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CHRISTIAN OBSERVER FOR 1839,
BEING THE SECOND VOLUME OF THE NEW SERIES.
RELIGIOUS AND MISCELLANEOUS COMMUNICATIONS.
THE NAME OF JESUS.
For the Christian Observer. TN my former paper, we contemplated man in his created innocence 1 and happiness-then, in the state of guilt and misery into which he precipitated himself. We adverted to the costly means which the Divine wisdom and love provided for his redemption and restoration : -a salvation whose nature and character is intimated, as the angelic messenger tells us, in the very name which the Father imposed upon his eternal Son, when incarnate, “ Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.” An interesting and important subject of enquiry still remains, What is the extent of this salvation, in its offer, and in its practical acceptance ?
In the first place, then, to whom are these offers of mercy made ? To whom is the word of this salvation sent? I answer, To all-to all effectually who will avail themselves of the proffered blessing. The evangelical prophet represented Christ, seven hundred years before his advent, as a herald standing in the place of public concourse : proclaiming there, to all, a finished, a full, and free salvation : and enforcing his call by convincing arguments, and by earnest and affectionate intreaty, “ Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye.to the waters; and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk, without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread ? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your souls shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.” Since the prophet's days, " God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us : we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin ; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." “ The ministry of reconciliation," observe, does not call upon you to devise means by which CHRIST. OBSERV. APP.
God may be reconciled to you. No: it tells that " when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son;" and graciously invites you,“ Be ye reconciled to 'God.” It does not summon you to make peace with God. No: it tells you that God has made peace through the blood of his cross, having slain the enmity thereby ; and earnestly exhorts you to accept peace. It tells you that the flaming sword of the cherubim, which kept the way of the tree of life, was sheathed in the bosom of incarnate God, while he hung self-immolated upon the cross: and thence, having triumphed over the principalities and powers of darkness arrayed against you, and trodden down the last enemy death, and him that had the power of death, that is the devil, he points to the ripe fruits of Paradise—the fruits of the Spirit, hanging from the tree of life, which he has rendered again accessible by his cross : and graciously and affectionately invites you—Take, eat, and live for ever.
But though the atoning sacrifice of Jesus be more than equivalent for the sins of our lost world, and though the offers of mercy be co-extensive with the human family, does Scripture assert or intimate, or does experience warrant us in supposing, that all will be partakers of that great salvation ? Alas! far otherwise. A world lying in wickedness, and developing in every form the enmity of the carnal mind against God, forbids us to indulge, with reason, in such a hope. And the Saviour himself, wbile he commissions his ambassadors to “ preach the Gospel to every creature," yet tells us that “ wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat.” “ Thou shalt call his name JESUS,” said the angel to Joseph, “ for he shall save”- not the world—but “ his people, from their sins." Who, then, are his people ?
Let us not, in seeking to answer this important question, puzzle ourselves and others with guesses in the dark ; or attempt presumptuously to lift the veil which shrouds from mortal eyes the secret things which belong unto the Lord. Let us consider well the limit, and the extent of human knowledge, for both considerations are alike important. “God knoweth them that are his," and them also who will reject his proffered love, by eternal and infallible intuition : man can but uncertainly conjecture these from the gradual development, in their characters and conduct, of our fruits of faith or unbelief; and that too ever with this reserve, which should always accompany and temper our estimate of the condition of those who are living without God in the world, that sovereign grace may, at any moment, interpose with mighty hand and stretched out arm, and rescue Satan's bondmen from the mystical Egypt, at the very climax of their sin and misery ; and even at the eleventh hour. The only mark by which to judge of Christ's people, which is practically useful, and even safe, for us,-and in itself scripturally sound, for “ by their fruits ye shall know them,"— is this: that he has saved, or is in process of saving, them “ from their sins," "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” His people then are they who, feeling that they are guilty and undone, come to him for pardon : who“ labouring and heavy-laden” with the burden of their sin and misery, come unto him for rest; and find rest unto their souls: who, feeling their utter helplessness and impotency, come to him for grace to help in time of need, and are “ strengthened with might by bis Spirit in the inner man :" who,“ hungering and thirsting after righteousness"-after
the full salvation which the Gospel holds out as the prize of their high calling of God in Christ Jesus, are realising, in their various degrees, the beatitude unequivocally promised to such, that " they shall be filled." The Lord is “ not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." He willeth not the death of him who dieth, but that he should turn from his ways, and live. “ Turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways ; for why will ye die, 0 house of Israel ?”
And are there any who reject the offers of the Gospel, thus rich, and free, and universal ? Are there any who are not saved by Jesus from their sins? Alas! the world, at a single glance, flashes upon the mind the fearful answer. Look around, and see the manifold forms of delusion which the god of the world assumes, that he may exclude the only Saviour, and rivet the chains of sin and misery upon his wretched and deluded votaries. The daring infidel, the cold-hearted sinner, not only rejects Jesus, but mocks and blasphemes Him in His office of Saviour; and denies Him as “God over all, blessed for evermore." The merely nominal Christian names indeed the name of Christ, but does not depart from iniquity-does not practically acknowledge him as JESUS, who shall save His people from their sins. The worldly-minded and careless are too busily occupied with the things of time to find leisure for the interests of eternity. They are far more anxious to learn how they may increase their properties, and add field to field, and house to house, than how they may obtain an inheritance among them that are sanctified through faith which is in Christ JESUS
-how they may procure honour one from another, than that honour which cometh of God only-how they may kill precious time, than save their still more precious souls alive-how they may spend a pleasant day, than secure a blessed eternity. The self-righteous, thinking God to be such an one as themselves, and that a salvation purchased on terms so costly as the sufferings of Jesus, and the blood of Emmanuel's cross, can be dispensed but on terms proportionably costly, substitute for the free grace of the Gospel of Christ a yoke of bondage, suited each to his own peculiar temperament. Some, ignorant of the extent and spirituality of God's holy law, would purchase heaven by their good works-works from which the very motive to their performance has extracted all the virtue, and substituted, for the purifying spirit of love, the poisonous leaven of selfishness. Others, of austere and melancholic temperament, seek a self-justifying righteousness in their sufferings. Like the Gentiles, which knew not God, their diseased imaginations dress Him up in the attributes of a cruel tyrant, who may be appeased by their self-inflicted tortures and austerities ; as though the groans and miseries of His children could be melody to the ears of “our Father which is in heaven.” But, in fact, all superstition-all false religion, of whatever kind, or in whatever degreemis derived from, and supported by, erroneous views of the nature and character of God: and, as an inevitable consequence, leads erroneous views as to what is, and what ought to be, the nature and character of man. False religion, of every type, dethrones Jesus, not only as God, but as Saviour; and substitutes, for the free grace of the Gospel, (which is “the wisdom of God and the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth,”') either servile fear and debasing bondage, or latitudinarian, indifference and antinomian licentiousness.
Of those who fall into the latter of these snares some are ready to cry up Jesus as a Saviour, and to admit a partial salvation—a deliver. ance from the guilt and punishment, but not from the power and the love of sin. They would gladly acknowledge Christ as Jesus, if He would save His people in their sins. But what do such persons mean by salvation ? Is it a deliverance from hell? from some local abode of the lost ? some dungeon of physical torment And what would such deliverance avail, while they carried within their own bosoms the fuel and flame of a native hell; and were consumed by the spontaneous combustion of their own inbred lusts and passions ? Would not evil tempers create a hell within them? would not worldly affections, in a scene whence worldly objects are eternally excluded would not sensual appetites and insatiable lusts, when the sole vehicle of their indulgence had perished in the dust of earth, supply exhaustless fuel for their everlasting burnings? Even amid the profusion of pleasures which are at God's right hand for evermore ; while the ripe fruits of paradise may form every tree, and “a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeded out of the throne of God and of the Lamb,” would not a sensualized imagination, disembodied, keep continually their famishing souls in pining atrophy ? Unless, indeed, heaven be such as the Mahommedan fancies it, -a scene where sensuality and worldliness will have full development; where malice, jealousy, revenge, and every unholy, and now unhappy, temper will be congenial to the scene; and where qualities, changing their essential nature, will become sources of happiness, which have never yet proved sources of aught but misery. But if this is not, and cannot be : if heaven be a scene of purity and spirituality, into which nothing earthly, nothing unclear can enter: if its society be holy angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect : if over that scene and that society the Holy Jesus, with unveiled presence, shall continually preside, the observed Inspector of every deed and thought ; surely an assimilation of nature to the scene and the society must be essential to the enjoyment of it : surely there is a meetness requisite in order to our being partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.
There is no truth which stands more prominently forward in the Divine revelation-more important, and yet more forgotten-than this, that the salvation of Jesus is not merely a future but also a present salvation : that it is not a bestowal of barren and unprofitable privileges : that it is not a mere title-deed to some future and reversionary heaven, which leaves its possessor pining in present poverty and wretchedness; and wallowing, or hopelessly and ineffectually struggling, in the mire of sin. No: the kingdom of heaven to which this salvation introduces, is, in the first instance, a kingdom of heaven within the soul : it is Christ formed in it, and reigning there in purity, and peace, and love. The kingdom of heaven is within you; and is righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
Many, of whom it were no exaggeration but the simple statement of fact to affirm that they hate present holiness more than a future hell, are yet content that at death they should become saints; because a monitor within repeats to them the declaration of the written word, that without holiness no man can see the Lord. And if the fearful future rises for a moment, in a hostile form, upon their carnalized imagination, they look to the careless Protestant's substitute for purgatory, a death-bed, for their conversion and sanctification. This indeed is an artful scheme for securing both worlds, according to their view of them. But are the means on which they rely competent to effect the
end ? Has death such a transforming power as that it can, in the twinkling of an eye, make all things new; and that with a revolution so decisive and universal, as that its subjects should hate all that he formerly loved, and love all from which he formerly shrunk back with loathing and aversion? Can torturing, bewildering, paralysing death induce that undistracted calm, that solid judgment, that unwonted energy, which will enable him, in life's most trying hour, to accomplish that mighty work for which life's every hour was given ; and which, in the vigour of health and intellect, he had not fortitude or inclination ever to attempt ? Has death-the penalty of sin—the minister of Satan, so powerful a tendency to the production of holiness, as that it can instantaneously operate it, even in the most unfavourable and resistant subjects ? Death indeed can astound with strange misgivings and unwonted fears; and thus terrify into an acceptance of the most orthodox and hated creed ; and a sincere promise of unreserved obedience to precepts the most strict and abhorred. All these professions may be perfectly sincere ; but, too frequently, the tears of a death-bed penitence are but winter streams; their spring but temporary and delusive, which summer's returning sun would speedily dry up. I will not venture to assert, with an eminent theologian of the present day, that not only death, but the death bed, known to be such, withdraws us from our state of probation : but I may surely say that there is no necessary connexion-nay, I would say there is the very opposite of connexion-between the fear of death and of the love of God and of holiness, the only pure and permanently operative spring of religious conduct. And the almost uniform apostacy of those who, under such circumstances, have returned from the gate of death, sheds but a gloomy light upon the prospects of those who deliberately calculate on adventuring, under similar circumstances, beyond it. But do I mean to remit either the power or the love of JESUS? Do I mean to deny that Omnipotent Grace can, or that it ever will, effect the work of sanctification in the very article of death? God forbid. But I ask, who can calculate upon this? who can summon for his death-bed the only sanctifying and oft-resisted spirit of the jealous God ? who can say to JESUS,“ Go thy way for this time ; at that convenient season I will call for thee." · This world is a vast hospital, crowded with patients who labour under mortal diseases of every form. JESUS is the great Physician: the Gospel a repository of healing balm and restoring medicine ; freely offered to all; adapted to every type and stage of disease; and which will operate an infallible and radical cure on all who submit themselves to the prescribed regimen. But there is no other hospital for diseased and perishing souls than this world : no other physician than JESUS : no other balm for the wounds of sin than the blood of His cross : no other restoring medicines than those which the Gospel contains in its doctrines, promises, and precepts: no other ministering spirit to procure and apply those sovereign specifics than the spirit which proceeded from the risen and glorified Saviour. If we be dismissed from this hospital uncured, our case is hopeless; we must die the death ; and are lost for ever: if impenitent, there is no repentance in the grave, and we must consequently perish. If we pass the barrier of the grave, bearing upon our souls the plague spots of the leprosy of sin, we must be for ever excluded from the new Jerusalem, into which nothing unclean can enter; for no purifying and sanctifying change can ever pass