« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
And now ensued the last scene of this cruel tragedy. A faggot was brought kindled, and laid at the feet of Ridley, whom his venerable fellow-martyr then addressed for the last time, bidding him take comfort and encouragement from the glorious effects which he trusted would follow the transaction of that day. As the flames advanced. upon him, Ridley cried out with a loud voice: "Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit. O Lord receive my spirit." While Latimer, on the other side, echoed these accents of devout resignation with the earnest prayer, 'O Father of heaven, receive my soul." But while the sufferings of Latimer were quickly terminated, Ridley's 's were more protracted. The fire on his side was so ill managed by piling too great a quantity of faggots over the furze, that it first burned beneath only. Perceiving this, he desired those about him " for Christ's sake to let the fire come to him." His brother, hearing his request, with an ill-judged kindness, in order to rid him more quickly of his pain, heaped on more faggots, so that the fire, still smouldering underneath with an intense heat, consumed the lower extremities of his body before it touched the upper. In the agony of his sufferings, he was seen leaping up and down under the faggots, and heard calling out, "I cannot burn, I cannot burn." Hence it was that after his legs were burned, the side towards the spectators appeared entirely untouched by the flame. Yet even in this torment, he ceased not to call upon God, intermingling cries of agony with ejaculations for mercy. Thus he continued crying out without relief, until one of the bystanders with his bill removed the pile of faggots, and the fire then flaming up, he wrested himself towards it. At last the flame having reached the gunpowder, he was seen to move no more, but burned on the other side; and either from the chain loosing, or by the overpoise of his body, fell over the chain, down at Latimer's feet.
Bitter indeed was the ordeal through which this holy man of God was ordained to pass to his eternal recompence; but an end, sanctified as his was by such meek and fervent piety, and so correspondent with the previous course of a life consecrated to the service of his Lord, may be justly regarded as a mark of the distinguished favour of God, who chastens those whom he loves, and proportions his trials to the ability of his servants to bear them.
Worthy was he to suffer with Latimer, as Latimer was to suffer with him. They were united in their zeal and their labours for the Gospel, and it was meet, therefore, that they should not be divided in the last triumphant scene of their faith-as valiant veterans, buckling on each others armour for the conflict, and animating each other both by word and example. If Latimer, by a just appellation, was termed "the Apostle of the English," in reference to the bold simplicity of his character, Ridley, perhaps, without derogating from the honour of Cranmer, may not unaptly be designated as the Father of the English Reformation. Without the active guidance and co-operation of Cranmer, who brought the practical wisdom of the Statesman to the administration of the affairs of religion, the work of the Reformation certainly would not have made that progress which it did in the short space, from its early and imperfect beginnings in the reign of Henry VIII. to its fuller developement at the death of Edward VI. But the learning
and the piety of Ridley first shook the foundation of that formidable barrier to the truth which the doctrine of transubstantiation presented, and thus purified the reformed religion, according to that standard of Scriptural orthodoxy, which has now for nearly three centuries stood the test of jealous and impartial examination, and bids fair, (only may we, and our children after us, have the wisdom to know its value) to render the Church of England the depository and safeguard of the faith, against the encroachments of antichristian heresy, from whatever quarter they may threaten, to the end of the world.
SERMON ON REDEMPTION BY THE BLOOD OF CHRIST.
COLOS. i. 19, 20.
For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell; and having made peace through the blood of his cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself.
THE sublime and glorious doctrine of Redemption by the blood of Christ, has too often been regarded by the children of this world as a matter of obscurity and doubt. It was in the first instance rejected with scorn by the philosophical Gentile and the stubborn Jew; and in subsequent times it has either been admitted in a qualified sense, or utterly renounced by those rash interpreters of Scripture, who consider their own fallible understandings as the measure of Divine truth. The true Christian, however, who has been accustomed from his infancy to "receive with meekness the engrafted word;" embraces the doctrine of Christ crucified with implicit faith, as the vital principle of all religion, and the foundation of every hope. He discovers many traces of it in the earliest parts of the Sacred Volume, and sees it more clearly developed in the writings of the Prophets. In the Gospel the Redeemer is emphatically described, as the "Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world ;" and in the Apostolical Epistles the same truth is inculcated in terms so clear and unequivocal, that none who are free from prejudice can fail to understand them in their plain and literal sense. This doctrine is expressed with peculiar force in the chapter from which my text is taken. The Apostle having saluted the Colossian Church in his usual manner, proceeds to expatiate on the office and supereminent dignity of our Saviour Christ, "in whom we have redemption through his blood even the forgiveness of our sins. Who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature. For by Him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and for him: and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the Church: who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in all things he might have the pre-eminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell: and, having
made peace through the blood of his cross, by Him to reconcile all things to himself."
Whatever difficulty may here. occur in the precise interpretation of particular expressions, the general spirit of the passage is too clear to be mistaken. The Apostle affirms, that we have redemption through the blood of Christ-that He is the image of the invisible God-that He created all things in heaven and in earth-that he is the Head of the Church-that he is the person who first destroyed the power of death by rising from the grave;-and that he has the pre-eminence in all things. "For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell." These words must be referred to Christ in his capacity of Redeemer of the world. His Godhead had been sufficiently established in the preceding verses, where He is said to be the Creator and Preserver of all things in heaven and in earth-of the spiritual and material world-of human and angelic beings-of thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers. Now He who created all things must Himself be uncreated; but Christ, according to the Apostle did create all things, and is consequently true and eternal God," King of kings and Lord of lords."
Having enforced this doctrine, as a fundamental article of Christian belief, the Apostle proceeds to describe the everlasting God in his assumed character of Mediator and Redeemer. "It pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell." The fulness of power, glory, and wisdom, dwelt in Christ from all eternity, as constituent parts of his Divine nature. When at length the redemption of mankind was ordained, it seemed fit to Almighty wisdom, that the person who was to accomplish this mighty work, should possess every high and glorious attribute in full perfection. This was essential to the designs of Providence. "No man," says the Psalmist, "may redeem his brother, nor make agreement unto God for him; for it cost more to redeem their souls." To offer an effectual atonement for sin-to break the barriers of the grave-and to make intercession for a fallen world before the throne of God, was a work beyond the reach of men or angels. "It pleased the Father," therefore it was decreed in his wise and righteous counsels, that "all fulness"-the plenitude of wisdom and of grace, of sanctity and power, should be seated in Him who was appointed Saviour of the world. And further, it pleased the Father, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by Him to reconcile all things to Himself. Here we are plainly taught that we are not saved by the mere promulgation of the Gospel, nor by the simple acknowledgment of religious truth, but by the blood of Christ. Had nothing more been requisite for our salvation, than instruction and example, there would have been no necessity for the incarnation and the sacrifice of God's own Son. But the case was otherwise. Man had fallen from his innocence, and had incurred the wrath of God. An atonement was required both for original and actual sin, before he could be restored to his Creator's favour. "Without shedding of blood," says the Apostle, "there is no remission." Such was the ordinance of God; and it ill becomes us to institute a presumptuous inquiry into the wisdom and propriety of this awful dispensation. Whether our sins could have been forgiven if Christ had not died upon
the cross, is a question which can never be determined by human reasoning. It is our duty, therefore, to abstain from such idle speculations; and steadily to fix our minds on those truths which are explicitly revealed. The Scriptures plainly teach us that the blood of Christ was the appointed instrument of expiation. Our blessed Lord declared that he would give his flesh for the life of the world; and that "his blood was shed for many for the remission of sins." No man who considers these expressions with an impartial mind, and is competent to form a judgment of their sense, can question the efficacy of our Saviour's passion in expiating the sins of mankind; nor will he cease to adore and glorify that gracious Being who was content to bleed upon the cross that we might be rescued from everlasting misery.
It may, however, be thought that the language of my text requires some further explanation-"having made peace by the blood of his cross by Him to reconcile all things to Himself." The peace here spoken of, is evidently the peace between God and man. In another place St. Paul describes all mankind before our Saviour's death as "enemies" to God; and again, speaking of our Lord's passion, he says, "having slain the enmity thereby "-i. e. the enmity which subsisted between God and man. Now the guilt which had caused this enmity must be ascribed exclusively to man. God continued, as he ever was, "merciful, and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth;" but man had departed so far from original righteousness, as to be regarded in the light of an enemy even by his compassionate Creator. In this state of things, God is said in my text, and in other passages of Scripture, to have reconciled the world to Himself by the blood of his Son. The ordinary meaning of the word reconcile is either to render propitious, or to restore to favour. It is used with the same latitude in Scripture *. "If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." Here the person offending is described as the party to be reconciled to him who had been offended-" first be reconciled to thy brother -be restored to amity with him, by making such concessions, and agreeing to such terms, as he may require. In the same sense St. Paul uses the word. "When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God:" although he was justly offended at our iniquities, we were restored to his favour by the death of his Son. In another passage the same Apostle has said, "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself." The Godhead dwelt in the person of Jesus Christ, for the purpose of rendering Himself propitious to a sinful world. A similar application of the word occurs in my text. It is clear, then, that both in the common and the scriptural sense of the expression, to reconcile man to God, and to reconcile God to man, amounts to the same thing †. It signifies to make
* αποκαταλλασσω--διαλλασσω-and καταλλασσω--are used almost indiscriminately by the writers of the New Testament.—аTокатa\\arow. Ephes. ii. 6.— Colos. i. 20, 21.—diaλλaσow. Matt. v. 24.-Karaλλaσow. Rom. v. 10.-1 Cor. vii. 11.-2 Cor. v. 18, 19, 20.-Heb. ii. 17.
Pearson, 364, 365. Magee. Vol. i. 25, 26, 27. and No. xxii. p. 202, 3.
the party who was offended become propitious; and it applies therefore with the greatest exactness and propriety to that stupendous work of mercy, which was accomplished on our behalf when the Son of God expired upon the cross.
It is indeed highly important to adhere closely to the literal sense of Scripture on this subject lest we should form a low and irreverent conception of salvation by the blood of Christ. We must never forget that the wrath of God against the disobedient, and his deep abhorrence of sin, is proclaimed in almost every page of the inspired writings. To this truth we must always recur in contemplating our Saviour's passion; and here, perhaps, we may discover one principal reason why the doctrine of Christ crucified" is so often questioned and disparaged by worldly men. They reject this doctrine not only because it is mysterious, but because it lowers the haughty pretensions of human wisdom; because it shews how weak, how destitute, and how depraved is the natural condition of mankind, labouring under the curse of original sin, and at enmity with God. This is a truth which the man of proud and worldly temper does not readily admit. He cannot bear to be told that the reason, which he considers almost infallible, is weak and delusive; that the heart which he regards as pure and virtuous, is in fact the very seat of depravity and vice-that it is "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked," and that the whole character of man, unassisted by Divine grace, is such as to expose him to the righteous indignation of his Maker. All this the man of reason, as he would fain be called, finds it very difficult to acknowledge. He cannot easily relinquish the lofty notions he has formed of his own perfections. The very same doctrine, therefore, which in St. Paul's time was a "stumbling-block to the Jew, and foolishness to the Greek," is to him a matter of equal difficulty. Startled at those humiliating truths which lie at the very root of Christianity, he adopts the desperate measure of rejecting them as absurd. 'He persuades himself that they are the invention of weak and superstitious minds, or that they are the result of some mistaken principles of interpreting the Scriptures. He renounces them, therefore, without further enquiry; and with them he renounces the fundamental principles of Christian faith and Christian practice; the very truths on which all our hopes of immortality depend. O vain and arrogant pretender to human wisdom! is it thus you dare to trifle with the oracles of Almighty God? Is it thus you pervert those boasted faculties, which you received at his hand, and retain only by his permission? Have you no better sense of his Omnipotence and your own infirmity than to doubt his word, to reject his mercy, and to set up your own conceits against his absolute declarations? Better, indeed, would it have been for thee never to "have tasted the good word of God" than thus to disregard it; never to have possessed the power of reason, than thus to turn it to your own destruction.
There is, however, another class of persons who entertain a very false and dangerous opinion on this subject ;-those, I mean, who fall into the opposite extreme. Instead of rejecting the doctrine of atonement, as repugnant to reason, they consider that this alone is sufficient to secure their salvation without any effort on their part. "The blood of Christ," they say, "cleanseth us from all sin;" and conse