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The view you give is briefly this:-As from the typical mercy-seat God formerly declared his will and truth; so from Christ Jesus, the true mercy-seat, he now declares his will to the world. He declares the plan of justification without the deeds of the law;--that God will justify all who believe in Jesus, without the deeds of the Mosaic law. This, in brief, is your interpretation of the passage. However, the reader can revert to it, and judge for himself. My objections to this interpretation are three:-/st. It misconstrues the typical mercyseat, and converts it into a seat of intelligence. It was not an intelligence seat, but a mercy-seat. God did not "formerly declare his will and truth from the mercy-seat.” His mercy sat there and dispensed blessings of forgiveness in answer to prayer and sacrifice: and when light was communicated from that place, it was in reference neither to truth nor the divine will in general, but in reference to some particular occurrence. 2d. It is not so much a revelation of the plan of salvation, as a vindication of it. Paul says he set him forth for a demonstration of his justice, or righteousness, [I care not which term,] in remitting sins. 3d. The reason assigned by the Apostle does not at all apply to your interpretation. His reason is, that God might be just not only in remitting sins under the gospel, but just in remitting sins committed under the law.
Allow me to explain myself fully on these three points. And, first, what was the mercy-seat and its design under the law? Our readers know that it is properly called the propiliatory," because "propitiation” was made upon it for the sins of the Jewish nation. In the common version it is called “the mercy-seat." Jerome called it "the oracle,” because responses to special questions were sometimes given thence. Literally, however, it was the golden lid or covering of the ark of the covenan!, from which were beaten out two golden cherubim, between, and upon which, the Divine Majesty was said to dwell. The golden lid, called hilasterion—an adjective, neuter gender, with epithema, lid or cover understood,) concealed the two tables of the covenant or law of righteousness spoken from Sinai. Upon it, and before it, blood was sprinkled on the day of atonement. (Lev. xvi.) This lid or cover was, indeed, "the throne of grace" to the Jews God was addressed as sitting between the cherubim; and while the
offering so affected the mercy-seat as to cause a blessing to flow to Israel after the flesh; so the blood of Christ, carried by himself into the true holiest of all, the archetype of the old sanctuary, so affects the throne of God in the heavens as to cause the promised blessings of the New Covenant to flow to Israel according to the Spirit. But as Jesus is himself the altar, the victim, the priest, he becomes the mercy-seat only “through faith in his blood.” God, says Paul, has exhibited him as'a mercy-seat through faith in his blood—the solitary example which the Bible affords of the phrase "faith in his blood.” This makes him a mercy. seat to us. Without this he is no propitiatory to any one. Blood sprinkled upon the lid and before the lid, made that lid a mercy-seat; and to no other worshipper was it a mercy seat but to him whose faith in the call, appointment, and acceptability of the Jewish High Priest and his services, brought him to his knees.
I once said to you that "faith in his blood” was more significant than belief in Christ's person, mission, and death. It is confidence in his blood as the only and all-atoning blood that cleanseth from all sin. Jesus is, however, to all Christians, to all who repose confidence in his blood, a real "mercy-seat,” a true “throne of grace." I lay the more emphasis on this, because I have met with professors, not a few, who have no more confidence in the blood of Jesus than in the blood of Stephen—they have as much faith in the one as in the other. To my mind this is a fatal mistake of the whole matter: for if it be faith in his blood that constitutes him the true mercy-seat, they have no mercy-seat who regard the blood of Stephen or of Paul as much a ineans of reconciliation as that of the Lord Jesus. You will, I doubt not, concur with me that it is faith in Christ's blood that makes him to any person a mercy-seat.
Bat I have mentioned a second objection to your interpretation of this passage. You make Jesus Christ an oracle rather than a mercyseat. That he is the oracle of God I do most sincerely believe. But that is another figure for another object than that in the eye of the Apostle, Rom. iii. Justification through faith in Christ's blood is the subject now before the Apostle; or rather, he says, “We are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Redemption in Christ Jesus! What can that mean!! Heb. ix. 15. "For this cause he is the Mediator of the New Institution, that by means of death for the redemption of transgressions.” For the redemption of transgressions!! not of transgressors, but of transgressions!!-redemption by means of death, by means of blood! The redemption, then, is in his blood-in his death; and hence "by grace we are justified through the redemption that is in Christ, whom God has exhibited a mercy-seat through faith in his blood, or death, for the redemption of transgressions."
The connexion, brother Stone, stereotypes the sense of this passage, and demonstrates that not as a seat of intelligence, not as an oracle, but as a mercy-seat, Jesus is contemplated by the Apostle. The reason assigned illustrates this, placing it in a very strong light—that he might be just. Justice, the justice of God, is the point of demonstration here. The justice is sustained by the redemption that is in bloodthe blood of the Messiah. Justice in pardoning sin rests upon the redemption that is in his blood. The argument is, justice with God in remission rests upon redemption of transgressions in the blood of his Son. They measure each other. As the redemption, so is the justice. If there be a failure in the one, there is in the other. If there be not a full redemption of transgressions, there is not full justice in forgiving them. I am sorry, brother Stone, that, in your interpretation of this verse, you seem not to have remembered the antecedent verse-"the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Now, to my mind, this is the very jut of the whole passage. For “that he might be just” has respect to the amplitude of the redemption respecting sins committed under two dispensations—sins committed during the forbearance of God, while as yet there was no real sin-offering; and sins committed since there was a real sin-offering under the gospel. Hence the distinction which is found in the third item of objections to your comment.
The third item has primary respect to the demonstration which the Apostle deduces from the redemption that is in the Messiah. The common version says, “To declare his righteousness” for the remission of sins, past and present. You know that “to declare his righteousness" is not the proper translation of this passage: for we have no infinitive mood governing an accusative in the original, but a substantive in the accusative governing another in the genitive for a demon. stration of his own righteousness”—“that he might be just,” &c. Thus, most correctly, Dr. Macknight. But this only for your benefit, not for our readers: .for in all controversy, till we have a better version agreed upon, I teach nothing that I cannot demonstrate from the common version. Now, my dear sir, let us consider the endeixin, the demonstration of righteousness which Paul gives.
during the forbearance, while as yet there was no redemption, no true deliverance from the guilt of sin; and those who are now he called' those who obey the gospel are pardoned through the same redemption; and thus, if there be a good reason in the redemption—that is, in the blood of Christ, why the sins of those now living should be pardoned, there was by anticipation as good reason in it why the sins committed should have been 'passed by (1.) and finally forgiven. Hence Paul says, in all good logic, “Whom God has set forth a propitiatory through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that were past through the forbearance of God—to declare also his righteousness at the present time, that he might be just in justifying him that is of the faith of Jesus," as the true Messiah.(2.)
Now, I ask, what point is there in this passage (Rom. iii. 25, 26.) if you convert Jesus into an oracle, and represent God as showing through him that justification by faith, without the deeds of the law, is according to the law and the prophets-Nay, do you not manifestly labor in your mind in finding a rational exposition of these words, when you have to express yourself in such marvellous words as the following!—“But, (page 301,) the objection is, how can he be just in justifying and pardoning the guilty without the deeds of the law." I wonder who ever made such an objection!! No Jew! No Greek! No American! Pardon the guilty WITHOUT the deeds of the law! Pardon the guilty with the deeds of the law, was, is, and evermore shall be, as incomprehensible as to pardon them without those deeds-a guilty man condemned by law and justified by keeping it! No greater contradiction in the universe. You therefore wisely conclude that "by the deeds of the law no flesh shall be justified.” But how feeble your commendation of the exhibition of this justification by faith"God declares it by, or from Jesus Christ.” He simply speaks it out by him! So that it all ends here~'God has declared by the lips of his Son that he will justify men by faith; and this simple affirmation confirmed by his death, is set forth as a propitiatory through faith in his blood, for a demonstration of God's righteousness—that he might not only be, but appear, just in justifying him who is of the faith of Jesus.' Paul, why then did you speak of the justification by grace resting upon the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, and not rather upon a simple “hus saith the Lord?” (3.)
But we must look more attentively into the parallel passage, Heb. ix. 15.
In the preceding verses Paul affirms that the blood of bulls and goats never took away a single sin from the conscience--that blood did, indeed, sanctify only to the purification of the flesh from legal or municipal impurities; but went no farther. Yet from this he argues, if the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of a burned red heifer did sanctify so far as respected the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ cleanse the conscience from dead works—that men thus panctified might serve the living God. “And for this reason," continues he, whe has become the Mediator of a New Institution, that by means of death, for the redemption of transgressions that were under the first Testament”, (during the oblation of the blood of animals,) “those who were under it and had been called," (obeyed the Lord according to that dispensation.) "might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance,”—though dead as to Canaan, they might through the better blood, the real sin-offering of the New Institution, obtain a por.. tion of the eternal inheritance.
Nothing to my mind can be more evident than the following facts from these premises:
1. The legal sacrifices only purified the flesh-never the conscience. But they did actually release the offerers from all the penalties of transgressing the legal institution, so far as the temporal rewards and punishments of the Jewish commonwealth were concerned: all this, too, for typical purposes.
2. Amongst the legal worshippers there were two classes-the really devout, and the legally devout. They equally enjoyed the benefits of the legal oblations: but the latter class enjoyed only these; whereas the former class in a believing anticipation of good things to come, confessed judgment at the altar, had their transgressions filed in blood, and obtained a stay of execution till the Lord should expiate their sins by his own death. “And for this cause," says Paul, "he is the Mediator of the New Institution, that by means of death for the redemption of those transgressions” [filed] "under the first covenant, they who, under that covenant, were truly God's people, might obtain the inheritance of the saints in light.”
3. The death of Christ was for the redemption of transgressions; and although he died as "the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world,” yet only that portion of mankind who have "faith in his blood" do actually derive pardon and life through his death. But it was as much for the redemption of transgressions past under the law, as for the redemption of transgressions under the gospel, that Christ died. Consequently there was no real pardon of real sin in the Jewish sacrificial system. The law made nothing perfect."
4. The redemption that is through the death or blood of Jesus is necessary—that is, it is of right demanded: for to exact death, unless justice demanded it, would be to do unjustly. It was necessary, that