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endless duration of the sinner's punishment; yet the extent of this opposition will never be so fully seen, as his punishment will never terminate: but the sufferings of the Son of God, which were equal to the highest demands of justice, and expiated sin, were finished in a limited time, and afforded a full display of the opposition of holiness to it. Had God pardoned sin without satisfaction, or had he dispensed with the greater part of its punishment, it would have led us to believe that his holiness was not infinitely opposite to it, and that its malignity was only trivial. But by the plan he hath adopted, he has proved in the fullest manner, the infinite opposition of his nature to sin, that he could never be reconciled to it, nor be at peace with it.
3. This scheme of saving sinners contains a glorious display, of the righteousness and justice of God, as Law.giver, moral Governor and Judge.
The adversaries of the doctrine of atonement would persuade us, that God, in punishing sin, does not act as a judge, but as a sovereign Lord injured; that he demands only a reparation of the injury; and that this is a free act of his will, which he may exercise, or modify, or omit, at pleasure. That God is injured by sin, and may justly claim reparation, is undeniable; but that he punishes sin, merely as the injured party, will not be granted: this would be incompatible with his character, the nature of his law, and the sanction an
nexed to it.
Justice and righteousness, in God, are relative terms, and respect his procedure towards rational creatures. They are his holiness discovering itself in love to that beautiful moral order, which consists in the connection of one thing with another, in his moral kingdom, according to their different natures, and relations; in die
recting, ruling and judging all intelligent creatures, and whatever concerns them, according to his wisdom.
RIGHTEOUSNESS was first exercised in giving man a law, adapted to his nature, and his relation to God, which discovered right and wrong, and pointed out the duties of his relation. A sanction was annexed, expressing God's opposition to sin, and the certainty of punishment. Without this, the will of God is more of the nature of a request than a law. The law declares that it is his will the creature should obey him; but this does not properly express authority. The law-giver's power and authority to dispose of the subject, at his pleasure, according as he obeys, or disobeys, are not expressed by the law, but by the sanction. This renders the subject accountable: and without it the law might be trampled upon with impunity. Here the righteousness of God is eminently displayed, because it is a righteous thing that the rational creature should obey God; and if he will not, it is equally righteous that he should account for his conduct. The same reason will hold for executing the sanction, as for annexing it. Without this, the force of the law would be rendered void, and no means would remain to the law.giver, by which he could enforce the law, and preserve his authority over the transgressor. As the whole of God's administration is regulated by the law, thus sanctioned, he must, of necessity, act the part of a judge, deterinining the crime, the punishment, and the execution. As the law is righteous, and the sanction righteous, the punishment of sin must be just. “ Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?" Gen. xviii. 25. “The righteous Lord loveth righteousness," is assigned as the reason“ of his raining upon the wicked, snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest." Psalm xi, 6, 7.
In the sufferings of Christ, when taken in their proper and legal sense, nothing appears inconsistent with God's moral character. As this is a fundamental truth in the scheme of grace, its adversaries have left no means untried to subvert it. They have represented these sufferings as merely accidental, arising from the peculiar prejudices of the Jews; and the punishment of the innocent for the guilty as subversive of every principle of justice. In opposition to such cavils, the divine conduct in punishing Christ, though practically innocent, can be vindicated by Scripture and sound reason. Scripture is explicit. “ Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust; that he might bring us to God." 1 Pet. iii. 18. He hath made him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” 2 Cor. v. 21. He suffered for the “ unjust” as their surety, to pay their debt; and for “ sins” as a sacrifice to atone for them.
Before a charge of injustice is brought against the punishment of our sins in Christ, it requires, to be con. sidered, what would be a proper ground for such a charge. Personal innocence, in the sufferer, is no sufficient ground to charge with injustice his sufferings as a surety for another. Unspotted innocence was so necessary in Christ, that no part of his work would have been performed without it.
In most cases, it would be unjust to punish the innocent for the guilty; and as all punishment presupposes guilt, unless a person be in some sense guilty, he cannot, in justice, be punished. It may be done, when no law is violated; no right infringed; and no party injured. The parties here are, the Father, the Mediator, and sinners. Every thing in the scheme is agreeable to the Father's will. He sanctified his Son and sent him into the world, and punished him for our sin. A creditor, among men, may admit, and even provide a surety for his debtor, without the charge of injustice; and shall we deny this to God? No injury is done to sinners. They had no right to be consulted, having forfeited their life by sin; besides nothing was to be required of them, on which the scheme was to depend. But the charge of injustice is founded in the treatment of the Son-punishing him for the sins of others. Here too the charge is ill founded. He engaged in the most voluntary manner. " I delight to do thy will, O God.” As God, he was absolute Lord of life and death, and had a right to dispose of himself. His human nature was the property of no other person; but was given him by his Father, for the very purpose of suffering.
“ Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. None taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself: I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I receiv. ed of my Father.” John x. 17, 18. When he engaged, he pledged nothing but what was exclusively his own property, he, therefore, injured no other; and as he was not subjected to suffering but by his free choice, no injury was done to him. Though his human nature underwent inexpressible sufferings, and had its sensible enjoyments suspended, it enjoyed divine support under them: they were limited to a short time, and an inconceivable glory succeeds: this will sufficiently counterbalance them. In prospect of this, “ He endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." There is not then a shadow of injustice appearing in these sufferings.
JUSTICE, instead of being liable to any impeachment
here, is gloriously displayed. God, who is rich in mercy, was disposed to pardon the transgressor; but justice steps forward, and declares that Without the shedding of blood there should be no remission of sins.” The claim could not be given up, otherwise it would in this case. The sufferer was the only-begotten Son of the Father, the object of his infinite delight, his fellow, a Son who had never displeased him; yet all this avails nothing to justice. Would the Father have hid his face, in the hour of the deepest distress, till the Son cried out, “ My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”! Would he have stood a spectator of the dreadful agonies of his soul; or rather would he have poured into it the deep and bitter draught of wrath, which caused such agony, without hearing his cry, or relieving his soul, unless justice, had required that it should be so ? No. Though dear, infinitely dear, to him, his Father sustained the character of a righteous judge; justice must be heard; and receive satisfaction from him “ Whom God set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins--that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.” Rom. ii. 25, 26.
4. In this scheme there is a display of divine Sove. reignty.
SOVEREIGNTY has been represented as an absolute power exercised by God over his creatures, without regard to any of the divine perfections. This view of sovereignty has led many, who have strenuously defended the truth of Christ's satisfaction, to deny the necessity of it from the moral perfections, and judicial character of God. Agreeably to this, they have maintained that, though God has determined not to pardon sin without sa