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Wc proceed now to consider the prayer of our collect, which, like the introductory part, is twofold, and is founded on the twofold view of Christ which is before presented. We pray for “grace, that we may always most thankfully “ receive the inestimable benefit,” viz. the sacrifice of the Son of God for sin; “ and also daily “ endeavour ourselves to follow the blessed steps “ of His most holy life.”
First, we pray " that we may always most “ thankfully receive the inestimable benefit of “ Christ's sacrifice." The manner in which the sacrifice of Christ is here characterized may be compared with what the Apostle says (2 Cor. ix. 15.)
“ Thanks be unto God for His unspeak“ able gift.” By “ the unspeakable gift” some commentators understand that charitable disposition to which St. Paul had been exhorting the Corinthians; while others suppose that, by a sudden and abrupt transition, not uncommon in the Scriptures, * he refers to “ the inestimable “gift” of Christ, which is introduced as the strongest motive to that liberality which he wished to promote and cherish in their minds.
If Christ, the fountain of salvation, be the free gift of God, then is salvation itself in all its branches also a free gift. For generals include particulars. How contrary then is the pride and arrogance of the self-justiciary to the forms of our church, and to the foundation of all truth laid in the Scriptures, on which our church has built her fabric of doctrines!
The attribute of this comprehensive gift of God, the sacrifice of His Son, bespeaks the . munificence of the adorable Donor. It is such
* See Cant. i. 2. iii, 3. John xx. 15.
as cannot be particularly described nor fully expressed. It is unspeakable, nay, it is “ ines“ timable.” Its importance is unutterable and inconceivable. Of this we may judge by contemplating the circumstances in which we should be placed without it, in life, in death, and to all eternity. As guilty, helpless, and polluted creatures, we could have no source of comfort, and should be exposed both to present and eternal misery. On the other hand, the situation: to which we are raised by means thereof, affords a perfect contrast to our natural misery. Heaven and hell are not further apart, nor more dissimilar. For those who " receive this inestimable
gift,” are pardoned, accepted, sanctified, and comforted in the present life; and there is “ laid
up for them a crown of glory that fadeth not “ away.” Now before the importance of this gift can be fully ascertained, an estimate must be made of the value of the soul of the evil of sin-of the miseries of hell of the glories of heaven-and of eternal duration as the attribute of both. But who is sufficient for these things? No one possessed of a finite understanding. God, therefore, only knows the value of His own gift. Place it in the balance against sin, for which it has atoned. Consider that “ the “ wages of” every “sin is death.” Then take into the account the number, enormity, and aggravations of your own sins, those of
your heart and life. These are incalculable; but how small a proportion do they bear to the sins of the whole world, for which the sacrifice of Christ
a full, perfect, and sufficient satisfaction.” Consider again the value of a single soul. Worlds of mortal and irrational beings are not to be compared with it. How inestimable its worth!
The gift of Christ was the ransom-price, whereby the redemption of a lost world has been effected. How insufficient are all our powers of expression, calculation, and conception, when employed in the science of Divine arithmetic!
If we contemplate the gift of Christ “ to be “ unto us a sacrifice for sin" in a comparative view of its excellence, its superiority to all other benefits which we have received will plainly appear.
Our “ creation" with those powers and privileges which we originally possessed, was an inestimable favor. But existence without Christ would eventually have proved a curse instead of a blessing. Our “preservation” is also a cause for thankfulness; but our preservation in existence without a Saviour would only have increased our damnation. For if there was no sacrifice for sin, the sooner we were cast into hell the better, seeing that every hour spent on earth would aggravate our guilt. “ All the
blessings of this life” are only such when viewed in connection with “ the inestimable gift.” Irrespective of atonement they would be curses instead of blessings. The conscious mind could find no satisfaction in them, and could indulge no hope beyond them. But through the merit of the great sacrifice, and by faith therein, “ creation, preservation, and all the blessings of “ life," are restored to their original nature, tendency, and issue. In uno Christo omnia, . “ CHRIST IS ALL AND IN ALL.”
In every view, then, the gift of Christ is an “ inestimable gift.” Neither Saints on earth, nor Saints in glory, can duly appreciate it. Our Lord Himself, speaking in the 40th Psalm, expresses the highest admiration of redeeming love. Many, O Lord my God, are thy
" wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy “ thoughts which are to us.ward: they cannot be “ reckoned up in order unto thee; if I should “ declare and speak of them they are more than “ can be numbered." Redemption is a subject “ which can never be exhausted by the intellec“ tual powers of men and angels; but will, to " both, afford matter of incessant meditation “ and endless praise. Yet how little do we "meditate on its wonders! how seldom and how “coldly do we praise God for them !" * St. Paul also speaks of “ the height and depth and “ length and breadth of the love of Christ as " passing knowledge.”+ (Eph. iii. 18, 19.) Now if the tongue of the seraphic Psalmist, speaking in the person of Christ and under the influence of the Holy Ghost, was unable to describe this gift; if the enlarged mind of one who had been caught up into the third heaven could not fully conceive of it, it may justly be styled “ inestimable.” The beloved disciple seems also at an utter loss for expression sufficiently forcible for his purpose, when he says, “God so “ loved the world as to give His only begotten " Son." He could find no comparison; he could only relate the fact. Saints made perfect, and angels who surround the throne, are unable to shew forth half His praise who gave
* Dr. Horne on the 40th Psalm, ver. 5. + This passage of St. Paul is equally to be admired for the sublimity of its sense, and the beauty and variety of its charming figures, and excellencies of language. * By a bold and beautiful metaphor, the dimensions of material substances are raised above their native signification, and ennobled by being applied to the mysteries of religion. The goodness of God in His dear Son Jesus has its breadth --it extends to all mankind; its length-it reaches to all ages; its height and depth-He raises mankind from the lowest abyss of misery and despair, to the highest eminence of happiness and glory. Where it is remarkable, that, though the dimensions of bodies are but three, the sacred Author adds a fourth-height, whereby he more emphatically expresses the greatness, the majesty, the absolute and entire perfection, and the immense charity of that wonderful work of our redemption; or, in the better words of the inspired writer, the unsearchable riches of the love of Christ; the knowledge of which passes all other knowledge, both in its own immense greatness, and the grand concern mankind. has in it; and can never be so perfectly known by created understandings, as that they shall either fully comprehend, or duly value such an adorable mystery and infinite bleso sing."----Blackwall's Sacred Classics, vol. i. p. 207.
His only Son to be a sacrifice for sin.” Eternal ages will not fully disclose, nor eternal praise fully acknowledge, the benefit of redemption.
How proper is our petition for " grace" “ that we may always most thankfully receive " this inestimable gift!" It resembles that of the Apostles, “ Lord, we believe; help thou « our unbelief." To receive it in a manner suitable to its worth, is impossible; but surely it should be our desire and endeavour constantly to embrace it with all the energies of our minds wrought up to the highest pitch of grateful adoration.
A thankful reception of the “ inestimable “ benefit” implies a conviction of our need of it. If a present of a million sterling were offered to one who had, or supposed himself to have, a full sufficiency of money before, he would say, « Of what use can this additional sum be to me? “ I want it not, bestow it where it is more needed, “ and of consequence will be more acceptable.” Such is the language of the self-righteous heart respecting the “ inestimable gift." I am rich, “ and increased with goods, and have need of “ nothing,” is the groundless persuasion it maintains; while, in fact, it is “ wretched and mise“ rable, poor and blind and naked.” But there