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"How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" — Hebrews ii. 3. The argument of the sacred writer, -which has for its conclusion the emphatic question in our text, enforces the peculiar guilt of those who neglect the salvation offered through Christ, on the ground of its surpassing greatness. If, then, we can show its greatness, the consequent peril of neglecting it will be plainly seen. "The greater the light given, the greater the condemnation for wilful blindness," is a principle strongly asserted in holy scripture. Clear revelation of truth — powerful moral suasion, the employment of instrumentality of the highest order of excellence, leave the unmoved subject of these appeals without excuse. The plan of redemption through Jesus Christ sets forth a machinery of moral power, so majestic, as almost to forbid an attempt to o-rasp it. May the all-wise Author of it help us to show some plain marks of that excellence which challenges admiration! We may make some approach to a full view of the excellence of Christian salvation, if we consider it as employing great agents, as exhibiting proofs of great designs, and as accomplishing great results. 1. As employing great agents. — God has never left himself without witness to men in any age, but has revealed himself in sio-ns and wonders and mighty works; the mediators whom he has desio"nated having given unquestionable proofs of their divine commission. At sundry times and in divers manners he spake unto his people by the Prophets; and the authenticity of the revelation, in whatever form it was made, was always proved "by sio-ns following." The salvation of the Jews from Egyptian bondage, and their guidance through the wilderness, under the command of Moses, was attended with sublime exhibitions of
SERMO III. 35 the overruling and directing power of the Almighty Jehovah. As a prophet and a worker of miracles there was "none like Moses," until the time of the Gospel dispensation. Then, it pleased God to speak peace unto the world through his Son — to give a higher manifestation of his glory than the world had ever beheld. The time had come when the brightness of his glory, which had appeared in glimpses from age to age, should burst upon the astonished world in "the express image of his person," "a marvellous light in which all nations should rejoice." The world that had long lain in gross darkness, saw that light in the only Son of God, who, "upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high." This incarnation of the Godhead^ who, in compassion for man's weakness and in mercy to man'& sinfulness and misery, took upon him man's nature, and suffered in the flesh for sin, was the mighty agent in that salvation whose greatness we now contemplate. We can conceive of the dignity of the Christian mission, when we view the agent simply as God. But we strive in vain to measure the greatness of the humiliation which that mission demanded. For we never can know how great was the descent from Deity to humanity, until we can know by experiment what it is to ascend to God. or can we now understand that union by which the Godhead of Christ gave such dignity to the flesh in which it dwelt, that the sufferings of Christ became a suflScient expiation for the sins of the whole world. As disciples of Christ, " we walk by faith and not by sight." There is much in the revelation which has been made through him, which we cannot fully understand, but which we receive implicitly, because it is a divine revelation. The facts of that revelation we believe because its authority is undoubted, although we may not be able to explain them. Revelation is adapted to our faculties. We must not expect them to rise to a level with the subjects of that revelation. The difficulties of the Bible are in the subjects of which it treats. The language in which they are stated is plain and simple enough,, so that no excuse can be found for rejecting the facts which we are required to beheve. And this is all that we can reasonably
ask. The Scripture speaks plainly when it says "the Word which was God, became flesh," and in the person of Jesus Christ sufi'ered
36 SERMO III. death upon the cross for our redemption. How God could be thus manifest in the flesh, the Scripture does not tell us. It is one of those revealed truths which we must receive into our creed, because declared by authority proved to be divine, wondering while we believe, and adoring while we wonder. or is this mystery, stupendous as it is, much more bewildering than the fact that man was redeemed by a mediator. They are both truths so sublime that the mind is overpowered by them, and is compelled to bow down under the accredited revelation of them in acknowledgment of the declared principle, that whosoever would enjoy the blessings of Christ's kingdom, "must receive it as a little child." Surpassingly great, then, is that salvation which employed the direct personal agency of the God of heaven in the execution of the plan. And if it was deemed necessary that such a display of power, love, and condescension should be made, nay, if it was deemed expedient by Him who knoweth all things, to give man such a proof of his love, it is surely the greatest guilt and irreverence to neglect so great salvation. When after a long course of resistance to his authority in the person of his prophets, God at length sent his Son into the world, he had reason to say, as in the parable of our Lord, " Surely, they will reverence my Son! " Much more reason has he to demand our reverence, since he has revealed to us the Divinity of that Son. Let all to whom the Gospel has been preached, strive to realize the exceeding greatness of the salvation which it sets forth, and embrace it as a boon, which it would be the greatest folly to refuse, and the greatest guilt to neglect and despise. " Stand in awe and sin not," child of Adam, taught of the Lord. "Thy God's thy Saviour — glorious word:
Oh hear, believe, and bless the Lord." God's personal agency is likewise employed in another part of the scheme of salvation, in the conversion and sanctification of the soul. The distinct personality of the Holy Ghost as one of the manifestations of the triune God, is clearly taught in the Christian Scriptures. And he is represented in the most striking manner, by a description of his office. His proper work is, to send conviction of sin to the heart of the sinner — to disclose the disease which threatens "to destroy him, and direct him to the great Physician to give power
SERMO III. 37 to all the truths preached by Christ and his ministers, to accompany all the ministrations of the word of God, and to impart effectual grace to the ordinances of Christ. Whoever, therefore, resists his strivings with the soul, sets at naught his counsel and mocks at his rebuke, is guilty of a direct opposition to the agency of God himself, in the work of conversion from sin to holiness. How wonderfully is the high and mighty God brought down to our finite capacity by this doctrine of the Spirit's personal influence ! And how much is the greatness of salvation enhanced by it ! The sublime truth, that the same quickening Spirit which, brooding over the face of the earth, brought order and beauty out of deformity and desolation, and formed it for the dwelling-place of man, should brood continually over the moral waste which deforms and degrades the soul of man, stirring it into vital energy, and striving to mould it into purity and loveliness — this gives peculiar emphasis to the demand, " How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation." ow this influence, involving such peril to the soul of its opposer, has been resisted by those who refuse submission to the will of God, made known in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. o matter how confounded you may be, when you seek to fathom the mysterious work of this divine agent, impenitent hearer, you may be sure that you have been guilty of resisting it often and fatally
perhaps, and your ignorance of the mode of operation will not excuse your obstinacy and indifference. There is not one sinful creature around whom the Gospel has thrown its radiant light, and sought in vain to win from the ways of godliness, who has not striven with a divine influence, and incurred a fearful condemnation. So sure are we of this that we might safely appeal to all of you who still refuse obedience to Christ, and ask you to confess the many powerful workings of an awakened conscience which you have tried to subdue, and have at last successfully resisted. For we are sure that God will not allow any of his creatures to destroy themselves without a struggle. o, he does indeed permit many allurements to sin and consequent ruin to be spread in their way. But he leaves them not without means of defence and protection, that will fix upon them the deepest guilt, as well as misery, if they yield and are lost. We know that none can be found who have
38 SERMO III. not, in their career of sinful opposition to moral suasion, known what it is, to kick against the pricks of an active and goading conscience, which God has set to hedge up the path to eternal death. Deny it if you will, you who have had Gospel privileges, and have not improved them, but you have resisted influences which will be arrayed against you at the day of judgment with a peculiar condemning power. If you continue to strive against such influences, you must perish in your sins, for no higher power than that of the Holy Spirit can be brought to bear upon you. Hence you perceive how, in this point of view, the greatness of Christian salvation increases the peril of those who neglect it. Let us look now at the great designs and great results of Christian salvation. And these we may consider in close connexion, under one head, the results being the accomplished designs. This vast and inexhaustible subject has already been opened to our view. In approaching it again more closely, the mind labours under a crowd of thoughts having reference to three important questions,
namely. What was man ? What is he ? What is he to become ? His past, present, and future state, are all involved in the consideration of this subject. To know what man was before he became subject to the dominion of Christ as a Saviour, we must look to revelation. There we may obtain a glimpse of his condition when he came from the hands of his Creator. God created man "in his own image," that is, intelligent, holy and immortal. All the joys which flow from communion with God — from devout contemplation of his works and cheerful obedience to his will, were the heritage of this fairest work of God. Disease and death could not invade the walks of Paradise. o sting of conscience disturbed man's peace, for no stain of guilt rested on his soul. But the smile of his Creator beamed upon him, and lightened his countenance. This was too much bliss to be endured by the prince of rebellious and fallen spirits. The devil tempted man to sin. Sin brought death and eternal condemnation. Sorrow and suffering became the inheritance of his offspring, and the curse of God rested on him. Was there no rescue, no reprieve? Behold the wisdom and goodness of God! A decree went forth from the counsels of the eternal Jehovah, that "the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head." Then was declared that far-reaching redemption whose accomplished designs we now rejoice to contemplate.
SERMO III. 39 In the fulness of time Christ came, according to prophecy, and took away the curse, making salvation possible to all who will receive it at his hands. By the two-fold teaching, then, of scripture and his own conscience man became what he is. In his present state, he is subject to death, in consequence of sin, corrupt in nature, and only capable of pleasing God through faith in Jesus. By this mediation, through the blood of atonement, they who have a lively faith in him are justified in the sight of God, or accounted righteous before him. What, then, is man to become through the power of faith unto salvation ? Sanctified by the Holy Ghost, and made meet for that inheritance of glory which will be the reward of the faithful.
Having new life through Him who has conquered death, man, pardoned for Christ's sake, has the constant help of the Spirit, if he will cherish the Holy One, in his daily work of preparation for heaven ; and that work of preparation, if rightly done, makes a heaven on earth, in so far as it serves to take from earth most of those ills which mar man's peace. How great is that salvation which opens the gate of heaven to an exiled race of intelligent beings, which takes off the attainder for treason against the Majesty of heaven, which bridges over the gulf that separated the sinful soul of man from the infinite holiness of his heavenly Father. It is great in extent and fulness, in power and efiiciency. It reaches all and covers all. It accomplishes results which nothing but divine love could purpose, nothing but divine power could efiect. ot more sublime was the display of almighty power and glory, when God the Creator said, "Let there be light, and there was light," than when God the Redeemer says, "I will, be thou clean!" and the soul of man is purged from its corruption, and again appears in the likeness of God. To those who have not accepted this great salvation, we appeal in the solemn language of the Apostle to the Hebrews, — "He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses ; of how much sorer punishment shall he be thought worthy who hath trodden under foot the Son of God." Behold the three witnesses testifying against the despisers of the covenant of grace ! — God the Father sending his beloved Son to be our brother in the flesh, our propitiation, our pattern, and our eternal advocate. — Crod the Son, self-doomed to the humiliation and agony of the cross, for the re-
40 SERMO III. demption of rebellious children of bondage. — Grod the Holy Spirit, visiting the hearts of sinners with his quickening power, leading by his gentle suasion, and besetting human waywardness with his stern rebuke. What a triple witness is here against all who, living in the midst of Gospel ministrations, cleave to their sins and their follies, and reject the word of eternal life. To such persons we
would give a word of kind admonition. Reflect upon the peril of your condition. Consider the earnestness of the appeals w^hich have been made to you — the vastness of the means of salvation offered, and the depth of the love which seeks to save you. The greatness of salvation shows the greatness of your sinfulness, which needs expiation, as well as the depth of your guilt, in rejecting the offered expiation. Strive to grasp the truth. Look well to the law which condemns, and then turn to the precious promises of justification and peace. See the whole scheme of wonderful love which God has revealed. See it in its fulness. Bring it home to your hearts, as the Spirit presses it upon you. Turn not away in doubt, because the work of grace is mysterious. Sin, too, is a mystery, and yet you know that you have sin, and cannot blot it out. Turn not away with indifference, for eternal life or death hangs on the issue of the Gospel's appeal to you. Cast not away in scorn that which many of your fellow men have found to be the power of God unto salvation, and which angels desire to look into, lest you be doomed to call in vain forever, for that peace which is now freely offered. To be cast out from God's presence forever is a terrible doom. Why should any choose to risk it? Brethren, we love not to look at the threatenings of God's law. o, rather would we bow beneath the mercy seat, and catching thence the words of love and compassion, utter them with earnest entreaty in the words of the Apostle: "We beseech you, in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." We pray you to look to the welfare of your souls, to consider how God has ^vrought for your salvation, and with the fulness of his love and mercy before you, propose to yourselves the solemn question, "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" Ask your own souls, and let the answer be written in the book of God's remembrance, as an earnest of your future participation of the precious benefits of Christ's atoning sacrifice and merciful intercession.
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