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government, and civilization. Neither the vigilant
education and rigorous discipline prescribed in some
ancient states, nor the circumspection and mortifica-
tion learned in some ancient schools, were able to
cleanse the heart of any one individual from every
kind of defilement, or to maintain a life, in all re-
spects blameless. And, whatever remedy the pro-
gress of improvement may be conceived to have ap-
plied to the other evils which proceed from sin, there
is one standing memorial of its power, which defies
the wit and the strength of man. None can deliver
his own soul, or the soul of his brother from death.
*' It is appointed unto all men once to die." * But
death is represented in the Scriptures as the fruit of
sin ; and therefore the continuance of death is one of
those practical lessons which the Almighty often ad-
ministers, which is independent of speculation, but,
being by its nature a strong confirmation of the dis-
coveries that are made, is sufficient to teach all who
receive the Scriptures, that the transaction to which
they ascribe the introduction of death, has not ex-
hausted all its force.

The Gospel then pi'oceeds upon a fact, which was
not created by the revelation, but would have been
true, although the Gospel had not appeared, that
that part of the reasonable offspring of God who in-
habit this earth are sinners, and that their efforts to
extricate themselves out of this condition had prov-
ed ineffectual. But sin is repugnant to our moral

* Hcb. ix 27.


feelings, and excites our abhorrence. How much
more odious must it appear in the sight of Him,
whom natural religion and the declarations of Scrip-
ture teach us to consider as infinitely holy ! We see
only a small j)ortion of human wickedness. But
all the demerit of every individual sinner, and the
whole sum of iniquity committed throughout the
earth, are continually present to the eyes of Him
with whose nature they are most inconsistent. The
sins of men are transgressions of the law given them
by their Creator, an insult to his authority, a vio-
lation of the order which he had established, a di-
minution of the happiness which he had spread over
his works. It is unknown to us what connexions
there are amongst different parts of the universe.
But it is manifest that no government can subsist
if the laws are transgressed with impunity. It is
very conceivable that the other creatures of God
might be tempted to disobedience, if the transgres-
sions of the human race received no chastisement.
And therefore, as every temptation to disobey laws
which bring peace to the obedient, is really an in-
troduction to misery, it appears most becoming the
Almighty, both as the Ruler and the Father of the
universe, to execute his judgments against the hu-^
man race. Accordingly the Scriptures record many
awful testimonies of the divine displeasure with sin ;
and they represent the whole world as the children
of wrath, guilty before God, and under the curse,
because they are the children of disobedience. It is
not in the nature of repentance to avert those evils
which past transgressions had deserved. But we
have seen that men were unable to forsake their
sins ; and M^e cannot form a conception of any mode,


consistent with the honour and the great objects of
the divine government, by which a creature who
continues to transgress the divine laws, can stop the
course of that punishment, which is the fruit of his

In this situation, when the reasonings of nature
fail, and every appearance in nature conspires to
show that hope is presumptuous, the revelation of
the Gospel is fitted by its peculiar character to en-
lighten and revive the human mind. We there
learn that God, who is rich in mercy, moved by
compassion for the work of his hands, for the great
love wherewith he loved the world, conceived a plan
for delivering the children of Adam from that sin
and misery out of which they were unable to extri-
cate themselves.* Having foreseen, before the
foundation of the world, that they would yield to
the temptation of an evil spirit, and abuse that li-
berty which forms an essential part of their nature,
he comprehended in the same eternal counsel a pur-
pose to create, and a purpose to save, f Immediate-
ly after the transgression of the first man there was
some discovery of the gracious plan. At the same
time that a curse is pronounced upon the ground,
and death is declared to be the punishment of sin,
there is an intimation of future deliverance in these
words : *' I will put enmity between thee and the
woman, and between thy seed and her seed ; it shall
bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel."t
The promise was unfolded, and the plan gradually

* Ephes. ii. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Rom. iii. 19 ; v. 12. Gal. iii. 10, 22,
Col. iii. 5, 6, 7.

+ Ephes. iii. 11. + Gen. iii. 15.


opened tlirough a succession of dispensations, all
conspiring in their place to produce the fulness of
time, when the j)]an was executed by the manifesta-
tion of that glorious person whom prophecy had
announced. The light of nature does not give any
notice of the existence of this 2)erson. But as the
importance of the office which he executed renders
his character most interesting to the human race,
the Scriptures declare that he was with God in the
beginning, that he had glory with the Father before
the world was, that by him God made the worlds,
that he was God, but that veiling his glory, although
he could not divest himself of the nature of God, he
was born in a miraculous manner, was made in the
likeness of men, took part of flesh and blood, and
dwelt with those whom he is not ashamed to call his
brethren.* The purpose for which this extraordi-
nary messenger visited the earth, was declared by
the angel who announced the singular manner of his
birth : " Thou shalt call his name Jesus ; for he
shall save his people from their sins."f John his
forerunner thus marked him out : " Behold the
Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the
world." I He said of himself, " I am come to call
sinners to repentance ; to give my life a ransom for
many."§ And the charge which he gave to his
apostles, and which they executed in all their dis-
courses and writings, M^as this, that repentance and
remission of sins should be preached in his name
amongst all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. || These

* John i. ], 2, 3, li; xvii. 5. Heb. i. 2; ii. 14. riiil. ii. 6,
7- Luke i. 26 — 3S.

t Matth. i. 21. + John i. 2.0.

§ Matth. ix. 1," ; XX. 28. I Luke xxiv. 47-


expressions imply that the jjeculiarity of the Jewish
state was conckided by the appearance of this pro-
phet, and that the benefit of his manifestation was
to extend to all nations. The same expressions im-
ply also that the natnre of that benefit was accom-
modated to what we have found the situation of
mankind to require. In fulfilment of that character
of a Saviour which he assumed, he not only taught
men the will of God by precept and by example, un-
folded that future state in which they are to receive
according to the deeds done in the body, and en-
forced the practice of righteousness by every motive
addressed to the understanding and the affections,
but he voluntarily submitted to the most grievous
sufferings, and the most cruel death, as the method
ordained in the counsel of heaven for procuring their
deliverance from sin. There is no mode of expres-
sion that we can devise, which is not employed by
Scripture to convey this conception, that the death
of Christ was not barely a confirmation of the truth
of Christianity, an example of disinterested benevo-
lence and of heroic virtue, but a true sacrifice for
sin, offered by him to God the Father, in order to
avert the punishment which the sins of men deserv-
ed, and to render it consistent with the character of
the Deity and the honour of the divine laws, to for-
give men their trespasses. " I am the good shep-
herd," says Jesus ; " the good shepherd giveth his
life for the sheep."* " God hath set him forth to
be a propitiation through faith in his blood to de-
clare his righteousness for the remission of sins that
are past."f " We are redeemed with the precious

* John X. 11. t Rom. iii. 25.


blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and
without spot.*'* The natural conclusion which any
person, whose mind is not warped by a particular
system, will draw from these and numberless other
expressions of the same kind, is this, that as the
scheme for the deliverance of the human race ori-
ginated from the love of God the Father, so it was
accomplished by the instrumentality of that person,
who is called in Scripture the Son of God.

As the effect of this instrumentality is clearly de-
clared in Scripture, so it is analogous to one part of
the divine procedure which we have often occasion
to observe. The whole course of human affairs is
carried on by alternate successions of wisdom and
folly. Evils are incurred, and they are remedied.
The good affections or the generosity of some are
employed to retrieve the faults or the misfortunes of
others : and the condescension and zeal, with which
the talents of an exalted character are exerted in
some cause which did not properly belong to him,
are often seen to restore that order and happiness
which the extravagance of vice appeared to have de-
stroyed. The dispensation revealed in the Gospel is
the same in kind with these instances, although in-
finitely exalted above them in magnificence and ex-
tent. We see there sin and misery entering into
the world by the transgression of one man, the ef-
fects spreading through the whole race, and the re-
medy brought by the generous interposition of a
person who had no share in the disaster, whose
power of doing good was called forth purely by com-
passion for the distressed, and, in opposition to all

* ] Pot. i, 18, 19.


the obstacles raised by an evil spirit, was exerted
with perseverance and success, in removing the de-
formity and disorder which he had introduced into
the creiition. " For this purpose the Son of God
was manifested, that he might destroy the works of
the devil."* " He took part of flesh and blood, that
through death he might destroy him that had the
power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver them
who through fear of death were all their life-time
subject to bondage."!

That the interposition of the Son of God was ef-
fectual in promoting the purpose for which it was
made, and that his death did really overcome that
evil spirit, who is styled the prince of this world, ^
was declared by his resurrection, and by the gifts
which in fulfilment of his promise were sent upon
his apostles after his ascension. § This is the Scrip-
ture proof, " that Jesus is able to save to the utter-
most all that come to God byhim."|| So speaks
Peter in one of his first sermons.^ " The God of
our Fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and
hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his
right hand, to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give
repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And
we are his witnesses of these things ; and so is the
Holy Ghost, Avhom God hath given to them that
obey him," i. e. Our testimony of his resurrection,
confirmed by the witness of the Holy Ghost, is the
evidence that God hath exalted him to be a Saviour.
He is now, by the appointment of God, the dispenser

* 1 John ill. 8. t Heb. ii. 14, 15.

X John xiv. 30. § Rom. i. 4. Acts ii. 32, 33.

II Heb. vii. 25. H Acts v. 30^32.


of those blessings which he died to purchase ; * the
Mediator of the new covenant, which was sealed by
his blood, and which is established upon better pro-
mises, f of the fulfilment of which we receive perfect
assurance from the power that is given to him in
heaven and in earth. | Pardon, grace, and consola-
tion, flow from him as their proprietor, who hath
acquired by his sufferings the right of distributing
gifts to men. § " Being justified by his blood, we
have peace with God, and access to the Father
through him." || He is now the advocate of his
people,^ who appears in the presence of God for
them ;** " who ever lives to make intercession,"! [•
and by whom their prayers and services are render-
ed acceptable, ^l He directs the course of his Pro-
vidence, so as to promote their welfare, not by
abolishing the present consequences of sin, but by
rendering them medicinal to the soul:^^^ and death,
which is still allowed to continue as a standing
memorial of the evil of sin, shall at length be de-
stroyed by the working of his mighty power,
which is able to quicken the bodies that had been
mingled with the dust of the earth. || || " I am,"
says he, " the resurrection and the life."^^ " The
hour is coming, in the which all that are in the
graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and

* Heb. xii. 2. t Heb. viii. 4; ix. 12, 15.

X Matth. xxviii. 18. § Ephes. iv. 8.

II Rom. V. 1, 2, 9, 11. Eph. ii 18. If 1 John ii. 1.

** Heb. ix. 24. ft Rom. viii. 34.

iX Rev. viii. 3, 4. §§ Rom. viii. 28.

nil Phil. iii. 21. If II John ii. 25.


shall come forth."* " Power is given him over all
ilesh, that he may give eternal life to as many as he
will."! And the crown of life that shall be confer-
red at the last day upon those for whom it is pre-
pared, is represented in Scripture not as a recom-
pense which they have earned, but as the gift of God
through him. " The waeres of sin is death ; but
eternal life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ
our Lord.":]:

In this manner the blessings which that divine
Person who interposed for the salvation of mankind
is able to bestow, imply a complete deliverance from
the evils of sin. " As through one man's offence,
death reigned by one, so they who receive abund-
ance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, shall
reign in life by one Jesus Christ."^

Hitherto we have confined our attention to the
interposition of that Person, who appeared upon
earth to save his people fi'om their sins. But we
are introduced in the gospel to the knowledge of a
third Person, who concurs in the salvation of man-
kind ; who proceedeth from the Father, who is sent
by the Son as his Spirit, 1| whose power is spoken of
in exalted terms, ^[ to whom the highest reverence is
challenged,** and who, in all the variety of his
operations, is one and the self-same Spirit, dividing
to every one severally as he will.f f One God and
Father of all is known by the works of nature : the
Son of God is made known by revelation, because
the world which he had made stood in need of his

* John V. 28, 29. t John xvii. 2. | Rom. vi. 23.

§ Rom. V. 17. II John xv. 26. ^ Acts iv. 31, 33.

Rom. viii. II, 26". 2 Cor. iii. 17, 18. ** Heb. ix. II; x. 20.

tt 1 Cor. xii. 4—11.
A'OL. I. 2 A


interposition to redeem it : and the Sjiirit is made
known by the same revelation, because the benefits
of this redemption are applied through his agency.
Our knowledge in this way grows with our necessi-
ties. We learn how inadequate our faculties are to
comprehend the divine nature, when we see such
important discoveries superinduced upon the inves-
tigations of the most enlightened reason. And we
learn also that the measures of knowledge, which
the Father of Spirits sees meet to communicate, are
not intended to amuse our minds with speculation,
and to gratify curiosity, but are immediately con-
nected with the grounds of our comfort and hope.
They comprehend all that is necessary for us in our
present circumstances. But they may be far from
exhausting the subject revealed : and from the very
great addition which the revelation of the Gospel has
made to our knowledge, it is natural for us to infer
that creatures in another situation, or we ourselves
in a more advanced state of being, may see distinct-
ly many things, which we now in vain attempt to
penetrate. The mode in which the Son and the
Spirit subsist, and the nature of their connexion
with the Father, however mvich they have been the
subject of human speculation, are nowhere revealed
in Scripture. But the offices of these persons, being
of infinite importance to us, are revealed with such
hints only of their nature, as may satisfy us that
they are qualified for these offices.

We have seen the office of the Son in the redemp-
tion of the world, the right which he acquired by
his perfect obedience and suffi^ring to dispense the
blessings of his purchase. It is in the dispensation
of these blessings that the office of the Spirit ap-


pears. This office commenced from the earliest
times : " For he spake by the mouth of all the holy
prophets, who prophesied, since the world began, of
the sufferings of Christ, and of the glory that should
follow."* To his agency the miraculous conception
of the Son of Man is ascribed, f He descended upon
Jesus at his baptism :| he was given to him with-
out measure during his ministry ; ^ and after his
ascension he was manifested in the variety and ful-
ness of those gifts which distinguished the first
preachers of Christianity. || But all these branches
of the office of the Spirit, so necessary for confirm-
ing the truth, and for diffusing the knowledge of the
Christian religion, were only the pledges of those
ordinary influences, by which the same Divine Per-
son continues in all ages to apply the blessings
which are thus revealed.

The ordinary influences of the Spirit are repre-
sented in Scripture as opposed to all those circum-
stances in the present condition of human nature*
which indispose men for receiving such a religion as
the Gospel. Thus you read, that " the natural
man receiveth not the things of God ; they are
foolishness to him, because they are spiritually dis-
cerned."^ But the spirit of wisdom and revelation
is given to Christians, that " the eyes of their un-
derstanding being enlightened, they may know what
is the hope of their calling."** You read, that
*' the carnal mind is enmity against God, and can-
not be subject to his law : But they that are led by

* 1 Pet. i. 11. t Luke i. 35. X Luke iii. 2-2.

§ John iii. 34. || Acts ii. 4. IT 1 Cor. ii. 14,

** Ephes. i. 17, 18.


the Spirit, mind the things of the Spirit."* You
read of a complacency in their own righteousness,
which prevents many from submitting themselves to
the righteousness of God.f But the Spirit casts
down every high thought which exalteth itself.^

In all this there is nothing contrary to the rea-
sonable nature of man. We have daily experience
of the influence which one mind has over another,
by presenting objects in the light best fitted to com-
mand assent and conviction, by suggesting forcible
motives, by over-ruling objections, by addressing
every generous principle, and exciting every latent
spark of good affection. You sometimes see or hear
of persons formed for commanding others, not by
force, but by an acknowledged eminence of talents
and virtues : and you often see men conducted by a
skilful exposition to the clear apprehension of truths
which seemed to be above their capacity, and irre-
sistibly, yet freely, led, by well-adapted persuasion,
to exertions which they considered as beyond their
power. All this is a very faint image indeed, but
it may assist you in forming some conception of the
action of the Spirit of God upon the mind of man.
He, who knows every spring of that heart which he
formed, every method of approach, every secret
wish, every reluctant thought, and whose power
over mind is as entire as that which he exercises
over matter, can in various ways illuminate the
darkest understanding, and bend the most stubborn
Vv'ill, without destroying that freedom which is the
essential character of the being upon whom he acts.
The influence is efficacious, and the purpose of him

* Pu)in. viii. 5, 7. ' t Rom. x. 3. |. 2 Cor. x. 5.


from whom it proceeds cannot be defeated. Yet the
being who is thus moved has as little feeling of con-
straint, acts as much from choice and deliberation,
as if the views and motives had occurred to his own
mind without a guide, or had been suggested to him
by any of his neighbours. Hence, although this in-
fluence of the Spirit is expressed in Scripture by a
new creation,* and the quickening of those who
were dead,t although our Lord hath said, " Except
a man be born again of the Sjjirit, he cannot enter
into the kingdom of God," i. e. become a Christian ;
and again, " No man can come unto me, except the
Father which hath sent me, draw hira,"| yet the
persons thus created, quickened, and drawn, are
said to be " willing in a day of power." ^ " Where
the Sjiirit of the Lord is," says the Apostle, " there
is liberty," || the liberty which belongs to those whose
understandings know the truth, whose affections are
orderly, and who are not the servants of sin. The
Gospel is styled " the perfect law of liberty." ^ A
Christian is significantly called " the Lord's free-
man."** And Jesus said to those who believed on
him, " If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be
free indeed. "ff

Such is the nature of that influence, which the
Scriptures represent the Spirit of God as exerting
upon every true Christian. The immediate ef!ect
of that influence is called in Scripture faith ; a word,
which, according to its etymology, -^ng-i:, denotes a
firm persuasion of truth, but which, in the Scripture

* 2 Cor. V. 17. t Ephes. ii. 1. + John iii. 3, 5; vi. 44.
§ Psalm ex. 3. \\ 2 Cor. iii. I7. U James i. 25.

** 1 Cor. vii. 22. ft John viii. 3G.


sense of the word, comprehends all the sentiments
and affections which naturally arise from a firm per-
suasion of the truth of Christianity ; a cordial ac-
quiescence in the doctrines of the Gospel, a thankful
acceptance of the method of salvation from sin there
offered, a reliance upon the promises of God, and a
submission to his will. Although an acquaintance
^vith tlie historical evidences of the truth of Chris-
tianity be the natural foundation of a persuasion of
its truth, yet a person may have studied these evi-
dences with care, and may be able to answer the ob-
jections that have been urged against them, who, at
the same time, from some wrongness of mind, does
not attain to the sentiments and dispositions implied
■ under faith. The Scriptures hold forth examples of
this in the enemies of our Lord during his life, who
had clearer evidences of his divine mission before
their eyes than we are able to attain with all our in-
vestigation, and in many of those, who, by teaching
and doing wonderful works in his name, had that
evidence within themselves, yet are for ever separ-
ated from him by his own declaration.* And these
examples will not appear strange to any person who
has bestowed a philosophical attention upon the in-
consistencies in the human mind, and the small in-
fluence which deductions of the understanding often
appear to have upon the heart. On the other hand,
both the Scriptures and our own experience afford
many examples of persons, who, with limited in-
formation and narrow powers of reasoning, yet by a
tractable disposition, a love of the truth, and a fair-
ness of mind, have attained to what the Scriptures

* Matt. vii. 22, 2r,.


call foith, and become the disciples of Christ indeed.
To this pnrpose Jesus says, " I thank thee, O Fa-
ther, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid
these things from the wise and prudent, and hast
revealed them unto babes. Even so. Father, for so
it seemed good in thy sight."* And again, " Ex-
cept ye become as little children, ye shall not enter
into the kingdom of heaven ;" L e. Except ye re-
ceive the truth with that freedom from prejudice,
that desire of learning, and that simplicity of inten-
tion, which are all implied in the character of chil-
dren, ye cannot become Christians.f In another
place, our Lord says, '* If any man will do the will
of God, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be
of God ;"^ and he explains the good soil, in which
the seed fell that produced an hundred fold, by a
good and honest heart, in which they keep the word,

Online LibraryGeorge HillLectures in divinity (Volume 1) → online text (page 25 of 32)