« PreviousContinue »
NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ : for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth ; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”-Rom. i. 16.
Paul was never ashamed of the gospel. In the Academy, in the Forum, under the shadow of the Pantheon, or in the presence of the haughty eagles of Imperial Rome, he never feared to say, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.” He had no reason to be ashamed.
We shall be convinced of this if we consider THE AUTHOR OF THE GOSPEL -CHRIST; AND THE GOSPEL ITSELF; ITS POWER, ITS PROGRESS, AND ITS RESULTS.
Who was the author of this gospel? He was born of a woman, made under the law; and yet the “ Wonderful, the Counsellor, the mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of peace.” He was born so poor that He declared, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head ; " yet—seeming contradiction, but perfect truth—"though rich," in
all the glory of the universe, " for our sakes he became poor,” homeless and houseless. His birth was in a manger, for there was no room in the inn; but angel choirs drew near to chant His praise ; and royal personages came from afar to offer homage prophetic of His universal empire, when all the redeemed shall cast their crowns in flashing showers before His throne, and cry, “ Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us priests and kings unto our God; unto him be glory and dominion for ever and for ever." He spake the language of the common people; but his enemies testified—“Never man spake like this man." He wept; but every tear was the extinction of a sin; He suffered, but every agony was the exhaustion of a curse; He died, and yet He was the Prince of life ; and the rending rocks and the gathering gloom that followed the sun as he retreated from the spectacle, composed a pall such as was never spread over royal dead or dying before. The Roman soldiers when they came into the holy of holies in the temple at the siege of Jerusalem by Titus and Vespasian, and approached the presence of the cherubim, and the ark, and saw the glory, were so struck by the awful and unspent splendour of that spot that had once been the dwelling-place of Deity, that they fell back, and refused to lay a profane hand upon the holy thing. What occurred in the history of the type has been fulfilled in that of Jesus. Of all the bitter attacks that have been made upon the Bible, on religion, on
Christianity, not one sceptic, infidel, or atheist has dared to say a word against the person of Jesus of Nazareth. If you were to seek out the most eloquent eulogium upon the Lord Jesus Christ, you must turn to Rousseau, the sensual and profane sceptic, who has written the most exquisite, beautiful, and eloquent sketch of the person of Jesus that ever came from the pen of uninspired man. Napoleon I. confirmed all that Rousseau wrote. In a conversation with General Bertrand in St Helena, Napoleon said, “I see in Lycurgus, in Duma, in Mahomet, only legislators ; nothing in them announces that which is divine. It is not so with Christ. Believe me, all else in the world has no point of comparison with Him. Everything in Him astonishes me. Alexander, Cresus, Charlemagne, myself, founded empires on force, Jesus founded an empire in love. The death of Christ was the death of God. Bertrand, believe me, believe me; if you do not perceive from Scripture that Jesus Christ is God, I made a great blunder in making you one of my generals.” What a remarkable testimony from so great a soldier, so powerful an intellect, so remarkable a man! Yet all he said is less than literal truth. Neither Mahomet, nor Confucius, nor any author of any religion of any sort orage, can forone moment be compared with Him. He spake as never man spake; He lived as no man ever lived; and, thank God, He died as no man ever died. Prophet, patriarch, priest, and king retire. Depart, ye servants, in peace-fade, ye flickering tapers; the Sun
of righteousness is risen with healing under His wings !
What were the doctrines which so captivated the apostle that he exclaimed, “I am not ashamed of this Gospel ?” Of the author, Jesus, we can say all that Rousseau was constrained to admit, all Napoleon attested-more than the most gifted of mankind have been able to proclaim. But, in addition to all this, He has risen upon our hearts with quickening and comforting rays like the light of the morning, as the Sun of righteousness, and we feel no desire and we see no reason to be ashamed of Him; on the contrary, we glory in His cross, and would crown him Lord of all. His doctrines are the rays of His glory. Let us study these first in reference to man ; secondly, in reference to nature; thirdly, in reference to God.
Man is not now as he was. Nobody will pretend to say that we were originally made sufferers, any more than that we were made sinners. Sin and suffering go together; and if we were not created sinners in Paradise, we were not made sufferers there. Eve never had a headache, still less a heartache, till she ate of that forbidden tree, or, translated into words the true and moral meaning of the act, till she broke the law of God. Now intellect is weakened conscience disturbed, and the heart disquieted. Old age bows down man to the dust, and the death-frost strikes down the infant.
If we turn to external nature, nobody can say she is now as she was. It is at present a composite
of sunshine and shadow-of quiet and disturbanceof reproduction and decay—of good and bad. Threefourths of the earth are covered with the desert sea; a large part of the remaining fourth is cursed with barrenness, and every part is now and then rocked by the earthquake, or scarred by graves, or defaced by battle-fields. Daily, indeed hourly, it receives into its reluctant bosom the dearest and the earliest dead; in words replete with meaning, “all nature groans and travails in pain,” waiting for that predestined emancipation which shall be hers and ours, when the bride has made herself ready, and the sons of God are complete in number and character. God is denied or forgotten far and wide in the very world He has made. Human nature has lost the just idea of God; and man, without the teaching of the gospel, is ignorant of his relation to God. We may not take the fanciful imaginations of poetic sceptics as the light of nature; these are the refracted rays of Christianity. The ancient Greek peopled the earth and the sky with deities of his own, exquisitely embodied in marble; the ancient Roman plundered prostrate nations of their gods in order to enrich his Pantheon; the Persian adored the noonday sun; and the barbarous Hun made his sword his god, and knelt before the brightest steel as the best representative of deity. God was seen dimly in this eclipse. All feel God is, but none without revelation know what God is. An atheist is impossible ; there may be the practical atheism of sensual indulgence; but