of all his moral perfections-now shines forth to us in the face of Jesus Christ; and, standing beneath his cross, we can understand why He who is a Spirit, and who can take pleasure only in spiritual worship, should through so many ages have required sacrifices of animals, perfect in their kind, and have expressly arranged an economy, of which the characteristic feature was, that "without shedding of blood there was no remission." And though this system of animal sacrifices is now swept away, and the blood of bulls and goats no longer flows as an atonement for sin, we perceive the harmony of the divine procedures, since we are called to trust in the one perfect sacrifice, of which these were only types, and to connect a reference to the atonement with every act of worship, and with every service which we attempt to render to God.

Under the Christian dispensation, also, we have a clear and ample discovery of the purposes of God relative to the constitution of his church,— that "mystery of his will, which in former ages was not made known unto the sons of men." The Jewish dispensation, though in many of its aspects favourable to the religious interests of the world, seemed yet to be in other aspects forbidding and repulsive. It welcomed, indeed, men of all nations to worship Jehovah, and to present their offerings in the outer court of the temple; and it admitted them to become proselytes, and thus to be incorporated with the family of Israel, upon their submitting to circumcision, and engaging to observe the whole ritual law: but it restrained all who did not thus come under the yoke of its ceremonies from mingling in religious communion with the people of God. There was "the wall of partition," which kept every uncircumcised person at a distance from those who had come within the bonds of God's ancient covenant. And many of the Jews, who admitted the claims of our blessed Lord to be the Messiah, wished it still to be thus under the dispensation which followed his ascension to heaven, and which is emphatically "the kingdom of God." They wished that circumcision, and the observance of the ritual law, should still be a condition of religious fellowship. But far different was the wise and gracious purpose of the divine will. The ground of spiritual communion was henceforth to be the common exercise of faith in Christ, and the common profession of his name. It was a leading feature of that plan which existed in the divine mind, "to gather together in one all things in Christ,” * to unite them under him, as the Head of his believing people, the source to all of living energy, and the exalted Lord, to whom it belongs to exert over all a supreme and unquestioned authority. Union with Christ by faith is now the great, the essential, requisite to our being the people of God, and members of his true, spiritual church. It is "in Him" that we are to be gathered into one; and if there is only that living faith in him, that penitent trust in his blood, which causes us as individuals to be "in Christ,” then, though there shall be diversities of thought and observance as great as those which existed between the believing Jew and the believing Gentile, there will be the common possession of spiritual life, and the warm glow of paternal love, leading to mutual recognition and united worship. It was a sentiment deeply fixed in the mind of St. Paul, and dear to his heart,—a

*The original of this clause contains a reference to the headship of the Redeemer : ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι τὰ πάντα ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ. Dr. Doddridge's translation is, "that he might reunite under one head all things in Christ." Mr. Wesley, though he retains the common translation, with a slight modification, thus explains in his note the meaning of the verb: "Might recapitulate, reunite, and place in order again under Christ, their common Head."

sentiment which gave a peculiar cast to his expositions of religious truth, and which in this Epistle stands forth with the greatest prominence, that all true believers are one, as being "in Christ," as united to him by faith, and receiving from him the one Spirit of holiness and love. Let us mark the earnestness with which this truth is inculcated in the passage now before us :-"That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him." In the next chapter, also, we find this truth impressively stated: "For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make IN HIMSELF of twain one new man, so making peace."

But in contemplating the purpose of God relative to the union of all his people in Christ, we must not confine our views to the intercourse of earth. That purpose is far more comprehensive and sublime. It has respect to the saints in heaven,—to the pious of every age, who have ceased from the toils and conflicts of this probationary state, but who unite with the saints on earth in ascribing their salvation and happiness to Christ, while they bow to his authority, and delight to do his will. And it has respect, further, to the union of all the pious among men, with the angelic hosts, and with the whole family of pure and happy intelligences throughout the empire of the Most High. The apostasy of our race severed us from that family; angels, whose hearts still glowed with love to God, and who still revered his majesty and purity, could have no sympathy with us, who proudly spurned his authority, and aspired to be as gods to ourselves. But in Christ we are again gathered into one. They own the incarnate Son as their Lord, and the proper object of their adoration and love; they cheerfully place themselves at his disposal; they gaze with deepest interest upon the facts of his redeeming work, and the arrangements of his mediatorial government; and they dwell on the history of the church and the world, so as to derive from it important and valuable lessons. They sympathize with the people of Christ on earth; they rejoice when the first sighs of penitence issue from the relenting and broken heart; and they especially rejoice to behold the kingdom of Christ-his peaceful and purifying reign-established in the breasts of men. They are "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to the heirs of salvation;" and they will form at last, with the saved among mankind, one happy and glorious society, that shall dwell for ever in the presence of their Lord.

4. Finally, the Apostle brings before us the exalted privilege of believers, -that they have obtained, through Christ, a title to the inheritance of heaven. "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will, that we should be to the praise of his glory who first trusted in Christ." It is a part of the gracious plan of God, that they who trust in Christ, and maintain that trust, and avow it before men, shall share at last in the triumph and glory of the Redeemer. They shall enter, in virtue of their relation to Him as his believing and holy people, upon that state of rest, and dignity, and joy, to which he has ascended, not for himself only, but as the Head and Forerunner of all his saints. They shall rise to higher glories and nobler pleasures than earth could give, and dwell for ever in a world, from which conflict, and danger, and sorrow are utterly excluded.

The Apostle attempts not to depict to us the glory of the heavenly state, or to trace in detail the sources of its blessedness; but he places before us one general idea, calculated to expand our views of its excellence, and to encourage our persevering faith. He affirms that it is the design of the universal Lord-of Him whose unseen but powerful energy is diffused through the whole of nature, so as to regulate and control its processes, and who can even subordinate to his own great and holy purposes the voluntary actions of his responsible creatures-to show forth the riches of "his glory," and to call forth the praises of an admiring universe, by the dignity to be conferred at last on the saints of Christ. Such is the present state of believers who have entered upon their heavenly rest, and who already share the triumph of their Lord, that it pre-eminently shows the power and wisdom, the abounding goodness and unsullied purity, of God; but when at length our entire nature shall be redeemed, and the universal church of Christ shall be presented spotless in the presence of her Lord, there will be afforded the brightest display of the divine perfections which the universe has ever beheld. The glory of the Redeemer will then be reflected from all his people; and the pure and heavenly joys which pervade their minds, and the dignity which encircles their entire nature, will illustrate the efficacy of his blood, and the grace of his mediatorial reign. No previous development of the exhaustless resources of the divine mind will equal that which shall be presented at the consummation of the Christian economy. But here we pause. Imagination fails in all its efforts to trace the minute features of that glory; and we rest in the general conclusion, that our restored nature shall resemble that of our exalted Lord, and that we shall share in the high and noble joys of a spiritual society, where intellectual vigour is combined with purity and depth of feeling, where harmony and benevolence reign without interruption, and where God is all in all. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him ; for we shall see him as he is."

Such, then, are the privileges and hopes of believers; and such the constitution of the economy of grace. We behold in the plan of our redemption, and in those arrangements of God of which it forms the basis, the most impressive manifestation of the divine character; while we adore the riches of that grace which sheds forth on all believers blessings suited to the wants of their spiritual nature, and which prepare them for a state of eternal purity and joy. Of this economy, so peculiar, and yet so glorious, the Lord Jesus Christ is emphatically the Head. It is from him that all our blessings are derived; union with him by faith is the great and distinguishing feature of all the pious; it is in him that we are gathered into one; and through our relation to him shall we obtain at last that inheritance, where all the sons of God dwell in the immediate light of the divine presence, and enjoy throughout eternity the communications of the divine fulness.




So he teaches Abram. From his tent, where first he met with him; from his bed, perhaps, which he had been watering with his tears; the Lord raises the patriarch, and leads him out, and places him beneath

the glorious midnight sky. Seest thou these hosts of heaven? Canst thou reckon them? No. But He who speaks to thee can. He can count them. He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names; and to thee He saith, "So shall thy seed be." Here is the perfection of science, the highest sublimity of the most sublime of all the sciences, the most glorious lesson in astronomy the world ever learned. In the still and solemn silence of earth's unbroken slumber, under the deep azure arch of heaven, not a breath stirring, not a cloud passing, then and there to stand alone with God,-to stand with open eye, and behold his works; to stand with open ear, and hear His word,-His word to thee! These stars-canst thou number them? Look now towards heaven, and tell them: these all I ordained; and even such a seed have I ordained to Abram. Such a lesson might Chaldean sage or simple peasant learn of old; and such, far more, may be the lesson now, as art reveals her myriads of new worlds, and science threads among them her lofty and mysterious way, till the aching sight begins to fail, and imagination itself to reel. Alas! that the starry heavens should ever be read otherwise than thus,—as if either they claimed worship for themselves, or a power to rule the destinies of our race; or, as if they had no tale at all to tell of but a dreary, dark materialism. Surely, if thou wilt but look and listen, they speak to thee of their Creator; or rather, their Creator speaks to thee by them. He points and appeals to them as the tokens of his power, and the pledges of his faithfulness; and in the undimmed glory of their multitudinous hosts, shining still, as they shone when he talked to Abram, he calls thee, on each returning night, to hail the renewed assurance of that promise on which all thy hope, as well as Abram's, must hang. So shall the seed of Abram,—his seed, embracing Christ and all that are his, and therefore not excluding thee, so shall the seed of Abram be.-Candlish on Genesis.

TRIBUTE TO THE MEMORY OF THE REV. DR. WELSH. From a Sermon preached at Helensburgh, on the 11th of May, 1845, by the Rev. John Anderson, from Joshua xiv. 14: “Because that he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel.”* Published by special request.

I NEED scarcely say that, in thus describing the character of Caleb, I have had a particular reference to one who, like him, was a teacher in Israel; one whom, within these few days," devout men have carried to the grave, making great lamentation over him ;" one whose loss is deeply felt and deplored, not only by the church to which he belonged, and of which he was so great an ornament, but by all the churches throughout the whole Christian world; one who not only resembled Caleb in being a leader in Israel, but in many of the great leading features of his character, in his simplicity, his sincerity, his integrity, his courage, his constancy, in his services to the cause and church of Christ, and in his sacrifices for it; and, in one word, in that, like him, he "wholly followed the Lord God of Israel." The character of this great and good man, I am free to confess it,

* It is well known that the lamented Dr. Welsh died at Helensburgh, where he and his family had resided for a considerable time previous to the event. During his last illness, Mr. Anderson was unremitting in his services as a Pastor and a friend, and the Rev. Doctor expressed to one of his brethren the high sense which he entertained of the benefit which he derived from his conversation and his prayers.

does not belong to me to delineate; this belongs to other and to abler hands; this they will do, and this they have no doubt already done. Yet, from the high esteem in which, as is known to many of you, I held him, from the love I bore him ;-for who could know, who could see, him, and not love him?—from the privilege I enjoyed, for such I will ever esteem it, of having seen and conversed with him in his sickness; from the great sorrow of heart which I feel this day, which we all feel, for his loss; from my desire to improve it for your sakes; from my desire not to glorify him, but to glorify the grace of God in him ; I am anxious to allude to the death of one so endeared to his friends, not only for his private virtues, but to the church for his public services,-services which she can never forget, and because of which his name will for ever be enrolled among her famous worthies, as one of the most illustrious of her sons. Of his public services I need not speak with these you are all familiar. If you would know what, by the grace of God, he was, as a man and as a Minister, turn to the prophecy of Malachi, where you will find these words: "My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name. The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips; he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity." Is this a beautiful portraiture of a Christian man and a Christian Minister? It is the portraiture of Dr. Welsh. Shall I speak of his intellectual endowments? This much only I will say, that, while of the very highest order, they were all of them consecrated by him to the cause of Christ; they were laid as gifts on the altar of his God and Redeemer. While in reality one of the highest, he was at the same time one of the humblest, of men; a proof that, while a little learning and a little religion make men proud, a great deal of learning and a great deal of religion make them humble. Few men in our Church have ever, in clearness of intellect, approached so nearly the great Jonathan Edwards as Dr. Welsh; and few men have resembled him so much in the lowly estimate he formed of himself, when seen in the light of the divine holiness, and tried by the standard of the divine law. Gifted as he was above many, and honoured as he was above many, to do and to suffer for Christ, on what did he lean and build his hope for eternity? on anything in himself? on anything he had done? No, but on the mercy of God, reigning through the righteousness of Christ. On this, and on this alone. To it he desired to be a debtor. On this he hoped; and this he has now obtained. Of the loss sustained by his family, I may not speak. This is too sacred and tender a subject even to be touched. As to the loss sustained by the church, humanly speaking, it is irreparable. Not only has "a great man and a Prince fallen in Israel," but without exaggeration we may say, "Our weapons of war have perished." But our loss has been his gain. From the church militant he has been removed-and O, how gloriously!—to the church triumphant. In the General Assemblies of the church on earth he will no more be found guiding them by his counsels, or cheering them by his presence; but he has taken his place in the general assembly of the church of the first-born whose names are written in heaven. Lost, dead to us, with Knox and Melville, the Welshes and the Hendersons of the old time, with the great and the good of all times and of all churches,—all now perfectly sanctified and glorified, all "clothed with the robes of righteousness, and with the garments of salvation,”—he lives, and lives for ever, unto God. Weep, then, we may, for his loss; yet

« VorigeDoorgaan »