« PoprzedniaDalej »
ciple of their conversation and of their profession. If these were to acknowledge Christ, if these were to walk in his ways, and to choose his service, then they also would adopt the same course: but because the great, and the mighty, and the learned, and the wise among men are not prepared to recognise the humble appearance of the Saviour, and to walk in obedience to his humble precepts, and to depend wholly on his sacrifice and name for their salvation-therefore the multitude are not prepared to receive a Redeemer in these representations of his character.
It is evident that in such cases there is a lamentable accomplishment of the declaration of Simeon in the text, that "this child is set for the fall of many in Israel." They behold his outward poverty; they behold the outward poverty of his followers; they behold the rich and the great not walking in his train, not acknowledging his authority, and not submitting to his grace; and therefore they refuse to accept of the testimony concerning him, and commit themselves to worldly practices, and to worldly idolatry with greater
tering to the poor, regarding the cir cumstances of the poor, and proclaiming the gospel of life and hope to the poor. And, thus ministering to them, they received his testimony, they heard him gladly, they rejoiced in his name, they believed him to be the Son of GoD with power, and they trusted in him, that they should receive, not a temporal kingdom, but a spiritual and everlasting inheritance in the world which fadeth not away, He was for the falling of many, and he was for the rising of many. The lowly were exalted in him--the proud were abased: he was a stumblingblock to the one-he was a rock of safety and of protection to the other.
We receive a second illustration of the truth of this declaration from the mystery of the Redeemer's person. We are all prepared to admit that in the person of Christ, as Mediator, there are two natures; that he is GOD, and that he is man. It is not therefore necessary, in a congreation professedly Christian, that I endeavour to support these points. We agree that they are the testimony of Scripture; we agree that these natures unite to compose the person of the Mediator, that he is perfect GOD, that he is perfect man, and that he is indivisibly GoD and man-accomplishing in this capacity the great plan of our salvation.
On the other hand, in reference to the appearance of Christ, he is set for the rising again of many in Israel. This was true of his temporal appearance among the people of Israel. It is for this reason that such apWhile the princes and the rulers of parently different accounts are given that period passed him by with scorn, to us in Scripture of the mediatorial and refused to listen to his divine in-character of Jesus. At one time, as struction, it is beautifully said that in our text, he is a child, the child of "the common people heard him infancy and of days; and at another gladly." There was something in the time is the Everlasting Father and the very humility of his circumstances, Ancient of days. At one time he is in the poverty of his life, in the low- the Lamb slain for sin; and at another liness of his outward walk and con- time he is the Lion of the tribe of Juversation, which brought him near to dah. At one time he possesses the keys them, and them near to him. He of the heavenly Paradise: and at ministered to them in affection; and another time he possesses the keys of was the first great teacher thus minis- hell, and of the invisible world. At
one time he is represented as all weak- with his deep humiliation and sufferness-at another time as Almighty; at one time as deep in humility-at another time as exalted above every name, and every power that is named; at one time as exquisite in suffering | -at another time as exquisite in enjoyment, seeing of the travail of his soul, and being abundantly satisfied.
This representation of our Saviour's character was in his own time, has been in every succeeding age, and is in our time, the occasion of the falling and the rising again of many. There were many in his day who made it a stumbling stone and a rock of offence. There was nothing in the history of the Jewish people which gave them such sore offence, and excited such bitter hatred to the Lord Jesus Christ, as his announcing himself to be the Son of GOD, and claiming equality with the Father. It was on this very ground that they persecuted him through life; and it is very remarkable that on this very ground they at last put him to death on the
It is also to be observed, that, soon after his disappearance in the flesh, there were many who were quite ready to admit the reality of his humanity; they admitted that he was GOD, they admitted his perfect Godhead but they questioned whether he had really participated of our nature, and dwelt in the flesh. Here then, the person of our Saviour, mysterious as it is, became a rock of offence to multitudes in that day. The Jews rejected him because he laid just pretensions to his divinity; and many afterwards rejected him and his perfect humanity as incongenial with his dignity, his godhead, and his grandeur.
In our own time, too, this testimony has been made an occasion of offence. Many are not prepared to admit the divinity of the Saviour as connected
ings. They are not prepared to admit a sentiment in doctrine which they cannot entirely comprehend. The pride of their reason must be gratified, their carnal prejudices must be indulged; they will only receive those views of the Saviour's office and character, which they can entirely comprehend and thus the Redeemer in the glory of his person, the Redeemer in the dignity of his godhead, the Redeemer in the mysterious offices of his mediation, becomes a stone of offence, a rock of injury, an increased means of condemnation to their spirits.
Now, on the other hand, this very representation of our Saviour's person is life from the dead to those who believe in his name. They see, in this discovery of his excellence, the only means prepared for them as a safe ground of hope and consolation. Were He not perfectly human they could not conceive of his paying our debt by the shedding of his bloodof his making perfect atonement and satisfaction to GOD, by offering up the humanity in our stead: and were he not perfect GOD, they could not entrust to his hands the everlasting keeping and safety of their immortal souls. But because they contemplate him as truly GOD, because they contemplate him as truly man, and because they regard him as concerned in both these respects for their salvation, they see in him everlasting life, they commit their souls to his care, they know in whom they have believed, and are persuaded that he is able to keep all that they have entrusted to his care. It is, therefore, the rising again of many. They lay hold of his strength: they rejoice in his majesty; they put their trust under the shadow of his wings. They know they are committing their spirits into the hand of no creature, of m
finite being; but that they are committing their spirits into the hand of their GoD and Saviour, who, though he was arrayed in flesh, rules in heaven, and regulates all things for their salvation.
The ministry of Jesus Christ is also another method of illustrating the truth of this declaration: "This child is set for the fall and the rising again of many in Israel." Our Lord's ministry on earth was remarkable for the effect it had on those to whom it was directed. The Jewish people who attended his ministry and listened to his voice, gave awful proof of their disposition to reject the message of mercy and of life. When he found that they were not prepared to give heed to his testimony, that they were prepared to malign his credentials, to turn against him, in the expression of their rancour, and of their hatred, and the very things which related to their peace; then he shook off the dust of the place from his feet, and turned to the Gentiles. The word of his ministry was to them death. He came to his own, and his own received him not: he preached to them, and they met all his testimony with hatred, with unbelief, and with persecution to the last; and in the exercise of his mercy and of his judgment, he pronounced vengeance on the unbelievers, and sent forth the glad tidings of peace to the Gentiles.
What was the falling away of the Jews in this instance was the gathering in of the Gentiles. He qualified his apostles by pouring on them his Holy Spirit; he sent them forth to the ends of the earth; he gave divine effect to their ministrations, and brought in multitudes speedily to the acknowledgment of the truth, to supply the place of the Jews who disbelieved his word. We read, therefore, of three thousand persons acknowledging Christ, as the effect of one sermon.
We are told that speedily there were five thousand persons in the communion of the saints, acknowledging Jesus, and rejoicing in his commands. We are told, also, that this gospel was shortly preached over all the civilized parts of the three great quarters of the world. We are told, that thirty years after the ascension of Christ, so pre-eminent was this testimony, that the gospel had been preached as to every creature under heaven: and as soon as America itself was known, so soon the glad tidings of joy reached her shores; and she also is rejoicing and triumphing in the manifestation of the same grace. The casting away of the Jew, therefore, by reason of his unbelief and hardness of heart, is the gathering in of the Gentiles. He fell through sin-the Gentiles are raised through ! grace. The mercy of the covenant is made more extensively known; and even to the distant islands of the sea, our own islands, these glad tidings of redemption are come.
This declaration is still further illustrated if we consider the death which Jesus died. There is nothing more fully illustrates the character of Christ, or the effect of his ministration and services among the children of men, than his awful death. By that death he manifested to us his holiness and his mercy-his readiness to forgive sin, and his determination to punish sin. The majesty of GOD, and the condescension of GOD, are thus revealed, as they were not revealed before but especially in his death is realized that declaration that it is for the fall and the rising again of many in Israel. The sin of the Jew was never so aggravated and critical, as when he crucified the Lord of Life and Glory: that was the filling up of the measure of his national iniquity, and that was the means of bringing down on him the severest
expression of God's providential | from sin, from bondage, into life
judgments. They assembled together, they crucified the Redeemer, they imprecated his blood on themselves in the most awful terms-"His blood be on us and on our children :" and the curse which they dared to imprecate has fallen upon them, and rests upon them still; they are scattered, they are accursed, they are an abominable generation amongst the children of men to the present hour; they are not a nation, they have not a temple, they have no sacrifice, they have no hope, they have no name: they remain in darkness and infidelity, separated and estranged from GOD, and from Christ still. This was, therefore, eminently, their falling away: but their falling away by their being accessory to the death of Christ, and by their imprecating its influence on themselves, is the rising again of many.
The testimony of our Lord Jesus Christ in his death is thus made effectual on the spirits of men to their salvation. Those who disbelieve, and disbelieve him as a dying Saviour making atonement for sin, disbelieve the only remedy for sin, and fall fearfully from his presence. But on the contrary, where shall we find any representation of the Redeemer like the representation of the Redeemer crucified and dying, and rising again as the means of renewing our spirits, confirming our confidence, and elevating our hope. He died, but it is for the rising again of many. Our hope is suspended on his cross; our life is derived from his death; our ease and our joy from his extremest sufferings and pain. He dies that we might live he sinks and falls by the hands of the adversaries that we might rise and reign, and be clothed with glory. We have, therefore, life in his death-a resurrection from darkness, from infidelity, from doubt,
eternal, into joy eternal, into pardon, reconciliation with GOD, and the bright expectation of his presence and favour for ever.
Then, finally, it may be illustrated in the dispensation and economy of the Gospel. Our Lord Jesus Christ on leaving this world provided for us the ministry of his own truth; and that truth is eminently contained in the announcement of the everlasting gospel of peace. The gospel as it is preached amongst us is for the rising and the falling of many in Israel. In its own nature it is admirably designed to become the great instrument of our salvation. It is life to the dead, it is sight to the blind, it is joy to the unhappy, it is pardon to the guilty, it is sanctity to the polluted, it is the means of redemption and of peace to those who were lost and ready to perish. This is eminently the genius of the gospel; and these are especially the benefits to be derived to us by faith in the gospel. Whatever it is most precious to possess, and whatever it is most important to know, and whatever God can communicate, and whatever the regenerate mind can best receive; these are all secured to us in the testimony and promise of the gospel. It is, therefore, for the rising of many. The great design of preaching to you this gospel is, that you may be saved, that you may be enlightened, that your heart and spirit may be renewed, that you who are far off may be brought near to GOD, and that you may be reconciled to him by faith in his beloved Son. This is the design of our sabbath, this is the intention of our ministry, and this is the great purpose of the gospel which is to be preached to the end of time. There is hope in it, and there is hope in no other: there is life in it, and there is death without it. There is the cancelment of our sin, the enjoy
careless and negligent of the great salvation. Such an individual is re
ment of the favour of GOD, and the expectation of eternal life by the warrant of its promise and of its cove-garding the gospel so as to fall by it;
But while it is for the rising again of many, it is also for the fall of many. The gospel dispensation has brought every thing to an extreme: there is the extreme of mercy, and there is the extreme of judgment: GOD has discovered to us his grace, as we have never seen it; and GoD is discovering to us also his righteousness and his justice as was never shown before. Hence in the very testimony of the gospel we have those awful declarations, "He that believeth not shall be damned"-" He that believeth not is condemned already" "It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones." These announcements, therefore, of the judgments of GOD, and of his determination to punish sinners in the rejection of his gospel, intimate to us that many will reject it, and that many will suffer by its rejection: it is for the falling away of many. There are persons from time to time who, under its gracious influence, are submitting to the testimony; and there are multitudes who, left to themselves, are neglecting the dispensation, and rejecting the testimony. There is an individual, perhaps, in a measure convinced of his state of sin, in a measure convinced of the truth of the Christian dispensation, in a measure satisfied that there is no hope of redemption but by Jesus Christ, and the atonement he has made for sin : but nevertheless that individual cherishes the pride of his heart, cherishes the love of the world; and under the influence of the pursuits of the world he is prepared still to be indifferent to religion, to turn a deaf ear to the voice of the gospel, and to remain
he is aggravating his state of sin; he is making his condemnation more awful; he is putting himself far from GOD; he is turning his mercy into the means of greater vengeance, and sorer punishment. On the other hand there is an individual, possibly, whose mind is touched by contrition for sin; he not only feels his sin, but acknowledges it, humbles himself under the hand of GoD, confesses he deserves all the punishment that is pronounced against all the ungodly, and implores mercy through Jesus Christ, rests on the promise, pleads the promise, and trusting in the promise, he lives and is justified with GoD: it is for his rising again. He was lost, but is found; he was blind, but he sees; he was deaf, but he listens; he was careless, but he is attentive; he was an unbeliever, but he is now believing in Christ to the salvation of his soul. In the one instance, it is for the rising again of the individual; in the other instance, it is perverted to his fall, aggravates his crime, and brings death and condemnation on him.
We were to seek AN IMPROVEMENT of this subject. "Behold," says Simeon, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and the rising again of Israel." It is not only an event which is to occur, and which is to be realized more or less to the end of time; but it is an event remarkable in itself, and claiming especial attention from all who hear of it. Those who hear of it are to believe, are to take notice, are to make observation, close observation. "Behold," for it is remarkable," this child is set for the fall and the rising again of many in Israel."
It is remarkable if we consider the great intention of Christ in coming into our world. Nothing can be more