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there is never any on His (“He abideth faithful"), or on the part of His Father to Him. The covenant of peace is “between them both. Faith is the link of connection between us and Christ. It is the medium also of communion between us and Him. It both makes and keeps us one with Him. So it is not by working but by believing that we become obedient, that we become holy, even as it is that we are justified, and “have peace.” It is by renouncing the law, as a covenant, that we become obedient to it, in love with it, as a rule. And it is when we know and love the Lord Jesus, as our Deliverer from the law, that we become leal-hearted and loyal towards Him, as our Lawgiver, " the Master whom we have in heaven."
THE BROADCHURCHISM OF THE GOSPEL:
REV. JAMES KERR,
“Thy commandment is exceeding broad.”—PSALM cxix. 96. The truth shall make you free.”—JOHN viii. 32.
In the popular religious literature of the present times, the terms “broad” and “ free are of frequent occurrence. The fascination that surrounds them is enhanced by the use, at the same time, of their opposites, “ narrow” and “bigoted.” By an adroit manipulation of these terms and their equivalents, the heterodoxy of the day is labouring to stamp out the doctrine and spirit of the evangelical faith, and to allure the Christian multitude within the influence of the spreading rationalistic drift. Going to the market where the heterodox wares are exhibited with labels so attractive, the unsuspecting purchaser soon discovers that “their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter.” Is the time not come when the adherents of the true faith should make an effort to wrest from their opponents the monopoly in the use of these terms, which they seem desirous of establishing for themselves ? Those who, in the spirit of their Master, abide most closely by, and contend most tenaciously for, the whole faith that has been delivered to the saints, must be the most liberal-minded and catholic; and those who forsake the “old paths" must, in proportion to the extent of their departures, become contracted in their mental grasp, and narrow in their soul. Is not the Bible —the whole Bible—the only manual of Broadchurchism, in its truest and highest sense? Is not the revelation of God's Son in us, the great soul-expanding power ? “If the Son shall make
you free, ye shall be free indeed.” Must we not infer, from the words of Christ, “ Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” that the mind which apprehends the truth is a home for mental liberty? Does not strict conformity of the life to God's law produce real breadth of character ? For “Thy commandment is exceeding broad.” Is not the Gospel system the only true Broadchurchism-"the perfect law of liberty ?” Is not the believer—and the more so in proportion to the strength of his faith—the only true Broad-churchman, "increasing with the increase of God,” “filled with all the fulness of God ?”
God is the only absolutely independent and free agent in the universe. “I am that I am.” “He giveth not account of any of His matters." Yet His own nature necessarily involves limitation as to error and sin. “He is a God of truth, and without iniquity.”
“And He from all unrighteousness is altogether free.” And God is, moreover, although absolutely free, yet boundbound by a covenant, bound from eternity. Perfect freedom and strictest obligations may co-exist,—do, in fact, co-exist-in the character and manifestations of the absolutely free God. He who, therefore, becomes likest God, must be freest in this high
The more fully he becomes assimilated to the Divine image, the more he will exclude from his thought and character error and iniquity, and the more he will love and practice truth and holiness. The more he aspires after freedom, the more he will be led to surrender his whole nature, and come under obligations to promote righteousness; and the more fully he so sincerely surrenders and faithfully binds himself, the more perfect will be the freedom which he shall be enabled to achieve. He will be “changed into the same image, from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
The Word of God is the instrument of bursting the fetters of
error, and of emancipation from the slavery of sin. It is the Word of a God of freedom. Its glorious Author has given it to man that it might broaden his conceptions and liberalise his heart. Every doctrine and precept of it is calculated to make a man the Lord's freeman. He who placed his delights upon men's sons from eternity, has there communicated every truth necessary to ennoble humanity. If, within that Book, there be any teaching or commandments whose natural tendency would be to narrrow man's thoughts, or limit the true exercise, to their fullest extent, of all the powers with which the Creator has endowed him, then such teaching or commandments cannot be of God, for “He is the Father of lights, from whom cometh down every good and perfect gift." No error or vice has ever been conceived or embraced by man, that the Scriptures do not expressly, or by just inference, condemn; and there is no necessary truth, or virtue, that the Scriptures do not most warmly commend. The more fully one believes the Word-accepting all its doctrines, obeying all its commandments—the broader and more liberal must he become; for “ All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”
1. The offer of the Gospel is a broad and free offer.
The offer of the Gospel proceeds upon the revelation of the broad character of Jehovah. The whole attributes of God are made manifest, in the plan of redemption, by Jesus Christ. No single attribute has been subjected to any, even the slightest disparagement, in that marvellous work. Mercy and love have not been exalted to the depreciation of holiness and justice; nor have holiness and justice been exalted to the depreciation of mercy and love. Broadchurch writers (so-called) seem, in their conceptions of the Deity, to be unwilling to give the several parts of His nature their due proportions. They press into special prominence His mercy, and are reluctant to proclaim aright His justice. It is but a partial and narrow view of God they appear to entertain. And, naturally enough, the lowering of His justice leads to a narrow apprehension of the nature of the atonement, and the rejection, eventually, of the element of substitution. In that atonement, God's holiness, justice, mercy, wisdom, love, and all His other attributes, unite and shine forth with combined and transcendent glory. In His infinite mercy and love, Jehovah provides the Substitute upon whom His justice and holiness require Him to inflict the punishment which the sinner deserved-His wisdom suggesting the plan whereby the conflicting claims of His attributes can be perfectly reconciled. Thus, “ Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” The offer, then, proceeds upon a basis fit to evoke the sinner's confidence, and secure his eternal safety; for it proceeds upon the revelation of a “righteousness which,” in the words of Principal Cunningham, “God's righteousness required Him to require.” "Sing, O heavens, for the Lord hath done it."
The Gospel offer is broad in its extent. It is the offer of all that man, in the deepest necessity of his nature, requires. It is the offer of pardon—a free, full, everlasting pardon. It is the offer of forgiveness for sins, however numerous,--for sins, however heinous. God is a "God of pardons," a God with whom is "much forgiveness,” and “plenteous redemption.” It is the offer of a broad righteousness-of a robe of righteousness, which enrobes, with “clothing of wrought gold,” those who," from the crown of the head to the sole of the feet, have no soundness, but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores.” It is an offer which involves perfect justification before God, making the sinner complete in Christ. “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.” It is the offer of a broad righteousness, by which the whole nature is transformed and made perfect in all the will of God. It is the offer of all the blessings and benefits of Christ's purchase, when He died, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God. It is the offer of grace here, and glory for ever. It is the offer of Christ, in all the excellency of of His person, and in all the completeness and fulness of His Mediatorial offices and gifts. “Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” Yea, it is an offer of God himself, for the central promise of the everlasting covenant is this—"I will be their God." It is the offer, not of heaven only, and all its peace and felicity, but of the very God of heaven: “My Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” Is it possible to conceive of any offer broader than this-an offer of Him that commands, by His immediate presence and power, the most distant worlds, but who comes to “dwell in the heart of the humble and contrite, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite one ?” O, to say with Jeremiah, “The Lord is my portion, saith my soul!"
The offer of the Gospel is to all, without restriction or limitation. The "gates” are not “ajar,” they are wide open, for the Redeemer of men has perfected His work; and now, through the gates wide open, all the nations of the earth are to be pressed to enter in. "Go, disciple all nations," was the command of our ascending Lord.
No nation is excepted, no individual soul. High and low, rich and poor, idolater and professed worshipper of the true God, heathen and civilised-all are equal here.