תמונות בעמוד
[ocr errors]

is represented as existing between the death of Christ and the salvation of men; and he must be strangely blinded by prejudice, who does not perceive, that an efficiency in procuring human redemption is ascribed to that event, of a kind totally different from, and far superior to, its influence as an evidence of doctrines, and an example of virtue. At the same time, it cannot be denied that, in explaining the nature of this efficiency, some very good men have attempted to be “wise above what is written.” The precise manner in which the sufferings and death of the inearnate Son of God in the stead of sinners, rendered it consistent with the perfections of the divine character, and the rights of the divine government, to dispense pardon and salvation to the believing and penitent sinner, is probably a mystery which even angels but imperfectly comprehend. “This knowledge is too wonderful for us; it is high, we cannot attain to it." The fact, however, is most certain, that these sufferings and this death were expiatory, undergone in the room of the guilty, intended to be efficacious, and, in fact, found to be so, for their deliverance from guilt, depravity, and destruction.

On any other supposition we will find it impossible to account for the sufferings and death of Christ, in a consistency with the perfections of the Divine moral character, and the principles of the Divine moral government. That under the administration of a Being infinitely benignant and just, a person like Jesus Christ should not merely not be uniformly and perfectly happy, but should be visited with calamities so numerous, varied, and severe, that ordinary human misery eva. nishes into nothing in the comparison, is certainly a strange, and if we look no farther than to the events themselves, a most unaccountable dispensation. It is altogether unaccountable on the principles of those who deny the doctrine of proper atonement. Suppose, for a moment, the Saviour to be a mere man, as he is admitted on all hands to have been a perfect man, how is it consistent with the Divine justice and goodness that such a person should suffer and die? The sufferings of other men may, however good, be accounted for, on the principle that they are parts of the system of moral discipline that is necessary to purify them from their faults, and perfect their vir vues. But he who is already pure needs not to be purified. He who is perfect needs not be perfected.

But may not the sufferings and death of the innocent, the perfect man Christ Jesus, be sufficiently accounted for, on the principle that they attested the truth of his doctrines, and illustrated at once the practicability and excellence of his precepts? We fearlessly answer in the negative. For, in the first place, Christ's sufferings and death, though they did answer these purposes, were not absolutely necessary to answer these purposes.

The divinity of his mission was abundantly proved by other evidence; and if the various duties of Christianity could not be illustrated without its Author submitting to suffering and death, this end might have been gained without his suffering so severely-without his dying on a cross. Had there not been another and a more important end in view we may warrantably assert, there was a waste of suf fering and of blood. A second consideration, whic shews the unsatisfactoriness of the proposed way of accounting for Christ's suffering and death, is, that even supposing Christianity could not have been confirmed and illustrated in any other way, it accords not with the divine character to do injustice (and in the supposed case there is obvious injustice,) that good may


The system, which attempts to account for the sufferings and death of Christ, on the principle, that by them he merited for himself the sovereignty of the universe, in the exercise of which he bestows salvation on those who acquiesce in his terms, is equally unsatisfactory. It labours, indeed, under precisely the same difficulties as the system we have just been considering. For might not the sphere of his exertion have been so placed, as that the ultimate object might have been gained without suffering so severely-without dying accursed? And, if it could not, why should justice be violated, in order to save the guilty from destruction ?

But, admit the doctrine that the sufferings and death of Christ were an expiatory sacrifice, and light dawns on the darkest of the ways of God. Man deserved to suffer extremely, and to die accursed. Standing in man's place, the incarnate Son of God met with man's desert. It may be said, however, that this is not to remove, it is only to shift the difficulty. Admitting the Saviour's substitution, we do not wonder at his expiatory sufferings; but is there not an equal difficulty in conceiving of the Son of God becoming man's substitute? It is true that the difficulty, though shifted, is not removed; but it is also true that, by being shifted, the nature of the difficulty is changed. In the former cases, the difficulty was to reconcile contradic. tions. In the present case, it is to comprehend infi. nities. In truth, it is just the difficulty which meets man on all such subjects, when he pushes his inqui. ries to a certain length, the difficulty of “finding out God to perfection.” There is here no injustice. The Son of God, who is equally with his father, “God over all blessed for ever," had a complete power over his human nature; and there is no injury done to justice, to wisdom, or to goodness, in treating him according to the character which he voluntarily assum

ed, when an object so great and beneficent as the remission of the sins and the salvation of the souls of a multitude whom no man could number, was to be gained by it, an object which, so far as we can see, could have been gained in no other way, which most certainly could be gained in no other way so well. We readily acknowledge, that we find it not only difficult, but impossible, to conceive adequately of that infinity of wisdom, benignity, and justice, which the formation and execution of such a scheme of redemption necessarily imply; and, seated at the foot of the cross, we wish to look up, with adoring gratitude, and exclaim, “O the depth, both of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his counsels, and his ways past finding out !"

The doctrine, that the death of Christ was the death of an expiatory victim, is not only absolutely necessary to account satisfactorily for the facts, but is stated in the most explicit terms in the Holy Scriptures: “ His soul,” says the prophet Isaiah, “shall make a propitiatory sacrifice *." “The Son of Man," says the Saviour himself, came to give his life a ransom for many." " Christ Jesus," says the Apostle Paul, “is set forth a propitiation through faith in his blood." Christ, our passover, is sacrificed for us."

« God sent his Son,” says the Apostle John, “to be the propitiation for our sins t.”

When Jesus yielded up the ghost, he completed the great work of atonement: “He finished transgression, and made an end of sin, and brought in an everlasting righteousness." It is obvious, from the passages quoted and referred to, that the expiatory influence of our Lord's obedience and sufferings is not to be considered as confined to his death, though there is a peculiar propriety of applying the term sacrifice to that event, as it was the crowning act of his obedience, and the termination and consummation of his sufferings.

* Isa. liii. 10. Lowth. + 1 John iv. 10. The reader may also consult the following pas. sages : Isa. liii. 5-8; Matth. xxvi. 28; Mark x. 45; Acts viii. 32, 33; Rom. iv. 25; Rom. v. 6-10; 1 Cor. xv. 3; 2 Cor. v. 21 ; Eph. i. 7 ; Col. i. 14; 1 Tim. ii. 6; Heb. i. 3; Heb. ii. 17; Heb. ix. 12-28; 1 Pet. i. 18, 19; Rev. v. 9-12; Rev, xiü. 18.

The sufferings and death of Jesus Christ were abundantly efficacious for the purpose for which they were intended. His sacrifice ascended before his Father as a sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savour: It was accepta ed as a full compensation for all the wrongs done to the law and government of God, by the sins of elect


The efficacy of this sacrifice is obvious from its consequences :

“ When he had by himself purged our sins, he sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." This efficacy seems necessarily, indeed, to arise out of its nature. The sacrifice offered was, indeed, but a human nature. But it was a human nature free from hereditary and personal guilt--from natural and acquired depravity; and it was a human nature, infinitely dignified by union with the divine, in the person of the Son of God. Accordingly, we find the apostle thus reasons: For, if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer; sprinkling the unclean, sanctified to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot unto God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God !"

II. When “Jesus yielded up the ghost," he gave satisfactory evidence of the divinity of his mission, and the truth of his religion.

The divine origin of our holy faith is supported by

« הקודםהמשך »