Page images




The expression here used, Who gave himself for us, is so familiar to the ears of Christians, and its reference to the death of our Saviour is so well known, that there is no need to illustrate it by parallel passages. The expressions in 1 Tim. ii. 61. and Gal. i. 4. are somewhat fuller, but their import is the same. TH doctrine of the gospel, viz. man's salvation purchased by Christ's death, is that great mystery hid from ages, but now manifested by the preaching of the Apostles and Prophets. Yet, though it be made known and manifest to us, that we may not suppose ourselves intitled to call for the reasons on which it is founded, it is necessary to observe that the gospel is a revelation of the will and purpose of God: the reasons of his so acting are not revealed to us, nor have we authority to say they ever will be. Under the law, God's

purpose to save mankind is intimated ; under the gospel it is proclaimed to all the world ; but neither of them instructs us in the reasons

l of this proceeding : but having life and immortality set before us in God's own way, we are left to embrace them through faith. The gospel then being offered as a matter of faith,




confirmed by signs and wonders as security for its promises, he acts without commission, who proposes it as a matter of science and knowlege, and as the result of mere reason, or who pretends to account for the inscrutable methods of God's wisdom. To a person inquiring why God required such a sacrifice for sins, when he might have forgiven them, we may answer, God has not admitted us to his secret counsels, or openly declared them. We preach Christ's death, a sacrifice for sin, himself the resurrection and the life, and the judge of the world : if you ask for our evidence, we answer with St. Peter, To him give all the prophets witness, &c. (Acts x. 43.), with our Saviour (John X. 25.), with St. Paul (Acts xvii. 31.) On this evidence the faith of the gospel stands; the Christian's hope rests not on curious speculations, but on this, that all the promises of God in Christ are yea, and amen, that is, sure, certain, and irrevocable. The death of Christ, according to the Scripture, was ordained before the foundation of the world; and since, through faith in his death, God intended to offer salvation to the world, it is reasonable to suppose that the sacrifices before and under the law were introduced in order to prepare and dispose men to receive the tender of God's mercies, in virtue of the one sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the whole world. Sacrifices in the heathen world, though corrupt, and applied to corrupt purposes, yet appear in the religious worship of the best men in the earliest times, and were established in the church of God's own founding among the Israelites. Had they originally been matter of superstition or human invention, though we may suppose God's gracious acceptance of the free-will offering of a weak mind, yet we cannot suppose that he would adopt the superstition, and make it a necessary part of a religion of his own establishment. To avoid this absurdity, it must be said that the use of sacrifices was divinely introduced for the atonement of sins; if so, they had such virtue as God thought fit to annex to the perform

5, he




[ocr errors]
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

ance, in consequence of the promise which attended them; if they came in any other way, we cannot imagine any virtue in them. Now since we are taught that the sacrifice of Christ is the only true expiatory one for the sins of the world, it is manifest that all other sacrifices, accepted by God, owed their efficacy to the relation which they bore to this one sacrifice, and as signs and figures of better things to come. By this reasoning it may be shown that the efficacy of Christ's sacrifice is not confined to any particular age or time, &c. This sacrifice conveys to us the charter of God's pardon, together with the certain hope of immortal glory : we are no longer our own, that we should obey the lusts of the flesh; but his, who hath purchased us with his blood, to be heirs with him, &c. These are great hopes, but they rest on a foundation which is agreeable to reason. All religion ultimately resolves itself into a trust and faith in God: men are not apt to refer those conclusions which are deducible from natural reason to the head of faith, though sometimes they have no other support. As in the common affairs of life, we trust men from our knowlege of their characters and qualities, so natural religion, reasoning from the character and attributes of God, doubts not but that he will deal reasonably with the children of men : and what is this but faith and trust in God? Beyond this natural religion cannot go, so as to particularise and say what God will do in any case: to determine this, we must be wise as God, so as to say what is the best thing for infinite wisdom to do; for though we may depend on him for future happiness, if we do well, yet nature presents us with great difficulties: this point enlarged

This faith of natural religion is the basis of gospel faith; for as reason teaches us to depend on God's wisdom, justice, and goodness, it teaches us also to depend on his veracity; and therefore it is as rational an act of faith, to believe that God will save the world according to the method which he has declared, as to rely on his goodness to do the thing, without

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]


« PreviousContinue »