« EdellinenJatka »
states that he still bears this designation, though in the midst of the throne of power, and encompassed with all the splendours of the heavenly state. And it is also intimated that he bears the marks of suffering, carries about him the emblems of his overwhelming anguish when he expired on the cross. These facts claim particular attention, and are fraught with truths of the sublimest and most consolatory nature. In the representations furnished us of the celestial world nothing is more prominently introduced than the unmingled felicity with which it is blessed. The throne, surrounded with unutterable grandeur, having holiness and justice for its basis, stands far above the reach of sorrow and affliction. The inhabitants are led to living fountains of water. They experience no more pain; all tears are wiped away from their eyes, nor shall they any more be disturbed with gloomy thoughts of death. Heaven is emphatically the land of the living. Everything there lives, and blooms, and flourishes for ever. It cannot then, at first sight, but appear strange and anomalous that the Lamb should bear traces of ignominious suffering—that in the midst of the glories of celestial royalty, the majesty of illimitable dominion, and all the loveliness of a changeless world, he should still carry about him the emblems of death.
It will be our endeavour to illustrate this apparent incongruity. Why has not his enthronization entirely effaced the indications of his once humiliating condition? Why have not his wounds disappeared with the lapse of ages, amid the unmingled bliss and high satisfaction connected with his Father's presence. Oh, the reply to these questions constitutes the ground of our highest joy. It involves all that is most valuable in relation to our present history and future destiny.
I. This aspect of the Lamb constitutes the unspeakable glory of his character as mediator. His pristine glory is not unfrequently mentioned in the sacred Scriptures. He was in the beginning with God, and was God. By him were all things made the earth, with all its productions --the heavens, with all their glories, thrones, principalities, and powers. But when he left the abodes of purity and joy, and tabernacled in human nature, became bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh, the union was so transcendantly wonderful that it must have excited emotions of deep astonishment in the bosoms of the highest intelligences. In his complex nature the glories of Deity shone forth. “No man hath seen God at any time; but the only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him unto us." In miraculous interposition, in unsullied purity, and in the promulgation of the sublimest truths, he most vividly displayed the glories of the divine attributes. What then could be more reasonable, or more justly comport with the Saviour's honour, than the exaltation of that nature to the throne of universal dominion, which in a manner before unknown had exhibited to the human vision the perfections of the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, engaged in actions of unparalleled benevolence, and inconceivable grandeur ?
Admitting, however, the validity of this statement, the question still returns, why does the Redeemer continue to bear traces of his ignominious crucifixion, why appear in the mansions of the blessed as the “slain Lamb?" This inquiry may be easily solved by a reference to the grand object of his tabernacling in human flesh. Was it not to reconcile heaven and earth, to destroy sin by the sacrifice of himself, and to bring in everlasting righteousness? In the accomplishment of this mighty work, deep were the trials through which he had to pass, awful was the anguish which he had to endure. Not only did men rise up in determined rebellion against him, but the principalities and powers of hell, having gathered their odious forces, unitedly conspired to frustrate his holy and glorious purposes. But though his soul was overwhelmed within him, though the conflict was so severe that even inanimate nature shuddered at the scene, he spoiled the tyrant of his prey, destroyed him that had the power of death, took away the hand writing that was against us, and nailed it to the cross. What event can be compared with this? The cross eclipses all that is great in the mightiest transactions which have distinguished the annals of our globe ; it stands pre-eminently glorious in God's empire, exhibiting him a just God, and a Saviour, and diffusing life, and peace, and joy, amongst our fallen race. By dying the Saviour vanquished our spiritual foes, and secured our final victory. The marks of the wounds, then, which he still bears, are emblems of his mysterious and sublime achievements, indications of the fact that the work to which all preceding ages and events had reference, and which is to constitute for ever the great mystery of godliness, has been fully accomplished.
II. This aspect of the Lamb is requisite, in order to further the benevolent objects of his heart in relation to his cause. A short time previous to his ascension the Lord Jesus Christ assured his Church of his constant presence to the end of time. By this glorious promise must be understood his spiritual presence, the aid of his divine spirit to guide, to support, to comfort, and to save. We believe that this assurance is verified in the experience of the Church through the perpetual presentation of himself as a sacrifice in the presence of God. It was enough for him to die once, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for us. We entirely repudiate the idea of “ demand,” as connected with the Saviour's advocacy, nor does he plead by the eloquence of language, but by ever presenting his all-sufficient sacrifice before the Father. His atonement pleads; the emblems of victory plead; the tears of anguish and sorrow plead. His merits are recognized, his plea is admitted, and God smiles with inexpressible tenderness from the throne of his dominions.
“Five bleeding wounds lie bears,
Received on Calvary ;
They strongly plead for me.
Nor let that ransoined sinner die.” In this respect how delightful the fact that Jesus is in the “niidst of the throne.” From that throne can come help in every need, support in every affliction, and victory over every foe. Let the Church lift up her head with joy; Omnipotence is engaged to sustain her ; she shall not be forsaken nor confounded, world without end. How pleasingly also does this subject assure us of the realization of the Spirit's influences. It throws light on the Saviour's words, shortly prior to his death. “It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away the comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart I will send him unto you.” There is one obstruction on the part of heaven to the Spirit’s “ descent;" and if his presence is not felt, if his renewing influence is not experienced, it is because we cleave unto the dust, or cherish principles and thoughts hostile to his will.
III. It must also be borne in mind that this aspect of the Lamb has a peculiar bearing on the condition of the world. The influence of christianity has yet been but very partially felt. Its greatest triumphs can bear no com parison with what it is destined to achieve. Looking around on the desolation of sin, the awful effects of the fall, we have sometimes dispairingly asked, Can order be ever introduced amidst this direful and universal confusion ? Is it possible for the strains of harmony ever to be heard amid this universal discord? Can darkness so thick and palpable ever be dissipated? Can rebellion so general, so atrocious, ever be crushed? Yes. The Lamb is in the midst of the throne ; his sacrifice is ever before the Father, and he remembers his promise, “Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession." The darkness which has so long brooded over the surface of the globe must retire and disappear before the commanding influence of the Spirit, as the vapour which, after shrouding the summit of a mountain, melts away beneath the beams of the triumphant sun. Jesus must reign till all his enemies are made his footstool. The blessings of his love must be experienced by men in every clime, and all nations must submissively bow to his authority
IV. The slain Lamb in the midst of the throne perpetually reminds the celestial inhabitants of the divine glory as displayed in the cross. The power and wisdom of the Supreme Intelligence shine resplendently inall the productions of his hand. “The heavens declare his glory, and the firmament showeth forth his handy-work.” His goodness may be distinctly perceived in revolving seasons, and the dispensations of providence—is written in indelible characters in the awful doom of those who have rebelled against his authority ; but in the sufferings of his Son his character appears in a totally different light. Here, whilst he displays the utmost abhorrence of sin, he manifests infinite compassion toward the sinner ; whilst he publicly furnishes the highest proof of his inflexible adherence to the principles of eternal justice, he causes the riches of his grace to flow, to satisfy the wants of the wretched and undeserving. In the character and work of the Lamb a new spectacle is presented to the universe infinite glory redounds to God, and endless bliss is bestowed on the human race. We need not wonder, then, that whilst angels gaze on our exalted mediator, they burst into an anthem of praise. “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing."
With what gratitude should the christian remember the aspect of the Lamb. It is true that he occupies a throne of unlimited dominion ; still he bears the marks of sorrow. His heart is made of tenderness, his bowels melt with love. A “bruised reed he will not break,” the smoking flax he will not quench. Let it be our happy lot to unite with all the heavenly choir in celebrating his praises when time shall be no more.
CLAIMS OF THE WORLD TO THE ENTIRE CONSECRATION
OF THE CHURCH. The highest dignity and weightiest responsibility belong to the office of the Church, viewed in relation to the world. The Saviour has met the demands of inflexible justice, appeased the wrath of Almighty God, and having quitted for a time the scene of his accumulated ignominy, has left the Church in possession of the Gospel, whose adorable anthem is, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. It is the appropriate office of the Church to publish the tidings of the Gospel, and to aid the consummation of its glories. When we survey the Gospel in the light of revelation as having been revolved from eternity in the mind of God, as involving the endless happiness of the human race, and as requiring eternity for the full disclosure of its issues, the office of the Church to dissemminate its truths appears the highest and holiest under heaven, whose lustre leaves every other involved in utter eclipse and darkness. And could we fully conceive the intense interest with which angels mark the progress of the Gospel, the blissful state of the world when the truth shall universally prevail, and the surpassing glory which Christ shall confer on his devoted followers in heaven, we should not only perceive that the office of the Church is invested with a dignity so lofty that there is nothing higher, but we should powerfully feel its ennobling influence and exult in the fulfilment of its functions, as the greatest honour to which we could aspire.
And the responsibility belonging to this office is as overwhelming as its dignity is transcendent. As a question of mere Almightiness, God could easily dispense with human instrumentality, and unaided, could speedily convert and save the world. But this plan divine wisdom has not selected. For wise and gracious purposes, which eternity will undoubtedly reveal, God has adopted the Church as his co-worker; has eminently qualified it for this purpose, by regenerating its members, collecting them into a visible society, and putting them in possession of the Gospel, and has vouchsafed to dis. pense his crowning blessing in proportion to the effort made, to propagate the transforming effects of his grace. And were it possible for us to ascend some moral eminence, whence we could look down upon the consequences of our conduct as members of the Church, we should see that when we were most Scripturally united and aggressive, the empire of satan was rapidly narrowing in extent and declining in power; and that when our bonds of union were relaxed and our zeal languid, the emissaries of satan exultingly hailed the event as an ensign of satanic prosperity and power. According as our movements are retrograde or onward, satan is vanquished and immortal souls are saved. Only let us throw down our weapons, put off our armour, and retire from the field of conflict, and, as the appalling consequence, Christ is robbed of his glory, and undying souls are lost. Around the Church revolve the hopes and destinies of the world. Tremendous responsibility_weightier none can conceive. Compared with this every other is lighter than nothing, and vanity.
The Church, whose dignity and responsibility are incomparable, therefore, stands in relation to the world, as a spiritual guardian—as an agent of mercy -an instrument of salvation. Viewed in this light, the world not merely claims a place in the sympathies, prayers and efforts of the Church, but the entire and unreserved consecration of all its powers and resources.
I. From the representations of Scripture. Of Christ the adorable Head and illustrious example of the Church, it is said, “ He gave Himself for us.” His devotion to the painful task he undertook in behalf of the world was most entire and unreserved. He resigned the glories of heaven and surrendered himself to the widest extremities, to the agonies of a vicarious death. He foresaw the privations and sorrows of every step from the throne of heaven to the altar of calvary; and the only feeling he manifested at the revolting sighs, was a holy restless ardour to reach the painful crisis. In the meantime, affected and engrossed with the infinite importance of the work he had undertaken, nothing could divert his attention from it while every element of his character and every action of his life pointed to this and were tributary to its accomplishment. His transcendent purity confounding his enemies bespoke the dignity of his person—his numerous miracles administering to the wants of thousands, awakened universal attention-his inimitable discourses threw a flood of divine light on the whole economy of his grace—his prayers embodied and expressed the wants of the world. And having poured out his soul unto death he ascended on high to fill the ears of God with his supplications, whose intercession is now the staff and support of a guilty and perishing world. In Christ the adorable Head and illustrious founder of the Church we have an example of unremitted and unlimited devotion to the interests of the world.
The Apostles and first christians too, exemplified in no ordinary degree, a spirit of entire consecration. In the example of the great Apostle we seem to have a reproduction of the spirit and conduct of the Saviour. On the rolls of eminent devotedness, he deservedly stands next in order to the captain of our salvation. Painfully alive to the moral and spiritual destitution of the world, and fully conscious that nothing but the Gospel could meet its demands; to propagate its truths was his vocation, the supreme and single object of his life His devotedness was not dictated by a momentary impulse of zeal, but was the result of sober calculation and matured principle. Consequently nothing could daunt or intimidate him. Persecution imperiously frowned, severely threatened, and spread before him all the instruments of torture and death; but with all the courage of a martyr he stood unmoved, and exclaimed, “None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear to myself so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus to testify the Gospel of the grace of God.” Possessed with the sovereign dignity of his office, and the infinite responsibility it involved, his devotedness was unsparing and unwearied. He visited Jerusalem, the centre of Jewish prejudice; Ephesus, where stood the far-famed temple of Dianna ; and Athens, which contained more idols than men. Indeed, he stormed the strong holds of idolatry, planted the banner of the cross in the very citadel of the enemy, and on surveying the brilliant success which crowned his efforts throughout his extended peregrinations, with adoring gratitude he exclaimed, “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.” The great Apostle, and his celebrated contemporaries, furnished a noble specimen of entire consecration to the service of the Redeemer in enhancing the best interests of the world.
And entire consecration is imperatively demanded of every christian. It is not only strongly recommended by the example of the Saviour and his immediate followers, but it is demanded with all the weight of Apostolic authority. “What! know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.” We are not to live for ourselves, for wealth, for fame, for ease, or for pleasure. We are not to imagine that personal gratification is to be our object, for the accomplishment of which we may