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if we neglect so great salvation?" Instead of this, they often seem to repel their flock to I know not what chilling distance, until, convinced of the misery in which they are to believe themselves involved by a law of which they have no clear record, and under which they can hardly be made to conceive how they have ever been placed, they burst through "the bounds set about the mount," and enter the camp of safety. The terrors of Divine wrath, I acknowledge, almost however denounced, and the merciful invitations of the Gospel, almost however addressed, are calculated to impress the guilty conscience of man, and attract his trembling soul; but I do think that that mercy and those terrors would be far more likely to be felt, were they drawn forth immediately from that dispensation under and in which we are manifestly living. The extraordinary success of the Moravian missionaries has been attributed, under the peculiar blessing of God, to an extension of the procedure which I would recommend, even beyond what might have been thought its natural boundary, the pale of the visible church. And if the savage Greenlander and Esquimaux might be told that they ought to embrace the religion of Christ, because they had been included in his redeeming love; may not those, who from their childhood have "called Jesus Lord," be most fitly exhorted, encouraged, or warned, by the motives which belong to "the household of faith?"
Let me not, however, be so understood as if I would altogether condemn inquiries after the natural duties and responsibilities of man. The Gospel of "repentance, and remission of sins," presupposes a moral law, against which all nations had offended; nor can we comprehend how "in Christ all should be made alive," unless we are previously aware that in "Adam all die." The "original and actual sins" of mankind, therefore, which CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 326.
were the occasion of the redemption of Christ, certainly require that to a certain extent the universal obligations of the moral law should be known and acknowledged. It is also unquestionably necessary, that whatever tendency to the Pharisaic system of self-dependence a minister may discover in his congregation, should be powerfully counteracted, and every soul made to feel, if possible, its absolute need of the Redeemer's expiation. It deserves, however, to be well considered, whether the course adopted by our Church be not the best for popular instruction. The capacity for metaphysical investigation is by no means common, and such inquiries are too often found to lead astray from sober practical truth. The Church, therefore, takes for granted our universal sinfulness and misery, calls us from our earliest years to Christ as our only possible Saviour, and enjoins us to " keep the commandments," not merely because they were once our duty, but because the Gospel itself makes them the indispensable evidences of our continuance in a state of salvation. Unless I am much deceived, the faithful exposition and enforcement of our moral duties according to this model, while it leaves little room for "doubtful disputations," will be found generally sufficient to produce conviction of sin, and preserve the soul in an humble dependence on the Saviour, For the satisfaction of philosophical minds, another method may be adviseable; but I have never seen, and the time is probably at no little distance when we may expect to meet, a parochial congregation of Christian philosophers.-I am aware, as I have already stated, that my views on this subject do not accord with those of many of esteemed Christian friends and brethren; but I trust you will consider the inquiry of such importance as to demand a place in your miscellany, and I shall be happy to weigh with impartiality and canM
dour any suggestions which may
FAMILY SERMONS.- --No. CCLII.*
Isaiah lii. 7.- How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that pub. lisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!
AMONG the events connected with the ancient church, there are few more remarkable than was the Babylonish captivity: and the unhappy condition of the Jewish people during that period is a subject of frequent notice in the sacred writings. To know that Jerusalem was laid waste, and the temple, which God had honoured with the special symbol of His presence, was utterly destroyed, must have been a source of deep affliction to every individual of that nation who venerated either the country or the religion of his fathers: and it was a natural effect of his depression, that he should sit down by the waters and weep; his harp hung upon the willows, himself incapable of singing in a strange land the songs of Zion.
To these captives the prophet here announces the tidings of deliverance. Anticipating the decree of Cyrus, which was in due time to restore them to their country, he speaks of that period as already arrived. In the visions of prophecy he contemplates the bearers of this intelligence as hastening over the mountains to proclaim it, and expresses his admiration at the sight. But in the deliverance of
The following discourse, with the exception of the last few lines, is taken from Mr. Dealtry's excellent sermon entitled "The Gospel Message ;" for a further notice of which, see our review department.
that people there is shadowed forth to us a greater event: and this passage is accordingly cited by St. Paul as applicable to the days of the Gospel; when to the Gentile, as well as to the Jew, should be proclaimed the message of redemption, and all nations should be invited to hear it.
We shall consider these words,
I. (1) The Gospel is represented,
To the captive Jew, this term
heart? There can be "no peace to the wicked." Suppose even that they never reflect upon the justice of God, and apprehend nothing . from His wrath; yet without the controul of a holy regulating principle, they will be continually harassed by conflicting passions; and life will wear away amidst troubles and distractions, from which they cannot escape. The Gospel it is, then, which speaks to us of peace. It points out to us the way of being reconciled to God by faith in Christ Jesus; by Him it gives the assurance of rest to our souls. He died to procure peace for us, and lives to bestow it: not such as the world giveth," a vain, and shadowy, and unsubstantial thing; but a solid and satisfying peace; a "peace which passeth all understanding."
This was the promise of our Lord to His disciples, in the last address which preceded his crucifixion. This was the subject of his first benediction to that little flock, after He had risen from the dead; "Peace be unto you."
(2) The Gospel is described, further, as a message of salvation.
Before the birth of the Messiah, it was announced by an angel of the Lord, that his name should be called Jesus, because He should "save His people from their sins:" He was to save them from the guilt and dominion of sin in this world, and from the consequences of it in the world to come;-from the guilt of sin, for by faith in Him the sinner is justified before God;-from the power of sin, for by the influence of the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts, sin shall not have dominion over us : "If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed;"-from the future consequences of sin, for "he that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; he shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life." Hence the salvation set before us in the Gospel is, in some important senses, a present salva
tion; commencing upon earth, carried forward in the progressive advancement of the true disciple of Christ by the sanctification of the Spirit, and consummated and perfected in that state, where temptation and suffering and death have no place, and happiness is unmixed and eternal. And for these blessings we are taught to look to a crucified Saviour; as "the propitiation for our sins," as "the Author and Finisher of our faith," the Source of our spiritual life, and the Giver of life eternal.
(3) The concluding clause of the passage represents the Gospel, yet further, as assuring those who cordially believe it of the constant protection of Divine Providence: "that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth."
We do not imagine that the pious Jew, even while in captivity, had any doubt of the Divine power, or questioned the existence of an over-ruling Providence: he was well persuaded, that "the Lord reigneth; that he doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and that none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest thou?" But where was the interposition of that Providence in the behalf of himself and his countrymen? God seemed to have rejected His people. The message, then, is meant to assure them, that they were not forgotten: "Thy God reigneth:" He is still thy God: He hath not forsaken or forgotten thee; He still regards thee as His peculiar people; and as the Governor of the world, He will yet exercise His power for the benefit of His church. He reigneth, and who shall withstand Him? Such, too, is the language of the Gospel. To Jesus Christ, the great Head of the church, that church "which He hath purchased with His own blood," is " given all power in heaven and in earth." He watches over it in its trials; He protects it in its dangers; and disposes of all
events with a view to its permanent of salvation in the full meaning of welfare. And to every faithful the term; let him be assured that member of His church has He given the promise of His abiding presence. In that single fact, as associated with the power of Christ, there is a ground of hope which may sustain his people amidst all the storms of this probationary state; an assurance that "all things shall work together for their good;" that they have a Saviour full of power, as he is full of love; and hence that "neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come," shall make void His promises, or separate them from His protection.
II. The delight expressed by the prophet, in announcing the glad tidings of the text, may be supposed to shew the feelings of all the children of the captivity, when they heard the intelligence of their free dom. But as he contemplated a liberty of a far more exalted and enduring character, than is the deliverance from worldly oppression, it is to this higher subject that he looked with peculiar delight; and to this his glowing language is chiefly to be ascribed.
And who can doubt that thus welcome will be the message of the Gospel to every man who has learned to take a right view of himself and his Saviour? Let him be taught by the Holy Spirit to appreciate his own character, to see the evil of sin, the multitude of his offences against God, his subjection to the great enemy of mankind the bondage of the soul-his utter inability to atone for his transgressions and to escape into a state of spiritual liberty, his total destitution of any plea, as derived from himself, which might avail to deliver him from the wrath to come, and to bring him into a state of reconciliation with his offended Maker let him then be directed to the love of God in Christ Jesus; let him hear the messengers of Christ publishing the glad tidings
to him is the Gospel sent, with the offer of present peace, of deliverance from eternal death, and the prospect and promise of eternal life ;-to such a man how acceptable would be the message! He would see the suitableness of this Gospel to his own case: he would discover in it a remedy for all his troubles, a refuge into which he might run and be safe. "How beautiful upon the mountains," he would be ready to exclaim, " are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings!" How little have I deserved that God should be thus merciful to me, a miserable sinner! that after all my ingratitude He should reveal himself as ready to forgive; and when I had so awfully exposed myself to His wrath, should, instead of casting me off for ever, condescend to offer me reconciliation with Himself, and admission into His kingdom! How soothing is this mes sage of peace! How welcome the promise of salvation! How animating to know, that He who reigneth in the heavens, is my "God for ever and ever, and that He will be my guide even unto death!”
We have reason indeed to believe, that from the period when the great subject of the Gospel dispensation was first announced, although then but partially understood, it has ever been the occasion of joy. The promise made to our first parents concerning the future Messiah, was expressly intended to give to them consolation, and to inspire them with hope: and the patriarch, who, probably by the intended sacrifice of his son upon one of the mountains of Moriah, was divinely enabled to look forward to the day of the Son of Man, "saw it," we are told, “and was glad." He beheld in that future period, a season of blessing to all the families of the earth. He believed in the Messiah for his own salvation: he rejoiced in contemplating him as the Saviour of the world.
If we pass onward to the time of Christ's appearance upon earth, with what words of exultation was His advent published by the heavenly host! by those who have never been at enmity with their Maker, and have nothing to fear from his justice or his wrath. Neither was this world-the world which so generally rejected him-without the testimony of a similar feeling. While Herod and Jerusalem were troubled at the news, there were some who, under the guidance of a heavenly light, travelled far to present to Him their homage; and when on their approach to Bethlehem, the star, which they had seen in the East, appeared again to conduct them, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy; they gladly hastened to pay to Him the first tribute of that adoration, which He was in due time to receive on the wider manifestation of his glory, when "all kings shall fall down before Him, all nations shall serve Him."
And if we extend our view beyond the confines of the world which now is, and ask what are the feelings with which this great subject is regarded in the world of bliss, we find that there it is the theme of universal praise, the common song of the innumerable company of saints and angels. We see not at this day, as we shall then see, the length and breadth and depth and height of that love, which has provided the means of reconciling the sinner unto God: we know not now, as we shall then know, what is comprehended in the terms peace and salvation, or the mighty benefits which we derive from His overruling providence: but even here it is permitted us to obtain some glimpses of that happiness which shall be the portion of the just made perfect," to know something of that "love which passeth knowledge," to catch some portion of that spirit which animates the inhabitants of the realms of light. And according to the degree in which our views are thus enlarged,
and we enter into the spirit of the Gospel, shall we be led to adopt the language of the Prophet, with feelings like his own: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!"
And here, in conclusion, the question may naturally be put by every one of us to his own consci. ence, "What is the reception which I have given to this Gospel? I profess to rejoice at these tidings: is this my real disposition? Have I received the message of peace into my heart, listening to it as a message from Heaven, believing it as the statement of eternal truth; and, by God's grace, having come to that Saviour whom it describes to me as 'the Way and the Truth and the Life, the only hope and refuge of the sinner, have I yielded myself to His service in the obedience of faith? Am I directed by His Spirit, and walking in His light?" Inquiries of this nature are of importance to every man who hears the record of the Gospel; to the minister as well as to his people: for "there is none other Name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved."
Let us then seriously lay the subject to heart. It is not a matter of indifference; it is our life. On our right knowledge and heartfelt reception of this Gospel of peace depends our eternal welfare. The time will soon arrive when it will be of no importance to us, whether we have been rich or poor, despised or esteemed, among men; but when we shall find it a point of infinite moment, whether we have known the way of salvation; whether we have availed ourselves of those means of grace,and become partakers of those hopes of glory, which are revealed to us in the Gospel of Christ. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" But unspeakably great and eternally lasting will be