Page images
PDF

cred duty according to the measure of the means vouchsafed to you to join in this work. Thus may you please God— save these little ones from being tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, every vicious

example; and confer a substantial benefit on your country. Would you be blessed? consider these poor—regard and do good to these otherwise destitute lambs of the flock.

ft Sermon

DELIVERED BY THE REV. C. BRADLEY,

AT CLAPHAH, MARCH 13, 1831.

Luke, xxiv. 46, 47.—" Thus it it written, and thut it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem."

You remember it is said of Peter on his first conversion at the lake of Genesaret, that he left his nets and followed Christ, for he and Andrew his brother were fishers. This was the sacrifice which he made. Now it might be supposed, that in the service of such a master, he would never have mentioned these things again or thought of them; but not so, months afterwards, we find him speaking of the sacrifices he had made, as something marvellous, worthy even of Christ's admiration. "Lo," says he to him, as though he and his companions had cast all the possessions of the earth away, and trod thrones and sceptres underneath their feet, "Lo, we have left all, and followed thee." Now Peter does not stand alone in this vaunting feeling: we are often likehim. How high have we sometimes thought of some little sacrifice we have made for Christ. We say here, that the whole realm of nature, were it ours, would be two small a gift to offer him; but let some trivial loss or suffering be actually incurred for his sake, some slight danger risked, some empty companion, or still more empty pleasure abandoned, and we begin to begrudge immediately.

But look now at the blessed Jesus

himself. O, how unlike his disciples! O, how still more unlike us! We know not what he gave up for his church. It was more glory, more bliss, than any mind save his own can understand. We know almost as little what he endured. But what does he say of it all? How in the retrospect does he estimate this weighty sacrifice? He speaks of it in this chapter as a thing of course, as a mere matter of duty, as something that we might have anticipated, and ought to have looked for. "O fools," says he to his wondering disciples in the twenty-fifth verse, "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not Christ to have suffered these things." And again, in this verse, "Thus it behoved" it was right and proper, "Thus it behoved Christ to suffer;" and he goes further, instead of representing his offers of mercy to mankind in their true colour, as the manifestation of a love that passeth knowledge, as a love that might have led earth to wonder for ever, he says " It behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations beginning at Jerusalem."

There are Three points for our con

sideration in these words. First, What the doctrines were which the Apostles of Christ were to preach? Secondly, How they were to preach them. And Thirdly, Where?

First, What Were The Apostles To Preach? Now, if we turn to the last chapter of the Gospel of Mark, we shall find the Saviour, in a passage somewhat similar to this, commands them to preach the Gospel, " Go ye into all the world," he says, "and preach the Gospel." Here, he says, they must preach repentance and remission of sins. We apprehend from these two passages thus brought together, that repentance and remission of sins are the same as the Gospel, that they constitute the Gospel, or at all events, are the mercies that most distinguish and characterize the Gospel: they undoubtedly are so. The one describes the grace revealed in the Gospel as it appears working in the human heart; the other looks up to it as a manifestation from above of sovereign goodness. The first, repentance, is something done on earth in man: the second, remission, is something done in heaven for man.

You know, brethren, what the first of these, repentance, is. It is not what the world deems it—it is not a mere acknowledgment of sinfulness—not a few tears shed once or twice in a man's life over some great transgression— not that feeling which rises in the sinner's heart in the morning, when the night preceding has been a night of more than usual transgression ; it is a powerful, deep, and abiding change upon the whole soul—it is a state of mind suited to man's character and man's circumstances. He is a sinner, a great sinner, a condemned sinner, a lost sinner, an attainted sinner, nay, more, a helpless sinner. Repentance is the discovery of this, the feeling of it, and such a feeling that leads to emotions and desires and purposes

and conduct corresponding with it. It includes grief, or sorrow, or contrition, or self-love, or self-detestation, that no other grief can equal in bitterness or duration. But it includes more, it involves a desire to escape out of the misery it breathes now. It is, in fact, the return of the revolted sinner from sin and Satan, from the world itself to God. Thus is the offended Father to be supplicated, the insulted law-giver to be appeased, his sovereign law to be obeyed, his original, his best, his only portion to be enjoyed.

Remission of sins, the second of these mercies, is another word for forgiveness of sins. It regards God as a moral governor. In this character he gives his creatures a law, and sanctions that law by denouncing punishment against those who violate it. Man has rendered himself liable to this punishment by his many daring transgressions; he has contracted guilt, and become subject to the penalty denounced against guilt: and he can do nothing to escape this penalty. He cannot undo his sin, he cannot atone for it, he walks about the world bound over to a fearful condemnation the moment he leaves the world. Now forgiveness removes this obligation of punishment. It does not render the man innocent of the crimes he has committed, but it cancels the sentence denounced against those crimes. It leaves man guilty, but it saves him from the penalty of his guilt. It is an act of mercy whereby his guilt is done away, completely and for ever done away, and he restored to liberty, and safety, and favour. He moves about now secure from condemnation, as though there were no law in existence; no more in danger of the wrath of God, as though that wrath were annihilated, as high in the favour of heaven as the angels who have never sinned. Forgiveness is a single mercy, the mercy that the sinner first receives from the hand of a God of grace. It might seem the smallest of Jehovah's gifts, but it is the germ of every mercy. It sets the door wide open of the great fountain of God. It is the holder of all happiness that the created heart can be made to hold. It is the placing of the sinner where every good can be obtained, and every bliss enjoyed.

And these two things are here mentioned together. They are so mentioned, because they are inseparably united. There is a connection between them so close that they have never in any instance been severed. Repent, and you have not forgiveness to wait for. It is not a blessing that may come, that may be had; it is yours, yours already, as assuredly yours, as faithfulness and unchangeableness and eternity are God's. Hence springs also the necessity for repentance: there is no forgiveness without it. We might as well expect the light of day without the sun; or motion, i health, and enjoyment withoutlife. But mark these things are not connected as cause and effect. We are not to look upon repentance as deserving or procuring forgiveness : we are not to suppose that our sins will be forgiven because we repent. This would beadeath- blow to the great design of the Gospel, it would detract from that richness of Jehovah's grace which the Gospel is intended to display, it would tarnish, it would almost destroy the Redeemer's glory, it would silence half of the songs of heaven. The only connection between repentance and remission is a connection of propriety, a connection that the great God has established from a regard to his own character, or rather, I may say, from a regard for moral fitness. Now it could never accord with the wisdom of God to take up into heaven a rebel in arms against him, one who has never asked for his mercy or even de

sired his favour, one who might unfold the standard of revolt in his own kingdom. It would never do either to place among those who love him one who would have no communion of interest, no community of feeling with him, one who took no part in their employment, and no share in their joys. Such a proceeding might be mercy, but it would be mercy triumphing over grace and wisdom and justice and every thing else. It would look like connivance in God at sin, or at least, indifference toward sin. God, therefore, humbles the soul before he saves it, lays the rebel at his feet when he pardons him, carries him up into heaven submissive, obedient, and burning with grateful love to the Redeemer he shall see there, and ready in one moment to begin an eternal song in his praise.

Such then, are the two great mercies which the first preachers of the Gospel were to take for their subjects. The only mercies, observe, which are at all mentioned; the whole effect and substance of the Gospel is included in them. Every sermon, therefore, a minister preaches, if he is a faithful minister, must have reference to these things, he must habitually recognize them. It follows too, that if we preach them, both of them, we preach the Gospel in its first elements, its minor lesser mercies, but exactly that part of it, those mercies, which in Christ's estimation are of the highest importance. It follows again, brethren, that you are to be addressed and constantly addressed as sinners; each of these mercies we are to speak of implies your sinfulness. We call you to repentance, we talk to you about remission of sins, because every one of you without exception needs repentance, because you must all be pardoned or perish, because there is guilt on every head here, and sin in every heart. If these things are so I might ask you what becomes of those who describe one minister as legal because he urges submission, another as half taught because his own pardoned soul cannot lose sight of forgiveness and precious mercy, and a third as harsh, dark, and discouraging, because he forces his hearers to remember they have fallen. I would only say, pray with your ministers, brethren, that they may ever speak to you of repentance and forgiveness of sins. Other subjects may amuse you, may cheer you, they may instruct you and benefit you, they must not be forgotten; but as for these, the conversion of your hearts, the pardon of your sins they are your light. Better for us if we had never been born than to pretend to preach the Gospel, and yet to say nothing or even little about these things; better for you to be annihilated this moment, than for you to hear of them, and not take good heed to them.

But let us go on to our Second enquiry. How Are These Great Mercies To Be Preached. Christ says in his name—" It behoved that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name." This expression means that they should be blessings of his procuring and his bestowing, that they should be referred to him as their author and their giver. Now, as far as forgiveness is concerned, we all allow this, we say at once, there is no pardon out of Jesus Christ, " we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness ofsins;" but not so with some of us as to repentance. There are those who represent this as a legal thing, as having little or no connection with our Lord Jesus Christ, as something destructive of Christian liberty and Christian enjoyment. There never was a greater mistake. Repentance is unknown to the law. The law has nothing to do with these things and

does not even command it. It says, "Do this and live." If this is not done, in the event of transgression, it denounces its curse, it condemns the transgressor and then leaves him. It holds out to him no encouragement, no motive to repentance. It allows him neither liberty nor ability to repent. But the Gospel gives him all these, and it does this because Christ hath purchased all these things for his lost children. "It behoved him to suffer," says the text. And why? because his suffering was the appointed means of obtaining the Holy Spirit, with his converting and renewing grace for lost men. "It behoved him to rise again," says the text. And why? That he might have this grace to bestow, that he might go up to heaven to live, and bestow it. Had he not died, there would have been no forgiveness, and consequently no place for repentance. Man would have stood in the same situation as a fallen angel stands, suffering and suffering on, with no prospect of relief. Had Christ not risen, there might have been forgiveness, but man would never have sought it; there would have been no repentance, no genuine, true, spiritual repentance, no repentance that could detach a man from the world and lead him back to his God.

Some sorrow for sin there might have been, such as groans in hell, or such as that of Judas which sent him thither, or sorrow which springs from fear, from remorse, and leads to despair and death; but it would have been far from that repentance which humbles the heart, and which subdues as well as breaks. It must come down out of heaven, brethren, into your breasts, I mean from the throne of God, ere you know it, or you shall never confess sin. That broken heart, that contrite spirit, which God will not despise, God only can bestow. We cannot be persuaded into it. Moral suasion cannot impart it; neither can affliction drive it into us. Preaching can do no more to produce it than the howling tempest. It cometh down from above, and is as much the work of God, and is as much the gift of heaven as the light of day, and as necessary to the present and eternal well-being of the immortal soul, as the material light of heaven is to illuminate and cheer and bless the body. "Him," says Peter, speaking to the Jews of Christ, " Him hath God exalted to his own right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance unto Israel, and forgiveness of sins."

But these mercies flow from an exalted Saviour—they have both their origin in his mediatorial work—they both arose with him out of the same grave—they both characterize his Gospel. If we possess them we must give Him the praise—if we possess them not and want them we must seek them at His hand—none other in earth or heaven has them to bestow. Hence, if you look at the dispensation of the

Gospel, you find these graces especially characterize him. John, the forerunner of Christ, cried in the wilderness and came announcing the coming Saviour. And what was his message ?" Repent ye," says he, " for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." And when Christ himself came out of his obscurity, he came repeating the self same words, taking up the very message of John and repeating it word for word. Turn to the Gospel of Matthew: in the beginning of the third chapter you will find John says, " Repent ye: for the kingdom of God is at hand." And in the fourth chapter you will find at the seventh verse these words, "From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, "Repent; for the kingdom of God is at hand." And when our Saviour had gone up to the skies, and had sent down his Holy Spirit on his Apostles, and they began to preach his Gospel in the streets of Jerusalem, they echoed the very same words. They said to the Jews, and said it again and again, "Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out."

(To be continued.J

tendon: Published for the Proprietors, by T. GRIFFITHS, Wellington Street, Strand; and Sold by all Booksellers in Town and Country.

Printed by Lowndes and While, Crane Conn, Fleet Street.

« PreviousContinue »