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the accursed tree, the cross of shame and agony. There was he pierced with nails and with the spear : there his precious blood was poured forth. And the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, cleanseth us from all sin.
Of this sacrifice, all others that went before, ás recorded in the Old Testament, were only types. Abel, Noah, Abraham, Aaron, and all the priests under the law, sacrificed sheep, lambs, oxen, and various animals, according as they were commanded. But it was not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins. When Christ, therefore, came into the world, he abolished these sacrifices; and declared that in his own body and by his own death he would perform the great, meritorious, and all-sufficient sacrifice, which God had appointed. In his own person he offered “ one sacrifice for sins.” By that “ one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (See Hebrews x. 4- 14.) To him, therefore, let us look as “ the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” “ Behold, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”
But how, and with what spirit of mind ought we to look to this great sacrifice ? With faith, and with a thankful heart. “ Give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive that his inestimable benefit." The receiving of Christ is the work of faith. This we learn from many passages, where both these words are used to denote the same thing: we will quote one only. (John i. 12.) “ As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God; even to them that believe on his name.” And they who do with a sincere and lively faith receive Christ; they who do indeed with the heart believe on him, will not fail to love, to thank, to honour, and adore him. For oh, how great is that “ benefit,” that free grace which he hath so dearly purchased for us! Salvation is the “ pearl of great price;" a price so great that it cannot be measured. The love of God in Cbrist“ passeth knowledge.” To them who believe in Cbrist, he is precious. They cannot value him too highly : they are ashamed on reflecting, that they never value him enough. They often break forth into the exclamation, “ Thanks be unto God for his speakable gift:" yet they still feel that in eternity, in heaven alone, will they be able to pour forth the fulness of their souls in such hallelujahs as their Lord deserves.
2. But Christ bath also left us “ an ensample of godly life :" and here we pray that we may have grace to copy it.
There have been in the world many holy men, made such by the grace of God: but their holiness was imperfect. Their graces were tarnished with many sins and infirmities, Christ alone is perfect. He alone could say with authority, “ Learn of me.” He alone could challenge all his enemies, and say, “ Which of you convinceth me of sin ?" He could defy even Satan, saying, “ The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.”
In reference to God, Jesus hath left us a perfect example of holiness. For he honoured bis Father : he did always those things that pleased him : as he said of himself, “ My meat is to do the will of him tbat sent me, and to finish his work.".
In reference to men, what a pattern of holiness was Christ! He was meek and lowly in heart : he was merciful, kind, gentle. When he washed his disciples' feet, he added, “ I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” (John xiji. 15.) He accounted it “ more blessed to give than to receive :" " he went about doing good.” His life, his discourses, bis sufferings, his death, all may be epitomised in one word ;-Love. - When therefore we pray for grace to imitate him, we should frequently set before ourselves all the particular words and actions of his life. We should remember that the express design of his sanctification, was, the sanctification of all his true disciples. “For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.” (John xvii. 19.) St. Peter most beautifully urges upon us this imitation of Christ, in the following words : “ For even here. unto were ye called : because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth : who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened pot, but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.” (1 Peter ii. 21-25.) Then summing up the whole view of Christ, as both our sacrifice and our example, the Apostle adds, “ Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead unto sins, should live unto righteousness : by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray ; but are now returned upto the Shepherd and Bishop of your
Is it not a natural and a lively image, by which believers are represented as following Christ just as sheep follow their shepherd ? Step by step he leads them gently on : and step by step they are enabled to follow. The lambs of the flock are not overlooked by him : he knows their weakness and ignorance. Only, what he re. quires of all, is, that they should hear his voice, and tread in his steps. In this Collect, these are called “ blessed steps :” for blessings abound wherever Jesus leads. What Job said of himself, may fitly be viewed as spoken by our Saviour Christ : “ When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me: because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish, came upon me: and I made the widow's heart to sing for joy.” (Job xxix. 11–13.)
Let us then pray for grace, for abundant and never-failing grace, thus to imitate our divine Master. “He that saith he abideth in him, ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” (1 John ii. 6.) Our remaining corruptions are so many and so strong, that we sball ever find it hard work thus to walk : but we pray that we may “endeavour" so to do: and that this may be our endeavour “ daily." Oh, that every morning, every evening, all the day long, and in every waking moment of our existence, we could set the Lord Jesus Christ always before us! The whole of our duty he hath himself expressed in one short sentence, easy to be remembered " Jesus saith unto them, Follow me.”
THIRD SUNDAY AFTER EASTER.
The great design of the Gospel is, that men may be turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. This is the leading thought of the Collect for this day; and upon it is grounded the prayer that all they who have been brought under the Gospel dispensation may walk answerably to this their high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
1. First, consider the great design of the Gospel.
It finds men in error : that is, not merely under many mistakes, such as ignorant persons might be expected to commit; but, in deadly error, in the error of sin. The word “error" properly means “wandering ;” the expression of the Collect therefore describes persons who are wanderers from God, lost in sin, and in danger of eternal ruin. “ All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.” This is the description of us all. “ For all have sinned, and come shost of the glory of God.”
But though the Gospel finds men in sin, it does not leave them in darkness as to the way of deliverance from their awful state. No: it shines upon them with the brightest possible light, even the light of truth. "It speaks thus to every lost sinner : “ Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead; and Christ shall give thee light.” First, it shews a man that he is a sinner : it reproves, convinces, and humbles him. Then it shews him how he may obtain pardon, and come back as a reconciled child to his heavenly Father. Jesus saith, “ I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” He says moreover, “ Him that cometh unto me, I will by no means cast out.” “ Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” What merciful, what encouraging words to lost sinners! And then the light of God's truth shews us yet further, how, and from what source we may obtain a disposition to come to Christ : namely, by prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit, which the Father will give to all who ask it of him. All true doctrines are as light from heaven to the naturally dark mind of fallen man. He could not of himself have discovered any one of them. He might as soon think of creating a world, as of new-creating and enlightening his own soul. " But,” as St. Paul declares concerning those who embrace the Gospel, “ God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor. iv. 6.)
Then observe the result of this method of salvation, in those who believingly embrace it. It causes them to return into the way of righteousness. They are called unto holiness : they through grace obey the call : they are led by the Spirit : and they walk religiously in good works. They cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light. They cease to do evil : they learn to do well.
In all this there is no merit of man, no place for boasting. All is of free grace. The method of pardon, the disposition to delight in holiness, the power to live holily, all is from and through Christ. It
is the light of truth accompanied with the effectual influence of the Spirit that produces this mighty change in the heart of the believer.
2. Hereupon is grounded the prayer contained in the second part of the Collect; and which is offered up on behalf of “ all them that are admitted into the fellowship of Christ's religion.”
In the Sacrament of Baptism we are received into the congregation of Christ's flock. Baptism is not only a sign of profession, but also “ a sign of Regeneration or new Birth ; whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive baptism rightly, are grafted into the Church.” (Article xxvii.) Outwardly all baptised persons are admitted into the fellowship of Christ's religion : but their inward possession of the blessing of the communion of saints, depends upon their faith. Those “ rightly receive” baptism, and those only, who embrace the promises of the Gospel with a living faith. .
Consider then, What is the practical intent of the profession of faith at baptism ? and what is the proper effect of that holy ordinance ? Let the words of St. Paul answer : “ Know ye not,” he says, “ that as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into bis death? Therefore we are buried with bim by baptism into death : that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Rom. vi. 3,4.) This then is the intent of our being admitted into the fellowship of Christ's religion. "Let every one that nameth the name of Christ, depart from iniquity.”
. The things contrary to our profession, which we are to eschew, (that is, to avoid) are all kinds and degrees of sin. So the Apostle writes to the Colossians ; « But now ye also put off all these : anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing ye have put off the old man with his deeds.” (Col. iii. 8, 9.) He names many other kinds of iniquity, which are to be mortified. After which he adds this beautiful exhortation ; “ Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering.” (iii. 12.) Many other graces he enumerates, which may be studied in that passage ; and also in various similar exhortations contained in the fourth and fifth chapters of his epistle to the Ephesians..
Having therefore so many exhortations to holiness, our work should be to receive them with a spirit of obedience ; and above all, with a spirit of prayer. For we are not able for one moment either to do, or to think, or even to desire that which is holy, without the special grace of God. Hath he then shed upon us this blessed light of the Gospel ? hath he taught us how we ought to walk and to please God ? Hath he shewn us what kind of conversation becometh the Gospel of Christ ? Let us thank him with an unfeigned heart. Let us say with the Psalmist, “ Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. Othat my ways were directed to keep thy statutes ! Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments. I will keep thy statutes : O forsake me not utterly.” (Psalm cxix. 4, &c.)
FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER.
When the conscience of any person is moved and enlightened by the Spirit of God, he is led to take such a deep view of the sinfulness, the disorder, and the corruption of his own heart, as constrains him to pour forth earnest supplications for sanctifying and preserving grace. The fervent and comprehensive confessions and petitions of this Collect, will exactly express his wants and feelings. As a man, in himself weak, and unable to please God, he will lift up his eyes to the sanctuary, and implore the almighty, the everlasting God, who fainteth not neither is weary, to be his help and his strength, his joy and his rest. Thou Lord, alone, who didst at first speak the world out of a state of confusion into order and beauty ; thou alone canst new-create the soul of fallen man, and restore him to holiness : thou alone canst give grace and glory!
1. After having invoked the Almighty, and adored him as the only hope of our lost race, we commence this Collect with a confession of our sinfulness; and we mark the proofs of, that sinfulness, exhibited in the unruly wills and affections which dwell within us. Before a man is turned to God, his will is altogether in a state of alienation from his Maker, yea, in actual rebellion against him. “The carnal mind is enmity against God : for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then, they that are in the flesh, cannot please God.” (Rom. viii, 7, 8.) Seeing that they “ are after the Aesh,” they “mind the things of the flesh : " they “mind earthly things : ” (Phil. iii. 19.) their affections are set “on things on the earth :” (Col. iii. 2.) they are “ lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God : " (2 Timothy iii. 4.) they “lust after evil things :” (1 Cor. X. 6.) “they walk after the course of this world ; fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind.” (Eph. ii. 2, 3.)
The work of conversion consists in the changing of this unruly will by the power of God's Spirit, bringing it into conformity to the law of God. The affections, which before were grovelling on earth, are now set on things above. We are led by the Spirit, (none else could so lead us,) to love God, to hope for his mercy in Christ, to fear his displeasure, to delight in his law after the inward man, to abhor sin, to desire an increase of grace, to seek comfort in communion with the Lord in prayer, and to long for heaven. Whenever . these feelings habitually rule in the heart of any person, it is an evidence that his will and his affections are savingly changed.
Yet, after that this all-important work hath taken place, still there remains, even in them that are regenerated, the infection of pature : in consequence whereof we cannot of ourselves do the things that we would. We cannot either will, or work that which is good, without the grace of God going before, that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will. (Article x.) Hence it is that “in many things we offend all.” For our sinful actions, words and thoughts, and for our propensity to resist grace, we are bound most deeply to humble ourselves. The regenerate therefore still continue to speak of themselves as “ miserable sinners; ”