Thursday, March 1, 2012

What is the Gospel 6

We gaze round on that craggy precipice, extending its bald brow to the lightnings and the storms, on whose top the young eaglets sleep in the warm sunshine, and under whose broad shadow the shepherd reposes in safety with his peaceful flocks. It is earth's grandest token of that "Rock of Ages," on which frail man finds his salvation, and in whose cool shade this world's weary ones are blessed.

We contemplate that great root of yon mountain oak, which has penetrated the fissure of the rock, and opened its way down to drink up the moisture from the heart of the hill. It is God's emblem of that "Root of David" which hath prevailed to open the seals, and forced a way to the fountain and waters of life. We listen to the roar of the great lion in the thicket, before whom all the beasts of the field crouch or fly in terror.

It is the symbol of that "Lion of the Tribe of Judah," who has sent consternation and dismay among all the hosts of hell, and raised the fallen sinner from his "dead level" to his feet again We look upon the flowers as they spread open their beauties to the sky, and pour from their thousand censers their incense offerings to their God; and that lily there, the most fragrant of all, and that rose yonder, the most deeply colored of all, are meant to tell of "the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the valleys," which God has planted in this bleak world to gladden the eye and revive the heart of drooping man, and to be a soothing balm to his many, many wounds.

We sit down in the arbor, and admire the vine which covers it with robes of green, and has hung it with fragrant clusters; and that too is one of nature's ten thousand images of Jesus and his grace; for he is "the true Vine," and his Father is the husbandman. The visible world scarcely contains one object of glory, beauty, or good, which God has not in some way appropriated as emblematic of his Son Jesus Christ, and of his mercy to sinners through him. He has even made prophecy of history, and written his purposes of grace and good in the very acts and lives of men and nations. And here, in this third book of Moses, in the ceremonial system which it records, there is still another plan adopted to set forth the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

We have here a system of life-pictures and practical allegorical types, in which the Gospel receives a sort of living pictorial incarnation. It treats of the slaying of goats and calves, of meats and drinks, and divers washings, all ordained of God, that in these things men might have a tangible exhibition of the offering of Him who was "delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification." It presents a solemn ritual of blood and butchery, "imposed until the time of reformation," but meant to be "a figure," complete and lively, of those better things which have since been revealed in Jesus Christ.

It is only another of those "divers manners" in which God has chosen to deliver to us an idea of the necessity, nature, application and effects of "the common salvation" of which the prophets prophesied, and the apostles wrote. And viewed in this light, so far from being repulsive and profitless, this book of Leviticus at once gathers around it a most attractive interest, and becomes invested with a radiance, which must needs enlist, edify and inspire every attentive Christian heart. It is a torch given of God, and lit with sacred fires, to illuminate redemption's framework, and light us into those profounds of grace, of which the prophets searched and inquired, when they testified beforehand of the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow.

—Gospel in Leviticus, The

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What is the Gospel 5

Now, God has taken many ways, and employed many methods, of teaching men his Gospel, and of impressing it upon their understandings and their hearts. Sometimes he presents it in plain and simple narratives, or in easy parables, and then again in epistles of classic elegance, filled with close analysis and logical profoundness.

One apostle is sent as the apostle of love, whose words melt gently in upon the heart, fragrant as scented dews; and another is sent as the apostle of faith, with his great arguments deep laid in the truth of God. The pro phets are made poets also, to attract and move us the more by the smoothness of their words and the brilliancy of their inspirations. Moses, though else so calm and majestic, now and then breaks out in exalted song.

David takes his harp, and utters himself in sweetest minstrelsy. Isaiah stands up to prophesy, and his lips are touched with a coal from the celestial altar, and his words carry us into the highest heavens of poetic sublimity. Jeremiah comes forward in song, mighty as "a lion from the swellings of Jordan, coming up against the habitations of the strong." And a whole constellation of lesser prophets pour forth the light of heaven in scintillating streams of melody and poesy.

Gorgeous symbolization has been called into requisition. We look on Ezekiel's visions and seem to be lifted by the hair into the midst of the scenes of God's mysterious doings. Daniel's golden-headed image, and beasts of power, and stone of glory, move before us in significant grandeur. The skies themselves part, and the very secrets of eternity open upon us, in the Apocalypse of John. And even visible nature around us has been transmuted into a living array of pictures and emblems of Jesus and his saving grace.

We lift up our eyes in the daytime, and encounter the bright, glad, and golden beams that pour forever from the great orb of heaven. It is the symbol of that bright "Sun of Righteousness," whose rays are the light and healing of earth, and the joy of eternity. We go out with the Psalmist to consider the glories of the starry night; and the brightest of all those glittering and fiery gems—the one which heralds the morning and ushers in the day,—is the appointed picture of that "bright and morning star" who shines with ever cheering radiance in the eyes of Zion's watchmen, and gives tidings of the promised approaching day of Israel.

We walk into the fields among the flocks and lowing herds; and that meek-eyed lamb, reposing on the clean sunny bank, is to us a remembrancer of that unspotted "Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." We take our stand by the gushing spring on the mountain side, and gaze upon the glad waters as they leap forth in their crystal purity to cool the thirsty lip, and refresh the parched ground, and wash away the dust from the worn traveller. It is the joyous symbol of that "fountain opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and uncleanness."

We turn our eyes to the tall cedar, that pride and glory of the mountain, stretching up its great limbs into the blue sky; and we see there an emblem of that "Branch of the Lord, beautiful and glorious," whose name is, "The Lord our Righteousness."

—Gospel in Leviticus, The

What is the Gospel 4

Turning, then, to this Third Book of Moses, called Leviticus, what do we find to be its contents? Here and there we have a few records simply and purely historical; but what is the great burden and scope of the book?

From beginning to end, everything bears the one pervading purpose, of showing the transgressor wherewithal he might come before the Lord, and obtain justification and peace. It is a great system of salvation by priestly mediation and bloody sacrifices. Apart from any relation to the New Testament, the prescriptions here given dwindle down to a burdensome round of uninviting and unmeaning ceremonies, unworthy of so high an origin, or so solemn a method of inculcation.

We are, therefore, driven to take them as connected with the one and only system of redemption, which is through Christ, and to reverence and study them as God's own pictorial illustrations of the Gospel, as a system of practical hieroglyphics of his plan of salvation through the blood of Jesus.

—Gospel in Leviticus, The

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What is the Gospel 3

All consciousness bears witness to it. And he has not expressed himself too strongly, who says, "a man must be a fool, nay, a stock, or a stone, not to believe, it. He has no eyes, he has no senses, he has no perceptions, if he refuses to believe it." And in this fallen, degenerate condition, man is lost.

Darkness, which he cannot dissipate, is around him. Stains of guilt, which he cannot wash out, are upon him The curse of condemnation stands written against him, beyond his power to expunge it, or check it off A foul disease is fretting through all his nature, against which there is no earthly antidote or remedy.

Death and decay are on him, and cling to him as part of himself, and he cannot cut loose from them. Eternity itself, so far as his own strength goes, can bring him only sorrow and despair. But God comes to us in this desperate estate, and proffers, through Christ, an eternal deliverance. For darkness, he proposes to give us light. For sin, he holds out to us the means of an effectual cleansing. For condemnation, he tenders to us a present and full reprieve. For all our ailments, he engages to work for us an abiding cure.

And for our corruption and death, he offers us glory and immortality. In one word, he proposes to save us. Restoration—complete restoration—is now proclaimed from the heavens as the portion of those who will receive it through Jesus Christ. It is a blessed proclamation. It is, indeed, Good news—glad tidings of great joy. And this proclamation is the Gospel.

—Gospel in Leviticus, The