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Whoever thou art, delaying sinner, it is in my heart earnestly to plead with thee. How canst thou go madly on in the road to death! Who can think of thy coming doorn, and not feel compassion ? O, slight not thy God, thy Saviour, thy Judge, who waits for thee to-day. Hasten to His feet; for His brow is gathering frowns : “ His wrath abideth on thee :") and to-morrow He may swear, You shall never sce my rest! O, then,“ a great ransom cannot deliver thec!” Then there musi be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth for ever !
By BERIAH GREEN, A.M.
EVANGELICAL TRUTHS OFFENSIVE TO THE UNRENEWED BUT
JOYOUS TO THE BELIEVER. Matt. xi. 6.— And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.
In the immediate connection of this passage, we are informed, that John the Baptist sent forth two of his disciples, to present to Jesus Christ this inquiry : “ Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another ?” It is not perhaps easy to determine, by what motive John was influenced in sending such a message. Amidst the gloom of the dungeon in which he was confined, some remaining doubts respecting the character of Jesus Christ might have perplexed and troubled him, from which he would gladly be freed; or it might have been bis object, to give his disciples an opportunity of listening to the instructions, and witnessing the miracles of Christ, in the hope that they would devote themselves to the person and cause of the Son of God. In reply to the inquiry of his illustrious forerunner, Jesus sent an account of the deeds of power and mercy which were daily wrought by His hand. The blind, He informed him, received their sight; the Jame walked ; the lepers were cleansed ; and the deaf heard ; the dead were raised, and the poor had the gospel preached unto them, Works like these most clearly evinced his Messiahship; and, however illadapted to the condition of a king, the circumstances in which Jesus then appeared, might seem to be; however His character, and movements, and doctrines might offend Jewish prejudice, and nurt wordly pride; He assured John, that he was a truly happy man, who should cordially confide in Him as the Saviour of the world. Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.”
The only term in the text which requires explanation, is the word “offended.” In its literal meaning, it describes the condition of one who has stumbled and fallen upon some object which lay in his way. In the New Testament, it is used in a figurative sense; and describes a state of error and sin, and especially that most destructive error, of rejecting the Gospel of Christ. Hence, some who rejected the claims of Jesus to the Messiahship, on the ground of His obscure birth, are said to have been " offended in Him:" they spurned the overtures of mercy which He made, and thus involved themselves in guilt and ruin. Many things in the character and instructions of Jesus were at war with worldly pride and prejudice. Not a few would turn away from His efforts to bless and save them. Happy, however, truly happy, were they who should confide in Him as the Saviour of the world.
The declaration of the Saviour, thus explained, it is my present object to illustrate and apply. In doing this, I shall proceed on the ground of the following statement:
THE PARTICULARS IN THE CHARACTER AND INSTRUCTIONS OF JESUS, WHICH ARE MATTERS OP OFFENCE TO THE UNRENEWED MIND, ARE SOURCES OF HAPPINESS TO THE CHRISTIAN.
The points, which, in this discourse, I shall bring forward to illustrate and sustain this statement, you may find in the TWO-FOLD NATURE OF JESUS ; in the DOCTRINES which He taught, especially the doctrines of ATONEMENT, of THE NECESSITY OF DIVINE INFLUENCE, and of DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY; and in the PRECEPTS by which He bound his disciples, to BE HUMBLE, and WHOLLY DEVOTED TO HIS SERVICE.
FIRST ; In the twO-FOLD NATURE OF JESUS, the unrenewed mind finds matter of offence, but the Christian a source of consolation and joy. In examining the pages of the Bible, it is easily seen, that two classes of attributes, clearly distinct, and exceedingly different from each other, are ascribed to Him. On the one hand, in tracing His course from the cradle to the cross-from His birth to His death-we see Him exhibiting all the attributes (sin only excepted) which pertain to the human family. He grows in stature, and increases in wisdom; he hungers and thirsts; weeps and rejoices; feels aversion, attachment, indignation; he keenly suffers beneath the various trials to which he is subjected, falls into the hands of his enemies, and dies on the cross. On the other hand, he is presented to our view as the true God, omniscient, omnipresent, almighty ; the creator of all things; the upholder of all things; the searcher of all hearts; one who can forgive sin; the Judge of “ the quick and the dead.” In these different views of the character of Jesus, the unrenewed mind--especially if it be of a philosophic turn-if it be affected with intellectual pride finds many difficulties. The attributes ascribed in the Gospel to Jesus, seem to such an one to be inconsistent with each other. He proudly, perhaps peevishly, demands, How can God be united with man? How can “ two distinct natures be combined in one person ?” How is this consistent with the divine dignity and majesty ? What becomes of personal iden
tity? Who can explain ; who understand ; who believe a doctrine so full of mystery? Thus, perplexed and embarrassed with the difficulties which he finds in the character of Jesus, “he is offended," and involves himself in the fearful error of rejecting the Gospel.
But the two-fold nature of Jesus opens to the mind of the Christian a deep source of consolation and joy. In His human nature, he beholds in Jesus a “ faithful and merciful high-priest,” who can be touched with a feeling of his infirmities; who, having been subject to the fiercest assaults of temptation, can pity and succour the tempted; who, having Himself been a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” can sympathize in his sorrows; who, having Himself felt, and keenly felt, almost every variety of suffering, can “ lift up the bowed down,” “ strengthen the feeble knees,” “ bind up the broken heart;" who, having Himself been subject to the horrors of a most dreadful death, can sustain and cheer his people, even on a dying bed. And then the human nature of Jesus, veiling the insufferable glories of His godhead, invites the Christian, borne down with a sense of guilt, to approach Him with holy boldness, to pour his own desires into His blessed bosoni with the sweetest confidence.
In His divine nature, the Christian sees in Jesus a Saviour, who is always with him ; who is acquainted with all his thoughts and desires ; whose eye searches his inmost soul ; who can forgive his sins; tread down his foes; bear him forward in the rugged path of duty ; who can sustain him amidst tempests, floods, and fires ; who can open before him the gate of heaven, and crown him with eternal life. What could he ask, which might promote his safety, consolation, eternal blessedness, which he doth not find in Jesus? In His character, he finds the very attributes which he needs in a Saviour and Redeemer. While he leaves the worldly man, blinded with his own pride and self-sufficiency, to sit in judgment, if he dares, upon the character of the “ Word, who became flesh and dwelt among us," and to spurn His overtures of mercy, because that character was not conformed to the dogmas of human philosophy, himself is unspeakably happy in a cordial confidence in Jesus as the Saviour of the world.
A Second illustration of the subject of this discourse, I find in SOME OF THE PECULIAR DOCTRINES WHICH JESUS TAUGHT. The first doctrine which I shall mention in this connection, is this :- The penitent sinner is pardoned and saved simply on account of the atonement which Jesus made by His death upon the cross. In the New Testament, this doctrine is taught with great clearness; the utmost stress is put upon it. At one time we hear the Saviour declare, that “ except we eat the flesh, and drink the blood of the Son of man, we have no life in us;" at another, we read the assertion of St. Paul, that “through His blood, we have redemption, the remission of sins, according to the riches of his grace ;” and again, we listen to the song of heaven, and learn, that the “ ransomed of the Lord” ascribe their
salvation “unto Him who loved them, and washed them in His own blood.” How often does this doctrine, thus stated, offend the unrenewed mind! One man can see no propriety in permitting the innocent to suffer for the guilty ; another thinks it a strange and unnatural statement, that the Son of God should die for the sons of men ; a third can see no necessity in the case, which could call for the endurance of the agonies of crucifixion, Why, he demands, as if he were fit to be the counsellor of the Most High, why could not God forgive sin without an atonement ? One man can see nothing in the doctrine of the cross, which is suited to the dignity of human nature ; and another verily believes, that it is fitted to relax moral obligation, and encourage men to live on in sin. Thus pride throws a hedge around the cross ! Thus hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, stumble and fall on the Rock of Calvary! Thus are they offended with a crucified Saviour! The redeeming kindness which bursts forth from His bleeding brow and bleeding heart, they spurn! But O, how different are the feelings which a view of Christ awakens in the bosom of the believer! The orose, he perceives, is the very expedient which his necessities as a sinner hastening to the judgment demanded. On this ground he may be forgiveng and the authority of the divine law maintained, and the integrity and glory of the divine character preserved. While, therefore, he looks upon the cross,--to adopt the beautiful and truly touching illustration of the immortal Bunyan, -while “ he looks upon the cross, his burthen is loosed from his shoulders, falls from his back, and is lost in the sepulchre beneath. Glad and lightsome, he says with a merry heart, “He hath given me rest by his sorrow, and life by his death.' See him, while he stands to look and wonder-filled with surprise, that the sight of the cross should thus ease him of his burthen. He looks and looks again, even till the springs that are in his head send the waters down his cheeks.” In the cross, moreover, a display of the divine perfections, clear, attractive, glorious, arrests his attention, and moves his soul. flere, “mercy and truth meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other.” The lustre in which the sacrifice of Jesus exhibits the mingled justice and benevolence of the divine character, fires the Christian with love to the ever-blessed God-binds him to His throne-constrains him with joy to obey the divine commands -and to repose the liveliest, sweetest confidence in the divine promises. From the bottom of his heart, he sings, “ God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of Christ !!!
The Saviour taught, moreover, that divine influences were necessary, to bring men cordially to embrace the gospel. “No man,” he asserted, “could come to Him,” unless he was “ drawn by the Father.” And in accordance with this doctrine, He assured the apostles, that he would send the Holy Spirit into the world, to convince men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. All the Christian graces, moreover, are set forth in the Bible, as " the fruits of the Spirit.” Different men view this doctrine in a very different light, and with very different feelings. You have heard,
perhaps, and shuddered as you heard, the man, who gloried in the strength and acuteness of his mind and the purity of his morals, demand, “ What are these boasted effects, which are ascribed to the operations of the Holy Spirit ? Are they not repentance, faith, submission to the divine will, obedience, generally, to the commands of God? And are not these the proper exercises of the human mind ?--produced by the influence of motives, just as the mind is wrought upon in its ordinary exercises ? What need, then, of referring such results to the agency of the divine Spirit ? Is it not irrational, unphilosophical, to do so ? How can I receive a doctrine which is so much at war with my philosophy ? Weak men may rely upon the promised aid of the Holy Spirit in their efforts to win heaven. I know not, that I need such assistance. Why should I ask it ? Such mysticism I cannot but reject.” Where these views have not been expressed in words, have you not seen them every day, have you not seen them acted out in human conduct ? Are you not acquainted with thousands, who stubbornly or stupidly refuse to offer a single prayer to Heaven for divine assistance in“ working out their salvation ?” Nay, hearer, art not “ thou the man!" living from day to day, without one earnest aspiration for the aid of the Holy Spirit ? And is not thy pride this moment hurt -art thou not offended, while I assure thee, on divine authority, that without this aid, thou wilt never take a single step in the “ way that leadeth unto life ?"
But will you permit me to repeat what I heard the humble Christian say, while marking with intense solicitude the path of duty and of usefulness? I heard him say, “ I am commanded to let my light shine--to do good to fill up life with acts of beneficence--with deeds of piety and usefulness. I am to do my utmost in my family, in the circle where I move, to multiply the trophies of redeeming grace-to extend the limits of the church. Nor am I left to confide in the efficacy of moral suasion--in the unaided power of such instruction as I may be able to impart, and of such motives as I may be able to set forth. Alas, I might as well hope to still the tempest, as to subdue the human heart by moral suasion! It is made of sterner stuff,' than to yield to such an agency. But in the power and grace of the Holy Ghost, my confidence is fixed. He is my Almighty Helper-He can break the hardest heart-bow the stoutest will. He can crown my efforts of faith and love with the highest results, and the largest success. I am cominanded, moreover, to grow in grace'--to press forward in the straight and narrow way. But I am not left to my own unaided strength. Alas, what were that to resist the violence of inbred lusts, and the impulse of temptation! But I am permitted to cast myself upon the Holy Spirit. He can make my strength equal to my day-can bear me on in the face of the most trying difficulties--can make me conqueror, and more than conqueror, over every enemy of my soul !” And he lifted up his eyes, beaming with joy, and blessed God for “ His unspeakable gift."
Again ; The moral government of God, as set forth in the Bible, awakens very different feelings in different bosoms. It is to the unrenewed mind a