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there is one eternal, self-existing, and all-glorious Being, who created the world out of nothing, and who is the sovereign, the proprietor, the preserver, and the Lord of all things.
The UNITY of this ever-blessed God, in opposition to the idols of the heathen worship; and his GLORIOUS PERFECTIONS, BOTH ESSENTIAL AND MORAL, in opposition to the vices, and passions, and prejudices, by which the pagan deities were described as actuated, are the first elements of revealed truth.
The glory of our God is his HOLINESS—that combination of all his moral attributes, of justice, truth, faithfulness, purity, love, wisdom, which constitutes the perfection of his character; and to which the essential attributes of omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, are subservient.
With this is connected the exercise of his absoLUTE SOVEREIGNTY, his dominion over all, his “ doing according to his will," as the prophet speaks,“in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth ; his working all things, as the apostle terms it, “after the counsel of his own will." 4
The PROVIDENCE OF God is that constant operation of his power by which he accomplishes his designs. To this never failing care nothing is great, nothing little. It more particularly concerns itself with the affairs of men, and orders with a paternal regard the minutest concerns of the church and the world.
The HOLY, JUST, AND GOOD LAW OF GOD, by which his reasonable creatures are ruled, follows, that law which is the transcript of the divine perfection as to its purity and goodness; and which is as equitable as it is holy; demanding nothing but what man, created in his Maker's image, was adequate to perform, and which he would have found the purest happiness in accomplishing. 3 Dan. iv. 35.
4 Eph. i. 11.
Such is the scriptural character of God, not one trait of which was completely known to the Heathen nations. Their deities were worse than ordinary wicked men--full of ambition, malice, cruelty, lust, deceit. One was the god of thieves, another of war, a third of wine. Their histories are histories of crime and chicane, of pride and contention. Their supreme Jupiter is never introduced, but in the form of human folly, with human vices, and engaged in criminal human pursuits.
The Bible is the only book which lays the foundation of religion in the unity, perfections, and sovereignty of the self-existing Jehovah. The Bible is the only book that introduces the great God speaking in a manner worthy of himself, with dignity, authority, sovereign majesty; whilst his condescension in using a language adapted to our comprehensions, and borrowed from our manner of perceiving things, only deepens the impression of wisdom and grace which is left upon
the mind. 2. From the unity and holiness of God flows the next important doctrine of Revelation, THE GUILT AND CONDEMNATION OF MAN AS A TRANSGRESSOR
The Bible teaches the extent of human apostacy, by teaching the character of the God whom he has offended, and of the law which he has broken. Heathenism had only some faint and partial views of man's sinfulness; it had lost the very notion of sin as committed against the majesty of God. The Christian Revelation
opens the whole doctrine, as dependent on the two facts of the original innocency and of the fall of man, which we noticed in the last lecture-it states, that “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin "5_it declares that men are corrupt and depraved, guilty and helpless—it details man's weak
5 Rom. v. 12.
ness and apathy as to spiritual things, the blindness of his understanding, the perverseness and rebellion of his will, the alienation of his heart from God and goodness.
It treats him as a sinner, accountable, indeed, and with some fragments and traces of a moral nature, and capable of restoration by the grace of God in redemption ; but in himself impotent—unable to offer any atonement for his past offences—unable, because unwilling, to return to his duty to God—without knowledge of divine truth, without strength, without a right determination of the will—without any means of devising or entering upon a way of deliverance.
This description of the guilt and folly of man is widely different from that given in any other book, and yet it is the only account verified by experience and the evidence of facts. Every other statement is contradicted by the history of all nations, contradicted by the precautions in every political enactment, contradicted by the daily judgment which each man is compelled to form of others. And the more any one will watch his own motives, intentions, imaginations, and desires, the more clearly will it appear to him that the Scripture gives a far more just account of himself, than he himself could have done.
It is here important to remark, that Revelation did not create this state of misery and guilt; it merely describes it according to the truth of the case, and in order to an effectual cure. The state of things is the same, whether Christianity be true or not. The facts remain the same. Deism and the natural government of God are as
open to objections on this ground as Revelation--but Revelation, finding man in this fallen condition, makes known the cause, declares the extent and consequences of human guilt, and then presents a remedy. And the conscience of every in
6 See Lect. XXI.
dividual, when duly informed of the decisions of Revelation, responds to the charge, and discerns in its own case the truth therein communicated. This doctrine of man's guilt, and of the consequent penalty of God's violated law, is one of the peculiarities of the Bible. Upon this all its addresses proceed—this is the state which is taken for granted, as sufficiently proved by the voice of conscience in the culprit, and the relation in which he confessedly stands to an almighty and infinitely holy Creator and Judge.
3. And thus the way is prepared for the stupendous discovery of REDEMPTION ÎN THE INCARNATION AND SACRIFICE OF THE ONLY BEGOTTEN SON OF God.?
The grand and all-important doctrine of the Christian religion is this, that “ God so loved the world,” sunk in the guilt and ruin of sin, “ that he gave,” as the free act of his infinite benevolence, “his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.”8 A discovery this so astonishing in all its parts, as to absorb and overwhelm every other, and to form the grand centre around which the system of Christian truth revolves. The incarnation of the Son of God by the power
of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin Mary--the state of humiliation upon which he thus entered — his life of sorrow, reproach, ignominy-his bitter and unutterable sufferings in the garden of Gethsemane, before the bar of Pontius Pilate, and on the crosshis death by the most cruel, lingering and servile punishment of crucifixion, constitute that meritorious
7 For Revelation makes known a plurality of persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost-of whose mode of subsistence indeed it gives no information, but whose offices in the economy of redemption it considers essential to every part of that dispensation; whilst the doctrine is so stated as to be in no respect inconsistent with the unity of the divine essence.
8 John iii, 16.
obedience and all-perfect sacrifice, by which sin is expiated, God reconciled to his rebellious creatures, and the Holy Ghost vouchsafed for the renovation of the human heart.
The proper vicarious nature of these sufferings, in the place and stead of the transgressor—the substitution of the divine surety and Redeemer, in the room of the guilty culprit—the atonement thus made to the moral righteousness of the great Governor of all—the display of that righteousness, so that God may now appear “just and yet the Justifier of him that believeth in Jesus,”!_these topics prepare for THAT GREAT DOCTRINE OF JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH ONLY, which is the leading truth of the whole gospel, as the incarnation of Christ is the commanding discovery, and his meritorious death the great vindication of the divine holiness. This justification includes the remission of sins, and the being accounted and treated as righteous before God; and is followed by acceptance, adoption into his family, and the hope of everlasting life.
The exaltation of the Son of God to a state of glory and dominion, as mediator, at the right hand of the Father—where in our nature he sits, “ angels and principalities and powers being made subject to him,” 10 till he shall come the second time to judge the quick and the dead - concludes and shuts up the doctrine of redemption; a doctrine this, which is peculiar to Revelation in a sense more strict than any of the preceding. For the unity and perfections of God might be faintly “understood by the things that are made" 11
-and the guilt and ruin of man have been in some measure felt and acknowledged in all agesbut the doctrine of redemption is a discovery as new as it is momentous—the great end, as it is the brightest glory, of the Christian religion.
9 Rom, iii, 26. 10 1 Peter iii. 22.
11 Rom. i. 20.