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themselves very wise, have denied that there is any future state, and others have said many foolish things about it; but Jesus Christ, the Saviour, is a divine teacher, who came down from heaven, to instruct man concerning God, and his glorious perfections, and his holy law, and man's duty, and a future state; and therefore he is called, in the Bible, “the light of the world; the sun of righteousness," because when the sun shines, and there is broad day-light, people can see and know what is going on; but ignorance is like the night, and darkness, when people know not whither they go, nor at what they stumble. Christ, our Lord and Saviour, brought life and immortality to light; he has declared plainly that there are two states after death, one of happiness, and one of misery; one of rewards, and one of punishment. A heaven, where there shall be no sorrow, no pain, no death; but life, and peace, and joy for ever and ever; and that there is a hell, a place of remorse and despair, where there is nothing but weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.
If men would but listen to the Saviour, they might know their real circumstances; but alas ! most men love darkness and ignorance, rather than light and knowledge. Just like some men who are ill, and daily getting worse, but will not listen to the advice of a physician, till they get. so bad that no medicine will do them good ; they put off from day to day, and, though sorry for it afterwards, it is then too late. Now, the great thing to be effected, in this case, is, first to let these people know their real danger, that they may be induced to use proper means for their recovery. So divine teaching begins by letting men see God's greatness and goodness, holiness and justice; and their own sinfulness, and wickedness, and guilt, and misery; and the awful condition of living in defiance of the Almighty; and the dreadful consequences of dying whilst under the wrath of God, that they may use the means which Heaven has appointed to deliver them from impending ruin, and cause them to look by faith to Christ the Lord, who is a Prince and a Saviour.
II. But one may inquire, if a man be found guilty of
breaking the law, how can he be delivered from that guilt ? If a man be guilty of wilful murder, must he not be condemned to die? Who can save him? The answer to this is, that although those who break human laws often cannot be saved from the penalty, God has provided a way to save sinners.
The way which heaven has been pleased to appoint for the delivery of guilty man, is the substitution of a Surety; that is, of a person to bear the punishment due to man in his stead; this person, otherwise called a Redeemer, and a Mediator between God and man, is Christ the Lord ; who, as on this day, was born at Bethlehem, in the land of Judea. Christ is a word in the Greek language, which means the same as Messiah does in the Hebrew language, and they both mean a person anointed with oil, or one who has had oil poured on the head; which was an old custom, when prophets, priests, and kings were appointed. Therefore the names Christ, and Messiah, denote that the Saviour, Jesus, was appointed to deliver man; and whatever Jesus taught, and whatever he did, is sanctioned in heaven. Christ, the Saviour, was not a mere man; that is, although he was truly man, he was not a man only, but he existed before man was made. He was from everlasting, and came down from heaven; he was God and man in one person; and he is therefore sometimes called the Lord; the Lord of heaven and earth; and the Son of man. The Bible says, “He being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, yet took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of sinful man.” Though he was rich in heaven, yet for our sakes he became poor on earth. In the prophecies of Isaiah, these words refer to him (chap. ix. 6.) “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”—“Christ the Lord, was God manifest in the flesh.” Thus we learn that the Saviour is almighty, and infinitely able to deliver man from guilt and misery
This is a wonderful subject—no man could reason it out --we are told it by divine authority. The ancient Prophets, Jesus himself, and the Apostles, all bear witness to it. It is not revealed that man may cavil at it; but that he may believe God's testimony and be saved. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and gave his Son to be the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” “ The Saviour was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed.”
To take away man's guilt, Christ died; but he rose again from the dead, and having shewn hinself alive to his disciples, he ascended to heaven in their presence; and thus, as the text says, he is exalted a Prince, and a Saviour, to give repentance and remission of sin.-He is a PrinceHe is a King, to rule over his people, and to defend them. He brings them at first into subjection, and makes them obedient to the divine law; and is to them a Saviour from sin. He gives his Holy Spirit to convince them of their sins, to help their infirmities, to teach them to pray, to be their comforter, and to be their guide; till finally they have endured, or performed, what Divine Wisdom sees meet in this world, and then they are eventually received into the kingdom of heaven. The King of Zion, having rescued his people, will at last crush all his enemies under his feet. And who are his enemies? All those who “will not have him to reign over them ;" that is, all those who will not be taught by him, but are self-conceited, and prefer their own notions and speculations, to his heavensent instructions; all those who will not have him to be their surety and mediator ; but are self-righteous, and think their own goodness sufficient without the Saviour ; and all those who profess to call him Lord, and say, "our Saviour, our Saviour," but who will not do those good works, that he commands, nor leave off the sins which he forbids. Though men may say they were baptized in his name, and were natives of a Christian country, and never renounced the Christian name; nay, even fought, as they think, for
the Christian religion, or preached the Christian religion; still, if they obey not Christ Jesus, as a king—if they will not submit to his laws, nor keep his commandments-he will, at the day of judgment, say, “Depart from me, for I never knew you, all ye that work iniquity.”
To an ignorant, guilty, and sinful world, the birth of the “Saviour, Christ the Lord," is truly matter of unspeakable joy; but the joy of those who are saved by him, will be a spiritual and holy joy; expressed, indeed, it may be, by innocent festivity, but not in revelling and excess; for if in keeping Christmas we run to excess, that goes to prove that the Saviour is not yet our Saviour. Oh, that he may
subdue us all to himself, make us listen with humility to his instructions; remove from us the guilt of all our past sins, and reign in our hearts for ever!
DELIVERED ON BOARD THE WATERLOO, JANUARY, 1824.
JOY IN HEAVEN OVER ONE REPENTING
LUKE, xv. 7.
Joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance."
To repent is to re-think ; to think differently from what one did before; to change one's mind, or to come to one's senses again; to come to one's self, as one that has been foolish or mad before : and when a man changes his opinions, and his likings, he changes his conduct. To repent, always denotes a man's changing his thoughts and his actions for the better; and is generally accompanied with sorrow and with shame for the past. There are various forms and degrees of repentance, to distinguish which is of great importance to every man. For example,
If a man associate with gamblers, and lose his property, and be reduced to want, he forms a very different opinion of gambling from that which he did while he was prosperous and winning; and he is vexed with himself, and sorry for his folly, and ashamed of the want to which he is reduced. He seems to repent, but it is only for the consequences that he is sorry; if he had continued to win, it is not likely that he would have repented of his gambling;