AT the time our Lord made his advent into this world, there were three theories among men in regard to the Deity. The first in the order in which they shall be introduced here is the atheistic theory. It is very short. It is simply the theory that there is no God in the universe. No doubt many have felt that the language of David is harsh, where he says, "The fool has said in his heart, There is no God." But, on a little reflection, it will be seen that the language is justifiable. In the nature of the case, no man can know this. No man could know this, or prove it, if it were so; because this universe is large, and a man can know but little about it. Then the assumption sweeps away all the information we have in the Bible, and a large amount not immediately in it. Sweep this away, and what does a man, any man, or all men, know about God? A man might assert that he does not know that there is any God, or that he does not know of any God. But that proves nothing. Any man must admit that there is a vast amount in the universe that he does not know. In this vast amount that he does not know, there may be a God.
There is a vast difference between the proposition that "there is no God," and that a man "does not know that there is a God." The former assumes to know what no man can know, in the nature of the case. The other only states what a man says he does not know. The latter statement may be entirely correct, and the man's ignorance may account for it all. There may be a God, and him not know it, as there are thousands of other things that he does not know. There may be a God, and a man not know it, just as there may be a thousand other things that he does not know. But the proposition, that there is no God, assumes to know. On this point not a man ever has, or ever can, offer a rational argument. The proposition that "there is no God," can never be proved, even if true. It is simply impossible to know or prove it.
But there are but few atheists, and we need not consume time in talking about that which has been repudiated by the great masses of mankind, of all grades of intellect. There is too much of design written on everything that comes within our reach, not to have any Designer.
The next theory, in the order in which we shall mention them, is the pagan theory, and about all man is capable of without divine revelation--that of a plurality of gods. "Lords many and gods many." We do not receive the school-boy declaration, of "reasoning up through nature to nature's God." It reads smooth, and sounds euphonious; but it is not true. There is no such thing as reasoning up through nature to nature's God. We stand square on the statement of Paul, that "when in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom, knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." There is not a chapter in nature that reveals God, or makes him known to a man without revelation. Nor is there a chapter in all the sciences that reveals God to a man without revelation. Nor did human reason ever reveal God to a living man without revelation.
We are not rushing into new and unexplored territory here--we have examined this ground. Man never could have received the idea of God, even when revealed, without reason. He never could have examined the evidence concerning God, or believed that there is a God, without reason. In other words, he could not have received the testimony God has given of himself, decided upon it, and believed that there is a God. No being on this earth, but man, is capable of faith. No being without reason is capable of faith. But reason can not discover God, or find a way to him, except through divine revelation.
No doubt some man before us is ready to quote from the Nineteenth Psalm: "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge." To whom do the heavens declare the glory of God? To the North American Indian? The Hottentot? Not a word of it; nor to a single people on the face of the earth who have no revelation from God. But to those who have the Bible; to whom God has revealed himself; who have the idea of God, and many wonderful things about him, "the heavens declare the glory of God." To those who have been taught of God, that the sun, and moon, and stars, are the work of his Almighty hand, "the heavens declare the glory of God. This is true of all his wonderful works. When the Almighty Father is revealed to us, and all the works of nature are pointed out to us as the work of his hand, they declare to us his glory, wisdom and power. But they declare none of these things to a man, or nation of men, anywhere on earth, without revelation. No works of nature, book of nature, human reason, or science, ever, in a single country, or among any people on earth, revealed God to a living man, the name of Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, or revealed to him a heaven or hell, an angel or spirit. But after we have these wonderful matters revealed to us in the Bible, and are informed that all nature is the work of the hand of God, we can look through his work to him as the Author of it all, wonder, admire and adore him.
The third, and remaining theory to be mentioned, is that held by the Jews, and is itself from revelation. It is that the Lord thy God is one God. There is one God; the Jehovah; the I AM, of the Old Testament; the Infinite One. We never speak of him when we do not feel that human speech is too feeble to give an adequate conception of the Self-Existent and Unoriginated One who inhabits eternity. How little we can comprehend of Him who was before all things; who created this stupendous universe, and who has sustained it by his own right hand so many thousands of years! What can we know of Him who never began to be? Who is self-existent and unoriginated? Before him we must come in profound awe and reverence. We are but dust before him.
How wonderful it is that our whole race should have become alienated from this great Being--their Creator and most merciful Benefactor! There is some excuse for those preachers who preached so much, about fifty years ago, on depravity. They saw that there was no sense in preaching salvation to man unless he was lost. They could not preach, a system of salvation that had no salvation in it. Universalists talk of salvation, but really have no salvation for anybody, either in this world or the world to come. They deny that any man is saved from sin in this world. They frequently argue, at great length, that all are sinners in this world; that even the very best, such men as Paul, are never saved from sin in this life, but sin till they die. They, then, not only have no universal salvation in this world, but no salvation at all for anybody. They do not believe that there will be any sin in the world to come from which to be saved. There can be no salvation from sin there, then, for men can not be saved from something that does not exist. They deny that there is any hell, lake of fire, second death, torment, misery, punishment, or anything else to be saved from after death. They simply, then, have no salvation for anybody, either in this world or the world to come. It is all idle talk about salvation, but no salvation of anybody from anything in this world or the world to come. Their system, so far as there is any system about it, consists of a great effort to tell the people something that they do not know, and something, too, without knowing which they will be saved as well and certainly as with knowing it!
The have a list of negatives which they string out, not one of which has an idea of salvation in it, and from which they infer the salvation of all men. They deny that there is any devil, or Satan; any hell, second death, or judgment after death; any torment, misery, or punishment, and, therefore, all will be saved. "Therefore," in this case, has to bridge over an immense chasm. There is no salvation in the premises, and certainly can be none in the conclusion.
Calvinism also has no salvation for anybody. According to this theory, the elect were never in any danger of being lost. They were elect from eternity--they never could be lost. The non-elect can never be saved. Not one of the elect, by any possibility, can be lost; nor one of the non-elect, by any possibility, be saved. It is, therefore, a system without any salvation in it for anybody. According to this theory, not a prophet, apostle, evangelist, church, Bible, tract, book, or publication of any sort; not a missionary, or any other human instrumentality, ever saved a soul of our race. The immutable decree of God, before the beginning of time, determined who were the elect, and who were the non-elect, and the number thus predestinated is so definite that it can be neither increased nor diminished. Not one of the elect can ever be lost, nor one of the non-elect saved. In this system there is simply no salvation at all. This immutable decree was on the whole race when they came into the world. There is no salvation in this for anybody.
The men alluded to who preached total depravity saw that unless man was lost there was nothing from which to be saved. They, therefore, set out to prove that all men, unregenerated, were totally depraved, and generally maintained that this total depravity was hereditary. This involved a long train of unscriptural language, and never could be made satisfactory. The true method is to open the Bible and ascertain what the condition of man, without Christ, or without regeneration, is. Did man need a Savior? Did he need regeneration? Did he need mercy? Did he need remission of sins? Jesus came into the world "that the world through him might be saved."--See John iii. 17. He came to save that which was lost. The world, then, was lost. "The Scripture has concluded all under sin."--See Galatians iii. 22. "What then," says Paul, "are we" (the Jews) better than they (the Gentiles)? "No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; as it is written, There is none righteous, no not one."--Romans iii. 9, 10. "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God."--Verse 23. Again, "God has concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all."--Romans xi. 32.
The Lord, then, has concluded all, both Jews and Gentiles, in unbelief, and under sin, that he might have mercy upon all. All, then, are lost, under sin, in unbelief, condemned and guilty before God, and need remission of sins. All are alienated from God, counted enemies, and put down in unbelief, and mercy is extended to all. Before they can enjoy God, they must be reconciled. Alienation is terrible anywhere, but the more nearly parties are allied to each other, the more terrible is the alienation. The first thing that comes up when the alienation takes place is, that the alienated party can not meet the other face to face. The first thing when the original offense took place was, that the offending party could not meet the offended. Confusion and shame cover their faces. In precisely the same way now, when alienation takes place, the offending party can not meet the offended. If a son has offended against a father, the first thought of the son is, "I can not meet my father!" Why? Is he not as good as ever? Certainly; but the son is not. If a daughter has sinned against her mother, the first thought is, "I can not meet my mother!" Why not? Is she not as good as ever? Certainly; but the daughter is not. If a husband and wife become alienated, they can not meet. If two neighbors become alienated, they can not meet.
How terrible, too, the misery where alienation takes place between parties closely allied, and dependent on each other. It is all-important that they maintain love, harmony and amity; specially is this all-important to the alienated party, whose absolute dependence is on the offended party. If a son becomes alienated from a father, he is sometimes disinherited, and forfeits all the benefits resulting from his relation to his father. In the case of the sinner, he finds himself alienated from his God, the first information he obtains about the matter. He is not disinherited, but an alien and foreigner, who has never been adopted into the heavenly family; never constituted a citizen in the kingdom of Christ. He finds himself at enmity against God, an enemy, an alien, and yet dependent on God for life, and all things for this world and that which is to come. Before he can have the friendship of God, the benefits of the New Institution, and the promise of the protection of the Almighty Arm, he must become reconciled to God. How is this to be done? He must be brought back to him from whom he is alienated; reconciled to him and united with him. But he can not meet God face to face. If he can not meet a man from whom he is alienated, how can he meet the Infinite One, against whom he has sinned, and before whom he is guilty? The thing is impossible.
Here is the necessity for a Mediator, or a middle person between man and God, who could approach man, on the one side, and God, on the other. The Mediator must needs be a friend to both parties. The Lord Jesus Christ is the only being occupying the position to fill this place. He is related to the Father as a Son, or, by his divine nature, he is the Son of God. He is related to us as a brother. He took not on him the nature of angels, but the seed of Abraham. By this human nature he is our brother; bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh. He can approach the Father as a Son, and approach us as our brother. He loves the Father, and also loves us. He is the one Mediator between God and men. No man comes to the Father but by him. Not a prayer offered by a Jew, or anybody else, has any acceptance with the Father, unless offered through him. To come by him is to come by his mediation; by the way he has appointed. There is no other way of coming by him, only to come by the way he has appointed in the gospel.
The way is now prepared for the consideration of a hard word, a word that many great men have been much perplexed over. We allude to the word atonement. This word occurs but once in the New Testament. We think the learned say it is Latin, and means at-one-ment. Literally, the original word, in the Greek, from which it comes, means reconciliation. This is substantially the same in import, as at-one-ment, or atone-again, and has something of the same idea in it as the word religion, which means to rebind, or bind back again. The original Greek word, katallagee, from which we have atonement in one place, occurs four times in the New Testament, and in the other three places is translated reconciliation. See Romans v. 1; xi. 15. 2 Corinthians v. 18, and verse 19. To receive the atonement is to receive the reconciliation; and to be reconciled to God is to be at one again with God, or bound back again to him.
Christ, the Apostle from God to man, was clothed with all authority in heaven and on earth, as a Mediator between God and men. The whole matter is given into his hands, and the command of the Almighty Father, as it came from his own lips, in the mountain of transfiguration, is, "Hear you him." He has the reconciliation, the atonement, and the world is required to hear him, to come to him, and be reconciled by him. But the question will be stated, How can we be reconciled by him? He is not here now, so that we can come to him and be reconciled. True, he is not here; but before he left the world he appointed ambassadors, and clothed them with the authority to go into all the world and present the word of reconciliation to every creature. In his address to the Father, John xvii. 14, he says, "I have given them thy word." A little further on he says, "As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world."--John xvii. 18. In the same prayer he says, "I have given them the words that thou gavest me; and they have received them."--See verse 8.
The words that the Father gave him, as his Apostle, he gave to his ambassadors, the apostles. Paul says, "All things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation."--See 2 Corinthians v. 18. He proceeds: "To-wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses to them; and hath committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be you reconciled to God." The ministry of reconciliation, or the ambassadorship, was given to the apostles. This was the office to open to men the way of reconciliation, and negotiate the whole matter with them. This was all included in the apostolic office. The apostles were authorized in Christ's stead, to beseech men to be reconciled to God. They also had the word of reconciliation. This was the law of reconciliation.
When the Lord left the world he committed the ministry of reconciliation to the ambassadors of Christ, the apostles, and gave them also the terms of reconciliation, or the law containing the terms. The authority that God gave to Christ, or the power as his Ambassador, to negotiate this whole affair of man's reconciliation, he gave to his ambassadors, the apostles; and the word of reconciliation, or the law, he gave to the apostles. The world can not now go directly to the Father, nor to Christ, nor to the Holy Spirit, but must go to the apostles. They are clothed with all authority to negotiate the whole matter, and have authority from the Father, from Christ, and from the Holy Spirit. The word of reconciliation, or the law, is the gospel.
But the apostles are not now here, and how can we go to them? The word that the Father gave to Christ, and that he gave to the apostles--the word, or law of reconciliation, the apostles committed to the hands of other men, commanding them to commit it to others, that they might teach others also. Hear Paul on this: "The things which you have heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." Thus this same word of reconciliation, or law, the gospel, which God gave to Christ, and he gave to the apostles, has been committed to the hands of faithful men, who have transmitted it to others, and they again to others, and by the blessing of heaven it is now in our hands, with the authority of God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the apostles in it, opening the way for man's reconciliation to God as fully now as it ever was at any other period.
When the Lord was about to commit this word of reconciliation to men, he did it in a very solemn manner. To one of the men whom he intended to stand at the front, and be first in opening up the matter, he prominence the Father intended this wonderful statement to have.
But any one can see that, in the nature of the case, the whole rests on this. This is seen in many of the clearest Scriptures. It is in the "good confession," which the Lord made before Pontius Pilate; in the good confession made by Timothy before many witnesses, and the confession to which Paul refers: "If you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved." Other foundation," says Paul, "can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." Christ is the foundation, and the truth that "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God," is the truth concerning the foundation, on which the whole rests. Overthrow this one truth and the whole is gone forever. The Lord recognized this when he said, "On this rock will I build my Church." The clause that follows shows that he saw the crucifixion, and that he would enter Hades; but the gates or powers of Hades should not prevail against him, or against the rock, or foundation; that he would rise and triumph over the powers of Hades. The great struggle was over his rising. "Will he rise?" His declaration is the triumphant language of victory. He will rise and vanquish all his enemies.
In view of his triumph over death, in his glorious resurrection, he proceeds: "And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Many have perplexed their minds over this, trying to explain unimportant matters, and missed the great matter. Much labor has been expended to find "keys" in the plural, and some have supposed that one key was used in opening the kingdom to the Jews, and the other in opening the door to the Gentiles. But this does not explain the matter; for there is but one kingdom, and one door to it, and finding different peoples to enter it, finds no use for two keys, specially when it is explicitly stated that God "made no difference between them and us"--the Jews and the Gentiles. If there is no difference, the same key will open the door to both. There is nothing in the circumstance of keys being plural, only that keys have generally been kept in a bunch, on a ring, or string, tied together, so that when a door, or any apartment, was to be opened, the keys were called for. The word keys, in this Scripture, is not literal. It stands for power. The power to open the kingdom and it shall be ratified in heaven. Peter had the authority to open the kingdom of heaven, and the assurance is given that whatever he shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever he should loose on earth should be loosed in heaven.
Here, then, is the man that has the authority to open the kingdom of heaven. How does he open it? Not with a literal key, for it had no literal door. The kingdom is the Church, and it has no literal door, and is opened by no literal key. How, then, is it opened? When the Lord commissioned the apostles, he commanded them to "preach the gospel to every creature." They, then, were to preach the gospel. We have seen that the Lord gave them the word of reconciliation, or the law. This word of reconciliation is the gospel, and contains the terms of reconciliation. The terms of reconciliation are precisely the same as the terms of pardon, or the terms of admission into the kingdom of God. The setting forth of these terms of reconciliation, terms of pardon, or admission into the kingdom, so that men and women could understand how to enter, was using the keys of the kingdom, or opening the door. When these terms were declared, it was all bound in heaven--ratified; and whoever were received on these terms were acknowledged in heaven. Till this day those terms stand ratified in heaven, and will till the last trumpet shall sound.
No man now has the keys of the kingdom, in any sense, only as he may refer to and set forth the original terms, as set forth by Peter and the rest of the apostles. These terms are the keys that open the door of the kingdom, and they are ratified in heaven. He who has remission of sins, according to these terms, has the assurance of the great King that his sins are remitted; but he who has not remission, according to these terms, has no assurance from the Lord that he has remission of sins at all.
If we would know how the door was opened, we should go to him who has the keys of the kingdom, and see him open the door to those who come to him, inquiring, "What shall we do?" The amount is the same, whether we take this inquiry to mean, "What shall we do" to obtain pardon, salvation from sin, be reconciled to God, or to enter into the kingdom of God; for the man reconciled to God was pardoned, saved from sin, and received into the kingdom. The persons making this inquiry were seeking reconciliation and acceptance with God. They desired to cease their alienation, enmity, and wandering away from the, Lord; to be reconciled to him, to receive pardon, be united with God and accepted by him. Their inquiry related to this. The answer covered this ground. It opened to them the door of the kingdom, showed them the way to God, how to be made one with God, or how to be united with him. Opening the way to them, or the door, was exercising the power indicated by the keys of the kingdom, or, so to express it, using the keys of the kingdom; or, to express the same in other words, opening the way to them to be reconciled to God. Any person desiring to know how to be reconciled to God, only need go to him who had the keys of the kingdom, and see how he opened the way to the three thousand on Pentecost, the five thousand in Solomon's porch, and the Gentiles at the house of Cornelius, and to the allusions of the apostles to cases where persons had already been reconciled, and learn how they were reconciled under the immediate directions of the inspired apostles. Here the whole matter may be learned. Those who will not come here will never learn the way of salvation, but will be fit subjects for any delusion that may chance to come along.
One thing worthy of note is, that we have a command from the holy book, "Be you reconciled to God."--See 2 Corinthian v. 20. This is important on several accounts. Paul did not beseech men to do what they could not do. They could, then, be reconciled to God. It was not something for God to do; and no matter how much they might desire reconciliation, they could not obtain it till the Lord's own good time, and thus be excused from guilt. But the way is open, and the alien is besought to be reconciled to God, and censurable if he does not do it. He is left without excuse, and has no cloak for his sins. This Scripture is important on another account. It does not speak of reconciling God to man, but man to God. "Be you reconciled to God." Some have Christ reconciling his Father to us; but this is in another book, and not the one the Lord gave. The entreaty is not to the Father to be reconciled to us; but to man to be reconciled to God, and if he does not do it he will be lost. The entreaty of the compassionate Father is, "Turn you, turn you; why will you die?" "He will have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth." And again, "He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
It is not uncommon to see a half dozen preachers lay aside the word of reconciliation, the only law for man's reconciliation to God, and without any regard to the terms contained in it, or the absolute authority of that law, and come down in front of an audience, and call for persons who want reconciliation to come forward and unite with them, in petition to God to come down and reconcile them! It matters not with these men that this has been practiced in one form or another for a hundred years, and that not a petition of the kind has ever been answered--that not an instance has occurred where God ever came down, reconciled a sinner in that way, or pardoned one person. Not a man on the footstool of our God can produce an evidence that one soul of our race ever entered into covenant with God in that way. The wonder is that the whole land has not been driven into out-and-out unbelief with this groundless procedure--claiming promises where the Lord never made any; miserable failures that have been made; the millions of honest souls that have been induced to "come and try it;" have come, and tried it, for weeks, months, and, in numerous cases, for years, and found nothing! Were it not for the native divinity of the religion of Christ, and the manifest need of it among men, this kind of work, deceiving and disappointing the people, would long since have run the entire country into utter unbelief. But God, in his infinite mercy, has in this century opened up something better for us. We do not now take what men say and do as an exponent of the Bible, or of the religion of Christ; but we go to the Bible and see what is in it; to the religion of Christ itself and see what is in it.
Men have now arisen who go back to the beginning; go up to the Divine Source of all truth and of all revelation, and inquire at once what the apostles preached, what the people heard under their preaching, what they believed, what they were commanded to do, what they were to do it for, what the Lord promised to do for them, what he actually did for them. Did the apostles call people forward as seekers, mourners, inquirers? Did they come forward, seek, mourn and grieve for days, weeks, months, and years, and in many instances find nothing? Did the apostles call for persons who desired the prayers of the Church to stand up, or to come to the mourner's bench; to pray, or be prayed for, in order to pardon, conversion, or reconciliation with God? Did they ever join with such persons and pray for the Lord to "come down" and convert them, reconcile them and make Christians of them? Did any under the instructions of the apostles ever "stand up," thus evincing a desire for "the prayers of the Church," or of "the people of God," as a means of conversion or reconciliation? Did any, under their instructions, ever thus come and "try it," and continue to "try it," for days, weeks, months, and years, and never find anything? Did any ever come to the apostles, inquiring the way of salvation, who were not shown the way? Did any ever come to the apostles, inquiring what to do to be reconciled to God, or, which is the same in amount, to be saved, or pardoned, who were not told what to do? Did any who were told what to do to be saved, ever have to wait a long time before they did what they were told to do? Did any ever try to follow the apostolic directions, to do what they told them to do, and fail? Did any ever do what they told them to do to be saved, and fail to be saved? Did the promise of Jesus, in the words, "He who believes, and is immersed, shall be saved," ever fail? Did any ever come to the ambassadors of Jesus, who had both "the ministry of reconciliation," and "the word of reconciliation," seeking reconciliation and not find it?
Here are matters of momentous importance for the people of this generation to inquire into, and matters as easily learned as spelling in two syllables. Any man can teach a class of boys or girls in the Sunday-schools all about these matters, as easily as the rudiments of English literature. Any man of ordinary intelligence can get the answer to all the above in one careful reading of the New Testament. One answer to these questions will be obvious to every one. No man, who will consider the matter, can fail to see that a negative answer must be given to all these questions. Those who came to the apostles, inquiring the way to God, were shown the way at once, and shown so clearly that in every case, where they desired to turn to God, they did so at once. When they were told what to do, they did it at once, and were received into the family of the faithful. The terms of reconciliation were clearly propounded, readily and easily understood, and complied with. There was not a failure in a single instance when an honest person desired to be reconciled to God, came to the apostles inquiring the way, and were told what to do. There has never been a failure in a single instance from then till now of an honest person following the same directions, complying with the terms of reconciliation, as pointed out by the apostles. There never can be a failure where men and women come honestly to the apostolic directions, comply with them, and trust in the promise of God. The promise of God can never fail. Those who bear the gospel, believe it with all their heart, and faithfully submit to it, come to the promise in the words, "shalt be saved." These words are from the throne, the crown, and the King who sits upon the throne, and are backed up by the oath of the Almighty Father of heaven and earth. If there is anything addressed to the intelligence of man that can be relied on with the most implicit confidence, it is this promise of our Lord. It is not baptism that some people in our day need, much ado as they make about it. They are not fit subjects for baptism. Baptism is nothing to a man without faith. While they talk about faith, "Abrahamic faith," "faith alone," and the like, there is nothing they so much need as faith. If ever their souls shall be brought under the power of faith, so that they shalt not "stagger at the promise of God," or, like Noah, they shall "believe God," or, like Abraham, shall make their faith "perfect by works," we shall hear another kind of speech from their lips, see another kind of practice, and the manifestation of another kind of spirit.
But now for the conclusion from the foregoing.
1. Reconciliation is through the mediation of Christ, or through Christ, the Mediator. No man of any note would deny this, as an abstract proposition. But what is the meaning of it? The meaning of it is the same as expressed by the Lord in the words, "No man comes to the Father but by me."--John xiv. 6. To come by him is to come by the way he points out. There is no other way to come by him.
2. He committed the "ministry of reconciliation" to the apostles, made them his ambassadors, so that they, in Christ's stead, beseech men to be "reconciled to God." He also committed to them "the word of reconciliation;" that is, the law of reconciliation, containing the terms on which man can be reconciled to God. He made the apostles ministers plenipotentiary to all nations, placed them between man and himself, so that we have to come by the apostles, or by the law of Christ, the law of reconciliation, committed to the hands of these ministers, and by them published to all nations.
3. When the Mediator left the ministers of reconciliation, he promised them that he would send them the Spirit, who should guide them into all truth, bring all things to their remembrance, and speak in them, so that it should not be them that spoke, but the Spirit that was in them. This system of reconciliation is by the Holy Spirit, who spoke it in the apostles, or by them, and not without the Spirit.
4. It is by the word of reconciliation, or the law. This word of reconciliation, or law, is the gospel. It contains the terms of reconciliation, and men are reconciled to God by complying with these terms. They thus come to the promise of God, are reconciled and made one with God--at one again, or bound back, or rebound to the Lord.
The following results follow:
1. As no man can come to God but by the Mediator, or by Christ; and as to come by him is to come by the way he points out in the law of reconciliation, there is no such thing as a man being reconciled to God by any immediate power or influence from God, for immediate is without a medium, or without a mediator. There is, then, no direct, or immediate power or influence from God that reconciles man to God, as this would be without a mediator, or, plainly, without Christ.
2. As the apostles are ministers of reconciliation, and the Lord has committed to them the word of reconciliation, there can be no immediate power or influence from God, through which man can be reconciled to God, for this would be both without the ministry and the word of reconciliation. Reconciliation is through the ministers of reconciliation and the word, or through the ambassadors of Christ, and the law of reconciliation published by them.
As the Holy Spirit was to speak in the apostles; did speak in them, or through them, and set forth the word or law of reconciliation, it is by the Holy Spirit that man is reconciled to God, and not without the Holy Spirit; but not by an immediate or direct influence or power, which would be without the Mediator, the ministry of reconciliation, and the word spoken by the Holy Spirit.
The reconciliation, then, is from God, through Christ the Mediator, through his ambassadors, the apostles, through the Holy Spirit that spoke in them, and through the word of reconciliation. This is all set aside by the modern idea of an immediate, or direct, power from God that converts sinners, and reconciles, and makes them Christians. An idea more subversive of the entire scheme of redemption than this, it would be difficult to conceive. This is a sample of the honor that a central idea with thousands and millions is giving the Mediator of the New Institution, or the better covenant upon better promises. It virtually leaves him out, and assumes an immediate power that reconciles man to God without him.