The striking and appropriate terms in which the prophet Isaiah depicts the character and offices of the Messiah, have procured for him, by way of eminence, the title of the Evangelical Prophet. He exhibits a glowing but faithful picture of the character of Christ, and all the humiliating and all the triumphant events of his life. In the chapter which contains my text, the prophet has dipped his pencil in the softest colours, and draws a portrait of the Saviour, which, while it conveys to us the most exalted ideas of his character, is calculated to awaken our tenderest and liveliest sympathy.
Let us then contemplate the character of Christ, as delineated by the prophet under the emblem of "a lamb brought to the slaughter," that our penitence may be awakened, our gratitude enlivened, and our souls warmed with the ardent emotions of love and duty.
Under the character of a "lamb brought to the slaughter," we are led to consider,
The innocence of Christ;
His tenderness and compassion;
And, finally, to consider him as the victim for our sins.
 1. We are led to consider his innocence.
Pure was that spirit which envy never corroded, which malice never inflamed, which pride never agitated, which deceit never contaminated, which lust never corrupted. "A lamb" indeed was he, "without blemish and without spot "His Godhead sanctified his human nature, and purified it from all the stains of sin. His soul glowed innocent and pure as the glory which emanates from the infinite Source of all perfection. No reproaches, no insults, no persecutions could move him from his steadfast purposes of love, or excite any dispositions hut those of compassion. Abuse and injury served but to inflame the fervour of his love, even for those who thus requited his benevolent exertions. No homage could rouse his ambition, no persecutions excite his revenge. Uncontaminated by any vengeful passion, his soul was the seat of innocence and peace. He passed through the world sedulous aid faithful in the discharge of all its duties, mixing with its most busy circles, but infinitely removed from the influence of its vices and its corrupting pleasures That life could not be otherwise than innocent, which was supremely and uniformly devoted to the disinterested purpose of advancing the temporal and eternal interests of those he came to save.
And how pure and renovating the laws which he enjoined!--calculated, by the exalted virtues which they enforce, to restore us to the innocence and virtue of heaven.
Behold then the Lamb of God, clothed with innocence celestial and divine, infusing into his life, and into his precepts, the purity which glowed in his own immaculate soul. Most worthy is he surely [288/289] of our admiration, our esteem, our ardent love. What excuse can there be for the apathy which beholds with indifference this exalted worth? What can save from the stigma of hardened impiety, the heart which views with indifference or contempt the infinitely pure and exalted innocence of the Lamb of God?
And yet this is the condition of sinners. They regard the holy Jesus, whose character should awaken all the emotions of esteem and love, with indifference. They bestow on the character of him who, in every pure and holy attribute, infinitely transcends all human excellence, perhaps not a moment's thought. They hear this immaculate Lamb of God profaned and contemned without emotion, and even unite in the unholy profanation. Perhaps by his innocent and sacred name they seal their thoughtless and frivolous assertions, or impious falsehoods. He whose exalted and disinterested virtue, whose inoffensive and spotless innocence should awaken their most ardent and tender feelings, possesses no place in their thoughts, no share in their affections. They reproach him, they insult him, they put him to an open shame by their irregular and vicious life. Oh! the immaculate innocence of the Lamb of God awfully aggravates the guilt of those who thus neglect and despise him.
The emblem under which the prophet represents the Messiah, leads us to contemplate,
2. His tenderness and compassion.
Behold him ever engaged in alleviating and removing human misery, and delighting to gladden the hearts which sorrow and affliction had smitten. [289/290] Hear him, by reproof, by warning, by affectionate persuasion, seeking to awaken and reclaim secure and obdurate sinners. See him weeping over that impenitence which resisted his importunate solicitations. Hear him pressing, in the accents of mercy, penitent mourners to come unto him, and be partakers of his peace. Behold him always forgetting his own sufferings, in the prosecution of his benevolent work of effecting the redemption of man, and at the moment so awful to frail nature, when his soul was sinking in a dark and terrible death, forgetting his bitter agonies in the prayer for the pardon of his murderers.
And in this infinite tenderness and compassion of the Saviour, the Lamb of God, does there appear no claim on our gratitude and love, no reproach on that insensibility which disregards or contemns his infinite compassion?
Was it an austere, cruel, and unmerciful Judge against whom we rebelled--did a Master claim our service, who had evidenced no wish for our happiness, and conferred no favours upon us--our neglect and disregard might find some excuse. But to remain unaffected by the infinite tenderness of the Lamb of God--to reject mercy forced on us by the earnest and affectionate persuasions of our compassionate Lord--to disregard and contemn that merciful Redeemer who is constantly imploring blessings upon us, and warding off, by his intercessions, the stroke of incensed justice--is a tremendous guilt, which no excuses can palliate, and which human colouring cannot aggravate.
In the emblem of the lamb led to the slaughter, we are called to view,
 3. The patience of the Saviour--
Patience which bore without murmuring a series of reproaches, persecutions, and sufferings, more severe and painful than human imagination can conceive--patience which sustained unexampled injuries and insults with meek resignation, and returned them with blessings instead of revilings--patience which now bears with the provocations and scorn of sinners, still offering them pardon, still interceding for them, still beseeching them to be reconciled unto God. Yes; the patient Lamb of God endured the most agonizing sufferings with the humble prayer of resignation--"The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" [John xviii. 11.] "Father, not my will, but thine be done." [Luke xxii. 42.] He always implored blessings on the persecuting hand that smote him; and even now, seated in the heavens as the King of kings and Lord of lords, he answers the contempt, the blasphemies, the scorn of impenitent sinners, with offers of his mercy and his grace.
Behold him then the patient Lamb of God, and let us ask ourselves, what a debt of gratitude do we owe to that patience which encountered such severe sufferings for our sakes, and which could not be intimidated from the consummation of the glorious work of our redemption by the awful sufferings and agonies which were to mark its close? To what but to the long-suffering patience of the Lamb of God, as our Mediator and Intercessor, do we owe the day of grace which we now enjoy, our escape from the punishments which our sins have merited, and the access which is permitted us to the throne of our Almighty Sovereign and Judge? [291/292] Behold then Jesus, the Lamb of God, innocent and tender, sustaining the burden of our sins--suffering the most severe pains of poverty, contempt, and persecution--assailed by the revilings, the buffetings, the scourgings of unfeeling and wicked men--and not a murmur escapes from him. He bears the accumulated sufferings which pressed upon him, with composure, with cheerfulness, with ardour--bears them, not to obtain blessings for himself, but to effect the deliverance and salvation of sinful man. And shall we, whose sins caused these sufferings, we, who are the subjects of all these blessings, behold this exalted exhibition of disinterested patience without being overwhelmed with the emotions of gratitude for his patient and enduring love, without being penetrated with compunction for our transgressions? For,
4. He was the "Lamb brought to the slaughter," the atoning victim for our sins.
He was that Lamb without spot and without blemish, on whom were laid the iniquities of us all--the true Paschal Lamb, whose blood, sprinkled on the soul by faith, saves us from the wrath of eternal justice. Of this divine Lamb, the lambs offered in sacrifice in the Jewish law were all typical. From the merits of the precious blood of this Lamb, once shed for many, the legal sacrifices, by anticipation, derived all their atoning efficacy.
Considering Christ as a sacrifice for sin, how appropriate his appellation of the Lamb of God! Pure from the stains of guilt, possessing, not merely spotless, but divine innocence, infinitely availing is the sacrifice of his death. As the Lamb of God, Jesus was indeed led to the slaughter: he was [292/293] wounded for our sins, he was bruised for our iniquities. Innocent and holy, he suffers for offences not his own. His blood was shed for us--and shall it be in vain! His atoning sacrifice for our sins is all-sufficient--and shall we refuse to avail ourselves of this inestimable benefit? Exposed to the just displeasure of our Almighty Sovereign, shall we cast from us that atoning blood which, in his mysterious but merciful appointment, seals our pardon? Defiled by iniquity, shall we reject that precious blood which is infinitely powerful to cleanse us from all sin?
Behold, then, impenitent sinners! behold the Lamb of God, the sacrifice for your sins, and be affected with a deep sense of their guilt and enormity, be penetrated with lively contrition for them. Let gratitude for his infinite compassion be united with the emotions of penitence. Let the humble but fervent exercises of holy faith be excited by the prevailing efficacy of his precious blood. Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world--behold him with the eye of penitential, and lively, and holy faith, and receive rest to your souls.
Christians, let the Lamb of God be ever before you, the object of your contemplations, the source of your penitence, the theme of your praises, the pattern of your conduct. While from the mysterious but all-powerful efficacy of his blood you derive your pardon, your qualifications for eternal felicity must consist in your conformity to the meek and holy graces which he possessed. If you have not his spirit, you are none of his.
Remember, this Lamb of God was innocent and holy, infinitely removed from all sin. Be ye then [293/294] perfect, even as he was perfect. Carry with you, as the constant pattern of your conduct, his blameless life. Strive to act, in every situation, as you think your pure and inoffensive Redeemer would have acted. Be, like him, wholly separate from sin. Followers of a Master so innocent, avoid even the appearance of evil; and cherish, by the aids of his Holy Spirit, those divine virtues which will assimilate you to his image, and fit you to be partakers of his everlasting glories.
Behold his tenderness--and remember, your tempers and dispositions must be like his. Disciples of a Redeemer whose soul glowed with infinite compassion, who was constantly engaged in alleviating human misery, whose gentle spirit never caused a moment's unnecessary pain, whose compassionate voice was ever seeking to sooth and comfort the afflicted, who, in the exercise of mercy unequalled and infinite, poured forth his soul unto death for the sinful and rebellious race of man--with this bright and exalted pattern of tenderness and mercy before you, how great will be your guilt, Christians, if you cherish a harsh, unkind, and unforgiving spirit! Let the tender compassion of your Lord dwell in your hearts. His tender compassion for you bore him through all his unexampled sufferings, and sustained him upon the cross. No return that you can make can be in any degree adequate to this love. He demands of you that you exercise tenderness and compassion towards your brethren. Prove, then, by your meek and gentle tempers, by your active and disinterested zeal in alleviating and comforting human sorrow, that you are indeed the true disciples of the Lamb of God.
 Behold his patience. Can more bitter revilings, more piercing injuries, more severe persecutions, or deeper sufferings, assail you than those which he sustained, not only without a murmur, but in the exercise of the most exalted acts of kindness towards his persecutors 1 Christians, when disposed to resent the revilings, injuries, and persecutions to which you are exposed, look to your reviled and persecuted, but forgiving Lord. When fretful and impatient under distress and affliction, seat yourselves at the foot of the cross of your Redeemer, and learn resignation from the suffering but patient Lamb of God.
Finally. Behold him the victim for your sins.
Here, Christians, is the source of your most exalted hopes, and your most important duties. The Victim for your sins is all-sufficient: the mysterious blood of the Lamb of God, shed upon the cross, has appeased the wrathful claims of divine justice. United to this divine and Almighty Saviour by a true and living faith, you have not any thing to fear from the demands of that divine law which you have violated. Your souls are at peace; and through the power of your Saviour's merits and grace, you can call God your Father. Ascribe all the glory and praise of these exalted blessings to that Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. Keep steadily in view the cross on which he suffered, the victim for your sins. Behold there your guilt in the infinite sacrifice that atoned for it, and be penitent and humble. Let the wonders of redeeming mercy which it displays, awaken your love, inflame your gratitude, strengthen and animate your holy zeal. Derive from the cross, on which the Lamb of God [295/296] made full atonement for your sin, all your consolations and your hopes for time and eternity. God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Under the symbols of the bread broken and the wine poured out upon the altar, you may behold the Lamb of God bruised and slain for your sins. And the church calls you, on the approaching festival that commemorates the resurrection of Him who once died, but now liveth for ever, to celebrate the infinite condescensions of his love. You are called spiritually to feed, by lively faith, on his body broken and blood shed, that you may partake of his mercy, and be nourished by his grace unto everlasting life. Seated at the table which his mercy spreads, as an all-sufficient and merciful Redeemer, Jesus addresses the accents of tender compassion--"Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." [Isaiah lv. 1.] Brethren, the invitation is addressed to you; for, sinful, guilty, and doomed to death, from the divine fountain only, which is opened in the merits and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, can you derive health, and salvation, and life. Place then your trust in him, as that Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. Faithfully devoting yourselves to his service, you shall enjoy the consolations of his mercy, and the unfailing and almighty protection of his grace; and finally you shall be admitted to the kingdom of the once-suffering, but now highly exalted and triumphant Saviour; and there, with [296/297] angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven, celebrate the everlasting festival of love; ascribing blessing, and honour, and glory, and power to him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb that was slain to redeem you by his blood.