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the endeavours; not for the purpose of boasting, or to further its own glory, but only to secure salvation, and to magnify the grace of God. Its reliance is necessarily and solely in the mercies of the Lord; its effects are such as at once to establish the moral law, to constrain the believer to walk in the Spirit, and in all the commandments of the Lord blameless; and then to wait patiently for all the blessings had in view, at the hands of Him alone who has promised to grant them. This, therefore, although essentially different from the law of works, is nevertheless still a law; it is the great condition of the covenant of grace, which has been ratified and published for the good of man, and that he may know and be satisfied, that the promise is sure to all the seed. God has promised, on his part, to afford every blessing; and, for this purpose, the means of grace have been established and maintained in the face of a world of enemies. Man is called upon, on his part, to believe, to receive, and to employ these; and, where this is done, there can, we are assured, be no failure. The whole process is such, as to exhibit in the most clear and most encouraging light, the mercy and the grace of God; to call forth in man the warmest affections and the best energies,—to make him what he ought to be with respect to the world around him, and to put him in possession of hopes, encouragements, and enjoyments, which will combine to make life a well-grounded anticipation of heaven, and death the commencement of its glorious realities.
The last point we have now to touch upon is, what has already been termed the final means of salvation; namely, the merciful disposition of the Almighty ; but, as this has already been partly discussed, it will not be necessary here to say much. According to the Scriptures, every good and perfect gift cometh from above. Man is, in every case, represented (what he truly is) a short-sighted, weak, and imperfect creature. In the commonest circumstances of life, he gathers his means of support from the produce of the earth, and requires the assistance of the less perfect animals for his welfare, as well as the enactment of laws for his safety. In the momentous question of religion, which is of a higher and more peculiar character, nothing can be more obvious than his utter inability to know, much less to do, any thing adequate to insure his final happiness; but here, the mercy of God has made known the way of peace. To pardon sin, to assist the faithful and obedient soul, must, in the nature of things, result solely from His power, and be His prerogative. Unassisted man must at best be but an unprofitable servant, and, as such, can never work out his own salvation; and therefore, if the hope of such a consummation is ever to be realised, God himself must work with him, both to will and to do, to suggest, instruct, assist; to provide the means suitable to man and worthy of himself; and also to manifest His disposition finally to accept and to bless him. But this has all been done. The feast, as it is styled in the Gospel, has been abundantly prepared ; and men are invited to come in from the highways, the lanes, the streets, and freely to partake. One thing is required ; That they come adorned with the habit, which has been prescribed, prepared, and presented to them. The great sacrificial feast is spread, the banquet is furnished; the bread provided is richer and more nourishing than angels' food; and the wine is more precious and invigorating than any ever known at earthly banquet.
" Christ our passover is sacrificed for us,” it is said : “therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness ; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."*
Here we shall find that, indeed, upon which the soul may delight itself with fatness; the bread which came down from heaven to give life to the world; and the wine, which if a man drink he shall never thirst, but which shall supply a fountain within him, springing up unto everlasting life.+
1 Cor. 5. 7, 8.
+ John, iv. 14.
It may now be asked: Can any one suppose personal merit to exist in the accepting of this invitation, where the guest has manifestly nothing to give, but every thing to receive? Surely, the nature of the call, of the confessedly unmerited provision, must be sufficient to exclude every approach towards boasting, and to bring all to confess,“ Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy Truth's suke."* If, indeed, a little exertion is called for (and at best we have not much to afford); if acquiescence is demanded, when God himself has spoken, and spoken manifestly for our good; the man who could be disposed to boast, either of his own knowledge, or power, or virtue, or efficiency, must surely stand in need of information, as to what are the very first requirements of human knowledge and human experience, and be less than a child in intellectual attainments. Equally unreasonable and disobedient must he also be, who, because he knows, or has the power to give or to do, but little, will therefore refuse to receive greater light, or to offer the whole of his imperfect services, but rather content himself with reasoning about the properties of the Divine mind, just as if the Divine will had never been plainly and authoritatively revealed. And yet characters of this sort have always been abundant in the Church. If, however, we would aspire to the high privileges of our calling, let us, as we ought, never cease to be urgent and earnest in the work of self-examination; because, there can be no doubt, no one is entirely exempt from a sinful inclination to one or other of these cases of unbelief, which indeed compose the great rock of offence. The presumed merit of works, on the one hand, or of knowledge, on the other, forms indeed the great and the prevailing heresy: men are anxious, in the one case, to ascribe to themselves the merit of not presuming to think ; and, in the other, of not daring to act; while the word of God clearly and positively calls for both : and such is the inconsistency often witnessed, that both will embark in questions and practices on which the word of God has laid a positive interdict. The language of the Scripture, however, were we humbly disposed to inquire, would never fail to assure us, that the law of the Lord is perfect; that it demands our obedience, both in thought and in deed : reason too, were we disposed calmly to consult it, would assure us, that this is nothing more than what a revelation from above ought to require.
* Psalm cxv. 1.
Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before
Abraham was, I am.-John, viii. 58.
As these words convey no precise idea to an English ear, I
may perhaps be excused if I offer an explanation of them, before I proceed to consider the doctrine which they contain.
It is customary 'with the Oriental nations, and, after them, with the Hellenistic Greek writers, particularly when treating of historical questions, to introduce past events or incidents to the attention of the reader, and then to speak of other circumstances (past indeed with reference to him), as present with regard to such events. This custom is also recognised by writers purely classical, as indeed it is by our own, to some extent ; and, in these cases, it has usually been termed the historical tense. The words of our text are of this character. Our Lord here affirms, that, before the times in which Abraham lived, he exists; or, in our phraseology, he existed; or, more conformably with the Oriental idiom, Imagine yourselves living in times prior to those of Abraham : in those I am in being; * or, as we should word it, Before Abraham was, I was. In this sense, indeed, the passage has usually been taken ; although no solution of the phraseology has been offered.
We may now proceed to consider the doctrine here intended to be inculcated. It was shewn in the preceding discourse, that, according to the declarations of the Scriptures, both the Law and the Gospel must necessarily stand together; the one to form a rule of right and wrong, without which there could be no fixed standard of virtue or vice; the other to propose and secure pardon for those misdeeds to
See, on this doctrine, my llebrew Grammar, p. 343, &c.