Abbildungen der Seite

Creator, he still finds that there is neither an attribute of God nor a want of man which has not been thoroughly considered in the wondrous scheme of the suretyship of Christ. And if the exact adaptation of the material world to our natural circumstances be allowed as good evidence that God made the world, the just as exact adaptation of the gospel to our spiritual circumstances should be received as good evidence that God planned the gospel. Ay, and as even a poor man who was never schooled in the lessons of natural theology might feel the smile of God in the sunshine which gladdened him, hear the voice of God in the melodies which soothed him, and trace the hand of God in the supplies which sustained him ; so might he convince himself of doc. trines which dispersed all his anxieties, met all his wishes, and satisfied all his wants, though he had never heard the demonstrations of the schools, and was never trained to the defence of Christianity. Neither do we stop here in our assertion of the power of the Bible to prove its own origin. There is yet another evidence, even that which results from putting Scripture to the proof, and finding it made good. If I act on the directions of the Bible, and find myself made a partaker of the promises of the Bible, I am my own witness that the directions were issued and the promises given by God. If the Bible tell me that if I pray in Christ's name, I shall obtain what I need, and if thus praying I actually receive ; if the Bible tell me that through believing in Christ I shall be progressively sanctified, and if I find the holiness following on the faith ; if the Bible promise me peace through the performing certain duties, and if the peace in my experience attend the performance, why, there is a growing evidence to the Divine origin of Scripture, an evidence which is increased by every answered prayer, by every mastered temptation, by every fulfilled promise; so that, along the whole line of Christian experience there may not be a point at which he who seeks the credentials of the Bible in the Bible itself, is not accumulating testimony as conclusive as was ever won on any field of demonstration. Thus, if you will combine the particulars on which we have rapidly touched-the correspondence between what the Bible says of a man, and what that man is able to discover concerning himself-the precision with which all that the Bible offers him in the way of moral remedy meets what he feels to be the necessities of his case-and then bringing Scripture to the test of experience, and finding that it will bear being put to the proof—if, we say, you will combino these particulars, you are in possession of an argument for the self-evidencing power of holy writ, which may serve to convince you that the inspired volume may satisfy a man as to the divinity of its authorship, though that man have no apparatus to work with but the simple apparatus of a Bible and a conscience. And so long as we can thus establish that the Bible carries with it its own credentials, we may confidently declare that the pious among the poor do not receive it as divine merely on the athority of others. They may at first have received it on such authority, but after a while they practically make out for themselves something of that proof which we have endeavoured to exhibit ; and though perhaps they never strictly arranged this proof, and could not state it step by step to another,' yet does it settle down in their minds with all the fixedness of an irreversible demonstration, and they are not to be shaken in it by all the world's sophistries, and they are not to be bribed from it by all the world's treasures. The pious poor and illiterate among us are far enough from having no reason for the hope that is in them. Their reason may not be one whose force will be confessed by an infidel antagonist; but it is as sustaining and convincing to themselves as is the finest argumentative process to the great champions of Christianity. I will tell you what it is--they take Jesus for what he says he is, and they find Jesus just what he says he is. Oh, blessed evidence, worth all the logic in the world! And as becoming daily confirmed in obedience, they become daily confirmed in their belief in the Bible, their persuasion that it is the word of the Almighty strengthening in proportion the strength of their determination to yield themselves unreservedly to his service; let them not be regarded as the credulous, who believe without cause, or as the enthusiastic, who imagine a cause where it does not exist. They are but living examples of the accuracy with which the words of Christ in our text are made good. “ If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”

Now, the great practical inference which we wish to draw from what we count a most important and instructive subject of address, is one that refers to the temper with which you should hear and read the gospel of Christ. You are to observe, that a readiness to perform God's will is the great security and guide to its discovery. If the doctrines of Scripture remain hidden to any of you, the doctrine of the atonement, of the Trinity in unity, of human corruption, of the work of the Holy Spirit, it is not through deficiency of revelation, it is not through defect in your intellectual powers. The doctrines are set forth with sufficient clearness, and the mind of all but the idiot is ample enough, acute enough, logical enough to understand, and to receive them. The only reason to be given for the rejection of these doctrines is a reason derived from the heart and not from the head. You would quickly comprehend the truth if you were prepared on discovering it to make it the rule of your practice; and therefore, we exhort you, whenever you open the Bible, or whenever you come up to God's house-we exhort you to examine yourselves, whether you be honestly desirous of ascertaining truth. Do I wish to be convinced I would be a hard question to many readers of chapters and many hearers of sermons. “Should I be taken at my word ? This is often a hard question, if you put it to yourselves in the midst of your prayers. There is a sort of unacknowledged but powerful consciousness that if convinced, men must alter their lives; and therefore, practically, they stave off conviction, because they will not give up their pleasures. Now, we may preach with all our energy, but we shall preach for the most part in vain, whilst this moral dishonesty prevails amongst our hearers. If you secretly wish to remain ignorant, because you secretly wish to remain vicious, we may reason, and prove and demonstrate, but we only bring light to the man who has closed his eyes and who is averse to the opening them, because anxious not to see. We want minds open to conviction, and it is your business to labour that you may bring such minds to the ministrations of the gospel ; it is your business to see to it that you do not bar up against the preacher all the avenues of your spirits by cherishing a dislike to his doctrines, which will make you impervious to his demonstrations. This is one of the main hindrances to the success of preaching, a hindrance altogether attributable to yourselves, and for which ye yourselves are altogether answerable. The mind is made up not to be persuaded, and then, assail it how you will, it is almost sure to hold fast to falsehood. We just now hinted that something of the same kind takes place in regard to prayer. Attend to it; it may apply to many amongst you. Prayers are frustrated, because they are not honest. You ask, in words at least, to be made better than you are. “ Better.” Well, that really means that you may be enabled to give up some pursuit or some vice of which you are fond. Ah, do you mean what you say when you ask to be thus enabled ! Would you really like to give up the pursuit or the vice! Or to be made better means that you may lead a godly and a righteous life. Examine yourselves : does not such a life seem very dull to you? Would you really like to live it? That is, would you really like God to take you at your word when you pray! But we speak now rather of the hindrances which the want of honesty puts in the way of your believing what you hear in God's house. Men may talk very plausibly of not being answerable for their faith, as though it were not optional with them to believe or disbelieve; but it is optional with them whether to mortify or to indulge a passion, whether to persist in or abstain from practices which are sure to warp the understanding and influence its decisions. And therefore, will any one of you, who may die in unbelief, be charged with the whole guilt of that unbelief ; condemned for it as for a sin which has been wil. fully, flagitiously committed ; for let what will be said of the mysterious and incomprehensible things in the Bible, and of the weakness of human faculties ; regulate the life by what you know, and you will be sure to know more; so that, in the words of our text lies a principle on which the last judgment may proceed, a principle on which every unbeliever may be tried, found guilty, and condemned. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself."



A Sermon



" 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.”—Isaiah ix. 8. Last Sabbath morning we considered the first title, “His name shall be called Wonderful:" this morning we take the second word, “Counsellor.” I need not repeat the remark, that of course these titles belong only to the Lord Jesus Christ, and that we cannot understand the passage except by referring it to Messiah-the Prince. It was by a Counsellor that this world was ruined. Did not Satan mask himself in the serpent, and counsel the woman with exceeding craftiness, that she should take unto herself of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, in the hope that thereby she should be as God? Was it not that evil counsel which provoked our mother to rebel against her Maker, and did it not as the effect of sin, bring death into this world with all its train of woe? Ah! beloved, it was meet that the world should have a Counsellor to restore it, if it had a Counsellor to destroy it. It was by counsel that it fell, and certainly, without counsel it never could have arisen. But mark the difficulties that surrounded such a Counsellor. "Tis easy to counsel mischief; but how hard to counsel wisely! To cast down is easy, but to build up how hard! To confuse this world, and bring upon it all its train of ills was an easy thing. A woman plucked the fruit and it was done; but to restore order to this confusion, to sweep away the evils which brooded over this fair earth, this was work indeed, and “Wonderful” was that Christ who came forward to attempt the work, and who in the plentitude of his wisdom hath certainly accomplished it, to his own honour and glory, and to our comfort and safety.

We shall now enter upon the discussion of this title which is given to Christ, a title peculiar to our Redeemer; and you will see why it should be given to him, and why there was a necessity for such a Counsellor.

Now, our Lord Jesus Christ is a Counsellor in a three-fold sense. First, he is God's Counsellor; he sits in the cabinet council of the King of heaven; he has admittance into the privy chamber, and is the Counsellor with God. In the second place, Christ is a Counsellor in the sense which the Septuagint translation appends to this term. Christ is said to be the angel of the great council. He is a Counsellor in that he communicates to us in God's behalf, what has been done in the great council before the foundation of the world. And thirdly, Christ is a Counsellor to us and with us, because we can consult with him, and he doth counsel and advise us as to the right way and the path of peace.

I. Beginning then, with the first point, Christ may well be called Counsellor, for he is a COUNSELLOR with God. And here let us speak with reverence, for we are about to enter upon a very solemn subject. It hath been revealed to us that before the world was, when as yet God had not made the stars, long ere space sprang into being, the Almighty God did hold a solemn conclave with himself; Father, Son

and Spirit held a mystic council with each other, as to what they were about to do. That council, although we read but little of it in Scripture, was nevertheless most certainly held; we have abundant traces of it, for though it is a doctrine obscure through the effulgence of that light to which no nian can approach, and not simply and didactically explained, as some other doctrines are, yet we have continual tracings and incidental mentionings of that great, eternal, and wonderful council, which was held between the three glorious persons of the Trinity before the world began. Our first question with ourselves is, why did God hold a council at all? And here, we must answer, that God did not hold a council because of any deficiency in his knowledge, for God understandeth all things from the beginning; his knowledge is the sum total of everything that is noble, and infinite is that sum total, infinitely above everything that is counted pohle by us. Thou, O God, hast thoughts that are unsearchable, and thou knowest what no mortal ken can ever attain unto. Nor, again, did God hold any consultation for the increase of his satisfaction. Sometimes men, when they have determined what to do, will nevertheless seek counsel of their friends, because they say, “ If their advice agrees with mine it adds to my satisfaction, and confirms me in my resolution.” But God is everlastingly satisfied with himself, and knoweth not the shadow of a doubt to cloud his purpose; therefore, the council was not held with any motive or intent of that sort. Nor, again, was it held with a view of deliberation. Men take weeks and months and sometimes years, to think out a thing that is surrounded with difficulties; they have to find the clue with much research; enveloped in folds of mystery, they have to take off first one garment and then another, before they find out the naked, glorious truth. Not so God. God's deliberations are as flashes of lightning; they are as wise as if he had been eternally considering, but the thoughts of his heart, though swift as lightning, are as perfect as the whole system of the universe. The reason why God is represented as holding a council, if I think rightly, is this: that we might understand how wise God is. “ In the multitude of counsellors there is wisdom." It is for us to think that in the council of the Eternal Three, each Person in the undivided Trinity being omniscient and full of wisdom, there must have been the sum total of all wisdom. And again, it was to show the unanimity and co-operation of the sacred persons: God the Father hath done nothing alone in creation or salvation. Jesus Christ hath done nothing alope; for even the work of his redemption, albeit that he suffered in some sense alone, needed the sustaining hand of the Spirit, and the accepting smile of the Father, before it could be completed. God said not, “ I will make man," but “Let us make man in our own image.” God saith not merely, “I will save," but the inference from the declarations of Scripture is, that the design of the three persons of the blessed Trinity was to save a people to themselves, who should show forth their praise. It was, then, for our sakes, not for God's sake, the council was held – that we might know the unanimity of the glorious persons, and the deep wisdom of their devices.

Yet another remark concerning the council. It may be asked, “What were the topics deliberated upon at that first council, which was held before the day-star knew its place, and planets ran their round?” We reply, " The first topic was creation." We are told in the passage we have read, (Proverbs viii) that the Lord Jesus Christ, who represents himself as Wisdom, was with God before the world was created, and we have every reason to believe that we are to understand this as meaning, that he was not only with God in company, but with God in co-operation. Besides, we have other Scriptures to prove that “all things were made by him. and without him was not any thing made that was made.” And to quote yet another passage that clinches this truth. God said, “Let us make man;" so that a part of the consultation was with reference to the making of worlds, and the creatures that should inhabit them. I believe that in the sovereign council of eternity, the mountains were weighed in scales, and the hills in balances; then was it fixed in sovereign council how far the sea should go, and where should be its bounds --when the sun shall arise and come forth, like a giant from the chambers of his darkness, and when he should return again to his couch of rest. Then did God decree the moment when he should say, “Let there be light," and the moment when the sun should be turned into darkness, and the moon into a clot of blood. Then did he ordain the form and size of every angel, and the destinies of every creature; then did he sketch in his infinite thought, the eagle as he soared to heaven, and the worm as he burrowed into the earth. Then the little as well as the great, the minute as well as the immense, came under the sovereign decree of God. There was that book written, of which Dr. Watts sings

“Chained to his throne a volume lies,

With all the fates of men,
With every angel's form and size,

Drawn by th'ethereal pen."

« ZurückWeiter »