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the divine nature, the inflexibility of the divine law, and the malignity of sin ; and therefore it ought to be commemorated with solemn awe and holy fear. On the part of the immediate actors in that fearful tragedy, the crucifixion of Christ implied the perpetration of an unparalleled crime; and in that view it naturally awakens a sentiment of shuddering and horror. But to what chiefly should that sentiment be directed ? to our own sins. They are the true and proper causes of the Saviour's sufferings. Let us then regard sin with horror and dismay, and with a determination to oppose to it a more strenuous resistance than we have ever yet done.
My friends, do you often think of the crucifixion of Christ; and are these the sentiments with which you regard it, and which you will cherish at the sacramental table? If so, you may come to it with alacrity and confidence; if not, you are evidently disqualified for the service. “Let a man therefore examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup." Amen.
THE LOVE OF CHRIST TO THE CHURCH.
EPHESIANS v. 25-27.-Christ loved the church, and gave himself for
it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing: but that it should be holy and without blemish.
It was the determination of the Apostle Paul “ not to know anything in his preaching and his writings, save Jesus Christ and him crucified.” In accordance with that sacred determination, we find that he not only assigns a peculiar prominence, in the doctrinal part of his epistles, to the scheme of salvation through the cross of Christ; but that in enforcing practical duties, he is perpetually recurring to the same grand topic for motives and excitements. Does he exhort to the duty of charity to the poor? The argument is, “ Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be made rich."* Does he inculcate the virtues of purity and chastity ? The argument is, “Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price.”+ Does he recommend a yielding and self
* 2 Cor. viii. 9.
† 1 Cor. vi. 19, 20.
denying spirit ? The argument is, “Even Christ pleased not himself.”*
The passage before us presents another remarkable reference to the love and death of Christ, where we should scarcely have expected it. In inculcating various relative duties, the apostle entreats wives to submit to their husbands, and husbands to love their wives. And what are the considerations by which these duties are enforced ? They are at once powerful and interesting ; but to a mind not habitually occupied with the Saviour, they would probably have appeared far-fetched and unnatural. Wives are reminded that the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church, and the saviour of the body; and in exhorting husbands to their duty, the apostle introduces one of the most beautiful descriptions ever given of Christ's transcendant love.
The manner in which the reference to Christ is here introduced naturally suggests this important remark, that in the discharge of all our duties, we ought to be actuated by christian principles; and that even in those duties which may not seem peculiarly holy in their nature, and which have a reference to our fellowcreatures rather than to God, we ought yet to derive our incentives from the character and the example of the Redeemer.
Not to enlarge on this theme, instructive and useful though it evidently is, I shall proceed, as an exercise suitable to this day, to illustrate the beautiful and striking description given in the text of Christ's love to the church. In entering on that illustration, it may not be improper to remind you, that there is no comparison so often employed in the Old Testament Scriptures to represent the relation which subsisted betwixt God and his ancient people, as the relation subsisting betwixt the husband and the wife. Times almost without number Jehovah is spoken of as the husband, and the Jewish nation as his spouse ; and her apostacy from him to serve other gods is described as conjugal infidelity.
* Rom. xv. 3.
In the passage before us, and in several other instances in the New Testament, the same comparison is used to describe the relation established between Jesus Christ and his church. In the original the term church is in the feminine gender; and had that gender been adopted in our translation, the comparison representing the church as the Saviour's spouse would have been far better sustained, and the description would have exhibited more of the animation and spirit, and of the beauty and splendour of the original. “ Christ loved the church, and gave himself for her, that he might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the Word, that he might present her to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”
In further discoursing to you from this passage, I shall, in dependence on divine aid, consider the account which it contains,
I. Of Christ's love to the church, and of the proof which he has furnished of that love; and
II. Of the glorious destiny of the church, and of the preparation by which she is to be qualified for that destiny. Let us then,
I. Speak of the love of Christ to the church, and of the proof he has given of that love.
1st, We are informed in general that “ he loved the church.” By the church, we are evidently to understand the whole assembly of believers; all those in all ages who shall be redeemed from among men, viewed as constituting one society; and elsewhere described as the “ general assembly and church of the first born," and as the body, the flock, and the sheep of Christ.
In scripture, the love of God and the love of Christ are often represented as directed not to the church exclusively, but to the world at large, to sinners of the human race generally and indiscriminately. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have everlasting life.” “One died for all.”* From these and similar representations, some have inferred that, in the mission of his Son, God was influenced by a love extending to all men; and that “ Christ tasted death for every man,” and gave himself a “ propitiation for the sins of the whole world,” in the fullest sense of these expressions. And unquestionably, my friends, we would not properly improve these representations, if we did not infer from them that the death of Christ is a sufficient atonement for all; and that each of us, individually, is warranted to accept of that free pardon which, on the basis of that atonement, is now honestly and sincerely tendered to all without any reservation or exception.
Even those persons, however, who hold the senti. ment now referred to, will not only allow that Christ loved the members of his church, or his elect, as a portion of the general race of mankind; but, considering that they only will ultimately be saved by him, they will probably allow further, that he may be said to
* John iii. 16. 2 Cor. v. 14.