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and insufficient he is of himself. He feels how wholly, without a Redeemer, he is unable to pass that great gulf which is fixed between him and his God; he is unable to satisfy the demands of infinite justice, or come up to the most distant imitation of that perfect righteousness without which we cannot hope to please a being who is inconceivably pure and holy. He feels that truly, by ourselves alone, we are as sheep scattered abroad without a shepherd,-faint, and weary, and desolate. · Wherewithal,' he exelaims, ,
shall this wicked heart be cleansed ? Wherewithal shall these low desires be purged away, and my soul be set free at length from those chains of Satan which have long bound it down to this grovelling world?' Even when the heart is most warmed with devotion, there is a spirit of evil that intrudes itself upon it, and turns it all again into apathy and coldness. Or when the bands are lifted up in the attitude of prayer, like Moses when he prayed until sun-set for the children of Israel,* they need the support of some auxiliary power, or they grow weary with the very act of devotion. How, therefore, shall this guilty spirit bear to stand before the majesty of the King of kings? How shall this unworthy creature, that hath broken a thousand times bis perfect law, presume to walk amidst the seraphim in the courts of Him whom no mortal eye can bebold and live? There is cause indeed - there is abundant material--but where, O Lord, is the sacrifice that can presume to atone for such guilt before thee?' “My father, bebold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering ?”
* Deut. xvii, 20.
II. But what was the patriarch's reply, and where was that lamb to be found ?-"My son,” he answered, “ God will provide himself a lamb for the burnt offering.” Empty-handed indeed they ascended the mountain, but it was because a mightier deed was to be performed that day than the mere common sacrifices of their flocks and herds ;- because a more perfect representation should be shown of him who, “not by the blood of goats and of calves, but by his own blood entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us."* You will recollect how, as the narrative from which the text is taken proceeds to describe, a victim was miraculously supplied to Abraham as a substitute for the offering of his son. And so the earnest questionings of our failing nature have not been unheard by God. The prayer of an afflicted world was not unanswered.--Christ came to be that lamb,--that propitiatory sacrifice which
* Heb. ix. 11.
should exonerate mankind from punishment and danger, and take away the sins of the world. . He, as the prophet describes, “saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor. Therefore his arm brought salvation to him, and his righteousness it sustained him."* And again, says God, “ I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me. I have trodden the wine press alone, and of the people there was none with me.”+ He saw that no effort of our own could restore us, and, though we were as far removed from him as the heaven is above the earth, yet in that very proportion was the greatness of his mercy. I
And this was the transcendent blessing which, anticipating the completion of the object for which Christ came on earth, we commemorate this day in the appearance and incarnation of the Son of God. Words of man are but feeble means of thanksgiving for the benefit of that deed of love. Works of man are but a poor and unworthy recompense for amazing mercies like these. Redemption,-reconciliation,—these are but a portion of the vast privileges we enjoy through him who came, as at this time, to take upon himself the * Isaiah lix. 16. + Iasiah lxiii. 5. | Psalm ciii. 11:
burthen of humanity. We were benighted, and he brought us light. We sought access to the Father, and he came to be “the way, the truth, and the life." We desired the knowledge of God, and he came in a visible form, and “ manifested the Godhead in the flesh.” We wanted admission to everlasting bliss, and he “took upon to deliver man, and did not abhor the virgin's womb; he overcame the sharpness of death, and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.” On that infant Saviour once, as at this time, so despised and neglected by a haughty and rebellious generation, bang all the Christian's hopes, and all his dependence. In him is every want of our failing nature supplied. Here was the true answer to be found to the question of Isaac, to the earnest aspirings of an unregenerate world. And if Abraham enjoyed at that trying hour some silent consolation in the inward resources of his faith, it was, methinks, from the prospect of this mighty sacrifice that his satisfaction arose ; it was with the distant view of this alone that he was able to say, in the anxious, but not misplaced, confidence of his heart, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.”
But while we speak of the value and the blessings of redemption, let us not indulge in a
too presumptious confidence that those blessings shall certainly devolve on ourselves. Christ came to redeem the world; but there is an important question we have yet to ask ourselves, Have we a personal interest in that Redeemer ? Are we redeemed? That benefit of God is no indiscriminating or inoperative mercy that will be forced upon us all alike, without reference to the temper or disposition of our hearts; or of which the whole human race are to be the passive and inert recipients. It was not to afford us excuses for indolence and neglect, that Christ undertook to pay the ransom for our sins; or to give occasion that “our liberty should be made a cloke” for licentiousness, or our free pardon should encourage us to sloth. Christ was born to no purpose, and died in vain, as far as regards ourselves individually, if that life and death have not efficiently and practically influenced our souls. Christ "gave himself for us," as the scriptures every where repeat; but for what purpose ?—“That he might purify unto himself a puculiar people zealous of good works ;"* and that “his blood may purge our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”+ “He bore our sins,” as we are told in another place, “on the tree;" but with what view ?-_"That we,
+ Hebrews ix. 8.
ty Titus ii. 14.