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occasions, that, which, if resisted in the first moment, might have been easily overcome, has, by being harboured in the mind, acquired an ascendant over him, and defied his utmost efforts to subdue it. He will have seen, especially, how he has been betrayed, by unwatchfulness, into sins to which he had no natural propensity; and that there is not an evil in the human heart against which he has not reason to watch and pray. In a word, he will feel the need of committing himself wholly to the guidance of his God, and of crying continually, “Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe."] From this subject, then, we may LEARN, 1. What use to make of the present season
[There are seasons which seem to claim somewhat more than an ordinary regard. The commencement of a new year, or the return of our natal day, may well lead us to a review of the past year, and consequently of our whole lives : and, were it so improved, how far more profitable should we find the season, than if it were spent in carnal mirth! I may add, too, how important is this suggestion in reference to eternity! Thousands go into the eternal world without having ever, in their whole lives, devoted one single day to the revision of their lives, and to humiliation for their sins. God forbid, my brethren, that you should be of that unhappy number! Let me recommend it to you all to begin, this day, to call your ways to remembrance; to enter minutely into the sins of your early youth, and of every succeeding year, even to the present hour. Let me recommend you to mark, not merely the sins of greater enormity, but those which the world accounts slight and venial. Let me recommend to you to notice the sins of omission, as well as of commission; and the sins of defect, as well as those of utter neglect. Could you be prevailed upon to take such a retrospect, it could not fail of being attended with the best consequences to your spiritual edification in this life, and to your eternal welfare in the life to come.]
2. What especially to aim at, in all the exercises of your souls
[There is a frame of mind peculiarly characteristic of the advanced Christian : and which, I conceive, is suggested by the considerations of my text. You have seen that the most pious of God's people, no less than others, were to observe a day in every year for the special purpose of remembering their past sins, and of afflicting their souls on account of them; whilst, at the same time, they were to renew their applications to God
c It would be a proper subject for New-Year's Day or Lent, or a Fast Day, or Birth Day.
for mercy through the appointed sacrifices. A sense of sin was not to weaken their hope of God's mercy, on the one hand ; nor was their confidence in God's mercy to weaken their sense of sin, on the other hand : both were to be retained in constant and united exercise; that so, whilst they “rejoiced with trembling," they might tremble with rejoicing. Now, this is a state of mind by no means so common as might be wished. The generality of Christians, if they could feel towards God as a loving, obedient, and devoted spouse towards her husband, would conceive that they had attained the highest state of which they are capable. But, to make that image fully suited to our case, we must suppose the spouse to have been originally taken from the lowest and most degraded state by her husband; and, after her union with him, to have dishonoured him, and debased herself, by the grossest enormities. We must further suppose her husband to have followed her with the most affectionate entreaties to return to him ; to have assured her of his most entire forgiveness; and, having prevailed on her to return, to be exercising towards her all imaginable kindness, without ever once uttering a single word of upbraiding. Now, suppose her to become faithful and obedient, and you will have a juster conception of the Christian's state. Though her husband has forgiven her, can you imagine that she has forgiven herself? On the contrary, does not every act of love on her husband's part fill her with deeper humility and self-abhorrence, for having ever acted so basely towards one of so exalted a character ? Does not her whole intercourse with him, from day to day, augment her admiration of him, and her lothing of herself? Yes; though forgiven, she never for a moment forgets what she is, or what she deserves : and her whole soul is prostrate before God and man, even in the midst of her fondest endearments or her sublimest joys. Here is the Christian character: here is the character which I wish you all to attain. Do not mistake; you need not rush into gross sins in order to have a foundation for it: the adulteries of every one of you are manifest enough, without any fresh iniquities : you need only see how you have treated your divine Husband, and what base lusts you have harboured in your bosoms, from your youth up even until now, and you will see that you have need to "walk softly before God all your days," and to "lothe yourselves before him in dust and ashes." This is " walking humbly with God.” This will not abate either your confidence or your joy: but it will temper the one with fear, and the other with contrition.]
CHRIST SUPERSEDING THE LEGAL SACRIFICES. Heb. x. 5—10. When he cometh into the world, he saith,
Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me : in burnt-offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, Ò God. Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt-offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein ; which are offered by the law; then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
THERE is not any important truth contained in the New Testament, which was not before revealed in the Old. But we have an advantage over the Jews, in that the obscurity, which was cast over the language of prophecy, is removed by the interpretations of men divinely inspired to explain the sacred oracles. Hence we are enabled to see, what the Jews could never comprehend, though plainly and repeatedly declared to them, God's determination to abrogate the Mosaic economy, in order to make way for the Christian dispensation. This was declared by David, while the law was yet in full force : and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews both quotes his words in proof of this point, and confirms them by additional declarations to the same effect.
We shall consider,
In his comment on David's words the Apostle throws great light upon, 1. What is expressed in them
The Psalm beyond all doubt refers to Christ: for it was not possible that David should boast of his own obedience as superseding the law; since a compliance with the law constituted a very essential part of his duty. If it be thought that what is spoken in ver. 12. is adverse to this construction, it
must be remembered that the sins of the whole world were Christ's by imputationa; and therefore they might justly draw from him that complaint.
In the Psalm David speaks in the person of Christ, whom he represents as addressing the Father to this effect: “ Thou didst never design the legal sacrifices to take away sin ; that office thou hast assigned to me : and I have most willingly undertaken it, nor will ever relinquish my services till I have completed all that I have undertaken.'
That the sacrifices were never ordained to take away sin is plain, from the contempt poured upon them by God himself in comparison of moral duties; yes, and absolutely too, if unaccompanied with suitable dispositions in the offerers.
That Christ was sent into the world for that end appears also from the very first promise made to man, that "the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's heada."
That he willingly undertook the office is declared by David much more strongly than in the passage as quoted by the Apostle. In the passage as quoted in my text, it is merely said, “I come to do thy will, o God:" but in the Psalm it is written, “ Lo, I come; I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea thy law is within my heart." All which additional expressions shew the zeal with which Christ undertook our cause, and executed the arduous work that was assigned him.
That he would never relinquish it till it was accomplished was also strongly declared in those words, “ Mine ears thou hast opened,” which refer to the custom of boring the ear of a servant who refused to be liberated at the day of release, and engaged to abide for ever in his master's service. The Apostle, in citing the passage, varies it in words, though he adheres to it in sense. He says, “ A body hast thou prepared me;" that is, It was necessary to the completion of my undertaking, that I should have somewhat to offer in sacrifice; and therefore thou hast prepared for me a body in the womb of a pure virgin, that being free from the taint and corruption transmitted to all the posterity of Adam, it might be fit to be offered in sacrifice for the sins of the whole world'.
But, to the inconceivable advantage of the Church, the Apostle brings forth from David's words,] 2. What is implied in them,
[Here we see the benefit of having an inspired commentator on the Old Testament. No Jew could have conceived
a Isai. liii. 6.
1 Sam. xv. 22. Hos. vi. 6. c Isai. i. 11–14. and lxvi. 3. d Gen. iii. 15. e Exod. xxi. 5, 6.
The Apostle's meaning is precisely expressed, Phil. i. 6—8.
all that was designed to be revealed in these words : but we are informed by God himself, that “when it was said, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God,” it was designed to intimate, that all the legal sacrifices should be swept away, and the whole Jewish economy be superseded by the Christian dispensation : “ HE TAKETH AWAY THE FIRST, THAT HE MAY ESTABLISH THE SECOND." This was an explanation of God's hidden purpose, an explanation, which no uninspired man could have dared to offer. But in several other parts of this epistle are similar explanations given, and not in a way of conjecture, but of authoritative declaration. Thus, from the mention of a new covenant which God would make with his people, the Apostle infers, “ In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away 8.” In another place, having cited God's declaration that, to those who laid hold on that covenant, their sins and iniquities he would remember no more, he draws this inference; “ Now where remission of sins is, there is no more offering for sin; and consequently all the Jewish sacrifices are swept away. Again, in another place having cited the words of the Prophet Haggai, “ Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven,” he says, “ This word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things which are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain'."]
Thus we have obtained a deep insight into the recondite meaning of our text, and may with confidence proceed to consider,
II. His declaration founded upon it
There are two important points which the Apostle deduces from these words of David; namely, that salvation flows, 1. From God's will as the source
[Sanctification imports a setting apart of any thing for God. Hence the tabernacle with all its vessels are said to have been sanctifiedk; and Christ himself says, “ For their sakes I sanctify myself:" and it is in this sense that the term “ sanctified” is used in the textm: it means a separation for God, in order to eternal salvation.
Now it is solely from the “will of God” thus made known to his Son, and thus fulfilled by him, that any of the children of inen are made partakers of salvation. It was not possible
& Heb. viii. 8, 13. h Heb. x. 17, 18. i Heb. xii. 26, 27. k Exod. xl. 10–12. John xvii, 19. m Comp. ver. 14.