Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

in them the hope of glory,” will be diffused ; and “the manifold wisdom of God,” which the “ principalities and powers in heavenly places” now contemplate, will be increasingly discerned by the universal Church; and will attract more and more its admiration, its gratitude, its praise, first here on earth; and then,“ when the mystery of God shall be finished” in that upper and brighter world, where, “ with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven,” we shall sing, in other strains than we can now acquire, “ Hallelujah to Him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever!"

36

SERMON III.

EPHESIANS v. 2.

Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath

given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor.

The great doctrine of the atonement is the topic which next demands our attention; in the development of which, if we can show, not only that the wonderful fact of the sacrifice of the Son of God breathes benevolence to our fallen race-which is too obvious to be called in question-but that the reception of the benefit is uniformly productive of love and goodwill to our fellow-creatures, the tendency of the mysteries of Christianity will appear yet more conspicuously beneficial.

Let us, then, endeavour to point out the connection of holy love to our fellow-creatures with this characteristic blessing of Christianity.

I. In opening the primary Christian truth of the atonement of our Lord, we must, first, call your attention to the state of man which required this act of divine mercy. For man's sinful and guilty con

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

dition is supposed. “You hath he quickened," says the apostle in the commencement of the second chapter of our epistle, “ who were dead in trespasses and sins ;" this was the moral condemnation and ruin in which man lay;“ wherein in times past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience : among whom also we all had our conversation in times past, in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature children of wrath, even as others.” Mark, I entreat you, the comprehensive expression, "we all;" not the Ephesians only who had lately been converted from heathenism to Christianity, but

we all,” Jew and Gentile, pharisee and philosopher, idolater and nominal worshipper of the true God; we all” were thus “ dead” to God; we all” were thus “walking after the course of this world ;" we all” were children of disobedience.” And then in order to show that this description was not to be confined to the particular enormities of the Pagan, or the superstitions and persecutions of the Jewish unbeliever, but was common to every human being in his fallen state, the apostle adds, " fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind”—the two grand divisions of sin, intellectual and corporeal ; the vices of the affections and the life; which together constitute the death in sin of which he had before spoken; and which terminated in the fearful consequence of their being “ by nature children of wrath” one as well as the other.

Such is the condition of man. The first principles of Christianity are the responsibility and guilt of man, the wrath of God, the sentence of His holy law, the impossibility of escape except some atonement be made. For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Till this is felt and

E

acknowledged, nothing can be done in gaining the heart of man to accept the remedy.

2. Of that remedy the source is undeserved mercy, benevolence, love to man.

“ Christ hath loved us," saith the apostle in the text, “and hath given himself for us. This is the cause of the atonement made by our Lord. He came from heaven to earth out of pure love to us miserable sinners. “ Christ loved the church,” is the language of the apostle in his fifth chapter, “ and gave himself for it.” To Him that hath loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood,” is the ascription of glory to Christ in the Apocalypse. There was no motive in our divine Lord to his sacrifice but his own voluntary susception of our cause, his philanthropy, his compassion towards man. Herein is love,” saith the beloved disciple, “ not that we loved God, but that He loved us. We love him, because he first loved us.”

The love of Christ is the subject of the adoration of angels. This love was the impelling cause of his dying in our stead. Its rise, its exercise, its objects, its effects are unsearchable. In human affairs we estimate the value of a benefit, more by the motive than by its abstract amount. Even the smallest gifts are highly prized, if they proceed from an affectionate heart. In the case before us, never was love so pure, so undeserved, so free, so abundant, so costly, as that of our Lord Christ. But this remark is not made in order to compensate for the smallness of the benefit ; for,

3. The matter of the atonement, the price paid, was as stupendous, as the source of it was purem Christ «

gave himself for us ;" put himself in our place. This was the meritorious cause of redemption. But what an expression is this, self!" He who was the brightness of the Father's glory and the express image of his person" gave

66

gave him.

himself, “ for us” rebels and transgressors, who were nothing compared with him, as his creatures, and were less than nothing as fallen sinners.

And to what did he resign and give himself? To the womb of the Virgin, to the manger of Bethlehem, to the reproaches and privations and sufferings of the most benevolent of all lives, and to the ignominy and agony of the most dreadful of all deaths. Ask you to what the Son of God resigned himself? Let Gethsemane and Calvary say; let the anguish and the horror of that fearful night ; let the thorns and spear and nails of that mournful crucifixion tell. Who can speak aright of this gift, “this unspeakable gift?”. The eternal God become an infant of days; the glories of heaven shrouded and obscured ; the blessings and songs of angels exchanged for imprecations and scorn ; infinite happiness lost for a time in unutterable woe! Well

may St. Paul say that Christ“ for us.” Yes; he did not merely suffer and atone, but he suffered such agonies for us, and made an atonement by such a death, that he gave up, as it were, himself, resigned all he was and had, for us.

If he had given heaven and earth for us, it would, comparatively speaking, have been nothing; if he had given angels and archangels for us, it would have been nothing; but to give himself for us, surpasses all the thoughts of man.

4. But to proceed with our apostle's statement in the text, the vicarious nature of these sufferings is next set forth, “ An offering and a sacrifice unto God.” The passion of Christ was not merely designed to be an example to us of humility and patience under suffering—though this important end was embraced. It was not simply designed to confirm his doctrine-though this was also included; but it was offered as an atoning sacrifice unto God, in the stead and place of sinners. It was a substitution.

gave himself

" He

« EdellinenJatka »