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Our misery too was as great as our wickedness. We were under sentence of condemnation, and exposed to all the curses, of the broken law: “the wrath of God abode upon us;" and nothing remained but that the thread of life should be cut, and we should have been miserable in hell for ever. more. Yet such was his compassion that he interposed for us, and became our mediator with God, our " advocate with the Father.” How wonderfully does this enhance the grace he has manifested! It would be a marvellous effort of love, if a king should put himself in the place of a condemned rebel, and suffer the sentence of the law in his stead: but for the Creator himself to become a creature, that he might suffer in the place of those who deserved nothing but death and hell, well may this be termed “ the exceeding riches of his grace," the very masterpiece of divine love!'] IV. The state to which, by that interposition, he exalts us
[If he had procured a remission of our sentence, and the favour of annihilation, what a mercy would it have been! and what a mercy would the devils account it, if they could obtain such a favour at his hands! But this would not satisfy our adorable Saviour: he had far higher views in undertaking for us: he determined to restore us to a state of reconciliation with God: to renew our pature, and thereby fit us for the enjoyment of God. Moreover, to all the blessings of grace and peace he determined finally to add that of everlasting glory. He determined, not merely to remove our poverty, but to make us “ rich." And in order to see how rich he makes his people, contrast for one moment the state of Dives in hell, crying in vain for one drop of water; and Lazarus enjoying all the fulness of God in Abraham's bosom: such are the riches he designs for us: to procure them for us was the very end of his incarnation and death: nor will he ever relinquish those whom he has purchased with his blood, till he makes them “joint heirs with himself,” and puts them into possession of that "inheritance which is incorruptible, undefiled, and never-fading.” In a word, he became bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh,s that we might be one Spirit with him. He emptied himself of his glory, and descended, as it were, to the lowest hell, that he might “ pluck us as brands out of the burning," and exalt us to the throne from whence he came.k
Such, such was the grace of Christ: it was infinitely more than words can express, or than imagination can conceive.]
f Eph. ii. 7. Rom. v. 8. Tixiv wge Phil. ij. 7.
a I Cor. vi. 17
& Eph. v, 30.
By way of APPLICATION we enquire 1. What “know” you of this as an historical fact?
[Many there are who strenuously oppose the whole of this representation: denying the truth of Christ's divinity, and the reality of his atonement, the depth of our fall, and our dependance on him for salvation, they assert, that Christ was a mere man; that he died only as an example; that we are neither so vile nor so helpless as has been supposed; and that we are to be saved by our own works. Alas! what an exposition must such persons give to the words of our text! How must they weaken, or rather annihilate, the grace of Christ!
But there, are thousands of others, who, while they call themselves Christians, are wholly ignorant of the grace of Christ; not that they systematically oppose it; but they never at all consider it-
O let such persons blush at their ingratitude, and tremble for the miseries that must come upon them! Let them seeks instruction in this greatest of all subjects, and beg of God to open their understandings that they may understand it.] 2. What“ know” you of it as an influential principle?
[It is in this peculiar view that the grace of Christ is mentioned in the text. Wherever the grace of Christ is known, it cannot but operate; and that too in proportion to the discovery we have of it. It will infallibly excite us to adore the love of Christ, to fulfil his will, and to imitate his example, No man ever felt more love to Christ, or served him with more zeal, or exercised more self-denial for the good of his fellow-creatures, than St. Paul. In indefatigable labours and cheerful sufferings he had no equal. And he himself tells us what it was that animated him in all his course: “ the love of Christ," says he, “ constraineth us." How then does it operate on us? Are we so impressed with an admiration of Christ's love as to magnify him with thanksgiving? Are we 80 constrained by it, as to devote ourseives to him without weariness and without reserve? And have we learned from it to sacrifice, not superfluities only, but many of our comforts also, in order to supply the necessities of the poor?*
Let us never rest in a mere theoretical knowledge of these great and fundamental doctrines, but improve them to the regulating of our own conduct, and to the glorifying of him who bought us with his blood.]
* If this were the subject of
a Charity-Sermon, it would be proper to open here the pecwiar situation of those for whose relief the Sermon was intended; and to shew how smull a matter we require from our auditors in comparison of that which Christ has yoluntarily done for them.
DLIII. THE NATURE AND ENDS OF CHRIST'S DEATH.
1 Pet. iii. 18. Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just
for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.
“SUFFERINGS, of whatever kind are not in them.' selves joyous, but grevious:" nevertheless they may on some occasions become a source of joy and triumph. If, for instance, they be inflicted for righteousness sake, and we have the testimony of our conscience that we suffer for well-doing, we may then unfeignedly rejoice in them, · as on other accounts, so especially because they render us conformable to our Lord and Saviour. This thought was suggested by St. Peter as a rich source of consolation to the persecuted Christians of his day: nor can we have any stronger incentive to patience and diligence in every part of our duty, than the consideration of what Christ has done and suffered for our sake.
The words before us lead us to contemplate 1. The nature of Christ's sufferings
We speak not of their quality as corporeal, or spiritual, but of their nature as described in the text. They were 1. Penal
[Some affirm that the sufferings of Christ were only to confirm his doctrine, and to set us an example: but these ends might have been equally answered by the sufferings of his apostles. But they were the punisment of sin: and the wrath of God due to sin, was the bitterest ingredient in them. We had merited the curse and condemnation of the law: and he, to deliver us from it, “ became a curse for us." "He suffered for sins;” and though his punishment was not preeisely the same either in quality or duration, as ours would have been, yet was it equivalent to our demerit, and satisfactory to the justice of an offended God.]
* If there was nothing penal in our Lord's sufferings, his example was not near so bright as that of many of his disciples; since he neither met his sufferings with so much fortitude, nor endured them with such triumphant exultation, as many of his followers have since done. But if they were the penalty due to sin, his apparent inferiority is fully accounted for.
b Gal. iii. 10, 13.
[It was not for any sin of his own that Jesus was cut off: he was “a Lamb without spot or blemish,”d as even his enemies, after the strictest scrutiny, were forced to confess. He died, “ the just. for, and in the room of, the unjust:" the iniquities of all the human race were laid upon him:8 he was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities, and the chastisement he endured was to effect our peace.” He, who was innocent, became a sin-offering for us, that we, who are guilty, might be made righteous in him.] 3. Propitiatory
[The death of Christ, like all the sacrifices under the Jewish law, was an atonement for sin. It is continually compared with the Jewish sacrifices in this view. We say not, that the Father hated us, and needed to have his wrath appeased by the interposition of his Son: (for the very gift of Christ was the fruit of the Father's love!) but we say, in concurrence with all the inspired writers, that when it was necessary for the honour of the divine government that sin should be punished either in the offender himself, or in his surety, Christ became our surety, and by his own death made a true and proper atonement for our sins, and thus effected our reconciliation with God.m On any other supposition than this, the whole Mosaic ritual was absurd, and the writings of the New Testament are altogether calculated to deceive us.]
From considering the nature of our Lord's sufferings let us proceed to notice II. The end of them
His one great design was to bring us to God: 1. To a state of acceptance with him
[We were enemias to God in our minds by wicked works;” nor could we by any means reconcile ourselves to God: we could not by obedience; because the law required perfect obedience; which, having once transgressed the law, we could never afterwards pay: nor could we by suffering, because the penalty denounced against sin was eternal, and consequently, if once endured by us, could never be remitted. But, when it was impossible for us to restore ourselves to God's favour, we were reconciled to him by Christ's obedience
c Dan. ix. 26. di pet. i. 19. • John xviïi. 38,-& xix. 6. f 'Yrię, this important substitution. See Rom. v. 7. in the Greek. & I sai. liii. 6. b Ib. ver. 4.
i 2 Cor. y. 21. k Heb. passim. I John iii. 16, * Eph. y. 2. and i 'John ii, 2.
unto death," and to effect this reconciliation was the very end for which he laid down his life."] 2. To the enjoyment of his presence
[The holy of holies was inaccessible to all except the high priest; nor could even he enter into it except on the great day of annual expiation. But at the very instant of our Lord's death, while the Jews were worshipping in the temple, the vail was rent in twain from the top to the bottom, and the most holy place was open to the view of all.9 This was intended to declare, that from thenceforth all might have the freest and most intimate access to God. All are now made priests unto God;" and, in this new and living way, mny come to his mercy-seat to behold his glory, and to enjoy his love.'] 3. To the possession of his glory
[It was not only to save us from condemnation, but to exalt us to everlasting happiness, that Jesus died. The salvation which he procured for us, is a salvation with eternal glory.” The robes in which the celestial spirits are arrayed, were washed in his blood;* and all the ransomed hosts unite in ascribing to him the felicity they enjoy. Nothing short of this could answer the purposes of his love;' and the accomplishment of this was the ultimate end of all he suffered.*] Before we conclude this subject let us CONTEMPLATE
1. How great is the love of Christ to our fallen race!b 2. How cheerfully should we endure sufferings for his sake!
3. How inexcusable will they be who continue still at a distance from their God!
n Col. i. 21, 22. Rom. v. 10.
• Eph. ii. 16. p Heb. 'ix. 7, 8. 9 Matt. xxvii. 50, 51. * Eph. ii, 13, 18. • Rev. i. 6.
* Heb. X. 19-22. and xii. 18-24. it 2 Tim. ii. 10. * Rev. vii. 14.
y Rev. v. 9, 10, 12. John xvii. 24. 2 Heb. ii. 9, 10.
Who would do any thing like this for a fellow-creature! Rom. v, 7, 8.
• Compare ver. 14. with the text, and Heb. xiij. 12, 13. and Acts v. 41.
John xv. 22. a fortiori, and Heb. ü. 3.