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LECTURES ON THE CHURCH CATECHISM. 253
FOURTH ARTICLE OF THE CREED.
SECOND SERMON ON THIS SUBJECT:
“ That Christ suffered under Pontius Pilate; was “ crucified, dead, and buried; AND DESCENDED
JOHN, XIX. PART OF VER. 30.
He said, IT IS FINISHED.
These words, my brethren, must naturally incline us to rapturous exultation! They contain a subject of double joy. They declare the happy end of our blessed Master's grievous sufferings, and pronounce that glorious information, that our ransom is discharged! The sudden change from such a scene of pain and horror, as our heavenly Benefactor's sorrows represented, to the bright prospect of his having delivered us from sin and death, must surely touch our hearts with feelings worthy of such deliverance! IT IS FINISHED!! The debt is paid. Christ, by his
spotless and holy life, hath fulfilled the obedience of the law; and, by the sacrifice of his death, hath taken away the curse and sting of death. He hath given himself a ransom for the whole world, that he might restore that world to life, and open a door of faith and repentance. Can we forbear our wonder and gratitude, at the mercy of our heavenly Father, of that infinitely wise and good God, who hath left no expedient untried for bringing fallen man to the enjoyment of his first intended happiness? The satisfaction flowing from the consideration of our Saviour's sufferings being closed, can only be exceeded by the comfort arising from the first fruits of their effects, which the glorious subject of the following article will bring home to the grateful soul of every pious Christian.
In the explanation of the latter part of this article, viz. our belief that “ Christ was dead, bu“ ried, and descended into hell," it will be necessary to consider the different assertions distinctly. As to the fact of Christ's being dead, I shall first produce such Scriptural evidence, as shows it was ordained to be, and which may also serve to confirm the truth of it.
2dly, I shall point out what improvement our assent to this particular is calculated to convey, or in what sense it may be received to our greatest advantage; and, 3dly, proceed to as
brief an explanation as possible, of the remaining part of the article.
It appears very proper, that we should add our belief of Christ's death, to that of his crucifirion, because, though that punishment was generally inflicted till death took place, and the ceremony was sometimes used even after death, in order to affix shame to the character and memory of the person so exposed ; yet the punishment was not absolutely mortal in itself, for a man might have been crucified, that is, simply nailed to a cross, afterwards taken down, and so recovered of his wounds, as to live. This is by no means impossible. But when we assert that Christ died, we declare our belief that his soul actually departed from his body, through the effect of positive death, occasioned by his sufferings on the cross; and this in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled ; and because the event was necessary to our redemption. The types, or signs, and prophecies of the Old Testament, that signify and declare to us that the Saviour of the world was to die, are numerous and clear, beyond all possibility of mistake. The first and most exact is that of Isaac. Nor can God the Father, who gave his only begotten Son, be better expressed, than by the faithful Abraham, in his readiness to sacrifice his only son Isaac, whom he loved. Here we see Isaac carrying the wood, who himself, according to the command of God, and in the intention and resolution of Abraham, was to be the sacrifice. Christ, by whose death the sins of the world were to be atoned (as the Lord promised to Abraham, In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; Gen. xxii. 18), being the most perfect sacrifice, and to die on the cross, did, as we have shown, by the usual custom of that kind of death, most certainly CARRY THE SAME ; therefore, Isaac bearing the wood, did signify Christ bearing the cross.
Another type or figure, both of Christ's death, and of the effect of it, is represented in Numbers, xxi. 9. When much people died by the plague of the serpents, Moses by God's command made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole ; and it came to pass, that if a sera pent had bitten any man, when he looked up to the serpent of brass, he LIVED. And that this truly related to the manner and effect of Christ's death, he himself informed Nicodemus (John, iii. 14), in these words : As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.
Again, nothing could more strongly prefigure the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world, than the ceremouy of preparing the paschal lamb, and the command and ordinance concerning it; Ye