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CHAPTER III.

ON THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION.

The Fall of Man, and the Promise of a Redeemer.--Different modes of Divine communication to Man.Prospects and Prophecies of the Gospel Day.Christ comes among the Jews.--The benefits of his coming designed to be universal.- Objects of his coming recapitulated.-Christian redemption a work of love.--Divinity of Christ, and of the Holy Spirit.- On the Trinity-Justification Resurrection.- Arguments and Evidences of Christianity.--The true and perfect Christian.

Having vindicated the truth and Divine authority of the Scriptures, we next proceed to consider the most important doctrines of the Christian Religion.

Man having, by disobedience to the Divine command, lost that state of innocence and purity in which he was originally created ; and having thereby subjected himself and his offspring to sin and misery ; it pleased his gracious and merciful Creator, in the riches of his love, early to point out and to promise a Redeemer. This was done at the very time when sentence was pronounced on our first parents for their transgression; for then their tempter and seducer received this judgment : “ I will put enmity between thee and the woman; and between thy seed and her Seed : it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel.”*

But, notwithstanding the promise was thus early made, many ages elapsed before it pleased God completely to fulfi!

* Gen. iii. 15.

it : during which time, however, He did not leave mankind wholly to themselves; but by the ministration of angels, by that Holy Spirit which was more plentifully to be poured forth in the Christian Dispensation, and by other means, He communicated his will to the children of men; striving with, and reproving the ungodly because of their iniquities, as well as exhorting and comforting the righteous under those trials, to which this probationary state, and, in some instances, the love and the fear of their God, rendered them liable. Typical offerings and sacrifices for sin were also established, in allusion to that One offering, by which “ He hath now perfected for ever them that are sanctified."*

Among other sources of consolation, was the prospect, which was at times given to the patriarchs and prophets, of the day of Christ, and of the excellence of his Dispensation ; concerning which we have many predictions left upon record, abundantly setting forth those advantages which were designed to mankind by Him, whom we have represented to us as the Sent of the Father. By these prophecies, as well as by the types of the Mosaic law, the minds of many were gradually prepared for the reception of the promised Messiah ; and many there appear to have been, who, with Simeon and Anna, “ waited for the consolation of Israel, and looked for redemption in Jerusalem,”+ by the coming of Him, who was peculiarly prophesied of, as “ A light to lighten the Gentiles ;” as well as for “ The glory of his people Israel.” I

Thus, “ When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the Law, to redeem them that were under the Law,”'Ş from those ceremonious observances, which were designed to be as a 6 Schoolmaster to bring them to Christ." Yet the great object of Christ's coming was by no means confined to the Jewish people; amongst whom and by whom, He suffered that ignominious death, by which it hath pleased God, (and surely it ought to suffice us that it hath thus pleased Him,) “ to reconcile all things to Himself.”

* Heb. x. 14.

Isa. xlii. 6. Luke ii, 32.

+ Luke ii. 25, 38.

3 Gal. iv. 4.

The evangelical prophet, about seven hundred years before our Saviour's personal appearance on earth, speaking in the name of the Almighty, declares : “ It is a light thing that Thou shouldst be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give Thee for a light to the Gentiles, that Thou mayst be my salvation unto the end of the earth.” Consonant with this gracious prediction, are these declarations of the apostle John: “In Him was life ; and the life was the light of men.” « That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” 4 6 He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” Many are the prophecies concerning the universal extent of the benefits of Christ's coming, the accomplishment of which is fully borne witness to by the writers of the New Testament. This is particularly and frequently done by Paul, who, being in an especial manner the apostle of the Gentiles, has abundantly set forth, “ That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the Gospel."6 Thus was broken down that partition wall, which formerly existed between Jews and Gentiles; all were united in one common cause; and all had an equal interest in Him, with whom “ There is neither Greek nor Jew; circumcision nor uncircumcision; Barbarian, Scythian; bond nor free; male nor female ; but Christ is all, and in all; and all are one in Christ.”

i Gal. iii. 24. 2 Col. i. 20. 8 Isaiah xlix. 6. 4 John i. 4, 9.

5 1 John ii. 2. 6 Ephes. iii. 6. " Col. iii, 11. Gal. iii. 28.

From what has already been expressed, it appears evident that the love of God, in sending his Son into the world, was not limited to any part of it; but that the benefits were designed to extend as far as the effects of Adam's transgression. This the apostle shows in the 5th chapter of the epistle to the Romans; and in another epistle, speaking of the resurrection of the dead, he asserts : that, “ As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." * It affords one of the most encouraging considerations, that these benefits are thus unlimited ; and that, through the propitiatory Sacrifice of our blessed Redeemer, and by that Spirit, the more plentiful effusion of which He hath purchased for mankind, the advantages resulting from his death may be received, even by those, whose situation may deprive them of the opportunity of an external knowledge of the truths of the Gospel.

Unless we admit this, we shall greatly contract the benefits of Christ's coming. He “ tasted death for every man.”+ His 6 Light lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” § And although the outward knowledge of these Gospel truths may be withheld from many, yet their operation is not therefore necessarily frustrated. How many partake of favours of which they cannot trace the cause ! He, who is not willing that any should perish, has doubtless provided means by which the state of perdition may be avoided, even by those to whom his Providence has not affordedlopportunities to obtain an historical knowledge of the truths of Christianity. Those, however, who are in possession of this knowledge, cannot be too thankful for it; in that they are enabled to draw nigh unto God with more full assurance of faith ; and, confiding in their blessed Redeemer, are encouraged, under their various conflicts and exercises,

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to look unto Him who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities,” * and 66 is able to succour those that are tempted." +

The Christian religion then teaches, that our first parents having sinned and lost the Divine Image, the fallen nature became so predominant, that it was by them transferred to their offspring : but in order that man might be restored to favour, and to a state of purity, it pleased the Almighty to promise and send a Redeemer, whose sacrifice of Himself He saw meet to accept, as the means of reconciliation and forgiveness of sins; hereby putting an end to all those sacrifices, which, from the fall, or very soon after, to the time when Christ thus offered up Himself, had been adopted as the means of obtaining acceptance with God. And although we cannot trace this practice to a Divine command, earlier than the time of Moses; yet the universal adoption of it by the religious of all ages, is a strong implication that it was of Divine origin, instituted in reference to that 6 One offering, by which Christ hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” §

Thus, the chief objects of the coming of Christ, evidently appear to have been, First, by the sacrifice of Himself, to , make atonement to God for us, and to become the Mediator

between God and man:-Secondly, by the sanctifying operation of the Holy Spirit, “ To finish transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to bring in everlasting righteousness.” I And thirdly, by putting an end to the legal dispensation, and, as the apostle expresses it, “ Blotting out the hand-writing of ordinances that was against us,” || to lead mankind to a more pure and spiritual worship of the Divine Being

* Heb. iv. 15.

Dan. ix. 24.

+ Heb. ii. 18. Heb. x. 14.

Col. ii. 14.

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