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that this most sublime and touching act of love should be charged with the implication that it presents God in an implacable and unamiable light, as unwilling to forgive, when God had emptied his very throne, in a measure, to show that he was willing and waiting to forgive. It shows that sin is a great and horrible evil, and that God is a God of inflexible justice and truth; it shows that mere repentance, without atonement, can never procure pardon; but it also shows that God is merciful and full of love, as nothing else ever did, for he had but one Son, his well-beloved, and that Son be gave to suffer, that sinners might be saved.
Hence we learn the true nature and position of repentance. Repentance can procure pardon only after an atonement is made. And true repentance is only exercised by resting on the atonement. Here we find the test that distinguishes true and false repentance. False repentance is sin weeping because of the suffering that it has brought upon itself. True repentance is love weeping at the cross, its bitterest tears being wrung out by the fact that it has sinned against a goodness that can so freely, and yet at so costly a price, bestow a full and generous pardon. Hence we see why repentance and remission of sins could then be preached as the result of the suffering and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
If then an atonement for sin is the great central doctrine of revelation, it is the great central fact of history, for the plan of God's redeeming work is the most memorable part of his earthly government. Hence human history is one mighty oratorio of the Messiah, whose deep bass notes are the solemn and suffering tones which proclaim man a great sinner, and whose lofty alto is sounded by those glorious strains which proclaim Christ a great Saviour, and whose choral song bursts forth in the grand Hallelujah, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good will to men." In the din and discord that are around us now, we cannot catch the mighty har. monies that run through the whole; but when we come to trace it from the great choral company around the throne, we shall then know, as we cannot now, how the song of the morning stars at the dawn of creation, and the song of the angels on the plains of Bethlehem, and the song of Moses and the Lamb, the new song in heaven, were all one and the same great melody, the wondrous harmony of justice and mercy, sin and salvation, righteousness and peace, by the work of Him who loved us and gave himself for us, and redeemed us by his blood.
III. A Divine power is needful to enable man to comprehend the gospel of Christ.
This appears from the statement of Luke, in
v. 45. “Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures." The influence of the Spirit here bestowed was doubtless an extraordinary one, qualifying them to be unerring interpreters of the scriptures already written, and writers of those yet unwritten. But this fact involves a wider truth. There was no peculiar blindness in their case requiring any peculiar "opening of the understanding." There is a darkening of the understanding that is common to all, for by nature man is not only guilty but blind. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him ; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Cor. ii. 14. Hence in the great work of regeneration, there is more than a mere increase of light; there is an opening of the blind eyes to see the light, before that light can be of any use. Hence David prayed, “ Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law." Ps. cxix. 18. Isaiah predicted the Messiah as one who was “to open the blind eyes,' ch. xlij. 7, and in the actual work of the gospel," the Lord opened the heart of Lydia.” Acts xvi. 14.
It is this blindness that leads men to prefer sin to holiness. If the eyes were open, they would as soon prefer a cancer or a leprosy for the body, as prefer sin for the soul. And it is this blindness that leads men to neglect the gospel with its grandeur and beauty, neglect the Bible with its unparalleled attractions, and neglect God the loveliest, most glorious, and purest, as he is the holiest and greatest of all objects of thought or affection. Hence, however cogently truth may be presented to the understanding, its real beauty and power can never be seen until the Spirit of God opens the blind eyes, and enables them to see. Then as the light dawns, a new world is unveiled, a world all bathed in sunlight from heaven, and all things become new. The Bible is seen to be a new book, and its pages glow with a splendor that was never seen before. The whole past, present, and future of life are seen in another light, and in that new light, the soul begins its pilgrimage to that better country, the road to which begins at the cross, and ends in that city that hath, foundations, whose builder and maker is God. To enable us to see this blessed path, our cry must be that of the blind Bartimeus, "Lord, that I may receive my sight."
IV. The salvation of the gospel is for all, however remote their habitation, or great their sin.
“Among all nations beginning at Jerusalem," presents the limitations placed by Jesus himself to his gospel. Among these “all nations," then far distant, were our fathers, then in heathenism, if not barbarism; and it is by this universal warrant that the gospel was brought to them, and thus handed down to us. Had the apostles felt about
the heathen of their day, as many feel about the heathen of this day, the gospel could never have reached us, and we must have been yet in our sins. It was missionary labour that brought the gospel to us, and it must be by the same kind of work that it is to be carried to others. Hence the enjoyment of the gospel by us carries with it the express condition that we should transmit it to others, even to all nations; and until all nations have received it, cessation of missionary labour is disobedience to Christ.
But if the command to carry the gospel to "all nations” implies that no one is debarred from its blessings by remoteness of habitation, the command to begin at Jerusalem indicates the same free offer, however great the sin. There is something very touching in this injunction to begin at Jerusalem. We would have thought beforehand that if there were any place that must be excluded, it would be Jerusalem. It was over Jerusalem he had uttered those words of doom, “But now they are hid from thine eyes.” It was of Jerusalem that he had exclaimed," Thou that killest the prophets and stonest them who are sent to thee.” It was along the streets of Jerusalem that the wild and bloody cry for blood, rang with such fiendish ferocity, “Crucify him, crucify him !" It was the soil of Jerusalem that was wet with the tears and sweat of Gethsemane, and the blood and water of Calvary.