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but God showed them to Paul : and Paul showed them unto the people. He abundantly manifested, that what was corruptible, weak, and dishonourable, should be incorruptible, powerful, and glorious.
To conclude, the prayer in my text is neither more nor less than entreating God to grant what the apostle Peter saith he hath spoken of by the mouth of all his holy prophets ever since the world began. Acts, chapter iii. 21. “The heavens must receive his (Christ's body) until the times of the restitution of all things, which God hath spoken of by the mouth of all his holy prophets, ever since the world began.”
But when will this restitution of all things take place? When the wickedness of the wicked cometh to an end.* The christian man cannot sorrow as him who is without hope. He knows in whom he has believed. He knows he is faithful who has promised. He knows that he will perform all his pleasure. He therefore can with confidence repeat, Othou destruction, thou shalt, thou art come to a perpetual end. Yet a little while, and all we reckon evil is no more ; the storms of sin and death shall quickly pass, “and one unclouded spring encircle all.”
Farewell, my friend, can I exhibit to your view a more blissful, a more sublime prospect ? May you hold fast that faith which gives you to look with a single eye to the complex character of the Lord Jesus.
The wickedness of the wicked came to an end, in the view of Deity, when our Saviour finished transgression and made an end of sin. When he cried out upon the cross with a loud voice, it is finished-We know that before the comprehensive gaze of Deity one eternal now is constantly exhibited. But the individual members of the body of the Redeemer are blinded by the God of this world; and many there be, who will not enter into complete possession of their immaculate inheritance in their own particular characters and comprehension until the morning of the Resurrection.
Accept now, my friend, as near as I can recollect, the subject of two discourses which I have recently delivered, selecting for my text John, i. 29, 30.
“ The next day, Juhn seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world!
" This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is prefered before me: for he was before me.”
You have, my friends, wished to see me, you have for a long season been looking out for the messenger of peace, and you have been expecting him with that earnest solicitude, which naturally attaches to the importance of the tidings, with which you presumed he would be fraught. You have been anxious to hear what God the Lord would say unto you: for you were convinced his words would be the words of consolation, and of truth.
For me, I have often anticipated the pleasure which I felt assured I should experience, in labouring to investigate the doctrine of God our Saviour, in the midst of a people so eminently desirous to attend to the life-bestowing word.
At length we are met together, our mutual wishes are gratified, and, as my visit has been so long, and so unexpectedly delayed, I have this morning been particularly solicitous to present before you, that which you might unanimously acknowledge was worth waiting for.
Turning, in this disposition of mind, to the treasury of our God, the passage I have read presented itself before me; I readily accepted it, and I said of it, as David said of the sword with which he cut off the head of the uncircumcised Philistine, there is nothing like it.
Yet, there are difficulties to get over, not in my subject but very possibly in the minds of my hearers. Some, many perhaps, are well persuaded of the truth as it is in Jesus. To such individuals this sight will be truly pleasing. But if there be any who have not been taught of God, but on the contrary are receiving for doctrines the traditions of men, they will find some difficulty in attending to the sayings of the Lord. Assuredly it is a very considerable disadvan
tage, under which the preacher of Jesus Christ labours; who, while investigating the grand truths of the gospel, is called to encounter prejudices of long standing, the cherished opinions of centuries. Yes, I feel the magnitude of my subject, and hourly experience teaches me the insufficiency of my powers. But humbly petitioning the aid of the elucidating spirit of truth, I shall proceed to consider:
Ist. What are we to understand by the world?
2dly. The character pointed out by the Holy Ghost. The Lamb of God.
3dly. The testimony of the Divine Spirit respecting this Lamb of God-He taketh away the sin of the world.
4thly. That this Lamb of God was the identical individual, of whom John spake, when he said, he is prefered before me.
5thly. And whence this preference?
First, What are we to understand by the world ?-How are we to proceed? Are we in conformity to the course of this world, to make void by the traditions of men, the word of the Lord? or shall we attend simply to the divine testimony, saying neither more, nor less than the Lord saith? Here our difficulties become manifest; we are as him who would build a house, on which stood a mighty fabric; before he lays a single foundation stone, he must labour to remove all the rubbish which appertained to the old edifice.
We have been taught to believe that the world did not mean the world; and I know a preacher, who, after wording this precious text, thus commenced his discourse. “I shall undertake to prove the Lamb of God did not take away the sin of the world !" this was indeed a bold attempt, a most daring undertaking! I have two reasons for not treading in his steps. First, I am not able, and secondly, I am not willing. Yet, if I should not, I shall contradict the united testimony of many illustrious names, in many respects truly admirable ; and I do assure you, I take no pleasure in being at variance with such individuals.
But I must be at variance with them, or with the author of my text; and I have many reasons for accepting the evidence of the Baptist, in preference to modern commentators, however splendid in reputation, however dignified in character.
It would look like insult, were I to stand in this desk, and selecting a passage from any one of these approved writers, say the word of God as written in the 10th page of the Reverend Mr. Henry's comment on the New-Testament. But why, I beseech you, would it not be as consistent to give Mr. Henry, or Mr. Pool, or any other writer of established reputation, for my text, as for my comment ? especially, as the comment is in general more regarded than the text. But as I would not act so irreverently, as to produce my text from mere human authority, neither will I act so injuriously by my hearers, as to explain away the word of my God, by the comments of man. I shall pursue a course which I hope will be more pleasing to you, and which I am sure will be abundantly less hazardous for me. The sacred Oracles shall produce both my text and my comment.
In these sacred Oracles the world is invariably spoken of in the same sense; and in no instance, is this term used to distinguish either the elect of God, or the believers in Christ Jesus. On the contrary, we hear our Divine Master declaring in his appeal to the Father, O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee. We hear an apostle say, We know that we are of God, and we know that the whole world lyeth in the wicked one. Our Saviour instructs his disciples, If ye be of me the world will hate you, and praying for them, he adds, I pray not for the world; thus distinguishing between the world, and those whom God had given him out of the world. In the like manner, an apostle speaking of Jesus, informs us that he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world.
In fact, the character every where given to the world, in holy writ, is the reverse of every thing that is wise and good. The world is always spoken of as ignorant of God, and consequently enmity against him. Thus saith the Redeemer, addressing his disciples : “ These things shall they do unto you, because they know not the Father, nor the Son," they are unacquainted both with the divine and human nature.
In one word, the whole world wandereth after the beast ! yet, be astonished, 0 heavens! and give ear, 0 earth! this is the world that God so loved, as to give them his Son, the immaculate Lamb of God. Behold! the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.
When revolving time brings together long separated friends, after customary interrogations relative to their health, &c. &c. the usual inquiry succeeds, what news do you bring to us? is the political horizon clear, or cloudy? and at this interesting period of time, our solicitude is both natural and rational.
I am, my friends, right happy, that I can answer your eager question, by tidings greatly to your advantage. I cannot indeed inform you that our friends have gained a complete victory over our enemies ; that they have driven them from their ramparts, and dismantled their fortifications; that the coast is clear, and that we are at length undisputed lords of the soil : and, indeed, were I possessed of such important intelligence, it could furnish no unmixed joy. The enemy may return, or enemies more numerous, and mightier than they, may overwhelm us from an unexpected quarter. Besides, of whatever magnitude we might consider a conquest so memorable, still it could be but temporary, an inheritance corruptible and defiled, and which consequently must fade away.
No, my beloved hearers, however pleasing the recital might be, both to you and to myself, I have no such communication to make ; but I have a declaration to deliver, which may be depended upon as an incontrovertible fact.
Authorized by the God of heaven, I bring unto you glad tidings of good things, a piece of intelligence in which every individual is deeply interested. Let your characters be what they may, whether you be rich or poor, whether you be wise or foolish, whether you be good or bad, your happiness is inseparably connected with the proclamation I am this morning to rehearse in your ears; yes, the article of intelligence I am to deliver, has held good nearly eighteen hundred years, and although it has passed through many envious hands, yet by the miracle working power of our God, it is still preserved unmutilated. This it is, give it I pray you your whole attention, lift up your eyes, and let enduring gratitude elevate your souls, while you “Behold! the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.”
When Moses drove his flock on the back side of the mountain, bis attention was suddenly arrested, and he said, I will now turn aside and see this great sight. But how stupendous, past all calcusation, the magnitude of this great sight. Let us, I pray you, turn aside and see this great sight. The Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the worid.
But I anticipate an objection, “ If the Lamb of God taketh away the sin of the world,” and the world only, and if the disciples of Jesus Christ were not of the world, do you not exclude them from this inestimable blessing?
VOL. I. 23