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to it. Hence they attribute many benefits to the death of Christ, and, to use an expression of Jesus Christ, “ eat the flesh and drink the blood” of this innocent sufferer. One saith, “ The blood of Christ cleanseth uś from all sin.” Another saith, “ He made peace through the blood of his cross." All the saints in heaven sing, “ Thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood; glory be unto thee forever and ever."
A subject, that comes so recommended to us, demands the most reverent and modest examination. I tremble at opening a book first given to the world besprinkled with blood, and I think I hear over again the voice calling out of the midst of the bush, and saying, “ Moses, Moses, draw not too nigh, put off thy shoes from off thy feet: I am God.” Let us draw nigh enough to God to hear what he says: but let us not draw nigh enough to be burnt alive. Let us lay aside the extravagant folly of supposing that even God can say nothing of himself beyond what we understand ; and that nothing ought to be done in approaching hiin but what is fit to be done by one mortal when he solicits the friendship of another worm like himself. "O God of peace! who didst bring again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make us perfect in every good work to do thy will, working in us that which is well-pleasing in thy sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen."
Without shedding of blood there was no abatement according to the law; and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness according to the Gospel. Let us enter on this subject with two cautions. First, let us observe, that this subject is one of pure revelation, and all we know of it is what we are told by men appointed by God to inform us. This is not, like some other subjects, a doctrine, the first principles of which may be discovered by the mere exercise of sense and reason, and which Scripture allows, amends, and improves : but the whole of it is revealed, and to examine this revelation, and reason from it as well as we can, is all our duty.
Secondly, let us take care not to forestall the Inspired Writers, by seizing their general notion of the death of Christ, and supposing several absurd things about it, which they never thought of. It would be easy at this rate to make a monstrous errour of a scripture truth ; as for example, were we to suppose that God was out of temper with mankind, and that Jesus Christ brought him to good humour by offering to shed his blood; or that God was a cruel being, who delighted in human blood; or that Jesus Christ died to save his disciples the trouble of being holy. Such notions some unthinking people have entertained, perhaps from their own negligence, and perhaps too from the wild way in which some rash teachers, more zealous than wise, have treated of this awful subject: a subject which demands, both in speakers and hearers, the utmost caution, gravity, and seriousness. Were I to give you one general rule for expounding subjects of pure revelation, I would say, explain the doctrine by itself, the principle by the practice, the practice by the principle, the cause by its effects, the effects by their cause; and never expound an article of pure revelation by your own tempers, good or bad. A very good tempered man is apt to think God must be like him, and therefore must forgive offences without requiring any sacrifice to the honour of his justice. An ill-tempered man is apt to think, Jesus Christ suffered in consequence of a barbarousness in God, something like what he feels when his temper is roused and savage, Let us be sober, my brethren ; let us not expound the wisdom of God by our own folly, and
I would have done so and so, and therefore God should have done so and so, and if he hath not done so, then I doubt whether he hath done right.
I am going to explain this doctrine, that the death of Jesus Christ obtained the remission of sin, a doctrine of pure revelation, and expressly contained in the text; and I am going to endeavour to teach you how to expound this doctrine by its own principles. If we the foundation truths, we cannot deny this doctrine, which is built on them, and which is so full of practical goodness. Lend me your attention, exercise your own understandings, and I will not despair of making this subject sufficiently clear to answer the end, for which it is taught. That end is expressed in these words, “ Ye were not redeemed from your vain conversation with corruptible things, as silver and gold: but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was raised up from the dead, that
faith and hope might be in God.”
It is a first scripture truth, that there is a natural and necessary difference between just and unjust, right and wrong, good and evil. I call this a truth of Scripture, not because the declaration of God creates this difference, making by his command an action just or unjust, which without that command would have had no qualities of right or wrong, but because the Scripture allows, amends, and improves that sense of right and wrong, which all mankind without Scripture are forced by their own feelings to avow. The apostle Paul speaks of this subject in the second chapter of Romans, and says, “ The Gentiles who have not the written law, do by nature the things contained in the law; these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves : which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing, or else excusing one another." This is one of the finest passages of Scripture on this subject: let us not pass it over lightly. The apostle speaks of a law of nature, that is a rule of action rising out of the very being of man, so that because he is what he is, and as long as he is what he is, a man, he must necessarily have in himself, go where he will, do what he will, this rule of acting. The apostle tells us further, where this law is; it is in the heart; that is, in our secret thoughts : and moreover, he informs us how our thoughts move in regard to our actions. One thought excuses another thought, and a second thought accuses a first thought, contending together, as if ten just men were disputing with ten unjust men; ten patient men against ten passionate men ; ten wise and honest men setting ten foolish men right. The heart is in this case like a court; if ignorance or presumption sit to judge, the law will be for sin; but if reason and religion judge, the law of righteousness will sway the heart and guide the life: but take which we will, our actions do not alter the nature of things, right is right, and wrong is wrong, let what will come of us. Which of you does not know the truth of all this without my giving you any examples to explain it! Remember then there is a difference between just and unjust, right and wrong; and that when one of the speakers in that dialogue in Scripture, which we call the book of Ecclesiastes, says, “ As is the good, so is the sinner, and he that sweareth as he that feareth an oath; no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before him;" it is a profane wretch disputing against Solomon, who says so.
Another principle, or foundation truth, like the former is, that all men have sinned, and that there is none righteous, no not one. There are as many degrees of sin as there are of size and sense : but in some degree all have sinned; to use the language of David, “ All have gone aside;" or that of the apostle Paul, “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." By the glory of God he means the rule of right, for ho. liness, or always doing what is just and right, is the glory of God, as doing what is right is the glory of man, and doing wrong, his shame. Where is the happy man, who can stand up and say, I never did, in all the course of my life, any one action, which I ought not to have done. I have been as good in every instance as I think I ought to have been. I have discharged every exercise of piety towards God, every duty towards my fellow-creatures, and myself, in every instance, with so much integrity and cheerfulness, that I have nothing, no, nothing to repent of. I have been humble in prosperity, patient in adversity, diligent in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. I am every moment, and always have been, ready to die. I ask no favour, í approach my Judge without any misgiving or fear, and while others say, - God be merciful to us sinners,” I
“God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are." No, my brethren, you are not of this number, and you know, were you to pretend to this, you
would find some of your friends, as well as your enemies, contradict you. One would say, “ I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus, I was a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke.” Another would cry, “How canst thou say, I am not polluted ; see thy way in the valley!" In the absence of these, thine own conscience would make thee acknowledge, “I have sinned against the Lord, and thus and thus have 1 done.” Yea, were thy conscience asleep, the voice that raises the dead
66 When thou wast under the fig-tree, I saw thee ! ?
This leads us to a third principle, that is, that God seeth all the thoughts and actions of men. I question whether I could propose any truth, which would be so readily granted, and so little understood. Who doubts whether God knoweth his thoughts and actions ? Nobody. Who understands the knowledge of God to be in constant harmony with all his other perfections ? Very few. Let me aspire at the honour of increasing the number this evening by teaching you to think justly on this subject. Should I inform you that somebody had seen a man stab your brother, you would understand nothing but a bare seeing the crime committed: but should I tell you that the man who saw the murder done was your father, you would understand something more than seeing, and you would know, without being told, that it was impossible for him to see this bloody action without disapprobation and horror; and you would suppose his horror, rising out of a sense of the injustice of the action, would incline him to follow the law, and bring the guilty wretch to public punishment. Sanctify this thought by applying as much of it to our Father in heaven, as agrees with the eminence of his perfections: He beholds all the children of men, their “ down-sitting, their up-rising, their thoughts afar off.” “He compasseth their path all day, and their bed at night, and is acquainted with all their ways. He besets them behind and before, and there is not a word in their tongues, but, lo, he knoweth it altogether: he sees if there be any
wicked way in them.” God doth see the actions of men, and he knows what he sees; he never mistakes a