« PoprzedniaDalej »
John saying the same things in their epistles ; and they take every occasion to publish the same gospel and the same promises and hopes of salvation by the death and sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the enlightening and sanctifying operations of the same Spirit. It would be endless to cite all the proofs of this. Now, it is not to be supposed that the three chief writers among the apostles should all conspire to :alk in the same myste. rious and unintelligible language, so widely different from the common and obvious sense and meaning of their words, if they intended no more by them, than the Socinians mean by their gos. pel, which is very little different from the way of salvation that the deist proposes, while they deny the satisfaction of Christ, and his real and proper atonement for sin, and the powerful sanctifying influences of the holy Spirit.
II. As this gospel of Christ which we have described was the labour of the apostle's ministry, and the design of the revelation of the New Testament, so it is this gospel which is often hinted and prophesied in the Old Testament also, and typified by the ceremonies of the Jewish religion. Now these prophecies could not have been fulfilled, nor these types answered and accomplished, without such a gospel as I have explained. The prophecies of the Old Testament are various and many: Some of the clearest of those which relate to the sufferings and atonement of Christ, and to our justification by him, are expressed by Daniel, Isaiah and Jeremiah. By Daniel we are told, that the Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself, and the design of this is to finish transgression, to make an end of sin, to make reconciliation for iniquities, and to bring in everlasting righteousness; Dan. ix. 24, 26. Isaiah speaks the same thing more largely, “ Christ was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed. We like sheep have gone astray, and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. It pleased the Lord to bruise him and put him to grief,'' and to make his soul an offering for sin. By the knowledge of him shall he justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities. How exceeding plain and strong is this language to support this doctrine ? Is. liii. 5, 6, 10, 11. " In the Lord shall we have righteousness and strength : In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justi.. fied and shall glory; Is. xlv. 24, 25. And the prophet Jeremy expressly calls Christ the Lord our righteousness ; Jer. xxiii. 6.
The promise of sanctification by the Spirit of God, is given us in Ezek. xxxvi. 26, 27. “ A new heart will I give you, and a vew spirit will I put within you ; I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.” This sort of language is repeated chapter xi. 19. and Jer. xxxii. 39, 40. Jer. xxxi. 31
34. which is cited by the apostle Paul in his epistle to the He. brews, and to the Corinthians, as the language of the gospel, or the new covenant. Now it is manifest enough, that all these expressions of glorious grace, and of the method of our reconciliation to God, our sanctification and salvation could never be answered and accomplished without such a gospel of Christ as we have described.
The rites and ceremonies of the Jewish church speak the same thing, if we consider them as types and figures of the gospel-state. I will grant, indeed, that many of those ceremonies had also some other intendments, viz. to distinguish the nation of Israel and their religion from the Gentile world, and the fantastical inventions of pagan worship : To keep them in subjection to God as their political head or king: Several of their . sacrifices and methods of purification were appointed to cleanse them from ceremonial defilements, and to atone for civil or political crimes, wherehy they were admitted to their civil rights again, and their place in the congregation, when they had done any thing to forfeit them.
But it is evident, by the writings of the apostle Paul, in 2 Cor. chap. iii. Gal. chap. iv. Col. chap. ii. Heb. vii. viji. ix. x. that the great end of these Jewish ceremonial appointments, was to stand as types and figures of things, under the gospel, and emblems of the various offices and benefits of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now, in this figurative or emblematical sense, what did all the sacrifices and the blood mean, the burning beasts and the smooking altars whereby the Jews made a typical atonement for their sins ? What were they types of, what did they represent, if not the sacrifice of Christ? And what means the sprinkling all the people with the blood of animals, if these things did not typify and represent our being cleansed by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is therefore called the blood of sprinkling, and which is the only real and substantial atonement for sin? What meant their laying the hand upon the goat that was to bear their iniquities, and the confession of the sins of all Israel over his head, if they did not design to foretel the transferring of the sins of men upon the head of our Lord Jesus Christ, the surety and the sacrifice for sinners ? What did the washings of water iinply, but the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon sinful men, and the purification of their natures by divine grace? Why did that glorious and divine light dwell in the tabernacle and in the temple and between the cherubims in the holy of ho. lies, if it were not an emblem of the “fulness of the godhead dwelling bodily in the man Christ Jesus,” in and by whom God was to converse visibly with the children of men ? Can any man be so absurd as to believe, in opposition to so many expressions of the apostle in his letters, that these sprinklings of water aud
of blood, these bleeding lambs, and burning goats and bullocks, these veils, curtains and tabernacles, served for uoihing else but to wrap up the duties of the light of nature in them, and to explain, or rather to darken, the common truths of natural religion? And yet the apostle tells us in several places, that these were types of figures of the gospel of Christ. Surely every shadow bore the shape and figure of the substance : Every veil and covering was fitted to the body. All these were but sliądows, but Curist is the substance or the body, and the shape of the body appeared therein to those that had divine light to discern it, especially to 1$, whom St. Paul has taught to understand many of these mysteries.
Those therefore who impoverish the gospel of Christ, a some writers have done, and deny those glorious doctrines that are included in it, they deny that gospel which was foretold by the prophets, that gospel which was hidden in the Jewish shadows, and they refuse to see it, though it be now broken forth into open light.
IIÍ. The gospel of Christ must needs be such a doctrine as we have before described, it must neer's be so far superior to all the dictates of the light of nature, and to deserve those glorious characters which the apostle frequently gives it, viz. that it is the wisdom of God in a mystery; 1 Cor. ii. 7. The great mystery of godliness; 1 Tim. ii. 16. Ainystery hidden from ages and generations ; Col. i. 26. The mystery which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men; Eph. iii. 3. 5. The mystery that was kept secret since the world began; Rom. xvi. 25.-hitden in God himself ; Eph. iii. 9. And is hid from the wise und prudent of this world ; Mat. xi. 25. It is made up of the deep things of God; 1 Cor. ii. 10. , And derived from the depths of his wisdom and knowledge; Rom. xi. 33. It is the manifold wisdom of God, which was made known to principalities and poweers by thie church; Eph. iii. 10. " Which things the angels desire to pry into ;" I Pet. i. 12. In this he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Eph. i. 8. And it contains the unsearchable riches of Christ; Eph. iii. 8, And treasures of wisdom and knowledge; Čol. ii. 3.
Now such sort of descriptions as these are very applicable to the doctrine of the Son of God, who is also one with the Father, and who is God blessed for evermore, coming down to join himself to flesh and blood that he might be able to die in the room and stead of sinful men, and that this glorious person, by whom the worlds were made, and all the hosts of men and angels; Col. i. 15. that he should be made a sacrifice for our sins, that God might declare his unspotted holiness, or righteousness, his terrible justice, and his unchangeable hatred of sio even while he forgives sinners, and justifies those that believe in Jesus ; Rom. ii. 24, 2u, and that the Lord Jesus in human nature should rise from the dead, ascend to heaven, be exalted to the government of all things visible and invisible; Eph. i. 22, 23. should send his Spirit down to work faith, repentance and holiness in all his ehosen and redeemed ones, and carry them through a thousand temptations and difficulties, and through death itself, to heaven and glory. This is the doctrine that human reason could never have found out, and as much ado to be persuaded to receive it now it is manifested, in the New Testament. These are wonders of unseаreliable wisdom, and an entertainment for prying angels.
But if the gospel of Christ signify no more than the mere promise of pardon to those that repent of their sins, and believe Jesus Christ to be a true prophet, and follow the example and commands of Christ, who has explained and contirmed the light of nature, what is there in this that deserves such a catalogue of glorious titles as the apostle bestows upon this gospel? There is no such great and deep contrivance, such astonishing wisdom in such a covenant of grace, as does nothing else but abate the severe and rigid terms of the covenant of works, and make repentance and imperfect obedience to serve instead of perfect obedience, in order to obtain pardon and happiness.
I confess there was need of some divine revelation to assure as that God would accept of our repentance and our honest en deavours, when in his law he demands perfection. But this any common prophet might have done, being sent of God and supported by miracles, as Elijah and Elisha were. And wben once this doctrine was thus plainly revealed, there would be no great difficulty to persuade men to receive it; there are no such sublime mysteries and depths of wisdom and knowledge contained in it; nor does it need any extraordinary genius, much less divine wisdom itself to have been the inventor of it. But far be it from us to have such a diminishing thought of the glorious gospel of Christ.
IV. Another reason that I shall give to prove, that the gospel of Christ is such a doctrine as I have before described, is the opinions both of the Jews and Gentiles concerning it, and the treatment tbat it met with both in Judea and amongst the pations. It was counted foolishness by the Greeks, or the learned heathens, and it was a stone of stumbling to the Jews. We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness; 1 Cor. i. 23, Whereas if the doctrine. of Christ crucified, had implied no more in it than this, that Jesus, by his death and martrydom on the cross, bore a testimony to the truth of the doctrine which he preached, and that doctrine was nothing else but as discovery of God's readiness to accept of sinpers that repented, and obeyed him, as well. as they could, out of his mere mercy ; the Jews could never have becn so much shocked or offended at it, for they believed as this much long before St. Paul ever preached : Nor could the learned Greeks have counted that doctrine folly which the wisest of their philosophers seemed to understand and teach. This sort of gospel would have been so little different from what the light of pature might lead them probably to expect and hope for, that surely they would not have endeavoured to expose it and ridicule it, but rather they would have fallen in with St. Paul's sermons, as being agreeable to many of their sentiments. That gospel therefore, which both the Jews and the Greeks were so much offended with, that they reproached it as madness and folly, must be something strange to their ears, and exceedingly diffes rent from their own opinions.
V. I may add also at least, that if St. Paul had meant no more, by the gospel of Christ, than this, that God was willing to be reconciled to mankind, if they would repent of their sius, and be sorry for them, and lived as well as they could for time to come, there had been very little reason for him to speak of his courage in preaching it so often as he does, and that with such an emphasis ; Rom. i. 16. I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation ; and he repeats it again ; 2 Tim. i. 12. and encourages young Timothy to preach the same gospel with boldness, and be not ashamed of Christ, nor his ministers. He counts it a great thing, that he could glory in the cross of Christ, Gal vi. 14. and in his doctrine of Christ crucified, and is resolved to spread the savour of it round the world. I am not ashamed of this gospel, I am ready to preach it among the Jews or the barbarians, or in the city of Rome itself; Rom. i. 15. Now if he had preached nothing but the Socinian gospel, there was nothing in it that would have exposed him to inuch shame and reproach for the hopes of forgiveness, upon mere repentance; and the enforcement of duties of natural religion, with a little illustration and advance upon them, was much like the gospel or doctrine of the wisest of the heathen philosophers, that he had almost been esteemed one of those wise men, and rather treated with honour amongät them at Athens, and in other gentile cities, and not been reproached as a setter forth of strange Gods, and called a babbler for his preaching of such sort of doctrines; Acts. xvii. 18.
But when the apostle preaches the Son of God in the likeness of man, that came down from heaven, not to set up a throne in the world, and rule personally over the nations, but to be exposed to shame and pain, to be pailed to a cross, and have a crown of thorns put upon him, and endure all these sufferings for the sins of mankind : When tells the heathen world of a man that was langed upon a tree at Jerusalem, and assures them, that his