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Romans V. 7, 8.
For scarcely for a righteous man "mill one die: t/et peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, ic/iile we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
•"TTrHE Apostle Paul, the author of this epistle, was ja. bred at the feet of Gamaliel, and instructed in all the learning of the Jews. To his Hebrew literature, he superadded the erudition of the Gentiles; for we find him in his epistles quoting their celebrated authors, and alluding to their remarkable customs and the events in their history. These verses which I have now read, carry an allusion and reference to a distinction of characters which prevailed among the Jews, and to some illustrious actions performed by the Romans, to whom he addressed this epistle.
The Jews distinguished men with respect to their characters, into sinners, just men, and 'good men. Sinners are those who violate the laws of God and man, who disturb the public peace, and are bad members of society. A just man is one who does no injury to his neighbour, who gives no cause of offence to the world, who pays his debts, who conforms to the' letter of the law, and who is not deficient in any of the great duties of life. A good man is one who goes farther; who is not only innocent but useful; who is not only decent but exemplary; who is generous, beneficent, public-spirited; who sacrifices his ease, his pleasure, his safety, and, when his country calls for it, who sacrifices his life for the public good. Such was the character of this Apostle himself. In order to propagate the Christian religion among the nations, the greatest blessing of God to the world, in order to diffuse the knowledge of this religion, he gave up all that was dear in life, undertook long and hazardous journeys, exposed himself to the dangers of the deep, to the chains of captivity, to the sword of the persecutor, to the derision and hatred of Jews and Gentiles. Accordingly, he met with this return, which he here mentions as being sometimes made to superior goodness; for we read in the sixteenth chapter of this epistle, that he found persons who for his life would have laid down their own. /. The Apostle also in these verses alludes to some illustrious actions performed by the Romans, to whom Jie addresses this epistle. The love of their country was the darling passion of that great people. All the soul went out in this generous ardour, and every private affection flowed in the channel of the public welfare. Judge what a strong hold it must have taken of the heart, when it glowed even in the female breast; when the wife encouraged the husband, and the mother exhorted the son to die for their country. It was a principle in the breast of every Roman, that lie owed his life to his country. This being the spirit of the people, gave birth to many illustrious and heroic actions. The spirit of patriotism glowed among the people for many ages of the republic; one hero sprung from the ashes of another; and great men arose from age to age, who devoted themselves to death for the public good. These being the most celebrated actions in the history of mankind, the Apostle here compares them with the death of Jesus Christ. Following the train of thought suggested by the Apostle, 1 shall shew you the infinite superiority of that love which prompted Jesus to die for the sins of the world, to that patriotism which prompted the heroes and great men of old to die for their friends or for their country.
In the Jirst place, then, Those who devoted themselves to death for their friends or their country, sub-, mitted to a fate which they must one day have suffered: But Jesus Christ, who is the true God, and possesseth eternal life, submitted to death for our redemption.
We are all born mortal creatures. Sprung from the dust, we return to the dust again. The sentence of the Lord is passed upon all flesh, and there is no exemption from the law of mortality. - We know not how soon our last hour may come. The darts of death are continually on the wing; the arrow of destruction flieth by night* and smiteth at noon-day; victims are daily falling at our right hand, and at our left, and we know not how soon we too may fall a sacrifice. He, therefore, who exposes himself to danger, or devotes himself to death for the good of others, only anticipates the evil day, only resigns a lite which he must soon part with, and submits to a doom which, sooner, or later, he must lay his account to endure. But Jesus Christ was the King eternal and immortal. His outgoings were from everlasting, and he is God blessed for ever. He would have remained happy in himselfj happy in the contemplation and enjoyment of his own perfections, happy in the administration and government of the moral world, though he had never cast an eye of pity upon mortal man. He would have inhabited the praises of eternity though man had never been redeemed. Yet for our sakes he left the glories of the heavens, he veiled his Divinity in a form of flesh, he took our nature with all its infirmities upon him, he submitted to every affliction which embitters human life, and he suffered an excruciating, an ignominious, and an accursed death. For the salvation and the happiness of the world which he had made, the King of kings appeared in the form of a servant, and the Lord of life was crucified at Jerusalem. A crown of thorns was put on that head where the diadem of nature was wont to sit. Where is the deed of human virtue that can stand in comparison with this meritorious exertion of the Divine be-. nevolence? All the perfection of created nature fades before it, and is but a foil to set off the brightness of redeeming love.
In the second place, Those among the sons of men who devoted themselves to death for the good of others, made the sacrifice for their friends, for those by whom they were beloved; but Jesus died for his enemies.
We are united to our friends by the strongest ties of affection; we are interested in all that befals them, and adopt their joys or their sorrows. Long habits pf attachment, and a mutual intercourse of good offices, draw close the cords of friendship, and make them twine with every string of life. Hence we are fellowsufferers with our friends in distress; we are afflicted in all their afflictions; so that suffering a great temporal evil for them, is in reality removing a load from our own minds. Thus strongly are we attached to our friends, nor is the charm less which binds us to the community. The sacred name of country, strikes us with veneration; we feel an enthusiasm for our native land; when it is in danger, hardships are cheerfully undergone, and death scarce appears an evil in such a glorious cause. Such inducements there are to him who dies tor his friends or his country. But Jesus died for the redemption of his enemies, for' those who threw off their allegiance to him, who rebelled against his authority, and rose up in arms against their benefactor. Their groans would never have reached his ear, nor afflicted his heart, had he not graciously inclined to sympathise. The misery of mankind would never have disturbed the happiness of the Divine nature, would never have thrown a cloud over the serenity of the heavens, nor made a pause in the alleluiabs of the blessed, had he not chosen to bear their sorrows. It was unmerited goodness, it was sovereign mercy, it was pure benevolence, it: was love truly divine, that moved him to interpose in our behalf. He saw the race of men on the very brink of destruction; he saw the bottomless pit just opening to swallow them up, and, in the moment of danger, the Redeemer appeared, gracious to pity, mighty to save. A cloud had long been gathering over the nations, the hand of the Omnipotent was stretched out in wrath, the thunder of his power was ready to burst over a devoted world, when the Patron and Intercessor of the human race stepped in, and stayed the avenging arm with the words of mercy: '* Lo, I come to do thy will. Sacrifice and burnt"offerings thou dost not desire. On me let thine an** ger fall. Let me die, that these may live."
In the third place, He who dies- a martyr for the public good, departs with honour; but Jesus made his departure with ignominy and shame.
It is honourable, it is glorious, to die for the public good. He who falls a martyr to the happiness of mankind, is supported by the native fortitude of the soul, is carried forward by the consciousness of a good cause, is encouraged with the admiration and ap*plause of the world, and becomes famous to all succeeding times. To him the temple of fame spontanea ous opens its gate, his name is repeated with applause, honours are paid to his memory, and he is the heir of perpetual praise. Circumstances of such a nature take away the terror of death. The secret consciousness of a great soul, the approach of an event which is so glorious in itself, and so beneficial to the world, the anticipation of the praises of succeeding times, exT alt the man, and fill him with the elevation and magnanimity of virtue. Few enjoyments in life can be compared with a death so glorious. But Jesus Christ submitted to the ignominious death of the cross. The greatest trial and exercise of virtue, is when an innocent man submits to the imputation of a crime, that othersmay be free from thepunishmert. This our Lord did. In his life he was branded with the blackest names, and accused of the most flagitious crimes; branded with the names of' publican and sinner, accused of associating with the profligate, and of being in compact with the powers of darkness. But at his