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Him.” And still more often we find men so acting, so living in the world, as if they knew that He was regardless of either right or wrong, and would make no difference between those who serve Him and those who serve Him not.
Now it would be a grievous calamity if there were no help for this ignorance : if, because no man hath seen God, therefore no man, however desirous and piously sincere, could become acquainted with his character and will. His we are, and from his hand nothing can deliver us. We must be sensible of the power
which He has over us, whether for good or evil, happiness or misery, if we either turn to the constitution of the body or the soul. Can it, then, be a matter of indifference, a light matter, whether we are the objects of his anger, or his favour? whether He is reconciled to us, and we are at peace with Him ?
Here, then, is the blessing which we receive from that vast event which St. John has been announcing, “God manifest in the flesh :” God revealing Himself to us " by his Son, the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person.” No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. Or, as the same truth is expressed in St. Luke, (x. 22,) “ No man knoweth who the Father is but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal Him."
The Jewish Scriptures certainly furnish much knowledge of God; all the knowledge which could be given by description. He is represented as
“God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible.” He is represented as “the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him to a thousand generations.
“ All his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He.” The Psalms of David abound with great and lofty thoughts concerning the majesty and goodness 3 Deut. vii. 9.
4 Deut. xxxii. 4.
of God. And the prophets fill up the outline, and describe “the High and Holy One, who inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy, yet humbleth Himself to behold the things that are upon the earth,” and to “ look on him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at his word.
St. John, however, was no stranger to this. He was brought up in the knowledge of it, as belonging to the Jewish nation; a nation distinguished from the rest of the world, because they had this knowledge; because they did not change the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man," or suppose that the world was either self-created or had no beginning
And yet St. John clearly implies in this sentence that the incarnation of the only begotten Son of God, who is in the bosom of the Father, has declared God to us, as He could not otherwise be declared ; has given us an acquaintance with Him which we could not otherwise have enjoyed.
And it is easy to perceive this. Let us trace it in regard to the two attributes with which we are most concerned, his JUSTICE and his MERCY.
1. We are told, plainly told in Scripture, that God “cannot look upon evil ;” that “ He will by no means clear the guilty." “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.” But men invent a thousand reasons, why they should not believe this. Therefore the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared it. He declared it, when He was lifted up on the cross to “bear the sins of many : to bear sins in his own body: to “ give his life a ransom :” to “die unto sin :" to show that between sin and misery, as the consequence of sin, there is an inseparable connexion, and that “if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die ;” for “ the wages of sin is death.”
A king, (let us suppose,) an earthly sovereign, has
5 Isaiah lxvi. 2.
proclaimed to his subjects, that every wilful offender against his law shall die. What irresistible force would be added to his proclamation, if, rather than leave the law unsatisfied, he did not spare his son, his only son! Here, then, the incarnation of the only begotten Son of God has declared to us the JUSTICE of the Father with a plainness not to be misunderstood.
2. But God is also revealed to us as “ long-suffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin." And surely the Gospel of Christ Jesus has declared this in characters which shine as a sunbeam. There his MERCY is beheld in active exercise : “ For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” As the apostle writes, “ 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 only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, has declared the Father to us, as planning the wonderful scheme of our redemption ; as testifying his goodness by that “mystery of godliness,” which “the angels desire to look into :” as sending out his ambassadors to a rebellious world, that the world may be converted to God: “ as having prepared for them that love Him” glory which cannot be expressed, and "such good things as pass man's understanding."
Behold, then, the character in which God is revealed to you: He, whom no man hath seen at any time, " though He is not far from any of us ;" He with whom you have to do. However boldly men may contend and cavil, you cannot know Him, except as He has revealed Himself. Behold, as St. Paul says, looking to this very thing, “ behold the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity ; but towards thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.”6
6 Rom. xi, 22.
“Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish.” Behold, ye that are penitent and poor in spirit, and rejoice : “yea, again I say unto you, rejoice.
JOHN DESCRIBES JESUS AS THE LAMB OF GOD.
JOHN i. 29.
29. “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold
the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” Jesus had been living in retirement while the Baptist was fulfilling his public ministry. Therefore John knew Him not ; yet he knew the purpose for which He came. The Spirit had revealed this to him, and therefore he is able to bear record to him as the Son of God, whose ministry was to set aside his own, who was to complete, by the gift of the Holy Ghost, that baptism of repentance which he had himself been hitherto exercising. He points Him out to his disciples in terms which at once explain a whole volume of type and prophecy. Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
We had been told before, “ The Word was made flesh.”
The reason, the purpose of this incarnation is now disclosed. It is all contained in the description, The Lamb of God. He came to be the propitiation for sin. He came to be that, which He alone could be, an atonement to the holiness of God, for the guilt incurred by man.
Adam had transgressed the law which he was bound to obey, and involved the whole race of his posterity in corruption. And how could man be pardoned, and the holiness of God's government be maintained ? “ As by one man's disobedience many were made sinners,” who could be the one, by whose “ obedience many might be made righteous ? None of the sons
of men could offer an atonement. They needed atonement; for they were themselves corrupt; they had nothing to pay: “No man can redeem his brother, or make agreement unto God for him.” But the Son of God, the eternal, uncreated Word, consented to stand in the stead of that guilty race. “In the volume of the book it is written of him, Lo, I come to do thy will, O
Being “ without spot of sin,” his innocence might be received as a free offering; and, taking man's nature upon him, he could suffer man's penalty.
This was determined from the beginning. Jesus is called “ the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." And being so determined, it was foreshown in various ways. From the earliest times, the patriarchs are represented as offering sacrifice to God. As mankind were dispersed, they carried the custom with them, though its purpose was lost and forgotten. But the whole is contained in the law given by Moses to the Israelites. It could not be mistaken, when the priest laid his hands upon the head of the creature intended for an offering, and made confession of sin over the head of the sacrifice ;* thus prefiguring what was afterwards to be more fully explained, how the Lord had laid on one the iniquity of all."
By the ordinances of the law, various animals were used in sacrifice; but none so constantly as the lamb. One was offered up in the temple every morning, and another every evening; and on the sabbath, two." But it was the rite of the passover which most evidently and remarkably typified that full and perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for the sins of all men, which was consummated upon the cross.
The lamb slain as the passover was to be without blemish. So was Jesus without spot of sin, neither was guilt found in his mouth. The lamb was to be “ of the first year ;" so
i Ps. xl. 6. Heb. x. 4, &c.
2 Rev. xiii. 8. 3 Lev. xvi. 21.
4 Isa. liii. 5 Num. xxviii. 3-10. 6 Exod. xii. 3, &c. 7 See 1 Pet. i. 19.