: it is murder: "it is the work of the devil." Sin! it is ignorance: it is folly: it is madness. Sin! it is blindness: it is deafness: it is dumbness: it is sickness: it is poison: it is slavery: it is plague: it is death it is hell! Now, as it is said of Nabal, " as the name is, so is the man;" the same may be observed of sin: as the name is, so is the thing. Sin is not libelled by any of these dreadful sentations; they are all given us by One who perfectly understands sin, and they fall infinitely short of the subject. For if we compare sin with other evils, it will be found substantially to contain them all, and to be the cause of all. This is the fountain which has imbittered all our streams, and the seed which has so thickly sown the world with wretchedness.


Behold therefore again the effects of sin. How different is man from what he was originally !—But sin has made this change. Sin has stripped him of his glory, and taken the crown from his head: "wo unto us that we have sinned!"

Every thing turns upon this. If sin be our worst enemy, it is easy to prove that he who saves us from it is our best friend. Let us then look at sin, and take three or four views of its evil and malignity.

Behold sin with regard to God. That must be the greatest evil, which is most opposite to the greatest good. In forming our estimate of sin, we are not to judge of it so much by the relation it bears to us, or to our fellow-creatures, as by its relation to God; for against Him it is committed; and every sin strikes at God as much as if no other being was affected by it; and notwithstanding its fatal effects with regard to mankind, we may say to God, of every transgression, "Against thee, thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight." Sin is enmity against God; against his attributes; against his government. God never yet revealed a design which sin hath not withstood; nor gave a command which sin has not trampled under foot. Sin deposes God from his sovereignty, abuses his goodness, abhors his holiness, vilifies his wisdom, insults and denies his omniscience, his justice, and his power. And hence nothing is so offensive to God. It is called the "abominable thing which he hates." And we read that he is "of purer eyes than to behold iniquity." It is a metaphor, taken from a person who has such a perfect abhorrence of a thing, that he cannot bear the sight; the very thought of it shocks

Observe the soul of man-it is sin that has
debased it, defiled it, robbed it of the image,
and banished it from the presence of God-it
is this that has filled it with confusion and
regrets-it is this that has produced unruly
passions, tormenting anxieties, a terrified
This was once all
conscience, a wounded spirit.
Take the body of man.
immortal, without a defect, a disease, a dan-
But "by sin death entered into the
world," and was crowned "king of terrors."
And now "man that is born of a woman is
of few days, and full of trouble." At his birth
he enters a labyrinth of thorns and briers, and
cannot move without "piercing himself
through with many sorrows." Even every
comfort has its cross, and every blessing its
And how little of the misery of the
world comes under our observation! Oh!
could we witness all the pains of the diseased
at this moment: could we behold all the ef-
fects of war, pestilence, and famine! Could
we see the bones of all the human race, from
the death of Abel to this very hour piled into
one immense heap-oh! what could we
think of an enemy capable of producing such
mischief as this!

Behold Adam and Eve, expelled from Para-
Behold the Deluge, sweeping away


"the world of the ungodly." Behold Sodom | ment!-How is it possible for us to think top and Gomorrah, "set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." See the plagues of Egypt, the destruction of the former inhabitants of Canaan, the dispersion and misery of the Jews, a people once dear to God-in all these instances, the evil of sin is brought down to a level with our senses. And it is sin also that has reduced the material creation to vanity, and doomed it to a general conflagration. As, under the law, the very house of the leper was to be pulled down, so it is with regard to this world. You say, Can trees, and valleys, and hills, and skies, be criminal? No; but they have been the unconscious instruments of the sinner's guilt, they have been contaminated by his use of them, and the day of God cometh, wherein "the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also, and all the works that are therein, shall be burned up."

Thus far we have traced the effects of sin down through the history of this world. But there is another world that has been running parallel with this, and which will continue when this is no more. And here the consequences of sin most tremendously appear.

Enter it and see. The first thing that strikes you, is the fall of an innumerable multitude of superior beings, hurled down from heaven-What roused the vengeance which pursues them with such severity? What is it that, in a moment, could transform angels into devils! A little of that envy, that pride, that independence of spirit which you think nothing of "he spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment."-And what place is that, "the smoke of whose torment ascendeth up for ever and ever?" Sin built hell; sin produced "the worm that never dies;" sin kindled "the fire that never shall be quench-ding of his blood we are ransomed, and by his ed." Oh! could you lay down your ear, and death we live. The case is this. Where the hear sin spoken of in its proper dialect, by the command of the law is broken, the curse of old sons of perdition! What do you suppose the law enters. Sin renders man obnoxious Judas now says of betraying his master for to punishment; and this punishment is as thirty pieces of silver; Saul of persecuting certain as the justice and the truth of God can David; Cain of killing his brother Abel! But make it. Now we had sinned, and therefore all this regards the present degrees of their must have suffered-had not the Saviour bemisery, not its future continuance. come our surety, and our substitute. But he, standing in our place, became answerable for us; "he has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." Thus it is said, the Lord “laid on him the iniquity of us all." And how was it laid upon him-but by way of expiation? And for what purpose was it laid upon him?-but that we might be released from a load which would have sunk us to the lowest hell. Hence it is said, “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. Once in the end of the world hath he appeared, to put away sin by the s

Hence, you must contemplate sin in the threatenings of the Scripture. Oh! read and tremble. Read of "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power"-read of a doom which I hope you will never hear-"Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." Now I reason thus, and a child can understand me—if God can righteously threaten all this misery, he can also righteously inflict it; and if he can righteously inflict such misery, sin must deserve it

and if sin deserves it deserves such punish-crifice of himself." In this sense he is so often

highly of its guilt!!

There is yet another way of judging of the evil of sin--and it is-by considering the means employed to remove it. Now there was only one Being in the universe equal to this work-the Lord of life and glory. By no other hand could this enemy fall; a thousand attempts had been made-but the victory was reserved for him.

And there are two things here worthy our remark.

The first is, that he derives from this work his highest title. His name is the memorial of this achievement; he will henceforth be known through all worlds as the conqueror of sin! And therefore we find, that though he is a Creator and Preserver, yet he is adored under the character of a Saviour, by all the saints on earth, and by all the angels in hea ven. "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and bless ing." "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God, be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

And the second is, That even in this glorious Personage, who alone was adequate to the undertaking, it required something peculiar and extraordinary to accomplish it. He does not deliver a sinner as he performed his other works. In order to save-he must be humbled and exalted-he must descend from heaven to earth-and ascend from earth to heaven.

Let us enter into this, and, II. Consider IN WHAT MANNER HE SAVES HIS PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS. Now he accomplishes their deliverance by price-and thus he redeems: and by power-and thus he renews: in other words, by his cross, and by his grace.

To save us, he must suffer: by the shed

aid to "die for us"-not only for our good, but in our place, and as our victim. How else could he have fulfilled the types under the law? We are assured from the writings of the New Testament, especially from the epistle to the Hebrews, that the daily and annual sacrifices offered by the Jews were typical of Christ: but if they typified him at all, it must have been in his death; and if they typified any thing in his death, it must have been the atonement which it made. They could not typify, in him, the death of a martyr, sealing his doctrine with his blood; or the death of an example illustrating the virtues which he had taught. These views of his death are true as far as they go; but they did not go far enough to reach the main thing, the thing which God determined from the foundation of the world to render prominent in his death, and which the Church has so beautifully expressed in these words"He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisemént of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."

And thus it is that he saves us from the guilt of sin. But, to take a full view of this part of the subject, it is necessary to observe, that by his atonement he not only removes guilt from the view of God, but also takes it from off the mind. For it is here alone that we find effectual relief. That which appeases God's wrath, can alone appease the sinner's conscience. This blood, which speaketh better things than that of Abel, addresses both God and the sinner-it says to the one," Forbear to strike;" and to the other, "Be encouraged to hope." It answers all that justice has to say in a way of claim, and unbelief in a way of objection. Thus by believing "we enter into rest." Our fears and jealousies subside; we draw near to God with humble confidence, and feel "a peace which passeth all understanding."


But to know whether our relief be really peace, or nothing more than ease-it is necessary to consider, not only how it is obtained, but by what it is accompanied. The peace he gives has purity with it, yea, purity in it. Those whom he redeems, he sanctifies; those whom he pardons, he renews. And hence you read of our being "saved by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost."

influence of connexions, and the fear of consequences? Would you not rejoice if God would take off the restraint, and allow you to live as you please? Would you not feel grateful towards him if he would permit you to live in sin, and not die in sorrow? Blessing him for the indulgence, would you not go forth, free and easy, and say, "Well, no longer will I be detained from worldly dissipation-my heart has been always in it. No longer will I avoid slander-I always found it the salt which gave a relish to conversation. I will now grind the faces of the poor, and debase myself even to hell, to get wealth-I loved money equally well before; but it was dreadful to think that no covetous man, who is an idolater, should have any inheritance in the kingdom of God-but now I can be covetous here, and safe hereafter?"

In attending to this process, let us remember, that he always saves us from the love of sin. Here is the difference between moral reformation and evangelical conversion. In the one, sin is avoided; but in the other, it is abhorred. For sin may be shunned where it is still loved; and the retreating sinner may look back, like Lot's wife, and bewail the idols he has been forced to leave. Am I addressing none who know what it is to forsake sin, only from a regard to reputation, from the L

Turn we to the Christian. Of the Redeemer's subjects it is said, "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power;" and among other things, he is willing to part with sin-with all sin-with even his dearest sins. His present hatred is greater than his former love. He now sees, not only what sin has cost him, but also what it cost the Redeemer. "Can I ever call that sweet, which he found so bitter; or deem that light, which he found so heavy? Can I ever be a friend to his enemy?-to a monster that killed him who is all my salvation, and all my desire?" A Christian may be surprised by sin, but he can never be reconciled to it. He has sworn eternal hatred against it-and he took the oath under the cross.

But is this all? Is he held in bondage by a tyrant he detests? No. Jesus opens the prison to them that are bound. He saith to the prisoners, Go forth. Sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace. Thus sin is dethroned-not only in the heart, but also in the life. By the influence of his Holy Spirit, he increasingly mortifies their corruptions, and enables them to "lay aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, and, as new-born babes, to desire the sincere milk of the word, that they may grow thereby." The means of grace are now prized; and as they are used with a humble dependence and a holy purpose, they are not used in vain. In waiting upon the Lord, their "strength is renewed: they mount up with wings, as eagles; they run, and are not weary, and they walk, and are not faint." Losses and trials, and all the dispensations of Providence, are now also under a gracious agency, and are made to "work together for their good."

But while the reign of sin is thus destroyed, the remains of it continue: and these are deplored and felt by the Christian as his. greatest distress. 66 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of

things relieve his mind, and animate him in the warfare. The one is, that his Saviour is "able to keep him from falling;" and the other is, that he will present him faultless before the presence of his glory, with exceeding joy." Then will he shake himself from all his dust, and "put on his beautiful garments" of complete holiness. What a blissful change! When he examines himself, he can find no ignorance, no pride, no unbelief, no weakness-He is become a part of a "glorious Church, and has no spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing!"

this death?" In these circumstances, two | God, and God could derive no service from you: you would remain strangers to peace and pleasure; and the cause of your misery would be left behind. Sin and sorrow are inseparable. God himself cannot separate them: he can only destroy the one by removing the other. He makes men happy by making them holy.

But this respects only the soul-yonder still lies the poor body. Death is the consequence of sin; and while the body is in the grave, the believer is not saved from all the natural effects of sin. But Jesus comes"the resurrection and the life. He will change this vile body, that it may be fa- dences. They consider it as a species of unshioned like unto his glorious body, accord-belief even to question their being the people ing to the working whereby he is able even of God; but they retain the love of the world to subdue all things unto himself." in their hearts, and discover the same unsubNow behold the work of the Saviour per-dued tempers as others. They think it would fectly accomplished, and the deliverance of be wrong to allow sin either to distress or his people absolutely complete. Behold him alarm them-sin cannot hurt a believer-in"delivering up the kingdom to God, even the deed sin has not the same evil when found in Father," and hear him saying, "All these I them, as when found in others: “he hath not engaged to save from their sins; and lo! they beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen are all sinless." perverseness in Israel!" This error does not, like many others, arise from mere ignorance. And therefore the apostle Jude calls those who hold it "ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lasciviousness." And they would do well to remember that another Apostle says, "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." And the Saviour himself says, "But these mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me." The character here given of the Lord's people is, that they are saved from their sins: and this is what every truly awakened soul desires.

Besides these thoughtless creatures which I have mentioned, there are some who are more systematically wrong with regard to this subject. They profess to glory in the Saviour's cross, but they will have nothing to do with his sceptre. His righteousness is their darling theme; but they mean by ita fine robe to cover a filthy back. They are fond of the assurance of faith; but they intend by it a speculative persuasion of their safety, underived from and unconnected with any gracious operations and qualities, as evi

To conclude. Let us observe, First, If his name be called Jesus, because he shall save his people from their sins, how awfully deceived are those who hope to be saved in them! And yet, a degree of this confidence too commonly prevails. There are few indeed but entertain some expectation of going to heaven when they die, however unholy they may live. Hence, though conscious that they love sin, and indulge themselves in the practice of it, they feel nothing like despair or distress. But upon what principle is your hope founded? Did you never read that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord? Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?" Did the Saviour come to give you a license to sin with impunity? His coming was designed to make sin appear "exceeding sinful;" his aim, as you have heard, was to save us from it. "He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil." And what notion have you of salvation, unaccompanied with a deliverance from sin? This is like saving a man from drowning, by keeping him under the water which is destroying him; or like recovering a man from sickness, by leaving him under the malady which constitutes the complaint. Were it possible for you to be pardoned and not sanc-tation, that Jesus Christ is come into the world tified, you could enjoy no communion with to save sinners."

Therefore, Secondly, Here is relief and consolation for those who are sensible of the evil of sin, and are asking, “What must I do to be saved?" Though deliverance appears so unspeakably desirable, you feel that you are wholly unable to accomplish it yourselves. Nothing in your sufferings, or doings, can wash away the pollution, or subdue the influence of sin. Such despair as this makes way for the hope of the Gospel. The convictions, which you feel so painful and alarming, are necessary, to enable you to perceive the meaning, and to feel the importance of this glorious dispensation. And these also prepare you to welcome the approach of such a peculiar Saviour. So that to you it is not only "a faithful saying," but "worthy of all accep

Open, then, your hearts,

« VorigeDoorgaan »