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it uncertain and fluctuating; depending upon times and seasons, upon companions and opportunities? If so, it is to be feared that the principle from which it springs is not pure. The true principle of obedience powerfully urges to obedience, and, without it, an unsteady conduct will prove continually that the heart is not right with God.
2. Let us learn from this subject the necessity of being reconciled to God, in order to possess a right principle of obedience.
By nature man is alienated from God, his service, and his pure and holy law. Till this enmity, which prevails in the heart, is removed, there can be no true principle of holiness. To remove this, contemplate the love of God in Christ; hear how God invites you to return to him; "God was in Christ reconciling the word to himself, not imputing their tresspasses unto them, and hath committed unto us (ministers) the word of reconciliation. Now, then, we are ambassadors for Christ; as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you, in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." These few words contain the whole of what is necessary to produce a change of heart. God is willing to be reconciled to thee, O sinner! He invites thee to be reconciled to him. He has removed every obstacle in the way. He has made his only-begotten Son, who knew no sin, to be a sin offering for you, that you might be made the righteousness of God in him. Let this love of God produce its due effect on your heart. Reject not God's gracious offer. Surrender yourself to him. "Return to God, for he will abundantly pardon." Study his character, and you will find it to be full of goodness and mercy. To know God is to love him, and to love him, is to obey him.
3. And ye who do live, in a measure, under the influence of the fear of God, seek to cultivate it. Cultivate it by acquainting yourselves, yet further, with
the Gospel of Christ; in which is contained every thing to soften the hard, and to cleanse the polluted, heart. Set God always before you, for he is ever present with you. Accustom yourself to look upon him as your Benefactor, your Deliverer, your Friend, your Father. Be afraid of losing his favour. In his favour is life. There is no wretchedness to be compared with that of him who lives without God. Habituate your mind to pure motives. Think not merely of the inconveniences of sin, but consider sin as the greatest evil, because it separates you from God. Act from this principle: and accustom yourself to reason always as Joseph here did; "How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God!"
THE WORK OF CHRIST
Luke. iv. 18, 19.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor: he hath sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty, them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
THESE, I need scarcely say, are the words of the prophet Isaiah, spoken by him in the spirit of prophecy, concerning the office of the Messiah, and here claimed by Christ as relating to himself, and descriptive of his own work. When he was at Nazareth, perhaps for the first time after he had entered on his mission, he went, as he had done in other cities, into the synagogue; and the fame of his preaching and miracles having gone before him, the minister out of respect or curiosity, or following the common practice on such occasions, invited him to read and give his exhortation to the people. "And there was delivered unto
him the book of the Prophet Isaias; and when he had opened the book, he found" (in the sixty-first chapter, which was probably the lesson of the day,) "the place where it was written, the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor: he hath sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and gave it again to the minister, and sat down," according to the custom among the Jews in teaching; whereas, in reading the Scripture, they stood, by way of distinction and reverence. "And the eyes of all that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears." How he continued this discourse we are not informed; but the purport of it is evident from the opening. It shewed the of fice in which he himself was engaged, to be the very same with that which the prophet had described; and it explained the gracious nature of that office, for we are told that the hearers "bare him witness," (assenting probably to the justice of his claim as the Messiah,) and "wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth;" at the beneficent nature of the mission which was represented as his own.
The whole of our Lord's address on this occasion would, doubtless, have been invaluable. But though we are not gratified with this discourse, yet, from his other sermons upon record, from the general object of his mission, and from the discourses and writings of his inspired Apostles, we may collect, at least in substance, what he would probably say, concerning the persons here described and the gracious office of their Redeemer.
I. Our first inquiry, then, shall be respecting the character or circumstances, of the persons described in my text.
It seems clear that this whole passage is metaphorical; for allowing that a literal sense may be applied to parts of it with propriety, yet there are other parts which will not bear that sense. He did, indeed, preach the Gospel to those who were literally the poor of the world; and gave sight to those who were naturally blind; yet he did not literally open the doors of prisons, to give deliverance to captives; nor did he literally demand the year of jubilee for his nation, at which the prophet glanced when he spoke of "the acceptable year of the Lord."
Assuming, therefore a metaphorical signification of the words, we must consider what kind of figurative bondage, or blindness, or poverty, corresponds best with those various offices of mercy, for which Messiah came: and we shall be at no loss to discover this, when we reflect that he came to be a Saviour from sin; and that the state of sinners is frequently illustrated in Scripture by the very images which the prophet here employs.
I would observe, however, that the various illustrations here used appear not to represent different states or characters, but to give different views of the same moral condition. He who, with reference to the power of his sins, is called a captive, may, with respect to the ignorance and darkness of mind which his sin produces, be considered as one deprived of sight. These images serve only to present, under different aspects, the sad state of those whom Christ came to deliver, and the blessed effects of that deliverance. With regard to these persons, they seem to describe two things: their actual condition, and the sense which they themselves entertain of it.
1. Their actual condition is represented as very deplorable: for what image can express greater misery than that of captives treated with the barbarous rigour of those times; immured in dungeons; loaded with fetters; bruised with stripes; perhaps like Zedekiah, the unfortunate king of Judah, deprived of sight as well