Imatges de pàgina
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however, seems principally to refer to the meetening of the church by a gradual increase of holy beauty, the terms sanctify and cleanse may, in this place, convey much the same idea. It never was the Lord's design to save his people in their sins, but from them. Sanctification, therefore, is an essential branch of salvation. The word, especially the word of the gospel, truly believed, is the laver in which the singer is washed from his uncleanness. He may have, heretofore, yielded a traditional assent to it, and remained a slave to his lasts, notwithstanding : but when, being convinced of sin by a view of the divine law, he receives it not as the word of men, but (as it is in truth) the word of God, it worketh effectually in him. He may have made many attempts at cleansing himself, while under the power of unbelief; but every thing of this kind was ineffectual, and left him fouler in the sight of God than it found him. And well it might ; for it was going as it were, to Abana and Pharpar, in contempt of the waters of Jordan. Till, therefore, the sinner, renewed in the spirit of his mind, is brought to relinquish all confidence, except in Christ, his attempts at holiness are but wearying himself with very vanity.

There is, it is observable, a marked connexion, in this, as well as in many other passages, between the sacrifice of Christ and the sanctification of his people. He gave himself for the church, THAT HE MIGHT sanctify and cleanse it. Had not Christ laid down his life, there had been no holiness among the fallen sons of Adam, no gospel-laver in which to wash, nor any such thing as sanctification of the Spirit ; all had continued in their uncleanness. It had been as incobsistent with the perfections of God to have given bis Holy Spirit to a sinner, as to have pardoned his sins, or bestowed upon him any other spiritual blessing. But, having sacrificed his life, and that under a promise, the effectual grace of God not only may be imparted consistently with justice, but the communication of it is rendered certain, inasmuch as it is a part of the promised reward. Hence, it is represented as the fruit, or effect, of his death. Believers are the seed which he was to see ; the travail of his soul, which should yield him a satisfaction, like that of a mother who remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the roorld.

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It is on this principle, that our Lord, in view of the unbelief of the Jewish nation, thus speaks, in prophecy : I said, I have laboured in vain. I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain, YET SURELY MY JUDGMENT WITH JEHOVAH, AND MY WITH My God. As if he should

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" Whether Israel be gathered, or not, I shall be rewarded. My work is before God, the judge of all, who will not suffer it to fall to the ground. If Israel be lost, their loss will be to themselves ; it shall be more thas made up

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the Gentiles.' To render manifest this connexion, it was ordered, in the divine counsels, that an extraordinary measure of the Holy Spirit should be poured out immediately after the sacrifice was offered : and, lest the cause of it should be overlooked, our Saviour expressly declared, that, if he went not away, the Comforter would not come ; but that, if he went, he would send him ; and that he should convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judg. ment. This was the appointed time for great numbers of the Jews to be convinced of their unbelief, as well as for the Gentiles to be converted, and given to Christ, as the reward of his death, Things were thus connected in order of time, that they might appear to be connected in order of nature ; or that one might appear to be, what it actually was, the effect of the other.

Add to this, The death of Christ is not only a procuring cause of sanctification, but, as a doctrine, it operates to the producing of it. Hence, the same effects are ascribed to the washing of water by the word, and to the blood of the Lamb. The atonement offered was that in virtue of which we are sanctified ; and the atonement preached and believed is the mean of its accomplishment : We are sanctified by the faith that is in him.

I proceed to notice,
III. THE HONOUR FOR WHICH THIS GRACE TOWARDS THE CHURCH

That he might present it to himself. There is no doubt but the term here alludes to the presenting of an espoused virgin to her husband. Under this imagery, the scriptures are wont to represent the different joyful advances of the church towards perfection. As the destruction of Jerusalem, and the overthrow of the heathen empire of Rome, are described

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in language applicable to the last judgment, intimating that they would be, to the parties concerned, days of judgment in miniature; so the different advances of the church towards perfection are described in language applicable to a state of perfection itself. Thus the conversion of sinners is represented as an espousal of them to one husband, that they might be presented as a chaste virgin to Cbrist. The conversion of the Gentiles to Christ is also thus described : Hearken, 0 daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear ; forget also thine own people and thy father's house. So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty : for he is thy Lord, and worship thou him.- The king's daughter is all glorious within ; her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needle-work : the virgins her companions that follow hor shall be brought unto thee. With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought : they shall enter into the king's palace. Under the same imagery seem to be represented the great conversions to Christ in the latter day. Immediately after the fall of Babylon, the voice of a great multitude is heard in heaven, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the MARRIAGE of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted, that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white : for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the MARRIAGE-SUPPER of the Lamb.-These are the true sayings of God.

On each of these occasions, there is a partial presentation of the church to Christ; and all are preparatory to that universal. and perfect one, which shall take place at the end of time.

But there seems to be something singular in the idea of Christ's presenting the church to himself. The office of presenting the bride, we should suppose, properly belongs to per parent. But how if she had no parent, and, like the orphan before described, was cast out, without an eye to pity, or a hand to help her ? In this case, the bridegroom must himself be her father, and perform the office of a father throughout, even to the presenting of her to himself. If such be the allusion, it represents, in an affecting light, our forlorn condition as under the fall; and teaches us, that,

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every stage of our salvation, we must remember it, in order to heighten our lore to Christ.

The perfection of bliss that will succeed to this presentation, is beyond all our present conceptions. Suffice it to say, that Christ will be the sum and substance of it. We have already noticed the glory of the church, as being freed from her spots and blemishes ; but this, though a great blessing, is chiefly negative. Besides this, there is a positive source of enjoyment in an uninterrupted and endless communion with her Lord and Saviour. To be able to comprehend the breadth and length and depth and height of the love of Christ, and so to be filled with all the fulness of God, is the mark on which saints on are directed to keep their eye; but to attain it, is reserved for saints in heaven. Nor shall they so comprehend it, as to leave no room for continued researches : for how shall they perfectly know that which passeth knowledge.

Finally : It is observable, that, under the figure of being admitted to a marriage-feast, or excluded from it, we see what will shortly be the test of us all : At midnight there was a cry made, Behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him. And they that were ready went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut. If there be any thing of importance in this world, it is, to be ready when the Lord cometh ; aot by such preparations as those to which sinners are apt to flee when their fears are alarmed, but by believing in the Son of God, and keeping his commandments. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Look off from every other dependence, and put your trust in him. He that believeth on the son hath everlasting life : and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord. Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord, when he cometh, shall find watching!

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