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cedure towards the sinner, both in providence | condemned criminals, and in the eye of the law and grace, that is founded the urgent entreaty, are dead already, and are only waiting for the Turn yourselves, and live ye.' The fact of such execution of the sentence; the soul that sinneth an entreaty being addressed to us by God, clearly shall die.' But in Christ there is life; for to shows, were any farther proof required, the per- them who are in him by a living faith condemnafect sincerity and solemn earnestness of the de- tion there is none. The law of the Spirit of life claration he had made, that he desires not the in Christ Jesus makes the Christian free from sinner's death. Nor does this entreaty stand the law of sin and death. His sin is freely foralone. The Bible is full of invitations the most given; his trespass is fully remitted; his iniquities tender and affectionate-addressed to the worst are cast behind God's back, as into the depths of of sinners, without distinction or reserve-to the sea, whence they shall never rise against him turn from the error and evil of their ways, in judgment; they shall not be once mentioned that they may live. And if these invitations unto him, nor remembered any more for ever. they persist in rejecting to the close of life, then Before God, through Christ, he stands up as the blame of their destruction can only be laid at righteous, having the righteousness of Christ put their own door. The Almighty has made it evi- upon him as a garment, and reckoned unto him dent in a variety of ways, and in a manner the as a possession. Being thus justified freely by most affecting, that so far from seeking the sin- his grace, he is accepted in the Beloved. And ner's death, he would far rather that he should is not this pardon, this acquittal, this acceptance, be saved and come to repentance. Yea, he life in the truest sense?—when God's law being swears to it by his own eternal self-existence, so satisfied, and his justice vindicated, the sentence glorious and happy: 'As I live,' saith the Lord of death is reversed, and the gift of life is beGod, I have no pleasure in the death of the stowed. It is then only when a man is absolved, wicked. Turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways, reconciled, adopted into the family of God, that for why will ye die, O house of Israel.' Turn he begins really to live as his child. Verily, us, O Lord, and we shall be turned; heal us, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my and we shall be healed; save us, and we shall be words, and believeth on him that sent me, hath saved; for thou art our praise. everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.'
Then there is the life of renewal and sanctification. By nature we are said to be carnallyminded, which is death-to be 'dead in trespasses and sins.' But as the Father hath life in him
'Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life,' self, even so hath he given to the Son to have John v. 40.
life in himself; and as the Father raiseth the THE word life denotes in gospel phraseology, not dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son bare, conscious existence, but happy existence. also quickeneth whom he will. When the SaA man may be alive, and yet be most miserable; viour died, and rose, and revived, it was that he and even though there may be nothing to cause might be the Lord both of the quick and dead. him present uneasiness, he may be rendered very As a reward of his obedience to the death, he unhappy by the dark uncertainty as to how it received into his hands the entire dispensation of may fare with him hereafter. Life, then, in the the Holy Ghost, and hence it is called the law highest and noblest sense of the term, points us of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus making us, to that glorious state of holiness, peace, felicity in this sense also, free from the law of sin and -perfect, endless, undisturbed, which awaits the death. Nothing but the application of that perfected just in the kingdom of their Father-law can ensure the result desired, namely, the the fullness of joy in his presence, the pleasures at his right hand for evermore.
awakening us to a life of holiness. Education will not do it, precepts will not do it, example will not do it, argument the most cogentpersuasion the most affectionate and earnest will not do it; the gospel itself will not do it, if it come in word only. It is the Spirit that quick
But while this will be to the believing soul life's ultimate consummation, we also find that under the same designation are included in scripture all those spiritual blessings which precede it here, and prepare the saint for its final enjoy-eneth: the letter killeth; the words which Jesus ment hereafter.
There is the life of pardon and justification. Being all sinners against God's holy law, we are
speaks, they are spirit and they are life.
And what then is regeneration but the communication of new life to a dead soul? What is
confession of sin and self-abhorrence on account | pensable qualification for its enjoyment. If Christ of it? What are faith, hope, love? What are offered them life in sin, they would eagerly run righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost? to him; but as what he offers is life in obeWhat are the aspirations of prayer, the emotions dience, they will not come to him that they may of thankfulness, the songs of praise, but the evi- | have life.' dences and enjoyments of a new-born child of God? And from what do all these things flow, but from the sinner's coming to Christ that he may have life?
Finally, there is the life of happiness and glory. For it is after all this that life in the highest degree begins. These earnests and foretastes of heaven shall issue in that eternal felicity for which they prepare the saint. This renewal, sanctification, comfort, peace, shall issue in the joy unspeakable and glorified. For what is glory but grace consummated and perfect? What is the kingdom of God in heaven, but the same kingdom that was begun on earth?-there completed in all its parts, subduing and pervading the whole man in soul, body, and spirit-heightened, refined, sublimated, indestructible, eternal.
Now, the cause of this refusal is only to be found in the sad perversity of man's will, and in his deliberate preference of darkness to light, of evil to good, of death to life. Most earnest and free is the gospel offer, and most full the gospel promise of wisdom and strength above our own in the sincere use of the means appointed. But the sinner comes not, because he will not; he persists in choosing cursing rather than blessing, and therefore the blame of his misery and destruction will lie entirely at his own door. 'Awake, thou that sleepest! and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.'
1 Sam. vi. 20.
THIS was the exclamation of the people of Bethshemesh, when the Lord had smitten so many of their number, on account of their irreverent familiarity, and impious curiosity in 'looking into the ark.' They had, at first, received it with all joyful respect, offering burnt-offerings, and sacrificing sacrifices;' but its continued presence in the midst of them wore off those impressions of sacred awe. And it required a signal and mira
Now, in all these senses of the term, life is to be found in Christ, and in Christ alone; and yet, Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God?' though it be the very thing we dying sinners most need, sinners will not come to him that they may have life. As to the life of pardon and justification they fancy they do not need it for as they have not (as they suppose) wronged man, they cannot have wronged God; or if they feel that they are chargeable with some offences, they think that God is too merciful to punish weak creatures like them; that if he should require some satisfaction to his justice, their good deeds will at least baculous display of heaven's vengeance to give a lance, if not outweigh, their bad deeds, and that their prayers and alms, their services, and sacrifices, and sufferings, will surely be taken into account in the matter of their justification. They cannot bring themselves to suppose, that they ought to be treated as on the same footing before God as the worst of criminals. The humbling simplicity of the gospel of free grace offends them; and as they cannot see how they can be under death, they will not come to Christ that they may have life.'
check to their unholy presumption, and to convince them that God is greatly to be feared, even in the assembly of his saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are round about him.' Who,' cried they, 'is able to stand before this holy Lord God?'
The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.' When we would describe the character of a fellow-creature, we endeavour to seize on that peculiar feature by which he is most strikingly marked out from others that Still more reluctant are sinners to come to quality which is said to form the basis of his Christ for a life of holiness. Indeed, there are character. Now, to speak after the manner of not wanting many, who would be willing, yea, men, it is no disparagement to any of the attrianxious to accept deliverance from wrath and hell butes of Jehovah, but rather constitutes their from any quarter, provided it did not come to highest glory to affirm, that holiness lies at the them in the way of previous deliverance from foundation of them all. And by holiness we evil passions and darling lusts. They would mean that perfection of the Deity, by which, to have no objection to obtain a title to the happi-use the language of his own word, ' He is of purer ness of heaven when they die, but they care not eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look upon to seek after that holiness which forms the indis- iniquity.' Under this title is he worshipped and
feared by his people on earth- the holy Lord God, the Holy One of Israel.' Under this title is he worshipped and praised by saints and angels in heaven— the holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty.' His name is holy; his nature is holy; his Spirit is holy; his word is holy; his works are holy; his saints give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness; and holiness becometh his 'house for ever.'
as the God with whom they have to do, is not in all their thoughts; and hence the question has never seriously occurred to them, as to how they shall stand before him; or if it has sometimes been suggested to them, it has promptly been repelled as an unwelcome intruder. But a man's treatment of a truth cannot in the least affect its reality, nor prevent its consequences. Your forgetfulness of death will not keep you alive; But what sinner is able to stand before this your doubt of a resurrection will not hide you holy Lord God? Thou, even thou, art to be in the grave; your denial of a judgment will feared: and who may stand in thy sight when not delay one moment its approach, nor exempt once thou art angry?' God judgeth the righte- you from any one of its penal awards. And, oh ous, and God is angry with the wicked every sinner, what will you do in the day of visitation, day.' The careless sinner, indeed, will not believe and in the desolation that shall come from far? this, or if he does not deny the truth of a future To whom will ye flee for help, and where will judgment, he treats it with indifference and un-ye leave your glory? If thou hast run with the concern. But whatever he may think, or how-footmen, and they wearied thee, how then wilt ever he may feel, his judgment lingereth not,' thou contend with horses? And if in the land and how will he be able to stand? The un- of peace wherein thou trustedst they wearied godly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners thee, how then wilt thou do in the swelling of in the congregation of the righteous. Can thine What will you do, when God riseth heart endure, or can thine hands be strong in And when he visiteth, what will you answer the day that I will deal with thee? I, the Lord, him? In that awful day of the revelation of have spoken it, and I will do it.' God's righteous judgments- the day for which all other days were made'—the whole world of the ungodly will lie guilty before God, and not one of them will be able to endure the lightning of his eye, or the terror of his frown. They will call, but call in vain, to the mountains and rocks: Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of his wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?'
Even in a present life, God can so alarm and dismay the conscience of a sinner with a discovery of his own guilt and misery, and of the bright and spotless holiness, and the burning, consuming justice of his Judge, as to lay him prostrate and trembling at his feet. Unable to look up to the divine majesty, far less to stand before Him, he lays his hand upon his mouth, and his mouth in the dust; and out of the depths of distress and anguish he is heard to groan: The arrows of the Almighty are within me, and the poison thereof drinketh up my spirit. My flesh trembleth because of Him, and I am afraid of his judgments. Destruction from God is a terror to me, and by reason of his highness I cannot endure. While I suffer his terrors I am distracted.' When they hear of righteousness, temperance, or judgment to come,' again they tremble. When they read in the hand-writing of conscience, the appalling mystic scroll, Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting!'-then their countenance is changed, and their thoughts trouble them, so that the joints of their loins are loosed, and their knees smite one against another.
And how comes it then, that so many sinners can live as if there were no God, or as if his title of the holy Lord God' were but an empty sound? It is because they have not yet been brought to realize his dread presence as the, Witness of their conduct, the Hearer of their words, the Searcher of their hearts, the Judge of their souls. God, |
All joy to the believer who lives, walks, stands by his faith! In drawing near before this holy Lord God, his language is, If thou, O Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.' Himself a guilty and polluted creature, he, nevertheless, stands up before God in Christ, acquitted, accepted, approved; and living under a ministration not of bondage and death, but of liberty and life, he is even permitted to look into the ark' of the gospel--not indeed with the prying gaze of idle curiosity, but with a hallowed contemplation like that of angels when they desire to look' into the mysteries of redemption. Watch ye, therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape the wrath to come, and to stand before the Son of Man.'
'Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven,
Ir is thus, says the apostle, that David de-
forgivenesses;' and this is his name and this his memorial throughout all generations: The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness and truth; keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin.' Yet he reserves to himself the prerogative of dispensing his pardons according to the wise method of his own grace, namely, by Christ Jesus the Mediator, in whom alone we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins. When Jesus was on earth, he had full power to remit sin, and if he is exalted to heaven, it is as a Prince to give repentance, and as a Saviour to grant remission; and through this man is preached unto us the forgiveness of sins."
The forgiveness extended to the Christian is most comprehensive and complete. It embraces guilt of every kind, by whatever variety of phrase designated—' sin, iniquity, trespass, transgression.' It includes all sins, however numerous— the God of mercy abundantly pardons.' It excludes not guilt the heaviest and most aggravated. Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.' And the act of forgiveness once passed is never more recalled. The sin is said to be covered, blotted out, cast into the depths of the sea, never to be found by man, never to be remembered by God, not once to be mentioned to the offender.
Now can such an one fail to be blessed? Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins.'
What man is happy if it be not the man whose iniquities are forgiven? Is it a blessed thing to be freed from condemnation, to be delivered from wrath, to be quiet from fear of evil?-instead of having sin imputed, to have righteousness reckoned unto us?-to know that God, from being our greatest foe, has become our greatest friend? to know that the very power and purity of Jehovah, which formerly frowned upon us, now smile upon us in love, and are engaged on our behalf? to know that we have now in enjoyment a peace which passeth all understandForgiveness of sin is the first in order of new-ing, and in prospect a happiness superior to the covenant blessings; for so long as a man's guilt is uncancelled, God is his enemy, and he cannot know peace. But the youngest believer has forgiveness upon the first act of faith. I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake.' It has its source in the infinite mercy and rich grace of Jehovah. He is a 'God ready to forgive;'-a 'God of pardons, as the original bears; to him belong mercies and
joys of paradise, equal to the glory of angels?— all that blessedness belongs to the pardoned penitent. Being justified by faith we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom also we have access by faith into the grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. We joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.' The man whose sin is covered,' obtains
assistance and acceptance in all duties; and in his | which the authority and dignity of such a mesmercies and trials, his comforts and crosses, he has senger demand. With what scrupulous fidelity
the blessing which enriches without sorrow. Need and self-sacrificing devotedness did he fulfil his such a man dread adversity? His troubles, indeed, office! "There cometh one after me who is may be many, constant, aggravated; but they mightier than I-who is preferred before me— shall not really injure, they shall rather benefit who must increase, whilst I must decrease.' And him, for they too are 'blessings in disguise.' He when he has at last found the Christ in very deed, shall be sustained under them, sanctified through he cries out with joy, like one who has suddenly them, and in due time delivered out of them all. met with what he had been eagerly in quest of: Every loss shall conduce to his gain; every suf-Behold him! behold him! the Mercy promised fering shall turn to his salvation; every event shall to the fathers! the Desire of all nations! the work for his good. Need he fear death? The long-promised and long-expected Messiah!' sting of death was sin, but forgiveness has extracted the poisoned dart, and converted the curse into a blessing? Need he shudder when he looks into the grave? But it is no longer the condemned cell where the criminal passes the night before being led forth to punishment. It is rather the chamber of repose, where the invited welcome guest is attired and adorned, previously to his being ushered into the presence of the great King. Need he be apprehensive of the judgment of the last day, with its accompanying terrors-the opening heavens, the rending earth, the dissolving elements the wreck of nature, and the crash of worlds?' That day will but proclaim his acquittal; it is the day of his complete redemption. Need he shrink from the contemplation of eternity? It will but multiply and perpetuate his joys.
Yet in order to the enjoyment of the blessing of pardon, confession of sin, and supplication for mercy are absolutely required. 'I said I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found.' 'If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
'Behold the Lamb of God!' With these few words the Baptist annihilates all the sacrifices and expiations of the law; he declares that in Christ the victim, and in none else, resides the merit and efficacy, which can alone take away the burden of sin's guilt from the conscience, or the stain of sin's pollution from the heart. It is as if he had said: 'All the sacrificial lambs that you have ever seen or read of till now—whether that which was substituted in the room of Isaac, or those whose blood was sprinkled on the lintels and door-posts of our fathers in Egypt, or those which in commemoration of that event we slaughter every year at the passover, or those which, morning and evening, are presented as burnt-offerings upon the altar-all are but types, emblems, shadows. None of them is really the Lamb whose blood we require to wash away sin. He is the true Lamb whom you now behold-the substance, the body, the fullness, the antitype of all the others, who were but figurative images of him. Under that mean outward form, behold the Messiah who is to be cut off but not for himself. He is the Lamb of God-the Lamb separated and sent, furnished and fitted, appointed and approved by God-the Lamb whom God demands, and by whom alone God will be appeased the Lamb consecrated to God, and who, in God's purpose and promise, was slain before the foundation of the world.'
The figure denotes gentleness and patience, for a lamb allows itself to be led, tied, shorn,
'Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the slaughtered without resistance, and even without sin of the world!' John i. 29.
SUCH was the attestation of the Baptist to the person and work of the King of heaven, whose way in the earth he came to prepare, and whose reign on the earth he announced. The prophets prophesied until John;' but John was more than a prophet. Clad in the mantle of Elijah, and with a double portion of his spirit, the herald of the Son of God was 'the greatest of those born of women.' Let us receive his testimony with the believing attention and reverential obedience
complaint. It thus becomes a fit emblem of the sweet benignity and long-suffering forbearance of Him, who innocently and meekly endured every insult and injury without a murmur-who allowed himself to be apprehended, condemned, buffeted, spit upon, scourged, crucified without one attempt at resistance, or one word of reproach
who was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth,' unless to implore forgiveness to his murderers.