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truly awakened conscience. 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 bis 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 habitation 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 iniquity,' 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 you.'t But the source of this mercy is his sovereign love and purpose, to give the seed of the woman, his 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 with men.
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 bis 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 foreboding 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 gratitude, till then unknown, are felt;. and obstinate sinners are made a willing people in this day of divine power.'
3. The doctrine of the cross pours a light upon every subject and circumstance in which we are concerned. It enlarges the mind, and forms the judgment and taste, agreeable to the standard of truth, and the real nature of things. It rectifies those pre
. judices 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 boly angels,
* Rev. xvii. 2. 4 Ezek. xxxvi. 25, 26. | Isa, v. 20. VOL. III.
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 God.'* 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 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 hewing 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 bim, he will hear, and you shall receive your sight. If the grace and the glory of the Saviour have bitherto 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 are willing to seek him, he will be found of you. But if
But if you deliberately prefer darkness, your state is awfully dangerous ; and if you persist in your obstinacy, your ruin is unavoidable. God is gracious and long-suffering, but he will not be mocked. I 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 mnst either bend or break. The Lord forbid that
* Epb. iii. 10.
Col. i. 13.
| Gal. vi. 7.
he should say to any of you, in the great day of his appearance, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire !
CHARACTERS AND NAMES OF THE MESSIAH.
ISALAH, ix. 6.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given : and the government
shall be upon his shoulder : and 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 declaration of the faithful, unchangeable God, as already accomplished, though the actual performance respected a period, as yet, future 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 us a child is born, unto us a son is given : and the government shall be upon his shoulder,' &c.
This ancient song is still new. 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. Acts, xv. 10.
† Jer. ix. 23.
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 be 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. And yet, perhaps, they do not think so unfavourably of the rapture of Arcbiinedes, of whom it is related, that having suddenly discovered the solution of of a difficult problem, while he was bathing, he was so transported
a with joy, that he forgot his situation, sprung instantly from the bath, and ran through the streets crying, 'I have found it! I have found it! He is not usually charged with madness on this account, though the expression of his joy was certainly over-proportioned to the cause. The truth is, the world will allow of a vehemence approaching to ecstacy, on almost any occasion, but on that alone which, above all others, will justify it. A person who would be thought destitute of taste, if he was unaffected by the music to which this passage is set, wonld, at the same time, hazard his reputation for good sense, with some judges, if he owned himself affected by the plain meaning of the words. Incompetent judges, surely! who are pleased to approve of warmth and emotion of spirit, provided the object be trivial, and only condemn it in concerns of the greatest importance ! But, I trust, the character of my auditory is very different, and that the most of you desire to enter into the spirit of this passage, and to bave a more lively sense of your own interests in it. May the Lord grant your desire, and accompany our meditations upon it with his power and blessing!
Every clause in this passage might furnish subject for a long discourse ; but my plan will only permit me briefly to touch upon the several particulars, which will lead to a recapitulation or summary of what has been already considered more largely concerning the person, offices, and glory of Messiah. We have,
1. His incarnation. • Unto us a child is born ; in our nature, born of a woman : ' Unto us a son is given,' not merely a man-child, but, emphatically, a son, the son of God. This was the most precious gift, the highest proof and testimony of divine love. The distinction and union of these widely-distant natures, which constitute the person of Christ, the God-man, the Mediator, is, in the judgment and language of the apostle, the great mystery of godliness,'* the pillar and ground of truth. I shall
*1 Tim. iii. 16.
not repeat what I have already offered on this point in the fifth sermon. It is the central truth of revelation, which, like the sun, diffuses a light upon the whole system, no part of which can be rightly understood without it. Thus the Lord of all humbled himself, to appear in the form of a servant, for the sake of sinners. II. His exaltation. The government shall be upon his shoul
' der.' In our nature he suffered, and in the same nature he reigns. When he bad overcome the sharpness, the sting of death, he took possession of the kingdom of glory as his own, and opened it to all who believe in him. Now we can say, He wbo governs in heaven and on earth, and whom all things obey, is the child who was born, the son who was given for us.' Some subsequent passages will lead us, hereafter, to contemplate, more Jirectly, the glory of the Redeemer's administration in the kingdoms of providence and grace. At present, therefore, I shall only observe, that the exaltation of the Redeemer infers the dignity and security of the people who are united to him by faith. They have, in one respect, an appropriate honour, in which the angels cannot share. Their best friend, related to them in the same nature, is seated upon the throne of glory. Since he is for them, who can be against them? What may they not expect, when he who has so loved them as to redeem them with his own blood, has all power committed unto bim, both in heaven and on earth ! For,
III. The names and characters here ascribed to him, are not only expressive of what he is in himself, but of what he is engaged to be to them.
1. His name shall be called Wonderful.' In another place the word is rendered · Secret.'* It is true of liim in both senses, He is Wonderful in bis person, obedience, and sufferings ; in his grace, government, and glory. So far as we understand his name, the revelation by which, as by a name, be is made known, we may, we must believe, admire, and adore. But how limited and defective is our knowledge! His name is Secret. Who can,
by searching, find him out ?'t His greatness is incomprehensible, his wisdom untraceable, his fulness inexliaustible, his power infinite. “No one knoweth the Son, but the Father. But they bave a true, though not an adequate knowledge of him, who trust, love, und serve him ; and, in their view, he is Wonderful ! The apostle expresses the sentiment of their hearts, when he says,
Yea, doubtless, I count all things but loss and dung for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus the Lord.'
* Judges, xiii. 18.
f Job, xi. 7.