« AnteriorContinuar »
partaker of our life; and as our regeneration was to be the work of the Holy Ghost, so was Christ's nativity ordered in like manner.
Again, at the baptism of our LORD, when that water, and in it all water, was sanctified to be the outward means of that blessed union and communion with Christ, here also again the Holy Spirit came down from Heaven to bless the water for the purpose. At Pentecost He came down as in cloven tongues of fire, to quicken the dead world and make it a living Church; in Baptism it is His gracious doing, that we put on Christ, who is our Life; in the holy Eucharist, He it is, He the most HOLY Spirit, who comes down in answer to the prayers of His Church, and works that unseen wonder, that the Bread and Wine become, to those who worthily receive them, the Body and Blood of CHRIST, verily taken and received. That is, in the Eucharist the HOLY SPIRIT comes down, to strengthen and refresh in us CHRIST, who is our Life.
Lastly, the Holy Spirit is to us a Giver of life, because He plants even in our bodies a life-giving seed, CHRIST's Body received by faith ; and it is a pledge that we never really die, but sleep; it is a token, in our very outward members, that we may look in hope for a glorious resurrection; as St. Paul reasons in the Epistle to the Romans, “ If the Spirit of Him which raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up CHRIST from the dead, shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit which dwelleth in you.”
Thus is Christ's Spirit to each one of us the LORD and Giver of Life from the beginning ; thus is He near at hand, keeping us continually joined to Jesus Christ, our Head, if we have not thrown His grace quite away.
Surely, if we believe these things indeed, they will not pass away out of our minds; they must seem to us so great and wonderful, so near to our ownselves, as to swallow up all other thoughts and cares in this one, how we may show ourselves not unworthy of the miracles of God's mercy towards us, how we may avoid grieving that good Spirit, and forcing the ALMIGHTY Father to take Him from us. If we believe, that, as baptized and justified Christians, we are really temples of the Holy Ghost, members of the Son, partakers of the Divine Nature, even as St. Paul and St. Peter plainly teach ; which of us can say, that he has been or is behaving himself with that awfulness and fear, which becomes those to whom God is so very nigh? Which of us is thankful, as he ought, to that gracious and merciful God, who has given us not this or that blessing, but the Gift, the gracious, the unspeakable Gift, even His OWNSELF, to dwell in our hearts and bodies, to cure us of all evil, and perfect us in every good ? Surely our condition is now, since our baptism, like that of God's angels before any of them fell; we are brought very near to Him, nearer than any of us can imagine or express : our blessings are heavenly blessings and privileges, our communion is with the Inhabitants of Heaven, we see “ the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of JESUS CHRIST,” in His Church, and in His Scriptures; and we know and feel all the while that we have as yet all our blessings, and the hope of infinitely greater ones, on trial; we have them to make sure of, or to lose, for ever, according as we try to keep God's commandments or no. This is, so far, like the condition of the high Angels in Heaven before they fell; or like that of our first parents in Paradise.
Let us not, I beseech you, be so childish, as to put off serious thoughts of this our state, with the ordinary saying, “ God is merciful; and I hope I shall find pardon, though I have sinned, as many more have done.” Was not HE the same merciful God,– was not His mercy over all His works, when the Angels sinned and when Adam fell, as truly as it is now ? and yet His sentence came to pass in both cases; the one lost Heaven, and the other Paradise. Whatever else we do, then, or refrain from doing, let us at least endeavour to open our eyes, and contemplate our real condition. The outward world indeed is to us the same as if we were no Christians; the breath of Heaven is around us, the dew falls, the winds blow, the rain descends, the waters gush out, and all the other works of Nature go on, as if we had never been taken out of this wicked world, and placed in the Kingdom of God; but in reality, we know that there is a meaning and power in all these common things, which they can have to none but Christians. They are so many tokens of the Holy Ghost, the ComFORTER, the Breath of God, which proceeded and yet proceeds from the FATHER and the Son, to new-create a ruined world, to
renew each one of us in particular to a new life, the life of JESUS Christ. That good Spirit is around us on every side; He is within us; we are His temples; we do not leave Him behind us when we go out of Church; only let us so live, that we force Him not to depart from us at last.
EZEKIEL xviii. 4.
“Behold, all souls are mine ; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the
son is mine : the soul that sinneth, it shall die."
The mysterious truth which these most solemn words declare to us is so terrible, and the thought which they cannot but awaken, in any serious mind is so overwhelming, that it may well make one tremble to utter or to hear them. It is as if all the souls from Adam to the very end of time were summoned up, and were passing before us at one glance. It is as if all who have been so wonderfully mingled together here on earth, so dependent on one another, and so bound up together by all sorts of ties, that we can scarcely separate them even in idea—kings and people, parents and children, masters and servants-were all gathered, as they shall one day be, before the Throne of AlMIGHTY God, and told by His own word, that after all, notwithstanding all these ties, each is in God's sight a single independent being; an immortal soul dwelling in a mortal body, answerable. for every thought, and word, and deed done in that body, to an All-seeing, Eternal JUDGE.
The hardened Jews, His chosen people, as they had been of old, when all was going wrong, and they were getting worse and worse from age to age ;-every generation worse than that before it, and every son worse than his father,—began to blaspheme God. He had threatened of old, in the second command• VOL. vii.
ment, that “He would visit the sins of the fathers upon the children.” He threatened; and what He threatened, He of course performed. The fathers sinned, and the children in this world suffered, as we often see is the case now: one generation did wrong, the next was judged. The Jewish Church of old in one age departed from God; in the next went into captivity, or the people endured plague, famine, and the sword, for their sins; and if they continued impenitent, the curse went on, as it were, collecting age after age. Forefathers did wrong, and their children followed them; kings and princes did wrong, and the people were involved in their sin, till they gradually, as it was said, filled up the measure of their fathers; and when the judgment came, some great calamity upon the Church and people, it might be truly said, that thus the sins of the fathers were visited on the children.
Now, when all this was before their eyes, what was their duty ? Surely to do what God's prophets and ministers so earnestly warned them to do,—to turn, every one in his place, from their evil ways. These judgments themselves were so many warnings to them, one and all, to do so; to confess their sins and the sins of their forefathers, and at once, each in his own place and measure, to repent and forsake them.
Instead of all this, what did they do? They railed and blasphemed, and became reckless : they carried on the sin, and so increased the curse. In the days of Jeremiah and Ezekiel particularly, instead of looking to themselves and their own sins, they flew in the face of Almighty God, and complained, with sullen unbelief, of His ways as “unequal.” They could not help themselves, they said ; they were delivered to do all these abominations, and so they would do as they chose, and did not care what might become of them; and they made a taunting proverb about His visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children. “ The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.” These words they seem to have used in mockery, partly to reply against God for judging them and for sending them into captivity, and partly to excuse themselves for going on as they did ; thus almost glorying in their shame.
It was in answer to this sullen, infidel way of talking, that HE speaks to them by the mouth of Ezekiel :-“What mean ye, that