Page images
PDF
EPUB

frequently are, depreciated, and disregarded; but they cannot be contemptible, until integrity, benevolence, and usefulness are the proper objects of contempt.

SERMON V.

IMMANUEL.

Isaial vii. 14.

Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his

name IMMANUEL, GOD with us. There is a signature of wisdom and power impressed upon the works of God, which evidently distinguishes them from the feeble imitations of men. Not only the splendour of the sun, but the glimmering light of the glow-worm, proclaims his glory. The structure and growth of a blade of grass, are the effects of the same power which produced the fabric of the heavens and the earth. In his word likewise he is inimitable. He has a style and manner peculiarly his own. What he is pleased to declare of himself by the prophet, may be prefixed as a proper motto to the whole revelation of his will in the Bible. “My thoughts are “ not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, "saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than " the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, “and my thoughts than your thoughts*.” riority of his thoughts to ours, causes a proportionable difference in his manner of operation. His ways are above our conceptions, and often contrary to them. He sometimes produces great effects, by means which, to us, appear unsuitable and weak. Thus he gave Gideon a complete victory, not by providing him an army equal to that of the enemy, but by three hundred men furnished with earthen pitchers and lamps*. At other times the greatness of his preparations, intimates that there are difficulties in the case, insuperable to any power but his own, where our narrow apprehensions, until enlightened and enlarged by his teaching, can scarcely perceive any difficulty. It is eminently so with respect to the restoration of fallen man to his favour. We have but slight thoughts of his holiness, and therefore are but slightly affected by the evil of sin. But though he be rich in mercy, no wisdom but his own could have proposed an expedient, whereby the exercise of his mercy toward sinners might be made to correspond with his justice and truth, and with the honour of his moral government. His Gospel reveals this expedient, and points out a way in which mercy and truth meet together; and his inflexible righteousness is displayed, in perfect harmony with the peace of sinners who submit to his appointment;'and thus God appears, not only gracious but just, in receiving them to favour. This is the greatest of all his works, and exhibits the most glorious discovery of his character and perfections. The means are answerable to the grandeur of the design, and are suminarily expressed in my text.

This supe

* Isa. lv. 8, 9.

I shall not take up your time with attempting to clear the difficulties which have been observed in the context. It may suffice for my purpose to affirm, that this passage expressly and exclusively refers to MESSIAH; for which iny warrant is, the authority of the evangelists Matthew

Judges vii. 19, 20.

and Luke*, who directly apply it to him, and assure us that it was accomplished in him. If sinners are to be saved, without injury to the honour of his law and government, (and otherwise they must perish,) two things are necessary.

1. That “ a virgin shall conceive, and bring forth a

son."

be a man.

II. That this son of the virgin shall have a just right to be called Immanuel, God with us.

1. “A virgin shall conceive, and bring forth a son.” The Mediator, the surety for sinful men, must himself

Because those whom he came to redeem were partakers of flesh and blood, he therefore took part of the same. Had not Messiah engaged for us, and appeared in our nature, a case would have occurred, which I think we may warrantably deem incongruous to the Divine Wisdom. I mean, that while fire and bail, snow and vapour, and the stormy wind fulfil the will of God; while the brutes are faithful to the instincts implanted in them by their Maker; a whole species of intelligent beings would have fallen short of the original law and design of their creation, and indeed have acted in direct and continual opposition to it. For the duty of man, to love, serve, and trust God with all his heart and mind, and to love his neighbour as himself, is founded in the very nature and constitution of things, and necessarily results from his relation to God, and his absolute dependence on him as a creature. Such a disposition must undoubtedly have been natural to man before his fall, as it is for a bird to fly, or a fish to swim. The prohibitory form of the law delivered to Israel from Mount Sinai, is a sufficient in

* Matt. i. 23.; Luke i. 31, 32.

I

VOL. IV.

timation that it was designed for sinners. Surely our first parents, while in a state of innocence, could not stand in need of warnings and threatenings to restrain them from worshipping idols, or profaning the name of the Great God whom they loved. Nor would it have been necessary to forbid murder, adultery, or injustice, if his posterity had continued under the law of their creation, the law of love. But the first act of disobedience degraded and disabled man, detached him from his proper centre, if I may so speak, and incapacitated him both for his duty and his happiness. After his fall it became impossible for either Adam or his posterity to obey the law of God. But Messiah fulfilled it exactly, as a man, and the principles of it are renewed, by the power of his grace, in all who believe on him. And though their best endeavours fall short, his obedience to it is accepted on their behalf; and he will at length perfectly restore them to their primitive order and honour. When they shall see him as he is, they will be like him, and all their powers and faculties will be perfectly conformed to his image.

Again, MESSIAH must not only be a man, but a partaker of our very nature. It had been equally easy to the power of God to have formed the body of the second Adam, as he formed the first, out of the dust of the earth. But though, in this way he would have been a true and perfect man, he would not have been more nearly related to us than to the angels. Therefore, when “God sent forth his Son to be made under " the law, to redeem us from the curse of the law, that

we might receive the adoption of children*,” and be re-admitted into his happy family," he was made of a woman.” Thus he became our Goel, our near kinsman, with whom the right of redemption lay.

* Gal. iv. 4, 5.

But further, if he had derived his human nature altogether in the ordinary way, from sinful parents, we see not how he could have avoided a participation in that defilement and depravity which the fall of Adam had entailed upon all his posterity. But his body, that holy thing, conceived and born of a virgin, was the immediate production of God. Therefore he was perfectly pure and spotless, and qualified to be such“ a high “priest as became us, holy, harmless, undefiled, and

separate from sinners* ;" who needed not, as the typical high priests of Israel, “ to offer up sacrifice, “ first for his own sin, and then for the sins of the “ peoplet.” These difficulties were obviated by a virgin's conceiving and bearing a son. His obedience was without defect, his nature without blemish, and having no sin of his own, when he voluntarily offered himself to make an atonement for the sins of his people, his sacrifice was, so far, answerable to the strict and extensive demands of the law and justice of God.

Let us make a solemn pause, and call upon our souls to admire and adore the wisdom and power of God in this appointment. Thus, “the Lord created a new

thing upon the earth!”

II. But surely our admiration and gratitude will be raised still higher, if we rightly understand the latter part of my text.

text. This son of the virgin shall be called “ Immanuel, God with us." Though the human nature of Christ was absolutely perfect, his obedience commensurate to the utmost extent of the law, and his substitution and sufferings for sinners voluntary; yet,

* Heb. vii. 26.

† Heb. vii. 27.

« PreviousContinue »