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from a presumption that they were his pe- thority of the Old Testament were confirmed, culiar people, they despised and hated the and the wisdom, power, and providence of rest of mankind. It is not our present concern God, overruling and directing the contingenclosely to follow their history. Let it suffice cies of human affairs, to produce this grand to say that, by substituting a regard to the event in its determinate period, were displayletter of the law in the place of spiritual obe-ed to the highest advantage. And as the dience, and by presuming to multiply their state of the moral world made his presence own inventions and traditions,* and to hold highly necessary, so God, in due time, disthem no less binding than the positive com- posed the political state of mankind in such mands of God; they, by degrees, attained a manner as to prepare the way for a speedy to a pitch of impiety unknown to former and general publication of the gospel through times, and which was so much the more of the world. fensive and abominable, as it was covered It would be pleasing to consider how the with the mask of religion, and accompanied rise and fall and change of empires were with a claim to superior sanctity.
made successively subservient to introduce Pride, hypocrisy, and interest, divided them the kingdom of Jesus. But this would lead into sects; and the contests of each party for me beyond my present bounds. I can only superiority threw the state into frequent com- just hint at two or three events, which had a motions. Their intrigues at length brought more general influence. The first is, The upon them the Roman power. The city was rapid progress of Alexander, whose extentaken by Pompey; and though they after- sive'conquests, divided amongst his succeswards retained a shadow of liberty, their go- sors, laid the foundation of four powerful vernment was determined from that time by monarchies, and opened an intercourse bethe will of the conquerors. At length He- tween countries till then unknown to each rod, a foreigner, obtained it. In his reign other. By this means the Greek tongue beChrist was born.
came familiar and common to many nations ; Thus the state of mankind, before the and, soon after, the Hebrew scriptures were coming of Christ, proved, with the fullest translated into that -language, and the pro evidence, the necessity of his interposition. phecies concerning the Messiah were laid And, in the mean time, the world had not open to the Gentiles. To this may be added been left utterly helpless and hopeless. His the several dispersions of the Jews, who, future advent had been revealed from the upon various occasions, had been settled in beginning; and by faith in that revelation almost every considerable city under the a remnant had subsisted in every age, who heathen governments. By their traditions had triumphed over the general evil
, and and prophecies, imperfectly understood, a maintained the cause of God and truth. It general expectation had been raised of some was not necessary to the salvation of these, extraordinary deliverer, who would shortly that he should have been manifested sooner; appear. Lastly, by the growth of the Roman for they beheld his day afar off, and rejoiced empire, many nations and people, who were in his name. With respect to others, desti- before acquainted by means of one common tute of divine faith, his incarnation would language, became more closely united under have had the same effect at any period as it one dominion. Every province had a neceshad on multitudes who actually saw him in sary connection with Rome, and Rome was the flesh, but, offended with the meanness of the centre and resort of the greatest part of his circumstances, and the great honours he the then habitable world. vindicated to himself, rejected him with dis As to the Jews, many things concurred to dain.
animate their wishes and expectations of the But farther, the late appearance of Christ Messiah's approach. The prophecies were in the world gave room for the full accom- in their hands. Many of their wise men plishment of the prophecies concerning him, were apprised, that the term of seventy which had been repeated at different times, weeks, spoken of by Daniel, was drawing to with increasing clearness and precision; inso- a period. The sceptre seemed departing much that the time, place, and every circum- from Judah: they groaned under a foreign stance of his birth, life, and death, had been yoke, from which they vainly imagined the distinctly foretold. Thus the truth and au- Messiah would set them free, and give them,
in their turn, a temporal dominion over the
nations of the earth. Though this mistake * See one instance, Matt. „v. 5. The expression is prompted them to reject Christ, when he pect from me for your support, I have put out of my preached a deliverance unsuitable to their lemple." And teachers allowed this to be a legal ex: and eager for the appearance of the person own power; it is devoted to the service of God and the worldly notions, yet it made them solicitous priests and the temple, might treat his parents as he on whom their hopes were fixed. A few pleased. Thus they set aside the express command of amongst them, however, better instructed in God, by their own authority, and for their own pokvang the true meaning of the prophecies, were spirit has too onen appeared in the Christian church. secretly waiting in the exercises of faith and
prayer for the consolation of Israel, Luke We may describe the gospel to be "A ii. 3.
divine revelation in the person of Jesus From this general view of the moral and Christ, discovering the misery of fallen man political state of mankind, and the learling by sin, and the means of his complete reco designs of divine revelation and providence, very by the free grace of God, through faith, previous to the birth of Christ, we may con- unto holiness and happiness." The explanaclude, that the time fixed on from before the tion and proof of these particulars, from our foundation of the world, for his actual exhi- Lord's express declarations, and the tenor of bition ainongst men, was not an arbitrary, his conduct, will sufficiently point out the but a wise and gracious appointment; a de- principal marks and characters of his gospel. terinination admirably suited to place the But, before we enter upon this, two things most important truths in the strongest light. may be premised. In this way the depravity, misery, and help 1. Though I confine myself to the writings lessness of man, the mercy of God, and the of the evangelists in this disquisition, yet it truth of the scriptures, were unquestionably should be remembered, that whilst our Lord proved to all succeeding times. The neces was visibly conversant with men, he did not sity of a Saviour was felt and acknowledged; ordinarily discover the whole system of his and the suitableness, all-sufficiency, and con- doctrine in express terms. He spoke to the descension of Jesus, when he undertook and multitude, for the most part, in parables, accomplished the great designs in which his (Matt. xii. 10, 11,) and was not forward to love engaged him, were more strongly illus- proclaim himself the Messiah upon every trated by the preceding contrast. He knew occasion, Matt. xvi. 20. And even in his the whole human race were sinners, rebels, more intimate discourses with his disciples enemies against God. He knew the terms, (John xvi. 12—25,) he taught them with a the price of our redemption, that he must wise and gracious accommodation to their obey, suffer, weep, and die. Yet he came. circumstances and weakness.* The full exHe emptied himself of his glory and honour, planation of many things he referred to the and took on him the form of a servant, to time when, having accomplished his wish, bring the glad tidings of salvation to men. In and returned victorious and triumphant into effect, the gospel of Christ soon appeared to heaven, he should send down, according to be the great desideratum, and completely re- his promise, the Holy Spirit, to enlighten dressed the evils which philosophy had given and comfort his people. Then, and not beup as desperate. The genius and character- fore, they fully understood the meaning of istic marks of this gospel will be considered all they had seen and heard while he was in the following chapter.
with them, Mark ix. 10; John ii. 22.
2. The doctrine of the gospel is not like a mathematical problen), which conveys pre
cisely the same degree of truth and certainty CHAPTER II.
to every one that understands the terms. If
so, all believers would be equally enlightThe Character and Genius of the Gospel, ened, who enjoy the common privilege of as taught and exemplified by Christ. the written word. But there is, in fact, an
amazing variety in this respect. Where this A SUCCINCT history of the life of our Lord doctrine is truly understood, though in the and Saviour is no part of our plan. This the lowest degree, it inspires the soul with a inspired evangelists have performed with the supreme love to Jesus, and a trust in him for highest advantage and authority; and their salvation. And those who understand it best, writings (through the mercy of God) are ge- have not yet received all the evidence, comnerally known and read in our own tongue. fort, and influence from it, which it is capable It will be sufficient for me to select a few of affording. The riches of grace and wispassages from them, to explain and confirm dom in this dispensation are unsearchable the several points I have proposed to treat of (Eph. iii. 8,) and immense, imparted in difin this book, as principles whereon to ground ferent measures, and increased from time to our observations on the spirit and conduct of time, according to the good pleasure (1 Cor. aftertimes.
xii. 11,) of the Spirit of God, who furnishes At present I propose to state the true cha- his people with light and strength proporracier and genius of his doctrine. This may seem a digression from my main design. But as I shall often have occasion to speak of the lege advanced as the light, or according to his own
* Our Lord taught his disciples gradually; their know. gospel, and the opposition it has met with, it beautiful simile) first the blade, then the ear; first green will not be improper, in the first place, to ex- corn, then fully ripe. He considered their dificulties,
he made allowances for their intirinities. It is to be hibit a general idea of what we mean by the wished his example was followed by all who teach in gospel, especially as the professed followers his name. Some are so hasty, they expect to teach to of Christ have been, and still are, not a little others, in ope discourse or interview, all that they have
attained themselves by the study and experience of divided upon the point.
tioned to their exigences, situation, and the my Father which is in heaven,” Matt. xvi. services or trials he calls them to; not with- 16, 17. If Peter could read, and had the out respect to the degree of their diligence, scriptures to peruse, these were advantages obedience, and simplicity, in waiting upon derived from Aesh and blood, from his birth, him. For these reasons, it is not to be expect- parents, and teachers; advantages which the ed, that every one who serves God with his Scribes and Pharisees, our Lord's most invespirit in the gospel of his Son, should have ex- terate enemies, enjoyed in common with him. actly the same views of this sublime subject. The difference lay in a revelation of the truth Neither do I presume to think myself capa- to his heart. As it is said in another place, ble of displaying it in its full light and beauty. “Thou hast hid these things from the wise I desire, therefore, to write with candour, and prudent, and revealed them unto babes."* and entreat a candid perusal, as conscious of 2. It is a revelation in the person of Jesus my infirmities, and the imperfections neces- Christ. As a revelation, it stands distinguishsarily attending the human mind, in this ed from all false religions; and as revealed in present state of things. Yet I am not afraid the person of Jesus, it is distinguished from to express my just confidence, that I shall all former dispensations of the true God, advance no principle, as a part of the gospel- who, in time past, had spoken by the prodoctrine, which does not assuredly belong phets, but was pleased in those last days to to it.
speak unto us by his Son. The law was I now proceed to explain and confirm the given by Moses, both to enforce the necessity definition I have given of the gospel. of a universal sinless obedience, and to point
1. It is a divine revelation, a discovery of out the efficacy of a better Mediator; but truths, which, though of the highest moment, grace and truth, grace answerable to the siricould have been known no other way. That ner's guilt and misery, and truth, and the God will forgive sin, is beyond the power of full accomplishment of all its typical services, unassisted reason to prove. The prevailing came by Jesus Christ. All the grand pecucustom of sacrifices, is indeed founded upon liarities of the gospel, centre in this point, the such a hope; but this practice was, without constitution of the person of Christ, Col. ii. doubt, derived from revelation, for reason 3, 9; John xvii. 3. In the knowledge of could not have suggested such an expedient. him standeth our eternal life. And though And those among the Heathens, whether our Lord, on some occasions, refused to anpriests or philosophers, who spoke of forgive- swer the captious questions of his enemies, ness of sin, knew but little what sin was. and expressed himself so as to leave his hearRevelation was needful to discover sin, in its ers in suspense, yet at other times, he clearly true nature and demerit; and where this is asserted his own just rights and honours, and known, the awakened and wounded con- proposed himself as the supreme object of science is not easily persuaded, that a just love, trust, and worship, the fountain of grace and holy God will pardon iniquity; so like- and power, the resurrection, life, and happiwise the immortality of the soul, after all the ness of all believers. fine things said upon the subject, remained That he vindicated to himself those characa problematical point among the Heathens. ters and prerogatives which incommunicably Their best arguments, though conclusive to belong to God, is evident from the texts reus, were not so to themselves. When they ferred to. He was a judge of the thoughts laid aside their books, and returned to the and intents of the heart, (Matt. ix. 2, 3;) common affairs of life, they forgot the force he forgave sins; he adopted the style of Suof their own demonstrations.* But the gospel preme Majesty :t his wonderful works were of Christ is an express, complete, and infal- proof of an almighty power; he restored lible revelation, as he himself often assured sight, health, and life, with a word; (Matt. his hearers, John vii. 16, and viii. 26. viii
. 3, 9, 30; John iv. 53;) he controlled And as the subject matter of the gospel the elements, (Matt. xiv. 25; Mark iv. 39,) contained in the New Testament is a revela- and showed himself Lord of quick and dead, tion from God, so it is only by a divine reve- angels, and devils, (John xi. 25, 44; Luke lation, that what is there read or heard, can be truly understood. This is an offensive
* That babes should be admitted to this knowledge, assertion, but must not be omitted when the and express a certainty, where the wise are all per question is concerning the marks and charac- plexity and darkness, is extremely mortifying to hiters of Christ's doctrine. Thus when Peter man pride. But are not these the words of Christ? How
arrogant, how dangerous, inust it be to be displeased made that noble confession, “ Thou art Christ, with that dispensation at which he rejoiced! the Son of the living God,” our Lord answers, “ Blessed art thou Simon, for flesh God dare use these words ? God, in the strict sense, is
hath seen my Father." Which of all the creatures of and blood hath not revealed this to thee, but invisible and inaccessible; but he communicates with
his creatures, through Christ bis Son, without w hou
he cannot be seen, or known at all. We cannot enjoy * Cicero frankly confesses this: "Nescio quomodo, any spiritual, clear, and comfortable views of God, un dum lego, assentior; cum posui librum, et mecuin ipse less our thoughts fix upon the Man Christ Jesus; he is de immortalitate animorum cæpi eogitare, assentio on the door and the vail to the holy of holies; and there is nis illa elabiture.Tuse. Qæst. lib. I.
no cording to the Father by any other way.
† John viii. 38; xiv. 9.
" He that hath seen
iv. 34; Matt. iv. 11, 26, 53;) and both would lay upon him the iniquities of us all; his enemies and his friends understood his that he was to be wounded for our transgresclaim. The Jews attempted to stone him for sions, and by his stripes we should be healed. making himself equal to God (John v. 18; Here then we see the manifold wisdom of X. 33;) and he received from Thomas the God; his inexpressible love to us commendmost express and solemn ascription of deity ed, his mercy exalted, in the salvation of sinthat can be offered from a creature to his ners; his truth and justice vindicated, in the Creator, John xx. 28.
full satisfaction for sin exacted from the Yet all this glory was veiled. The Word Surety ; his glorious holiness, and opposition was made flesh: he assumed the human na- to all evil; and his invariable faithfulness to ture, and shared in all its infirmities, sin ex- his threatenings and his promises. Consicepted. He was born of a woman; he pass- dered in this light, our Saviour's passion is ed through the states of infancy, childhood, the most momentous, instructive, and comand youth, and gradually increased in wis- fortable theme that can afiect the heart of dom and stature, Luke ii. 52. He was often, man. But if his substitution and proper yea, always afflicted; he endured hunger, atonement are denied, the whole is unintelthirst, and weariness; (Mark xi. 12; John iv. ligible. We can assign no suflicient reason 6, 7;) he sighed, he wept, he groaned, he why a person of his excellence was abandoned bled, he died; (Mark vii. 34; John xi. 35, 38; to such miseries and indignities: nor can we Luke xxii. 44;) but, amidst all, he was spot- account for that agony and distress which less and undefiled. He repelled the tempta- seized him at the prospect of what was tions of Satan, (Matt. iv. 1, 10;) he appealed coming upon him. It would be highly into his most watchful enemies for his integ- jurious to his character to suppose he was rity; he rendered universal, unceasing obe- thus terrified by the apprehension of death or dience to the will of God, and completely bodily pain, when so many frail and sinful fulfilled the whole law, John viii. 46; xiv. men have encountered death, armed with 30; xvii. 4. In him the perfection of wisdom the severest tortures, with far less emotion. and goodness shined forth. He burned with Here, as in a glass, we see the evil of sin, love to God, with compassion to men; a com- and the misery of man. The greatness of passion which he freely extended to the most the disorder may be rationally inferred from necessitous, and the most unworthy. He the greatness of the means necessary to rereturned good for evil, wept for his enemies, move it. Would we learn the depth of the (Luke xix. 41,) prayed for his murderers, fall of man, let us consider the depth of the Luke xxiii. 34. Such was his character, a humiliation of Jesus to restore him. Behold divine person in the human nature, God the beloved of God, perfectly spotless and manifest in the flesh, 1 Tim. iii. 16. And holy, yet made an example of the severest from this union, all he did, and all he said, vengeance; prostrate and agonizing in the derived a dignity, authority, and efficacy, garden; enduring the vilest insults from which rendered him every way worthy to be wicked men; torn with whips, and nails, the Teacher, Exemplar, Lord, and Saviour and thorns; suspended naked, wounded, and of mankind.
bleeding upon the cross, and there heavily 3. In the person and sufferings of Christ, complaining that God had, for a season, forthere is at once a discovery of the misery of saken him. Sin was the cause of all his fallen man, and the means of his complete anguish. He stood in the place of sinners; recovery. It has already been observed, that and therefore was not spared. Not any, or the full explication of these truths was defer- all the evils which the world has known, red till after his resurrection; and the subse-afford such proof of the dreadful effects, and quent writings of his apostles are useful to detestable nature of sin, as the knowledge give us a complete view of the cause, design, of Christ crucified. Sin had rendered the and benefits of his passion. At present we case of mankind so utterly desperate, that confine ourselves to his own words. He fre- nothing less than the blood and death of quently taught the necessity and certainty Jesus could retrieve it. If any other expeof his sufferings, (Matt. xvi. 21; xx. 29 ;) he dient could have sufficed, his prayer, that spoke of them as the great design of his in- the bitter cup might pass from him, would carnation, that it was by this means he should surely have been answered. But what his draw all unto himself, (John xii. 32; 17;) enemies intended as the keenest reproach that he was, on this account, especially, the his redeemed people will for ever repeat as object of his Father's complacency, because the expression of his highest praise : “He he voluntarily substituted himself to die for saved others, himself he cannot save,” Luke his people. He enforced the necessity of xxiii. 35, Justice would admit no inferior believing on him in this view, (John iii. atonement: love would not give up the cause 14-18;) and applied to himself the prophe- of fallen ruined man. Being therefore detercies of the Old Testament, (Luke xxiv. 25-mined to save others, he could not, consistent27; Isa. liii.) which speak to the same pur- ly with this gracious design and undertakpose. Isaiah had foretold, that the Lord (ing, deliver himself,
Again, the means and certainty of a salva- is necessary, therefore, to confirm it by proofs tion proportioned to the guilt and misery of which cannot be evaded by any who profess sinners, and a happiness answerable to the to acknowledge him to be a teacher sent utmost capacity of the soul of man, are reveal- from God. ed in the same astonishing dispensation of di He was daily conversant with many who vine love. When Jesus was baptized, he was were wise and righteous in their own eyes; pointed out by a voice from heaven: “This and we find he omits no opportunity to expose is my beloved Son, in whom (or for whose and condemn their pretensions. He spake sake) I am well pleased," Matt. iii. 17. He one parable purposely to persons of this afterwards proclaimed his own authority and stamp, (Luke xviii. 9-14,) and describes a sufficiency, that all things were delivered in- Pharisee boasting of his observance of the law: to his hands, and invited every weary, heavy- He paid tithes, he fasted, he prayed; he was laden soul to seek to him for refreshment not chargeable with adultery or extortion ; and peace, Matt. xi. 27–29. He gave the he could say more for himself than many most express assurances that whoever applied can who affect to be thought religious; but to him should in no case be rejected, John vi. the poor publican (though despicable in his 37. He mentioned his death and sufferings sight,) who, conscious of his unworthiness, (John xii. 32, 33,) as the principal circum- durst not lift up his eyes to heaven, but smote stance that should engage the hearts, and upon his breast, and cried for mercy, was in confirm the hopes of sinners. He gave re- a happier and safer condition than the other peated promises, that those who believe in with all his boasted obedience. him shall never perish, (John x. 38;) that Another remarkable instance is that of the neither force nor fraud should frustrate his ruler (Matt. xix. 16, Luke xviii. 18,) who intentions in their favour; that after his as- accosted our Lord in a respectful manner, cension, he would send the Holy Spirit (John asking him, What he should do to inherit xvi. 7, 13, 14,) to supply his bodily presence; eternal life? His address was becoming: his and that his power, grace, and providence, inquiry seemed sincere; and the character he should be with his people to the end of the gave of himself was such as men, who see world, (Matt. xxviii
. 20:) finally, that he not the heart, might have judged exemplary would manage their concerns in heaven, and praise-worthy. When our Lord refer(John xiv. 3, 13, 14,) and at length return red him to the precepts of the law, he answerto take them to himself, that they might be ed that he had kept them all from his youth. with him for ever, to behold, and to share his Yet one thing, we read, was wanting. What glory.
could this one thing be, which rendered so 4. In this revelation, God has illustriously fair a character of no value? We may collect displayed the glory of his free grace. The it from the event. He wanted a deep sense miserable and guilty, who find themselves of his need of a Saviour. If he had been without either plea or hope, but what the possessed of this one thing, he would willinggospel proclaims by Christ, are invited with ly have relinquished all to follow Jesus. But, out exception, and received without condi- ignorant of the spirituality of the law, he tion. Though they have been the vilest of-trusted to a defective obedience: and the love fenders, they are freely accepted in the Be- of the world prevailing in his heart, he chose loved; and none of their iniquities shall be rather to part with Christ than with his posremembered any more; on the contrary, the sessions. most respectable characters amongst men are On the other hand, how readily our Lord declared to be of no avail in point of accept- received sinners, notorious sinners, who were ance with God; but, in this respect, all the vile to a proverb, appears from the remarkarace of Adam are upon equal terins, and ble account given by St. Luke (chap. vii. 37,) must be involved in the same ruin, without of a woman whose character had been so inan absolute dependence on the great Media- famous, that the Pharisee wondered that tor. This is an illustrious peculiarity of the Jesus could permit her to touch him. But gospel, which the proud fallen nature of man though a great sinner, she found great forcannot but resist and find fault with, till the giveness; therefore she loved much, and wept conscience is truly affected with the guilt much.* She had nothing to say for herselt; and demerit of sin. The whole tenor of our but Jesus espoused her cause, and pronounced Saviour's ministry was suited to depreciate her pardon. He likewise silenced the proud the most specious attainments of those who caviller by a parable, that sweetly illustrates trusted in themselves that they were righte- the freeness and genuine effect of the grace ous, and to encourage all who felt and con- of God, which can only be possessed or prized fessed themselves to be miserable sinners: by those who see they must perish without it. Parcere subjectis, et deballare superbos. This was a chief cause of the opposition he
* She washed his feet with tears; mesto @pimour, she met with in his own person, and has awaken- began to rain tears upon his feet: her lead was waters. ed the hatred and dislike of the bulk of and her eyes fountains: to receive a free pardon of many
sins, a pardon bought with blood, -it is this causes the mankind against his doctrine ever since. It heart to melt, and the eyes to tlow.