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pose, again, that Barabbas, on receiving the announcement of his freedom, had replied, “No, I dare not leave my prison ; I will first become a new man, and when I have proved my amendment, then set me free !" What would the messenger have replied ? “If thou supposest,” he might say, “that thou art to be set at liberty for thine own sake, then know that it can never be the case ; for the crime which thou didst commit, cannot be undone even by thy amendment. In the sight of the law, thou wilt always be a murderer, and worthy of death; therefore make use of this free and undeserved mercy, for according to strict justice thou canst be set free !" Weigh well in your hearts, my brethren, these supposed words, for they have deep signification,
To take another view of the question : Barabbas might have said, “No! I shall remain a prisoner, until I become as useful a member of society, as I was formerly a pest to my fellow-creatures !” Think you this would have sounded nobly? Would it not rather have been a new piece of folly ? “ Foolish man!" they might have answered him, “ before you can be useful to society, you must be at liberty ; for how can you attain your object, bound in chains, and lying in a dungeon ?" You must attentively consider this reply also: for are there not many amongst us who wish to become holy before being justified and made free in Christ Jesus ? Alas! they will find it impossible !
None of those thoughts, in all probability, entered the mind of Barabbas; he would, on the contrary, give himself up to joy, on receiving the joyful intelligence 1
-throw aside his chains--quit his darksome dungeon -exchange the garb of a delinquent for one more honourable,-and instantly make use of his offered freedom. Transported with delight, he would return to the bosom of his family, and free and unshackled, move about whithersoever he pleased. He would not be afraid to appear even in the presence of his judges ; for who could accuse him, who, instead of making his escape from prison, had been judicially set free ? And even although some are sceptical, and refuse to believe that he has been lawfully released, can he not assure them that Jesus of Nazareth has suffered crucifixion in his stead, and will not the thing then become intelligible? Even though he dream for a moment that he is still sitting in his dungeon, he has only to feel his hands and feet, to see if the chains are still encompassing him : happily for him they are removed, and on perceiving this, he experiences the blessed conviction that he is at liberty. In this also, as in every thing else, you must follow the example of Barabbas; and if your deliverance from the power of sin appear doubtful, you must examine if you are still bound by its chains, or if you are loosed from its bonds, and no longer under its dominion. If, on the ntrary, you are filled with detestation towards it, and armed against its approaches, you have a sure proof that the freedom of the children of God has begun in you also.
The doubt, perhaps, arises in your heart, that the satisfaction made by your Redeemer has not been sufficient for you, on account of the appalling amount of sin and iniquity you have committed.
If so, my
brethren, look to the last scene of your Mediator's life, and contemplate the dying thief on the cross! What a spectacle of mercy! a sinner borne by angels into paradise! God receives him in his arms, calls him his own and well-beloved child, sets a crown of glory upon his head, and, as though he beheld nothing in him but perfection and beauty, assures him of paradise for his inheritance! Is not this great and astonishing ? Measure then by this man the fruit of the sacrifice of Christ; for surely his blood must be of wonderful efficacy to produce such glorious results to poor and miserable sinners!
And now, one more consideration. You have heard that according to the command of God, the goat Azazel was to be set free, and no more exposed to peril or danger; he was to be allowed to go wherever he pleased, and no one might confine or injure him. But are you aware of what took place in after-times, when the spiritual deterioration of Israel began, and the word of God was no longer regarded? They understood so little the proper sense of the sacrificial ceremony on the great day of atonement, that they were accustomed, after setting the goat Azazel free, to hunt it through the meadows and fields, and when they had caught it, to throw it down from a rock, and break its neck. Blindness unparalleled! Truly, in doing so, the Jews only spoke their own condemnation, and proved that they had no desire to participate in redemption. And now, ye Azazels, ye who have become free through Christ's blood, it might so happen that ye were treated in a similar manner ; that people
might pursue you, deny your freedom in Christ Jesus, and crying out, “Do this and that first !" strive to rob you of your consciousness of safety, and thus spiritually treat you like the Azazels of later times. Say, when this happens, “ These people are Jews, who do not understand the true signification and importance of the mighty sacrifice which has been offered for them!" And never forget that God has ordained that the Azazel should be free and unharmed; and that no man should lay hands upon
THE EASTER MESSAGE.
MARK XVI. 1-7.
And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magadalene, and Mary
the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning, the first day of the week, they came into the sepul. chre at the rising of the sun. And they said among them. selves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre ? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment: and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted : ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen ; he is not here . behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee : there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.
This, my brethren, is the Gospel for this joyful feastday. Like a tower it stands pre-eminent; and every word in it is like a bell chiming gladly, the harbinger
From it there springs up a fountain of joy which far surpasses human understanding; and a rock of truth rises in the midst, on which we may repose our wearied wings, and rest from the tumult and turmoil of life. The first part of our history presents us with a mournful picture : but this is done intentionally, to make the splendour of Easter consolation shine