« PreviousContinue »
rule the storm 2 He holds the winds in his fist. Are those tremendous powers of nature, the earthquake and the volcano, obedient to his will ? Like conscious guilt in presence of her judge, the earth trembles at his look, and at his touch the mountains smoke. Does he constantly watch over his people 2 As a kind mother's eye, whatever be her task, follows the movements of her infant, so that if it fall she may raise it, or if it wander too near the fire, the cliff, or the brink of a stream, she may run to pluck it out of danger, God's eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong to them whose hearts are perfect towards him. Does it thunder 2 It is the voice of the Lord ; the lightning cloud that comes driving up the sky is his chariot, and when flash blazes upon flash, his arrows go abroad. His presence is now an eye, now a hand, now an arm, and now a shield. His love is a kiss, his anger is a frown. Are his mercies withdrawn 2 He repents. Are they restored ? He returns. Does he interpose in any remarkable way ? He plucks his hand from his bosom, and, like one who goes vigorously to work, the blacksmith who wields the hammer, or the woodman who plies the axe, he makes bare his arm. And when inspiration, attempting one of her loftiest flights, seeks to express the greatness of his majesty, she turns the heavens into a Sapphire throne, Spangled all with stars, and taking up this great globe rolls it forward for God to set his feet on. “Thus saith the Lord, the heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.” Thus, by terms borrowed from our bodies, and properties, and circumstances, God describes himself, and among other instances of that kind, there is one where he employs the very term here applied to Jesus in my text. For the purpose of teaching us that he is before all, that he is the cause and the end of all, with such condescension as a father shows to his little children, he takes the Greek alphabet, and selecting the first and the last letters, as those within which all else are included, he says, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” He must be God who is almighty. He must be God who is, and was, and is to come; and since “the beginning” is another title applied in that passage to the same august, and infinite, and adorable Being, by applying it to our Lord, Paul pronounces him divine, and around the head which was once pillowed on a woman's bosom, and once bowed in death upon a cross, he throws a halo of uncreated glory. A man worshipped in heaven; a babe adored on earth; the infant's advent sung by angels; sable night throwing off her gloom, and breaking into splendour above his mangercradle ; one whom many well remembered, as if it were but yesterday, carried in Mary's arms or playing with the boys of Nazareth, now claiming to be older than Abraham ; his step on the water lighter than a shadow's, his voice on the waters mighty as God's ; the prompt obedience of unruly elements; the sullen submission of reluctant devils, as they retired back, and farther back before that single man, like a broken band retreating in the face of an overwhelming force : the hand that was nailed to the cross freely dispensing crowns of glory, and opening the gates of heaven to a dying thief; the earth trembling with horror, and the sun turned mourner because they were murdering their Lord ; the adoring admiration of the great apostle who, contemplating an infant cradled in a manger, a
man hanging on a bloody tree, a tomb and its lonely tenant, found heaven too low, and hell too shallow, and space too short, to set forth the greatness of the love that gave the Saviour to die for us; these marvels, otherwise utterly inexplicable, have their key in “the mystery of godliness;” Jesus Christ was “God manifest in the flesh.” What a precious truth ! The blood of Calvary being, as Paul calls it, the blood of God, may well have virtue in it to cleanse from all sin, so that though our sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow, though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
II. This term, “the beginning,” expresses Christ's relation to his church and people.
The beginning of a tree is the seed it springs from. The giant oak had its origin in the acorn. From that dry, hard shell, sprung the noble growth that laughed at the storm, in the course of time covered broad acres with its ample shade, and built the ship that, with wings spread to the wind, flies under a Bethel flag, to bear the gospel to heathen lands, or, opening her ports, rushes on the bloody slave-ship, and fights the battle of humanity on the rolling deep. Now, as a seed, Jesus Christ was one apparently of little promise. According to the prophet, he was, in the eyes of men, a root out of a dry ground. He was all his lifetime despised and rejected ; yet out of him has grown that church which shall bear the blessings of salvation to the ends of the earth, and pursue her bloodless, victorious course, till continents and islands have knelt at his feet. All the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Christ.
A house, again, begins at the foundation. The first stone laid is the foundation stone. That may be sunk in a deep, dark hole; yet though it lies there, unseen and forgotten by the thoughtless, it is the stability and support of all the superincumbent structure. And when the nails were drawn, and the mangled body of our Lord was lowered from the cross, and received into women's arms, and borne without any funeral pomp by a few sincere mourners to the lonesome tomb, and, amid sobs, and groans, and tears, and bitter griefs, laid in that dark sepulchre, then did God in heaven say, “Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation. Yes, it was a tried stone. He had been tried by men and devils, and by his Father too; hunger, and thirst, and suffering, and death, had tried him. Since then the foundation has often been tried, in great temptations, and sore afflictions, and fierce assaults of the Evil One ; winds have blown, and rains have fallen, and rivers have swelled, and heavy floods have rolled, but the man who has believed in Christ, and the hopes that have rested on his finished work, have stood firm and unmoved. Saints triumphing over temptation, martyrs singing in prison, believers dying in peace, devils baffled, hell defeated, have made good Christ's words, Upon this rock I will build my church ; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. The author of our faith, the founder of his church, Christ began it ere the world began, or sun or stars shone in heaven. He provided for the fall before the event happened. He had the life-boat on the beach before the bark was stranded, or launched, or even built. Not eighteen hundred years ago, when the cross rose with its bleeding victim high above the heads of a crowd on Calvary, not the hour of the Fall, when God descended into the garden to comfort our parents, and crush, if not then the head, the hopes of the serpent, but eternal ages before these events saw the beginning of the church of Christ. He began it in the councils of eternity, when, standing up before his Father to say, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me) to do thy will, O God, he offered himself a substitute and a sacrifice for men. He was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
The author then, and, when he died on Calvary, the finisher of our faith.
III. Jesus is “the beginning” of salvation in every individual believer.
He is “all our salvation.” We owe everything to Christ. Whatever was the instrument employed in our conversion, whether a silent book, or a solemn providence, or a living preacher, it was his grace that began what had a beginning, but, thanks be to God, never shall have an end ; the health that never sickens, the life that never dies, the glory that never fades. By his Spirit convincing us of sin, and revealing himself to us as a willing and all-sufficient Saviour, he began it at conversion; he carries it on through sanctification; and he crowns it in glory. The preacher was a man but drawing a bow at a venture. Jesus! it was thine eye that aimed the shaft, and thy strength which bent the bow that day the arrow stuck quivering in our heart. When our sins were carrying us out to our burial, it was thou that didst stop the bier, and with thy touch impartedst life. Brought by the prayers of others to the grave, where we lay corrupting in our sins, it was thy voice that pierced the car of death, and