RT. REV. NICHOLAS H. COBBS, D.D., BISHOP OF ALABAMA, AND
REV. CICERO S. HAWKS, BISHOP OF MISSOURI.
AMIDST all the difficulties with which the great plan of redemption and salvation by the incarnation and atonement of the Son of God has had to contend, there are, perhaps, few greater than that which arises from the contracted view and partial light in which the corrupted nature of man ever disposes him to regard it. Instead of receiving God's revelation of his will as a part of a great whole; instead of viewing every dispensation of His Providence in connection with his universal government of the world, as the Parent of the Universe; instead of regarding the Author of our salvation as the master-builder of a great temple to his own glory;--man is ever prone to interpret all he sees, hears, or knows of God and his works, as meant to apply to himself, to his party, to the country and the age in which he may chance to live: thus evidently resembling the insect on a vast building, which fancied all the work, art, and science around him were displayed for himself alone, and the individual stone, and the little niche in the same, which he [3/4] inhabited. The mistakes into which he fell were not the fault of the great architect, but the result of his own littleness and vanity.
Precisely so is it with selfish, circumscribed man; and to cure his false estimate of things, it would be well for him to emerge from his selfish abode, take the wings of faith, and in the light of the Sun of Righteousness to soar above his natural and corrupted state, in the pure air of revealed truth. By so doing, he might see not only the beauty of the divine workmanship, but the grandeur of the whole design; and with all such unity of parts, each with the other, all tending to one great effect, as to manifest wisdom, and power, and benevolence, far above his capacities fully to comprehend.
Had mankind in all ages taken this plain and reasonable way of investigating divine truths, and of comprehending God's revelations and dispensations of mercy, how many mistakes would have been avoided! What becoming humility, what praise and adoration, what submissive faith and willing obedience, in the creature; and what glory to the great Creator, would have been the happy result!
But, alas! the fact was far otherwise. The heathen nations, before their conversion to the gospel, were as far as possible from observing this way, and thus had lost all knowledge of the true God. The Jewish nation, by not observing it, forgot the spiritual [4/5] character of their promised Messiah, supposing him to be a temporal prince, and thus divested God's dispensation towards them of every feature of mercy to their immortal souls. Even our Lord's own immediate disciples were so blinded by their contracted education among the Jews, that he found it necessary to teach them divine truth, as children are nursed by the most gentle means and the tenderest care. Had it been otherwise--had they seen the stupendous plan and extensive characteristics of the divine revelations in their Holy Scriptures, in their Law, and in their Prophets--the precept in the text would have been unnecessary: they would have seen that all their Scriptures "testified of Christ, and the glory which should follow." They would have seen that Jesus, who spoke the words of the text, was indeed the true "Logos," the eternal "Word," "by whom the world was made;" and that his Spirit it was which moved on the waters, and reduced a chaos of matter to order and beauty: that in his own image he, as God, had created man; and that against his law did man offend; and that [as in the first prophecy of mercy] he did foretell that in his incarnate state, "his heel" should be wounded, even so as, at last, the serpent's head should be "bruised" and crushed. They would have seen that it was by faith in this predicted Saviour, "Abel had offered a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain," who refused to believe in his name. Had they [5/6] searched the Scriptures with enlarged views, they would have understood what their Master, Jesus, meant, when he uttered that strong asseveration of his eternity, "BEFORE ABRAHAM WAS, I AM:" they would have seen that He it was who appeared unto Abraham, warning him of the destruction of Sodom, and afterwards commanded him to offer his beloved son Isaac, in order to shadow forth that great sacrifice shortly to be offered for sin on Mount Calvary--that very mountain on which it had been so emphatically promised, "Jehovah Jireh," "God will provide himself with a lamb." They would have seen that it was he who appeared unto Jacob in the vision of the ladder, connecting once more earth with heaven; foretelling the mercies which should descend to man, and the prayers which should ascend to God through him. They would have seen that it was he who revealed unto Joseph his future exaltation; and in so doing, had predicted his own triumphant reign in heaven, and the spreading of the Gospel among the Gentiles. They would have seen that it was he who appeared unto Moses in the bush, unconsumed though burning with fire, denoting the union of the divine with the human nature; and (under the solemnities of this terrific truth), bidden to go into Egypt to redeem and save his people from their bondage: thereby indicating his own mission into this wicked world, to redeem wretched man from his bondage under sin. They would have known [6/7] that he it was who gave to Moses the Law from Mount Sinai; who rested over the ark of the Covenant, a pillar of fire by night, and a cloud by day; and that the divine Being who thus made known his "presence" unto them, was "the Christ whom they tempted in the wilderness," and who punished them, proved them, and "led them forty years," that he might impress on the minds of all ages that the heavenly, like the earthly Canaan, is to be entered "through much tribulation." In short, they would have seen that it was Christ who had revealed himself to all the prophets--strung the harp of the son of Jesse--established the ceremonial law--ordered the temple to be built, and placed his divine presence there in the Shekinah, in the Urim and Thummim--and that being now before them in the tabernacle of the flesh, he, even he was "the Immanuel, God with us," reconciling the world unto himself All this they might have known: and how appropriate, in such a case, would have seemed to them the words of the text--"Think not that I am come to destroy the Law, or the Prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil."
The Jewish nation had grievously perverted the divine word and ordinances. Even the disciples of our Lord found themselves ignorant of many things. For a long time they were blinded to the great truth, that the "Law was a schoolmaster to lead them to Christ." And although "being made under the law," [7/8] our Lord literally and emphatically "Came to his own, and his own received him not."
To remove ignorance and resolve doubts, therefore, was the design of our Lord in the text. As a shadow is filled when the substance takes its place, even so, "I am come to fulfil"--to show the true end and meaning of all that which is contained in the law and the prophets. All was from me, and in me must all receive its fulness. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end of all the dispensations of mercy: and in me the Law and the Prophets receive their plenitude, as rivers run into the sea whence they originated. "Search the Scriptures: for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and these are they which testify of me."
As a work befitting the solemn occasion of the consecration of some chief ministers of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is designed to go fully into the great subject alluded to in these preliminary remarks, and to show that God hath, from the beginning, given to a sinful world abundant proofs of his design to save believers in his Word by the atoning sacrifice of his Incarnate Son; and that in this view, the Old and New Testaments are but parts of one great whole, copied from one great pattern once "shown to Moses on the mount," but "reserved in the heavens," from which all the "messengers '" from God to man are to copy and communicate heavenly intelligence; [8/9] and that God requireth immediate improvement of such inestimable blessings.
In pursuing this subject, I trust you will all have reason to perceive that God hath had from the beginning but one Church of true believers: that Christ was and is "the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth;" and that the Abrahamical and Temple economy are but different aspects of one great Temple above, "whose walls are salvation, and whose gates praise." Above all, and to speak without a figure, you will perceive that holy men of old, as they were enlightened and moved by the Holy Ghost, anticipated and believed in a Saviour who was to come, with the same certainty as Christians now look back on that event as having been accomplished on the cross: both regarding Christ, as shadows regard the substance which makes them, nothing in themselves, but as they are fulfilled in Him.
In accomplishing this design the difficulty will be, not in the want of proof, but chiefly in making a selection of evidence suited to our sermon.
We commence with what our Saviour said to Cleopas and his companions to whom he appeared after his resurrection, as they were journeying to Emmaus.
"Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, Jesus expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning HIMSELF--and said unto them, O fools [9/10] and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to have entered into his glory?"
"All the prophets" and "all the scriptures" are here affirmed by our Lord to have spoken things concerning himself, i. e. of his sufferings in atoning for sin on the Cross by his agony, and of his rising and entering into his glory for the justification of those that believe on his name.
By this we see that it was the will of God in all ages to make known to mankind this great truth, viz., that he would require an atonement for the breach of his law greater than could be made by any other than his Son; and that when made on the Cross, that Son, Jesus Christ, should enter into his glory.
This great truth, so amazing in itself, and to sinful and despairing man so cheering, the divine Wisdom did not sec fit to reveal at once, in all its glory. The light of the sun is too powerful to the naked eye; a denser medium is necessary to view and examine its wonderful properties. Even so it is with the spiritual light of this glorious truth, in the face of this Sun of Righteousness. Ever since the fall the weakness of man's spiritual organs required types and shadows to comprehend its ineffable glories: and it is worthy of remark that the same necessity still exists, fully to understand the amazing truths of the Gospel. It is necessary now as with [10/11] the cotemporaries of the apostles, to express ourselves in the terms and shadows of the law the more clearly to see and comprehend the extent of the mercies which God hath vouchsafed to us in the atonement of his Son Jesus Christ. Thus with a view to express, and impress on our hearts, what God hath done for us by the bloody sufferings of his Son, the language of the law of Moses is most appropriate. "His life was a ransom" and "his blood a price"--"He was made sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." The satisfaction which Christ made for the sins of the world is called "the blood of sprinkling." Which being taken from the acts of the official duty of the High Priest who typified him (Jesus Christ), is for that reason more impressive on the mind of believers than any other language could be. As the term "Law" in the text was ever understood, by the Jews, to comprehend all the five books of Moses, and as they extend the history of mankind to their first origin in the creation, even so we find it here not unappropriate to observe, that Adam himself, as he was the head of the human race, is affirmed, by the divinely inspired penman, to be the type of Christ, who is the head of all those who, after death in sin, are quickened by his Spirit to live in newness of life, to his glory and honor. "The first man, Adam, was made a living soul: the last Adam, a quickening Spirit." Abel [11/12] typified Jesus Christ as an innocent man murdered; but whose blood, instead of crying for vengeance, "speaketh better things" even an availing sacrifice and intercession for a guilty world. Jacob's striving with the angel and prevailing, prefigured the successful strivings of "the Son of Man" with God in his prayers and sufferings for the sinful race of man.
Joseph represented our Lord as a Son, beloved of his Father; hated of his brethren; sold for money; cast into a pit; rising thence and set on a throne; made known and reconciled to his brethren; who repent and "bow down to him," who feeds with fruits of his mercy and wisdom both them and the nations of the earth.
Moses typified Christ as a Lawgiver and a prophet. "The Lord thy God," saith he, "shall raise up a prophet from among your brethren like unto me; unto him shall ye hearken." The Messiah thus promised was indeed like unto Moses, not only as a lawgiver and prophet, but as a Redeemer, subduing his enemies; instituting his sacraments; ordaining his priests; enlisting the faithful under his banners, and "with his own right hand and with his holy arm getting himself the victory"--triumphing over Death, and thus most emphatically "leading captivity captive."
The Brazen Serpent typified the Saviour of believers in his crucified state; raised up on the Cross [12/13] for their transgressions, and dispensing his healing power to those who truly look to him.
Jonah, by the miracle wrought in his favor, made known his resurrection, after remaining three days in the bowels of the earth; and although derided by the Infidel as being unworthy of God to record, this prophetical figure receives a dignity as interpreted by our Lord himself, which words cannot express.
The whole system of sacrifices as made known to us by the Law and the Prophets, especially those of expiation and intercession, were designed by God to adumbrate the atonement which the Messiah would make for the sins of the world. And this, as we have already intimated, is the reason why Jesus is called the "Lamb of God," or God's lamb, in the passover, "slain from the foundation of the world, and an offering unto God for a sweet smelling savor."
When it is duly considered that the Messiah was to bring himself as the Offering, be himself the offerer of his own body, yea, and be his own Intercessor with his own blood, as an expiation for sin, i. e. for the guilt of the whole world, everything that typified him in this character, though but the faintest shadow, becomes of the greatest importance to mankind. The Jewish priesthood thus considered, was, for the time, worthy of God to institute, and of the deepest concern to man, because it figured beforehand the Great and only Priest who pleadeth [13/14] effectually with his blood for the sins of a condemned world. And the same may be said of the Christian Priesthood instituted by God to commemorate the same one great sacrifice for the sins of the world made once for all on the Cross. Neither the one nor the other is a Reality, as the Romanists affirm. Both are representatives only; pointing to the Cross. Yet the office to minister in either cannot be self-assumed nor conferred, but as God hath appointed; for He hath said of both, "No man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that was called of God as was Aaron." And then again, was it ever said of the Paschal Lamb that it was transubstantiated into the natural and divine body of Christ, because it foretold the body of Christ the lamb that should thereafter be offered? Yet this absurdity is no more disgusting than what is affirmed by the Romanists of the Supper which commemorates the true Lamb which once shed his blood upon the Cross. The great instrument of the blessing to mankind in both the ordinances (the Paschal Lamb and the Supper of the Lord) is faith. The purity and holiness of the Jehovah forbid us to suppose that He can listen to any prayer or intercession, but such as is purified and sanctified by the blood of his Son. Hence we see that "the prayer of faith" includes the merits of the atoning sacrifice of the Messiah, as we say in concluding every collect, "through Jesus Christ our Lord;" for it is said, "there is none other name given among [14/15] men whereby they can be saved but the name of Jesus Christ." The apostle had all parts of this subject before his inspired mind when he gave notice to the Hebrews of the heavenly origin and spiritual interpretation of their Law.
"There are priests," said he, "that offer gifts according to the Law who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the Tabernacle: for see, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee on the Mount." This pattern comprehended the whole subject of the spiritual interpretation of the law as fulfilled in Jesus Christ. For the same apostle further saith, "that the Law had the shadow of good things to come"--"Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth." All the duties of the high priest in the tabernacle and temple services are thus explained--Jesus Christ is called "the minister of the sanctuary which the Lord pitcheth and not man." "Christ being come an High Priest of good things to come by a greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands: that is to say, not of this building, neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." "Christ is not entered into the Holy places made with hands which are figures of [15/16] the true; but into heaven itself now to appear in the presence of God for us."
Once more: not only in the main and leading features of the Law and the Prophets do we see the illustration of the truth contained in the words of the text, but the same appears in those things which, were it not for the importance of the subject, might be deemed of small moment; the revelation of God, in this respect, being like his works in nature. It is not only in the sun, in the moon and in the planetary system, and the vast order of the Universe, that the wisdom, the power and the goodness of God appear: but even the flowers of the field in their minutest examination, by microscopic glasses, equally gratify the taste for divine knowledge in every humble and diligent inquirer.
We shall see the propriety of this remark if we follow the inspired writer in other minuter parts of holy scripture. In referring to the conduct of Abraham towards Hagar and Sarah, the apostle points out a divine allegory of God's rejecting the Jews and raising up children of the Gentiles. Sarah, the barren, representing the Gentile Church, is called upon to rejoice for the multitude of her children, (Gal. iv. 27. Isa. liv. 1.) Isaac, therefore, is set forth as the type of believers who are "the children of the promise." Esau and Jacob are mentioned with the same view: and the meaning of the younger supplanting the elder is declared to be an [16/17] illustration of the wisdom and mercy and justice of God in adopting the Gentiles and rejecting the Jews because of their profaneness and unbelief.
God's wonderful preservation of Noah and his family in the ark from perishing by the waters of the flood, is made to represent his covenanted mercies to his Church, the ark of Christ's safety--all who truly believe and remain faithful and obedient to the divine command.
The passage of the children of Israel through the Red Sea, is emphatically alluded to as the type of the Baptism of all nations, as commanded by the Saviour to his apostles. As in the allegory the divine command was given by Moses to all "to go forward" so likewise were the apostles commanded to baptize ye all. In both cases infants are evidently included. In the former case, there were not only men and women but youth of all ages, children and little ones and infants in their mothers' arms, all were commanded to "go forward" and be "baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea." Even so in the Christian Church must all be baptized unto Christ their spiritual Redeemer. Parents, if any such, and so cruel, who had left their children to be trodden down by Pharaoh and chariots, would have been held guilty of great sin; Christian parents who leave their children unbaptized cannot be innocent. God noteth them in his book.
As we now speak of the sacramental Bread and [17/18] sacramental cup as being the body and blood of Christ, even so doth the apostle affirm of the Rock, smitten by Moses in the wilderness, that it was meant to represent Christ; that was Christ saith he, out of whose pierced side flowed the "blood which taketh away the sins of the world."
The sinful murmurings and rebellions of the Israelites against Moses and Aaron, the apostle declares to be types of the like sins against Christ, and his ministers; and after reminding the reader of the fact of God's overthrowing the wicked Korah and his company, he adds these things were "our examples or types, to the intent that we should t lust after evil things as they also lusted." So full does the analogy appear between the old and new testament that the sacred penman represents the gospel and spiritual privileges under the terms peculiar to the Jewish dispensation. The Christian Church is called the New Jerusalem in the Revelations. Hence, all Christians who are admitted into this city enjoy its glorious immunities, and are termed by St. Peter, in the language of the Jews, "a holy nation," "a peculiar people," a chosen generation, a "royal priesthood." Were not these titles given unto the whole Jewish nation? Taken as a nation separated from a wicked and idolatrous world, and including a divine ministry derived from God, they were evidently such: and such also is the Christian Church. Her members are the "elect of [18/19] God," his "peculiar people," a "chosen generation," having a divinely appointed ministry, which, because appointed by the king, the true Messiah, may be called a "royal priesthood" to commemorate the same substance which the Jewish priesthood did anticipate. All this is true of the Christian, as of the Jewish Church, and although there may be some in each, who disgrace their profession by their unbelief and wicked lives; yea, many who are called by our Lord the bad fish caught in the net with the good, yet all must be called by the names which God himself hath given them, "the elect," "the chosen people," "the church of God." But let not the wicked plume themselves on this concession. Let them rather be warned of the awful account which they must give when the net is drawn to the shore, "when the secrets of all men's hearts shall be disclosed, when "the bad shall be separated from the good," and "God shall lay judgment to the line, and righteousness to the plummet," and sentence those who have abused such heavenly privileges to outer darkness, where "there is weeping and gnashing of teeth."
In conclusion we ask, taking the subject laid before you as a whole, is there not something in it of an extraordinary character? What book but the Bible ever brought similar wonders to your view? Beginning with the creation of man, and continuing many thousand years, is there not a wisdom and unity of design in the plan of redemption by Jesus Christ, which [19/20] demonstrate the same to have its origin in the bosom of God? How can you doubt that the Bible containing such wonders as these is the Word of God; when nothing but his infinite wisdom, prescience and almighty power could devise and bring such mighty things to pass? things amazing both in magnitude and minutiae; things that reach from the creation to the end of time; things that embrace all nations and kingdoms of the earth; and yet things which descend to the wants and wishes, the disease and the cure of every individual soul. To the natural philosopher it is plain that nothing less than infinite wisdom and skill could form the flowers of the field. Of this he is as much convinced by an examination of their exquisite texture and beauty, as he is convinced that God made the sun and all the planetary system because of their magnitude and unparalleled rectitude of motion. And why should you not apply this mode of reasoning to the subject before us? If God be not the author of this minute as well as stupendous scheme of mercy revealed in the Bible, who was the author of it? That the greatness of the design and the coincidence of every part, forbid the thought of its being the work of chance, you must perceive. That it was not the work of man appears, because there is nothing like it in the universe. Search the histories of the world, and examine the religions of all men, and what is there which bears the least resemblance to this? As Jesus said [21/21] to those who saw his miracles; so we may say to the unbeliever, "Believe me for the work's sake," said he. Believe the religion of the Bible, because it is all miracle. It is the work of God not of man; and so his work, as there is nothing like it, either in the heavens above or in the earth beneath. It is all divine: and to disbelieve it is the greatest sin: as God hath said in his word, "He that believ-eth not on the son, hath made God a liar." Let such repent of their sin, before it be too late to cry for mercy.
But there are those who admit the atonement for sin typified in the law and fulfilled in Christ, yet see not the necessity of the sanctification of the spirit, the holiness of heart and spirit, which evidently are the design of that atonement. The law you see led men to Christ; but we ask for what end? Evidently to see how God "hateth sin" by beholding how he punished it, in the agonies of the garden and the cross in the person of his own Son. And will he not punish such as continue in sin after such an example? The blood of Christ, in a spiritual sense, must be applied to our souls, and by that blood we must be made clean, or there is no salvation for us. God is a consuming fire, and all who are not purified will be burned up as dross; "for without holiness no man shall see God!" If the sprinkling of the lamb's blood was required that the destroying angel might pass over in mercy, how shall we escape if the blood [21/22] of the True "Lamb of God" be not found on us in the day of visitation?
How deeply solicitous, therefore, should we be that this sanctification be effected before the day of grace be closed upon us! If this applies to all, how much more should be its influence on the minds and the hearts of the clergy, especially the chief pastors of the flock of Christ, that they and all who are committed to their charge, should be holy in all manner of conversation and godliness! As this is, or ought to be, the one great end of their calling, so it should begin with themselves in their own hearts and lives; or all their ministrations in the church of God are denied in the sight of God and man. "Be ye holy, for I am holy, saith the Lord." This, and this only is the way to manifest our faith in "Christ as the end of the law." "Keep this way, pursue this way without wavering, and the Church will be saved, and God will be glorified. Even so." Amen.
Now to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, Three persons but one God, be ascribed all honor and glory, might, majesty and dominion, now and for ever. Amen.