« PreviousContinue »
very incorrect notions of the nature of his kingdom till after his resurrection, when, in the frequent converse he had with them during the forty days he appeared among them before his ascension, he opened their eyes, and expounded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
As our Lord's death was the foundation of the doctrine of the atonement, and his resurrection the grand proof that this atonement was accepted as a perfect and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of all who should believe in his name, he could not have entered fully and particularly on the nature and design of his mediatorial sufferings and death till these solemn events had taken place. After the day of Pentecost, when the promised Comforter was sent to lead the disciples into all truth, the doctrines of the cross were clearly understood, and proclaimed by them with the greatest publicity and boldness. They declared, without reserve or obscurity, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself; that the blood of Jesus cleanseth from all sin; and that by him the believing penitent is justified from all things, from which he could not be justified by the law of Moses.
With respect to that faith by which we are jus, tified, they taught, that being itself the gift of God, and the instrument by which our union with Christ is effected, it will of course manifest its hea, venly origin by its purifying and sanctifying energy; or, in other words, that good works proceed as naturally from faith as pure waters issue froin a pure fountain, or as good fruit is gathered from a good tree. In explaining the law of God, whilst they shew us how Christ magnified and made it honourable in the face of angels and of men, by the perfect obedience which he yielded to its precepts, and by giving himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice for offences committed against it, they illustrate its authority, its extent, and its holy and spiritual nature, by arguments the most powerful, motives the most urgent, and considerations the most persuasive; in all of which they keep Christ constantly in view, and declare that there is no other name under heaven by which men can be saved, no other foundation on which they can safely build their hopes of eternal life. They knew no religion but what had Christ for its foundation, and what owed its existence and improvement to the sacred influences of his Spirit. Christ was to them all and in all: and it was through him, through his doctrine and grace, that they became such eminent examples of piety and holiness, Through those exceeding great and precious promises, which are yea and amen in Christ Jesus, they were made partakers of a divine nature; they crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts, shone as lights in the world, and perfected holiness in the fear of the Lord. And of good men in general, under the Christian dispensation, it may be affirmed, that, though their means of knowledge and experience may greatly differ, they are the workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus unto good works ; and are built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the
chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together, groweth up into a holy temple in the Lord. I come now,
II. To deduce a few practical inferences from what has been said.
1. It appears from the subject before us, that the great plan of Providence for the restoration of the human race, was a uniform, consistent, and intelligible plan, from the earliest age of the world.
It was exhibited and announced by promises and types and ordinances of an external ritual, during its long period of preparation. But, when the fulness of the time was come, and the chief purpose of the preparatory dispensation was completely attained, the great Archetype appeared, to verify to Jews and Gentiles all that Moses and the law had intimated concerning him ; to give light to them who sit in darkness, and in the region and shadow of death; to guide our feet into the way of peace ; to become a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of his people Israel. When the Mosaical institutions terminate in Christianity, we have the general system of Providence full in view, and the veil no longer covers the face of Moses. The dayspring from on high illuminates the world, and the shadows disappear. The Sun of Righteousness arises with healing in his wings, no longer shedding his influence on the Jews alone, but diffusing light and salvation to the ends of the earth. We now know why sacrifices were first ordained, and why the blood of bulls and goats was shed on the altar ; why the posterity of Abraham were separated from other nations, and how they preserved the covenants of promise ; why the daily sacrifice did not cease till after the veil of the temple was rent in twain, and the Lamb of God was slain which taketh away the sin of the world. The existence of the Jews before the date of any written history but their own; the continued observance of their peculiar ritual for ages before we have any narrative of other nations, except what is found in the Old Testament scriptures; the application to the Christian dispensation which the New Testament has made of the minutest circumstance in the Jewish ritual; the correspondence between the facts contained in the history of the gospel, and the representation of them in the typical ordinances of the law of Moses ;-these things can scarcely be contemplated by a candid mind with serious attention, without perceiving that they necessarily lead to this most important result and conclusion—that the dispensation of the gospel was in preparation ever since the fall of man; and that the institutions established among the Jews were originally designed to transmit to us, by many unconscious and hostile witnesses, the most significant and lively images and anticipations both of the substance and effects of Christianity: that mystery which was hid from ages and generations, but is now made manifest to the saints.
2. What a striking and exalted idea does this subject present to us of the dignity and importance of our Saviour's mediatorial character !
Whilst the knowledge of religion has been progressive, whilst it has, in different ages, exhibited various mixtures of light and shade, and, through different modes of administration, been conducted to its present state of perfection, yet its nature and character have been invariably the same. The light which shone obscurely through the early dawn of the patriarchal age, and illumined, with increasing brightness, the Jewish dispensation, is the same which now shines in the Christian dispensatio with such resplendent beauty and glory. So that, however dark that day appeared to the eye of sense on which Christ expired on the cross, it was indeed the brightest day that ever shone upon a guilty world. For on that day a light above the brightness of the firmament shone through the whole Jewish economy; the way into the holiest was made manifest, and Christ was exhibited as the great High Priest of all succeeding ages. Not with the blood of bulls and goats, but with his own blood, he entered into the holy place, there to appear in the presence of God for us. In his sufferings, we read with the eye of faith the glad tidings of mercy. In that face which was overclouded with the shadow of death, we recognize the Prince of life, the Lord of glory. To us the precious blood shed upon the cross speaketh better things than the blood of Abel. It speaks peace to the sincerely penitent. Its voice enters within the veil, and, with a silent but persuasive eloquence, intercedes for our pardon and acceptance.
Let it be our care, therefore, by reading, medi.