"The Son of Man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn Him to death." (Matthew 20:18)
MANY of us, beloved, are contemplating our approach to the table of the Lord in order to obey His dying injunction, "Do this in remembrance of me;" and I feel it to be important that our morning subject should open to our view something of what we are about to do, that we should not go to the table of the Lord as a mere ceremony, as a mere passport to heaven, or as a mere periodical atonement for a month's transgressions, but that we should approach it knowing what we do. "As often as ye eat of this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till He come." And the Lord's death should therefore be our subject today. The language of my text seems like a preparatory opening to such a subject, and gives such a view of the treatment which our precious glorious Christ always did receive, and still does receive, from carnal minds, that probably we may find something of later date to which the language of my text will with equal strictness apply, than the date of His personal sufferings upon the earth. Read the expressions, "The Son of Man shall be betrayed." Then there was a traitor in the world at that time, and among His twelve disciples. And are there no traitors, even now, among His professing followers? "Betrayed unto the chief priests." And has there ever been any enemies of our precious Christ like to a human priesthood? "Betrayed unto the chief priests and the scribes." The scribes were the famed literary men of the day, who in the latter periods of the Jewish history were the copyers and at the same time the interpreters of the law of God; they knew nothing of the art of printing in those days, and every important document relative to the Church of God was written by these men, and they were supposed to know everything they wrote and to be capable of instructing others. And what shall I say of the literary men of our own age? Are not the greater part of them the bitterest enemies of Christ? Then see the result, "and they shall condemn Him to death." Everything that the carnal man does, everything that carnal professors assume, everything that a carnal priesthood assume, and everything they practice in the way of superstition, goes to condemn Christ. Oh, the vast importance of passing by the mere transactions of the season, solemn as they are, to see how the Son of Man is crucified afresh, and again and again put to open shame in the day in which we live. I hope my God will enable me to be very solemn, and faithful, and honest, with you upon this all-important subject today, and I trust also that He will give in answer to prayer, sufficient strength to this poor frame to stand up and proclaim His truth.
I. First of all, then, let us look at the language of the text, as the testimony of our great Prophet concerning His own sufferings. You see that it is a prophecy. The event had not taken place, but He apprises the disciples that it would take place, and, therefore, in going up to Jerusalem with them, He gave them this piece of information, and opens to their view, first of all, His testimony relative to His own personal sufferings. And, beloved, unless we have a right apprehension of them we can by no possibility have fellowship with them; and this was one of Paul's most ardent desires, that he might not only know Him and the power of His resurrection, but also "the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death." We will therefore look at the sufferings of Christ as substitutional, acceptable, and covenanted for. I will not allow the thought to be harbored of those sufferings being promiscuous, contingent and uncertain. They were substitutional on behalf of His own Church. I hear Him say, and surely I am not at liberty to dispute what He Himself declares concerning them, "I lay down my life for the sheep." Now I think that one of the most offensive things in the present day (I mean offensive to God), is the fashionable theology which makes the sufferings of Christ promiscuous. That there was an amount, an extent of sufferings very great, is admitted, and perhaps some of the preachers will use such strong and expressive language as to move the natural passions of large audiences whilst representing the depths of sorrow to which our precious Christ stooped; and yet when they have so done, and appear to be applauded as having given a masterly discourse, the whole is left promiscuous, and the audience uninformed for whom all the suffering was endured; they only know that it was for mankind. So that after all that can be said relative to His sufferings by such blind guides, it comes to this--there is enough merit in Christ to save the whole world, but that it is of no use to anybody, unless man can turn and make use of it for himself! That is the divinity of the day, and my soul utterly loathes and abhors it. I have chosen this verse as my text, on purpose to war against it, and to insist that the sufferings of Christ which He thus foretold were substitutional, that He stood in the place of those whom the Father had given to Him, and that the Shepherd was to be smitten for the sheep, and that the Lord would lay upon Him the iniquities of the sheep; or as you read in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." And what saith my Lord Himself concerning this distinction? Why, as to the world, He would not even pray for it; and I can never believe that He would die for it. "I pray not for the world," said He, "but for them which thou hast given me out of the world," (John 17:9) and sure I am that we are at full liberty to paraphrase that text, and to say, "I die not for the world, but for them whom thou hast given me out of the world." If you look at the closing part of the revelation of the Word of God, you will find that the very inhabitants of heaven are spoken of as those who were redeemed from among men--not along with men, observe, but "from among men." (Rev. 14:4) What, shall not Jehovah Jesus know His own? What, shall He be sent down from heaven to endure poverty, shame and spitting, ignominy, suffering and death, to fight with the prince of darkness forty days in the wilderness, to "spoil principalities and powers, and make a show openly of them upon His cross," to be murdered by the Gentiles, and buried, and execrated by the Jews, and not know for what or for whom, and not know whether it would be of any use or not. Is it to be left to the proud free-will of man to render the sufferings of Christ null and void? Is it to be left to worms of the earth, with all their natural enmity to God's designs, the perfect work of the Son of God, and the operations and influence of the Holy Ghost to neutralize it? My God, forgive dear old England for the awful amount of this bare-faced Infidelity which poisons it from one end to the other. I wonder at no judgments which may come upon a nation, church, or people, when God's truth is so frightfully perverted. Nor have I any hope of the rescue of my beloved country from utter ruin, unless God will rescue His own truth from such cruel manglers, and such dreadful distortions of what His Word plainly sets forth.
Substitutional sufferings. Was it not uniformly set forth under the Old Testament economy, by every sacrifice appointed, by every victim slain, by every drop of blood sprinkled, by every cloud of incense offered up? Did not the morning and evening lamb, proclaim and publish a morning and evening gospel sermon, unto all the Jews in those early days, that substitution was the only hope of the sinner? that the sacrifice was offered for those who deserved themselves to be sacrificed? that the offering was presented before God to atone for those who deserved His everlasting wrath and vengeance? Had those types no signification? Was all the ceremonial of the Mosaic economy, as Infidels would now tell us, a mere farce? Had it no meaning? Was it as empty as the cause of Baal's prophets in the presence of Elijah? My God forbid! A spiritually-minded man, one taught of God, reads the gospel preached before unto Abraham, published and proclaimed by Moses and Aaron, set forth by the Levitical priesthood, in the histories of the line of kings, in the melodies of the Psalms, in the statements of the prophets and the testimony of Jesus, as the spirit of prophecy, and then comes down to New Testament times to see it all confirmed, expounded and exhibited for the seeking soul to comprehend the heights, the depths, the lengths, and the breadths of Jehovah's love in the entire salvation of His Church.
I pass on now, to remark that His sufferings were also acceptable; and this was typified in the law; for if anything was offered, at any time, in sacrifice that had a blemish, or defect of any sort or kind, it was rejected--it was not acceptable; just holding out this grand gospel truth, that had Jesus been imperfect, had there been a spot or blemish about Him, had there been the capability of a sinful thought--I do not know that I can put it stronger--it would have unfitted Him for the service and the sacrifice that He came down to perform, and the Eternal God would never have accepted of Him. The blood of a bullock, or a goat--the blood of a lamb, or a bird, under the Old Testament, would have been just as meritorious and acceptable to God as the blood of Christ, if there had been any imperfection about Him. But, glory to His name, He was "pure, holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners;" (Heb. 7:26) and therefore He was a suitable victim. Consequently Jehovah testifies, from heaven, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Well pleased! Oh, the importance of believing the sufferings of Christ to be sufficient, satisfactory, and acceptable unto God! that, being so, there is no need of any repetition. He died once--that is enough. His merit and righteousness--His obedience and death--His doing and dying; in a word, His sufferings, being acceptable to God, all pretensions to offer more must amount to an insult to Him. If I could credit the abominable blasphemies of what is called the "sacrifice of the mass," and the like--better say mess, for it is a mess, and a rebellion against God; if I could credit the authority of a human priesthood, or anything they do; if I could credit the abominable errors of penances, and the creature doings of proud free-will, as well as the sacrifice which they make of the mere Lord's supper ordinance, I should at once despise the sacrifice of Christ--I should say, it is not true when He says, that His sacrifice is acceptable; it is not true when, with His dying breath, He says, "It is finished!" it is not true when He appeals to the Father, and says, "I have finished the work thou gavest me to do." No! if I could credit these robed Infidels I should at once say, it is not true, for they have a great deal to finish; and the work has not been done by Christ if their horrid system be true. But I rejoice to know, that it is false as the hell whence it came.
Moreover, so acceptable are the sufferings of Christ before the throne that the millions of elect vessels of mercy, the recipients of grace, who left the world before He died, all shouted glory to His name, holding secure their blessed seats. They took those seats in glory before Christ actually died, by virtue of His engagement; there they sat secure for ages, until the covenant bond was fulfilled, performed, and honored, and then they shouted glory to His dear name on account of it, which leads me to observe, in the next place, that the sufferings of Christ were covenanted for. "For this purpose came I unto this hour." And so clearly did our precious Christ discern and discover the end from the beginning, that He says, "For this end was I born"--"For this end came I into the world." When attempts were made to kill Him He knew His hour was not come, and therefore, said He, "I must depart hence." And when He arrives at Gethsemane's garden, and the scene of our text opens to His view, then knew He that the hour was come--the hour that He had covenanted for--the hour set down in mutual agreement between the persons of Deity--the hour which the Eternal Deity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, looked forward to--the hour when the work of salvation was to be completed for the entire Church, made choice of as a family, given unto Christ in trust, united to Him in covenant bonds, registered by the Holy Ghost, and eyed with sacred delight, in pristine glory, before even angels fell. Therefore, said Jesus, "Father the hour is come: glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee." (John 17:1) Now does not this cursory glance at the sufferings of Christ, according to His own testimony, open up a blessed view of the privileges, the pleasures, and the certainties which appertain to the gospel of Christ? What think ye, beloved? If I were to reverse these things, and speak of sufferings that were excruciating, and surpassing all others, but endured without an object--if I were to speak of sufferings of which we were quite at a loss to know whether they were acceptable or not, whether they were sufficient or not, whether they were meritorious or not, and whether they were efficacious or not, without our adding to them--if I were to speak of sufferings which came upon our precious Christ unexpectedly and unawares, and which He could not have conceived of, which he had not made a contract or a covenant for, and which took Him by surprise, what a strange sort of a being must He be to worship! Where would be His Godhead? Where would be the truth of Scripture? Such a promiscuous, uncertain, contingent sort of gospel would positively go to deny the truth of God. I do not wonder at those persons who receive such notions turning out downright Infidels at last.
II. Let us now take a glance, in the second place, at the hands employed. I chose the phrase "hands," because the Holy Ghost has used it--"whom with wicked hands ye have taken, and crucified, and slain." (Acts 2:23) And here you must bear with me if I am severe. Three descriptions of persons were engaged in that appalling scene of Christ's sufferings. The first was the ruthless traitor--"He shall be betrayed;" the second is the Infidel priesthood, for there were Infidels in priestly robes in those days, as well as in the present; and the third was the far-famed literary men. And we shall see, presently; how Jesus is betrayed amongst these. Look at the first--an awful wretch, numbered of the twelve, accompanying Jesus, the witness of all His miracles, entrusted even with "the bag," associated so closely with the disciples, and so mimicking and imitating them that he was not at all suspected by them; and, therefore, when the dear Lord said, "one of you shall betray me," none of them asked, "Is it Judas, Lord? for we have long entertained suspicions of him;" but every one said, "Lord, is it I?" "Lord, is it I?" Sure I am that we should all do far better to be suspecting ourselves than to be suspecting one another. When Judas's character comes out, you have no longer any doubt about the matter. When he has been guilty of the treason, no one asks, "Is it I?" They all saw and knew who it was then. My hearers, I beg that this solemn fact may be seriously prayed over by you; first, that it may not be I, nor I, nor I; and next, that God may rid and deliver His Church from Judases, so that there may be none to betray Christ. Think, for a moment, of the leading features of his defection. The first thing was, that the devil entered into his heart; thus showing that there may be religious characters, as they are called, with a very fair exterior, yet whose hearts are possessed by the devil. "O Lord, search me, and try me," said the Psalmist, and you and I may well say the same. The second was, that he went to the chief priests, and associated with them; and be you sure of this, that all associations with the world are necessarily the high road to treason against Christ. The third was, the covetous spirit he displayed in the betrayal of Christ; and what will not mortals do for the love of gold? Even Christ may be betrayed when that is predominant. Then there is the hardness of heart he manifested in the act, for he could still keep up his profession, and go into the very garden, hail the precious Saviour as "Master," and kiss Him! What a ruthless character! What a stubborn spirit! And are there none such now? How do we account else for those who have stood high in profession turning out rank Infidels? How do we account for those who have appeared in the garb of the Christian minister turning to the "mother of harlots," and hencefoward becoming her vitiated servants? How do we account for all their treasons and Judasisms in betraying Christ? Oh! what might I not say here relative to Judases among rulers? Judases among Jesuits? aye, and Judases among Nonconformists, too, that are at this very moment doing everything in their power to betray Christ mystical body into the hands of Rome? My God, rid thy Church of Judases, I beseech thee!
I pass on just to mark, that if every professor of Christianity will but examine himself, and search diligently into his motives, principles, and pursuits, surely he may discover, if he will be honest with himself, whether or not there is treachery at the bottom, whether or not he means something hostile and opposed to Christ's glory; if there be, then he may well take the name of Judas. What a hand for Christ to be betrayed by! What a wretch to be hailing Him as "Master," and kissing Him, and embracing Him as such! But look a little further. "The Son of Man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests." It was the very Sanhedrim, the governors and teachers of the people--they who were termed the authorized teachers of the people--into whose hands Christ was betrayed. My hearers, I beseech you to look well to this fact, and do not be alarmed by high-sounding names or the assumption of titles; if Christ is betrayed, woe to the hands that receive the object of Jehovah's love betrayed unto them. Moreover, while this is a solemn fact--indeed I do not know how it can be otherwise whilst such a character is assumed among mortals--look at the other characters mentioned in our text, "the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes." These scribes of olden times were, many of them, excellent men. Ezra, for instance, was a scribe, and well instructed in the kingdom of God. As a scribe he was also a preacher, and his learning was not an obstacle to his serving God; nor is it now. God forbid that I should say one word against literature; only I would that it were sanctified and devoted unto God. Ezra was a famous pattern of a preacher; and though there were many other excellent men who were scribes in the king's household in his days, yet Ezra is set before us as an example to preachers, for it is said, "Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose, and beside him stood Mattithiah, and Shema, and Anaiah, and Urijah, and Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, on his right hand; and on his left hand, Peaiah, and Mishael, and Malchiah, and Hashum, and Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people (for he was above all the people); and when he opened it all the people stood up; and Ezra blessed the Lord the great God;" and he "read in the book in the law of God distinctly;" he read the text, "and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading." I wish all who attempt to preach would do so in the present day. I would not be particular as to what their pulpits were made of, provided they would read the text, and "give the sense" of each portion of Scripture that comes before them. But although Ezra and others were such excellent characters, yet the scribes in Christ's day were perverters of God's truth the same as they are in our own day. In our Lord's time they took every possible method of casting out the word of God by introducing traditions and legends just as the learned do in the times in which we live. Now, we do not find fault with their learning, but we do find fault with their putting away the Scriptures on one side. We do not find fault with their education and literary attainments, but we do find fault with their introduction of the lies and fables, which they have fetched up from the musty volumes of the ancient fathers. The setting the word of God aside is, in truth, their great object. And these are the traitors--the very persons--into whose hands Christ is betrayed by the Judases of the day. Oh! solemn scene, to contemplate that Judas, and the Infidel priesthood, and the famed perverters of truth in their literature, should be the cruel murderers of my precious Lord Christ--that theirs should be the hands employed in all His sufferings and all His grief. I do not feel any delight in speaking upon this part of my subject, and should like to hasten over it as fast as I can; but there are some things which, for honesty sake and for conscience sake, I dare not withhold. Who, I ask, have been the chief agents and actors in all the bloody persecutions that the members of Christ's mystical body have endured? Have they not been your learned men at all times? Have they not been your Bonners and Gardiners, your Whitgifts and Lauds, whose prototypes we have with us even to this day? Are they the unlettered men, the carpenters, the tent-makers, and fishermen? Verily not; but men of education, men of talent, men of learning, men of classical lore, men possessed of attainments by dint of perseverance, and in the enjoyment of the highest patronage. Yet there they are, as ready as ever they were, to murder Christ. My hearers, I would have your eyes directed to this important fact, and you will not be at a loss to know why Christ is crucified in His members, His Church, by the very description of persons who murdered the Lord of glory Himself. I beg it to be distinctly understood that I am not quarrelling with education, in an unsanctified mind, in an unregenerate man, furnishes him with materials and tools to crucify Christ afresh; that education, in a graceless being, furnishes him with abundance of materials to facilitate his progress towards Infidelity. Therefore, whilst we find no fault with education, we cry earnestly unto God to sanctify it for His own glory and for His own truth sake.
III. Let us now proceed to the other particular of our subject, upon which I desire to be somewhat more explicit--I mean the end accomplished. In detaining you so long upon the second part of my discourse, it may, perhaps, be said that I was censorious; be it so. A man cannot be faithful in these days without laying himself open to that charge. But now we come to the end accomplished by the sufferings of Christ. "They shall condemn Him to death," says the text; and die He must; but by their condemning the just and the holy One, they were accomplishing, ignorantly and unwittingly, the secret and eternal purposes of Jehovah. Had not Christ been condemned and executed, there could have been no salvation for any son or daughter of Adam. Had not Christ been condemned and executed there could not have been a hope for the ruined sinner of obtaining access unto God. To say nothing of the ignorance of those who did it, the apostle was commanded by the Holy Ghost to set it down plainly that none of the rulers knew Him, that none of the princes of the world know Him, for, had they known Him, they would not have crucified Him. Their guilt and wickedness were, however, not the less; because they knew that He was innocent of the crime laid to His charge, they knew that He was a just man, and Pilate himself says, "I find no fault in Him." His wife also sends Him a message, the result of a warning she had received in a dream, "Have thou nothing to do with that just man." If, then, He was a just man, it was a most foul condemnation, and the injustice, cruelty, wickedness, and barbarianism of their conduct towards Him were quite apart from God's secret purpose and grace therein. They were the tools, the mere actors, in the solemn scene, and they only gathered together to do that which God's council had determined of old should be done; just as Peter declared in his first sermon upon the subject. Mark, then, what was accomplished; for by the doing and the dying of our precious Christ, imputation is revealed, and made known, and communicated. I put it in one word, for the purpose of strengthening your memories--imputation. I do not mean this to exclude impartation. But we look at it first as I have given it, that imputation is proposed, manifested, proclaimed, and revealed to poor ruined sinners; and they have no righteousness of their own, and nothing but guilt and depravity; that they are altogether vile, conceived in sin, and shapen in iniquity, filthy within and without, and have no one thing in which they can pretend to appear before God of their own, nor any possibility of obtaining one thing; and that there is a new and perfect righteousness, a fullness of merit, and an abundance of grace in the person of this glorious, suffering Saviour, which are every way accepted of God in His substitutional character; so that His righteousness is unto all and upon all them that believe; imputed for their justification; imputed, that the vilest and most helpless sinner under heaven, who is brought to know His need, and made to accept of it, may stand complete in the perfect righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is henceforward reckoned as his own, freely given unto him, and positively secured unto him, and often pleaded by him as he goes to court in it, and has to deal and wrestle with his God. By dwelling upon imputation, I do not mean to exclude the other word, impartation. As by the imputation of Christ's merit, obedience, and suffering, His whole Church is completely and eternally justified, so by the impartation of His Spirit, mind, and life, His whole Church is, and shall be, sanctified. Show me your right to the imputation, and I demand of you proof of the impartation. Show me your claim to justification in the righteousness of the Son of God, and I demand of you the evidence of your sanctification as belonging unto God. If you cannot show me your sanctification, I will not believe in your justification. But if your justification be wholly the act of imputing Christ's righteousness unto yourselves, and your faith has received it, I know that that grace which has brought you salvation in so gracious and free a manner, will teach you that "denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world."
A word or two more upon this subject of imputation. I count it the quintessence of the gospel, the very marrow of divinity, the very soul of the Bible, the very epitome of the covenant of grace--in a word, there is nothing that stands before the child of Adam as a fallen creature, but imputation or damnation; and the soul that goes out of the world without the imputed righteousness of Christ upon it must eternally perish. There is no imputation afterwards. Even now the imputed righteousness of Christ is revealed from faith to faith, and received in increasing and extending proportion as faith grows stronger and stronger. Imputation is the glory of all the inhabitants of heaven; for while they surround the marriage supper of the Lamb, every one of the guests has His righteousness upon him, being imputed to him as his wedding robe. Nor would it be possible for a poor ruined sinner to endure his existence in heaven without the righteousness of Christ upon him. If Jehovah could and would rescue a sinner from hell, and put him into heaven as a mere act of pardon, without the imputed righteousness of Christ upon him, he would feel himself to be as a vagabond and stranger, and be tired of his existence even in the presence of God. Non-imputation is hell, crowded with its distresses and sins. Imputation is the joy of heaven, the breath of glorified spirits, the dress of all the election of grace, to the honor and glory of the God who gave it. Imputation is paternal love putting forth its stores. Imputation is the whole work of Christ cast upon the ruined, helpless sinner. Imputation is the act of the Eternal Spirit, taking of the things that are of Christ, showing them unto us, and placing them upon us. Imputation is the ground of the Christian's confidence. It is the sum and substance of the gospel testimony. It is the running title of the whole word of God. It is the peculiar characteristic of the covenant of grace. It is set forth, in type and shadow, in the whole legal dispensation. It is the song of the Psalmist; the prediction of the prophets; the testimony of Christ, and the preaching of His apostles. Is it yours, beloved? Do you wear it? Can you go to God with it? Do you appear today in the court of heaven in it, with "Lord, here am I; by nature deserving nothing but hell. I have tried to clothe myself, but my apparel was nought but filthy rags, and I felt more ashamed in them than if I had been naked. But now I come before thee dressed in the righteousness of Christ, covered in His robe from head to foot;" so that now there is neither spot nor wrinkle, nor blemish, nor any such thing to be discovered in the devoted and accepted child of God. Oh, my hearers, do hang upon this sweet word "imputation." It is the end of Christ's sufferings. He lived, obeyed, conquered, and died that His righteousness might be imputed unto all His family; and they who dare to reject it--prove that they are Infidels, and I can use no softer term to describe them.
I pass on just to mark, that the end of Christ's sufferings, of which He thus testified before He came to them, was the canceling of condemnation, and therefore the apostle sung so blessedly in the closing up of his 8th chapter to the Romans, a note which seems in such perfect harmony with the opening note at the commencement of that chapter. In the commencement, you remember, it is "no condemnation;" in the close of the chapter it is "no separation." All this is the result of our precious Christ's doing and dying; and there shall be "no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." Observe the characters, and see how they are described--"who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit." Towards the close of the same chapter the apostle exultingly exclaims, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" If he were among us now, he would soon get an answer--"Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" Forth comes a person and says, "I will. I charge them with holding doctrines that lead to licentiousness." Stop, poor wretch, if you will be the devil's advocate, I call upon you to charge them with the commission of it if you can or dare, and then I will show you that they cannot be God's elect. "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" "Oh," says the devil, "I will;" and then he sets about bringing in his temptations and distresses to harass you; but what says our God? Why, that He will "bruise Satan under our feet;" and He has promised a way of escape. "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" Why the elect themselves will. They will charge themselves with being vile and sinful, and acknowledge before God what Daniel did, when he exclaimed, "To us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee." But then they are able to go on as he did, and sing, "To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against Him." There is the blessed contrast. Thus, whilst all the election of grace are ready to cry out, "I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing," they will turn, as did the apostle, unto the precious, glorious, suffering Saviour of whom we are speaking; look at Him as He hangs upon Calvary, as He rises from Joseph's tomb, as He ascends from Mount Olivet, as He is "seated on the right hand of the Majesty on high," and exclaim, "He loved me and gave Himself for me." Well, then, "who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth, who is he that condenmeth?" See, then, what a blessed end and design there was in Christ's sufferings; that the imputation of His righteousness should be unhesitatingly proclaimed to, and received by, thousands and millions of Adam's lost posterity, and that the condemnation which all His Church deserved should be endured by Himself to be everlastingly removed from her; and consequently the challenge is given to the whole world, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" They may bring their false charges as often as they like; but God will not hearken to them; our glorious Advocate will answer them. Pause a moment over this precious fact, and ask the question, "Will this glorious Sufferer consent to be disappointed? Will He allow one of those for whom He bled Himself to lie down under condemnation, and everlastingly perish? Will He suffer one whom the Father gave Him in charge to be plucked out of His hands?" In the 10th chapter of the gospel of John, He Himself says--and I believe Him in preference to all the Arminians that ever had an existence in the world--"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life;" and, in plain words, He adds, "they shall never perish; neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." There they are, safe enough. Glory to His dear name, their justification stands in His righteousness, their acceptance in His person, their sanctification in His nature, receiving and possessing it, their glorification in His faithfulness. So that not one for whom He bled and died can by possibility fail of obtaining everlasting life and glory. Condemnation is gone. The curse is gone. Consequently the punishment is gone, for Jesus endured it; and there remains for the family of the living God eternal life and peace as the gift of God, in the name and person of Jesus Christ.
This brings me to the closing thought, that the precious Sufferer of whom we speak has secured the eternal salvation of all that the Father gave Him. Now you all know what a deeply-rooted abhorrence I have to everything like terms, conditions, and contingencies in the great matter of salvation. The systems of theology which set them forth are a curse, a plague, and a nuisance upon the earth. For it is Jehovah's fixed purpose in grace, Jesus' perfect work and righteousness, the Holy Spirit's infallible operations and communications from the fullness of Christ, to render eternal life and salvation a matter of absolute certainty. I can read in my Bible again and again, that this is the promise He has made to us, even eternal life. I can read concerning our blessed Redeemer, that God has given us life eternal, and that that life is in His Son. Can anything be freer than a gift? Can anything be more secure than a gift, especially if it be laid up in His dear Son? Therefore the Son says, "Because I live, they shall live also," for the life is in Him, "hid with Christ in God." Moreover, "he that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life," and "the wrath of God abideth on him." You need not tell me how many or how great your sins have been, or how long you have been wallowing in them; to what lengths you have gone, how long you have been in legal bondage, or how deceitful your heart is. Only come forward with this one thing--Has the Holy Ghost made you willing to accept of eternal life and everlasting salvation, without creature doings, and upon the same terms as Mary Magdalene, the thief on the cross, Manasseh, and Saul accepted it, namely, as the free, unmerited gift of God? Has the Holy Ghost brought you to feel deeply your need of that salvation? to feel that nothing else can reach your case but "the salvation which is in Christ Jesus," which is declared to be connected with eternal glory? Sure I am, that He will never disappoint the desire that is created for it, or reject the ardent longings and fervent prayers which you may put up for it. Attempt to buy it, and you cannot get it. Be willing to receive it as a free gift, and neither sin nor Satan can deprive you of it. Attempt to merit it, and be sure your merits will all be despised, and only heap punishment upon your head. Ask it as a free gift, and God will not deny it. "Ask and you shall receive," is His own statement concerning it.
Now I think I have brought you good news this morning. I think I have stated the truth this morning, that the end of Christ's sufferings is the salvation of all His Church. So that when the last elect vessel of mercy is gathered in, and all appear before the throne of God, the glorious covenant Head shall be able to say to the Father, "Here am I, and the children," all of them, "whom thou gavest me." I beseech you, beloved, look well to the grand security and certainty of these things. This salvation is worthy of a God, and every way suited to man's ruin. It shuts out contingencies, disappoints the devil, plucks the lawful captives from his grasp, and leads them to the enjoyment of eternal bliss and glory, along with the precious, glorious covenant Head. Then, whilst you and I look with solemnity and awe upon the deep sufferings of Christ, and censure Judas, the chief priests, and the scribes, do not let us forget to censure self also, and say concerning it, whilst Jesus hangs in the view of faith upon the cross, "He loved me, and gave Himself for me. Those agonies were the consequences of my sins, and my salvation is the result of those agonies. Those agonies were on my behalf, and in my name; and my pleadings shall be in His behalf and in His name. Those swords and those ruffian hands by which, and into which, He was betrayed, were all permitted in the wise order and arrangement of God's providence to bring about the security, the atonement, the rescue, the redemption, the acceptance, and the eternal salvation of my soul." So that it must not only be a subject of joy and confidence now, but to all eternity, and I expect to be engaged in that song, a copy of which He has sent us down from heaven, "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."
May He command a blessing upon His word, and His great name shall have all the praise.