Imágenes de páginas

midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.'

from the storm,—the covert from the wind. He | I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the has ample merit for the justification of all who believe; and, looking to him, the fearful problem of the sinner's guilt and danger is completely solved. The law has no sentence, the judgment-seat no thunders. God in Christ is love; his anger quenched; his righteousness vindicated, and his rich, overflowing grace made completely and for ever sure. What a change to the sinner! From a state of death, he is raised to one of life,-from despair, to hope,-from danger, to security, from misery, to peace and joy.

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

One of the principal sources of the mistakes into which men fall in forming an estimate of their characters, is, that their ideas of excellence are taken from the standards and examples which prevail in the world. The apostle refers to this, when he says, 'we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves; but they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.' When we look no further than the opinions and conduct of our fellow-creatures, we find it easy to accommodate the idea of excellence to our own tastes and desires; for in these we see it only in broken and indistinct portions, presenting no approach either to the entireness, or the splendour, which belongs to it, as reflected in the glass of the law. As a man, sojourning with outlaws, finds it easy to

soothe his conscience, and maintain a character for virtue, even although his daily life be stained with robbery, cruelty, extortion, and murder,— crimes, the least suspicion of which, would drive

THE vision briefly described in the preceding context, is unspeakably sublime. It seems to have been beheld in the temple, and to have been vouchsafed to the prophet, with a view to re-him from the least fastidious haunts of civilized assure him, in a time of abounding guilt and impiety, of the authority of his commission, as well as to convey a deep impression of the majesty and holiness of the divine nature. The Creator is represented as appearing with the pomp and splendour of an eastern monarch. He is seated on a throne, and the throne is high and lifted up; not merely a seat of dignity, but so elevated, as at once to excite the admiration of all who approached it. He is further described as wearing a costly and magnificent robe, of which the train filled the temple. Near him, and around him, were numerous bright attendants; each with six wings, four of which were used to express humility by covering their faces and feet, and two were kept for flight, intimating their readiness for active service. From these attendants, an anthem of praise alternately rose, brief but expressive, setting forth the infinite holiness and majesty of the Creator, and exhibiting the earth as specially filled with the effulgent manifestation of his glory. The effect of this anthem was fitted to inspire intense awe; for the very foundations of the temple were shaken; while a cloud of smoke filled the building, as if to veil the insufferable brightness. The prophet was overwhelmed by the vision, a conviction of his own utter unworthiness rushed upon him; and unable to check the expression of his feelings, he cried out, Woe is me! for I am undone: because

society; so fallen corrupt men, judging of themselves by each other's conduct and rules, are satisfied with a measure of virtue, which, in the light of the divine law, is no better than polluted worthless rags,-a revolting deformity,—a heap of ruins. Just views of the divine nature show, how disfigured and defaced is the image of virtue, which men, in their ignorance and corruption, set up; and supply conceptions of holiness and rectitude, before which all human excellence is utterly dim. There is nothing so humbling, as a full and clear view of the perfections of God. The law, no doubt, is an expression of the divine will; and, as such, is perfectly righteous, and holy, and good. But in God himself, we behold the law outshone; personality giving intensity to its pure spirit; and infinitude branching its brightness out into a field of glory, from which we are in haste to turn away, as too much to be borne. From the vastness and splendour of divine excellence, the renewed mind shrinks, as if overpowered by the sense of its own unworthiness and shame. Hence we find Job, when favoured with a vision of the Almighty, exclaiming, 'I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.'

The prophet was an accepted worshipper, and had, no doubt, on many former occasions, received encouraging and delightful tokens of the divine

regard. It might be that so elevating had been his joy, that he had been led to exclaim with Moses, Lord, I beseech thee, show me thy glory.' But on the present occasion, the holiness of God was chiefly brought before him; and the sense of his own sinfulness overpowered every other feeling. He felt himself to be so vile, that he was at a loss for words to express his shame. It is a profitable exercise to the believer to place himself occasionally, by a strong effort of faith, in the full brightness of the divine presence. There is no exercise so fitted effectually to abase, and to correct those false estimates of moral excellence, into which we are incessantly in danger of being betrayed, in our intercourse with our fellow-men. The abasement thus produced casts down to the earth; but it is always followed by peace, comfort, and joy. Grace is richly given. Abasement brings us near to Christ; and puts us into a right frame and disposition for appreciating the infinite suitableness of his office and work. It is at the moment our own vileness takes away all confidence and hope, that our need of Christ is most deeply felt; and, then too, we are best qualified to understand the wisdom and the completeness of the provision made for our guilty race.

The divine presence may be said to be brought near in the person and work of our Lord. We properly enough speak of these, as most marvellously displaying the love of God to men; but the truth is, they manifest the whole of the divine perfections, the justice, truth, and holiness of God, not less than his compassion and love. The goodness of God in redemption is a goodness to be feared. A just view of Christ is a full contemplation of God, not only as our Lord is, in his own nature divine, but as in his own work the glory of the eternal Godhead most brightly shines, holiness opposing sin, justice protecting law, truth fulfilling claims, and love shedding a softening and soothing radiance upon the whole. At the foot of the cross, the believer, beholding in it the divine holiness and justice, is often ready to cry out, Woe is me! for I am undone.' If God hate sin with such a perfect hatred,—if he be so jealous of the honour of his law, and so righteously strict in its vindication, then how vile am I?' But the cross also supplies the antidote to the abasement and shame thus produced. It is the throne of love. A voice of authority says to us, when we are lying in the dust, Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world.'

[ocr errors]


For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away,' 1 Cor. xiii. 9, 10.

OUR highest attainments in knowledge, and our best gifts, are comparatively imperfect here. The Christian on earth is, as it were, at school; life is his infancy and childhood; and as the thoughts and conceptions of a child are indistinct and limited compared with those of his maturer years; so the thoughts and conceptions of the Christian here are utterly poor and dim, compared with those which will fill and expand his soul in glory. His present imperfection is essential to his proper discipline; and whatever progress he may make, he can never get entirely rid of it, till he becomes an inhabitant of the eternal world. How few men possess the knowledge of divine truth which enriched and elevated the mind of Paul! Yet even he only knew in part, saw but a handbreadth of that immense field, which will be disclosed to the purified soul hereafter, and saw even that hand-breadth under shadow and cloud. In teaching others, he was felt to be a master in Israel. He imparted to the church, both by his living voice, and by his writings, the most comprehensive and sublime views of the truth as it is in Jesus; so that to his contemporaries, and indeed to all future generations, he was as one who had gazed upon heavenly realities, face to face, and had not, like themselves, a few distant and faint glimpses. But how little, after all, could he teach! He could only prophesy in part. He himself needed to be taught; and when he had communicated all he knew, he but placed the hearer, or the reader, on the outer stone of the threshold, which admitted into the magnificent temple of truth.

Heaven is the region of perfection. There redemption will be complete. All the infirmities and disadvantages, by which it is now hindered, will be left behind, while, whatever is defective in the powers and acquirements of the believer, will be, at once, and for ever, supplied. Such is the view uniformly given of it in the sacred writings. Perfect knowledge will then be come. The truths which are now dimly seen, will shine out with a brightness that will astonish and overpower; others which are dark and unintelligible, will burst on the mind with a simplicity and clearness, not now to be conceived; while even those which are now considered as most elementary and plain, will be surrounded with a flood of illustration, which will add unspeakably to


their interest and power. Who can tell what | crying, neither shall there be any more pain: accessions will then be made to the believer's for the former things are passed away.' knowledge? What new and glorious fields of there shall be no night there; and they need no thought and inquiry will be opened up to his candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord mind! God giveth them light and they shall reign for ever and ever."

Perfect holiness will then be come. To the very last, the believer is borne down by a body of death. Sin adheres to all he thinks, and says, and does. After a long course of duty and discipline, after years of high privilege, and the utmost diligence and zeal in the use of means, he feels that he comes far short of the standard of obedience, and offends in all things. He has only to look calmly and honestly within, to see many stains; he has only to weigh his actions in the sanctuary balances, to discover many defects. But sin and suffering cease at death. The former will no longer pollute, as the latter will no longer annoy. Into heaven, nothing that defileth can enter. There will undoubtedly be a great change at death in the state of the soul. Every stain will be effaced, every defect supplied, every infirmity removed; and, shining in the splendour of a perfect conformity to the divine image, the soul will enter on a course of service, which will never more be interrupted by trial, or marred by defect.

Perfect happiness will then be come. The happiness of the Christian, on earth, is mixed with much evil. It is never so complete as to fill the whole heart, leaving no void. No doubt, he has a peace and a joy, to which the world is a stranger, but along with these, he has many fears, regrets, and sorrows; not to speak of those trials and distresses, which he shares in common with all men. There are times, as we have seen, when he cries out, 'O wretched man that I am!' His joy resembles the light of a shadowy day, now brightening into splendour, then overcast, and shaded into twilight by a cloud; while it is not to be denied, that there are cases in which the life of faith advances under a sky of perpetual gloom, with few intervals of sunshine to relieve it. But in heaven, there will be nothing to hurt or to destroy. Sin, the prolific source of all evil, cannot, as we have said, enter there. The sufferings which arise from the disorders and conflicts of the heart, will all cease. The burden of the body of death will be for ever taken away. Outward troubles, disappointments, and privations will disappear with discipline. The joy of the Christian will be full. How chaste, yet expressive, are the passages of scripture, which allude to the future state of the redeemed! God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor


When the apostle says, 'that which is in part will be done away,' the meaning is, that in heaven such will be the measure of knowledge and gifts, that the knowledge and gifts of the present state will be comparatively lost and forgotten. The light of the stars is lost in the glory of the rising sun, the waters of a river are lost in the immensity of the ocean; and so the attainments of the believer here will be lost in the inconceivable measure of intelligence and blessedness, to which he will be exalted in heaven. What a consummation, for poor guilty creatures, such as we are, to be raised to a condition of such transcendent felicity and honour! I go,' said our Lord to his disciples, to prepare a place for you.' Had he not prepared it, it could never have been ours. No merit of ours could ever have earned a title to it, as no skill or effort on our part could ever have qualified us to enjoy it. It is the free gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. "Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear.'


'To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved,' Eph.

i. 6.

In the context, the apostle, after the customary salutation, expresses, in forcible terms, his gratitude to God for the inestimable spiritual blessings, which had been conferred both upon himself, and the members of the church at Ephesus, to whom this epistle was addressed. Among these blessings, he specifies election and adoption, two blessings, or rather, classes of blessing, which very strikingly show the love of God towards his people in Christ. In the former, God appears as choosing believers before the foundation of the world was laid, fixing his love upon them, arranging the various circumstances connected with their conversion, growth in grace, and final admission into glory, and thus surrounding their salvation with the infallible certainty of a decree. In the latter, we behold him, with infinite condescension, raising them from their fallen and wretched state, not merely distinguish

ing them by remarkable tokens of kindness, but restoring them to their forfeited rank as members of his family, giving them free access to his gracious presence, admitting them to the enjoyment of intimate and endearing fellowship with himself, and conferring upon them a full and unquestionable title to all the blessings, privileges, and triumphs of a complete salvation. Well might the apostle say, that such unparalleled love was to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved.' There is an extraordinary emphasis in the language of this verse. The apostle does not merely say, that the blessings to which he referred bore testimony to the grace of God, but that they were to the praise of that grace; and not merely to the praise of that grace, but to the praise of the glory of that grace. The grace of God, as displayed in the election and adoption, and consequently, in the redemption of believers, is indeed very glorious. Consider the objects of that grace, poor, worthless, ungrateful rebels; alienated outcasts, who, though originally formed to love and serve God, and to find their happiness in his favour, had refused to acknowledge his claims, heaped dishonour upon his law, and set at nought all its sanctions. Consider the cost at which this grace was shown. Before it could even be made known, or indeed allowed to operate, there behoved to be the mystery of mysteries, incarnation; the humiliation to atoning death of the incarnate Son; and the offering up of his life, the most valuable life, fit for sacrifice, in the universe,-upon the cross. Consider the blessings included in the provision of this grace. The pardon of sin by the dishonoured Lawgiver, the offended Sovereign; the acceptance of the sinner in the spotless court of heaven, though he had not a particle of merit; the adoption of the rebel into the same family with the seraphs and angels of heaven; the renewal of the divine image in the fallen and corrupt soul, together with the rebuilding of that soul in the beauty of holiness; the peace that passeth understanding, the joy unspeakable, and full of glory, and the hope that maketh not ashamed; and finally, the full qualification of the soul for heaven, and its admission there; these are some of its blessings, and to say they are incomparable, is to say little. They are not only beyond expression, but far above all thought. The grace, which has provided, and which patiently offers them, beyond all question, is glorious grace.

[ocr errors]

In this grace, says the apostle, we are accepted in the Beloved.' Naturally we are excluded from the divine presence, and are totally

[ocr errors]

disqualified for the enjoyment of the happiness inseparable from it. Into that presence, nothing sinful can be permitted to enter. 'God is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity.' The heavens are not clean in his sight. How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water?' Nor is it possible for us to acquire by our own efforts a title to acceptance with God. The law, under which we come into the world, is holy, just, and good. It is spiritual, reaching to the very thoughts and purposes of the heart; and failing in one particular, we offend in all. Even the believer, who is under the quickening power of the Spirit, cannot obey it; far less the sinner, who is at enmity with God, and hates all holiness and truth. Men, no doubt, are prone to imagine that they may yield a sincere obedience, and that this obedience, though imperfect, will be accepted on the ground of its sincerity. But this is a grievous error. The claims of the law are absolute and unchangable; to be obeyed at all, it must be obeyed perfectly; while if we come short in any one particular, we are excluded from its blessings, and condemned to suffer its penalty. Justification by the law, in every sense, is utterly hopeless.

The grace of God is most wonderfully shown in providing for our acceptance. Before we can appear before him, the law must have no claim against us; in other words, we must be righteous; and, as we cannot become so by our own efforts, there is a righteousness placed to our account, through faith, so that we stand before God, with as clear a title to his favour, as if we had never fallen from obedience, or having fallen, had recovered our original privileges and rank. The provision of this righteousness, whereby God is a just God and a Saviour, is the most astonishing manifestation of grace, which, as far as we know, the universe can supply. We are accepted in the Beloved.' This endearing name is applied to Christ, who is often termed the well-beloved Son of God. The Father is represented as looking on him with infinite compla cency, and regarding him with intense and peculiar love. We are accepted in him, because he has fulfilled all righteousness by his obedience unto death; and faith uniting us to him, his righteousness becomes ours, for all the purposes of pardon and acceptance before God. We are clothed with his righteousness as with a garment, which hides all stains and defects, and adorns us with faultless beauty. The acceptance of the believer is as complete, as that of Adam in Eden. His title to eternal life is as clear, as if Adam had

never fallen. God is his Father, Jesus his elder | and justice of God, are thereby removed; and Brother, heaven his home, and the throne of divine glory a seat of mercy, before which he may stand with filial confidence and joy.

[ocr errors]


These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes,' Psal. 1. 21. In the context, God addresses sinners among the Jews, and reminds them of the heinous offences, with which they were chargeable before him. These offences had been committed under a variety of delusive pretexts; but all of them, with the minutest circumstances of aggravation, had been observed by the infinite God. No doubt, God had not spoken amidst the rebellion and iniquity, which had been recklessly displayed. In his own emphatic words, he had kept silence. This silence however, did not proceed from ignorance, or indifference. Men put this interpretation upon it, and went on sinning boldly, as if there had been no God in heaven, or a God, ignorant and immoral as the gods of the heathen. But God beheld, and abhorred every act; was the witness of every secret scene of guilt, and cherished purpose of impiety; and the reason why he did not come forth out of his place, and thunder forth the words of condemnation, was simply and solely, that he chose to forbear. In keeping silence, he had not relinquished any principle of his government, or relaxed any sanction of his law; but had merely refrained from judicial interference, that he might give his creatures free scope for the gratification of their desires, and the trial of their principles.

The sinner is very prone to think of God, as a creature like himself, limited in knowledge, lax in principle, and ready to accommodate, so as to meet the call of circumstances, whatever these may be. He deals with God as if he could deceive him; as if he could prevail upon him to wink at his sins; as if he could take advantage of his ignorance; as if, at times, God would lower his claims, and be satisfied with less than his law requires. There is thus a flagrant dishonouring of God in his thoughts. He makes God a man; he robs him of his divinity; he brings him down to his own level. This view of God is favourable to the execution of his sinful purposes and plans; for all the hindrances to a course of wickedness, arising from the omniscience, holiness,

God is dealt with as if he knew no more, as well as was not holier, or more righteous, than himself. Under the influence of these delusive views of God, the sinner rushes on in his wicked courses. The idea of God is the standard of conscience; and if that idea be broken down, conscience falls in proportion. Take away this standard, and conscience is amenable only to itself; for conscience will never cease to mutilate any idea of God, but that which is revealed, and therefore immutably true, till it brings it down to the level of its own knowledge. God thus put out of the way, there is no longer any restraint; for though you have a God to whom conscience may refer, yet he is no longer the spotlessly holy, and inflexibly righteous Jehovah, but a pliant, fallible, and changeable being, like the sinner himself.

God, in this verse, intimates to the sinner, that there is a time coming, when he will reprove him, and set his sins in order before him. That such a time will come, sooner or later, follows from the perfections of the divine nature. For, if we believe that God regards sin with infinite abhorrence, and condemns it, in all its forms and degrees, by his law, then wherever, in the wide compass of the universe, sin is committed; scrutiny, judgment, and condemnation must ensue. God may forbear, for wise and gracious purposes, for a time, as he does in the government of this world; but he cannot be indifferent, and therefore, cannot always continue silent. He is pledged to judgment by his own attributes. He must judge, otherwise he could not continue to reign. The integrity of his government would be broken down; the very bulwarks of law would be levelled with the dust. But there is no fear of this; he is silent, not he is forbearing, not indifferent.

Sometimes, in this life, he reproves sinners, and sets their sins in order before them. When the sinner is rejoicing in his iniquity, and there seems to be no hindrance to his success, or end to his security, God breaks in upon him by calamities, which rouse conscience, and turn it into a fierce accuser. The past passes in review. Dark scenes, long forgotten, are vividly remembered. Sins, unheeded at the time of commission, rise up as witnesses; and conscience, long silent and torpid, is compelled to condemn. Sometimes, before conversion, there is such a searching out, and judgment of the sins of the past. The subject of grace is made to consider in detail the vast sum of his transgressions; conscience, as it were, makes out a catalogue of his sins; and, dwelling upon their enormity and aggravations, shuts him up to

« AnteriorContinuar »