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Isaiah describes the character of Christ by these remarkable appellations; And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of peace. In the fortyfifth Psalm, the same exalted person, (as we are informed by the apostle Paul,) is addressed by the Psalmist in these words : Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever : a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Paul has declared him to be God over all blessed for ever : and again, the same apostle has said, that by him all things were created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers, all things were created by Him, and for Him. Says the apostle John, who was permitted to behold the unveiled glories of God; Every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever. And the same apostle has elsewhere said, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And finally, in the Revelation by St. John, Jesus Christ says of himself, I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. And elsewhere, I am the First and the Last; I an He that liveth, and was dead, and behold, I am alive for ever more, and have the keys of hell and of death.
But the passages of which those now recited are a specimen, only give a partial view of the character of Christ. It is the very same person who is characterized by the following description: He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: He hath no form nor comeliness ; He was despised and rejected of men. He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities ; He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who shall declare his generation? For He was cut off out of the land of the living; and his grave was appointed with the wicked; but with the rich man was his tomb, though he had done no violence, neither was deceit found in his mouth.
The former part of this wonderful character was displayed during the patriarchal and Mosaic dispensations, in all the intercourse which He
held with his people as the Angel of the covenant; but the latter part was never disclosed, till He assumed our nature and came to dwell upon the earth. But amidst all his humiliation, the glory which He had with the Father before the world was, was only partially obscured. It was the Sun shining through an eclipse. An Angel from heaven foretold his birth ; and a choir of angels announced to the world his advent. At his command, the sightless eye-ball received the power of vision, and the tongue of the dumb man was loosed; the withered limbs of the paralytic resumed their office; the victim of leprosy escaped from his loathsomeness, and walked abroad in all the bloom and vigour of health: the iron-bound slumbers of the dead were broken raging of the winds and the waves was composed; and even while He hung upon the cross, nature testified to his Divinity by a mighty convulsion. It is hardly necessary to say, at the close of this brief recital, that his character stands alone in the annals of the universe. Search through the heavens and the earth, and you will find nothing with which it admits of comparison.
2. Next to the character of Christ, our text leads us to notice his
It is Christ that died.
I do not deny that purposes were answered in the Divine administration, by the death of Christ, which have never yet been revealed to us ; purposes,
may be, even more magnificent than those which relate to our own redemption. There
be other worlds than ours within the dominions of Jehovah, where a spirit of rebellion has been manifested, and the benefits of Christ's death enjoyed. And there may be other worlds still, where the inhabitants have never violated their allegiance to their Almighty Sovereign, in which the revelation of this wonderful fact may serve as a mirror to reflect the brightest of the divine glories. But it is not with other parts of the system that we are so immediately concerned. The death of Christ, for aught we know, may exert an influence of some kind or other, wherever there are intelligent beings; but in respect to ourselves, and the world to which we belong, there is no room for doubt.
Not only the general fact that the death of Christ procures our salvation, but something of the manner in which it operates to the accomplishment of this end, is made the subject of distinct revelation. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, says the apostle, being made a curse for us. Not that the substitution was in every respect literal and exact : that would have been inconsistent with the perfectly holy character of the Son of God: but the sufferings of Christ had such a relation to the divine law, as completely to answer the purposes of God in the punishment of sin, and thus to constitute a proper ground of deliverance from the curse. In the cross of Christ, therefore, the claims of Divine justice are so answered, the majesty of the Divine law is so maintained that God can now be just, and yet the justifier of him that believeth. Accordingly, it is agreeable to the uniform tenor of Scripture, that we are redeemed by the blood of Christ; and that faith in Him as an atoning sacrifice, is one of the grand conditions of salvation.
Here, brethren, if I mistake not, is the hinge, on which the whole system of Christianity turns. It is the death of Christ, as a propitiation for the sins of the world, which gives the gospel its chief value, as a religion for sinners. Tell me not that He died merely to set an example of pious suffering, or to substantiate his claim as an ambassador of God. I do not deny that these were subordinate ends of his death ; but compared with the grand object for which He suffered, they are only as the feeble glimmering of the glow-worm, to the condensed brightness of the noon-day sun. By limiting the influence of Christ's death to his example, you not only set all our immortal hopes afloat, and blot out the glory of the gospel, but you
the character of God, by imputing to him the weakness of incurring an amazing expense, without any sufficient end. Believe it, who will, that He who was the Brightness of the Father's glory, and who made all things by the word of his power, condescended to assume our nature, and die upon
cross, merely to exhibit to the world the faith and constancy of a martyr!
you will ask, if Christ died to make satisfaction for the sins of men, what evidence is there that his atonement has been accepted of God? I answer, thirdly, there is complete evidence in the fact of his RESURRECTION. The apostle adds, Yea, rather, that is risen again.
The death of Christ, as we have seen, was the ransom which was paid for our redemption; but it is his resurrection alone, which renders ouir faith in his blood a rational act. If He had never come back from
the grave, we might have been attracted by the lustre of his example, and had our sympathies awakened by the story of his death, but it would have been delusion to have expected redemption by his blood. But when he came in triumph from the tomb, the scandal and ignominy of the cross were wiped away; and in the power and glory of His resurrection, we may consider God as setting his seal to the efficacy of his atonement. When Jesus bowed his head, and gave up the ghost, the sentence of condemnation was virtually reversed ; but it was not till he had burst the bands of death, and appeared in the character of a Conqueror, that the believer's justification was fully manifest. For, as the apostle argues, “ if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life;'—that is, by his resurrection to life and glory.
But our view of this grand triumph over the grave will be too limited, unless we consider it as the pledge of our own resurrection. Jesus rose as the Representative of his people ; and the connexion is not more certain between the vine and the branches, or the head and the members, than between His resurrection and that of all his followers. You perceive, then, on what a firm foundation, this most consoling doctrine of our religion rests. You are not left to deduce it from the subtleties of metaphysics, or to collect it from vague and scattered intimations in the word of God: nay, you have something more than even a positive promise ; for it is identified with the most illustrious fact in the history of Christianity. Never were the jeers of infidelity more out of place, than when they are directed against this life-giving doctrine ; for, to say nothing of its inherent consolations, it is sustained by evidence, which it is beyond the power of wit or reason to gainsay.
4. The next thing which the apostle notices in reference to the me: diatorial work of Christ, is his EXALTATION : Who is even at the right hand of God.
The phrase, at the right hand of God, is expressive of the highest dignity and authority. In taking possession of the mediatorial throne, Christ has acquired a dominion different from that which he held, as the Sovereign and original Proprietor of all things. It is a dominion founded on the covenant of redemption, and to continue till the final consummation. It extends to all beings and all events, It is His pro
vidence that operates in the natural world with an unwearied and undecaying energy. His hand guides the revolutions of the planets, and the destinies of empires. He setteth up one, and putteth down another ; and none can resist his power, or question his right. The same hand is concerned in directing the most insignificant of human affairs ; in controlling even the irrational and inanimate creation. The insect that glitters in the sun-beam, or the atom that floats upon the breeze, is as truly the object of his superintendence, as the convulsion of a kingdom, or the extinction of a world. The principalities and powers of Heaven too, the shining ranks of angels, the glorious retinue of seraphim, the innumerable company of the redeemed, are all subject to his authority. The church on earth also looks up to Him as her Lawgiver and her Head; and He dispenses to her, through the ordinances which He has established, a Divine influence ; and He has pledged the stability of his throne for her security and triumph. Nor do the powers of darkness, with all their malice and rage, escape from his dominion. Amidst all the weeping and wailing of that world, not a pang of agony is felt, not a shriek of horror is uttered, not a vial of wrath is poured out, but it is in some way or other subject to the mediatorial direction of the Son of God.
But the occasion which shall witness to the most triumphant and awful display of his authority, will be the general Judgment. Before He delivers up the kingdom to the Father, all nations shall be assembled before Him, and He shall separate the good from the bad, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats. You may send forth your imagination to collect every image of tenderness and majesty, of burning vengeance and melting compassion, of unutterable joy and overwhelming wo, and you will only have gathered materials for a faint description of this tremendous scene. But in this scene Jesus Christ is to preside. It is from His lips that the sentence is to proceed, agreeably to which, you and I shall pass off to the right hand or the left, according as it is a sentence of acquittal, or a sentence of condemnation.
5. It is in consequence of the exaltation of Christ, and may be considered as one grand purpose of his exaltation, that HE INTERCEDES
The apostle adds, Who also maketh intercession for us.
FOR UIS PEOPLE.