« ZurückWeiter »
cession of monarchies, were so arranged by providence, as to facilitate the progress of the gospel through the habitable world, after the day had arrived, when the stone which was cut out of the mountain without hands, should become a great mountain and fill the earth.' (Dan. ii. 31, 35. This was the day which • Abraham saw afar off, and was glad.' This was the day which many prophets and kings, and righteous men, desired to see,' but could not; the day for which the earnest expectation of the creature,' long oppressed with ignorance, and bewildered in superstition, might be justly said to wait.'
V.—This was the hour of Christ's triumph over all the powers of darkness; the hour in which he overthrew dominions and thrones, led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.' The period was come, when the seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent.' For many ages, the most gross superstition had filled the earth. • The glory of the incorruptible God was' everywhere, except in the land of Judæa, • changed into images made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and beasts, and creeping things.' The world, which the Almighty created for himself, seemed to have become a temple of idols. Even to vices and passions altars were raised; and what was entitled religion, was in effect a discipline of impurity. In the midst of this universal darkness, Satan had erected his throne; and the learned and polished, as well as the savage nations, bowed down before him. But at the hour when Christ appeared on the cross, the signal of his defeat was given. His kingdom suddenly departed from him: the reign of idolatry passed away; He was beheld to fa l like lightning from heaven. In that hour, the foundation of every Pagan temple shook. The statue of every false god tottered on its base. The priest fled from his falling shrine; and the heathen oracles became dumb for ever.
As on the cross, Christ triumphed over Satan, so he overcame his auxiliary, the world. Long had it assailed him with its temptations and discouragements; in this hour of severe trial, he surmounted them all. Formerly he had despised the pleasures of the world. He now baffled its terrors. Hence he is justly said to have crucified the world.' By his sufferings he ennobled distress; and he darkened the lustre of the pomp and vanities of life. He discovered to his followers the
path which leads, through affliction, to glory and to victory; and he imparted to them the same spirit, which enabled him to
• My kingdom is not of this world. In this world ye shall have tribulation : but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.' [John xvi. 33.]
Death also, the last foe of man, was the victim of this hour. The formidable appearance of the sceptre remained ; but his dart was taken away. For, in the hour when Christ expiated guilt, he disarmed death by securing the resurrection of the just. When he said to his penitent fellow-sufferer, "To day thou shalt be with me in paradise,' he announced to all his followers the certainty of heavenly bliss. He declared the cherubims' to be dismissed, and the flaming sword' to be sheathed, which had been appointed at the fall, 'to keep from man the way of the tree of life.' [Gen. iii. 24. Faint, before this period, had been the hope, indistinct the prospect, which even good men enjoyed of the heavenly kingdom.• Life and immortality were now brought to light. From the hill of Calvary the first clear and certain view was given to the world of the everlasting mansions. Since that hour, they have been the perpetual consolation of believers in Christ. Under trouble, they soothe their minds; amidst temptation, they support their virtue; and in their dying moments enable them to say, 'O death! where is thy sting? O grave! where is thy victory ?'
VI.— This was the hour, when our Lord erected that spiritual kingdom which is never to end. How vain are the counsels and designs of men ! How shallow is the policy of the wicked! How short their triumphing! The enemies of Christ imagined, that in this hour they had successfully accomplished their plan for his destruction. They believed, th they had entirely scattered the small party of his followers, and had extinguished his name and his honour for ever. In derision they addressed him as a king. They clothed him with purple robes; they crowned him with a crown of thorns; they put a reed into his hand; and, with insulting mockery, bowed the knee before him. Blind and impious men! How little did they know that the Almighty was, at that moment, 'setting him as a king on the bill of Sion; giving him the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession !' How little did they know that their badges of mock royalty were at that moment converted into the signals of absolute dominion, and the instruments of irresistible power ! The reed which they put into his hands, became a rod of iron,' with which he was to break in pieces his enemies;' a sceptre with which he was to rule the universe in righteousness.
These were the triumphs which commenced at this hour. Our Lord saw them already in their birth; he' saw of the travail of his soul, and was satisfied.' He beheld the word of God going forth, conquering, and to conquer ; subduing, to the obedience of his laws, the subduers of the world; carrying light into the regions of darkness, and mildness into the habitations of cruelty. He beheld the Gentiles waiting below the cross, to receive the gospel. He beheld Ethiopia and the Isles stretching out their hands to God; the desert beginning to rejoice and to blossom as the rose; and the knowledge of the Lord filling the earth, as the waters cover the sea.' Well pleased, he said, ' It is finished.' As a conqueror, he retired from the field, reviewing his triumphs: “ He bowed his head. and gave up the ghost.'—From that hour, Christ was no longer a mortal man, but 'head over all things to the Church ;' the glorious king of men and angels, of whose dominion there shall be no end. His triumphs shall perpetually increase. * His name shall endure for ever; it shall last as long as the sun; men shall be blest in him, and all nations shall call him blessed.'
From this view which we have taken of this subject, permit me to suggest, what ground it affords to confide in the mercy of God for the pardon of sin; and to approach to him, with gratitude and devotion, in acts of worship.
In the first place, the death of Christ affords us ground to confide in the divine mercy for the pardon of sin. All the steps of that high dispensation of providence, which we have considered, lead directly to this conclusion, 'He that spared not his own son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things ?' (Rom. viii. 32.] This is the final result of the discoveries of the gospel. On this rests the great system of consolation, which it hath reared up
We are not left to dubious and intricate reason. ings, concerning the conduct which God may be expected to hold towards his offending creatures: but we are led to the view of important and illustrious facts, which strike the mind
with evidence irresistible. For is it possible to believe, that such great operations were carried on by the Almighty in vain ? Did he excite in the hearts of his creatures such encouraging hopes, without any intention to fulfil them? After so long a preparation of goodness, could he mean to deny forgiveness to the penitent and the humble? When, overcome by the sense of guilt, man looks up with an astonished eye to the justice of his Creator, let him recollect that hour of which the text speaks, and be comforted. The signals of divine mercy, erected in his view, are too conspicuous to be either distrusted or mistaken.
Lastly, the consideration of this whole subject tends to excite gratitude and devotion, when we approach to God in acts of worship. The hour of which I have discoursed, presents him to us in the amiable light of the deliverer of mankind, the restorer of our forfeited hopes. We behold the greatness of the Almighty, softened by the mild radiance of condescension and mercy. We behold him diminishing the awful distance at which we stand from his presence, by appointing for us a Mediator and Intercessor, through whom the humble may, without dismay, approach to him who made them. By such views of the divine nature, Christian faith lays the foundation for a worship, which shall be at once rational and affectionate; a worship, in which the light of the understanding shall concur with the devotion of the heart, and the most profound reverence be united with the most cordial love. Christian faith is not a system of speculative truths. It is not a lesson of moral instruction only. By a train of high discoveries which it reveals, by a succession of interesting objects which it places in our view, it is calculated to elevate the mind, to purify the affections, and, by the assistance of devotion, to confirm and encourage virtue.
[DR. H. BLAIR.]
CRUCIFIXION OF CHRIST. JOHN xix. 16. Then delivered he him unto them to be crucified.
[Text taken from the Gospel for the Day.] The sentence of death is passed : and now who can, with dry eyes, behold the sad pomp of my Saviour's bloody execution ! All the streets are full of gazing spectators, waiting for this rueful sight. At last, O Saviour, there thou comest out of Pilate's gate, bearing that which shall soon bear thee. To expect thy cross was not torment enough ; thou must
it. All this while thou shalt not only see, but feel thy death before it come, and must help to be an agent in thine own passion. It was not out of favour that, those scornful robes being stripped off, thou art led to death in thine own clothes. So was thy face besmeared with blood, so swoln and discoloured with buffetings, that thou couldst not have been known but by thy wonted habit. Now thine insulting enemies are so much more imperiously cruel, as they are more sure of their success. Their merciless tormentings have made thee half dead already; yet now, as if they had done nothing, they begin afresh, and will force thy weakened and fainting nature to new tasks of pain. O true form and state of a servant ! All thy former actions, O Saviour, were, though painful, yet free: this, as it is in itself servile, so it is tyrannously enforced; enforced yet more upon thee by thy own love to mankind, than by their power and despite. It was thy Father that laid upon thee the iniquity of us all :' it was thine own mercy that caused thee to bear our sins
cross, and to bear the cross, with the curse annexed to it, for our sins. How much more voluntary must that needs be in thee, which thou requirest to be voluntarily undertaken by us? It was thy charge, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.' Thou didst not say, Let him bear his cross as forcibly imposed by another: but, let him take up his cross,' as his free burden; free in respect of his heart, not in respect of his hand ; so free that he shall willingly undergo it, when it is laid upon him ; not so free, as that he shall lay it upon himself