« AnteriorContinuar »
you expect. He shall be lifted up, not as David or Solomon was to the throne of Israel, but as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness. As if He had said, "There is a striking analogy between the way in which the Messiah shall obtain spiritual and eternal salvation for mankind, and the way in which the serpent stung the Israelites in the wilderness, were cured of the otherwise incurable distemper which they had brought on themselves by their unbelief and disobedience." (See Numb. xxi. 49.) By being "lifted up," we are told in another place, he signified what death he should die. (John xii. 32, 33.) The salvation of mankind is to be obtained by the Messiah's dying an accursed death, as the victim for human transgressions; and by his being held up in the Gospel as the Lamb slain from before the foundations of the world to take away the sin of the world, men are to be converted and made partakers in the blessings of the kingdom of heaven. This was not what Nicodemus expected. He looked for a great temporal prince, who should reign on the throne of David. How great, then, must have been his astonishment to be told that the Messiah was to see the death of a felonious slave. This is indeed a mystery-yet it is a precious truth, that we are saved by the Divine Incarnate Saviour, suffering and dying as a victim for sin-dying on the cross. The two phrases, "God gave his son," and "the Son of Man lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness," convey to us this great truth. They both agree in assuring us that God graciously appointed his Son to be the Saviour of the world. If we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead-who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification, then are we justified by faith, and have peace with God. (Rom. iv. 5.) "He gave himself for our sins," according to the Scriptures, "that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father." He bore our sins in his own body on the tree. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the richness of God's grace.
V. A still more important point presented, my fellow citizens, in the passage of Scripture before us is, How shall we obtain a personal interest in the blessings procured by the gift of God, and the lifting up of the Son of Man? Here, again, we have a two-fold representation. Figuratively, looking at the Son of Man lifted up, and literally, believing on the Son of God, "that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life." The Jews believe that they should secure a share in the blessings of the Messiah's Kingdom by being descendants of Abraham; and that the only way a Gentile could participate with them in these blessings, was by submitting to Messiah's conquering arms, and becoming proselytes to the Jewish religion. In opposition
to these false views, our Lord states that it was only by believing in Him, the Messiah, as "lifted up"-as "given by the Father," that even a Jew could become a partaker of the blessings of his salvation; and that every Gentile who should thus believe in him, should become a partaker, likewise, of the same blessings. The allusion to the lifting up of the serpent in the wilderness illustrates most happily and clearly the means by which the Messiah was to obtain salvation for men, and the manner in which, as individuals, we are to become interested in that salvation. The meaning cannot be misunderstood. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness that whosoever of the bitten Hebrews looked at it might not die, but live, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever of the ruined race of man believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. As there was no difficulty in apprehending the meaning of the statement in regard to the brazen serpent, so there ought to be no difficulty in understanding the statement in regard to the lifting up of the Son of Man. Every serpent-stung Israelite who looked on the lifted up serpent of brass, was healed. So every sinner who believes on Christ as the Messiah lifted up, shall be saved. We all know what it is to look; and we may all know equally well what it is to believe. To believe, in a Scriptural sense, is just to receive as true all that God has said to us. To believe in Christ the Son of Man, lifted up, is to receive as true what is stated to us in the Gospel concerning him. The terms of salvation are particularly and specifically set forth in several passages of the New Testament, such as the following: "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." "He that heareth my Word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation." "It is the will of Him that sent me, that every one that believeth on me may have everlasting life." "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." "By grace are we saved through faith."
But finally, the economy of salvation, like the pillar of cloud' and fire between the Hebrews and Egyptians, has two sides to it. One is radiant with glory, the other is dark and threatening, and whosoever looks upon it, has need to be troubled. The guilt and danger of neglecting this method of salvation are unspeakably great. How strikingly are they stated in the verses before us: "He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation," &c.
"He that believeth not" comprehends all who reject Christ as set forth in the Gospel. All who discredit the testimony divine, and all who deny it-and all who refuse to obey Christ's commands come under the condemnation spoken of in the text. No matter what might have been the excuse of the serpent-bitten Hebrew if he looked not to the serpent of brass, lifted up by
Divine appointment, he died. So whether it be through ignorance, or pride, or a love of sinning, that men reject Christ, if they reject him they must perish. The means of their recovery may have appeared to the Israelites as arbitrary, foolish, paradoxical-they may not have comprehended why such a way was proposed, nor have been able to see how it was that they could be saved by such a simple thing as looking to the serpent of brass-but it was so. Nor was there any other way. The method of their deliverance was simple and easy. It was to look to the brazen serpent, and whosoever did so was saved. You observe, my brethren, the principal word in our Lord's declaration concerning the guilt and danger of those that believe not is "condemned." The primary meaning is to be sentenced to punishment, in opposition to being acquitted or pardoned. Then our Lord's meaning is-while he who believes the testimony of God concerning his Son is "not condemned," but pardoned and accepted as righteous-on the other hand, he that does not believe is already" condemned-even now he is sentenced to punishment-doomed to destruction. The Gospel offer finds man a sinner, doomed by the holy law of God to death. It presents to him a full and free pardon; that pardon, however, from the very nature of the case, can be received only by faith, and as a matter of course, the unbeliever continues without it. He remains as he was before he heard of it—a condemned sinner. And still more, he is emphatically condemned, because he has not believed on the only begotten Son of God-" condemned," because he tramples at once on the authority of God, as manifested in the commandment to believe on his Son, and on the grace of God, that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us, and offers him to us in the Gospel. He must not, therefore, complain of Adam's sin; for he has had the offer of perfect deliverance from it; but by refusing this deliverance, he fastens on himself its condemnation, and adds the still greater one of rejecting salvation through the death of the Son of God. Fearful, therefore, is the doom of the incorrigibly wicked, and finally impenitent. "He that believeth not shall be damned."
Whatever men may think of Christ and Him crucified, He is the only saviour of sinners. There is but one way to obtain deliverance from the burden of guilt. Men must believe in Jesus Christ, that they may obtain the forgiveness of sin. If they do not, their guilt remains. There is no other expiation for sin, but the atonement of Christ, and there is no saving interest in that atonement but through believing. The bitten Hebrew that would not perish must look to the brazen serpent. The patient that will not use the only and the effectual remedy to cure him of a disease that is pressing upon him, must die. Men are sinners— and their only hope of being saved is in Christ; but if they reject Him, they must perish. Unbelief is a great sin, involving
deep guilt and exposing us to the wrath of God. It is to disobey God, and treat with contempt His Son. No doctrine of the Christian system is more unpalatable to unholy men than the necessity of being born again, and the urgency of faith in Christ as a Saviour. But we caunot speak neither more nor less than the word of God. Suppose among the murmuring Hebrews there was a man, respectable and well to do, moral and decent, amiable and intelligent, who, on being stung by a serpent, concluded that a chance had happened to him, and that by using the ordinary means he should be healed; and on hearing what Moses had done, smiled inwardly at the folly of those who could expect to be cured by looking at a brazen serpent; and determined that he would die sooner than degrade himself by such fanatical folly. And while his neighbors are looking and being healed, his case becomes more and more desperate, and now he dies-and his ungodly pride is his destroyer. And another stung by the serpent is so obstinate, and self-willed, and conceited, that he will not look and be healed. His parents beseech him to cast one look towards the brazen serpent before he dies-his kind friends try to turn his face towards the pole, that he may catch one glimpse of the appointed remedy-but he will not look, and he dies, and upon his own head rest the consequences-he was his own destroyer. So now, my beloved hearers, you are all sinners. God has provided, at an immense cost, the way to save you, and He has given you a plain account of this way, accompanied by satisfactory evidence of its truthfulness, and all He requires of you is, that you believe on his authority the testimony before you. The Son of man is lifted up before you this day.
BY REV. HOLLIS READ,
CRANEVILLE, N. J.
CHRIST BEFORE THE WORLD WAS.
THE one design of the evangelical preacher is, to preach Christ. But you no sooner begin to think on this sublimest of themes, than it swells into an importance, and covers an extent of ground not at first suspected. It is a broad field entered by a narrow way and a strait gate. You may see some of its glories re
flected on objects around you; you may inhale some of its fragrant odors; and imperfectly taste some of its rich fruits, before you enter-enough to satisfy you that the ways of wisdom are pleasant, and all her paths peace. Yet these are but the reflected excellencies of their originals within the veil. You must enter and pluck these flowers, and eat these fruits, and expatiate on the moral beauties of this celestial Eden; you must put on Christ; must know by experience something of the height and depth and length and breadth of the love of Christ, before you can appreciate our theme.
In making Christ our subject we know not where to begin, or where to end. Should we begin at the cradle of Bethlehem, a voice would issue from the throne of the most excellent Majesty, saying, "Before Abraham was, I AM." Or go we back to the days of that patriarch, and identify Christ with the angel of the covenant, we are still admonished that, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." We should therefore fail to delineate Christ in the several aspects and offices in which he appears, if we did not contemplate him as he was in the beginning, or before the world was.
It is important that we here bear in mind the peculiar position in which Christ stands to our world, and which exalts him in our esteem beyond all price, and shows us the absolute necessity that we engage, in our behalf, his interest at the court of heaven. It is this: that to him God committed all things as touching this world. The moment sin entered, and this earth became a revolted province, all intercourse between heaven and earth was cut off-except as a matter of negotiation. Sin had put enmity between God and man, and God would no more treat with man, except through a Mediator. Satan raised his standard; the conflict has been for the dominion of this world-the Devil and his angels, or adherents, contending with Michael and his angels. Officially, God will have nothing to do with this world till it is restored to its allegiance. All done to restore it, must be done through a Mediator appointed for the purpose. Would God subdue his foes, it is done through Christ, the captain of his hosts; would he communicate his will, propose terms of reconciliation, Christ is the Logos, the Word, by whom he speaks; would he dispense pardon to penitent rebels, and restore them to favor, the Son is the daysman to blot out the handwriting of death, and to present them faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. Every thing relating to the mediatorial kingdom is committed to Christ; the government of this world, the dominion over angels, and the final judgment.
Christ, then, is our all in all. If we would make a single approach towards God, it must be through him. But in contemplating Christ the inquiry naturally arises