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THE UNSPEAKABLE GIFT.
EPHESIANS, Iv. 7.
Unto every one of us is given grace, according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
THE church, having in the course of her holy offices led us through all the different stages of the life of Christ, from his advent in the flesh to his death on the cross, and from thence to his glorious resurrection and triumphant ascension, has now at length brought us to the celebration of that joyful festival, wherein she proposes to our meditation the blessed fruit and crown of her Redeemer's labours, the effusion of the Spirit from on high. And with good reason it is, that she calls us together more than once to contemplate this greatest of God's mercies, from which alone we derive all our power and ability to contemplate the least of them. For though it was Christ who died, and rose, and ascended, it was the Spirit that proclaimed the news of his having done so to the world; though it was Christ who wrought our salvation, it was the Spirit that communicated the knowledge of it to the sons of men, and makes that knowledge effectual in their hearts. To his descent
we owe the publication of the glad tidings, and the conversion of the nations that were once "afar off, "but are now made nigh by the blood of Jesus, "having access by one Spirit to the Father." They that dwell in the uttermost parts of the earth have been struck with an holy fear and reverential awe at the signs and miracles of Jesus, and from thence have been heard songs, even Glory to the righteous Redeemer and Judge of the world; since even these isles of the Gentiles sing the praises of Jehovah, and glorify the Lord God of Israel in his church, as it is at this day.
"Every good and perfect gift," saith St. James, "is "from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither sha"dow of turning." The variableness and the shadow of turning are only in man. The Father of lights, like his glorious representative the sun, shines evermore with the same unvarying brightness and benignity, sending down his good and perfect gifts, as the sun does his light, on all. At the beginning, when God had finished his wonderful and glorious works, and pronounced them to be good, he made a deed of gift of the whole to his creature man, who might have continued, as he was placed, in the light, of his heavenly Father's countenance. But by sin man turned away from God, as the earth does from the sun; and therefore, stripped of all the good and perfect gifts of glory and beauty, he sat desolate and disconsolate, in the shadow of death.
a Ephes. ii. 13.
Ephes. ii. 18.
Sin having thus occasioned a general forfeiture, man has now more reason than ever to acknowledge every good thing he enjoys to be a free gift of God, coming down from above. And accordingly, we find, that a right notion of this matter is one of the marks which characterize a believer, and distinguish him from a man of the world. The one speaks of possessing as his own, what the other acknowledges to have received from God. "Soul," saith the carnal worldling in the Gospel, "thou hast goods laid up "for many years." "What hast thou," saith St. Paul, "that thou didst not receive?" The language of Esau is, "I have enough." Jacob speaks in another style; "The good things which God hath "given me." Pilate interrogates Christ, "Knowest “thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and I "have power to release thee?" Christ replies to him, "Thou couldest have no power at all against 66 me, except it were given thee from above." The same may be said with regard to the internal goods of the mind, as well as the external advantages of body or fortune. The Heathen, who knows not God or his gifts, calls his supposed virtue Eis, a habit, an acquisition of his own; the Christian speaks of his real holiness in no other style than that of δωσις, οι δώρημα, a gift from God.
And this gift of holiness, or of the Spirit, whose title is the Holy One, was indeed the good and the perfect gift, the joy, the crown, and the glory of all
gifts; insomuch that Christ calls it emphatically, "THE gift of God," saying to the woman of Samaria, "If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldest "have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water1." St. Peter uses the same form of expression, when he says to Simon Magus, "Thy
money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God might be purchased with mo"ney*." As it came down from the Father of lights, it is more precious than fine gold, and all the things which are the objects of man's desire upon earth are not to be compared unto it. Wherefore St. Paul says of it, "Thanks be to God for his unspeakable "gift';" a gift, which no tongue of man could treat of as it deserved; so that a new set of tongues, endued with the force and activity of fire, were sent from heaven, to display and describe to the world the glories of this manifold grace of God.
But we are to consider the Giver of this unspeakable gift, which is Christ; "the gift of Christ," says the text. And it could be the gift of no other, because man having by rebellion forfeited the original grant, the attainder must be taken off before the grant could be renewed. Christ only could take off the attainder, and therefore Christ only could renew the grant. And as he did renew the grant, it is plain he has taken off the attainder. He died on the cross to atone for sin; he arose from the grave to show that the penalty was paid to the uttermost
i John, iv. 10.
*Acts, viii. 20. 12 Cor. ix. 15.
farthing, because the surety was released and set free for ever; he ascended to plead the merits of what he had done for his brethren; and he sent down the Spirit upon the church, to demonstrate the acceptance of those merits, since he who pleaded them was in full possession of the forfeited riches of grace in the kingdom of heaven. "Wherefore he saith, "When he ascended up on high, and led captivity
captive, he gave gifts unto men"." When, having overcome the sharpness of death, and vanquished the powers of hell, he went up, a glorious conqueror, in triumph to his throne in heaven, then it was that he scattered abroad the tokens of his victory, and poured forth the pledges of his munificence on the church, for which he died to purchase them. That same Jesus who was crucified, "being exalted to "the right hand of God," hath shed forth those streams of the water of life, which have been flowing ever since from the throne of God and the Lamb, through the appointed channels, to water every plant and flower in the garden of God.
I say every plant and flower; because "unto every "one of us," as the apostle declares, "is given grace." No member of Christ is without the grace of Christ, which is conveyed, with his blood, by the sacraments and other ordinances, to quicken and animate the whole body of the church, as the vital heat is diffused, with the natural blood, through the arteries, to support and invigorate all the parts of the body of a man. The spirit and blood of Christ
m Ephes. iv. 8.