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But though this was the immediate intent of these written memorials, the salvation of our souls was II. The ultimate end .
Merely to prove to us that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, would have been a fruitless task, 'unless our believing of that record would conduce to our benefit. But the apostle knew, that our whole salvation depends upon it; and therefore, in transmitting an account of our Saviour's miracles, he sought to bring us to the enjoyment of 1. Spiritual life
[The unbeliever is “ dead in tresspasses and sins:h he is as incapable of spiritual exertion, as dry bones, that have been entombed for many years, are of exercising the functions belonging to the body. Nor is it by working that he is to obtain life, (for he must have life before he can work aright) but by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. By believing he becomes united to Christ, as a cyon that is grafted into a new stock; and he derives life from him, as a branch does from the tree, or as a member from the head. No sooner is that union formed, than he becomes a new creature;' " he is passed from death unto life;'m and is “ purged from dead works to serve the living God.” For the sake of Christ he is made " a partaker of the divine nature:'n “ Christ himself lives in him," and " is that very life," whereby he is enabled to live to God.] 2. Eternal life
[The life begun on earth, is not like the natural life that shall soon expire; it is an incorruptible seed, an immortal principle, that shall flourish in heaven for evermore. The soul that is quickened by faith in Jesus, has also its iniquities forgiven. It stands immediately in the nearest relation to the Deity. The believer is a child of God, an heir of God, a joint-heir with Christ.P A throne is prepared for him in heaven: and, on his dismission from the body, he shall be exalted to an eternal participation of the divine glory.
Now this is the object which the Evangelists had in view, when they recorded the miracles of our Lord. They endeavoured to convince us, that Jesus was the Christ; yet not merely tô extort from us a speculative assent to this truth, but to make us rely on him as our Saviour, that we might experience the true “end of our faith, even the salvation of our souls.” This was an end worthy the inspired writers, an end, which has already in myriads of instances been accomplished, though its success hitherto has been only as the drop before the shower.] INFER 1. How should we value the holy scriptures!
h Eph. ii. i. ki Cor. vi. 17. Eph. iv. 15, 16. m John v. 24. o Gal. ii. 20. Col. iii. 4.
i Ezek. xxxvii. 4. 1 2 Cor. v. 17. n2 Pet. i. 4. P John i. 12.
[All the books that ever were written are of no value when compared with the sacred volume. In the scriptures, we not only think, but know, that we have eternal life.4 They testify of Christ: they declare him to be our incarnate God, our all-sufficient propitiation, our everliving advocate, our almighty friend. He is no longer sojourning with us on earth; but we may see him, hear him, converse with him, and enjoy the most intimate fellowship with him, in his word. In that word we may find abundance to confirm our faith, to enliven our hope, to direct our feet, to answer every purpose which our hearts can wish. Let us then “search the scriptures:" let our meditation be upon them: let them be “ sweeter to us than honey and the honey-comb;" let them be “ esteemed by us more than our necessary food.”] 2. How careful should we be to exercise faith on Christ!
[All our knowledge even of the scriptures themselves will be of little use to us, unless we be possessed of a living faith: they will indeed “ make us wise unto salvation;" but then it is
through faith in Christ Jesus.” More can not be said, and less must not, respecting the excellency of faith, than what is spoken in the words of our text. Every thing relating to spiritual or eternal life must be received by faith, and maintained by faith. In heaven this principle will be superseded; but till we arrive at those happy mansions, we must " walk by faith,” and “live altogether by faith on the Son of God, who loved us, and gave himself for us."]
Let us then read the scriptures, in order to increase and confirm our faith: let even the strongest believer improve them to this end;9 and in due time he shall be where faith is lost in sight, and hope in enjoyment.]
CCCXX. THE GREAT MYSTERY OF GODLINESS,
1 Tim. iii. 16. Without controversy, great is the mystery of
godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
IT has been often said by infidels, that, where mystery begins, religion ends. But, if this were true, there would be no uniformity or consistency in the works of God. All his works both of creation and providence are full of mysteries: there is not any one substance, of which we know all the properties, or any one event, for which we can assign all the reasons. If then there were nothing in religion above the comprehension of man, it would afford a strong presumption, that our religion was not from heaven: for why should it be revealed, if man could have devised it without a revelation? But the inspired writers represent the gospel as “the wisdom of God in a mystery,”a as “a mystery hid from ages," and “kept secret from the foundation of the world;" they speak of many of its fundamental doctrines as a mystery,' a great mystery,' a gloriously rich mystery; and of its ministers as stewards of the mysteries of God.". In the words before us, many of the principal events, relating to Christ and the establishment of his religion in the world, are enumerated, and confessedly declared to be a “great mystery." Let us then contemplate them in their order, and enter with deepest reverence into the investigation of them I. “God was manifest in the flesh” .
[It was not a mere creature that took upon him our nature, but God himself, as the scriptures both of the Oldh and New Testamenti uniformly assert. He had for many ages manifested himself in the Shechinah, the bright cloud that first abode upon the tabernacle, and afterwards resided in the
. I Cor. ii. 7. b Col. i. 26.
Rom. xvi. 25. di Cor. xv. 51. e Eph. 1. 9. and v. 32. f Col. i. 27. % I Cor. iv. l.
Isai. ix. 6. and vii. 14. with Matt. i. 23. i John i. 1. Rom. ix, 5. Phil. ii. 6. John X. 30,
Limite period oidences ficerer front wing him on many unieke
most holy place of the temple: but at the appointed time he assumed our very nature, with all its sinless infirmities, into a real union with himself, and dwelt substantially on earth in the person of Jesus Christ.
What an astonishing mystery was this! that the Creator of all things should become a creature, and that the infinitely holy God should be made “in the likeness of sinful flesh!” Let us incessantly adore him for this his ineffable condescension, his incomprehensible love.] II. He was "justified in (or by) the Spirit”
(So deep was the humiliation of Christ throughout the whole period of his sojourning on earth, that he needed the most signal evidences from heaven to justify his pretensions, and to vindicate his character from the charges of blasphemy and imposture. The office of justifying him was committed to the Holy Spirit, who visibly interposed on many occasions to attest his divine mission. When our Lord submitted to baptism, and thereby seemed to acknowledge himself a sinner, who needed to be washed in the layer of regeneration, the Spirit bore witness to him as God's beloved Son, and as the spotless Lamb that was to take away the sin of the world.ru When he was accounted a deceiver, and a confederate with the devil, the Spirit enabled him to work the most stupendous miracles in proof of his being the true Messiah. When he was dead, and imprisoned in the grave, so that his very disciples thought they had been deceived by him, the Spirit raised him from the dead, and thereby declared him to be the Son of God with power. And when Christ had, as it were, stated the whole credit of his Messiahship on the descent of the Holy Spirit after his own ascension to heaven, the - Holy Spirit did descend according to his word, and not only rested visibly on the apostles, but endowed them with power to speak divers languages, and to confirm their word with signs following. I
And is not this a mystery, that God should reduce himself to such an abject state as to need these attestations to his character; and that the Third Person in the ever-blessed Trinity should be thus necessitated, as it were, to “ glorify him,” in order to counterbalance the offence which his humiliation had excited?"] III. He was seen of angels"
[The angels had beheld his face, and had worshipped before his throne from the first moment of their existence: but
* Col. ii. 9. i Rom. viii. 3.
m John i. 29-34.
John xvi. 7-11, 14:
when he became incarnate, they had views of him, which, before that period, they could not have conceived. How did they exult when they saw him an helpless babe lying in a manger! But what different feelings must have been excited in their breasts, when they beheld him conflicting with Satan in the wilderness, and sinking under the load of his Father's wrath in the garden of Gethsemane, and in both seasons needing their friendly aid! Nothing is spoken of their viewing him on the cross; but doubtless they, who had been so deeply interested about him from his very birth to the hour of his crucifixion, could not but gaze upon him with astonishment and sympathy in his expiring moments. And how gladly did they obey the mandate to confound his adversaries, and to rescue him from the tomb!u With what joy did they attest his resurrection, and wait upon him in his ascension to the highest heavens, and announce his intention to return again, in like manner as he had ascended to judge the world!
It is perhaps to these testimonies which the angels bore to Jesus, rather than to the mere circumstances of their seeing him, that the apostle alludes in the words of our text. And surely, if it be mysterious, that the Spirit of God should bear testimony to him, it is no less a mystery, that his own creatures should be employed in such an ofice.] IV. He was “preached unto the Gentiles, and believed
on” by them [The Jews, who had for two thousand years been the peculiar people of God, could not conceive that any but their own nation should be admitted to the divine favour: and indeed, to such a degree were the Gentiles immersed in ignorance and sin, that they seemed as if they were utterly excluded from the hope of mercy. But “God's thoughts were not as man's thoughts, or his ways as man's ways:" for, by his express appointment, the gospel was preached to all nations, and salvation through Christ was proclaimed to every creature. The apostle himself had been the honoured instrument of conveying this mercy to them; and had the happiness of seeing, that he had not laboured in vain or run in vain. There were multitudes in every place who received the word with all readiness of mind, and rested all their hopes of salvation on their incarnate God. Their prejudices vanished; their passions were overcome; and their whole souls were subdued to the obedience of faith.