« AnteriorContinuar »
sinners, must we be understood to say, That men need not to work at all, but are at liberty to continue ungodly? No, by no means. We maintain the absolute necessity both of diligence and of universal godliness: we only deny to these things the office of justifying the soul. We declare to all, that they must be daily "working out their salvation with fear and trembling," and that "faith without works is dead." Let this then be borne in mind; There is and can be, but one way of a sinner's justifica tion before God, and that is, by the knowledge of Christ, and faith in his name: but this free salvation, so far from giving any licence for sloth and wickedness, is the strongest incentive to holiness, and the greatest possible obligation to good works. Let us then shew forth our faith by our works. In this way we may be justified by our works, even as Abraham and Rahab were;' that is, we may evince the reality of our faith, and the sincerity of our hearts. Thus shall we assign to faith and works their proper offices, and adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.
1 Jam. ii. 21, 25. compared with Rom. iv. 2, 3, 6.
CXCV. THE FRUIT OF CHRIST'S DEATH AND
Isai liii. 12. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong: because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
IT is at this time, as it has also been in all former ages, an objection frequently urged against the true disciples of Christ, that few, if any, of the wise and noble embrace their sentiments. When our blessed Lord himself ministered on earth, it was asked with scornful triumph, "Have any of the rulers, and of the Pharisees believed on him?" But, if we confess, with the apostle, that "not many wise, not many mighty, not many noble are called," we must resolve the difficulty into the sovereign will of
God, who has "chosen the foolish and weak things of the world, to confound the wise and mighty, and the base and contemptible things of the world, to bring to nought things that are, that no flesh should glory in his presence." There is, however, a period fixed in the divine counsels, when the great and mighty, as well as others, shall become obedient to the faith: and to that event the prophet directs our attention in the text. According to the present translation indeed the Lord Jesus is represented as dividing the spoil in concert with the great: but it should rather be translated, "I will divide him the great for a portion, and he shall divide the strong for a spoil." Agreeably to this sense of the words, we are led to view him as a victorious monarch, triumphing over all the potentates on earth, and both seizing them for his spoil, and enjoying them for his portion.
In illustrating this passage, it will be proper to con
1. The promise made to Christ.
The conversion of the world to Christ is a frequent subject of prophecy: whole chapters are occupied in describing it: we are told that the power of godliness shall one day pervade all ranks of people "from the least even to the greatest;" and that kings will account it their highest honour to be "the nursing-fathers of the church, and queens her nursing-mothers." This was fulfilled in part in the apostles' days, when many persons of rank and power embraced the truth. But it was yet further accomplished in the time of Constantine, when the Roman empire professed subjection to the gospel; and the religion of Christ became the established religion of the world. Since that time the chief princes of Europe have called themselves by the name of Christ, and wished to be esteemed his followers. It is true indeed that far the greater part of them have only called him Lord, Lord, while they have had no desire to do the things which he commands: still, however, their very professions of regard to his name are sufficient to
See Vitringa in loc. or Bp. Lowth.
b Isai. xlix. and lx.
shew what we may expect, when God shall make bare his arm, and go forth in the chariots of the everlasting gospel, conquering and to conquer. The time shall come when "Christ shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth; when all kings shall fall down before him, and all nations shall serve him."
But the terms, in which this promise is expressed deserve a more minute attention. The kingdom of Christ, considered as "a portion which the Father divides unto him," is the Father's gift; but, as "a spoil which Christ divides unto himself," it is the fruit of his own conquests. In both these views we must regard the conversion of men to Christ. None, whether high or low, learned or unlearned, ever yield themselves up unfeignedly to him, but in consequence of their having been already given to him by the Father: " they make not themselves to differ; nor has one, more than another, aught, which he has not received." "As none can come unto Christ, except the Father draw them," so none will come to him, except God have both given them to Christ, and afterwards given to themselves an inclination and desire to be the Lord's. Nor is this a mere speculative truth; it lies at the very root of all religion: we never can be duly humbled till we see ourselves destitute of all will and ability to serve the Lord; and acknowledge from our hearts, that "it is God alone who giveth us either to will or to do" that which is good. Till then, we can never in sincerity refer all the glory of our salvation to God alone: we shall, of necessity, be assuming part of it to ourselves. Our Lord expressly mentions this truth no less than seven times in his intercessory prayer, which he uttered in the presence of his disciples. What greater proof of its importance can be given? And how needful it is for us also to remember it in all our addresses at the throne of grace!
It is further noticed in the text, that the conversion of men is also a fruit of the Redeemer's conquests. As Canaan, though given to Abraham and his posterity, was to
be gained by the sword, so we, however given by the Father to Christ, must be rescued by force out of the hands of our enemies: if Christ will possess us as "a portion," he must take us as "a spoil." The God of this world had usurped a power over us, and, like a strong man armed, kept us under his control. It was therefore necessary that Christ, who was " stronger than he, should overcome him, and take from him the armour wherein he trusted, and divide the spoils." Accordingly he engaged with all the powers of darkness, and, "by death, destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” On his cross" he spoiled principalities and powers, and made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it." In his ascension he led captivity itself captive;" and thus delivered us from the power of his great adversary. Not that his warfare is yet accomplished, though the form of it is altered; for he has still to subdue the rebellion of our hearts. We ourselves are up in arms against him: and, when driven out of one strong-hold, we flee to another, till he has cast them all down, and swept away every refuge of lies. We yield not, till his arrows are fixed deeply in our hearts; we submit not, till he has "made us willing in the day of his power.” Never, till his right hand and his holy arm have gotten him the victory, are our thoughts and desires brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ."
By these united means then is Christ's kingdom to be extended: nor, when once they are combined, shall all the powers of earth and heil withstand their influence.However desperate the condition of any may appear, though they should have sold themselves to work iniquity, and become, in a peculiar sense, "the lawful prey" of Satan, yet shall they be rescued, like Lot, from their victorious captors. This very difficulty is both stated and answered by the prophet: "Shail the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered ?" Yes; "thus saith the Lord, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children."
* Luke xi. 22. f Gen. xiv. 14-16.
Isai. xlix. 24, 25.
Previous to the accomplishment of this promise, Christ was to purchase the church with his own blood: "he was to make his soul an offering for sin, and, after that, to see a seed" given to him for a portion. Such was the tenor of the covenant which the Father entered into with his Son. But the prophet, foreseeing the execution of Christ's work, as if it were already completed, speaks of it as finished; and states the execution of his part of the covenant, as the ground, on which he might expect the accomplishment of the Father's part towards him. In further investigating this promise, it will be proper more fully to consider
II. The grounds of it.
The death and intercession of Christ comprehend the whole of that work, which Christ was to perform on earth and in heaven for the redemption of man. And, they being virtually accomplished from the foundation of the world, our blessed Lord had a right to his purchase, and a claim upon the Father's honour for the performance of the engagements stipulated on his part.
In this view the death of Christ is first mentioned in the text; "Therefore will I divide him a portion, because" he died. But it was not sufficient that Christ should die; he must die in a particular manner, and for particular ends. Was an atonement necessary to reconcile the Father to us? his death must be sacrificial. Was everlasting shame the portion we had merited? his death must be ignominious. Was it necessary for the honour of God's government that sin should be punished in the sight of the whole universe? his death must be judicial. Now it was in this very manner, and for these very ends, that Jesus died. The sacrifices under the law had their blood shed, and poured out at the foot of the altar: and Jesus, our sacrifice, shed his blood from every pore of his body, and "poured out his soul unto death." To mark the ignominy that he was to endure for us," he was numbered with transgressors" of the most atrocious character, and crucified between two thieves; as though, instead of being the Lord of glory, he