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CHRIST PREACHING AT NAZARETH.
ST. LUKE iv, 17, 18, 19. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias, and when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
In compliance with my promise, I will now enter on a more particular consideration of the text on which our blessed Saviour preached in the synagogue of Nazareth.
You may see in this beautiful and affecting passage of scripture, the whole character of the christian dispensation ; its features are love, joy, consolation, liberty, pardon, illumination, acceptance with God. How wonderful it seems, that such good tidings should have been sent down from heaven to this sinful world! Let us suppose for a moment that the gospel had not been revealed, that we knew only something of the holiness and justice of God, and of the obedience and reverence due to him from man; let us suppose that, under these circumstances, a messenger, (like John the Baptist,) were sent merely to inform us, that there would shortly be a new revelation, and to bid us prepare for the reception of it; what could we before hand expect the nature of that revelation to be? could we anticipate any thing favourable ? could we look for a proclamation of amnesty and mercy ? should we see any thing in the moral and religious state of mankind to lead us to hope that God was about to declare his approbation of their conduct, and to offer them, in consequence, some signal token of his high regard? or rather (for I am supposing the world to be even more sunk in wickedness than it now is, I am supposing the case of the gospel not having yet been published,) should we not apprehend that some dreadful message was about to be communicated ? On looking around and seeing how “ all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth,” how “the earth was defiled under the inhabitants thereof,” how iniquity of every kind
and degree abounded, how God was forgotten, despised, or daringly defied, should we not naturally conclude that God now intended to put a period to his forbearance and long-suffering? that he had said, " Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries?” “ shall I not visit for these things ? shall not my soul be avenged of such a people as this?" and that he was therefore now on the point of making a “revelation ” of his righteous judgments, “and of denouncing indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil ?”
Such would very reasonably be our expectation on the supposition which I have spoken of; but how different are the ways of God from our ways! With us, when offended, the first impulse. is generally that of anger; the first act, that of retaliation. But God tries love first, and resorts to
that he takes upon rebellious man, is to make him the most unbounded offers of pardon and mercy, to win him by every expression of kindness and compassion, to encourage him by promises, to dispel his fears, to inspire him with confidence to come boldly to the throne of grace.
But the most astonishing circumstance remains to be mentioned,--the half of God's goodness has not yet been told. If it had been a mat
anger last. The
ter of perfect indifference whether men lived piously or wickedly,-if it had been consistent with the nature and attributes of God, to make no discrimination between the evil and the good, --if, without a contradiction to his own perfection, he could have passed over all sin and disobedience, and have taken no account of it; then we might say, although it is true that God might, in the exercise of his arbitrary will, justly punish and destroy mankind for their wickedness, yet it is no proof of any superior love that he spares them; for it is as easy for him to forgive as to punish—and I am very much afraid that this is the common mode of reasoning among impenitent men. They think that their sins are of no great moment in the sight of God, that nothing is easier than for him to pardon them; perhaps even, since he is so “gracious and merciful, and slow to anger," that the difficulty with him (if I may so speak) would all be on the other side, so as to make him reluctant to condemn them.
This is the vague notion concerning God's mercy, which so prevails among those who can find no other way of pretending to that mercy. But, in the first place, you must reject the scriptures to entertain this notion; because (whether it be easy for God to forgive or not) they declare most plainly how he intends to proceed--and that