« AnteriorContinuar »
HUMILIATION OF CHRIST.
son,” and even of the carpenter !” The Father of the everlasting ages humbling himself to be born as a child, and to be hid in Egypt by Joseph, his supposed father! He who could say, “ The world is mine, and the fulness thereof,” choosing to be indebted to the ministry of women for his daily provision as man! The Creator of all things asking a poor sinner for a draught of water! He who came from God, and was on the point of going back to God, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, washing the feet of the poor fishermen who were his disciples ! The King of kings standing before Herod the Tetrarch ; the Judge of the world before Pilate; the Great High Priest before Caiaphas! The Author of life becoming obedient unto death; and, most marvellous of all, the Holy One, who knew no sin, was made sin, and his soul an offering for sin ! But the time would fail me in reminding you of the perfect union of God and man in the person of Jesus. “O the depth of the riches !” is all that the best instructed can exclaim.
Something had been known of God through the previous revelations he had made of himself by the law and the prophets ; but the light of the knowledge of the glory of God was only given in the face of Jesus Christ. It was he alone who, from first to last, visibly declared this precious truth, “ God is love." But what did the busy world at large know or think about Jesus ? Nothing. It may be said, only a few had an opportunity of seeing him : yet how few believed the report of Him when it reached their ears! Besides, the Jews, among whom He walked, were the most intelligent and moral men in the world, and far more capable of valuing the Son of God than the heathen philosophers and idolaters : for they were in possession of the Scriptures that testified of Him, and taught them to expect His coming. And what conclusion did they come to, after Jesus had been among them more than three years, going about doing good, speaking with authority, and working the most astonishing miracles of grace? Would they receive him as the Anointed King, the long-promised Messiah ? Hear the reply : “We have no king but Cæsar.” Would they have him continue his work of love? “Let him be crucified.” “Would they not spare the innocent blood ?” “His blood be upon us and our children." Would they even let Pilate release him as a criminal, because one was usually set free at the time TWOFOLD EFFECT OF THE DEATH OF CHRIST.
of the great national feast? “ Not this man, but Barabbas.” Barabbas, the murderer and the robber, was preferred before Jesus, on earth. If the law brings in every man guilty, and stops every mouth, how much more does the history of man in the Gospels, ending with the crucifixion of Jesus, prove that in the flesh there dwells no good thing. If, however, the cross of Christ only proclaimed this sad truth, we must perish in hopeless despair. But all who feel the burden of sin, all who know their hearts are not one whit better than those of the unbelieving Jews who refused Jesus, or those of the ignorant Gentiles who scourged him and nailed him to the cross, all such may rejoice in the knowledge that the same blood which was shed by the sin of man was provided by God as a remedy for sin. These, receiving the testimony of the Holy Ghost to the value of this precious blood, believe in Jesus to the saving of their souls ; but those who do not receive it, or put any thing in its place as an atonement for sin, will be accountable to God as not believing, but treading under foot his well-beloved Son.
The death of Christ cannot for ever be a matter of indifference to any human being. Eternal life or eternal death must be the consequence of it to every soul of man. If the law set before man life or death, much more does the Gospel ; with this happy difference, that whereas all must perish who expect to be justified by the works of the law, none can perish who heartily accept the Gospel of the Grace of God, and expect to be justified by the work of Christ.
CHAP. V. UTTER FAILURE OF MAN.–POWER OF THE RESURRECTION OF
CHRIST. — FORMATION OF THE CHURCH. - LIGHT TO THE GENTILES.-GIFT OF THE HOLY GHOST.-CHRIST AND HIS
CHURCH, THE TEMPLE OF GOD. As the Gospels contain the history of Christ and His personal ministry, so the rest of the books of the New Testament contain the history of the Church of Christ, and the ministry of the Holy Ghost sent by Christ from the Father. It is in the book called the Acts of the Apostles that we may learn the passing away of the Jewish dispensation, and the establishment of that
THE CRUCIFIXION AND THE RESURRECTION.
which still exists, the dispensation of the Grace of God, or the Christian dispensation. It is also exceedingly interesting, as giving us the fresh and lovely picture of the spring-time of the Church of God-its season of early beauty and promise. In our former history we have seen that sin made the whole earth one vast spiritual wilderness : but the Lord, whose tender mercies are over all His works, still scattered the bounties of His providence through the world; whilst His vineyard, the house of Israel, was the standing proof that He had done all that was possible to bring forth the fruits of righteousness; if man, as merely born of a woman, could be righteous. But the disability of man, as in the flesh, was now proved beyond a doubt. The Lord's messengers, who came to require the fruit of righteousness, were ill-treated or slain, and the Son of God, who came in the fulness of grace, was not reverenced, but killed and cast out of the vineyard. In the crucifixion of Christ, it might have been naturally supposed the last hope was cut off from man. The Jews had lost the king whose long-promised reign was to bring blessing not only to them but to the ends of the earth : sinners had rejected the Saviour ; the dark world had desired to shut out the light, and Satan appeared to triumph in the ruin of mankind. But the resurrection of Christ, at the very opening of the third day, was the answer to all this : the powers of earth were vain, for Jehovah's anointed King must reign over heaven and earth by virtue of his resurrection : the powers of hell were also vain, for the name of Jesus, the Saviour, is above every other name; and for the suffering of death He is crowned with glory and honour. Light is still seen in the world from the spiritual union of the risen Jesus with his people; and the Old Serpent is disappointed in his last device for the total ruin of the world. Notwithstanding the obstinate rebellion and perverseness of man, God's counsel must stand, and he will do all his pleasure. It was his eternal purpose to choose out a people from among those who were so resolutely bent on their own destruction : and, by the death of His Son in their stead, He could justly deliver from the grasp of Satan this redeemed people, though they appeared naturally to belong to the kingdom of darkness, and were found among His enemies. This people is called in New Testament Scripture "the Church” (in the Greek, literally
and so translated, Acts xix. 32), and at the
of God, which he hath THE CHURCH OF GOD.
purchased with his own blood” (Acts xx. 28; see also Eph. v. 25—27). This assembly, chosen by God in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, is composed of the sinners whom God brings to himself in every age of the world, including the faithful solitary ones from the Creation till the end of the Jewish dispensation : a small sample of it, gathered as a family upon earth, was first shown in the world after the resurrection and ascension of Christ, the head of the Church. Happily for those who are yet without, all the children of God are not yet gathered out of the world—the delay is not in slackness, but in long suffering (2 Peter iii. 9); and when the last has obeyed the calling of the grace of God, the Lord Jesus Christ will come again to receive to himself this assembly of redeemed sinners, for whom He gave himself, and to execute vengeance on all that know not God and obey not the Gospel. By nature, the individuals who compose the Church of God differ in nothing from the rest of the world. By grace, they differ in every thing: they are born of God, educated by God, and destined for God.
Before the appearing of Christ, the people of God had been chosen only from among the Jews; or if any strangers were saved, it was as circumcised persons; all besides, as the Apostle says, having no hope (Eph. ï. 12). But since that period we cannot say of any creature who is brought within the sound of the Gospel, there is no hope ; for “out of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues,” that “great multitude which no man can number • is to be gathered before the throne of God and the Lamb; and some of Christ's last words to his disciples were, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.” The eternal purpose of God, to take out a people from among the Gentiles, and to make them fellowheirs and partakers with his chosen ones of the seed of Abraham, long remained a mystery or secret, and was very gradually unfolded after Christ's rejection by the nation of Israel, and his ascension to the right hand of God. According to the prophecy (Is. xlix. 1-6), though Israel was not gathered, He was glorious in the eyes of the Lord; for He was not only worthy to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the preserved of Israel, but He was to be a Light to the Gentiles, and God's salvation to the ends of the earth. It is in the happy remembrance of this truth that we shall pursue the remainder of Universal 28
THE POWER OF THE HOLY Ghost.
History, expecting to find some heart-cheering light where hitherto there has been nothing but darkness.
As long as Christ was in the world, he was the light of the world : and in addressing his disciples he said, “ Ye are the light of the world.” But after the Lord was gone away from them, how could the light be preserved, since man fails in every position; and the weakness of the infant Church was proved at every step? Sorrow might well fill their hearts till they received from his gracious lips the promise of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter and the Spirit of truth, whom he would send to them from the Father, to dwell in them and to abide with them for ever : and they were not only to receive him for their own personal comfort, but to receive such power, such wonderful gifts from him, as to make them able witnesses of Christ both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.
Till Israel failed, it had pleased the Lord to manifest his presence among them in such a manner as he had never done to any other people : first, in the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night; then, filling the tabernacle with His glory : and, afterwards, in the same manner, filling the Temple of Solomon -His chosen earthly dwelling-place. But Ezekiel saw the glory departing from the Temple on account of the abominations committed there : and we do not know that it was ever seen there after the carrying away into Babylon. Yet the faithful remnant that returned to Jerusalem with Ezra were comforted and strengthened by the assurance, “ According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my Spirit remaineth among you : fear ye not ” (Haggai ii. 5). So there were individuals filled with the Holy Ghost (Luke i. 41, 67), and instructed by the Holy Ghost (Luke ii. 25, &c.), even up to the time of Christ's appearing. In him dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily; for the Spirit was his without measure, and he could say, “I and the Father are one.” In this sense it appears he spoke of himself as the Temple ; whereby the Jews well understood God's dwellingplace on earth (John ii. 19); and when he who was God was rejected by his own people, and went out of the temple made with hands for the last time, he addressed Jerusalem in the most affecting language, and ended by saying, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate ; for I say unto you, ye shall