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you plant the foot on the first step of that he may send them succor when this ladder: forsake evil courses, break the hand is relaxing and the foot falling. away from evil habits, and take part I can answer for it, that every one of with the disciples of Christ. Christ you may, if he will, mount by this ladcasteth out none who come unto him: der, seeing that Christ took human naand he who strives to turn from his ini- ture, and thus united earth and heaven, quities at the call of his Savior, is be- as the substitute of all. I can answer ginning to lay hold on that propitiation, for it, that none who strive to mount through the grasping of which in its by this ladder shall fail of everlasting several parts he will be gradually raised life; for those who believe on Christ to the blessedness of immortality. Are can never perish, neither shall any you afraid of trusting yourselves to this pluck them out of his hand. The caladder? Thousands, in every age, have nopy of the sky seems lined with the gone up by it to glory; and not a soli- "cloud of witnesses.” Those who have tary individual has found it give way gone before are bidding us climb, beneath him, however immense the bur- through the one Mediator, to their lofty den of his sins. And why afraid? The abode. We come, we come. Your call ladder is He who is "able to save to the shall be obeyed. Your voices animate uttermost” all who would go unto God us, as they steal down in solemn and through him; and the angels are as- beautiful cadence. And God helping, cending and descending upon it, for there shall not be one of us who does they have charge over the righteous to not seek salvation through the blood keep them in all their ways; and the and righteousness of Jesus; not one Almighty himself looks down on those who shall not share with you the throne who are climbing painfully upwards, and the diadem.
THE CONTINUED AGENCY OF THE FATHER AND THE SON.
“But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work."-St. John, 5:17.
It is a very peculiar argument which man's carrying his bed through the Christ here employs, to disprove the streets, attracted the notice of those charge of having broken the Sabbath. who were jealous for the ceremonial We will refer, for a few moments, to law. They taxed the man with doing the context, that you may understand what it was not lawful to do on the the drift and force of the reasoning. Sabbath : he justified himself by pleadChrist had healed the impotent man, ing the direction of the Being by whom who had lain for a long time by the he had been healed. This led to an inpool of Bethesda. He had bidden him quiry as to the author of the miracle; take up his bed, and walk; and the and so soon as the Jews had ascertain. cripple was immediately enabled to ed that it was Jesus, they persecuted obey the command. It was on the Sab- him, and "sought to slay him, because bath-day that this great miracle was he had done these things on the Sabwrought; and the circumstance of the bath-day.” In order to show them the
unreasonableness of their conduct, and drawn from our text. We find him imto prove that he had authority for what mediately afterwards saying, "What he had done, Christ made use of the things soever the Father doeth, these words of our text, words by which he also doeth the Son likewise,"-words seemed to the Jews to claim essential which, in place of contradicting the Divinity, however modern objectors supposition that he meant to declare may fail to find in them such assump- himself every way divine, admit no tion. You read that, so soon as Christ consistent interpretation, unless the had said, " My Father worketh hither power of the Son be precisely the to, and I work,” his enemies took a new same with that of the Father. And thus ground for seeking his death. "There it would appear, either that it was a fore the Jews sought the more to kill true inference which the Jews drew him, because he not only had broken from our text, when they concluded the Sabbath, but said also that God was that Christ affirmed himself equal with his Father, making himself equal with God; or that Christ, when he knew God.”
the interpretation put upon his words, It is very observable, that the Jews took no pains to defend himself against considered Christ as claiming actual the charge of blasphemy, but made equality with God—a plain indication, statements which rather went to prove we think, that such was the meaning the charge just. which his words bore. The contempo- We do not well see how the deniers raries of the Savior, addressed by him of Christ's divinity are to extricate in their native tongue, were more like themselves from this dilemma. The ly to perceive the true sense of what Redeemer had used words, which the he said than ourselves, who receive his Jews interpreted into a claim of equadiscourses in a dead language. At all lity with God. The interpretation was event, supposing that the Jews mis either correct or incorrect. If correct, took his meaning, what can be said of Christ meant to declare himself divine, his not correcting the mistake ? So and there can be no debate that he actusoon as he knew that they were enraged ally was. If incorrect, then Christ, who at him for a supposed violation of the was not silent under a charge of SabSabbath, he entered on his vindication, bath-breaking, would not have been siand sought to prove the charge ground- lent under a charge of the worst posless. But did he do any thing similar sible blasphemy: at least, he would not when he knew himself accused of " ma- have countenanced the charge, by using king himself equal with God?". The more of the same suspicious language. charge was far heavier. If Christ had Hence the only fair conclusion seems been only a creature, a mere man like to be, that the Jews had put the right one of ourselves, it would have been construction on our text; and that nothing short of blasphemy had he pro- Christ actually designed to assert his claimed himself "equal with God." We proper deity, when, in order to prove may be sure, therefore, that if the that he had not broken the Sabbath by Jews had been wrong in inferring from healing on that day, he said, " My Fa. Christ's words a claim to divinity, they ther worketh hitherto, and I work.” would not have been suffered to con- Indeed we know not what force there tinue in error. We may be sure, we would be in the argument, on any supsay, of this; for even those who are position but that of Christ's being equal most earnest in contending that Christ with God. The accusation against was only man, allow that he was a good Christ was, that he had broken the man, and no deceiver: they are not Sabbath by working a miracle. How ready to accuse him of uttering blas- does he meet the charge ? Simply by phemy, or of being wholly indifferent saying, "My Father worketh hitherto, as to what construction might be put and I work.” But what answer, what upon his words. Yet it is very certain, apology is this? There is an answer, that, when Christ knew himself charg- and there is an apology, on the suppoed with making himself "equal with sition that Christ was God, but not on God," he attempted no denial, but spake any other. God, though he had ceased in terms which must have confirmed the from creating, was continually occuJews in the inference which they had pied in sustaining and preserving, so
that he performed works of mercy on strength; inasmuch as, in interpreting the Sabbath-day, as well as on every the passage as containing a claim to other, making his sun to shine on the divinity, we advance only the interpreevil and the good, and his rain to de- tation which was put upon it by the scend on the just and the unjust. And Jews, and which Christ allowed to pass if Christ were God, then, in curing the without censure, nay, which he even impotent man on the Sabbath, he had confirmed by his subsequent discourse. only exercised the prerogative of Dei. We will now, however, wave further ty, and continued what had been his reference to the circumstances which practice from the very beginning of the occasioned the delivery of the text; world. The Jews, therefore, might as and, assuming your belief in that funwell have objected, that God brake his damental article of christianity, the die own ordinance by those actings of his vinity of Christ, proceed to examine providence which took place without the assertions which are made in rerespect of days, as that Christ had vio- gard both of the Father and the Son. lated the Sabbath by healing the sick. We have only to premise, that our Sa. But if Christ were not God, we know vior must be understood as speaking not what right he had to refer to what in his character of Mediator, the being God did, and thereby to attempt his who had united in his person the di. own vindication. Unquestionably, the vine nature and the human. It was not practice of the Creator could not right- altogether as God, but rather as God. ly be quoted in proof, that a mere crea- man, that he had' healed the cripple, ture might do what he thought fit on who had vainly waited, year after year, the Sabbath : it did not follow that be by the pool of Bethesda. The miracles cause the Creator worked on the Sab- which Jesus wrought were designed as bath, the creature might lawfully work: credentials, by which his authority, as a this would be placing the creature on a teacher sent from God, might be clearly level with the Creator; for it would be established. Hence in working a miraclaiming the same privileges for the cle, he is to be considered as acting in his two, the same superiority to all au- mediatorial capacity, carrying forward thority and command. But if Christ that great undertaking on which he had were more than a creature, if he were entered so soon as man transgressed. himself the Creator, the argument was Hence, when he justifies his performstrong and conclusive : in healing the ing a miracle on the Sabbath, by say, sick, he did but assert the independence ing, "My Father worketh hitherto, and which belonged to him as God, and act I work,” he is to be regarded as af. as he had all along acted, whilst busied firming that the mediatorial office had with upholding the universe. Thus the been, and was to be, discharged with Jews attached to Christ's words the that uninterrupted activity which markonly meaning which, we think, they ed the Creator's providential dealings. will bear, when considered as furnish- It might not perhaps have been a suffiing the reason why he might lawfully cient vindication of the act which had cure on the Sabbath. The reason was, excited the anger of the Jews, that he that, being himself God, he might act who wrought it was God, and therefore as God, and therefore work on all days not bound by such an ordinance as that alike. But the moment you throw doubt of the Sabbath. Christ had assumed the on the fact of his being God, the reason nature of man, and voluntarily brought disappears, and our text contains only himself under the law. It did not, therethe presumptuous, and even blasphe- fore, necessarily follow, that he had a mous insinuations, that a creature might right to do, as man, whatever it was lawfully guide himself by the actions his prerogative to do as God. But as of the Creator, without regard to his God-man, or Mediator, he might be positive commands.
called on for the same continued exerBut we will not insist at greater cise of energy as that by which the length on the argument furnished by Creator sustained the work of his our text and its context in support of hands. And this it is which he must the divinity of Christ. We have proba- be supposed to affirm-even that, as bly said enough to convince you, that the Father, as the universal upholder, this argument is of more than common/ had been occupied from the first with
providential operations, so had the Son but the Almighty perpetually at work? been actively employed from the first What are those laws of matter, to in his Mediatorial capacity; and that, which we confidently appeal, and by in the one instance, as well as in the which we explain certain phenomena, other, the work proceeded without re- but so many manifestations of infinite spect of days.
power and intelligence, proofs of the But this will be better understood as presence and activity of a being who we advance with our discourse. We produces, according to his own will, shall consider the text as affirming, in "All action and passion, all permathe first place, the continual working nence and change?''* I count it not of the Father; in the second place, the owing to inherent powers, originally continual working of the Son; and we impressed, that year by year this globe shall strive so to speak of each, as to walks its orbit, repeating its mysterious prove the words "profitable for doc- march round the sun in the firmament: trine, and instruction in righteousness.” I rather reckon that the hand of the
Now there is, perhaps, in all of us Almighty perpetually guides the plana tendency to the substituting second et, and that it is through his energies, causes for the first, to the so dwelling momentarily applied, that the ponderon the laws of matter, and the opera- ous mass effects its rotations. I do not tions of nature, as to forget, if not de believe it the result of properties, ny, the continued agency of God. If which, once imparted, operate of themour creed were to be gathered from selves, that vegetation goes forward, our common forms of speech, it might and verdure mantles the earth : I rabe concluded that we regarded nature ther believe that Deity is busy with as some agent quite distinct from dei- every seed that is cast into the ground, ty, having its own sphere, and its own and that it is through his iminediate powers, in and with which to work. agency that every leaf opens, and every We are wont to draw a line between flower blooms. I count it not the conwhat we call natural, and what super- sequence of a physical organization, natural; assigning the latter to an infi- the effect of a curious mechanism, nite power, but ascribing the former to which, once set in motion, continues ordinary causes, unconnected with the to work, that pulse succeeds to pulse, immediate interference of God. But is and breath follows breath ; I rather renot our philosophy as defective as our gard it as literally true, that in God theology, so long as we thus give ener- we live and move, and have our begy to matter, and make a deity of na-ing,” that each pulse is but the throb, ture? We do not believe that it would each breath the inspiration of the everfurnish any satisfactory account of the present, all-actuating, Divinity. thousand beautiful arrangements, dis- Away with the idolatry of nature. coverable in the visible creation, to say Nature is but a verbal fiction, inventthat matter was endued with certain ed to keep out of sight the unwearied properties, and placed in certain rela- actings of the great First Cause. The tions, and then left to obey the laws Bible ascribes to God the preservaand perform the revolutions originally tion, and not only the production, of all impressed and commanded. This is things. The Levites, when Nehemiah ascribing a permanence, as well as a bad proclaimed a solemn fast, thus power, to second causes, for which it poured forth their confession of the seems to us as unscientific as it cer- greatness of God, "Thou, even thou, tainly is unscriptural to contend. We art Lord alone : ihou hast made heado not indeed suppose that God exerts ven, the heaven of heavens, with all any such agency as to supersede the their host; the earth, and all things laws, or nullify the properties of mat. that are therein; the seas, and all that ter; but we believe that he is continu- is therein ; and thou preservest them ally acting by and through these laws all, and the host of heaven worshipand properties as his instruments, and peth thee.” The Apostle, when preachnot that these laws and properties are ing the true God to ihe idolatrous of themselves effecting the various oc- Athenians, declared, "He giveth to all currences in the material world. What is that nature, of which we rashly speak, * Whewell, Bridgewater Treatise.
life and breath, and all things.” There us, when we thus view in God the Govis scarcely a natural production, or oc- ernor as well as the Creator. If we licurrence, which we do not find refer- mit our thoughts to our own globe and red, in some part or other of the Bible, race, how immense is the occupation immediately to the agency of God. with which we suppose Deity charged. He it is, if we believe the statements To observe every motion of the human of Holy Writ, who maketh the sun to will, and make it subserve his own purarise, and the rain to descend. He it poses; to note whatsoever occurs, and is, saith the Psalmist, "who maketh register it for judgment; to instigate grass to grow upon the mountains.” | to every good action, and overrule
He giveth snow like wool; he scat- every bad, this is the business, if we tereth the hoar-frost like ashes." may use the word, which belongs to " When he uttereth his voice, there is the Moral Governor; a business in a multitude of waters in the heavens; which there cannot have been a mohe maketh lightnings with rain, and ment's cessation since the first man bringeth forth the wind out of his was made, and in which there will not treasures.” These are the terms in be a pause till the last man hath died. which inspired writers speak of the You are to add to this, that, with reagency of God; terms which seem de spect to every one of us, the occupacisive on the fact, that there is no such tion is just as individual as though thing in the material universe as the there were none other upon earth to working of second causes, without the engage the watchfulness of Deity. interference of the first; but that the "Thou understandest," saith David, Divine Being, though he have ceased "my thought afar off.”
my thought afar off." " There is not from creating, is momentarily engaged a word in my tongue, but lo, O Lord, in actuating and upholding the vast thou knowest it altogether." " Thou system which he originally constructed. tellest my wanderings : put thou my And if, though he have instituted laws, tears into thy bottle; are they not in and communicated properties, these thy book ?" It is certainly the reprelaws and properties are but instruments sentation of Scripture; a representain God's hands, by and through which tion, of which it is hard to say whe. he effects the results and calls forth the ther it more surprises us by the view productions which we are wont to refer which it gives of the unsearchable to natural causes-yea, if each planet, as greatness of God, or delights us by it turns on its axis and traces out its orbit the exquisite tenderness of which it is moved by his hand; if his breath be in proves us the objects; that no calamity every gale, his glance in every beam, his can befall the rneanest amongst us, no voice in every sound; if his be the ve- anxiety disquiet him, no joy cheer him, getable power which makes the valleys no prayer escape him, of which our thick with corn, his the pencil which heavenly Father is unobservant, or in traces beauty on the flowers, his the which he takes no immediate concern. strength which marshals the elements, We are directed to ask him for our daihis the wisdom which provides for all ly bread; we are bidden to cast all our animated being; who will not own care upon him ; we are assured that he that so universal and uninterrupted an will wipe away our tears; we are told agency is exercised by God, as bears that he is a present help in every
time out, in its largest signification, the de- of trouble ; that "this poor man cried, claration of Christ, " Hitherto my Fa- and the Lord heard him;" that "he ther worketh ?”
healeth the broken in heart, and bindWe go on to observe, that it is not eth up their wounds." only in the material universe that there We will not now insist on the unis the perpetual and immediate agency measured condescension and compasof God. We know that God has re- sion which such directions and assuranvealed himself as a moral governor, ces indicate. We wish to fasten your having all orders of intelligent being as attention on that inconceivably vast his subjects, employing them in his employment which is hereby attributed service, and taking cognizance of their to the Almighty. We are showing you actions. And it is a mighty field of em- God, as the God of all the families of ployment which is thrown open before the earth, exercising over the whole