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6. The wrath of an offended God,
And sinners freed from endless pains,
Here are endless woes, endless pains, Divine wrath, the Father's wrath, the wrath of an offended God, an unreconciled heaven, all which stood threatening mankind, but were poured forth on the devoted head of Jesus, by which we are saved from the wrath of God.
My brethren, such language as this certainly represents our Father in heaven, to be a changeable Being, and a Being capable of exercising the greatest possible enmity. It supposes that our merciful Father was so full of wrath, that he was just on the point of sending mankind to a state of endless woe, when Jesus stept between us and harm, snatched the thunderbolt from the uplifted hand of stern justice, and received its burning vengeance in his own innocent bosom, at which God was satisfied.
This is the theme our christian doctors have inculcated and our Christian poets have sung, but it is the blackness of darkness which has obscured the beauty of the Divine countenance for ages, and caused the mind to wander in the labyrinth of error.
This error is found in that creed, which lay on our cradles in our infancy, and our dear mothers taught us to repeat with infant lips, and to say, “All mankind by the fall, lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse ; and so made liable to all the miseries of this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell forever.”
In opposition to this erroneous representation, let us place our text together with a few concurrent passages.
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotton Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not
perish, but have everlasting life. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love
sins, hath quickened us together with Christ.”
These passages, which are but a specimen of the gospel, fully prove the following facts.
1. That God loved the sinful world of mankind with a great love.
II. That in consequence of this love he sent his Son into the world to be the propitiation for our sins. And,
III. That in consequence of the love which God had toward those who were dead in sins, he quickened them together with Christ. · Now just as plain as these obvious facts are proved by the testimony already recited, so evident it is that the death of Christ was never necessary to reconcile our heavenly Father to us; but was a manifestation of his unchangeable love toward us."
The third particular which you are invited to contemplate relative to our text is, that its subject belongs to that covenant of promise which was the Apostle's theme which led him to speak these words. That we may have a clear view of this, let us first examine the character of the promise made to Abrabam, by which he was constituted the heir of the world and the Father of us all; and then bring our text to compare with the promise, that their union may be visible. The promise to Abraham reads thus, “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” St. Paul's comment on this promise in his epistle to the Gallatians is as follows, “ And the scriptures, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, in thee shall all nations be blessed.” By this passage we learn, that the blessing which God promised to all the nations of the
earth was justification through faith ; which faith we have proved to be the covenant of promise, or the faith of God wbich cannot be made void by the unbelief of man. Relative to this justification our Apostle says to the Romans; “ For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace, tbrough the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” And again, in the chapter where our text is recorded, he says; “ Therefore, as by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men unto condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.”
In the light of the divine promise to Abraham, which the passages here quoted present, we can see most clearly, that the gospel of eternal life was promised to all mankind, as the bountiful, unbought, unasked favour of our heavenly Father. And this favour, when stated in promise to Abraham, was, as it now remains, the necessary production of the divine, unchangeable love of God to mankind, which never was, nor can be made less by the sin of the world. Having this view of the goodness of God, we see the divine harmony of our text with the covenant of promise. “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” The same covenant love which was manifested to Abraham four hundred and thirty years before the giving of the law, by Moses, is now commended toward mankind, while yet in sin, by the death of him in whom all the families of the earth are blessed with justification. In relation to this divine subject Jesus said to the Jews; “ Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad.
The fourth particular subject belonging to our text, to which your attention is solicited, is embraced in the following question: Why did Christ die for us? We bave already proved that there was
no necessity of his dying in order to procure the favour of God toward sinners, for if that had been the case, his death could not have been a commendation of the divine love. And indeed, if there were any need of more proof on this subject, than has been presented, we should find all deficiencies supplied, by the prayer of Jesus when dying on the cross.
Let us, my friends, with profound solemnity, listen to these words, which contain more true divinity, more pure unadulterated gospel, than all the creeds which have been written since the world began. “ Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." Why did he not say ; “ Father, forgive them, for I have now suffered thy wrath which burned against them; I have drank the cup of thy fury wbich was prepared for them; I have borne that they may never bear thy righteous ire?! If all this had been true, why should he pray as he did, and request that God would forgive them? If the Father had exacted a full penalty for their sins, of his son, how could he after this be called on to forgive them? But the reason, the plea which the dying Saviour stated in his prayer, was, “For they know not what they do.”
Our question remains. Why did Christ die for us? How are we benefited by his death? Be patient, we still reply in the negative. Christ did not die for us, that we might avoid condemnation if we commit sin, nor did he suffer for us, that we might not be punished for faults if we commit them. This we know by our experience and by his word. We kvow by experience, if we sin we feel condemned, and this we must feel until the condemnation is removed by repentance. And we know by the words of Jesus, thai, in place of his suffering in our room and stead, as our erroneous doctrines have taught us, he will render unto every man according to his works.
Why then did he die for us? The answer is in our text. He died to commend the love of God toward us sinners. He died for us, that he might take away our sins. “ Behold the lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” He died, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. He suffered for us, to set us an example, that we should follow his steps. He died for us, that he might bring life and inmortality to light through his resurrection. He died, rose and revived, that he might be Lord, both of the dead and the living. He died and rose again, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled, and the ministry of reconciliation be established. He suffered and died to show us how sin and all inoral evil are to be overcome, by rendering good for evil, love for batred, kindness for unkindness, and mercy for wrath.
Four important particulars may be distinctly noticed which rendered the death and resurrection of Christ of vast utility to mankind.
I. To commend and make known the unchangeable love and inercy of God to a sinful world, thereby to bring sinners to repentance and to be reconciled to God.
II. To fulfil all that the prophets had written concerning him, that the authenticity of divine revelation and the doctrine of the gospel might be successfully communicated to the gentile nations.
DII, That the patient sufferings which he enduried for the benefit of his enemies and the whole
world, might ever remain as an example for his disciples to initate, in all faithfulness, patience, and resignation to the will of God. And,
IV. That he might bring life and immortality to light by his glorious resurrection; and manifest the truth of a future happy existence for mankind.
If the mind will be serious and candid, it will at once acknowledge that these four particulars, wben viewed in their harmony and proper connection,