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Let us pass on now to our Third point, namely. Where These MerCies WERE TO BE PREACHED. The
text says first "in all nations." It is the peculiarity of the Gospel that it makes no distinction of persons: every other revelation of God to man may in this view be considered as local. The blessings of the Mosaic dispensation were confined to one nation, the house of Israel. There were, doubtless, wise and good reasons in the Divine mind for thus limiting it; but the blessings of the Gospel are like the air that surrounds and circulates through the earth, free for all, effectual for all, needful for all. The language of our Lord proves this, " It behoved," he says, "that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations." Then we gather that all nations need these mercies, else why toll them of mercies that are not required by them, mercies which in fact may be to them no mercies at all? Repentance and" remission are not preached in heaven.
Again, "all nations" may obtain these mercies. There is not a country on the earth, there is not a human being in any country on the earth, that is excluded from the Gospel mission. "Go ye," saith its Divine author, "go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature." "The same Lord over all is rich in mercy unto all that call upon him." No matter how lost any nation or any
soul may be, the Gospel can recover them ; no matter how guilty, the Gospel can save them. Repentance and forgiveness are not preached in hell: they are needed there, greatly needed, but not a soul there can obtain them. Prayers are not offered there. This sentence stands over the entrance of that fearful place, "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still." Repentance and remission are preached here: they are the portion of you and of me, therefore you and I may obtain them, may repent, may be pardoned, and live eternally.
But observe, though these blessings were preached to " all nations," there was one place specially mentioned where they were to be published first. And this is the very last place in which we should have expected them to be published at all, "beginning," says our Lord, "at Jerusalem." And is it not affecting, brethren, that the first offers of grace should be made to those, who, of all people in the world, least deserved this honour, and least wished for it—that the heavenly gift should be tendered to those first, who most despised it. One would rather have expected from Jesus a totally different charge. "Let repentance and remission of sins be preached throughout this wretched world, let every Gentile nation hear my Gospel, and every sinful barbarian be told of my grace, my Spirit shall wait to be
gracious unto him, and my blood shall cleanse him from all his sins. But hasten away from Jerusalem, carry no tidings of mercy to that wicked city, waste no labour or pains there, it has been from the first the slaughterhouse of my prophets—I sent them down to call them to repentance, but they killed them—I came to them speaking mercy, love, and grace, and with wicked hands they crucified and slew me. O, go not there, they will reject and destroy you. O, there was a time when all the love of my heart was theirs. I wept over them tears of anguish. Could tears of blood have moved them, they should have seen tears of blood shed by me in their streets; but now the vengeance of heaven is upon them. Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature; but as for Jerusalem pass it by : sooner preach to the rocks and the sands of the wilderness." This we might have expected, but Christ's ways are not like our ways. He commands the first offers of salvation to be made to the very people whom we should have excluded from salvation altogether; and all the world are to wait for the bread of life till this people have eaten of it, and been satisfied.
Now, there must have been some reason in our Lord's mind for this extraordinary proceeding. Perhaps it may have been this; it was so ordered first, to fulfil the prophecies concerning him. You observe that throughout this chapter he lays peculiar stress on the prophecies: he no where else dwells so much on them. Now, it was foretold by several prophets, that the preaching of the Gospel should begin at Jerusalem, that the foundation of the Messiah's kingdom should be laid in that place where the degradation of the Messiah was witnessed, and that the scene of his deepest humiliation should be the first theatre of his glory.
"Out of Zioa shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." "The Lord shall arise upon thee," says Isaiah again, "and his glory shall be seen upon thee." To begin at Jerusalem was one prophetical mark of the Jewish Gospel dispensation. The church looked for the bursting out of the Messiah's glory there; and there, accordingly, he ordered his disciples to carry his Gospel first, there began Messiah's reign, and there began his triumph.
This proceeding tended also to confirm the divinity of the Saviour's mission: it was, and is so still, an incontrovertible proof of the reality of his pretensions. What was Jerusalem? It was the place where Christ had been scoffed at, despised, and rejected. He had been regarded there as an impostor, he had been executed there as a blasphemer. True, he had now vindicated his pretensions by raising himself from the dead, but this extraordinary circumstance was misrepresented, and was attempted thus to be explained away—" He never arose, his disciples stole him out of his tomb by night." Now, if the disciples had left Jerusalem, and gone at once to the heathen world, it would have appeared as though they could not have faced the light; they would have abandoned the place, Jerusalem, where their testimony could be sifted and enquired into, perhaps, contradicted; and the Gentiles would have said of them, and said it with a reasonable pretext, "We will not believe these men, let them not bring their tidings of resurrection to us, till they have carried it there, where the circumstances of the resurrection can be enquired into." But in testifying of their Master in the very city where he was crucified, to preach him as an ascended Saviour in the very streets along which he was led to execution, to declare him to be God over all
to the very men whose interest it was to prove him a treacherous and deceitful impostor, and to do this at the risk of persecution and death, and to do this successfully and triumphantly, prevailing on thousands to bow down to Jesus as the only Saviour of their souls, to cause those thousands who before shouted "Crucify him, crucify him," now to call him "Blessed," all this laid the foundation of the Gospel so sure, carried such conviction along with it to men's minds, that the enemies of the cross were silenced, and this event, up to this hour, the enemies of the cross cannot resist. The Nazarene was followed by the enemies who shed his blood, the malefactor was worshipped and adored by the very city which witnessed his degradation, and which after his degradation, witnessed his glory, his name became the subject of gratulation and joy, and his cross the object of their boasting and their glory.
Christ sent his Gospel to Jerusalem first, that he might exhibit to all nations and ages the extent of his mercy, the freeness, the power, the fulness of his grace. It is common with men, when really convinced of sin, to distrust the divine mercy. The advantages they have lost, the mercies they have abused, the graces they have trampled on, the iniquities they have committed, appear to them to form such a load of guilt, that it can never be removed away from them; and when at last, Jehovah's pardoning mercy entered their soul, another kind of distrust began to harass them. These hard hearts of ours, they say, never can be thoroughly opened, these polluted affections never can be cleansed: pardoned we may be, O, what cannot a gracious Saviour do, but as for loving God, and honouring God, and walking with God, and enjoying God, rather may the blind man rejoice in the light, the Ethiopian
change his skin, and the leopard his spots, than expect such impossibilities from us. But Christ says to such men, "Go ye to Jerusalem and look there. Who ever slighted more privileges, or abused more mercies, or committed heavier crimes, than that city? O, could you see the record of their sins, could you estimate the guilt that nailed me to the accursed tree, you would not make light of your own transgressions, but you would bless God every day you live, that your hand never slew the Lord of Glory, that your tongue never cried, crucify him, that you never rejoiced in his woe." And yet when he sent the Apostles forth first, he said, "Preach my Gospel to these very men, they were first in my care when I left my grave, they stood foremost in my pity when I left the earth, they partook first of my repentance, and my grace, and my salvation when I sat down in the skies. But the poor sinners of the Gentiles, coming to me and asking mercy at my feet, shall they question my readiness to show them mercy? Jerusalem found grace, shall they be cast out? My murderers are sitting here. Some of those very voices I heard shouting in derision at my sufferings, are now filling the heavens around me with their songs. Those heavens, and the earth you stand on, shall sooner pass away than one of you asking merey at my feet shall perish there? And as for you who despair of my power to cleanse, you who give me credit for my kindness but distrust my greatness, go ye also to Jerusalem. I wrought miracles in that city, that people saw my mighty works; but they never prayed, they never trembled, they repented not. What heart could be harder than theirs ; but I was exalted to give repentance to the world; and no sooner was I seated upon my throne, no sooner was I enthroned the Mediator of the Church, and Dispenser
of all the gifts of the everlasting Spirit, than I beean with Jerusalem. Before one Gentile heart was touched by my grace, I poured out repentance there; I subdued and converted and purified and gladdened and made meet for heaven thousands of guilty souls. I sent a remedy when the evil seemed past all remedy. I can purify as easily as I can pardon. I am as able, and as willing to sanctify, as I am to save. I love my Church and gave myself for
it: so surely will I sanctify and cleanse it, so surely will I present it to my Father, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing. Dim it may be for a time, I see every spot that disfigures it, every blemish that tarnishes it, bat all this is only for a time; I will so cleanse it in the sight of him who chargeth his very angels with folly, that it shall stand spotless in the full blaze of His majesty, a glorious Church, holv and without blemish."
DELIVERED BY THE LORD BISHOP OF CHESTER,
AT THE CHURCH OF ST. MARY WOOLNOTH, LOMBARD STREET, MARCH 20, 1831.
26.—"And God mid, let as mahe man in ovr men image, after our lihenen."
Such is the account Scripture gives of the creation of mankind. God made man in his own image, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. But how are we to understand this? Scripture also acquaints us that God is a spirit whom no man hath seen at any time—whom no bodily shape can in any way resemble. The Israelites who witnessed his surpassing glory are often reminded that they saw no mannerofsimilitude; therefore, this image, this likeness, did not consist in any bodily form or shape. The likeness of the Divine nature here ascribed to man, is in the soul and its faculties, in its intellectual and moral powers. Man is distinguished from the other creatures which God hath made, in that he is capable of acquiring knowledge, and discerning between good and evil, and regulating and directing his affections. All these things mark a decided difference between man and the other animals; they cannot acquire knowledge. They are gifted with the
instinct which is needful for their preservation; and they can be taught habits convenient for their masters, for whose use they were intended, but they do not bear the image of their Maker, though they testify his wisdom by the skill with which they are formed, and answer their intended use. They have no power which enables them to understand more than is presented to their senses. They have no reason to govern their affections, or to teach them when to follow their appetites and when to restrain them. They cannot be made acquainted with their Maker, or act in willing conformity to his commandments; the only obedience they can yield, is that of the machine to its contriver. In all these things the other animals differ from man, and man from them. Man has faculties of the same nature as we are taught to ascribe to Him, who is infinite in wisdom and knowledge and goodness. He has an understanding to perceive truth, and may reach to things invisible; a soul capable of spiritual affections, capable of acting from the noblest motives and looking forward to immortal glory. So that when God beheld him, together with the world which he had given him to inhabit, and the creatures over which he had dominion, he surveyed the works which he had made, and, behold, they were very good; all fitted for their purposes. The fair creation to suppott mankind, and useful animals to assist their labours; themselves to render unto God the obedience which he demands and deserves to enjoy, of the faculties which He had bestowed, in serving and honouring and in loving and in fearing him.
Looking out, however, on the world as it now is, what do we see around us? Do we see the image of God prevail ?" How is the gold become dim, and the fine gold changed?" I turn on one side, and I see a multitude who have no thought of God their Maker; they have set up idols in their hearts; wealth is the object of their desire, riches their pursuit and their worship. Brethren, what will be the end? Man returns unto the earth, and what will riches do for him? I look on another side, and I see multitudes who pay no heed to their Maker, because they have given themselves to fleshly lusts, and to the gratification of their bodily appetites and their sensual desires. The wants which they have in common with the brute animals, which are the only wants they feel, are satisfied; and their maxim is, "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die." Brethren, how will it be in the end with such ?" We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, to receive according to the things done in the body, whether they be good or bad. I look around again, and I see other multitudes who are strangers to God their Maker, because their thoughts have never been called
to any thing beyond what their eyes behold and their hands handle. They perform the bodily functions of men; but they know not Him in whom they live and move and have their being; they are ignorant of his commands, his promises, his warnings, his will, all which are to be exercised, and how will it be in the end? Are these not they of whom it is written, "My people perish for lack of knowledge."
Such, I fear, in some of its features, is the character of too many of the inhabitants of our land. St. Paul complains "because they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, therefore God gave them over to a reprobate mind." And this, not of the heathen only, the prophet speaks of God's own people—Israel. "Hear,Oheavens; and give ear, O earth; for the Lord hath spoken; I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib; but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider." Even of those to whom the Gospel has been revealed, with all its merciful promises and expectations, the Apostle complains, "For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ; whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things." Does not this describe a fearful portion of our world? How is it with you? Is the early desire of the heart to know Him that is above? Do the young come of their own accord to their ministers and their teachers, and say, Declare unto us the things of God, acquaint us with Him, that we who are engaging in his service may neither forget him through ignorance, nor offend him through folly. I fear that those who have had experience among the young, will not have found this to be the only use made