« PreviousContinue »
This is about all that our congrega- to the principles and practices en tions hear as to the meaning of that joined by the whole spirit of the chrisbeautiful article in our creed,- the tian faith. How is it that so few combelief in' the Communion of Saints ;' municants know each other? How is and is it therefore a matter for wonder it, that people, even in the same grade that they exhibit so little of that real of life, although they may continually oneness of spirit, that brotherly com- kneel together at the table of a communion with each other, and that de- mon Lord, yet, if they have not been sire to know and help each other on- what is termed, regularly introduced, ward on the way to their eternal are nearly as much strangers as if home, that would cheer many a pilgrim they lived in different countries? How through the thorny and rugged paths is it that in our christian communities of life? No minister ought to rest so much of what may most properly satisfied with the weekly and mere be termed the principles of caste, preformal gathering of his people in the vail,- forming an almost impenetrable house of God;-he ought to endea- barrier against the interchange of that vour to find some plan by which he communion which should exist bemay knit them more closely together tween the members of one Church? in mutual and spiritual love. If it is The difficulty does not so much lie in a pastor's duty to endeavour to know our being kind and courteous to the those amongst whom he ministers, actual poor and needy amongst our and to manifest a shepherd's care and brethren. Here the line of demarcatenderness to all the flock the Chief tion is so distinct, that we can pay Shepherd has committed to his over- the benevolent visit, relieve distress, sight,--surely he should strive to enter into the little joys or sorrows, make the sheep more like members and give the friendly greeting, withof the same fold than they now are. out the fear of overstepping the limits In this we cannot but think that the of conventional propriety, or without ministry has been wanting ;-had it the hazard that our christian debeen faithful in expounding both the meanour will be taken an undue and duty and privilege of the mutual com- improper advantage of. Not so, howmunion of believers, much might have ever, with the intermediate grades been accomplished in making Christ's between the poor and the rich, the people more kindly affectioned one comparatively dependent and the into another with brotherly love. dependent classes. It is here that
But let not the ministry have all Society places a gulph, which even the blame of the coldness and stiff christian people are backward to indifference, which it is so painful to attempt to pass over; and the consewitness and to feel in churches under
quence is, that although we attend the most evangelical ministry. We the same church, join in the same must now go from pew to pew, and prayers, listen to the same teaching, we shall find much that separates the and may be fellow communicants, we people of God from each other-much are too completely estranged from of that sinful conformity to the world, each other. and that strict adherence to the prin- Surely something ought to be atciples and practices ruled by society, tempted to alter this state of things. but which is all sadly in opposition If we are brethren and sisters in Christ Jesus, ought we not to manifest our we shall find laid down in Scripture relationship to each other, and to let as one of the marks of the true Church the world see that we are not ashamed of Christ. We should do well to study to be known as fellow-members of the this subject more closely than we have same family?
hitherto done,-remembering, that We are no levellers of the proper though many, we are one body in distinctions which our varied lots in Christ, and every one members one life must occasion; but we are confi- of another." It may possibly be dent that the House of God is not the allowed us to return to this subject in place where the usages of society a future number, when we may point should interpose those barriers which out some methods by which all classes keep fellow-worshippers at a distance in our congregations might be more from each other. In the Church of brought together for christian comEngland we have far too few, if we munion; in the meantime, let none have any, opportunities of that social of our readers cast aside the considechristian intercourse which would ration of the question as an unprofitaserve to bind us together in affection- ble subject, or its results as imposate solicitude for each other's tempo- sible to be attained. Other portions ral and spiritual welfare. If we had of Christ's Church make the attempt occasional meetings of this character, to fulfil their Master's injunctions, and they might be so wisely managed as seek to walk together as brethren. not to give any occasion for the breach True, the sins of false brethren, and of those proprieties which the true human infirmities of varied kinds, Christian, of every rank, will ever often mar and sever the holiest ties, study to preserve. But the pulpit must and bring reproach upon many a begin; our congregations must see band of Christians : but the imperand hear, from the conduct and voice of fections incident to fallen, and even him who should be the earthly centre regenerate humanity, are no valid of union amongst them, what should pleas why we should shrink from be the character of that fellowship endeavouring to promote something which should bind all together. We more substantial in its results, and all live too much under the influence more general and beneficial in its apof that artificial state of society which plication, than our present very partial keeps fellow Christians alcof from exhibition of a living and active beeach other, and prevents us from re- lief in the communion of saints. alizing that love of the brethren which
Divinity. THE DYING THIEF AND THE ALL-SUFFICIENT SAVIOUR. “ To day shalt thou be with Me in and thus offer Himself, through death Paradise.” These are words directly the just for the unjust, a ransom of calculated to give the poor, perishing infinite value for the redemption of sinners of mankind the highest de- His Church. It was a time of ungree of encouragement in looking at equalled and of unspeakable interest. the revealed Salvation. It is calcu- On the event of that hour, the salvalated to beat down and silence the tion of the Old Testament Church proud self-righteous objections of the had proceeded prospectively. On that human heart to the freeness of God's hour depended the fulfilment of all mercy. It speaks, at the very crisis the splendid promises of blessing to of the accomplishment and perfection the Church in later times, and the of that mercy, a language which can- salvation of unnumbered millions of not easily be misunderstood.
souls. On that hour, and the faithAt the moment when this event ful fulfilment of the eternal purpose occurred, the incarnate Word, who of God in it, rested the efficacy of had been foretold as the deliverer of the grace of the Almighty towards a man, by means of His atoning death, fallen world; and the possibility of was hanging upon the accursed cross. the salvation of one single soul, out He had reached the awful point to of the countless multitudes that rise which prophecy had looked with into being on the earth, from its comdeepest interest. His holy form was, mencement to its decay. And in that at that moment “ wounded for our hour of seeming weakness and detransgressions, and bruised for our pression, the incarnate Word chose iniquities.” Led on by the instigation to put forth the striking and characof the old serpent, the devil, the un- teristic manifestation of His mercy. believing and rebellious Jews had In that hour of solemn pause, during taken Him, and, with wicked hands, which He hung in the agonies of death, had crucified Him. But their wicked- He willed to give forth to the world ness was over-ruled according to the a glorious exhibition of the power determinate counsel and foreknow- that He wielded,
-even in the hour of ledge of God. And the very event, voluntary suffering; and to exhibit in which appeared to men and devils a practical and unquestionable language subject of triumph, was about to ac- the richness and fulness of that blesscomplish the promised redemption, ing which His death was to procure. and deliver an unnumbered multitude There were two malefactors, thieves, of souls from hell and everlasting crucified with Jesus,-on either side death. The Redeemer had bowed one, and Jesus in the midst. Mark meekly and submissively to the suffer- the wonderful condescension of the ing :- for the joy set before Him, eternal Word, the ever-blessed God, He endured the cross, despising the thus, in the hour of His humiliation, shame;—and He now
to be ranked with transgressors. He tiently, in His agony, till the moment was executed among the refuse of the when He saw it meet to lay down prisons: and mark also, in this very His human life, to give up the ghost, point, the glorious triumph of omni
potence. That act of His enemies, We are not admitted to know all which was meant to degrade Him, the workings of the Saviour's conand bring His cause into contempt, verting and sanctifying spirit upon that His name might be cast out as the heart of this man : but evidently, evil, was made use of by Him as one in the same way as the hearts of of the most effective means of illus- Matthew, and Zaccheus, and Saul, trating the riches of His salvation, and Lydia, and multitudes of others, and pouring round the dark scene of were opened by His power, so was it His dying agony an inextinguishable the case with this crucified malefactor. glory.
The act is not to be judged of by the Jesus Christ had said, “As the Fa- time which it takes, but by the manither raiseth up the dead, and quick- fest efficiency with which the change eneth them; even so the Son quick- is wrought. Previously the man was eneth whom he will.” “Verily, the a wicked man, receiving the just rehour is coming, and now is, when the ward of his deeds, but as he hung on dead shall hear the voice of the Son the cross, by the side of the Reof God, and they that hear shall deemer, his heart opened to the inlive.” And this power to quicken is fluence of grace. This effect appears thus explained in John i.,—" To as to have been intimately connected many as received him, to them gave with the interesting fact of the Sahe power to become the sons of viour's patient sufferings. That cross,
which were born, not of which should be preached as the grand blood, nor of the will of the flesh, means of arresting the attention of nor of the will of man, but of God.” the world, by its deep and unrivalled Now the event before us is an instance interest, and of saving that world by of the exercise of this power. The its power, was witnessed by him. same Almighty power which called That which other men are to hear Zaccheus and Matthew the publican, and believe, he saw. He saw the Man was put forth on this occasion, to turn of Sorrows led as a “lamb to the a dying thief, effectually and savingly, slaughter, and as a sheep before her in the moment of his last agony, to shearers is dumb," opening not His the only possible means of deliver- mouth. He saw the meek and lowly ance from everlasting misery. The bearing of the blessed Jesus, in all wretched man was at the very verge the gradations of His mortal agony. of his mortal career, expiating on And though all this may be seen and earth the guilt of his sins against so- scorned,—for we have ample proof, ciety by a public and ignominious that both by sinners in the pride of death,
,-a death, in terms of his own their prosperity, and by sinners in the confession, justly merited. And he agonies of death, that cross may be was about to enter upon the eternal seen only to be reviled :— the other world, where, if he had no practical crucified thief united his railings with and living hold upon the promised those of the Pharisees ;—yet where salvation of the Scriptures, his lot the Lord pleases to give effect to the would be an eternity of suffering. It external features of that inimitably was in that awful crisis that Jesus interesting scene, and where He awaput forth His mighty power, and bade kens in the heart a comparison of the him live for ever.
features of that scene with the moral
state of the individual so considering might not have been sufficient to warit, then it becomes the means of turn- rant us in the assertion of his peniing the soul from sin to holiness, from tence, and future safety: but yet, death to life, and from hardness of when a wicked man, a man of lawless heart to sincere contrition and re- and unholy habits, wakes to a sense pentance.
of guilt, and to a sincere admission of In this way the object of the Re- the justice of the lot he is to suffer, deemer's mercy is introduced to us, and a practical fear of God,- and all While others reviled the blessed Jesus, this arising from and connected with as He hung upon the cross, this man a serious consideration of the sufferwas led by the Saviour's mercy, even ings of Jesus,- these are moral chain the midst of his own agonies, to racteristics, so adverse to his previous consider the case and conduct of Je- habits, and so unlikely to be the mo
The fact of His innocent, holy, ral manifestations of a soul about to and useful life was well known. It be eternally separated from God, that, was known to His false accusers : it as far as we can rely upon them, they was known at the issue of His trial ; are calculated to give hope. The naknown to this unhappy sufferer, for tural course is, that the life that has he said, “ This man hath done no- been spent in sin, ends in reviling, thing amiss.” He was evidently com- and in more desperate ungodliness. paring the case of Jesus with his But the manifestation of the saving own; and the meekness and patience change in the dying thief does not of the innocent Sufferer with his own end in what we have stated. We have melancholy lot, as suffering justly, only noticed so far the process of and about to be hurried, with the thought by which his mind was led to load of his guilt upon him, into eter- the reception of the truth that Christ nity. This appears to have been the was really the Saviour. The contrain of reflection by which he was viction of guilt appears to have been led to the Saviour. When he heard speedily followed by a full recognihis companion railing at Jesus, he tion of Jesus as able to save him, was roused by it, and rebuked him : and by an earnest application to that “Dost thou not fear God, seeing thou effect: he turned to the emaciated and art in the same condemnation? And bleeding victim by him, and said, we indeed justly ; for we receive the " Lord, remember me when thou reward of our deeds.” Here are the comest to thy kingdom.” It is evielements of a better state of mind, — dent here that, by whatever process, the evidences of a mind under Divine his mind had been then opened to reand gracious teaching. There is evi- ceive the doctrines of Christ, and that dently the fear of God, the sense of renouncing all hope in himself as a his own awful enormities, the con- guilty creature, he was now brought fession of his own guilt, and a de- to cast himself entirely on Christ for gree of impression of the innocence salvation :—“I am a dying sinner, and consequent superiority of Christ. receiving justly the reward of my These are not the natural feelings of deeds. myself I can have no a malefactor at the close of life. Taken hope; but O! Thou, whom now first. alone, and without the direct testi- in the crisis of my condemnation I mony of Christ to his salvation, they know and acknowledge, with reve