« PreviousContinue »
better as I grow older. That is very unlikely to happen. The unconverted are less likely to be saved at the jubilee age of fifty than at five-and-twenty, in their seventieth than in their seventh year. “ Oh that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end !" Do you say, in reply, But what then am I to do? Can I redeem myself ? Assuredly not. But are we, because we can be redeemed only through the blood of Christ, to sit still ; as if that redemption would come like a jubilee in the common course of providence, or time, or nature ? No. We are to be up and doing, since, in a sense, it is true of a soul's as of a nation's liberty,
"Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow,"
I do not say that we are to rise like an oppressed nation which wrings its liberties from a tyrant's hand, nor that we can purchase redemption, as we bought with our millions the freedom of West Indian slaves ; nor that through works of righteousness that we do or have done, we can establish any claim whatever to its blessings. By care and industry you may acquire goods, not goodness ; money, but never merit--merit in the sight of God. And yet I say, in God's name, “ labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life;" “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling ;" "give diligence to make your calling and election sure ;" “ take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart, and with all your soul.” There are various ways of being diligent, One man, seated at the loom, is busy with the shuttle ; another, at the desk, with his pen ; another, in the field, at his plough ; another bends to the oar, and, ploughing the deep, reaps his harvest on the stormy waters ; another, seen through the smoke of battle, is straining all his energies on the bloody field, winning honors with the bayonet's rush and at the cannon's mouth. And, though men may call him idle, yonder poor beggar, who, in orphan child or infirm old man, claims our pity and reproves our indolence, is busy also, diligent as the others. His hand is not idle, it is busy knocking ; nor are his feet, they bear him weary from house to house, from door to door; nor is his tongue, it pleads his poverty, and tells his tale of sorrow; while, pressed by necessity and earnest of purpose, out of his hollow eyes he throws such looks of misery, as move compassion and melt the heart.
And such as that suppliant's, along with the use of other means, are the labors, the diligence, to which God's gracious mercy and your own necessities call you. Unable to save yourselves, it is yours to besiege with prayers the throne of grace. Learn from Simon Peter what to do, and where to turn : not Peter sleeping in the garden, but Peter sinking in the sea. One who in his boyhood had learned to breast the billow, and feel at home upon the deep, he makes no attempt to swim ; the shore lies beyond his reach, nor can the boldest swimmer live amidst these swelling waters. His companions cannot save him ; their boat, unmanageable, drifts before the gale, and they cannot save themselves. He turns his back on them. He directs nor look nor cry to them, but fixing his eyes on that divine form which, calm, unmoved, master of the tempest, steps majestically on from billow to billow, the drowning man throws out his arms to Jesus, and cries, “ Lord, save me!" Did he cry in vain ? No more shall you. Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost ; nor did he ever say unto one of the sons of men, Seek ye me in vain. He offered his sonl for sin, and came to redeem us from all iniquity. Lel us now
II. Consider Christ as the Redeemer ; not as a Redeemer, but the Redeemer.
There is no other. “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." All the types and symbols of the Saviour teach you this. There was one ark in the flood-but one; and all perished save those who sailed in it. There was one altar in the temple—but one; and no sacrifices were accepted but those offered there—“the altar,” as the Bible says, that “sanctified the gift." There was one way through the depths of the Red Sea —but one; and only where the water, held back by the hand of God, stood up in crystal walls, was a passage opened for those that were ready to perish. And even so, there is but “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus ;” as our catechism says, “ The only Redeemer of God's elect is the Lord Jesus Christ.”
This truth is, in a certain sense, and to some extent, acknowledged by all churches which call themselves Christian. They all profess to give Jesus the honors of salvation ; not excepting, on the one hand, those which, denying the divinity of our Lord and the doctrine of the atonement, extract its vitality from the Gospel ; nor, on the other hand, those Greek and Roman churches, which, by their additions and traditions, have buried the Rock of Ages beneath a great heap of
rubbish. While, however, they appear to regard oui Lord Jesus Christ as the Redeemer, and so seem to travel on in company, no sooner is the question started, in what sense he is a Redeemer, than we arrive at a point where they take different paths, and are led, as they advance, wider and wider asunder. That question introduces us, in fact, into a great controversy. I do not intend to enter into it; but I will affirm, that whether the weapons were sword, pen, or tongue, no conflict that affected the sacred cause of liberty, the rights of man, the honor or interests of nations, ever involved such important, vital, transcendent interests, as are staked in the battle that has been waged around Christ's cross, and about the question, how he saves, in what sense he is a Redeemer.
The first and most notable champion who appeared on the field was the apostle Paul ; and as, panoplied from head to heel in the armor of God, he stalks into the arena, and, looking undaunted around him, is ready to fight and to die for the truth, observe the motto on his battle-shield, “I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” It is not simply Jesus Christ; though given by an angel and full of meaning, that was a great name. Nor is it Christ come, nor Christ coming, nor even Christ crowned ; but Christ dying on a cross, “ Christ, and him crucified,” Life to sinners through a Saviour's death, salvation by substitution, redemption through blood—that blood the ransom and Jesus the Redeemer
was the substance of all Paul's sermons, the theme of his praise, the deepest-rooted and most cherished hope of his heart. He lived and died in that faith ; and, though that tongue of power and eloquence be now silent in the grave, he proclaims to listening angels in
heaven what he preached to men on earth. He proclaims it, not in sermons, but in songs; for in that serene and better world, where no storms disturb the church, nor controversies rage, nor clouds obscure the light, they sing, salvation by the blood of Christ. May we cast away all other hope !—and, with our whole hearts embracing that, we shall one day join the vast congregation whose voices fell on John's ear as the sound of many waters, while in harmonious numbers and to golden harps they sung before the throne, “ Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood."
And for more fully understanding and appreciating this doctrine, I remark
1. Christ does not redeem us, as some say, by simply revealing the truth-save us by merely as a prophet shewing the way of salvation.
The pathways on the deep along our rugged coasts, as well as our streets, are lighted ; and yonder, where the waters fret and foam and break above the sunken rock, the tall light-house rises. Kindled at sundown, it shines steady and clear through the gloom of night, warning the seaman at the wheel of the danger he has to avoid, and shewing him the course he has to steer. Now he who reared that house and kindled its blessed light, and thus saves many a bark from shipwreck, many a sailor from a watery grave, may be called a saviour. In one sense he is the saviour of all who, bravely ploughing their way through the black midnight over the stormy deep, hail that light as it rises on them like a star of hope—and, seeing it, know how to steer, to take the roads, to clear the bar, to beware the reef, and bring their bark in safety to the desired haven. But if Christ is a Saviour only in that sense,