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addressed to Timothy, whom he styles his “ dearly beloved son in the gospel,” and who had been ordained first bishop of the church of the Ephesians. Paul himself was at that time a prisoner at Rome, and totally uncertain respecting the issue of a cause which affected his life, before the imperial court. What mercy, what justice was to be expected from such a prince as Nerothe monster who could fire his country, shed the blood of his virtuous preceptor, and destroy his own mother? But we behold in the prisoner a spirit much exalted above the fear of a tyrant, a mind prepared for the worst that could befal him, and expressing anxiety, not about personal safety, but about the success of the gospel, and the steadfastness of a beloved disciple. He solemnly charges that disciple not to suffer himself to be one moment shaken in the faith, by the persecution to which the cause of Christ had exposed himself, or the ills which he might still be called to endure for the testimony of Jesus: and, to enforce his charge, he suggests a view of the gospel which eclipses all created glory,“ stills the enemy and the avenger," plucks from death his sting, and robs the grave of its boasted victory. He represents Timothy and himself as engaged in a cause, which the great God himself, before all worlds, regarded as of superior importance, and made peculiarly his own; which“ at sundry times and in divers manners," he disclosed; and which at length, “ by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, he made manifest" to all men. Paul glories in the idea of being a worker together with God in this generous design; in his appointment to the office of “a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles,” in the great mystery of godliness; in displaying and dispensing to a guilty, perishing world, the unsearchable riches of Christ-who had “ abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
- In tracing the history of the patriarchs who lived
both before and since the flood, from Adam to Abraham, and from Abraham to Moses, we have endeavoured to point out this unity of design, this steadiness of co-operation, this progress of discovery. By whatever name the typical person is designed, patriarch, prophet, high-priest, under the Old Testament dispensation: whatever be the designation of the ministering servant under the New, apostle, evangelist, pastor or elder, the office and the end of the institution is one and the same-to declare the Son of God the Saviour of men,” for the perfecting of the saints, for the
“ edifying of the body of Christ, till all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." Eph. iv. 13.
Borne down the current of divine revelation, we have arrived with Israel at the mountain that burned with fire, and at awful distance, with trembling eyes, beheld its summit involved in clouds, clothed in terror; and with wonder and joy contemplated the cloud dispersing, the thunder ceasing, the terror done away, and Mount Sinai transformed into Mount Zion. Whatever farther progress we make, in whatever direction we proceed, we shall find this exceeding high mountain still in view; and, whether under the conduct of the leader and commander of Israel, or of the Champion of Christianity, we are equally led by “one” and the same “Spirit” in “ one hope” to “one Lord, one faith, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in all,” Eph. iv. 5, 6.
We shall endeavour to connect our past and following Course of Lectures, by the view here presented to us by the apostle, of the plan of Providence in the redemption of the world; and the execution of it, “by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ.” And
will be pleased to observe,
I. It is God's own purpose. The contrivance, the discovery, the progress, the accomplishment, all, all is
from heaven. In what relates to this world, in what contributes to the sustentation and comfort of a transient life, human sagacity, ingenuity and industry may challenge a little praise. Men soon invented and im . proved the necessary, useful, and ornamental arts. They soon learnt to build cities, to work in brass and iron, to " handle the harp and organ.” But their dexterity, address, perseverance and success in the pursuit of perishable interest, form an humiliating contrast with their awkwardness, indolence, inattention and incapacity in their higher, their spiritual and everlasting concerns. Wise in trifles, or to do evil, how to do good they find not. The experiment was per. mitted to be fully made. It was proved how far the powers of nature could go. Egypt, Assyria, Greece, Rome, improved one upon another; and what was the result? “ The world by wisdom knew not God.” “ They became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to
. be wise, they became fools; and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fore-footed beasts, and creeping things,” Rom. i. 22, 23.
To increase our wonder and mortification, when God's purpose of mercy was declared, when his method of salvation was revealed, men were “ slow of heart to believe.” They “resisted the Holy Spirit;" Christ
” " came to his own and his own received him not." The disciples themselves understood not, believed not “ what the prophets had spoken.” No wonder then that the doctrine of the cross was to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness." Here then is a purpose, which not only is not of man's forming, but which man uniformly and violently opposed. In other cases, we behold the wisdom of God blending itself with human counsels, directing, subduing them to its determination, and the great God graciously condescending to divide his glory with the creature. But
if there be a design more peculiarly his, from which he claims undivided praise, which was not, which could not be of man, nor“ according to our works,” it is this, the gracious design of "saving them that believe," by Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
II. This leads us forward to observe, that, as the work of redemption is JEHOVAH's own peculiar purpose, so it is a purpose of grace. The thoughts of a the Father of spirits” are unfolded, and they are “ thoughts of peace.” Transporting view! Behold the greatest and most glorious of all beings employing himself in devising the means of doing good, of communicating happiness, of relieving the miserable; and forming a scheme of benevolence which extends from eternity to eternity, and comprehends innumerable myriads of rational beings restored, recovered from ignorance, from guilt, from misery, to wisdom, to holiness, to perfect and exalted felicity. Blessed purpose! The formation of man, the creation of an universe are only parts of it. Man was formed that he might be redeemed: was sent into this world to be prepared for “ heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” The firmament was expanded, adorned, lighted up, to witness the display of “ the exceeding riches of the grace of God, in his kindness towards us through Christ Jesus;” and every successive opening of the plan of Providence is only a new discovery, a more endearing expression of the love of Christ " which passeth knowledge,” of " the peace of God which passeth all understanding." Think, O guilty man, think, O my soul, what a purpose of justice, think what a purpose of wrath would have been, had “ God sent his Son into the world to condemn the world!”—The spirit fails at the dreadful thought. Behold an insulted God descending to confound the pride and presumption of the builders of Babel; and mark their speedy dispersion. Behold a righteous God descended on a purpose of fiery indignation against polluted Sodom; and consider, in trem
bling silence, the smoke of her torment ascending up to heaven. Behold a whole world of ungodly men overwhelmed with the waters of a deluge; and learn how dreadful, how inconceivably dreadful a deliberate purpose of vengeance is. And, when you have ponder. ed it well, reflect with wonder, gratitude and delight, that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life;" John iii. 16. that Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost. Again,
III. This purpose of God, this purpose of grace was formed, before the world began. Human purposes are feeble, fluctuating, unenlightened; obstructed by unforeseen events, they are constrained to change their direction, and to assume a new form. The imperfect work which through many difficulties is at length executed, bears no manner of resemblance to the original design. Man performs what he may, because he cannot effect what he would. He is governed by cir. cumstances over which he has no power. But the distinctions of past and future vanish away from before the eye of God. There can be no difficulty in the way of almighty power, nothing concealed from the view of omniscience. The duration of a world sinks into a single moment before Him who is " from everlasting to everlasting.” Contingency and chance can have no effect on the counsels of Him“ who seeth the end from the beginning," and saith, 6 My counsel shall stand, and I will fulfill all my pleasure."
Christianity as old as the creation! It boasts a much more ancient date. The creation is of yesterday, the world is not yet six thousand years old; but christianity is of the essence of God himself. It bears date of
“ old, even from everlasting.” “ This pure river of wa- . ter of life” proceeds out of the throne of God, who dwells in inaccessible light. Imagination wearies itself, thought is lost, in tracing it up to its source...