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ward us sinners. He died for us, that he might take
6 Behold the lamb of God, which
Four important particulars may be distinctly noticed which rendered the death and resurrection of Christ of vast utility to mankind.
1. To commend and make known the unchangeable love and mercy of God to a sinful world, thereby to bring sinners to repentance and to be reconciled to God.
II. To fulfil all that the prophets had written con cerning him, that the authenticity of divine revelation and the doctrine of the gospel might be successfully communicated to the gentile nations.
III. That the patient sufferings which he endured for the benefit of his enemies and the whole world, might ever remain as an example for his disciples to imitate, in all faithfulness, patience, and resignation to the will of God. And,
IV. That he might bring life and immortality to light by his glorious resurrection; and manifest the truth of a future happy existence for mankind.
If the mind will be serious and candid, it will at once acknowledge that these four particulars, when viewed in their harmony and proper connexion, when considered in relation to the innumerable blessings which they have already produced, and promise to produce in future, are altogether worthy of the wisdom, power, and goodness of our heavenly Father.
But to pretend that it was necessary for Christ to suffer and die to appease the wrath of our merciful Father in heaven, is the most unaccountable perversion
of divine truth, of which the vain imagination of be nighted humanity was ever capable.
The fifth particular subject to which our text seems to invite our most careful notice is, that the love and mercy of God toward sinners, commended to us by the death of Christ, is consistent with the unchangeable principle of moral righteousness.
It might be thought, that in order to establish this hypothesis, nothing more could be required as evidence than the text under consideration. For if we are certified that the divine being does in fact love sinners, that is sufficient evidence that it is morally right that he should do so; but our present object is to do more than barely to prove the fact, the object is to illustrate it to the understanding. To do this we will first admit our opposer's objection to be stated. The objection is this ;
According to the strict rule of moral righteousness, every moral being must be treated according to his works; but if God does in reality love sinners, if he grants them the infinite blessings of his grace, it seems that he does not deal with them according to their deserts. Reply
It is granted that moral righteousness requires that every transgression and disobedience should receive a just recompense of reward, out then it must be granted, that as the right to inflict punishment is derived from the cominission of crime, so it is limited by the offence committed, and it is an acknowledged fact that to extend punishment beyond the demerit of a crime, is, at least, as wide a departure from moral right as to come short. But the right to do good and to show kindness is not derived, nor is it limited.
In finite beings the power and means to do good and to show favor are limited, but the right is not limited. And in every
instance in which our power and means are limited to grant all the favor that is needed, we have the liberty still to extend our benevolent wishes without limitation.
If one of our fellow creatures commits a crime which is punishable by law, it is true, we have no right to prevent this punishment, but we have an unlimited
right to love this criminal, and beyond all the punishment of his crime, to wish him well, and if in our power, to do him all the good that he may need. Now, in punishing hiin according to his offence moral righteousness is perfectly executed, but it now has all the right and all the inclination to love and do the subject good, as it had before any crime was committed.
St. Paul, speaking of God says; “Who hath saved us and called us, with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace,
which was given unto us in Christ Jesus before the world began." Before the world began, who can dispute that God had a moral right to purpose a dispensation of grace to mankind? Or who will contend, that his right to love and to do good to the creatures which he should create, could be in the least limited by what they might do after they should be brought into being ?
A parent has an unlimited right to love an infant child, he has a right to bestow on it an immense fortune, even before the child has any knowledge of its parents. Nor does this, in the least interfere with either his right or duty to subject this same child to a reasonable and righteous discipline, in which the child may be rewarded for well doing, and chastised for its disobedience.
Thus in the eternal mind of our Creator, a boundless store of divine riches was treasured up for his rational offspring, before man was brought into being; and among ten thousand other favors, God appointed a rod of correction, and a dispensation of chastisement for the improvement and moral benefit of mankind, wbile passing through a state of imperfection, subject to vanity.
The sixth and last particular, which we now propose to make of our text, is to contemplate its sentiment as a pattern for our imitation, and as a principle worthy to be practised.
This is the use which the Apostle John has made of e same sentiment, expressed in a passage which has eady been noticed in this discourse. 6 Herein is
love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." From this rich and glorious sentiment the Apostle draws the following conclusion. “ Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” Certainly there cannot be a more reasonable inference drawn from any proposition ever laid down than the one which the Apostle here draws from the love of God to mankind. If we had good reason to believe that our Father in heaven really hated his enemies or those who do not love him, if we were consistent with such a belief, we should hate all those whom we viewed of this description. And this has been the case in the christian church as well as through the world. Men have hated and persecuted one another on this mistaken notion; and verily thought they did God service by so doing. But if we are convinced that God loved us, while we were yet enemies to him by wicked works, and if we believe that he loves every sinner of the human family, and that he has manifested this love by the death of his holy child Jesus, it is all as clear as the sun in a cloudless day, that we ought to love our enemies, and to do them all the good that is in our power. And to do otherwise, my christian friends, is to deny our religion and our doctrine, and that in a more effectual manner than Peter denied his Lord.
To conclude. Our subject presents before our rejoicing eyes, a boundless scene of divine grace; it invites us to the sweetest field of contemplation, where goodness, unlimited goodness, mercy, unlimited and impartial mercy eternally flow as broad rivers and streams; as waters, risen waters for men to swim in, which no man can pass.
Let us close with the appropriate words of the poet:
But I would not have you to be igvorant, brethren, concerning them which
are asleep, that ye sorrow poi, even as others which have no hope.
In a world of sorrow, in a state of being incident to the infinite variety of adversity with which man is exercised, as nothing can be more needed, so nothing is esteemed more precious than that which is calculated to mitigate our sorrows, soothe our grief, and sweeten adversity. To do these, and to strow the thorny path of mortal life with the rose of consolation, and to open in the parched ground of hopeless sorrow a living spring of ceaseless joy, the gospel of eternal life has been sent from God to man.
As the parental sensibilities are moved with pity at the sorrows of their offspring in affliction, and as such an occasion is visited with special tokens of compassion, so hath it pleased the Father of our spirits to break through the dark clouds of mortality and death with the rain-bow of his covenant and to send his anointed to bind
the broken-hearted and to comfort all that mourn.
In possession of the knowledge of the unseen, eternal things, belonging to the spiritual inheritance of the rational offspring of God, and exercised with that generous affection and those kind sympathies which ever seek the benefit of others, it was impossible for the Apostle to stand an indifferent spectator of hopeless sorrow, when in possession of that divine knowledge by which a celestial cordial of consolation might be seasonably administered.
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