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and return man to the possession of God, but this one, by Christ, and him suffering for sins; which we are to consider,
3dly, Our restoration to nearness to God by Christ's sufferings. He endured the sentence pronounced against man; yea, even in this particular notion of it, as one main ingredient in his suffering was his being deserted of God, as to any sensible communication of comfort from him; of that he cried out”, My God, my God, why hast thou for. saken me? And, by suffering the sentence pronounced, he took away the guiltiness of sin, He himself being spotless and undefiled; for such an High Priest became us. The more defiled we were, the more did we stand in need of an undefiled Priest and Sacrifice; and He was both. Therefore the Apostle here very fitly mentions this qualification of our Saviour, as necessary for reducing us unto God, the Just for the unjust; so taking on him, and taking away, the guilt of sin, setting his strong shoulder to remove that mountain, he made way or access for man unto God.
This the Apostle hath excellently expressed', He hath reconciled us by his cross, haring slain the enmity; he killed the quarrel betwixt God and us; killed it by his death, He thus brings the parties together, and hath laid a sure foundation of agreement in his own sufferings; appeases his Father's wrath by them, and by the same appeases the sinner's conscience. All that God hath to say, in point of justice, is answered there; all that the humbled sinner bath to say, is answered too. He hath offered up such an atonement as satisfies the Father; so he is content that sinners
come in and be réconciled: And then Christ gives notice of this to the soul, to remove all jealousies; It is full of fear; though it would, it dare not approach unto God, apprehending him to be a consuming fire. They that have done the offence are usually the hardest to reconcile; because they are still in doubt y Matt. xxvii. 46. ? Heb, vji. 26,
Eph. ii. 16.
of their pardon: But Christ assures us of a full and hearty forgiveness, quenching the flame of God's wrath by his blood.
Christ, upon my warrant come in; you will now find my Father otherwise than you imagine: He hath declared him; self satisfied at my hands, and is willing to receive you, to be heartily and thoroughly friends; never to hear a word more of the quarrel that was betwixt you; he grants
grants a full oblivion." And if the soul bear back still through distrust, he takes it by the hand, and draws it forward, leads it in to his Father, as the word mpoo ayeun imports; presents it to him, and leaves not the matter till a full and sure agreement be made.
But for this purpose, that the soul may be able and willing to come unto God, the sufferings of Christ take away that other impediment. As they satisfy the sentence, and so remove the guiltiness of sin, so he hath by them purchased a deliverance from the tyrannous power of sin, that detains the soul from God, after all the way made for it. And he hath a power of applying bis, sufferings to the soul's deliverance in that kind too. the prison doors to them that are led captive b; and because the great chain is upon the heart willingly enthralled in sin, he, by his sovereign power, takes off that; he frees the heart from the love of sin; shews what à base slayish condition it is in, by representing, in his effectual way, the goodness of God, his readiness to entertain a returning sinner, the sweetness and happiness of communion with him. Christ powerfully persuades the heart to shake off all, and, without further delay, so to return unto God, as to be received into favour and friendship, and so to walk in the way of friendship with God, to give up itself to his obedience, to disdain the vile service of sin, and live suitably to the dignity of fellowship and union with God.
And there is no other but the power of Christ alone that is able to effect this, to persuade a sinner
Isa, Ixi, 1,
to return, to bring home a heart unto God. Com mon mercies of God, though they have a leading faculty to repentance, yet the rebellious heart will not be led hy them. The judgments of God, public or personal, though they should drive us to God, yet the heart, unchanged, runs the farther from God. Do we not see it by ourselves and other sinners about us? they look not at all towards him that smiles, much less do they return; or if any înore serious thoughts of returning arise upon the surprise of an affliction, how soon vanish they? either the ,stroke abating, or the heart, by time, growing hard and senseless under it. Indeed, where it is renewed and brought in by Christ, then all other things have a sanctified intluence, according to their quality, to stir up a Christian to seek after fuller communion, closer walk, and nearer access to · God: But, leave Christ, out, I say, and all other means work not this way; neither the works, nor word of God sounded daily in his ear, Return, return. Let the noise of the rod speak it too, and both join together to make the cry the louder, yet the wicked will do wickedly"; will pot hearken to the voice of God, will not see the hand of God lifted up'; will not be persuaded to go in and seek peace and reconcilement with God, though declaring himself provoked to punish, and to behave himself as an enemy against his own people. How many are there, that, in their own particular, have been very sharply lashed with divers scourges on their bodies or families, and yet are never a whit the nearer God for it all, but their hearts as proud, and earthly, and vain, as ever; and, let him lay on ever so much, they will still be the same; a divine virtue, only, going forth from Christ lifted up, draws men unto him; and being come unto him, he brings them unto the Father.
Reflexion 1. You that are still strangers to God, who declare yourselves to be so, by living as strangers far off from him, do not still continue to abuse. © Rom. ij. 4. d Dan. xii. 10.
e Isa. xxvi, 11.
yourselves so grossly. Can you think any consolation in the sufferings of Christ yours, while it is so evident they have not gained their end upon you; have not brought you to God? Truly, most of you seem to think, that our Lord Jesus suffered rather to the end we might neglect God, and disobey him securely, than to reduce us to him. Hath he purchased you a liberty to sin; or, is not deliverance from sin, which alone is true liberty, the thing he aimed at, and agreed for, and laid down his life for ?
2. Why let we still his blood run in vain as to us? He hath by it opened up our way to God, and yet we refuse to make use of it, Oh! how few come in. They that are brought unto God, and received into friendship with him, they entertain that friendship, they delight in his company, love to be much with hiin: Is it so with us? By being so near, they become like him, daily know his will better, and grow more suitable to it; but, alas! in, the most, there is nothing of this.
3. But even they that are brought unto God may be faulty in this, in part, not applying so sweet a privilege. They can perhaps comply, and be too friendly with the vain world, can pass many days without a lively communion with God, not aspiring to the increase of that, as the thing our Lord hath purchased for us, and that wherein all our happiness and welfare lie, here and hereafter: Your hearts cleaving, to folly, and not delighting yourselves in the Lord; not refreshed with this nearness to him, and union with him; your thoughts not often on it, nor your study to walk conform to it: Certainly it ought to be thus; and you should be persuaded to endeavour it may be thus with you.
4. Remember this for your comfort, that as you are brought unto God by Jesus Christ, so you are kept in that union by him. It is a firmer knot than the first was; there is no power of hell can dissolve it. He suffered once to bring us once unto God, never to depart again; as he suffered once for all,
so we are brught once for all: We may be sensibly nearer at one time than another, but yet we can never be separate nor cut off, being once knit by Christ, as the bond of our union. Neither principalities, nor powers, &c. shall be able to separate us from the love of God, because it holds in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.] The true life of a Christian, is to eye Christ in every step of his life, both as his rule, and as his strength; looking to him as his pattern, both in doing and suffering, and drawing power from him for going through both; for the look of faith doth that, fetches life from Jesus to enable it for all, being without him able for nothing. Therefore the Apostle doth still set this before his brethren; and here, having mentioned his suffering in general, the condition and end of it, he specifies the particular kind of it, that which was the utmost, put to death in the flesh, and then adds this issue out of it, quickened by the Spirit.
It is at once the strongest engagement, and the strongest encouragement. Was He, our Head, crowned with thorns, and shall the body look for garlands? Are we redeemed from hell and condemnation by him, and can any such refuse any service he calls them to? They that are washed in the Lamb's blood will follow him whithersoever he goess; and, following him through, they shall find their journey's end overpay all the troubles and sufferings of the way. These are they, said the elder who appeared in vision to John", which came out of great tribulation; tribulation, and great tribulationi, yet they came out of it, and glorious too, arrayed in long white robes. The scarlet strumpet, as folļows in that book, dyed her garments red in the blood of the saints: But this is their happiness, that their garments are washed white in the blood of the Lamb. Once take away sin, and all suffering is light; Rom, viii. 37, 38. & Rev, xiv. 4. h Rev. vii. 14.