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But Jesus dispels this darkness, and “brings life and “immortality to light by the Gospel.” For,
1. The office and agency of the Holy Spirit, so absolutely necessary to make us duly sensible, either of our danger, or of the possibility of escaping it, is entirely the effect of his mediation. The soul of man, originally formed to be the temple of the living God, when defiled by sin, was justly forsaken by its great inhabitant; and, since the fall, answers the prophetical description given of Babylon : it " is become the ha“ bitation of devils, the hold of every foul spirit, and a
cage of every unclean and hateful bird *.” If we ask, as with good reason we may, How can the wise and holy God," who is of purer eyes than to behold ini
quity,” and with whom evil cannot dwell, return to his sanctuary thus polluted and profaned? an answer is afforded in that gracious promise, “I will sprinkle “clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean : from “all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I " cleanse you; and I will take away the stony heart,
and I will give you an heart of flesh, and,” in order to this, “ I will put my Spirit within yout.”. But the source of this mercy is his sovereign love and purpose, to give the seed of the woman, bis only Son, to be the mediator of sinners. By his atonement to be manifested in due time, but which had a virtual influence from the beginning, the Holy Spirit returned to dwell
2. His obedience unto death, when revealed by the Holy Spirit to the enlightened conscience, affords a clear and satisfactory discovery of reconciliation with God: it shows, that on his part every hindrance to the free exercise of mercy is thereby removed, the honour of his law vindicated, and the demands of his justice answered. On our parts, by opening a door of hope, it removes that enmity and obduracy of heart, which are nourished by a consciousness of guilt, and a secret forebodling of deserved punishment. But when the dignity of the Redeemer's person, the causes, nature, and design of his sufferings are understood, emotions of admiration, love, and gratiude, till then unknown, are felt, and obstinate sinners “ are made a willing people “in this day of divine power.”
* Rev. xvii..
+ Ezek. xxxvi. 25, 26.
3. The doctrine of the cross pours a light upon every subject and circumstance in which we are concerned. It enlarges the inind, and forms the judgment and taste, agreeable to the standard of truth, and the real nature of things. It rectifies those prejudices and prepossessions which dispose us to mistake"
“good “ for evil, and evil for good*,” to pursue trifles with earnestness, and to trifle with things of the greatest importance. In Jesus Christ crucified, “all the treasures “of wisdom and knowledge" are at once both hidden and exhibited. This object, the holy angels, whose knowledge of the wonders in creation, without doubt, greatly surpasses our conceptions, incessantly contemplate with delight, as affording the brightest displays “ of the manifold wisdom of Godt.” It is especially the fountain of wisdom to sinners. They look unto him and are enlightened. The slight and partial thoughts they once entertained of the great God, the mistaken judgment they formed of themselves, of their state and their conduct, are corrected by their knowledge of the
* Isa. y. 20.
† Eph. iii. 10.
cross; from thence they derive a solid hope, a humble spirit, just views of their duty and obligations, and motives and prospects which animate them in a course of cheerful, persevering obedience to the will of God.
4. In this way, God, as revealed in Christ, is apprehended and chosen, as the chief and proper good of the soul. Thus the poor are enriched with “the pearl “of great price," and the weary obtain rest. The mind, no longer burdened with anxiety, nor mortified with a succession of disappointments, which attended the vain pursuit of happiness in earthly things, possesses present peace, and rejoices in the expectation of future glory. It is released from the slavery of “ bewing out broken “cisterns," and introduced to the “fountain of living "waters.” Or, to close with the beautiful image in my text, " The people who once walked in darkness and “the region of the shadow of death,” are translated into the kingdom of life and salvation*
How greatly are they to be pitied who reject the light of the Gospel! It is true, they cannot see it; but it is equally true, they will not. But may
I not hope that this is a day of divine power, in which some of you shall be made a willing people? Do not reason against your own life, but repent and believe the Gospel. The light shines around you, whether you perceive it or not; and it has an efficacy to open the eyes of the blind. Where the Gospel is preached, the Lord is present. If you call upon him, he will hear, and you shall receive your sight. If the grace and the glory of the Saviour have hitheto made no impression upon your heart, you are spiritually blind. Could you be sensible of your disorder, the remedy is at hand. If now at last you
+ Col. i. 13.
are willing to seek him, he will be found of you. But
you deliberately prefer darkness, your state is awfully dangerous ; and if you persist in your obstinacy, your ruin is unavoidable. God is gracious and longsuffering, but he will not be mocked*. Humble yourself at once, and implore his mercy, or else prepare to meet him in judgment. But be assured he will not meet you as a man. You must either bend or break. The Lord forbid that he should
say to any
of the great day of his appearance, “ Depart from me, ye
cursed, into everlasting fire !"
CHARACTERS AND NAMES OF THE MESSIAH.
ISAIAH ix. 6.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given : and the
government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Such was the triumphant exultation of the Old Testament church! Their noblest hopes were founded upon the promise of Messiah; their sublimest songs were derived from the prospect of his advent. By faith, which “is the substance of things hoped for,” they considered the gracious declarations of the faithful un, changeable God as already accomplished, though the actual performance respected a period, as yet, fùture and distant; especially as believers, under that dispensation, already felt the influence of the redemption which MESSIAH was to consummate in the fulness of time. It was the knowledge of his engagement on the behalf of sinners, that gave life and significancy.to all the institutions of the ceremonial law, which otherwise, though of divine appointment, would have been a heavy and burdensome yoke*. Isaiah therefore prepares this joyful song for the true servants of God who lived in his time; and though it was a day of trial and rebuke, they were provided with a sufficient compensation for all their sufferings, in being warranted to say, “ Unto
* Gal. vi. 7.
us a child is born, unto us a son is given : and the
It has been, and will be taken up from age to age, by the New Testament church with superior advantage. I trust many of you understand it well, and rejoice in it daily. Men naturally look for something wherein to rejoice and glory. Little reason have the wiset to glory in their supposed wisdom, or the strong in their fading strength, or the rich in their transitory wealth ; but this is a just and unfailing ground of glory to true Christians, that “Unto
us a child is born, unto us a son is given,” &c.
When a sinner is enlightened by the Holy Spirit, to understand the character and offices of MESSIAH, his ability and willingness to save those who are ready to perish, and the happiness of all who are brought into subjection to his gracious government; and when he begins to feel the cheering effects of faith in his name, then this song becomes his own, and exactly suits the emotions and gratitude of his heart. But many persons will despise and pity him as a weak enthusiast.
* Arts xy. 10.
Jer. ix. 23.