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It is hoped, therefore, you will now see how unfounded and unreasonable are the desponding fears by which many a truly spiritually-convinced Binner has been tempted to despair; for to all such it is now proclaimed, without limitation or exception, "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth from all sin."
We conclude our remarks on the unpardonable sin by a few thoughts suggested by the subject.
1. The equity of this denunciation will appear from the consideration that these persons had resisted the utmost evidence that God could give of the Messiahship of CJirist. They not only saw prophecy fulfilled, and heard the Gospel from the very lips of Christ himself, thus appealing to their minds, but to leave them without the shadow of excuse an appeal was daily made to their senses; they saw the lepers cleansed by a word, all manner of diseases healed by a touch, the dead raised by his voice, and even devils expelled by his power. It was, ther< fore, the climax of iniquity to resist such evidence, and the highest pitch of depravity to ascribe these wondrous miracles to the devil. Surely they could not have done this if the devil had not been in them. Like the apostate Israelites', the worshippers of Baal, they had "sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger." And, like Pharaoh, after witnessing the miracles of Moses, they hardened their hearts against the clearest demonstrations that even a God could give, till they were left to fill up the measure of their iniquity and sink into everlasting ruin.
2. The words of our Lord now under consideration involve the important doctrine of the Personality and Divinity of the Holy Spirit. This Divine person is here said to be the object of a particular sin—the sin of blasphemy. By Beelzebub, the prince of the devils, the Pharisees, it is very obvious, meant a. person. To this evil spirit Jesus opposes the Spirit of God. Thus, the Holy Spirit is clearly distinguished both from the evil spirit and the Son of man. If, as the Unitarians affirm, the Holy Ghost were merely an influence, then why in this, and many other passages, are these personal qualities attributed to him P May it, then, ever be our joy to hold fast the glorious doctrine of the Trinity; and in the ancient ascription of praise to our triune God, let us with one heart and soul exclaim, "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen!"
3. ~We should guard against the presumption of salvation on theground of our not having committed the unpardonable sin. For all the finally impenitent will perish in their iniquity. It is still a solemn truth, "The soul that sinneth shall surely die." And all such, though they may not have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost, will then also have passed beyond the boundaries of Divine mercy, and be in the same condemnation. None need now despair, but salvation is only to be found in "repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ."
4. Let us not cease our efforts or our prayers for the unconverted. For there is no such prohibition now as in the apostles' days, and during the age of miracles, when there was a "sin unto death," for the pardon of which prayer was not to be made (1 John v. 16); for however abandoned any may be who are near and dear unto us, we think we have shown that they cannot have committed the unpardonable sin, "the sin unto death."
Let us, then, whether ministers, teachers, parents, or children, embrace the objects of our spiritual solicitude in the arms of our supplication, and cease not to direct them to Him who "is able to gave them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever livethto make intercession for them,"
Bury St. Edmunds.
THE CHRISTIAN LIFE AND THE CHRISTIAN HOPE.
BY THE BEV. BI0HA.BD GLOTEH.
11 To me to live is Christ, and
Without regarding the circumstances in which these words were uttered further than to remark: that, the word " To me to live is Christ," is not used in the enthusiasm of youthful devotion by one who had yet to learn the difficulty of realizing it in action, but is uttered by an aged saint, whose course had gloriously embodied it: and that the word "To me to die is gain" iB not uttered when death was regarded as a remote experience—something whose distance permitted it to be painted in hues of sunset brightness and described in terms of poetry—but is uttered by one who looked upon his painful martyrdom as nigh at hand; I would desire that we study them to-day as forming a motto of Chris' tian life and hope. And I would present them in this view because I think every Christian heart must feel that no words oould express more appropriately the spirit of genuine Christianity. This single utterance is, I think, felt by every Christian to express all the feelings which the great redemption kindles within the soul. For Christ might have said, "To me to live is man," so bound up were we with all the thoughts and purposes of his wondrous life. And Christ might have added, "To me to die is loss," so utterly did he in death divest himself of all that was dear, and brave all that was awful. And, accordingly, it seems only the fitting response to his life that to us to live should be Christ; and only the natural result of his death that to us to die should be gain.
And as the feelings here expressed are those which naturally spring up in every soul that subjects itself to the influences of Calvary, they engage the sympathy of every Christian heart. We may not be able to use thiB word as descriptive of our own emotions; it is only "Sauls, the sous of Kish," who stand head and shoulders above their spiritual fellows, who can do so. But yet the humblest Christian can use these words as expressive of the direction, if not the attainment of his life, and of the modest hope, if not the assured expectation, which he cherishes about his death.
As, therefore, this word expresses the feelings that are universally found to spring up beneath the cross of Jesus, and that respond with the exactness of an echo to
to die is gain."—Phil. i. 21. those of the Lord Jesus Christ, we cannot be wrong in regarding it as expressing the true type of Christian life, and forming a test by which to try, and a standard by whioh to mould our own. And regarding it in this light, I would say a few words on each of the clauses whioh compose it. I would dwell on,—
The kind of life desoribed in the first clause; and on,—
The ground of the hope expressed in the second.
I. First, then, we have to ask, What is the exact kind of action described here? What does he mean when he says, "To me to live is Christ"?
At first we are apt to feel that this is a question more easily asked than answered; for indeed at the first glance it seems as if the intense ardour of the man had hurried him into utterances that really lack intelligible meaning. Had he said, "To me to live is to love Christ, or to serve Christ, or to preach Christ; or to enjoy Christ," we should have understood his meaning, and, understanding his meaning, should have admired his piety: but when he neglects every such middle word, as if too weak to express the intensity of his devotion, and says broadly, "To me to live is CJirist," this identification of himself with Christ puzzles us; we feel in the presence of some great mystery: it seems the language of the miraculous rather than the coherent language of simple human experience.
But now let us see whether the actual experience of Paul may not throw some light at once upon the meaning and propriety of this expression. Look at what happens in his conversion. Up to the time the Saviour met him on the way to Damascus, Paul had lived what was essentially a self-contained life, drawing from his own feelings and his own interests all the motives and principles that guided his course. So that however much his religious zeal might point to a different conclusion, yet "to Paul to live was self." Every motive was connected with self, every result was intended to minister to self. His whole action, secular and sacred alike, had its root, its strength, its aim, its issue, in self. He originated no stream of well-doing which he did not expect to wind in some such way as to come back enrichingly upon himself. If God was worshipped by him, it was with a view to the heavenly issues of devotion; if man was blessed, it was with an eye to the eternal rewards of well-doing. But while up fo this time "To Paul to live was self," from the moment that the Saviour confronts him with that Divine eye which is as a flame of fire, you see a wondrous change come over the whole spirit of the man. It seems as if, startled by the glory of that light, the reins had dropped out of self's hands, and Christ, taking them up, for ever afterwards the control of all his being was in the Saviour's hand. Recognising in the Divine rebuke the demonstration of his inability to guide himself, he commits for ever the guidance of his soul to Christ. Subdued and melted by the love which crowns a long-suffering moBt marvellous with a forgiveness most free, he presents his whole being a grateful sacrifice to Christ. Reading in the heaven-lit look of Jesus the engaging pattern of all human goodness, he yields his Boui to be transformed into his likeness by the operation of his Spirit's power. Peeling the worthiness of all the Saviour's aims, he accepts them as his own, and now counts it his highest glory to be a "worker together with the Lord."
So that you see, piece by piece, the whole principles of his life have been changed. Formerly every motive came from within, now from without and from above. Formerly no course commended itself to his choice save in so far as it promised to further his own well-being, now no course commends itself to him save as it promises to further the cause of the Lord Jesus. Grateful devotion has displaced self-interest altogether; Christ has got the place of self.
And you will mark exactly the nature of this change. It does not spring from any fflere alteration of his aim; it does not consist in a change of the groove on which his >ffect\oiiB run. No; the change reaches deeper than either of these. It consists simply in this, that he has taken himself and merged his whole being in the Saviour. He has taken his will, and sought to blend it with the will of Christ. He has taken W» sin and nailed it to the cross of Christ. He has taken all his powers and yielded tnem to be directed by Christ. He has taken his heart's affections and entwined Mem round the heart of JeBus, to grow to
gether in everlasting gladness. And this consecration is wondrouBly complete. The body has been yielded as a temple of the Holy Ghost, pure and chaste for its heavenly habitant; his heart has been yielded as a garden of the Lord, which, laved by the Spirit wind, might flow forth with all rich spices; his spirit has been yielded as a harp, which, touched by the Divine finger, might discourse celestial melody. He has ascended to the summit of Calvary as Elijah did that of Carmel, and there, in the presence of all peoples, he has taken first all his bodily powers, everything in his physical frame which could yield him energy or sustain him in his toil; and with these, as with so many stones, he has reared an altar unto God. Then he has taken his heart, with all its affections of contrition, love, gratitude, trust, and devotion, and laid it upon the altar he has built, as his dearest offering and God's most welcome sacrifice. And then he has taken all the glory of his spirit, his genius, learning, his grasp of thought, his strength of will, his keenness of perception, everything that invested him with such influence over men, and has poured these over the whole as a choice libation—a great drink-offering of priceless worth. And when all was thus prepared, and every part of his being inwrought into the matter of a sacrifice—then, in answer to his lowly prayer, the Spirit-fire of heaven has come down, and,like Elijah's fire, burned up the altar-stones, as well as the sacrifice that lay upon them, and licked up all that was poured forth about them, till, as you gaze, you behold his whole being wrapt in one glory-flame of devotion unto Christ; every feature of his character yielding some jutting "spiry point" of devotion's fire unto the Lord.
Aye, and you Bee more than Paul within that glow. "One like unto the Son of man" appears in the midst of that sacrificial furnace; and the spirit of Christ and the spirit of Paul are welded together in the sacrificial heat. So that from that hour, "they twain are one." Paul, a living branch of Christ the living stem j Paul, a living limb of Christ the living head; the Bame life-sap, the same life-blood, fructifying, vivifying both. And this union is so absolute that from that hour you cannot see Paul without seeing Christ as well. Henceforth a heavenly presence gleams through his every act. So that it is not Paul that lives, but Christ that lives in him. It is not Paul that speaks, but the spirit of Christ that moves his utterance. It is not Paul that endures, but Christ's grace that is made sufcient in his weakness. It is not Paul that hopes, hut Christ, that is in him, " the hope of glory." He is so facile in Christ's hands that it is the Saviour's will alone that moulds his life. He is the clay on the potter's wheel, wrought by the potter's hand into the potter's device. So that everything about him becomes impressed with the likeness, imbued with the spirit, of the Saviour.
He has not ceased to be Paul,—has not lost any of the dignity of true freedom,— has not become a mere machine in yielding himself up to Divine control. Nay, nay, brethren, we never lose by yielding all to Christ. For it is only when we "lose our life" In Christ that we really keep it. Whenever we lay our Isaacs—our dearest things, outward wealth or spiritual powers—upon G-od's altar, we ever get them back again with added blessings and in more certified possession. The bush may burn with all the fervour and glow of a Divine presence, yet is no twig or leaflet of simple humanity consumed; everythingglorified,whilenought that is truly human is destroyed.
And so there is no loss of freedom in the Apostle. Yea, no life ever manifested more intense individuality, more simple freedom than his. None ever developed with a more unstrained naturalness than his. Yet while this is the ease—while, in a true sense of the words, no mere man had ever more individuality than Paul—in another sense, none had ever less. For more and more the spirit of Jesus becomes the dominating, formative principle of his life, till the Saviour seems to originate his every purpose, and fill his every act. So that you cannot find, from his first submission to the Saviour to his last martyr-vietory, one important word or act with which Christ has not to do. Sift his life as you will, you cannot get Christ out of it. Take Christ from his motive, and all his energy is gone. Take Christ from his speech, and be is dumb with silence. Take Christ from his strength, and he is a Samson shorn of his locks. Take Christ from his confidence before G-od, and he is in despair. Take Christ irom his own heart, and he is of all men most miserable. Take Christ from his fellow-men, as in them, or wishing to be in them, and he loses at once much of the love, and more of the respect, and all the hope with which he had regarded them. Take Christ from his life, and it is a blank, void
of labour, and void of all results. Take Christ from his death, and it gathers afresh all the dismal hopelessness it had lost. Take Christ from his heaven, and there is nought in all the felicities of the better world that can attract his bereaved spirit or soothe it into peace.
Brethren, when Christ thus besets him behind and before, is the Alpha and Omega of his being, his inward life, his outward Lord, do you not discern some propriety in his neglect of all the poorer words which suffice to declare the degree of our attachment to the Saviour, and some meaning in the grandly simpleword he uses when, summing up his whole being, and, referring it to the Saviour, he declares that "To him to live is Christ"'?
Perhaps I have dwelt already too long on this first part of my theme, but yet I cannot leave it without suggesting the inquiry,— Why such a course as that which is here described is so rare? Why is it thatwe knowso much of what it is to live self, and so little of what it is to live Christ? We know we cannot even be thorough men until our humanity attaohes itself to the pure humanity of Jesus, to be ennobled by its fellowship. We lie under the same obligations as rested on Paul. The Father bends over us with the same infinite tenderness which kindled over him. We are the objects of the condescension, the work, the atonement, the love of Jesus as much as he. We experience the same wondrous regard from the Spirit of all grace—for whose heart is strange to those tender influences of heaven which woo us to contrition and to a consecrated life? We are surrounded by the same needs for the servioe such a life would render. Why, then, are we not living so as that we may say, "To us to live is Christ"? Why is it that to us to live—even to us Christiansis so predominantly self? Brethren, let this question linger with us all till it rouse a noble discontent with our unworthy lives, and we begin to respond more fervently and lovingly to all the Divine obligations that invest our life.
II. But I have to add a few words on— The ground of the hope expressed in the second clause. Happily, the secret of it is not hard to find. It lies in the immediate neighbourhood—even in that relationship to Christ which we have just been studying. For these two clauses are not thrown together merely because they form a we!lbalanced antithesis, or describe between them, clearly but compactly, tho story of his life and hope. No; the two are necessarily connected, the one growing out of the other. The tree of personal life in Christ Jesus bears twelve manner of fruits, and this is one of them, that "To die is gain."
Ah! and what a fruit is this! To have the sternest, most painful, most humiliating, most terrible experience of our being, converted into gain; its sting removed, itself transformed into a ministering angel, whose province it is to advance us in our bliss!
Brethren, is not such a hope worth seeking? I need not tell you how rare it is s how few can suppress a timorous anxiety about the closing experiences of life, and about its eternal issues; how many must and ought to fear the worst. You all know this well enough. But I rejoice to be able to tell how such anxiety was, in one case at least, altogether lost, and how such fear was, from one soul at least, displaced by a hope full of immortality. For, thank God, there is no mystery about Paul's hope. It was not whispered to bim when he was caught up into the third heaven. It was not instilled by some strange and exceptional working of the Spirit of assurance. No; it simply grew up within him as the natural development of conscious oneness with Jesus Christ. How could death, how could anything harm him who was livingly one with the Iiord Omnipotent who reigneth? "Lovely and pleasant together in their lives," how could they be, by death or anything else, divided? What was there in all the contingencies of the eternal future that could separate him from the love of Christ? What if hell rouse all its storms of deadliest hate, and beat into Paul's little bark its waves of overwhelming might, till it seemed impossible to ride above the flood? Me need not fear, for Christ is "with him in the ship," and though for a while in his slumber He may permit them to spill their fury, yet will He rise to bid them into peace, and to constrain tbem with a great calm to bear him safely to the other side. What if the Jordan of death gather all the force of its swellings to dispute his passage and bar his entrance to the better land? This man need not fear, for he is in the company of the great High Priest, whose feet will touch, and touching will divide, death's deepest waves, and lead the way dry shod to the Canaan of everlasting rest. And what if death enrobe
itself with all its gloom, and with the grave for its throne-chamber, and all the powers of corruption as its attendant ministers, mock him with the display of its seeming omnipotence? Paul need not fear even this last great enemy, for he is a member of Christ's body, and flesh, and bones, and livingly linked to Him who brake death's strongest bars and overthrew his old supremacy. And how can a limb be left when the head ascends, or a "bone be broken" of the conquering Christ? Thus sharing the victory of Jesus over the last experiences of earth, he will rise with the impetus of his old devotion, and the attraction of the nearer presence of the Lord to meet him on high. The gates that threw wide ope their doors to let the King of Glory enter, will renew their welcome to his earnest follower. The throne has room enough to yield a seat near Him he loves. One with Christ in his earthly travail, he will be one with him in his heavenly triumph as well. And then, "for ever with the Lord," his soul will settle in the peace of that blessed home, lost in beholding the ever-expanding future of glory that attracts his gaze—lost still more in the eternal contemplation of those features of the Kedeemer's countenance, in whose expression the infinite mysteries of the Divine feelings are interpreted by blending with the gleam of simple human affections.
Ah, brethren, this is the grand Gospel hope—the "hope full of immortality"— the hope that alone can keep the soul in perfect peace, and fill it with a joy that passes understanding. This is the hope that Jesus brings into the midst of this dark world — the great blessing he gives his followers, the great heritage of the Church in every age. Have we got it? Have we set about getting it? Oh, let us not lightly esteem it, or deem it easily gained! It is a wondrous thing that the little heart of man can cherish a hope so high. Evidently such a hope can only rest on some equally wondrous fact which transpires in our present experience. And I beg you to mark in Paul the natural and sufficient groundwork for this hope. When nothing else could bear the weight of such a hope, the living union of himself with the Divine Christ — a union of mutual affection and mutual ingrowth into each other—can easily, does properly, sustain a hope like this.
Brethren, have we a similarly buttressed foundation on which to build a hope?