« AnteriorContinuar »
would limit the calls of the gospel, to support your own hope in Christ when God is writing bitter things against you, and to enable you to repress in others every suggestion of despair.
It is a striking circumstance in this invitation, that it was delivered at the close of a great religious solemnity. For several days the Jews had been observing one of their solemn feasts, and the people were now about to retire from the temple, and some of them were to go to distant parts of the country, where they might never see or hear our Lord any more. He had already preached salvation to them on some of the preceding days, yet he cannot think of parting with them till he had called them in a most liberal and earnest manner to take the water of life. An offer of mercy is Christ's farewell. These were his parting words, and we trust that they were spirit and life to some.
When our solemnities are closing, and the wora shippers are going away and shall not all meet again in one assembly till they appear together in judgment, the ministers of religion should part with them as our Lord did, and speak to them as if we saw them on their death-beds, or were addressing them from our
Let them carry the offers of mercy to their houses, to their business, and to their last hour. You should retire from the temple as if you were going into eternity, and feel as if the last cry of mercy had reached your ears, and as if the light of life had shed on you its parting gleam. To some of you
be the last communion, in a few days the rage of disease may dry up your strength, and your soul, thirsting for Jesus, may cry « Hear me speedily, O Lord, my spirit faileth.” His grace shall not fail you in the time of need. He will form you to a tranquil patience and to a joyful hope; and when your appointed course
of suffering is ended, he will conduct you to your eternal rest, “ where the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall feed you, and lead you to living fountains of water, and God shall wipe away all tears from your eyes.” Amen.
ROMANS V. 7, 8.
« Scarcely for a righteous man will one die, yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us."
IN these words the Apostle is supposed to allude to a distinction of characters which the Jews were accustomed to make. They used to represent society as consisting of the righteous, who rigidly regulated their conduct by the letter of the law; the good, who made themselves beloved by their beneficence; and the atro. ciously wicked, who were the disgrace and the pest of the nation. This language and classification of theirs Paul employs to illustrate the wondrous love of God in the sacrifice of his Son. His own soul was filled with the most fervid impressions of his love, and he was solicitous to produce such impressions in the minds of others. May those who lead your devotions now speak to you with such light and warmth, and may the love of God be shed abroad in your hearts by the Holy Ghost.
The Apostle states that scarcely for a righteous man will one die. Strict justice commands our respect and our confidence, but if it is not associated with other qualities of a milder and more beneficent cast, it is not so likely to engage our affection. We know that such a man will do us no injury ; but it is not from him that we expect any self-denial to relieve, or any exertion to oblige us. Such a man is not deemed entitled to any costly sacrifice from us, or to any painful effort for his happiness. To respect his rights as he does ours, and to render to him his due, is considered as fulfilling all his claims. It may happen that a man distinguished for integrity and justice in a high station, and whose administration of the law has been of signal advantage to a country, may be so venerated, that some, under the impulse of such feel. ings, may be willing at any risk to save him from the hand of violence, and to put their lives in jeopardy for his security ; but in every state of society selfishness has been so powerful as to render such displays of public spirit very uncommon.
With regard to the good, the Apostle speaks with much more confidence. It requires a strong effort to brave death, but gratitude for a good man's kindness, and a wish to spare so useful a member to the community, may induce some to lay down their lives to preserve his. It is beneficence which is most likely to be honoured with this willing sacrifice. Power may compel, and wealth may bribe the victim which is substituted for them, but beneficence leads it to the altar, and binds it with cords of love. There have been instances in which persons have ascended the scaffold for another, or rushed forward to receive the murderous weapon aimed at another's breast, but it was for the friend whom they loved as their own souls, for the master who had acted to them as a father, for the instructor who had reclaimed them from error and iniquity, for the patron who had loaded them with favours, or for the patriot whose death might quench the light of Israel. History records some examples of this substitution, and amidst the numberless proofs which it exhibits of the fury of the malignant passions, it is delightful to contemplate such instances of the power of gratitude, and of the kind affections. Paul in this epistle speaks of some “ who had for his life laid down their own necks."
But who will die for sinners, to save the thief, the traitor, or the murderer from an infamous death? Unless there are favourable circumstances in their case, they are left to their doom without a wish for their pardon; and though their punishment may be regretted by their companions in iniquity, they will purchase their own safety, if it is necessary, by giving evidence against their partners in crime. The more holy a man is, the stronger are his impressions of the wickedness of the sinner, and he would not aid the escape, nor take the place of a criminal in whom he sees something to excite his pity, but more to deserve his abhorrence. But herein God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.
That your minds may be more strongly affected with this love, consider who it is that is sent to die
The more exalted in rank, and the more excellent in character the person is who is sent by another to promote our interest, we are the more impressed with his regard. We are especially struck with it if he is one nearly related to our benefactor, and high in his esteem. In applying these remarks to this topic, you will see how they enhance the love of God. He who was sent to be the propitiation for our sins was the Son of God, equal in dignity and perfection to
himself. He is the Wisdom of God, the Holy One and the Just, and the Almighty. In him the happiness of Jehovah centres, and none is his by a tie so near, by a love so strong, or by a devotedness so perfect. Angels who had witnessed the endearing intercourse betwixt the Father and the Son, must have been amazed at seeing him abased whom they were commanded to worship, him afflicted by Jehovah who was daily his delight, and when they contrasted the bosom of the Father, and the throne of the Highest with the poverty of the manger, and the agony of the
Consider farther the death to which God delivered him. It is only temporal death which is endured for the righteous and the good, its agonies are soon over, and in such a case it is sweetened by all the pleasing reflections which generous conduct inspires, and by the deep interest of admiration and sympathy which it excites in the spectators. Besides, it is the inevitable law that man must die, and to these substitutes for the righteous and the good, death must have come in a few years at most. It was but anticipating an event which must have soon happened, and relinquishing only a few years of existence which might have been years of little enjoyment and of much trouble. But the death of Christ was marked by peculiar infamy, exquisite pain, and lingering anguish. Besides, death was to him not the result of necessity of nature but of choice; and so far was he from being soothed by the pity of the spectators, that they passe ed by the cross in bitter derision. There were also sufferings in his soul, the severity of which it is im. possible for us to conceive. And when we think that God was the inflicter of this anguish, that by him the