« PreviousContinue »
both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby." "For it pleased the Father, that in him should all fulness dwell; and having made peace, through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things to himself.” “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and hath sent bis Son to be the propi. tiation for our sins." We intend not here to enter into any demonstration of the great Scripture doctrine of the atonement.-It is written on the page of inspiration, as with a sunbeam, so that the common sense of all may apprehend it. Lay aside the doctrine, and the Bible is from first to last a book of grave delusion, a splendid and be. wildering mockery. Irrespective of the sacrifice of Christ, what are the apparatus of its ceremonial worship, what its sacrificial emblems, what its ablutions and purificatory observances; what, but the prescriptions of a cumbrous and unmeaning ritual; shadows without a substance, types without an antitype? And what, we ask with reverence, what mean the sore and agonizing sufferings with wbich the Captain of our salvation was beset, during the period of his earthly sojourn? If, as we are told, he was the well-beloved of the Iord, holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, one who did no violence, neither was guile found in his mouth, and whom his enemies could not convict of sin, what was the meaning and the cause of bis unparallelled and heavy woe?
Let the opponents of the doctrine we are thus contending for, explain to us the sufferings of Christ. We point them to that period when he began to taste the bitter cup of the divine displeasure, and when he prayed that it might pass away from him; when in the sorrow and dejection of his soul he entered on that dreary time that marked his history from the garden to the cross. Then was the sea. son of the travail of his soul”-his hour of agony, and reproach, and death. Why was he so sore amazed ? Why vas he “exceeding sorrowful, even unto death ?” And why, oh! why was it that he was left so desolate as to be forced to vent his anguish and distress of spirit in that bitter cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Surely be hath borne our griefs, and car. ried our sorrows,” says the prophet: “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by bis stripes we are healed.” This is the account of the matter,
He suffered immediately from God, and there was a virtue in his sufferings to expiate a world's iniquity. To say that his amazement, and his sweat and agony proceeded from distress of mind in prospect of what he was to endure from men, were to degrade the character of this exalted personage in respect of patience and fortitude even below the level of thousands of his own followers. Many of the saints in other days have died in noble testimony to the truth, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer for his name's sake. Terrors there were, that frowned in formidable
array against them; enemies, whose deep hostility and wrath they were obliged to brave : tribulations, sore and manifold that beset them in their last and deadliest struggle; but they knew in whom they had believed, and they cast them confidently upon his faith. fulness and power: and when the gathering elements of human fury were discharged at last on their devoted heads, they walked undaunted and serene to death, their noble souls exulting in the joy and glory of their martyrdom. Between their sufferings and those of Christ there is no parallel-theirs was but a light affliction-his was the visitation of an offended, God, about to vindicate his honour in the restoration of a fallen world: for “God spared not his own Son, but delivered him up freely to the death, for us all.” To suppose the sufferings of Christ unnecessary, were to cast an imputation on divine good. ness, and to charge God with cruelty to his only begotten Son.
To conclude—there is no truth to which more ample testimony is borne in Scripture, than that of the real så. crifice of Christ. Lay this truth aside, and the Bible is the Book, above all others, without a purpose or a plan; admit it, and the whole scheme of revelation, of which it: forms so notable a part, is seen to be the “power of God and the wisdom of God.”
ORTHODOXY SAFE AND SUSTAINING IN THE HOUR OF
DEATH: CONCLUDING REMARKS.
No. IV. SEVERAL examples have been adduced, which show what help and comfort are derived from evangelical principles in the hour of death. It would be easy to add to the number. Considering this unnecessary, we close the discussion with the following remarks:
1. Divine truth is of immense importance. It has sugtained the hopes of thousands in that bour, which is of all others the most trying, and in which all other helps and comforts, but those founded on the truth of the Gospel of Cbrist, must fail us. What it has done for others, it can do for us.
How concerned, therefore, should we be to make ourselves acquainted with the truth of the Gospel, to hold it fast, and to distinguish it carefully from every system of falsehood that assumes its name.
What is the truth of the Gospel? Attribute the whole plan and work of salvation to the love and grace of the Father,--let the sinner's hope of acceptance be based entirely on the atoning sacrifice of the Son,-ascribe the whole spiritual life, and strength, and comfort of the soul, to the operation of the Holy Ghost,--this is Orthodoxy,--this is the truth of the Gospel. The truth, the truth only, is that which can sustain the mighty superstructure of our happiness. The truth only, is that with which it is safe to die: and of consequence, the truth only, is that which, living, we shoald embrace.
2. While we would feel fully impressed with the importance of the “belief of the truth,” it is no less necessary to bave our minds guarded against the delusion of receiving it merely as a speculative system. The great doctrines of our faith concern the heari no less than the head : they require to be embraced as vital and practical principles; they have their proper seat in the affections, as well as the understanding; and when duly received, fail not to regulate the inward dispositions and outward conduct. In this way, and in no other, do they purify the heart, and fortify against the fears of death. In this way do they become an unfailing spring of consolation within ; and ed. abling the soul of the Christian to rise with his necessities, they sustain and cheer him in his last conflict. To be acquainted with the truth, as a system, is to have knowledge; but to submit the heart to its sanctifying influence, is to be wise unto salvation.
3. It is also of immense importance to bear in mind continually the connexion between peace in death and holiness of life. Holiness and happiness are inseparably connected together, and bear the same relation to each other as cause and effect. It is so in life, and it is so-in
death. We have no doubt examples of wicked men, who appear to have obtained mercy, and to have been brought to repentance at the last; but what are these to the innomerable multitude who are given up to their hardness and impenitent hearts, and who die in their sins? In general, men die as they live; and being hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, they perish in their own deceivings. Sin is the sting of death; and it is living forgetful of eternity, that makes it terrible to die. All admit that they must die, and that to die the death of the righteous is desirable; but unless we live the life of the righteous, to expect that our last end shall be like theirs, is unreasonable and vain. Would we have our death to be peaceful, and the issue glorious? The recipe is short and simple. Live a life of faith upon the Son of God, and follow holiness, without which, no man shall see the Lord. Desiring to attain the blessedness of those who die in the Lord and live with him in his glory, we must live to the Lord now, and so order our whole temper and conduct, that Christ may be glorified in us, both by our life and by our death. He died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him; and the whole happiness and worth, both of living and of dying, consists in this, to be able to say, “Whether we live, we live unto the Lord, or whether we die, we die unto the Lord; whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.”
4. As there is much variety in the degree of peace and comfort attained by Christians in their death, we should be concerned to set the attainment of the very highest degree of joy and triumph before us, as an object of desire and pursuit through life. Dwight tells us, that we are to judge of men's state by the evidence of their lives, and not from the manner of their death : and John Newton was accustomed to say, when the question was asked in his hearing, how such a one died, “Tell me not how be died, but how he lived." These observations are worthy of very serious attention; but certainly the manner in which the Christian is able to bear himself in the closing scene, the evidence which he is able to give then of the operation of faith, and hope, and patience, is closely con. nected with the honour of religion, and the question both of its existence and its degree within him. Is not his own happiness greatly concerned, and to a certain extent, is not the spiritual good of others concerned also ? Not to speak now of the question of safety, is it not better to have our last moments cloudless and comfortable, than to have the soul distressed with darkness and fear? How much better to be able to welcome death as gain, than to dread it as an evil; to meet it with composure, than with dismay; to desire to depart and be with Christ, than shrinking back alarmed, cry out to be spared longer on the earth. Besides, when the Christian is able to meet death as the Christian ought, how salutary must the example be to others. How much is religion honoured and commended! What a triumphant testimony is given to the truth! What a display of divine grace! What glory to God! Thousands have dated their first religious impression to such a scene. The feeble have been strengthened, the timid encouraged, the wavering confirmed. An awe has been struck upon the hearts of the vicious, and the thoughtless compelled to consider their latter end. The death of the Christian has been the life of the sinner. The counsel of the dying parent has had an effect on the profligate son, which the remonstrances of years failed to accomplish; and the Minister has spoken from his dying bed in accents more powerful and persuasive, than his living voice in the pulpit ever could command.---As there are various degrees of peace and joy attainable by Christians in their death,—as in prospect of dying we should be concerned, both to be eminently happy in our experience, and to be eminently useful to others, -and as the happiness and triumph of the dying hour are inseparably connected with our present mode of living, what manner of persons should we be in all holy conversation and godliness. How should we know our end, and so number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. How should we “die daily,” living every day as if it were to be our last. How concerned should we be to live, that "nothing in our life should become us like the leaving it; to die as those who have been studied in their death." How far away from us should we put all folly, vanity, and vice: how lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth most easily beset us; give all diligence to make our cal. ling and election sure; abound in the exercise of all the Christian graces, and be fruitful in all manner of good works. In this way we shall have confidence to hope and to pray, that when our end shall come, ás come it must, our dying bed, instead of being strewed with thorns, and