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we had shewn ourselves the most determined enemies? What shall we think of J sus, leaving the bosom of his Father on purpose to endure these things for us; to endure all that men or devils could inflict, and all that our sins had merited? Shall we feel no grateful emotions ris. ing in our bosom? Shall our hearts be still frozen and obdurate? O let us contemplate the wounds and bruises, the chastisements and stripes which he bare for us. Let us follow him through the whole scene of his sufferings, and say with confidunce and wonder, “ Surely” it was all for me; to redeem me from destruction, to exalt me to glory. Base as human nature is, it could not long with. stand the influence of such a sight: at the view of him, whom we have pierced, our unfeeling hearts would relent;9 and, constrained to admire the unsearchable heights and depths of his love, we should burst forth into accla. mations and hosannas, “to him who loved us and gave himself for us."
2. How astonishing is the guilt and folly of self-righteousness!
What does the self-righteous Pharisee declare, but this? “ I will not trust in the Lord Jesus; he was indeed wounded for my transgressions; but I despise the way of healing by his stripes; I can heal myself better by my own works; and I will rather wage eternal war with heaven, than owe my peace to the chastisement of another.” Can any thing exceed the ingratitude which such a disposition involves in it? As for all the mockings and revilings of the Son of God, when he hung upon the cross, they were as nothing in comparison of this, because they were vented through an ignorance of his real character; whereas we acknowledge him as our Saviour, and yet rob him of his glory, and make his death of none effect. Let us then turn from such conduct with abhorrence: let us look to him, that we may be “ justified by his blood,” and experience the full efficacy of his atonement: so shall Jesus himself be “ satisfied when he be. holds this fruit of his travail," and we shall be distinguished monuments of his love and mercy to all eternity.
a Zech. xii. 10.
CLXXXVIII. THE MEANS OF MAN'S RESTORATION
TO GOD. Isai. lii. 6. All we, like sheep, have gone astray; we have
turned every one to his own way: and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
THE lost state of man by nature, and his recovery through the blood of Christ, are the two principal doc. trines of our religion. If we would ascertain the comparative importance of all other doctrines, we must judge of them by the relation which they bear to these;. and consider those as most important, which serye most to illustrate and confirm these fundamental points. More. over, these two should always be considered in their rela. tion to each other; for it is by the atonement that we see the depth of our depravity; and by our deprayity we see the necessity and excellency of the atonement. By con. sidering them apart, we are in danger of falling into despondency or presumption: but, by uniting our views of them, our sorrows are moderated with hope, and our confidence is tempered with humility, When God tells us, “ O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself;" he immediately adds, “but in me is thy help,” Thus also the prophet, in the words before us, first sets forth our apostasy from God, and then declares the means provided for our restorution to him. These two points we propose for our present consideration: 1. Our apostasy from God. - The comparison which the prophet institutes between us and sheep straying from their fold, forms an humiliating, but just picture of our fallen stare. Sheep are prone to stray, if not watched and restrained by the shepherd: and, when separated from the flock, they proceed farther and farther, without ever tracing back their steps to the fold. Now the whole race of mankind may be considered as a block, whose duty and happiness it is to live under the care of the good shepherd. They should hear his voice, and follow his steps, and fced in his pastures, and trust in him for protection. But the whole Hock is scattered over the face of the earth; all have departed from
the fold of God, and are wandering from him, none considering, Whenée am I conie? or, Whither agi I going? or, How shall I find my way to God again? They reflect not on the dangers to which they are every moment exposed, or on the infinitely greater happiness they might enjoy, if they would obey the shepherd's voice.
What the prophet has thus illustrated by a comparison, he afterwards, as is usual in all the prophetic writings, declares in plain and express terms.
Mankind have all turned aside from God and his ways into paths of their own choosing. One has chosen the way of open profaneness. To follow the bent of his own carnal inclinations, to walk at liberty in the pursuit of pleasure, to join in convivial company, to be a spectator of every vain amusement, to gratify his passions with every sensual enjoyment, this is the happiness which he affects, nor does he desire any other heaven than this: could he but insure a continuance of these delights, with health and vigour to enjoy them, he would attain the very summit of his ambition. Another prefers the way of worldliness. He has not any great taste for what are called the pleasures of life: he desires ratlier the more retired comforts of a family; to provide for whom, employs all his solicitude. In prosecution of his plans for their sup. port, he engages with assiduity in his daily work: “ he rises up early, and late takes rest, and cats the liread of carefulness;" and looks for all his recompence in beholding the increase of his fortune, and the advancement of his dependants. Every thing is made subservient to the promotion of his temporal interests; nor has he a wish or ihouglit beyond them.
Another, scorning perhaps the sordid vices of the sensualist, and elevated, by means of easy circumstances, above the cares of the worldling, or desirous perhaps to compensate for the irregularities of his former life, chooses the less beaten track of religious formality. He wishes to be regarded as a person of correct man. hers, and of virtuous conduct. To set an example to those around him, and to be proposed as a pattern to the rising generation, is a far higher gratification to him, than to riot in dissipation, or to amass riches. With these views he is attentive to all the external duties of religion: his prayers, such as they are, are regularly performed in the church, the family, and the closet. A portion of the scriptures is read at stated seasons: his servants are instructed; his children are catechized: and his hand is stretched out to relieve the poor and needy. In short, nothing is omitted that may elevate him in the eyes of others, and serve as a foundation for selfcomplacency. This he supposes to be God's way, when, in fact, it is, as much as either the worldling's or the sensualist's, a way of his own: for, in all this, there is nothing of brokenness of heart and contrition, nothing of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, nothing of devotedness to the glory of God: and, in proof that this is their own way, and not God's, it may be observed that, they will proceed no further than will consist with their own humour, and reputation in the world: whereas, if they really intended to do God's will, they would do it in every thing, without any regard to consequences, or any secret reserves.
We mean not to say that there is no difference with respect to these ways; for certainly a state of formality is incomparably better than either worldliness or profane. ness; but they are all evidences of our apostasy from God; and any one of them will expose us to his just and heavy displeasure.
That such is indeed the state of man, is abundantly crnfirmed by other passages of holy writ. St. Paul proves it by a variety of citations collected togeth r; and infers from it, “ that every mouth must be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God.” St. Peter quotes the very words of the text as applicable to every individual saint before his conversion to Christ. And we all are taught to adopt them for our own use, when we say-in our Liturgy, “ We have erred and s:rayed from thy ways like lost sheep; we have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.”
Well might we have been left to wander till we had fallen a prey to the roaring lion that seeketh to devour us. But God, in compassion to our souls, haş sent his only dear Son to seek us out, and to be II. The means of our restoration to him.
We are apr to imagine, that, if we have not committed any gross sin, we have no reason to apprehend the di. vine displeasure. But we should recollect that A STATE OF APOSTASY FROM GOD IS THE ROOT AND SUMMIT OF ALL SIN. The poor senseless sheep may be pitied, but cannot be blamed, for wandering from the fold, because they are unconscious of any obligation to abide under the direction of their shepherd. But cur crimi.' nality in departing from God is exceeding great. Blind as we are to spiritual truths, we yet know that there is a God, whom we ought to love and serve. We know that, to live without him in the world, or to serve him, only with our lips while our hearts are far from him, is an insult to his majesty, and a violation of his commands. Yet these are the ways which we have chosen for our. selves in preference to those, which he has marked out for us in his word. What need we more to criminate us in his sight? What need we more to draw down upon ourselves his wrath and indignation? The particular acts of sin which any commit, are only so many branches proceeding from this root, and so many ways of manifesting our aversion to him. There may indeed be de. grees of guilt in respect of them; but in respect to the general habit of our minds, we are all alike; we are wilful, deliberate, and determined apostates from God: we have cast off our allegiance to him : we have made our own will the rule, and our own honour or interest the end, of all our actions: we have lived to ourselves, and not unto him: in a word, we have, as far as depend. ed on us, banished God from the universe, and been a God unto ourselves. This is “ the iniquity of us all.”
What might have been expected, but that God should abandon such an impious race, and give them over to everlasting destruction? yet behold, instead of leaving us to ourselves, he provided a way for our restoration to his favour. He took, not merely our particular transgressions, but the whole mass of iniquity, that had accumulated from the beginning to the end of time, and laid it on his Son. As all the iniquities of all the children of Israel were transferred to the scape-goat under the law, that he might bear them away into a land of oblivion, so were all the sins of the whole human race transferred to Christ, Vol. II,