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Duty bears nature down. He pronounces sentence of death; but in passing it on his son, he passes it on himself. Nature would have her own. He rises; he leaves the bench; he hastens home; he lies down on his bed; nor ever rising from it, dies of a broken heart.
God cannot die; yet, when, rather than his holy law should be broken with impunity, he gave up his love to bleed, his beloved son to die, a substitute for us, oh, how did the blood which dyed that cross dye his law in colors of the brightest holiness! What sermon like that on the text, "It is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God." Nor, as in that dying Saviour hung high under a frowning heaven, as beneath that bloody tree, where Mary receives into her arms the dead body of her son, and weeping women in bitter anguish kiss his wounded feet, is there in hell or heaven a scene so impressively, awfully illustrative of the angel's anthem, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.
3. In Christ we see the image of a God willing and and able to save.
Let me take an illustration of this from an act of salvation which he performed under circumstances of the greatest difficulty and disadvantage. The scene is laid at the cross. Jesus is dying; agonising pains, the shouts of the pitiless multitude, their insulting mockery, and the deep darkness of the hour, combine to disturb his mind. If he can save then and there, save when his hand is nailed to the tree, what may he not do, now that he is exalted to the right hand of God, with all power given him in earth and heaven? I would awaken hope in the bosom of despair, I would like to cheer God's people, and I would try to encourage the greatest sinners to turn with faith to this refuge of the lost; let us therefore draw near, and see how his divine ability to save, streaming like a sunbeam through a riven cloud, revealed him, even when hanging on the cross, as the adorable image of an invisible God. And may the Holy Spirit bless the sight to you!
It is easy to save one who has fallen into the flood some distance above the cataract, where the river, not yet hurrying to the fall, flows placidly on its way. But further down the difficulty becomes great, every foot further down the greater; for the current moves with faster speed and growing force, till at length it Bhoots forward with arrowy flight, and, reaching the brink, leaps headlong into a boiling gulf. Now, away among the mountains, I know such a place, where once three shepherds, brothers, were to leap, as they had often done, from rock to rock, across the narrow chasm through which the swollen waters rushed onward to their fall. Bold mountaineers, and looking with careless eye on a sight which had turned others dizzy, one bounded over like a red deer; another followed— but, alas, his foot slipping on the smoothly treacherous ledge, he staggered, reeled, and falling back, rolled over with a sullen plunge into the jaws of the abyss. Quick as lightning, his brother sprang forward—down to a point where the waters issue into a more open space, just above the crag over which they throw themselves into the black, rock-girdled, boiling cavern. There, standing on the verge of death, he eyes the body coming; he bends—his arm is out—thank God, he has him in his powerful grasp. Bravely, brotherly done! Alas! it is done in vain. The third brother,
sad spectator of the scene, saw him swept from his slippery footing: and, in their death not divided, as of old they had lain in their childhood, locked in each other's arms they went over, horribly whelmed in the depths of the swirling pool. Not so perished our elder Brother, and the thief he stretched out his hand to save. He plucked him from the brink of hell; he saved him on the dizzy edge of the dreadful pit. Poor wretch, ah! he hangs above the gulf; he is half over; just then he turns a dying eye on a dying Saviour, and utters but one cry for help. The arm of mercy seizes him; he is saved; now heaven holds him crowned in glory! What a revelation of Jesus as the express image of him who has power to save at the very uttermost! What an encouragement to you, though the chief of sinners, to cast yourselves at Jesus' feet! Do it. Do it now. May heaven help you to do it now! Another moment, and you may be beyond the reach of mercy. Another moment may be a whole eternity too late.
The first-born of every creature.—Colossians i 16.
Thousands each night—the watchman on his beat, the sentinel on the ramparts, the seaman on the heaving deep, the jaded votaries of pleasure on their return from ball and revel—walk beneath the spangled heavens, nor once raise their eyes, or, if they do, raise not their thoughts to the magnificence of the scene. And each day, thousands engrossed with the pursuit of pleasure or business, tread the spangled sward with an eye of no more intelligence than an ox—careless of the beautiful flowers, which with a happier, purer taste, the little child loves to gather, and, singing to her work, weaves into garlands for her sunny brow. Not that these persons are constitutionally dead to beauty; or devoid of intelligence. Not that they look on the face of nature with an idiot's vacant stare, but familiarity, which breeds contempt in some instances, in this has bred indifference. Behold, perhaps one reason why, though our Lord presented such a glorious combination of divine and human excellencies, many were insensible to it; and why, sad to think of it, he found so much occasion to apply to himself the old proverb, A prophet is not without honor but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house!
A less pardonable reason, however, may be found for this in his case, as in others, and found in that envy to
which our fallen nature is prone. A bad, a base, in every way an unprofitable passion, one that, more than any other, carries its own punishment with it, and makes those who cherish it wretched, envy is its own avenger; and yet, so prone are many to regard others with envy, that a man may feel assured that he has begun to rise in the world so soon as he hears the buzz of detractors, and feels their poisoned stings. This, indeed, is not a bad test of merit, just as we know that to be the finest and the ripest fruit which bears the marks of having been attacked by wasp, or hornet, or other such winged or wingless insects. The goose, and the seagull, and other common creatures, are left to pursue their way through the fields of air without interruption or attack, but I have seen, when some noble bird appeared, who had a wing to soar aloft, to cleave the clouds, how he was harassed and hunted by a noisy crowd, that assailed him with their voices, but, mingling cunning with insolence, kept beyond the swoop of his pinions, or the stroke of his talons. Now, see how Moses, the meekest, noblest, most generous of men was envied by ambitious spirits among the children of Israel! Ye take too much upon you, they said to him and his brother, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them; wherefore, then, lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord? Ay, and even his own brother and sister grew jealous of him. On pretence of his having done wrong in marrying an Ethiopian woman, they who should have supported the brother to whom they owed their position, most basely and ungratefully attempted to undermine his influence. It was very wrong in Moses to make this marriage—to