« PreviousContinue »
Being, who created the universe; who pervades it by his essential presence; who has impressed his perfec tions on all its various works; to whom we are indebted for being called into existence, and for being continually preserved in it; whose will is our supreme law, and whose favour must be our supreme felicity; and to whom our debt of gratitude is consummated by his compassion to our fallen race, in providing a means of our recovery from sin, and from its deserved punishment. For it was "God, who so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life."*
Accordingly the catecumen proceeds" Secondly, In God the Son, who redeemed me and all mankind." In God the Son, so called because deriving from the Father all the essential attributes of the Godhead; as the matter is further explained in the Nicene Creed
"God of God, light of light, very God of very God." All this is grounded on many passages of Scripture; as where it is saidt "In him dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily:" and‡-" God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself;" and he is "God over all, blessed for evermore." There is no ground for the pretence, that the Catechism's comment on the Creed enlarges the sense of the instru ment itself. This goes fully to the point, in saying, that Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Ghost. And it should be remembered, that in the infancy of the Church, not his divinity, but his humanity was denied: in consequence of which, this, and not the other required to be minutely provided for; as is accordingly done in the very definite articles of his conception, crucifixion, death, and burial.
"Who redeemed." The redemption thus spoken of is said to be "by the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish, and without spot." The reference of this to the sacrifices under the law, shows
* John iii. 16. ↑ Col. ii. 9. 2 Cor. v 19. § Rom. ix. 5. # -1 Pet. i. 19.
the sense of it to be the true atonement, of which they were only the figures; agreeably to what is said elsewhere*—“ He is the propitiation for our sins;" and elsewhere" Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood." On this is grounded the article of "The forgiveness of sins:" For believers know of no other meritorious cause of it, than the sufferings and death of him, by whom, as St. Paul says "We have now. received the atonement"(or "reconciliation.")
"For me and all mankind"-Not for a chosen few, called into, existence for the illustrating of the sovereignty of God; while the same attribute is to be illustrated by the damnation of all others; which they were ordained to, and could not escape. The comfortable truth in this part of the answer, is recognized in many of the prayers of our Church, but is more fully opened by her in her thirty first article; which says
The oblation of Christ once made, is that perfect redemption, propitiation and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual.” But the language of the Church cannot be more general, than is that of Scripture; which speaks of Christ's "propitiation for the sins of the whole world;" and declares, that "God would have all men to be saved, and to come to a knowledge of the truth." [See Dissertation IV.]
The remaining branch of the answer is—and thirdly "In God the Holy Ghost, who sanctifieth me, and all the people of God."
The divinity of the Holy Ghost is acknowledged in the Creed, and the position of being a mere attribute of the eternal Father is barred by a distinction made between them as objects of our faith. His being
* 1 John ii. 2. † Rom. iii. 25. Rom. v. 11. § 1 John ii. 2. 1 Tim. ii. 4.
It is here believed, that the way in which the present difficulty has been thought provided for, is by interpreting the clause-I believe in the Holy Ghost," of the miraculous gifts bestowed on the day of Pentecost. Necessity has
ealled "God" is justified, as from many places, so particularly from his being entitled "the Eternal Spirit;"* in its being said-"The Lord is that spirit;" and he is said "to search all things; yea, the deep things of God." Indeed, both the distinct personality of the Holy Ghost and his divinity are conspicuous in the commission given to the apostles to "baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." And the same distinct personality is taught where we read" I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter, who will abide with you for ever." The sanctification by the Spirit spoken of, appears in all the places, which refer to the influence of this divine agent as essential to what is holy and good in man: without it " we can do nothing; "¶ and we are not sufficient of ourselves, to do any thing as of ourselves."**"The fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth:"++ and therefore, wherever those fruits are found, his holy influence has been felt, and is made manifest.
"Me and all people of God." The Catechism of the Church of England has it-"all the elect people. of God." The word "elect" is left out in our liturgy, as being able to be misunderstood. But lest its being originally in the instrument should be construed unfavourably to what has been and will be said in these Lectures; occasion is taken to remark, that the
impelled to the interpretation; unknown as it was to the ages in which this short formula was in the mouth of every Christian. It will not be denied on the other side, that in the New Testament generally, there is a discernible distinction between the agent and the agency. The question is of the personality of the former; it being affirmed in opposition, that no more than an attribute is intended. But when the question comes in contact with the sense of the article in the Creed, there is a transition from the agency of the attri. bute, to a partial exercise of it. The necessity of this does not result from the theory in itself; but from the importance of sustaining the supposition of a date, as early as that of the Apostles' Creed.
Heb. ix. 14. † 2 Cor. iii. 17. 1 Cor. ii 10. § Mat. xxviii. 19. | John xiv. 16. ¶ John xv. 6. ** 2 Cor. iii. 5. †† Eph. v. 9.
catecumen's being instructed to identify himself with the elect, is a sufficient proof, that this term is not used with a reference to any abstract question, concerning eternal decrees in the divine mind: for how could it have been expected of every baptized person, to be thus ascertained of "the secret things of God?" The term originated in the appellation given to the Jews, of being God's chosen (or elect) people; chosen to be in covenant with him, agreeably to what St.. Paul says, that their advantage over others consisted in this chiefly, that "to them were committed the oracles of God."* Under the influence of this familiar idea, the same apostle addresses several Churches, as the elect in Christ; Elect (or chosen) as a people, in calling upon and being called by his name; although in their individual capacities, there might be a mixture of the worthy and the unworthy. And that this was actually the case, appears in reproofs given in the very epistles addressed to the elect, to some among them whose walking was not worthy of their vocation; and who therefore could not have been contemplated as the elect, in the sense here excluded. But there is another sense-and it is the one here affirmed that of being elect, in an application of the term to all who have been duly initiated into the Church; as was explained in the preceding lecture.
Having gone through the subject proposed to be explained, I will not conclude without an exhortation to my hearers in the words of St. Paul, and applying them to the precious summary which has been before us-"Let us hold fast the profession of our faith, without wavering." To go into a demonstration of its heavenly origin, would be wide of the design of these exercises; neither would time permit. They who have been baptized into it have evidently reason to be aware, how they set light by a treasure, which has become theirs, either by inheritance or by choice; and much more, how they sacrifice it to the
* Rom. iii. 2.
+ Heb. iv. 14.
guilty pursuits of the present life; or even to its lawful but transitory objects of desire. There is the greater occasion for the sounding of this alarm; because of the new and various shapes which infidelity has put on in the present day, for the beguiling of unstable souls. The Christian ministry are far from discouraging free inquiry; if it be under the influence of virtuous inclination, and with prayer to the Father of lights. On the contrary, we invite to such inquiry: and in this we are not a little encouraged by what we know of the fruits of it, in the many well-informed and judicious persons, who, by this mean, have seen through the flimsy covering of prejudices which had been imbibed by them, in levity or in haste; and whom nothing could afterwards have tempted, to exchange the pure streams of revelation, for the muddy waters of infidelity. For whatever boasts may be made by it of superiour wisdom; the whole of this will be found to consist, not merely in rejecting whatever is supposed by them to be either visionary or superstitious; but in leaving no foundation of any belief, that is likely to be at all influential in practice.
Even they who have neither leisure nor information proportioned to considerable inquiry, may detect the pretensions of that insidious foe; by observing the mischief which he is continually working, in withdrawing all the guards of integrity and honour in social life; bringing to the very state described by the Apostle, of being "Strangers to the Covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world."* For surely it will not be denied, that generally speaking, in proportion as people wander from the blessed system which is " able to make them wise unto salvation," there ceases to be any honouring of God in their conversation, in their families, or in any serious attendance-if they attend at all-in places where his being and his perfections are acknowledged. Of the effect of all this, in any of the very trying vicis
* Eph. ii. 12.
† 2 Tim. iii. 15,