Imatges de pÓgina
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in the light of selfish partiality, or even by the partiality of friendship; nay, if he be a recluse, the prejudice of an enemy may not be able to detect his faults: but place him before the tribunal of God, set his secret sins in the light of his countenance, and the decision will be different. To be presented holy, and without blemish, is to be so in his sight. Such is the idea conveyed by the words of Jude : Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless BEFORE THE PRESENCE OF HIS GLORY with exceeding joy. To be faultless in the presence of an earthly judge, especially of one distinguished by his penetration and impartiality, is no small matter : but to be so in the presence of him to whom all things are known, implies a change far surpassing every thing experienced among mortals.

The low ideas which some persons entertain of sinless perfection, may be owing, in part, to their considering it chiefly in a negative point of view. Feeling, it may be, very little positive desire after their evil courses, they begin to think they have not sioned for such a length of time, and, consequently, are now nearly, if not altogether, perfect. But perfection does not consist merely in a cessation from evil, (which is no more than may cribed to animals,) but in the love of God with all the heart, and 'soul, and mind, and strength, and of our neighbours as ourselves. The state to which the church shall be brought, before she is presented to her Lord, is that of being not only without blemish, but HOLY, and without blemish.

In that perfect state, we shall be unreservedly devoted to the Lord. No more shall the mind be betrayed, by the illusive reasonings of men, to listen to God-dishonouring principles: no more shall it lose sight of Christ, in the maze of its own researches. The blandishments of the world shall no more seduce the heart; nor hope, nor fear, nor shame, divert the feet from the path of rectitude. No more shall slothfulness, or any kind of sinful indul. gence, underve the soul in its labours for God. No more shall the flesh lust against the spirit, nor the spirit have to struggle with the flesh. No more shall our half-hearted services render it doubtful to ourselves or others, on whose side we are. In a word, There the Lord's servants SHALL SERVE HM. Vol. VII.

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The multitude, in that perfect state, will also, in respect of each other, be of one heart, and of one soul. No discordant sentiments divide them; no unkindnesses grieve them; no bitter strifes interrupt their harmony; 20 slights, misunderstandings, misconstructions, hard thoughts, or cutting words, have place among them; no giving, or taking, offence; no opposition of interests; no selfishness; no envies, jealousies, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults : all is sweet peace and love. Bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil-speaking, with all malice are forever put away from among them. In him that loved and gave bimself for them, all hearts are one.

This leads to consider,

II. THE CAUSES TO WHICH ALL THIS IS ASCRIBED: Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word. I think it not improbable, that the Apostle may allude to the parable, concerning the Jewish church, in the sixteenth chapter of Ezekiel. The substance of it is this :- A female infant, the fruit, perhaps, of an illicit connexion, (whose wretched parent, in order to hide her shame, bad left it in the fields,) was discovered by a humane prince, who happened to be passing that way at the time. He looked at the perishing babe, and pitied it. I will save thy life,

• ' said he ; and, as thou art fatherless and motherless, I will be both father and mother to thee, and thou shalt be mine. He then washed, and clothed her; and taking her to his palace, gave her an education suited to bis intentions, which, in fact, were, at a proper time, to marry her. On her arriving at years of maturity, he carried his design into execution ; she became his wife, and the crown royal was placed upon her head.

Look at this representation, and at his conduct who loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish. Look, I I say, at both these representations, and judge, if the one has not some reference to the other.

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There are three things to which the salvation of the church is here ascribed ; namely, the love of Christ, the sacrifice of Christ, and the word of Christ.

1. For the accomplishment of so great a deliverance, it was necessary that Christ should love the church. The thought of this is overwhelming. His wisdom and power and majesty may induce us to admire and adore him; but to think of his loving sin

excites amazement. There are several properties pertaining to the love of Christ, which require to be taken into the account, if we would form any thing like a just view of it. Love may be founded upon character.

. Christ himself speaks of loving bis disciples on this acconnt: If ye keep my

commandments, ye shall abide in my love ; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. But that of which we are discoursing could not be founded upon any thing of this kind; for its object is supposed to be altogether polluted. He loved his church, and gave himself for it, not because it was sanctified and cleansed, or in view of its being so; but that he MIGHT sanctify and cleanse it. Again, Love towards an unworthy object is commonly, no other than general benevolence. Such was that compassion which our Saviour felt, when he wept over Jerusalem; and such that good will towards men, of which bis being born into the world was an expression. God's giving his only begotten Son to be made a sacrifice, and declaring, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life, was a great expression of divine goodness towards sinners, whether they believe and be saved, or not. But the love which Christ is said to have borne to the church was discriminating and effectual to its salvation. The church is supposed to have been given him of the Father, to be unto him as a bride to a husband, and, ultimately, the reward of bis undertaking. The love of Christ, therefore, in this connexion, oan be no other than electing love; and the passage may be considered as parallel with that at the beginning of the Epistle, He hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world, that we skoula be holy, and without blame before him in love.

2. For the accomplishment of the church's redemption, it was necessary, that Christ should give himself a sacrifice. In this

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HIMSELF FOR ME.

way his love must operate, or be ineffectual. We are now, my brethren, upon the most interesting part of the most interesting subject that was ever presented to men or angels. It was this on which Paul wrote so feelingly: The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who LOVED ME, AND GAVE

It was this that furnished John with his affecting doxology : Unto him that LOVED US, AND WASHED US FROM OUR SINS IN HIS OWN BLOOD,—to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. It is this that furnishes the church in heaven with its new song : Thou art worthy-FOR THOU WAST SLAIN, AND HAST REDEENED US TO GOD BY THY BLOOD, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.

But wherefore must our Redeemer give himself for us? Would nothing short of life suffice ? Nothing. We, as transgressors, being justiy exposed to eternal death, must have borne our iniquity, had he not offered himself as a substitute in our place, life for life. Some who profess to believe in the atonement, have hesitated, from I know not what kind of modesty, to maintain the necessity of it in order to forgiveness ; alleging, that it does not become us to say what God could, or could not, have done. But does it become us, when he bas, in effect, declared any thing to be inconsistent with his perfections, to question whether it might not nevertheless, be admissible? Why did not the cup pass from him, when with strong crying and tears to God, he besought, that, IF IT WERĘ POSSIBLE, it might do so? It is true, it pleased the Lord to bruise bim; but, surely, not without a necessity for it! If mercy could have been manifested consistently with justice, without his suffering, surely the cup would have passed from him! Whoever had been given up to be made a curse, God would have spared his own Son! But it BECAME him for whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation per. fect through sufferings. To give up the necessity of atonement is half giving up the thing itself: and the half which remains will have but little effect on our hearts, or on the tenor of our labours.

The connexion in which the death of Christ is here introduced, namely, as being for his church, or, which is the same thing, for his elect people, teaches us, that all which he did and suffered was with a view to their salvation. The invitations of the gospel, it is true, are addressed to sinners, as sinners ; and I believe it to be equally true, that such invitations are founded in the sufficiency of Christ's atonement for the pardon of all the sins of the whole world, were they to believe in him : but, if we will allow the scriptures to speak out on all occasions, and form our principles by them, taken as a whole, we must conclude, that it was his intention, design, or purpose to save those, and only those, by it, who were given to him of the Father. In other words, it never was his intention to impart faith, and other succeeding benefits, to any other than his elect: Whom he did predestinate them he also called. We are saved and called, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus, before the world began.

I am aware, that many objections might here be raised; but ! am also aware, that they all rest upon the principle, that divine predestination and human agency cannot be consistent, unless they appear, to us, to be so. This I do not believe. It did not belong to Moses to explain how the messages of peace to Pharaoh and Sihon were consistent with the purpose of God to destroy them : but I suppose he believed they were so, because the same Being (who could not do wrong) ordered the former, and declared the latter. Neither does it belong to me to show, how, with respect to the persons who shall be ultimately benefitted by the death of Christ, a limitation of design is consistent with universal invitations : but I believe it to be so, because he that has ordered the one has, in effect, declared the other. Vain men may ask, Why then doth he yet find fault ? for who hath resisted his will? But if, instead of replying against God, they were to throw themselves at the feet of sovereign mercy, and seek forgiveness in the name

of Jesus, it would turn to a better account.

3. For the accomplishment of the church's salvation, it requires that it should be sanctified and cleansed by faith in the word of God. The latter of these terms frequently denotes the removal of sin, as to its condemning, as well as its defiling influence. The blood of Christ operates in both ways; and the faith of him, in different respects, both justifies and sanctifies. As the process,

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