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SERMON XIII.

The Gospel a Message of Peace.

ISAIAH LVII. 19.

I CREATE THE FRUIT OF THE LIPS-PEACE, PEACE TO HIM THAT

IS FAR OFF, AND TO HIM THAT IS NEAR, SAITH THE LORDAND I WILL HEAL HIM.

ONE great design of prophecy, is to describe the nature, and to prepare the way for the reception of the gospel. The entire canon of scripture, may be viewed as embodying a series of successive disclosures of the divine purposes of mercy and salvation through Jesus Christ. These disclosures are interspersed throughout the historical parts of the inspired volume; but occur more frequently in detached portions in the books usually denominated prophetical. The abrupt manner in which they are often introduced, creates no little obscurity, and indeed, occasions the principal difficulty in the interpretation of prophecy. Much of this obscurity may, however, be removed, and the difficulty avoided, by attentively watching the frequent and rapid transition of the prophet's mind from one theme to another. If it be kept constantly in view, that to reveal the way of life and salvation to fallen guilty man, is the leading and all-pervading end and aim of those holy men of old who spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, there will be little danger of misapprehending their meaning, or misapplying their predictions, in consequence of being given in this detached, and desultory manner. The consideration of this great fact, taken along with the study of the prophecies, must not only greatly assist in distinguishing from others, those that relate to Christ and his kingdom; but must likewise contribute much to the real benefit, and satisfaction of such an employment. For while it will tend to guide the mind safely in its inquiries, it will keep before it one of the most deeply interesting subjects with which it can be occupied. It will prepare the mind to expect, and perceive on every page of the bible, the annunciation of the momentous truth, that there is salvation for sinners. It will relieve it too, from any thing painful or embarrassing in meeting with the sudden digressions with which scripture, and especially prophecy abounds.It will enable us, I doubt not, very clearly to see, what from the context we should be unprepared to expect, and consequently slow to discover, that the passage I have selected to make the theme of special consideration at this time, contains an explicit intimation of God's designs of mercy towards his sinful offspring—or in other words, is a compendious, though striking description of the gospel, its author, and its efficacy. To these topics, then, allow me to call your serious attention. 1. The gospel is a proclamation of peace to guilty

PEACE-PEACE, TO HIM THAT IS FAR OFF, AND TO HIM THAT IS NEAR. Perhaps no definition of the gospel gives a more correct, and impressive idea of it, than this. While it indicates the nature of the overture, it shows the character of those to whom it is made. Ever since the first decisive act of human transgression, which made man guilty, fallen, and ruined, any communication from heaven must find him in a hostile posture; not only opposed to the alone source from which good can come, but at war with himself, and his associates in guilt and ruin. In this state of ruinous hostility to good and to happiness, any message from heaven

man.

to him, not strictly vindictive in its character—not sent forth to aggravate the wretchedness of his own chosen doom-not commissioned to execute threatened vengeance, must announce terms of reconciliation, must propose conditions of peace, and contain a full disclosure of means, adequate to effect entire harmony between himself and his God, and his fellow men, and his own conscience. Other message than this was sent to one order of immortal minds, and the consequence was, that they are reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. To our race, however, though no less rebellious, guilty, and lost than they, in the sovereign allotment of Jehovah, a different destiny is opened. Peace and good will emphatically characterize the dispensations of the Most High to man. They constitute the lofty theme of that seraphic song, which announced the advent of him who became our Peace, and through whom God is reconciling the world unto himself. It is thus, the gospel is something more than a bare declaration of the divine good will towards the human family. It is not simply an offer of peace, to beings who have assumed the attitude and put forth the acts of rebellion. It brings out to view the method of the proposal, and exhibits its perfect consistency with the actual character of sinful men, and the acknowledged perfections of God. It fully answers the inquiry which has arisen in millions of agonized minds, how the sinner shall so acquaint himself with God as to be at peace with him. In the gospel is delineated, with clearness and infallible accuracy, the only way in which he can be reconciled and return to God. There is spread out the chart of his wanderings from the Father of lights, in all their wildering mazes. There is depicted in appropriate characters the blackness of his ingratitude and rebellion. There is to be seen all that is needful and all that is possible to be seen by mortals in time, of that matchless condescension and love, which accomplished the work of human redemption. In a word,

false cry

the gospel exhibits the Lord Jesus Christ, as the sinner's sole ground of pardon, acceptance, and hope of heaven. All the blessings of salvation comprising peace with God, peace with man, and peace with ourselves, are to be found in him alone. What is it that estranges man from God, and fills his mind with alarming apprehensions of the divine displeasure? What is that which the convicted sinner perceives to lift an insuperable barrier between himself and the Holy One, and to throw back over his soul the blackness of despair? It is unpardoned sin. While this remains nothing can bring man back from his estrangement, or dispossess his mind of its alarms. How utterly unavailing to such a one, is all that is soothing in the prophecy of smooth things. To a spirit thus wounded how powerless the

of
peace, peace.

But there is one and only one who can effectually say to every such sinner, thy sins are forgiven thee; go in peace. It is he who has been exalted for this very purpose, that he might give repentance, and the forgiveness of sins. He can pardon, for he has suffered the penalty of sin. He can remove guilt, for he has poured out his own blood to wash it away.

When the convicted sinner turns an eye of faith upon him, the wall of separation between his soul and God melts away, and the light of hope breaks in upon the gloomy despair of his sin-darkened mind. The controversy ends, and peace reigns between heaven and himself.

But man is not only an enemy to God in his mind by wicked works, he is likewise an enemy to his fellow

I speak not now of that reciprocal enmity which dyes in blood the field of national conflicts. The same corrupt principle, which there is seen to move so mighty an engine with such disastrous effect, has its lesser weapons which it wields in narrower spheres. It pervades with its wasting influence the retreats of social and domestic life. It developes itself in those feuds, and bickerings, and heart-burnings, and overreachings, and slanders, which prevail to no limited extent in our best regulated communities. Can that man be regarded as a friend to his species, or as at peace with his fellow man, who is not unwilling to advance his own interest, reputation, or happiness on the ruin of his neighbors ? Now the gospel seeks to reconcile man to man in these respects. It does this indeed, by its direct tendency to extinguish the depraved principle in the human breast, by the immediate powerful restraints it imposes upon this disturbing force, which is everywhere abroad unsettling the foundations of social life, and throwing man into ruinous collision with his fellow man. But our great Peacemaker who stands between our guilty race and the offended Majesty of heaven, aims to reconcile us to our fellow creatures by proposing to us his own example—that ye should love one another, as I have loved you. How plain the rule, how pure the principle, how swaying the motive here presented ! How would the genuine impression of his example upon only his nominal followers, change the aspect of our world! How entirely would it harmonize the ten thousand conflicting interests, pursuits, tastes, and preferences which now render christian communities a scene of strife and animosities. Were the living image of this example copied into the life and conduct of mankind, the turmoil of personal contentions, and the din of war would be hushed into perpetual silence. Violence would no more be heard, wasting nor destruction throughout the abode of man. Indeed, were the grand principle here recognized, universally obeyed, we should here on earth commence a united career of

man.

peace, and righteousness, and spiritual joy, not to be terminated, but consummated in the paradise of God.

Again, the gospel proposes still more than the creation of this relative peace. There is a delightful consistency in the aims and tendencies of the gospel. While it purposes the production of perfect peace in the soul of man, there is nothing partial or conflicting in

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