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Thirdly, the renewal of spiritual life in the sinner spiritually dead was essential to give this holy and merciful undertaking its effect, and to fit fallen man for the new state of trial thus procured for him.
But who can confer this indispensable gift but God only? Is it, can it be, in man fallen to renew himself ? Is it in man, the sinner, destitute and helpless, to turn and prepare himself by his own natural strength and good works to faith and calling upon God? No, my brethren, by every testimony which can give certainty to truth, and by every proof which experience can supply, that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and can rise no higher; that only which is born of the Spirit is spirit, or spiritual.
Here then is a difficulty, were there no other, insuperable to human power, beyond the reach of human means, which can be removed only by and through the LORD Jesus CHRIST, who by the Holy Ghost given for this purpose, carries on the great work of regenerating, converting and sanctifying the world. Hence we read, that when he had by himself purged our sins, bearing them in his own body on the tree, he rose from the dead, ascended up on high, led captivity captive, and received gifts for men.
Thus we learn, my brethren and hearers, to understand the nature and extent of the office which the man CHRIST JESUS bills, as mediator between God and men. That it is not confined to his present intercession for sinners, as we are apt too carelessly to imagine ; but that it reaches back to the first procurement of mercy, pervades the whole order of God's providence, and extends forward to the final consummation of the mystery of God in Christ, when all enemies being subdued under his feet, and the gracious purpose of his undertaking the office being answered in the everlasting salvation of all who believe and obey the gospel, the mediatorial kingdom of grace shall end and the kingdom of glory commence, where there shall be no more sin, no more death, neither shall there be any more pain ; where God shall wipe away all tears from the eyes of his servants,
, and the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne, which redeemed them to God by his blood, shall feed them, and lead them beside
living fountains of water, and God himself shall be with them and be their God.
II. Secondly, I am to consider the suitableness of the person appointed to fill this office.
That the office of a peace-maker, a reconciler of differences between those who are at variance, may be performed by any who possess that kind and Christian disposition, we all understand, my friends. Yet there is to our apprehensions a certain fitness and propriety of character, according to the condition of the parties and the circumstances of the case, in the person who undertakes the office, which gives weight and impression to his representations; and we know by experience that considerations which produce no effect when urged by one person, will, nevertheless, succeed when presented by another. Hence we are prepared to expect, and I think I may say to require, that the person who stands in this relation between God and men, should possess that fitness and that propriety of character and condition, as respects the parties, which shall give reasonable ground to hope for success.
Now, in every requisite, according to our comprehension of them, the man Christ Jesus will be found not only suitable, but the only person capable of sustaining this office, of meeting fully all its requirements, and supplying all its necessities.
First, as the only begotten Son of God, and consequently of the same nature and essence with his Father, he alone was worthy and competent to step forward either to ask or to offer in our behalf.
To perceive this more clearly let us reflect a moment, my brethren, on the nature of the controversy.
This was not a case in which there might be blame on both sides, and by mutual concession the breach be repaired; but one in which the offence was altogether on one side.
This was not a case of offence between equals either in nature or condition, but between parties infinitely removed from each other in both these respects.
This was not a case of offence finite in its nature and transient in its consequences, but permanently opposed to and opposing all the perfections of Deity.
This was not a case in which compensation could be made by the offender, but one which involved his utter destruction as the only vindication commensurate with the offence.
And the object to be gained was not mere reconciliation, but beyond this, the procuring of means to undo the mischief, to defeat the consequences, and restore the offender, on proper and possible conditions, to the happiness he had forfeited—to convert a state of sin and death into one of holiness and life eternal.
Now, my dear brethren, friends, and hearers, where, in the whole range of possible thought, can a person be found competent to interpose and to mediate with effect in such a strife and between such parties, other than the man Christ Jesus, as set forth to us in the word of God? Where else shall a Day's Man, as Job styles him, be found, qualified to lay his hand upon both, that is, possessing properties where both might meet and be at one? Suppose, for a moment, that the offence was only this day committed, and we were met to consult how to undo it or escape from the consequences, to what quarter could we turn, to what resource could we resort ? Suppose we were willing to make submission and to implore forgiveness, whom among our fellows in iniquity should we pitch upon to appear before God in our behalf ? Oh! would not the reason that is left tell us it must be all in vain—that our envoy, partaking of the common guilt, would himself stand in need of a mediator-that, partaking of but one nature, he could have no access to God, and must be consumed by his holy presence ?
In the proper divinity of the man Christ Jesus, then, is fallen man's only hope. His mediatorial qualifications would be incomplete without it. There being nothing in his nature common to both parties, he could only be a mediator of one, and could not meet the requirements of the nature he did
How far it is competent for Almighty God to make the mediation of a created being available to the redemption and salvation of sinners, is a question which will never be entertained by any sane mind, because it is one which never can be resolved. Nothing, it appears to me, short of the full qualification for this
office, which consists in possessing the nature belonging to each of the parties, can present any reasonable ground of confidence to sinners in the awful anticipations of death and judgment, and relieve mankind from the deplorable dilemma of being without any revelation of the will of God, or with one so uncertain as to be utterly unworthy of the name, and unable to make us wise unto salvation. For to this result all speculations which trench upon the divinity of the man Christ Jesus inevitably lead; and it is my duty, my brethren, not only to warn you against them, but to give you plain grounds on which to resist the sophistry wherewith they are inculcated, among which I know of none, not drawn from the express words of Scripture, plainer or stronger than that which is found in a just view of his mediatorial office.
Secondly, as the Son of Man, (so called from having taken the human nature into union with the divine in his own person,) he was competent to represent all mankind, and, as such, to undertake to do and to suffer whatever was required by the perfections of Deity in order to reconcile the world to himself, and usher in a dispensation of mercy and grace to men.
This, my brethren, completes the mediatorial character of our LORD, and presents him to our view as every way suited to
Whatever the honour and dignity of the divine government required to be inflicted upon the transgressor of God's boly law was met by a representative both able and willing to bear the stroke of vindictive justice, and make that full satisfaction which alone could usher in the exercise of mercy.
Whatever the holiness of the divine law demanded of perfect obedience to its precepts, in all the length, and breadth, and height, and depth of its spiritual as well as literal extent, could be paid, and its just claims discharged, in the very nature which transgressed.
Whatever of example was needed to encourage redeemed man to rise from the death of sin and strive for the attainment of holiness, was given in the lise of the man Christ Jesus.
And whatever can invigorate faith and hope with prospects beyond the grave, is certified and assured by the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven, there, in both natures, to appear in the presence of God for us.
Now, my dear hearers, let us ask ourselves, and with that seriousness which an immortal interest should produce, what is there lacking in the qualities of the mediator provided for us by God? Is there any thing that you would wish added, altered, or taken away? Is there a single provision in his mediatorial character for which there is not a corresponding want in the condition of man? Is this poor delineation of it founded on and in agreement with the word of God ?
And have you better authority for his nature, his office, and the connexion of both with your actual condition ? Oh! what unspeakable interests are connected with right views and a right practice of and under this provision of beaven's wisdom, mercy, and love. May a gracious God keep and defend you from the contagion of that pride which rises against the humbling truth, that man in himself is nothing—that his salvation is of grace, and all his sufficiency of God, by and through a divine mediator.
III. Thirdly, I am to consider and point out our duty and privileges, under this provision of the love of God our Saviour.
An obligation conferred implies a duty to be performed ; if not in kind—which may be impossible—yet in the sentiment entertained of the favour bestowed. This is true of the common concerns of life, and must be proportionally more obligatory in the higher interests of eternity. The redeemed state of mankind, therefore, declared and authenticated by the gospel, as it is the highest favour that could be conferred, involves the strongest possible obligation to embrace and improve it. To those, therefore, who are called to the knowledge of this grace, the duty of applying themselves to whatever can further and forward the ultimate object of eternal salvation, must be the first and highest obligation they feel themselves under. And did men only give a reasonable portion of attention and serious consideration to their condition as accountable beings, as immortal beings, as redeemed beings, they could not fail to be more deeply impressed with what they owe to God and their own souls, and more earnestly engaged in seeking the pearl of great price. They would apprehend better what religion really is, they would under