Man was created in the image of God. Knowledge and perfect holiness were imprest upon the very nature and faculties of his soul. He had constant access to his Maker, and enjoyed free communion with Him, on the ground of his spotless moral rectitude. But, alas! the glorious diadem is broken; the crown of righteousness is fallen. Man’s purity is gone, and his happiness is forfeited. “There is none righteous; no, not one.” “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” But the ruin is not hopeless. What was lost in Adam is restored in Christ. His blood redeems us from the bondage, and His gospel gives us back the forfeited inheritance. “For if, through the offense of one, many be dead; much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.” Let us consider, first, the corruption and condemnation of man; and secondly, his gracious restoration to the favor of his offended God.
I. To find the cause of man’s corruption and condemnation, we must go back to Eden. The eating of the “forbidden tree” was “the offense of one,” in consequence of which “many are dead.” This was the “sin,” the act of “disobedience,” which “brought death into the world, and all our wo.” It was the greatest ingratitude to the divine bounty, and the boldest rebellion against the divine sovereignty. The royalty of God was contemned; the riches of His goodness slighted; and His most desperate enemy preferred before Him, as if he were a wiser counsellor than infinite wisdom. Thus man joined in league with hell against heaven; with demons of the bottomless pit against the almighty maker and benefactor; robbing God of the obedience due to His command and the glory due to His name; worshiping the creature instead of the creator; and opening the door to pride, unbelief, enmity, and all the wicked and abominable passions. How is the “noble vine,” which was planted “wholly a right seed,” “turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine”!
Who can look for pure water from such a fountain? “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” All the faculties of the soul are corrupted by sin; the understanding dark; the will perverse; the affections carnal; the conscience full of shame, remorse, confusion, and mortal fear. Man is a hard-hearted and stiff-necked sinner; loving darkness rather than light, because his deeds are evil; eating sin like bread, and drinking iniquity like water; holding fast deceit, and refusing to let it go. His heart is desperately wicked; full of pride, vanity, hypocrisy, covetousness, hatred of truth, and hostility to all that is good.
This depravity is universal. Among the natural children of Adam, there is no exemption from the original taint. “The whole world lieth in wickedness.” “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness is as filthy rags.” The corruption may vary in the degrees of development, in different persons; but the elements are in all, and their nature is everywhere the same; the same in the blooming youth, and the withered sire; in the haughty prince, and the humble peasant; in the strongest giant, and the feeblest invalid. The enemy has “come in like a flood.” The deluge of sin has swept the world. From the highest to the lowest, there is no health or moral soundness. From the crown of the head to the soles of the feet, there is nothing but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores. The laws, and their violation, and the punishments everywhere invented for the suppression of vice, prove the universality of the evil. The bloody sacrifices, and various purifications, of the pagans, show the handwriting of remorse upon their consciences; proclaim their sense of guilt, and their dread of punishment. None of them are free from the fear which hath torment, whatever their efforts to overcome it, and however great their boldness in the service of sin and Satan. “Menel Tekel!” is written on every human heart. “Wanting! wanting!” is inscribed on heathen fanes and altars; on the laws, customs, and institutions of every nation; and on the universal consciousness of mankind.
This inward corruption manifests itself in outward actions. “The tree is known by its fruit.” As the smoke and sparks of the chimney show that there is fire within; so all the “filthy conversation” of men, and all “the unfruitful works of darkness” in which they delight, evidently indicate the pollution of the source whence they proceed. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” The sinner’s speech betrayeth him. “Evil speaking” proceeds from malice and envy. “Foolish talking and jesting” are evidence of impure and trifling thoughts. The mouth full of cursing and bitterness, the throat an open sepulcher, the poison of asps under the tongue, the feet swift to shed blood, destruction and misery in their paths, and the way of peace unknown to them, are the clearest and amplest demonstration that men “have gone out of the way,” “have together become unprofitable.” We see the bitter fruit of the same corruption in robbery, adultery, gluttony, drunkenness, extortion, intolerance, persecution, apostasy, and every evil work–in all false religions; the Jew, obstinately adhering to the carnal ceremonies of an abrogated law; the Mohammedan, honoring an impostor, and receiving a lie for a revelation from God; the papist, worshiping images and relics, praying to departed saints, seeking absolution from sinful men, and trusting in the most absurd mummeries for salvation; the pagan, attributing divinity to the works of his own hands, adoring idols of wood and stone, sacrificing to malignant demons, casting his children into the fire or the flood as an offering to imaginary deities, and changing the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of the beast and the worm.
“For these things’ sake the wrath of God cometh upon the children of disobedience.” They are under the sentence of the broken law; the malediction of eternal justice. “By the offense of one, judgment came upon all men unto condemnation.” “He that believeth not is condemned already.” “The wrath of God abideth on him.” “Curst is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law, to do them.” “Wo unto the wicked; it shall be ill with him, for the reward of his hands shall be given him.” “They that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, shall reap the same.” “Upon the wicked the Lord shall rain fire, and snares, and a horrible tempest; this shall be the portion of their cup.” “God is angry with the wicked every day; if he turn not he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready.”
Who shall describe the misery of fallen man! His days, tho few, are full of evil. Trouble and sorrow press him forward to the tomb. All the world, except Noah and his family, are drowning in the deluge. A storm of fire and brimstone is fallen from heaven upon Sodom and Gomorrah. The earth is opening her mouth to swallow up alive Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. Wrath is coming upon “the beloved city,” even “wrath unto the uttermost.” The tender and delicate mother is devouring her darling infant. The sword of men is executing the vengeance of God. The earth is emptying its inhabitants into the bottomless pit. On every hand are “confused noises, and garments rolled in blood.” Fire and sword fill the land with consternation and dismay. Amid the universal devastation wild shrieks and despairing groans fill the air. God of mercy! is Thy ear heavy, that Thou canst not hear? or Thy arm shortened, that Thou canst not save? The heavens above are brass, and the earth beneath is iron; for Jehovah is pouring His indignation upon His adversaries, and He will not pity or spare.
Verily, “the misery of man is great upon him”! Behold the wretched fallen creature! The pestilence pursues him. The leprosy cleaves to him. Consumption is wasting him. Inflammation is devouring his vitals. Burning fever has seized upon the very springs of life. The destroying angel has overtaken the sinner in his sins. The hand of God is upon him. The fires of wrath are kindling about him, drying up every well of comfort, and scorching all his hopes to ashes. Conscience is chastizing him with scorpions. See how he writhes! Hear how he shrieks for help! Mark what agony and terror are in his soul, and on his brow! Death stares him in the face, and shakes at him his iron spear. He trembles, he turns pale, as a culprit at the bar, as a convict on the scaffold. He is condemned already. Conscience has pronounced the sentence. Anguish has taken hold upon him. Terrors gather in battle array about him. He looks back, and the storms of Sinai pursue him; forward, and hell is moved to meet him; above, and the heavens are on fire; beneath, and the world is burning. He listens, and the judgment trump is calling; again, and the brazen chariots of vengeance are thundering from afar; yet again, the sentence penetrates his soul with anguish unspeakable–“Depart! ye accurst! into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels!”
Thus, “by one man, sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” They are “dead in trespasses and sins,” spiritually dead, and legally dead; dead by the mortal power of sin, and dead by the condemnatory sentence of the law; and helpless as sheep to the slaughter, they are driven fiercely on by the ministers of wrath to the all-devouring grave and the lake of fire!
But is there no mercy? Is there no means of salvation? Hark! amid all this prelude of wrath and ruin, comes a still small voice, saying: “Much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.”
II. This brings us to our second topic, man’s gracious recovery to the favor of his offended God.
I know not how to present to you this glorious work, better than by the following figure. Suppose a vast graveyard, surrounded by a lofty wall, with only one entrance, which is by a massive iron gate, and that is fast bolted. Within are thousands and millions of human beings, of all ages and classes, by one epidemic disease bending to the grave. The graves yawn to swallow them, and they must all perish. There is no balm to relieve, no physician there. Such is the condition of man as a sinner. All have sinned; and it is written, “The soul that sinneth shall die.” But while the unhappy race lay in that dismal prison, Mercy came and stood at the gate, and wept over the melancholy scene, exclaiming–“Oh, that I might enter! I would bind up their wounds; I would relieve their sorrows; I would save their souls!” An embassy of angels, commissioned from the court of heaven to some other world, paused at the sight, and heaven forgave that pause. Seeing Mercy standing there, they cried:–“Mercy! canst thou not enter? Canst thou look upon that scene and not pity? Canst thou pity, and not relieve?” Mercy replied: “I can see!” and in her tears she added, “I can pity, but I can not relieve!” “Why canst thou not enter?” inquired the heavenly host. “Oh!” said Mercy, “Justice has barred the gate against me, and I must not–can not unbar it!” At this moment, Justice appeared, as if to watch the gate. The angels asked, “Why wilt thou not suffer Mercy to enter?” He sternly replied: “The law is broken, and it must be honored! Die they, or Justice must!” Then appeared a form among the angelic band like unto the Son of God. Addressing Himself to Justice, He said: “What are thy demands?” Justice replied: “My demands are rigid; I must have ignominy for their honor, sickness for their health, death for their life. Without the shedding of blood there is no remission!” “Justice,” said the Son of God, “I accept thy terms! On me be this wrong! Let Mercy enter, and stay the carnival of death!” “What pledge dost thou give for the performance of these conditions?” “My word; my oath!” “When wilt thou perform them?” “Four thousand years hence, on the hill of Calvary, without the walls of Jerusalem.” The bond was prepared, and signed and sealed in the presence of attendant angels. Justice was satisfied, the gate was opened, and Mercy entered, preaching salvation in the name of Jesus. The bond was committed to patriarchs and prophets. A long series of rites and ceremonies, sacrifices and obligations, was instituted to perpetuate the memory of that solemn deed. At the close of the four thousandth year, when Daniel’s “seventy weeks” were accomplished, Justice and Mercy appeared on the hill of Calvary. “Where,” and Justice, “is the Son of God?” “Behold him,” answered Mercy, “at the foot of the hill!” And there He came, bearing His own cross, and followed by His weeping church. Mercy retired, and stood aloof from the scene. Jesus ascended the hill like a lamb for the sacrifice. Justice presented the dreadful bond, saying, “This is the day on which this article must be canceled.” The Redeemer took it. What did He do with it? Tear it to pieces, and scatter it to the winds? No! He nailed it to His cross, crying, “It is finished!” The victim ascended the altar. Justice called on Holy Fire to come down and consume the sacrifice. Holy Fire replied: “I come! I will consume the sacrifice, and then I will burn up the world!” It fell upon the Son of God, and rapidly consumed His humanity; but when it touched His deity, it expired. Then was there darkness over the whole land, and an earthquake shook the mountain; but the heavenly host broke forth in rapturous song–“Glory to God in the highest! on earth peace! good will to man!”
Thus grace has abounded, and the free gift has come upon all, and the gospel has gone forth proclaiming redemption to every creature. “By grace ye are saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.” By grace ye are loved, redeemed, and justified. By grace ye are called, converted, reconciled and sanctified. Salvation is wholly of grace. The plan, the process, the consummation are all of grace.
“Where sin abounded, grace hath much more abounded.” “Through the offense of one, many were dead.” And as men multiplied, the offense abounded. The waters deluged the world, but could not wash away the dreadful stain. The fire fell from heaven, but could not burn out the accurst plague. The earth opened her mouth, but could not swallow up the monster sin. The law thundered forth its threat from the thick darkness on Sinai, but could not restrain, by all its, terrors, the children of disobedience. Still the offense abounded, and multiplied as the sands on the seashore. It waxed bold, and pitched its tents on Calvary, and nailed the Lawgiver to a tree. But in that conflict sin received its mortal wound. The victim was the victor. He fell, but in His fall He crusht the foe. He died unto sin, but sin and death were crucified upon His cross. Where sin abounded to condemn, grace hath much more abounded to justify. Where sin abounded to corrupt, grace hath much more abounded to purify. Where sin abounded to harden, grace hath much more abounded to soften and subdue. Where sin abounded to imprison men, grace hath much more abounded to proclaim liberty to the captives. Where sin abounded to break the law and dishonor the Lawgiver, grace hath much more abounded to repair the breach and efface the stain. Where sin abounded to consume the soul as with unquenchable fire and a gnawing worm, grace hath much more abounded to extinguish the flame and heal the wound. Grace hath abounded! It hath established its throne on the merit of the Redeemer’s sufferings. It hath put on the crown, and laid hold of the golden scepter, and spoiled the dominion of the prince of darkness, and the gates of the great cemetery are thrown open, and there is the beating of a new life-pulse throughout its wretched population and immortality is walking among the tombs!
This abounding grace is manifested in the gift of Jesus Christ, by whose mediation our reconciliation and salvation are effected. With Him, believers are dead unto sin, and alive unto God. Our sins were slain at His cross, and buried in His tomb. His resurrection hath opened our graves, and given us an assurance of immortality. “God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us; much more, then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from the wrath through him; for if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”
“The carnal mind is enmity against God; it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Glory to God, for the death of His Son, by which this enmity is slain, and reconciliation is effected between the rebel and the law! This was the unspeakable gift that saved us from ruin; that wrestled with the storm, and turned it away from the devoted head of the sinner. Had all the angels of God attempted to stand between these two conflicting seas, they would have been swept to the gulf of destruction. “The blood of bulls and goats, on Jewish altars slain,” could not take away sin, could not pacify the conscience. But Christ, the gift of divine grace, “Paschal Lamb by God appointed,” a “sacrifice of nobler name and richer blood than they,” bore our sins and carried our sorrows, and obtained for us the boon of eternal redemption. He met the fury of the tempest, and the floods went over His head; but His offering was an offering of peace, calming the storms and the waves, magnifying the law, glorifying its Author, and rescuing its violator from the wrath and ruin. Justice hath laid down his sword at the foot of the cross, and amity is restored between heaven and earth.
Hither, O ye guilty! come and cast away your weapons of rebellion! Come with your bad principles and wicked actions; your unbelief, and enmity, and pride; and throw them off at the Redeemer’s feet! God is here waiting to be gracious. He will receive you; He will east all your sins behind His back, into the depths of the sea; and they shall be remembered against you no more forever. By Heaven’s “unspeakable gift,” by Christ’s invaluable atonement, by the free, infinite grace of the Father and Son, we persuade you, we beseech you, we entreat you, “be ye reconciled to God”!
It is by the work of the Holy Spirit with us that we obtain a personal interest in the work wrought on Calvary for us. If our sins are canceled, they are also crucified. If we are reconciled in Christ, we fight against our God no more. This is the fruit of faith. “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” May the Lord inspire in every one of us that saving principle!
But those who have been restored to the divine favor may sometimes be cast down and dejected. They have passed through the sea, and sung praises on the shore of deliverance; but there is yet between them and Canaan “a waste howling wilderness,” a long and weary pilgrimage, hostile nations, fiery serpents, scarcity of food, and the river of Jordan. Fears within and fightings without, they may grow discouraged, and yield to temptation and murmur against God, and desire to return to Egypt. But fear not, thou worm Jacob! Reconciled by the death of Christ; much more, being reconciled, thou shalt be saved by His life. His death was the price of our redemption; His life insures liberty to the believer. If by His death He brought you through the Red Sea in the night, by His life He can lead you through the river Jordan in the day. If by His death He delivered you from the iron furnace in Egypt, by His life He can save you from all perils of the wilderness. If by His death He conquered Pharaoh, the chief foe, by His life He can subdue Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, the king of Bashan. “We shall be saved by his life.” Because He liveth, we shall live also. “Be of good cheer!” The work is finished; the ransom is effected; the kingdom of heaven is open to all believers. “Lift up your heads and rejoice,” “ye prisoners of hope!” There is no debt unpaid, no devil unconquered, no enemy within your hearts that has not received a mortal wound! “Thanks be unto God, who giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ!”
Christmas Evans, a Welsh Baptist preacher, was born at Isgaerwen, Cardiganshire, South Wales, in 1766. Brought up as a Presbyterian, he turned Baptist in 1788, and was ordained the following year and ministered among the Baptists in Carmaerthenshire. In 1792 he became a sort of bishop to those of his denomination in Anglesey, where he took up his residence. After a somewhat stormy experience with those he undertook to rule, he removed to Carmaerthen in 1832. He distinguished himself by his debt-raising tours, in which his eloquence brought him much success. It is said that once when he was preaching on the subject of the prodigal son, he pointed to a distant mountain as he described the father seeing him while yet a great way off, whereupon thousands in his congregation turned their heads in evident expectation of seeing the son actually coming down the hills. He died in 1838.