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SATURDAY, 5TH JANUARY, 1833.
SERMON by the Rev. W. Muir, D. D. Edinburgh.
QUALITIES OF THE GOSPEL METHOD OF IMPARTING COMFORT
AND INSTRUCTION TO MAN.
ON SUNDAY, 4th NOVEMBER, 1832,
• My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man
sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous : and he is the propitiation for our sins ; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”—1 John, ii. 1, 2.
AMONG the many things which, under | always upon the one or the other of these the direction of the Spirit of God, have truths - That if we say we have no sin, been written to us in the word of truth, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is the subject which holds the chief place, is not in us; and, That if we confess our the divine remedy for sin. The application sins, God is faithful and just to forgive of the subject to ourselves for our personal us our sins, and to cleanse us from all benefit, supposes that on our part there is unrighteousness; so that without this conthe serious consciousness of sin, united, as sciousness of evil, the Christian message, it ever will be, when it is serious, with the when brought down to us, would be dedesire and endeavour of being altogether prived of its power, and even of its meaning. freed from it. The word of God, accord- This consciousness of sin, let me add, both ingly, viewed as the means of imparting marks our entering into the privileges of comfort and instruction, directs its princi- the Gospel, and also goes along with our pal influence to comforting and instructing reception of them. It marks our entering the soul that is brought to such a serious into the privileges of the Gospel-for consciousness. The comfort and instruc- pardon were no privilege to us unless. We tion offered in the sacred writings form the saw our transgressions ; sanctification were most important of blessings, whether we no privilege to us unless we saw our look to the state of mind which needs them, pollution ; grace to enlighten and aid or to the source of them, or to the design us were no privilege to us, unless we for which the giving of them is intended. mourned under our native darkness, and The state of mind which needs this comfort saw our need of spiritual assistance; and and instruction is most necessitous, even the hope of heaven were no privilege to one that feels itself empoverished in all us, unless we longed after the unmingled good, present and future; the source of purity of our nature. The consciousness it is the richest, even the wisdom and of which I speak goes also along with our mercy that are infinite; and the design of reception of the privileges of the Gospel, it is the holiest, as well as the happiest, because the sin that is past and forgiven is even the great scheme that closes in the still remembered by us; it is kept ever in glory hereafter. The provision of this mind for the purpose of rendering us kind of comfort and instruction, and the humble and grateful. Besides, the comactual dispensing of it, are the chief things plete freedom from our native corrupin the sacred writings; and necessarily so, tion, is wrought out gradually; conversion because the Gospel is peculiarly the religion and regeneration give the grand movement, of penitent sinners. The divine testimony but not the entire deliverance itself; bein the gospel addressed to us, proceeds cause holiness, though begun in this life, can never be perfected in a world that us, that the Being of infinite power and bears so deeply the stamp of transgres- boliness condescends to regard us with sion. Moreover, the sensibility of holi- pity and tenderness. This message declares, ness always increases as pollution comes that justly as we have deserved eternal to be detected; and the more intimately exclusion from his favour, be yet seeks the characters of God and his laws are our restoration to himself : yes, that such understood, and their matchless excellence is his compassion, that to fulfil the plan of admired, the more humiliating will be our restoration to himself, he did not spare own wantof conformity to their excellence. even bis own Son. It assures us, that he Again, in our advances towards perfec-waits our return with parental solicitude, tion, we are always seeing a farther reach and will receive us back with the prompt at every new step of our rising towards it. and generous ardour of the father receiving How evident, then, that the distinguished the prodigal; yea, he pleads with us not feature of our Christian character must be for a moment to defer the opportunity of that of penitence; that if we say we have returning to his arms, to the new robe, no sin, we are but deceiving ourselves; the ring, and the shoes, and the fatted that our chief confession is the confession calf, and give joy even to angels, and of our sins; that our unwearied prayer is, share in the honour and happiness of “Forgive us our trespasses ;” and that this children of his family and heirs of his seriousness of the soul, under a deep im- kingdom. It is true the Christian method pression of its guiltiness in the sight of yields to us no comfort till it has first God, effected by divine grace, is the very brought us to the consciousness of our object which corresponds with the Christ- sins; and accordingly, this is ever its ian method, and for which the comfort and prefátory language, “ If you say that you instruction of the Christian method have have no sin, you deceive yourselves." been provided. And may, not the text But this preliminary, rebuke is most lead me naturally to say, that in the dis- gracious ; its being heard by us, and pensing of this comfort and instruction entering into our hearts with humiliating contained in the gospel method, the gra- and alarming influence, is just the proof cious and wise method which the sacred that he who sends it remembers us, and writers observe, is impressed by the three cares for us, and loves us; that be thinks following qualities:-Ist, By an affection of us with a father's heart, and would ate concern for souls; 2d, By a free and bring us all within the precincts of his full proposal of Christ to our acceptance; family, and thus bestow on us the riches and, 3d, By an exercise of the strictest of his love. “O Israel, put on me your jealousy over the grand interests of holi help; why will ye die ? What can I do ness. How affectionately in the gospel more for my vineyard that I have not method is manifested the concern for souls done? Mine heart is turned within me;
language being uttered the very same as my repentings are kindled together. Rethe fondest heart breathes over those turn unto me, I will beal your backsliding, choice objects of care and tenderness I will love you freely, for mine anger is which are found in the relation and cha- turned away. Whosoever will, let him racter of children! Again, how free and come. Come unto me all ye that labour full the proposal of Christ to your accept- and are heavy laden, and I will give you ance, setting forth bis powerfulness as an rest. Incline your ear and come unto me; advocate, as a propitiation so perfect as to hear, and your soul shall live. Ye shall be capable of atoning, were it applied to be my children, saith the Lord Almighty." them, for the sins of the whole world ! O what words are these! what a message And how strict the jealousy which, along to be spoken to us on the authority of the with this unlimited offer of grace, is eternal God; and not only so, but to be exercised over the grand interests of holi- directly sent to us from his own mouth, ness, since every thing written by the power and conveyed to us with such eloquence of the Spirit on the subject of guilt and from the gracious being whom we have pardon, is expressly that we sin not ! offended, repulsed, and hated ! O who
Surely, in the first place, the most may conceive of the ardour and benevoaffectionate concern for souls is a quality lence that dictated the message proclaimed inseparable from the Christian method in the Gospel of St. John! This beloved This method speaks to you and me of disciple, receiving the very Spirit of his mercy and salvation. This message tells master, as he leant on his bosom at the supper of the communion, how zeal for implies, more than all their confessions the human soul glows in his writings could do, how exceedingly guilty they are. how he rises above all the other disciples Their unworthiness and corruptions are on the subject of the attractive influence spread out in all their aggravation before of the love of Christ-o how anxiously the Judge, but he pleads still for their acbis heart pants over the members of quittal, their safety, their blessedness ; Christ's family! And if such was the and he does so on the principles of equity, generosity of sentiment in an ambassador for he who pleads is Jesus Christ the of the grace of God, what must be the righteous, and it must be on principles of generosity of the God of all grace himself equity on which he pleads. And though as he proclaims to us by his Son the he pleads for the unworthy, he is Jesus message of redeeming love! He himself Christ the righteous still; because the declares, that he willeth not that any of powerfulness of his advocacy is secured by us should perish, but that all of us should virtue of his own atonement. He became be reconciled to bim, and wins us to his substitute and surety for sinners, as far as family, and rejoices over us as his children. it could be done with consistency to his There is a height and a depth, a breadth own glorious character. He bore what and a length, of this love of God which is equivalent to the penalty for sin-he passeth knowledge. Othat it may secure assumed our flesh; he took part of the our regard, touch our hearts, and effectu- same that he might redeem us; he that ally draw us to those privileges of God's knew no sin was made a sin offering for children, which sin had virtually lost to us that we might be made the righteousus, and which, even when restored to us, ness of God in him. He is one with the the consciousness of sin is so ready to Father, God manifest in the flesh; and being interrupt and imbitter.
thus an all sufficient Saviour, he is able to It is then for the accomplishing of this reconcile us. He is God who hath redesire that, in the 2d place, we are met so deemed the church with his own blood; particularly and unceasingly with the free and the magnitude of his love in our and ample proposal of Christ to our ao redemption is ascertained by the truth that ceptance. There is nothing but this pro- be laid down his life for us; and since in posal that can unite the two seemingly him dwelleth the fulness of the Godhead irreconcileable things our consciousness bodily, his obedience, and the satisfaction of sin, and our admission to the privileges made in our behalf, have made honourable of God's children; for Christ is proposed the law of the judge, infinitely above what to us because of our sin, and the hope of the punishment of our whole race could accepting his salvation to us arises from have effected. He pleads, therefore, this obeno view of our personal guilt being in dience and this satisfaction as glorifying itself less heinous than the personal guilt both the mercy and equity of God. He of others, but simply from the view that pleads with the Father, who anointed him we are chargeable before God with what for the pure purpose of reconciling sinners is in itself infinitely bateful. Yet a method to himself, by the blessing of his grace, and of restoring us is proposed.
is ever well pleased with his Son, in having In this proposal, there is set before us accomplished the designs of his mercy. the divine provision for the comfort of the As in righteousness, therefore, Jesus soul that is seriously convinced of sin, and Christ the righteous pleads, so in rightdesires to be freed from sin. Christ is eousness it is that he gains his plea. set before us as mediator between God Grace is extended to sinners, even to the and man. In setting Christ before us, the chief. And, lest even the free and ample descriptive language employed sets before proposal of Christ now made, should not us the idea of the court, the judge, the secure your confidence, there' remaineth accuser, and the criminals. Heaven is bebind, in the text, a more comprehensive the court, and the judge is the Father; and expression still, of its fulness and freepenitent sinners are the parties with ness; for the sacrifice of Christ did not whom he is engaged in his mediatorial exhaust its power to save in the redempcapacity. He stands at the foot of the tion of the first believers; nor were its judge to meet the charge which the accu- precious benefits limited to the people of ser brings against the criminals, but he the Jews, to whom it was first addressed; does not plead any thing for the purpose nor are its blessings kept for any one
He is the propitiation for our sins, but judgment that might righteously have not for ours only. His atonement, as it consumed me, to that Lamb as it has been was applied to all our race, is capable of slain, whose blood is sufficient to take pardoning all our race. To speak indeed, away my sins. Say all this in the exercise of its pardoning, though never applied to of faith, with humbleness, with repentance us, is unmeaning language. It cannot be for every sin, with a resolution to rest an atonement for our salvation, unless our implicitly in the perfection of the propisins are pardoned by it. Our sins are not tiation with which God has declared pardoned by it, unless it be applied to us; himself well pleased, seeking before all, but then to the capability of the extension in the atoning sacrifice, the means of of the atonement, to the inherent virtue rendering you like in holiness to him who of this atonement, no limits can be set. rendered the sacrifice. Not the most inveterate transgressors are But this leads me to state, in the last placed beyond the reach of its pardoning place, that to the mercy of the proposal merit; not the transgression of the darkest of Christ, and the affectionate concern stain is removed from its cleansing power. for souls, are united the strictest jealousy What are all mankind, all that ever have for the interests of holiness. “ These lived, all that ever shall live? They are things write I unto you,
sin not." beings whose numbers can be reckoned, The direct result of teaching you forgivewhose rank in the scale of existence can ness through the great propitiation of easily be ascertained; but the character of Christ, is moral purity. "If forgiveness Jesus as God in our nature, cannot be had been declared as unpurchased by an estimated; it stands forth in glory, which, infinite ransom, the guilt had been lessened in moral dignity, sinks infinitely beneath in your estimation; and if guilt had been it the whole creation of intelligences. named by extenuating names -if the
The propitiation made in his person, my message brought by us to you, had conbrethren, is to be considered as not only veyed the reconciliation of your conscience taking away the sins of us who believe, to God, by certain tidings of an indulgent but if the whole world would believe, it is and endearing exercise of mercy on his equally capable of taking away the sins of part towards you, then, whatever tempothe whole world. Who, then, can doubt rary ease the believing of our word might the power to benefit his own individual have given you, it would have proved case, of what is thus announced uni- itself to right reason never to have come versally full ? or who, conscious of his from a God of purity, because the peace it need of an atonement, can reasonably offered was separated from holiness. But doubt that he will receive the blessing of O to learn, as you do from the Bible, that it, especially when he reflects, that even the salvation of your souls were utterly the multitudes that have discarded him, hopeless, except for the sacrifice of infinite are still invited to come and receive it.value; to learn that, in order to the Whoever comes, then, to this propitiation, remedy for sin, the counsels of eternal whoever comes to this propitiation bewail- wisdom were employed, a blessed Trinity ing his sins, must not allow a suspicious entering into the covenant of grace—the thought to interrupt that confidence which Father giving up the Son-the Son devotwe are called to repose in the fulness of ing bimself to the Father's will, and the the atonement, and in the freeness of its Holy Spirit carrying forward the merciful offer. Whoever would reason you into scheme; to learn that, for remission of the idea, that the propitiation is not able sin, an atonement had been presented, the to meet your case, account that
value of which rises beyond the computaenemy equally to the honour of the tion of every created intelligence; to learn Saviour, and your own peace. Say you that the plans of eternal wisdom, that the to every such accuser — There is an advo- incarnation, that the sacrifice on the cate with the Father. The satisfaction cross, that the mediation of his Son, of Christ is an infinite satisfaction. I will that the advocacy with the Father, that not, I ought not, to despair of pardon. I all has been combined in the work of will raise my supplication, in the persua- taking away your sins, how efficacious sion of receiving a gracious answer. I to render an evil in itself as hateful in look from myself to my Surety-from my your souls as the reality ought to make it? guilt to his atonement-from the throne What a power has all this to give the of justice to the mercy seat—from the body of sin in your hearts its deadly wound, and to urge you to its destruc- to your Father's image, and bewailing tion ? These things are all to lead you every mark of dissimilarity to your Father's that you sin not,--that you do not spare will, and as even the advocacy of Christ from your execration and resistance, one cannot save a soul that is uniting the habit of feeling or thought which the deliberate indulgence of follies and worlddivine law forbids,- that you wage war liness, and lusts, to a professed confidence with the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the in the Saviour's atonement, so here is the eye, and the pride of life,– that you substance of the Gospel,-" These things mourn over every instance of the reas- are written unto you, that ye sin not." cendency of evil in your soul, and pray that! I know the truth—in my heart I feel you yield yourselves no rest while you it! exclaims the penitent believer. Then know, that, instead of aiming after uni. the scheme of mercy brought in by the versal holiness, there is some portion of Gospel cannot be aught but the barbinger sanctity, you have not yet thoroughly of peace, since the scheme originating in acquired, and one sin you have not God, introduced by his Only Son, is thoroughly forsaken, and that you bring rendered effectual by the Holy Spirit. I every motive that arises from saving mercy find it written, that the Word of Life was and 'threatening judgment, to bear upon manifest in the flesh, and seen and looked your souls, to remove you farther from upon in all the glory of the only begotten the corruption of the tempter, and attach Son of God,-and can I doubt that this you closer and closer to the virtues of the was done that I sin not? I find it written, Saviour. Thus the Gospel imparts comfort, that a most noble fellowship is prepared but only to the penitent,—the Gospel for believers, even communion with the gives encouragement, but bear in mind | Father, and the Son, and all the followers that encouragement is widely separate of the Lamb who have already washed from licentiousness,-it diffuses peace, but their robes, and made them white in his peace away from all false security:-it blood,--and can I doubt that this is written fixes your trust in God, but shakes from to me that I sin not? I find it written, you every vestige of presumption,—the that to walk in worldliness is to separate privileges of divine favour are received, the soul from infinite purity, and can I but these are to increase your reverence doubt that this is written to me that I sin for the divine glory,—the blood of the not? I find it written, that my nature is cross is to quench the flame that raged fallen,—that my corruptions are originally against the sinner, but it is to inflame his great,—that the confessing of my sins in soul the more against sin and his sinful an exercise of faith is to bring forgivepropensities,—the whole scheme of salva- ness, and thus that blood, in which the tion animates the souls of believers with Christian trusts, is not only to pardon delight, but the great design is to animate him, but to cleanse him from all uprighteevery part of the Christian character to ousness,-and can I doubt that this is greater fidelity and diligence. While, written to me that I sin not? Well, I then, you listen to the message of grace am convinced of the holy design of all that in the Gospel, a message, which, coming is written in the word of God; but, alas ! from the God and Father of our Lord and this is the very conviction that oppresses Saviour, addresses you with language of my heart, and is so ready to enfeeblo and most affectionate concern for your souls, depress me. I do strive against all sin, and, by drawing you to the privileges of yet I sin. I seek the remedy for all the divine family, would give you in disease, yet the disease exists. I have reality what the name of children implies ; gone to the great High Priest-I have and while for that very end you early bared my soul to his inspection, yet the accept the proposal of Christ so free, that leprosy is there, and conscience, though not à being who listens to it is excluded, it never questions the efficacy of what is and so ample, as to present a redemption able to reach the sins of the whole world, efficacious, if it were applied, to save the yet questions the efficacy of my own whole human race,-while you rejoice in faith. Thus, many a mourner in Sion is all this, never forget that the mercy troubled, but we may say to such a offered
is offered for your redemption mourner in Sion,-The language I have from the power, as well as from the effects, now put into your mouth, is an expression of sin, and that as ye cannot be children of grief for the remains of indwelling sin; of God unless ye are seeking resemblance and then, if it be really grief on account