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We think it bad certainly, but we do not think it nearly as bad as it is in reality ; it does not shock us or concern us enough, and our past faults especially soon sink into nothing in our recollection: time seems to have wiped them out, and we feel, except in cases of the greatest sins, almost as if we had never been guilty of them. Now while we thus regard doing wrong, and are, therefore, less careful than we ought to be to avoid it, as the lives of every one of us can bear witness, would it not be good for us to turn our thoughts for a moment to the cross of Christ?
Why was such a sacrifice offered, or why could not God have declared that He forgave us all upon our repentance alone, without the death of His Son ? It is, in fact, the very question that Mahometans have been known to ask of Christians, and I doubt not that many Christians, or many who call themselves so, would in their hearts think that the question was not easy to answer.
But if the holiness of God be thus shown forth in the death of Christ, in order to make us holy, His love is no less declared in it, to make us full of love to Him and to one another. To show us that it was no little thing to break God's laws, a penalty, we are told, must be paid, and that so vast a one, that all the world would be unable to pay it. But He, whose justice could not remit it, lest we should be encouraged to offend, Himself undertook to pay it, that He might so fulfil all His love towards us. Himself undertook to pay it: “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself;" or, in order to show the same thing as fully as possible, and yet keep out of sight the notion of the Godhead being capable of suffering, it is said, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,"—that is, the most
precious thing that a human father could give, supposing it were impossible for him to give himself. Let us then fully look to God as at once our Maker and Redeemer, as on our Father who so loved us that He would give any price for our souls, rather than not redeem us; who designed to draw us to Himself by the strongest and best affections of the heart, confidence, gratitude, hope, and love. This is the very object for which the revelation was made to us, that our sense of God's goodness as well as of His holiness might be infinite; that those qualities, which imperfectly and in our low measure united, are the happiest character which an earthly father can possess, and the best fitted to form aright the minds and hearts of his children ; an entire hatred of their faults, and an entire love of them themselves; that these same qualities we might see and feel to be united in their most entire perfection in our heavenly Father, and that our hearts and minds might be formed accordingly. The words of the text lead me to one thing more, and that is, the effect which the death of Christ should have on us, in making us love one another. “God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” How completely these words should stop our mouths for very shame, when we talk of the ingratitude of those whom we have relieved, or of their unworthiness, which makes it an irksome and a thankless task to labour for them. Can we, the purest of us all, feel any proportion of that entire abhorrence of sin and hardness of heart which Christ, the All-pure and All-perfect felt; can we say, with any portion of the justice with which He could say it, “O faithless and perverse generation ! how long shall I be with you, how long shall I suffer you?”
At least, if we do feel with Christ thus weary and sick at heart of the wickedness of those about us, let us also remember with what words and what actions Christ immediately followed up His complaint of man's unworthiness. “Bring thy son hither," he said to the father of the lunatic child, and He rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the child, and delivered him again to his father. So if the sense of the evil and hardness of heart that was in the world oppressed Him in the garden of Gethsemane even to agony, yet from that agony He arose calmly and resolutely to go and complete the object of His coming, and die for those who were so evil and so hard hearted. Well, then, may St. Paul say to us, “ Be ye full of meekness and long suffering; forbearing one another and forgiving one another, even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye;" for “God commendeth His love to us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
September 24th, 1827.
Romans, vüi, 8.
They that are in the flesh cannot please God.
We are now arrived at the sixth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans.
In the five former ones, the Apostle had declared his message of acquittal through Christ, had said how much all men needed this acquittal; that none had been so good as to have deserved it from their innocence; that Abraham, the Father of the Jewish nation, was himself acquitted, not because he was free from sin, but because he had thrown himself entirely on God's direction and mercy; that the state of those who had obtained their pardon through Christ, was one of entire confidence and peace with God, and that His love in the redemption of mankind was as universal, and was more remarkable, than the mischief which had followed from Adam's sin. Here, then, we are pausing, as it were, after our first entrance into the Christian faith. We are now at this moment fully forgiven, we are humbled
before God, and thankful to Him ; we are at peace with Him, and the heirs of His glorious promises. But will this sunshine last till the end of our lives? Will there be no clouds of sin, small at first, perhaps, like a man's hand, which yet may arise slowly, and shut out from us the face of heaven, and leave us in a worse darkness than that from which we at first had been rescued? Does it, in short, clearly follow, that having been justified or acquitted by God, we shall also at last be glorified ?
The three chapters, then, which follow concern ourselves most directly : they speak of men in that state in which we are all now standing, men who have heard and received the Gospel message, and are accounted heirs of the Gospel promises. So far, then, we have come safely. We have been delivered out of Egypt, and are set on the way to our land of rest, with the promise that it is prepared for us. Shall we ever reach it? Or shall we be like the Israelites of old, whose carcases fell in the wilderness, and to whom God sware in His wrath that they should not enter into His rest? Let us now hear what the Apostle says
with respect to this middle point of our pilgrimage, this midway between hell and heaven.
The first danger which he supposes may threaten us is one which would, indeed, be impossible to all those who were Christians in earnest, and which bears with it so much of baseness that it might seem almost too bad to be injurious to any one. It is an abuse of the mercy of God, because He has shown Himself so merciful. Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? Such a question shows how little many of those in every age, who have called themselves Christians, have