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The apostle speaks of a saying which he affirms to be true and worthy of all attention-it refers to Jesus Christ and the object of his mission. The world had been advised of his coming-many reports were circulated about him as he came to be known. Some originated in jealousy, others in prejudice; some assailed his character, others referred to his designs. It was said that he was low bred because he turned his attention to the poor; many reported that he was a gluttonous man and a wine-bibber because he was occasionally in the society of publicans and sinners. Some charged him with ambition, that he aspired to a crown, others accused him of hypocrisy, that under the garb of innocence he aimed to subvert the Jewish polity and set up a new order of things; that his object was to destroy the law and the prophets. Time-which is a diligent inquirer and a just judge-has exposed all that was false, and confirmed all that was true. His true character, personal and moral, has been "placed under the seal and safegard of death and immortality."
We propose to examine this saying which the apostle has transmitted to us, what it implies, its claims to truth and general belief.
I. We inquire what is implied in this saying?
1. It is implied that men are lost. If it would be absurd to offer life to those who were not dead, it must be equally so to speak of saving those who were not perishing. If man were only in a partially lapsed condition, if his disease were not universal, a less effectual remedy might have answered. The salvation mentioned in the text, as we may gather from other parts of Scripture, is a full and entire deliverance from sin, its guilt, pollution, and power; including exemption from the condemnation of the law, freedom from the whole system of corrupt inclinations-sometimes called justification of life; sometimes the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost; sometimes the putting off the old man with his deeds, and the putting on of the new man. The obvious import of such strong language is, that man, in his native character, is a lost sinner. The apostle drew the same inference because we thus judge, if one died for all, then were all dead; if Christ Jesus came to save sinners, then they needed a Saviour; he would not have come on a useless errand; they stood in infinite need.
2. It is also implied that their salvation is a work of great difficulty. The names Christ Jesus, signify the anointed one-one set apart for a particular work. If the work of salvation could have been achieved by any other being in the universe, God had not sent his only Son. The law was broken, its awful penalty was incurred; the justice of God was armed for the destruction of the sinner; who could interpose, arrest the course of justice, set aside the penalty and open a way in which the law could be sustained, divine justice satisfied, the government of Jehovah vindicated, and the sinner saved? To preserve these high interests, and bring in everlasting righteousness was a mighty work. An angel could not accomplish it. When there was no eye to pity, no arm to save, then God brought salvation by laying help on one that is mighty. Infinite wisdom was employed in devising, and infinite power was exerted in executing the plan of salvation. Hence Christ Jesus is called the wisdom of God and the power of God. He assumed human nature into personal union with the divine, that as Mediator he might effect a reconciliation. To accom
plish so difficult a work, he must understand, and take an equal interest in, the character and concerns of both parties. From the relation which he sustained, the place he held, he only could make an end of sin by giving himself a sin offering, he only could magnify the law and make it honorable by his active and passive obedience. When Jesus, therefore, left his Father's bosom, it was on no excursion of pleasure; it was not to wander forth among the worlds that rolled in infinite space to receive their homage; but he came into this revolted province-this world of sin and error and rebellion, to save the orphans that were lying in their blood; to restore the outcasts that were ready to perish; this divine and heavenly work was to be effected, not by the mere energy of his will, not by commissioning an angel or a being of inferior order; but by giving himself in sacrifice-by a life of obedience-by a vicarious death-by bearing our sins in his own body on the tree.
3. It is more than implied, it is affirmed, by the apostle, that the chief of sinners may be saved. He does not hesitate to refer to himself, who was before a blasphemer and a persecutor, and injurious, and yet the grace of God was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. Such an instance of grace was designed to illustrate the fullness of divine mercy. "Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting." A pattern is a specimen; in the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, the world might see what abundant mercy there is treasured up in Christ. Many an awakened sinner, who might otherwise have given up in despair, has been encouraged by his case to apply to the blood of sprinkling. If one so full of pride and self-righteousness; if such an opposer, breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, obtain mercy, the vilest of the vile may be saved.
4. We are also taught by this saying the infinite grace and love of God. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners who deserved to die. Had he been sent to punish them, had he been charged with a commission to execute the sentence of the law, it would have comported with our ideas of justice; but " God, who is rich in mercy for the great love wherewith he loved us, sent his Son, not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved." Verily God's thoughts are not as our thoughts; nor His ways as our ways. While not many great, not many noble are called, God hath chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom. To show his grace and make his power known, he has often fixed his regards upon the most abandoned, that no flesh might glory in his sight. Jesus came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentence. And he is able and willing to save to the uttermost, all who come to God by him.
II. We consider the propriety of accepting this saying, or, its claims to truth and general belief.
It is a faithful saying; it is true. History substantiates the fact that more than eighteen centuries ago a stranger entered our world, asserting that he was the Son of God, the Messias who was to come. His apostles asserted that he was God manifest in the flesh. Great numbers believed on him-entrusted to him the interests of their souls. The truth of this
saying is identified with the truth of the Bible. It is interwoven in all its parts. The great object of the Bible is to illustrate the character and unfold the mission of the Son of God. All the proofs of the divine origin of the sacred Scriptures go to support this saying.
It is proved by the fulfilment of prophecy. Predictions the most minute and convincing were accomplished-predictions which no human foresight could have suggested-which no human power could have brought about. These prophecies related to different and opposite events; to distant times, to the character, birth-place, life and death of the Saviour; to the fortunes of his visible kingdom. To make a selection out of a great variety, we refer to the fullness of time when Christ was to appear. Many striking predictions were fulfilled by that event. It was foretold by Jacob in his dying moments, that it was to take place before political power departed from Judah. "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet until Shiloh come, and unto him shall the gathering of the people be." The Messiah appeared at that critical period. Roman guards and Roman courts, just then established, proved that the sceptre had departed from Judah and the lawgiver from between his feet. It was predicted by the prophet Haggai that Christ should come during the existence of the second temple: "In this place will I give peace." There appeared the Prince of peace, preaching the gospel of peace. was foretold, moreover, that his coming should be within "seventy weeks” from the period marked out by Daniel; at whatever time the computation commences, they have long since elapsed. The place where he was to be born, his parentage, the most minute circumstances were pointed out, ages before he appeared. The only correct inference from all this is: "Holy men spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."
The truth of this saying is proved by the agreement of the types and antetype. The types were shadows of good things to come: symbolic prophecies. They strengthen the former argument. When we read of the paschal lamb slain in Egypt, each family feeding upon it; of the blood sprinkled upon the door-posts, we see a very significant emblem of Christ our passover, sacrificed for us, whose blood, while it cleanses from all sin, is a defence against the angel of the second death. When we read of the scape-goat on whose head was laid the sins of the people, which he bore into the wilderness, we have no obscure representation of Him who bore our sins in his own body on the tree. Among the types we find the prophet Jonah three days and nights in the whale's belly, which an inspired interpreter has told us prophesied of Christ, who was to be confined an equal length of time in the grave. Such remarkable coincidences evince the influence of a pervading spirit, at once dictating the types and securing their fulfillment.
The truth of this saying is further attested by miracles. Without referring now to the train of miracles by which the mission of Moses was established, (Deut. xxxiv. 10-12,) we confine our attention to the signs and wonders by which Christ and his apostles were approved of God as special messengers of the truth. Christ, in his own name, and by his own underived power, and the apostles, by virtue of his Spirit resting upon them, controlled the laws of nature by a word. Their mighty works were not done in a corner. Their number and publicity gave all an opportunity of an examination. Hence an apostle, addressing the Jewish people, said
that Jesus Christ was approved by signs and miracles which were done among them as they also knew. A man who could heal the sick by a word, raise the dead, cast out devils, still the raging sea, furnished evidence that God was with him; consequently that his messages were inspired. A cloud of witnesses have also attested the truth of this saying-witnesses in heaven and on earth. Says John-"There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth-the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: these three agree in one. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth." That Jesus is the Son of God is fully attested by his baptism, in water, and by his blood, or death, followed by his resurrection, the miraculous power of God confirming this great fundamental article of our faith on both occasions. And the Holy Spirit, whose attestations are absolute truth and veracity, attested his divine mission by his miracles, by his re surrection, by the miraculous powers with which the Apostles were en dowed, and even now in the illuminating and sanctifying influences of th Spirit on the hearts of Christians.
Other witnesses have testified to the truth of this saying. Thousandin every age who have been convinced of sin, of their lost condition, have trusted in him for salvation. When ready to perish, he has interposed and saved them. By a life of faith, by resisting temptation, by divine consolation in affliction, by victory over death-they have borne witness that Jesus was mighty to save. It is a true saying, and thousands more will
attest its truth.
2. It is worthy of all acceptation. A saying may be true, and still be unimportant. But this embodies the most interesting truth: to know and believe which is life eternal. It has as much interest and value at one time as another. In every part of this revolted world this report should be circulated and received. The truth contained in it is adapted to the condition and circumstances of all men, for all have sinned and need a Saviour. Such a saying, bearing the seal of Heaven, whose truth and importance have been fully tested by such multitudes in every age, is worthy of cordial, unqualified, and immediate acceptation.
It should be cordially received. The nature and claims of a report should decide the manner of its reception. If it refer to abstract truth, to some distant or unimportant event, it may be believed, but no special interest will be awakened, no emotion will be felt; but when it is announced that the Son of God became flesh, and dwelt among us; that he came to seek and to save that which is lost, were there nothing to blunt the sensibilties and pervert the mind, the most deep and lively interest would be manifested. Were we to hear of peace after a long and ruinous war; or the favorable termination of a cause in which we were deeply concerned, we should receive the tidings with grateful emotion. How then should we receive the tidings of the Gospel, Glory to God in the highest; on earth peace and good will to men;""That God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation."
When it was proclaimed amidst the struggles of the Revolution that a peer of France, powerfully allied, possessed of an ample fortune, had landed upon our shores, determined to devote himself and his all to the service of liberty; such a generous act called forth one universal burst of admiration; even grave senators could not repress their tears of joy. How should the intelligence be received, not that an earthly noble, but a heavenly King-God's only Son-had come into our world, not to be honored, but to humble himself; not merely to be exposed to hardship, but to be crucified, to die an ignominious death, prompted solely by love? When it is ascertained beyond a doubt that he accomplished the object of his mission, changed the aspect of the world, opened a door of hope, appeased the wrath of heaven-will not every heart be opened to receive the message?
This saying is worthy of unqualified acceptation. Christ Jesus came to save sinners to turn away every one of us from our sins. The terms of salvation are explicit and benevolent. They are of the same character with the message. We must renounce our sins and pleasures, the world, and every evil thing, because they are a fruitful source of sorrow. If self-moved, the Son of God came to our world on such an errand of love, it should be left to him to settle the terms of salvation. How absurd for those who have ruined themselves, who are under sentence of condemnation, to attempt to modify the ground of pardon! In view of the great interests of God's kingdom, of the highest happiness of sinners themselves, in view of all concerned, Jesus Christ has said, that whosoever would be his disciple and share in his mercy, and hope to be saved in heaven, he must deny himself, and take up his cross-he must forsake all that he hath. And heaven and earth shall pass away before one tittle of the gospel shall change. Never were terms more suitable. They are simply that we come in our real character, as lost sinners-that we honor him as the only Saviour and then, no matter how numerous or aggra vated our sins, they shall be forgiven, and our names be written in the book of life.
It is worthy of immediate acceptation. It is addressed to those who are in imminent danger; who are lying under the curse of a broken law; whose hearts are depraved, and are therefore unmeet for the kingdom of heaven. Danger cannot be too soon escaped; the evil too soon averted. The message relates to a momentous concern-it deserves immediate attention. No matter what our condition in this life-no matter what our age, or how pressing our engagements we are directed to seek first the kingdom of God. While we are in an unconverted state, while under the dominion of selfishness, we cannot please God. The gospel publishes pardon to the guilty, salvation to the lost-why then should we defer acceptance of the terms, when life is so uncertain, and an evil heart of unbelief is so dangerous? God is sincere in sending this message to us. He says, " To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts." Every thing depends upon our acceptance of it." He that believeth not, shall be damned." "What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul." Prudence, reason, self-interest, the word and Spirit of God, the triumphant and the despairing death-beds of sinners, all dictate and urge to an immediate acceptation of the gospel. Lay hold on eternal life.