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he hath set fourth to be a propitiation, that he might be just and the justifier of them who believe.
Let this example of divine mercy persuade us to put away all bitterness, anger, malice and evilspeak. ing, and to be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving one anoth
After our Lord has forgiven us a debt of ten thou. sand talents, shall we think it much to remit to a fellow servant a debt of a few pence? If we have receive ed the pardon of all our past sins, and hope through grace to obtain the remission of our future ones, shall we be rigorous and implacable to our fellow sinners ? Let us remember, that an unmerciful, unforgiving temper is an evidence that we never have really repented of our sins, and that consequently we still lie under the guilt of them all. He who shews no mercy, shall have judgment without mercy. He who forgives not, an offending brother, will not be forgiven of his heavenly Father.
“ Put on therefore, as the elect of God, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering, forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a complaint against any ; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things, put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness ; and let the peace of God rule in hearts, to which also ye are called in one body."
Imitation of the Love of God.
EPHESIANS v. 1, 2.
Be ye therefore followers of God as dear children, and walk in love :
as Christ also hath loved us, and given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice unto God for a sweet smelling savor.
In the preceding verses the Apostle inculcates, on his Ephesian converts, several virtues and duties, aś being the genuine fruits of the new creature ; and then, in our text, he sums them all up in this general direction, “ Be
ye followers,” or imitators, “ of God as dear children.” The imitation of God comprises all the virtues before enumerated and enjoined, as truth, justice, purity, goodness, and mercy; for these are particular branches of the divine character. Among these the Apostle selects one most eminent and glorious part of God's character, which he distinctly recommends to imitation—" Walk in love." And he subjoins an argument which ought to have peculiar weight with Christians.--" Walk in love, as Christ hath loved us and given himself for us."
The exhortation and the Argument, we will consider distinctly. Vol. III.
I. We will consider the Exhortation.
“ Be ye followers of God, and walk in love."
The goodness of God is the glory of his moral char. acter. When Moses prayed, “ Lord, shew me thy glory ; this was the divine answer, “I will make all my goodness pass before thee."
Language affords not stronger terms, or higher expressions, than those in which revelation describes the goodness of God.
“ He is good to all, and his ten. der mercies are over all his works.”-“He daily loadeth us with benefits, and we know not the number thereof; if we would count them, they are more than the sand.” His goodness is constant ; " it endureth forever ; it fainteth not, neither is weary.” It is exercised toward the most unworthy creatures, in the most disinterested manner, without hope of a recompense. Compared with him, the most bountiful among the sons of men, are evil : Even parental goodness sinks and is lost in the comparison.
Many wonderful instances of God's love to men the scripture adduces, to raise our admiration and gratitude, But the most wonderful of all that which awakens the loudest songs of angels, and should excite the live. liest praises of men, is the gift of his Son for the redemption of our guilty race. “ In this,” says St. John, “ was manifested the love of God toward us, be. cause he sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.”-“ Herein is love." In this word is comprehended the whole divine character, “We have known the love that God hath to us. God is love. And he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him."
From this divine example the scripture infers our obligation to love our fellow men. "Let us love one another, for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is love. God gave his only begotten Son, that
we might live through him : If he so loved us, we ought to love one another."
Love is the highest and noblest virtue in the Chris. tian system. To be merciful as God is merciful, is to be perfect as he is perfect. Charity is the bond of perfectness. Christians are therefore required,
" above all things to put ou charity"_" above all things to have fervent charity among themselves.” This is cal; led “the end of the commandment"-" the fulfilling of the law"_" the sum of the law and the prophets." Faith, hope and charity are all great ; but the greatest of these is charity. . In the gospel climax of virtues, you see brotherly kindness and charity standing at the top. These complete the order of graces, and finish the character of the Christian. The grand decision of characters, at the last day, will be made by a particular inquiry into the exercises of this virtúe. "He who has this, the greatest of all virtues, has the other; and without this all pretensions to religion are vain. For this reason, when the Apostle exhorts us to be follow. ers of God, he particularly reminds us, that we must walk in love. We proceed, ,
II. To consider the Argument, by which the Apos. tle presses his exhortation. " Walk in love, as Christ also loved us, and gave himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savor."
The sufferings of Christ for the sin of the world were typified and anticipated in the sacrifices and offerings instituted under the Mosaic law. Hence the language of that dispensation is adopted in the gospel ; and the death of Christ is called " a sacrifice and an offering to God."
“ Christ was sacrificed for us." He suffered death on the cross in our behalf and for our sakes, that we through his blood might obtain everlasting salvation, This is the uniform language of the gospel. “He who knew no sin, was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."-"He once
suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God."-" He bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sin, should live unto righteousness."--" He gave himself a ransom for us; and we have redemption through his blood.
“ The wages of sin is death.” This is the just demerit of, and the legal sentence against the transgression of man. The wisdom of God has seen fit to ordain, that without the shedding of blood there should be no remission of sin. The great ends of God's moral government required, that there should be some solemn display of his just and holy wrath against the disobedience and rebellion of his subjects. To have executed deserved punishment on the offenders themselves would have been for ever inconsistent with their admission to pardon and favor. Therefore, that they might be forgiven in a way agreeable to the great and benevolent design of God's government, he was pleas. ed to appoint and accept an atonement for their guilt. “ He set forth his Son to be a propitiation, that he might be just, and the justifier of them that believe."
“Christ gave himself for us.” He, freely and of his own choice, submitted to all the pains and indigni. ties, which attended a death on the cross; and he bare them all with resignation and patience, that thus be might save us from the wrath to come.
Here was a full display of his love. The Apostle says, ". He loved us and gave himself for us."
He who is the Son of God, the brightness of his glory-He by whom all worlds were made, and who upholdeth all things by the word of his
gave What did he give ? Not one of his creatures-not an angel-not a world-but, what is more than all worlds, he gave HIMSELF-for us, an inferior order of intelligences-sinners, rebels under sentence of condemnation.