« AnteriorContinuar »
the Spirit of God, who furnishes his people with light and strength proportioned to their exigences, situation, and the services or trials he calls them to; not without respect to the degree of their diligence, obedience, and simplicity in waiting upon him. For these reasons, it is not to be expected that every one who serves God with his spirit in the Gospel of his Son, should have exactly the same views of this sublime subject. Neither do I presume to think myself capable of displaying it in its full light and beauty. I desire, therefore, to write with candour, and entreat a candid perusal, as conscious of my infirmities, and the imperfections necessarily attending the human mind, in this present state of things. Yet I am not afraid to express my just confidence, that I shall advance no principle, as a part of the Gospel doctrine, which does not assuredly belong to it.
I now proceed to explain and confirm the definition I have given of the Gospel.
. . 1. It is a divine revelation, a discovery of truths which, though of the highest moment, could have been known no other way. That God will forgive sin, is beyond the power of unassisted reason to prove. The prevailing custom of sacrifices is, indeed, founded upon such a hope; but this practice was, without doubt, derived from revelation, for reason could not have suggested such an expedient. And those among the heathens, whether priests or -philosophers, who spoke of forgiveness of sin, knew but little wbat sin was. Revelation was needful, to discover sin in its true nature and demerit; and where this is known, the awakened and wounded conscience is not easily persuaded that a just and holy God will pardon iniquity. So likewise the immortality of the soul, after all the fine things said upon the subject, remained a problematical
point among the heathen. Their best arguments, though conclusive to us, were not so to themselves. When they laid aside their books, and returned to the common affairs of life, they forgot the force of their own demonstrations. But the Gospel of Christ is an express, complete, and infallible revelation, as he himself often assured his hearers".
And as the subject-matter of the Gospel contained in the New Testament is a revelation from God, so it is only by a divine revelation, that what is there read or heard can be truly understood. This is an offensive assertion, but must not be omitted, when the question is concerning the marks and characters of Christ's doctrine. Thus when Peter made that noble confession", “ Thou art Christ the Son of the living God,” our Lord answers, “ Blessed art thou Simon, for flesh and blood “ hath not revealed this to thee, but my Father which " is in heaven.” If Peter could read, and had the Scriptures to peruse, these were advantages derived from flesh and blood, from his birth, parents, and teachers; advantages which the Scribes and Pharisees, our Lord's most inveterate enemies, enjoyed in common with him. The difference lay in a revelation of the truth to his heart. As it is said in another place ", " Thou
& Cicero frankly confesses this. Nescio quomodo, dum lego, as. sentior; cum posui librum, et mecum ipse de immortalitate'animorum cæpi cogitare, assentio omnis illa elabitur. Tusc. Quest, Lib. i.
John, vii. 16.; viii. 26. i Matt. xvi. 16, 17. k That babes should be admitted to this knowledge, and express a certainty, where the wise are all perplexity and darkness, is extremely mortifying to human pride. But are not these the words of Christ? How arrogant, how dangerous must it be, to be displeased with that dispensation at which he rejoiced !
“ hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and “ revealed them unto babes."
2. It is a revelation, in the person of Jesus Christ. As a revelation, it stands distinguished from all false religions; and as revealed in the person of Jesus, it is distinguished from all former dispensations of the true God, who, in time past, had spoken by the prophets, but was pleased, in those last days, to speak unto us by his Son. The law was given by Moses, both to enforce the necessity of a universal sinless obedience, and to point out the efficacy of a better mediator ; but grace and truth, grace answerable to the sinner's guilt and misery, and the truth and full accomplishment of all its typical services, came by Jesus Christ. All the grand peculiarities of the Gospel centre in this point, the constitution of the person of Christ'. In the knowledge of him standeth our eternal life. And though our Lord, on some occasions, refused to answer the captious questions of his enemies, and expressed himself so as to leave his hearers in suspense; yet, at other times, he clearly asserted his own just rights and honours, and proposed himself as the supreme object of love, trust, and worship, the fountain of grace and power, the resurrection, life, and happiness of all believers.
That he vindicated to himself those characters and · prerogatives which incommunicably belong to God, is evident from the texts referred to. He was a judge of the thoughts and intents of the heart "". He forgave sins. He adopted the style of supreme majesty'. His
Col. ji. 3. 9. ; John, xvii. 3. m Matt. ix. 2, 3.
John; viii. 38.; John, xiv. 9. “ He that hath seen me hath " seen my Father.” Which of all the creatures of God dare use these
wonderful works were. proof of an almighty power.. He restored sight, health, and life, with a word. He controlled the elements, and showed himself ' Lord of quick and dead, angels, and devils; and both his enemies and his friends understood his claim. The Jews attempted to stone him' for making himself equal to God, and he received from Thomas the most express and solemn ascription of Deity that can be offered from a creature to his Creator ,
Yet all this glory was veiled. The word was made flesh; he assumed the human nature, and shared in all its infirmities, sin excepted. He was born of a woman, he passed through the states of infancy, childhood, and youth, and gradually increased in wisdom and stature'. He was often, yea, always afflicted. He endured" hunger, thirst, and weariness. He sighed, he wept, he groaned, he bled, he died; but amidst all, he was spotless and undefiled. He * repelled the temptations of Satan, he appealed to his most watchful enemies for his integrity, he rendered universal unceasing obedience to the will of God, and completely fulfilled the whole law,
words! God, in the strict sense, is invisible and inaccessible; but he communicates with his creatures through Christ his Son, without whom he cannot be seen or known at all. We cannot enjoy any spiritual, clear, and comfortable views of God, unless our thoughts fix upon the man Christ Jesus; he is the door and the veil to the holy of holies, and there is no coming to the Father by any other way.
• Matt. viii. 3. ix. 30.; John, iv. 53. P Matt. xiv.25.; Mark, iv. 39. 1 John, xi. 25 44. ; Luke, iv. 34. ; Matt. iv. 11. ; Luke, x. 17. * John v. 18.; x. 33. S John, xx, 28. Luke, ii. 52. • Mark, xi. 12.; John, iv. 6, 7. * Mark, vii. 34.; John, xi. 35. 38.; Luke, xxii. 44. * Matt. iv. 1. 10.; John, viii. 46. ; xiv. 30.; xvii. 4.
In him the perfection of wisdom and goodness shined forth. He burned with love to God, with compassion to men; a compassion which he freely extended to the most necessitous and the most unworthy. He returned good for evil, wepty for his enemies, prayed for his murderers. Such was his character, a divine person in the human nature, a God manifest in the flesh. And from this union, all he did, and all he said, derived a dig. nity, authority, and efficacy which rendered him every way worthy to be the Teacher, Exemplar, Lord, and Saviour of mankind. .
3. In the person and sufferings of Christ there is at once a discovery of the misery of fallen man, and the means of his complete recovery. It has already been observed, that the full explication of these truths was deferred till after his resurrection; and the subsequent writings of his apostles are useful, to give us a complete view of the cause, design, and benefits of his passion. At present we confine ourselves to his own words. He frequentlytaught the necessity and certainty of his sufferings; he spoke of them as the great design of his incarnation, that it was by this means he should draw all unto himself, that he was on this account, especially, the object of his Father's complacency, because he voluntarily substituted himself to die for his people. He enforced the necessity of believing on him in this view; and applied to himself the prophecies of the Old Testament“, which speak to the same purpose. Isaiah had foretold, that the Lord would lay upon him the iniquities of us all; that he was to be