THE GUILTY CLOTHED"The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them." Genesis 3:21
There is one God and one access to His smile. There is one heaven and one door to it. The Savior, who was to come, and the Savior, who is to come, is one Christ. The faith of Abel and of the Baptist looked to the same object. Noah did not preach one righteousness, Paul another. The Patriarchs did not rejoice in one hope, the Apostles in another. From first to last, all the pilgrims to the hill of Zion lean on one arm. All the voyagers, who cross the sea of life to the haven of eternal rest, are guided by one compass. How all-important, then, is the thought for you, for me—Have we escaped the many by-roads of destruction? Are we securely journeying along the one only track which leads to life?
The Lord Jesus Christ is this one way. The rays of His redeeming love burst forth, so soon as there was a sinner to be enlightened. The garden of Eden witnessed the dark sight of innocence destroyed; but it witnessed, too, an earnest of more than innocence restored. The parents of our race were not driven into the wide wilderness of the earth without a cheering prospect, and a strong comfort, and a precious promise, and a distinct hope of full recovery. The heavenward road was marked out before them in a clear map. Jesus was pictured to them in living colors.
Even the clothing made for them, and put upon them, preached the Gospel to them. Consider their case. They were conscious of shame, and blushed to meet the light of day. In their distress they sought concealment. They contrived—human invention could do no more—a shadow of a clothing. How flimsy, how tattered was it! But God in mercy came to their relief. He supplied all their need. He made "coats of skins and clothed them."
It may be that until now you have seen nothing in these garments but a warmth for the body and a screen from the wintry blast. But be assured, the meaning is far larger. It is spiritual. It tells us of the robe of Righteousness, which God has provided to adorn and beautify the naked soul. May the Lord, by His Spirit, show this wonder to us! We gain light on the subject by examining the substance of which the coats were made. It was not leaves joined together—nor twisted bark—nor plaited roots. It was the skin of lifeless animals. Death, then, must have commenced its desolating work within the garden. But how did it approach its earliest victims? Not in the slow step of gradual decay. This was the morning of existence. Time was in its infancy. The wastings of age were yet far off. These beasts of the field must have fallen by the hand of violence.
But why? Not to supply man with food. Before the flood, herbs alone sufficed for nourishment. Noah was the first who heard the enlarged grant, "Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things." They were slain, then, for some other purpose. It could have been no unholy purpose, for God regarded their slaughter with no displeasure. This He testified by using their skins. If, then, they died according to the will of God, but not to feed man, there remains only the solid conclusion, that they were offered in sacrifice. Thus they foreshadowed the Lamb "foreordained before the foundation of the world." And hence we learn that in Eden victims bled. Yes! the first drop, which stained the earth, the first expiring groan, proclaimed in the most intelligible terms, "the wages of sin is death;" and "without shedding of blood is no remission." The doctrine of these rites is the doctrine of the Cross.
All doubt is thus removed as to the skins, which supplied man's first apparel. They were taken from the offerings for sin. Hence each sacrifice presents to the eye of faith the double sign of full salvation. Each altar casts a shadow, not only of the blood, which buys from hell; but also of the Righteousness, which buys all heaven. Such is the figure—It is indeed admirable for simplicity. But who can express the length and breadth of the truth which it unfolds?—a truth which is the very key of heaven, and the green pasture of the soul. Until we understand this, we are only at the threshold of the Gospel. Will you not, then, draw nearer with me to seek the full comfort of full knowledge?
I cannot doubt that your earnest desire is, when this short life is past, to enter into the joyous mansions of the blest. But have you robes of your own suitable for such abode? To be in heaven is to be with God. All there are beauteous in holiness. All shine in purity. All are white in spotless perfection. The eye of God rests on each with delight. He can find no blemish in them. He counts them all fit to sit on thrones of glory. But how have they obtained this unsullied clothing? It can be nothing framed by man. Defiled hands can only work defilement. "We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." It is plain, then, that if we could dwell where nothing but Righteousness reigns, we must bring Righteousness with us. It is equally plain, that we can as easily make ourselves gods, as array ourselves in unstained robes.
Who then will adorn us, that we may be found worthy? This reasoning leads us to the glad tidings of the glorious Gospel. All is provided for us in the Savior Jesus. The Righteousness needed by us, and presented to us, is His obedience. He does for us, what we could never have done. In Him we become what we never could have been without Him. He works out an infinite worthiness, that He may be to us all that His name imports, "The Lord our Righteousness." How precious is this well of truth!
Let us draw deeper refreshment from it in gratitude and faith. Behold again and again the glorious fact. One, made of a woman, has passed through human life without once straying from the path of God. The earth has seen a man pure as God is pure, holy as God is holy, perfect as God is perfect, sinless as God is sinless. He went round the circumference of the law without one deviating step. With strong wing He soared to its utmost height, and neither paused nor flagged. The searching eye of God always upon Him, could not once find the absence of heavenly love in any thought, or word, or deed. He had all trials, but no fault—all temptations, but no sin. The ground was ofttimes slippery, but He never slipped. He was assailed on all sides, but He never fell. Thus He stood before God, holding in His hands a full unbroken obedience—accomplished—completed to the minutest letter. But it was all for us! He wrought it, that He might give it; and He gives it to every naked sinner, who in faith flees to be thus sheltered by Him.
Reader! perhaps you eagerly exclaim, Are these tidings confirmed to me by the mouth of the Lord? They are! They are! Listen to His words: "The Righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all, and upon all those who believe." Fully trust this saying, and all peace is yours. It is "unto all," as payment placed to their credit in the book of account. Thus when God reckons with the believer, and asks the fulfillment of the law, behold! there appears on his behalf, deposited by the hand of Christ, an obedience extensive with the very uttermost demand. God neither desires nor can receive more. So, too, it is "upon all." Hence, when the believer stands at heaven's gate, he appears in heavenly robes—the righteousness of Christ is upon him. What more can be required? It is as bright and glorious as God Himself.
I wish, indeed, that you should be satisfied on this point. In this affectionate desire, I beseech you to weigh well another Scripture: "He has made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the Righteousness of God in Him." Blessed is the man in whose heart these words take root! They are precious beyond ten thousand times ten thousand worlds. Do not they state that we—even we—who are all vileness by sin, if only we are one with Christ by faith, are made the Righteousness of God! To be reckoned righteous would be much. To be made Divine Righteousness is far more. O my soul! limit not this mercy. Rejoice in the full comfort. The humble believer re-echoes Scripture when he says, I am made in Christ the Righteousness of God.
It is manifestly the Lord's will that this provision for the soul should be always present to our adoring eye. Therefore it is, that the object most familiar to our senses—even the covering of the body—is planned to portray it. Study, then, this lesson. It is suited to every mind. The palace and the cottage alike teach it. It is as clear to the unlettered as to the learned. I would sincerely commend it to your faith and your affection; but I find that earthly shadows fall as far short of the heavenly reality, as the creature is nothing when compared with the Creator.
We admire Adam's robe of innocence. It was pure and lovely, but it was human. Not so this robe. It is Divine. The God-man, Jesus, is its Author. Adam's robe was soon soiled and lost. Satan touched it, and it crumbled into nothingness. This Divine robe is kept in the height of heaven; the destroyer cannot reach it. The skins brought to Adam would soon wax old, and perish. This is "everlasting Righteousness." Age rolling after age brings no decay; its newness is unfading. Earthly robes are sometimes of surpassing splendor. But what would be the brightness of Solomon's royal apparel beside this?—dim as the fairest star before the sun in mid-day strength.
Here I stop, feeling that eternity cannot exhaust the praises of this garment. But I have not written in vain, if these few words make its preciousness more precious to the souls of any. Reader! do you desire to possess it? Ask, and you have. Seek with earnest faith, and it is yours. The prodigal returns, and the father says, "Bring forth the best robe and put it on him." The weeping penitent comes, and heaven's best robe is cast around him. Be wise, then, and listen to the voice which cries from above, "I counsel you to buy from Me, white clothing, that you may be clothed." What can you desire more? Here is Christ's worthiness, for our unworthiness. His sinlessness, for our sinfulness. His purity, for our impurity. His beauty, for our deformity. His sincerity, for our deceit. His truth, for our falsehoods. His meekness, for our pride. His constancy, for our backsliding. His love, for our hate. In a word, His fullness, for our emptiness. His glory, for our shame. His one Righteousness, for our manifold unrighteousness.
Happy the man, who replies, I hide myself in You, O blessed Jesus! I receive You, as of God made unto me Righteousness. He sweetly sings, "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of Righteousness." He humbly adds the note of transport, "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of Righteousness, which the Lord, the Righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all those who love His appearing."
ask with a sigh, how did evil gain this rule? God's word only can give the answer. We there read, that one in the form of a serpent enticed our first parents, and, by prevailing, changed their nature. But who is this serpent? We further learn that it is the devil. He thus disguised himself, that he might deceive. The Bible does not close, until this truth is left beyond a doubt. It is twice written, "that old serpent, who is the Devil and Satan." The moving cause, then, of our being born in sin, and living in sin, stands confessed—it is the Devil.
He obtained his first power over our race by deceiving. He continues that power by deceiving still. His main art is to keep us blind concerning himself, and concerning the great Deliverer. I am sure of this, because I see many who pass all their days without one real thought, that they have a foe always near, plotting their misery. They hear and perhaps speak of him, as though he were an empty name, and not a mighty and most malignant power. Reader! this may be your case. If so, turn not, I humbly implore you, from a few words, which, by God's grace, may be light to your darkness, and life to your captive soul.
Consider the nature of Satan. His titles show it. He is the 'prince of this world'. Therefore his sway is world-wide. All the millions of our race, without one exception, were born his slaves. They entered life with his chains around their hands, and with his throne erected in their hearts. Can they gain freedom for themselves? No. His guards are too many and his fetters too strong. Do they desire it? No. The will, by nature, chooses his service. Jesus warns, "You are of your father the Devil, and the lusts of your father you will do." He is the god of this world. He sets up the idol of fame, or pleasure, or money; and men fall down and worship it. He opens his churches, and decks them with attractive show, and serves therein a pleasing cup of error, and multitudes go in to learn his creed. He is leader of countless troops.
There is not a spot, not a house, in all the world, which he leaves unoccupied. Do we go forth? we are surrounded. Do we seek solitude? we are followed. In the courts of God—in the place of gathering—his vassals swarm around us. We read of a legion in one person. How vast then must be the collected army! Hence there is a sense in which omnipresence is his; because there is no place, which some of his emissaries do not fill. So, too, omniscience may be claimed for him; because there is nothing, which some ear does not hear for him. Whatever be our acts, he beholds; whatever be our words, he hears. He is a spirit. Therefore he has access to the secret places of the heart. He can plant the seeds of all evil in the mind. If we close the outward gates of sense, he can still come in, and defile the thoughts, and make every imagination as wicked as himself. He entered into Judas Iscariot. He filled the heart of Ananias. Reader! has he not often made lodgment within you? Oh! think, then, why is not your lodgment among his slain ones!
He is as crafty as he is strong. His real design is seldom known, until his bait is taken. His web is not seen, until the victim is entangled. The hidden pit is only discovered by the fall. He has been employed in the same work for nearly six thousand years. Therefore he well understands his tools, and the materials on which he works. He is studying our tempers and characters all the day long. We know little of ourselves—he knows us perfectly. He sees the weak point—the fitting time—and accordingly he lays the snare.
Gehazi little thought that Naaman's visit would be the tempter's trap. Hezekiah as little thought that the embassy from Babylon would unmask his vain-glory. A question from a servant girl in a moment plunges Peter into cowardly guilt. Reader! ever watch, ever pray, if you would escape temptation. This is a dark picture. Who can view it, and not tremble? But, though fearful, it is only a faint outline of the mighty and cruel enemy of souls.
Give ear now to the tidings which I proceed to proclaim. Though he is strong, there is One far stronger. Though he is great, there is One gloriously greater. Though he is mighty, there is one Almighty. Though he is wily, there is One who is All-wisdom. Though he is many, there is one Infinite. Though he is a captivator, he has been taken captive. Though he is an enslaver, he has become a slave. Though he forges chains, he is enchained. Though he has brought low, he lies low. Though he is a conqueror, he has been conquered.
The blessed Jesus comes a Conqueror, a Deliverer, a Redeemer, a Savior. He treads down the devil, and gives deliverance, redemption, salvation to all the children of men, who stand under His banner of victory. Reader! perhaps you are one of anxious spirit, and are not ignorant of many tremblings, lest at last you should perish by the hands of this foe. If so, how eagerly you will say, Give me proof that Jesus crushes this tyrant's power. All praise be to the God of grace! proofs abound. Listen to the voice of the Lord God in Eden. "He," the Seed of the Woman, the Lord Jesus, "shall bruise your head." Did not God know what would happen? He did. Can God speak, and His word not come to pass? Impossible! Then this fact is true—the serpent's head must be bruised by Jesus. Take comfort, then; take courage. Man was scarcely ruined, when he who ruined him, was doomed to ruin. The savage joy of having marred creation's beauty was only felt, to be turned into the writhings of hopeless rage. Success was despair. He removed his foot from the neck of fallen man, and fled from the garden with the undying sound echoing in his ears, "He shall bruise your head." Such was the sure sentence of God.
Now take a case which shows that Satan's power has indeed a power above it. You know the story of Abel. He trod this earth a fallen being, as we are—hated by Satan, as we are—exposed to all his wiles, as we are. But he trusted in the promised seed for escape; Satan could not hold him. His early death, by a murderer's hand, landed him not in the kingdom of hell, but of God. Thus the first soul which left a human body, proved that Jesus could rescue the prey out of the destroyer's jaws.
You know, too, the story of Enoch. He was a man of like nature with us, born in corruption. You cannot doubt that Satan shot his every arrow at him. But his soul received no fatal wound. It was guarded by faith in the coming Savior. By faith in this promise he walked with God. By faith he mounted to heaven—another jewel in the Conqueror's crown. In the same way, all the holy men of the old world found that there was shelter and safety under the wing of the promised Conqueror. One promise convinced them, and gave them life. How many testimonies tell you of this rescue! Oh, let them not teach in vain!
But, in fullness of time, the Conqueror appears in human form. Satan knows Him well. He heard the voice from heaven, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." He makes one desperate effort to obtain the mastery. The blessed Jesus meets the conflict. Every advantage of outward circumstance is given to the adversary. He draws from his quiver his often-tried and most successful darts. He musters his strength and all his skill. His empire depends on the outcome. The most that hell can do, is done. But all in vain. Each blow falls harmless before the Word of the Lord. The devil quits the field, baffled and beaten. He finds himself held down by the chain, "He shall bruise your head."
He makes one effort more. He stirs up wicked men to seize and nail the blessed Jesus to the cross. When the Woman's Seed bows His head and dies; the enemy seems to triumph. But the end of the combat shows where the victory is. If Satan is the stronger, let him keep Jesus in the grave; let the prison detain the prisoner. But it does not—it cannot. Jesus bursts the doors—comes again from the dead—shows Himself alive—and ascends in triumph to the heavens. Thus the victory is forever won. The destroyer lies forever destroyed beneath His feet.
And when a few more years are past, the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with power and great glory, and the devil shall be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever! There is everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. "He shall bruise your head." The point, then, is clear. God is true. Jesus is Conqueror. The Goliath of hell is fallen!
Reader! this battle has been fought, this victory won, that poor sinners may be rescued. May the Holy Spirit help you to behold your high tower of safety, and to flee into it! Satan cannot but hate you—for his name is hatred, as surely as God is love; and he desires to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. But if you are found in Jesus, you are high above his reach. He will attack. He will threaten. He will affright. But Jesus will be your shield; and that shield must be shattered before you can be harmed. Study the records of the Word. It is the history of the long war between the children of light and "the power of darkness." You will see that he has tried every weapon in the armory of hell. He has no other in reserve. But all have failed. They cannot rise higher than the heel. The head is safe with Christ in God.
Mark, too, how a mightier hand guides his blows to wound himself. Satan's kingdom is made to totter under Satan's assaults. He brought in sin—and so the door flew open for the Gospel. He persecutes the early converts—and the truth spreads rapidly abroad throughout the world. He casts Paul into the dungeon of Philippi—and the jailor believes with all his house. He sends him a prisoner to Rome—and epistles gain wings to teach and comfort all the ages of the Church.
Fear not, then, believer, the curse is on your foe. Dust is his food. He cannot swallow the jewels of Christ's crown. He may entice you with many things sweet to sense; but look to the Cross, and you see them no more. He may terrify you with roarings, as of a lion; show him the wounds of the Lamb, and he is gone. He may stand as your accuser at the judgment seat; but if you are washed in the blood of Jesus, he can find no mark in you, by which to claim you as his own. Be assured, if you are one with Jesus by faith, His full triumph is yours, "and the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly."
If such be your happy case, lift up your head with joy and sing the holy song, "Your right hand, O Lord, is glorious in power. Your right hand, O Lord, dashes the enemy to pieces. In the greatness of your majesty, you overthrew those who rose against you. Your anger flashed forth; it consumed them as fire burns straw." Exodus 15:6-7
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