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By contemplating the cross of Christ, we may learn the perfect justice and holiness of God, the excellency of his law, and the desert of sinners. In the condemnation of fallen angels and wicked men, and in many other awful ways, the Lord hath proclaimed his abhorrence of iniquity, and his determination to magnify his holy law: yet, his mercy not being visible in those events, it might have been thought, either that he was incapable of shewing mercy, or that in exercising mercy he would abate from the demands of justice, and connive at transgression. But the subject before us, well understood, confutes all such vain imaginations. When mercy triumphed most illustriously, justice was most gloriously displayed, the law most honoured, and sin most exposed to universal detestation. 'Rather,' says the Saviour, ' will I bear the curse of the divine law, and the “punishment of sin, in my own person, and make ' an expiation of infinite value by my sufferings ' and death upon the cross ; than either leave * sinners to perish without help, or allow the law 'to be dishonoured, and justice to be relaxed for
their bencfit. “Do we then make void the law “through faith? God forbid, yea, we establish “ the law.”
Here again we may learn repentance, and abhorrence of our iniquities. “They shall look on
me whom they have pierced, and mourn.” The more lovely and glorious the divine perfections appear, the more excellent the holy law, and the more hateful and destructive transgression are found to be; the deeper should be our sorrow and remorse, while we recollect and review all our numerous and heinous offences, and all their aggravations : and the more ought we to dread and hate those evil propensities, from which all our crimes proceed, and which continually aim, as it were, to “crucify the Lord afresh, and put him to open
shame.” When we view the miseries of the world, and the ravages of death, we may well inquire, “Who slew all these ?” And the consideration may help to abase us for sin, and excite us to oppose and crucify our lusts, which are the murderers of the whole human race, and menace our destruction. Yet the cross of Christ, when duly contemplated, suggests far more powerful motives for contrition and self-abhorrence, and will far more effectually influence us to seek the destruction of those hated enemies, that crucified the Lord of glory
But the same object will likewise teach us, that neither our repentance or amendment, nor any thing else that we can do, will at all serve to expiate our guilt, or justify us in the sight of God. “ If righteousness come by the law, then Christ w died in vain.” Men set up a variety of reasonings against the express and numerous testimonies of God to this leading truth ; and thus vainly“ go “ about to establish their own righteousness.” But a serious view of the Lamb of God, as“ taking
away the sin of the world,” may convince us that every hope they form of escaping condemnation or obtaining life, except by faith in a crucified Saviour, will most surely prove fallacious and ruinous : for, if any thing else would as effectually have answered the purposes of God, he would doubtless have spared his own Son, and saved sinners in some other way.
On the other hand, we here behold the riches of the divine compassion and tender mercy towards the sinful children of men. “Herein is love, not “ that we loved God, but that he loved us, and “ sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." If then God so loved us when enemies, what may not those expect from him, who renounce every other plea, and “flee for refuge to lay hold on this “ hope set before them?” In every penitent who supplicates mercy for the sake of Christ and his atoning blood, the Redeemer “sees of the travail “ of his soul, and is satisfied.” For this very purpose he suffered and died on the cross, “ that he “ might become the author of eternal salvation to “all them that obey him.” On this ground we say, “Let the heart of them rejoice that seek the “ Lord : and “if, when we were enemies, we were “ reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much “ more being reconciled, we shall be saved by his “ life.” “He that spared not his own Son, but “ delivered him up for us all, how shall he not “ with him freely give us all things?”
But while we mingle our tears of godly sorrow with joyful thanksgivings, and glory in Christ Jesus amidst all our tribulations ; let us also, my, brethren, look to the cross, and learn our obligations to the most self-denying and devoted obedience. Can we, with this object full in view, deem any expense too great, any sacrifice too costly, any cross too heavy, any labour too severe, which his glory, the authority of his command, or the benefit of his purchased flock, call us to undergo? Surely the constraining love of Christ will render every loss or suffering tolerable, yea pleasant, to the thankful believer ; while he beholds
the Lamb of God cxpiring on the cross, to take away that sin which would otherwise have eternally ruined his soul ; and to purchase for him everlasting and unutterable felicity!
Here too we must look, that we may learn patience, meekness, spirituality, and every part of that holiness to which we are called. Hence we must draw our motives and encouragements ; and here we must view that perfect example, which we are required to copy. Forgiveness of injuries, love of enemies, perseverance in well-doing amidst insult, contempt, and ingratitude, and compassion to perishing sinners, are best learned by looking to the cross; by witnessing the triumph of divine love in the sufferings of Emmanuel, and hearing him mingle his dying groans with prayers for his cruel and insulting murderers.
Meditation on this subject may also convince us that we must expect tribulation in the world, and the enmity or contempt of believers, if we belong to Christ and bear his image. His wisdom, holiness, and love were perfect: yet no one of our race ever experienced such hatred and insult from all ranks, orders, and descriptions of men, as the spotless Lamb of God! Malefactors commonly meet with some pity amidst their tortures, however merited: but Jews and gentiles, rulers, scribes, priests, soldiers, and the multitude, could unite in cruel mockery of the holy Jesus, when expiring on a cross ! Away then with all those flattering sentiments of human nature, which represent it as loving and delighting in genuine excellency: the cross of Christ, and the sufferings of his most faithful servants in every age, form a demonstrative confutation of the proud delusion! And, if our hearts have been changed by divine gráce, so that we love and imitate the lowly and humble Saviour, let us count our cost, expect scorn and hatred from men, tribulation in the world, and peace and consolation from the Lord alone. Let us also look beyond the cross, and contemplate the glory which followed; “ that we may not be wearied and faint “ in our minds." We too have a “joy set before “ us :” let us then endure our lighter cross, and despise the shame; assured that “ if we suffer with “ Christ, we shall also reign with him” in glory.
But, my fellow sinners, where will you appear at his second coming to judge the world, if you now neglect his great salvation? If you join his enemies; and, by cleaving to your sins, prefer Barabbas to Jesus, sell him as Judas did for a few pieces of silver, or determine you“ will not have “ him to reign over you?" Still he invites you to come to him, that you may have life eternal. Oh! that you would seek to him as a Saviour, who will shortly come to be your Judge.
In fine, contemplating the cross of Christ, teaches us most effectually every lesson contained in the sacred scriptures. Let us then, my brethren, further prosecute our meditations at the Lord's table: and, while we remember the love and sufferings of our Redeemer, let us renew our repentance, and acceptance of his salvation, and give up ourselves to his service; that, “ as bought with a price; we
may glorify him with our bodies and spirits “ which are his."