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the marriage-feast. He who was so strong as never to yield to the fiercest temptation, was yet so gentle as to make allowance for sinners whom society would have hounded to destruction. He who had been all His life homeless, knowing not where to lay His head, was careful to provide a home for His mother, even when He was in the very agony of death. His anger itself was a proof of His kindness to men. He was indignant with the Pharisees and Scribes, not because they were sinners, but because they, and such as they in all time, persist in creating obstacles for those who would enter into the kingdom of heaven. He who was, in an altogether unique sense, the Son of God, delighted to call Himself the Son of Man; went about continually doing good; sought not to be ministered unto, but to minister; and declared that He was ready, like a good shepherd, to lay down His life for the sheep. Thus Christ's ministry from the beginning was one of reconciliation. His whole career was sacrificial and atoning. His death was but the last and steepest step of the altar of selfsacrifice He had been so long ascending. But on Calvary His divine patience and forbearance were brought out in greater relief. Here was “love deeply wronged, daring to love on, even unto death, in the face of the enormity that had wronged it.” Here was the most absolute sinlessness united to the most perfect sympathy for men. Here was divine goodness, and that goodness was self-sacrificing. Here was the old Aryan belief in the Heaven-Father worked out in very deed. The theory had become a fact. The lesson of His death was the lesson of His life, repeated with greater fulness, and taught with greater power-the lesson that God is love. And so the Cross has come to mean all that Christ did and taught and was. Once a symbol of disgrace, it is now an emblem of triumph. It is the noblest word in human speech. It represents all that is divinest in the universe of God.
Christianity and Pre-Christian
W E have in the previous sermons been en
' gaged in comparing Christianity with preChristian religions. We saw that God had never left Himself without witness, but that everywhere, and to all men, He had revealed Himself with more or less distinctness, in proportion as they were able to bear it. We then passed on to consider the Incarnation, or the new and higher revelation which was given in Christ, — a revelation which was, in a quite unique sense, divine. We saw how this last revelation naturally and necessarily involved the Atonement. God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, removing men's misunderstandings, and teaching them that He was a God of love. In the present sermon, I have to ask you to consider Redemption, or the reformation of character which is inevitably effected in the genuine disciples of Christ. “He gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people zealous of good works.” We have already noticed the heathenish idea of sacrifice, which represents it as something required in order to appease the anger of the Deity; and we have contrasted this with the Scriptural view that God is waiting to be gracious. There is also a heathenish idea of redemption, which has sometimes been adopted by so-called Christian sects. Among the many perversions of Christianity, this is the most horrible and the most blasphemous. It has been held that, for the believers in Christ, sin is a matter of no moment whatsoever. He has borne, it is said, the punishment of all our sins, and so we need not be afraid of having to bear the punishment of any. He died, in fact, that we might sin with impunity. He, so to speak, compounded for all the enormities which it might ever please us to commit. In a word, the God of righteousness
became incarnate for the sake of encouraging iniquity!
In a less extreme form this theory has unhappily been exceedingly common. I allude to the notion that belief —as it is called—if not everything, is at any rate far more important than conduct. This idea is most inischievous in its results; and if you come to look at it, is in itself absurd. The belief which does not show itself in conduct is but a spurious belief. If a man says he believes in Christ, and acts continually as if Christ had never lived, what are we to infer? Why, simply that Christ has made no impression on him of any kind, and that therefore the man cannot be said to disbelieve. But not to disbelieve and to believe are two totally different things. It is impossible really to believe in the value of the Redeemer's work without endeavouring to be redeemed ; and to be redeemed is to be saved, not from punishment, at least not in the first instance, but from sin-to be saved, not in spite of our sins, but. from the sins themselves—to be saved, not from the wrath of God, but from the thraldom of our baser self. “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” In other words, he who really believes in Christ must become, as a matter of