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may admire the holiness of his life--we may mourn over the tragedy of his death, it is his resurrection from the dead which makes the gospel a joyful sound. Take it away, or, what is the same thing in effect, let it be disregarded, unapplied, and of what worth is the gospel ? Take it away, and to what purpose should we celebrate his death as the highest solemnity of religion, or expect to derive comfort or increase of grace from a Saviour who himself continued the victim of death, and imprisoned in the grave ? But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept, therefore, we draw near to God with confidence through him who is thus the first born of many brethren. His death for us is sanctified as a means of grace by the triumph of his resurrection. The promises of God to a sinful world are sealed to every believer in this proof that the great sin offering is accepted, and assurance given to all men that they shall stand before him as their Judge.
Let us, therefore, my brethren, as partakers of this hope, keep ever before us the gracious purpose of his life, his death, and his resurrection, that, as he came to redeem us from all iniquity, we may purify our hearts even as he is pure; and drawing near to this commemoration of his passion and death for our sins, with a true and lively faith, we may realize the power of his resurrection, through the renewal of our spiritual strength, and pass at the last to our joyful resurrection through his Spirit dwelling in us, who hath abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light by the gospel.
To whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end.
SALVATION THROUGH GRACE SACRAMENTAL.
1 John iv. 10.
"Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be
the propitiation for our sins."
The mercies of God to his creatures present the most moving appeal which can be made to their hearts ; they speak a language which all can understand, however slow of heart to practise the lesson they teach. And as they are universal in their distribution, and are over all his works, they form the ground-work of that condemnation or acquittal, that reward or punishment which his righteous judgment shall determine upon them. This is presented to us in many shapes in the Scriptures of our faith, my brethren, and many most affectionate exhortations, drawn from this source, are set forth to quicken our languid tempers, and stir up the best affections of our souls to love and 'honour, to serve and please our unwearied Benefactor. "God is love, and all that we can know and perceive, all that we enjoy or suffer, whatever we possess in time or can hope for in eternity, is grounded on this never to be shaken foundation.
His sovereign power, indeed, claims of right, our entire duty and obedience, our most unreserved submission to his holy will, and the most unqualified disposal of our destiny ; nor is it in man, or in any created being to measure arms with JEHOVAH. But though this is imprinted on our hearts and set forth in bis word as the unanswerable argument for rational creatures to learn the will of God, and to do it, yet in the benignity of his pure and perfect nature, he rather applies to a sense of benefits conferred, of compassion entertained, of favour and mercy promised, to move our gratitude and win our willing obedience.
Of this I might cite many passages and proofs from the
Scriptures, for it is but to open the Bible to find them. Yet have we a larger volume, my hearers, in which to read this quickening truth. We have only to open our eyes, and lo, the goodness of God surrounds us on every side ! We have but to look back on our past lives, and to see and to realize, each one for himself, the long-suffering patience and forbearance of our heavenly Father, who is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, and that whatever is adverse and unprosperous in our present circumstances, is the fruit of our own headstrong passions, or perverse neglect of his word and warning; and we have only to consider the purpose and appointment of this day to be assured of the soul comforting truth, that that God who so loved the world that he spared not his owon Son, but delivered him up for us all, will with him also freely give us all things. These speaking proofs of God's love to a world of sinners as they are obvious to all, so do they speak to all, of those grateful, thankful, and hearty returns of love and obedience, which is the poor but only acknowledgment we can pay for such unequalled goodness, which all true Christians feel and render, and which the apostle from whom my text is taken pressed upon his hearers, with all the persuasiveness of a heart which spake out of the abundance wherewith it was filled.
But, my brethren, while the tender mercies of our God are thus strong and imperative in the claim they have upon us, there is one circumstance attending this display of his love and compassion, which should give a still deeper sense of it to our souls. And that is, that it was and is wholly undeserved—what we had no right to expect, neither could put in any claim for. This it is which gives its point to the text, and sets forth the kindness of God our Saviour toward man in all the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of his rich, redeeming love. This it is which St. John presses upon Christians as the conclusive argument for that spirit of love and fellowship among themselves, which is the new commandment in the religion of the gospel, and the proof, that as disciples of Christ we have passed from death unto life. Herein is love, says he, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propiliation for our sins.
In directing your meditations to this passage of Scripture, my brethren, I shall confine your attention to two beads of doctrine, obviously to be drawn from it.
THE ONE, that our salvation, with all that leads to it, is of mere grace, unsought and unprocurable by us.
THE OTHER, that this salvation, thus wrought out and offered to sinners by the gospel, is no otherwise attainable than in and through the LORD Jesus CHRIST.
These two points will naturally lead to such practical reflections as will put you in possession, I trust, of the spirit of the text, and prepare you with devout and understanding hearts to entertain the meditations of the season, and, while you hail the advent of the Saviour with joyful hearts, pass forward in spirit to the concluding proof of that love which overcame death with his own weapons, and opened the gate of everlasting life to redeemed man; while they may be made effectual by God's good blessing to awaken consideration in those who, surrounded by the love of God in the mercies of the gospel, feel neither the benefits they slight, nor the ingratitude they are guilty of.
1. First, that our salvation, with all that leads to it, is of mere grace, unsought and unprocurable by us.
As pride in some of its detestable workings was the cause of that transgression which separated man from his Maker, and overspread this poor world with sin in all its varied but destructive shapes ; so it is to this day the root of all opposition to and disregard of the salvation of the gospel. As it was the ground work on which the devil contrived that temptation which ended in the ruin of our first parents, so it is the great instrument by which he takes captive and holds in his snare the tens of thousands who, in spite of warning and conviction, continue the servants of sin. Hence that swelling and rising of the carnal mind against this fundamental doctrine of salvation by grace, and the strong propensity, even in awakened man, to be his own saviour, either in whole or in part, and by his own merits to make out a title to the reward of eternal life. But assuredly pride was not made for man, either in his upright or in his fallen condition; as a creature, a created being, he had nothing which he had not received, nor could he rightfully withhold the inward affections of his soul or the outward service of his body from the grand purpose of his creation. He ventured, however, in an evil hour, to listen to the whispers of pride, to think himself or his adviser wiser than God, and, in the ambitious desire to know more and to stand higher than belonged to his station, he stepped upon forbidden ground and sunk into irretrievable ruin. Eutertaining in his heart another image, another desire than of God himself, the origina! likeness in which he was made departed and left him the helpless victim of sin, spiritually dead and eternally condemned. This is no ideal picture, my friends, but the simple truth of man's condition from God's true and faithful word.
In this state, what was left to the fallen creature wherewith to undo his sin and restore his hope. Could his betrayer furnish him to regain the height from whence he was precipitated ? Alas! he himself had fallen from a still higher elevation. Pride had destroyed the glory even of the angelic nature, and sunk a seraph to the bottomless pit of eternal despair. Was there aught within reach of the sinner himself to atone for his guilt, to make satisfaction for his offence ? Could ages of suffering on the part of the offender compensate for his crime? Alas! the offence was infinite, the offender a finite dying creature, every way betrayed and undone, without help, and devoid even of hope. Whence came his deliverance ? Blessed be the Father of mercies, that we are able to answer this question, to trace to its source both our ruin and recovery, and in the truth of his holy word, in the help of his renewing grace, to know whence our salvation cometh ; to know that when there was no eye to pity, no band to save, his own right hand and his holy arm bath gotten him the victory, and wrought out salvation for us ; that to the antecedent original love and compassion of God the Father Almighty, we owe the whole work of our redemption. This the Scriptures set forth to us in a great number of places and in much variety of expression, and our LORD himself uniformly teaches this doctrine- I came not to do mine owon will but the will of him that sent me : God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life: And the gospel itself, as