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We have not only sinned and suffered, but we cannot help ourselves out of it. We are not only without holiness, but without strength; no man can recover himself. All the popes, bishops, prelates, or councils in Christendom can no more change the heart of man, than they can create a fixed star, or soar to the sun. I will believe they can do it, when they will stand upon the grave of another Lazarus, and say, Come forth; and when Lazarus, the dead, in obedience to such command, shall come forth, and take his place among the living. What is the history of the world without God but a history of successive efforts and successive failures to regenerate itself? What is Pantheism, but man's vain effort to regenerate man? What are Popery and Puseyism, but priestly and abortive efforts to regenerate man? What is Christianity, but God's historical and never-failing success in the regeneration of
It is wrong for infidels to quote Aristides, Socrates, Plato, Alfred, and subsequent names, and say these are types of humanity; they are not so. They are the exceptions to the general condition of man; they are as tall trees seen from the distance, which appear a beautiful forest in the horizon; but when we approach nearer, we find here and there, beneath and around them, the pestilential swamp, the deadly upas-tree, all manner of vile and worthless things. This is one of those sights in which “ distance” may be said to “lend enchantment to the view,” covering, with an apparently beautiful exterior, as
seen from afar, the terrible corruption which lies and festers below.
If we desire to see what man is, let us shut our ears to the harp of the poet, and visit the Mohammedan wife, the Indian maid, the Hindoo widow; let us leave the romantic picture of mankind, and explore the lanes and alleys of London ; let us inspect our prisons and penal settlements, Bridewell and Botany Bay. After we have gone the round of these places, let us go home and read the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, and see if there is one exaggerating touch! That chapter is a terrible but true picture of the lower strata of humanity. What were the deities in heathen times? Jupiter was a monster, Mercury a thief, Mars a sort of cannibal, who drank the blood of his victims. Such were the gods of the heathen; and like gods, like people. But of man's corruption we have awful instances in modern times. Men baptized in the name of Christ, professing his religion, and under his pretended sanction, have set up Inquisitions for the murder of saints, for the plunder of widows, and then they have built cathedrals with the produce. This gospel, itself pure, precious, and indicative of its divine origin, has been perverted, and made the patron of the buildings, under whose splendid towers are dungeons deep and dismal. So intense is man's depravity, that not only will he worship Jupiter, Mercury, and Mars, but he will take the very stones God had selected and shaped for a temple to himself, and with these construct a temple vocal with men's praise, and in which wickedness shall be consecrated.
The gospel tells us that Jesus, who knew no sin, was made sin for us : in these words is the very substance of our sermons; without these they would be but as sounding brass and tinkling cymbals. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him might not perish, but have everlasting life.” He gave, not permitted, and the great Redeemer left the admiration of angels for the execration of the mob; he exchanged a diadem of glory for a wreath of thorns; he left the robes of majesty and beauty for that vile rag that Pilate cast upon his shoulders. Why? It was for us! that souls ruined by the curse might be redeemed by his blood, and restored to that great home he is gone to prepare for us.
The Bible is not a mere directory, nor the pulpit a mere teacher's desk. Christianity is not a rule, but a prescription; not merely a direction to the living and healthy, but a cure for the diseased, life for the dead; and Calvary is not a composite of Sinai, but that spot on which God in human nature died; looking to whom, and leaning upon whom, I am the possessor of justifying righteousness. He who knew no sin, was made sin for me, that I might be made the righteousness of God in him,
On him were laid the iniquities of us all; we bear his righteousness, and therefore by him alone do we recover every lost blessing. He did nothing worthy of death, although he died; and we shall have done nothing worthy of life when we hear the glad words, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” When Jesus died, he had done nothing to deserve it; when we are admitted to glory, it will be wholly without merit on our part. He was the spotless Lamb—we are the poor stray sheep, clothed in his spotless righteousness.
There is another great truth to which the Bible bears testimony—the regeneration of the heart by the Holy Spirit. Regeneration is no more by baptism than justification is by works : justification is our title, sanctification is our qualification; justification is our franchise, sanctification is our fitness. This justification is by Christ's work alone. This regeneration is the Holy Spirit's work alone. The precious catechism of that church to which I belong, and in which I have been schooled from my infancy, says justification is an act of God's grace, and sanctification is a work of God's Spirit; one is an act done once for all, completely, perfectly, and for ever—the other a work begun, carried on, until at length we are made fit for heaven, and are removed to glory.
The Bible insists on all who have themselves felt the truth—not ministers alone, but all who have received the gospel-doing their utmost to make it known to those who yet remain in ignorance. Psalm lxvii.: “God be merciful unto us, and bless us." Why? “That thy way may be known upon earth, and thy saving health among all nations." A man who can pray thus, and then pass the plate at a missionary collection, contented, it may be, with
giving nothing, or, what is worse, a trifle, does not know what the gospel is, or what Christianity really means. True, God can promote the gospel without our instrumentality; but it concerns us to ascertain not what God can do, but what he does—God's omnipotence is not our rule of faith. We know of, and he tells us of no other
The sunbeams do not write salvation on the sky; angel voices do not chant it; the temple of nature tells us there is a God, but it tells not our relation to him. “How shall they believe if they have not heard, and how shall they hear without a preacher ?" Take the microscopic view of the city missionary, and inspect the lanes and alleys of wretchedness, sin, and demoralization at home ; and then with the telescope sweep the broad horizon of the world from mountain top to mountain top.
Behold so many of the people of Europe lying in darkness; look on Asia, once the cradle of Christianity, now the battle-field of the Moslem and the Jew; see Africa, steeped in barbarism, bleeding, mangled, and imploring your interposition. And when you have gazed on these heart-rending spectacles—spectacles that look to us so shadowy, because our inner vision is so dark-hear the Son of God : first from the cross, and next from the throne, saying, “Go teach all nations."
When the gospel has been preached as a witness to all, then shall Messiah come in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, and the end shall come—the end of our disputes, quarrels, pride, sectarianism, selfishness, vain-glory;