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Ess. XI.) General Observations.
419 That the sacrificial terms employed in the enunciation of that doctrine are not to be regarded as merely figurative expressions, borrowed from the Mosaic ritual, but as applicable to their subject in a much larger and more proper sense than any of which they are capable when descriptive only of the sacrifices ordained by the law; for, between those sacrifices and that of our Redeemer, there subsists, at the same time, a close analogy of circumstance and an immeasurable difference of proportion.
Finally, that the humiliation and sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, although required by the divine holiness and justice, is not to be regarded as that which rendered God placable, but as a means for saving mankind, ordained by the Father himself, and voluntarily submitted to by the Son, in consequence of their common attribute of mercy or love-a love embracing the whole human race in all ages of the world.
Now, although a crucified Redeemer is thus clearly revealed to us as the appointed channel of the mercies of God to man, such is the perverseness of our hearts that we are naturally prone to reject him, and even to account the “ blood of the covenant an “unholy thing." As it was in the days of the apostle Paul, so it is now-Christ crucified offends the pride of the Jew, and mortifies the false wisdom of the Greek: 1 Cor. i, 23. How many persons are there whose self-righteousness is far too little broken down to admit of their accepting that divine plan of redemption which involves their own total humiliation, inasmuch as it assumes that they are justly liable to the divine displeasure, absolutely devoid of merit, and destitute of all capacity to be saved, except through the righteousness of another! And how many are there also who virtually permit themselves to sit in judgment on the ways of an all-wise Providence, and who reject
General Observations. [Ess. XI. the method which God has ordained for our salvation, because it is strange and extraordinary-improbable, in the estimate of a short-sighted and misapplied philosophy!
To all such' opposers of a crucified Redeemer may be addressed the remark, that humility lies at the very foundation of Christian virtue; for, until the pride of man is brought low, and until he is taught to view himself as he really is-vile and polluted in the sight of God-he builds his hopes of happiness on a mere falsity, and will never lay hold of those principles which can alone effect his moral regeneration. It is, therefore, a circumstance which lessens not, but plainly increases, the weight and authority of the Christian doctrine of atonement, that it levels with the dust all our high pretensions to natural righteousness. In assuming the moral worthlessness and actual demerit of fallen man, it assumes an undeniable truth; and one which can never be too clearly apprehended, or too deeply felt.
And, secondly, with respect to the improbability and unreasonableness in the view of human wisdom) of the scheme of reconciliation, through a crucified Saviour, it is plain that these form no solid objection to our doctrine ; because that alone is truly unreasonable which is contrary to reason; and nothing can fairly be deemed to be contrary to reason which is so obviously placed above and beyond its scope. It is, indeed, infinitely absurd for any man to inculpate the counsels of an all-wise and almighty Being, and to insinuate that the method which he has chosen, for our salvation, is not the holiest and the most efficacious of methods. A due sense of the narrow limits of our own intellectual powers, and of the unsearchable “ depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God,” would for ever prevent such vain impiety.
For us it suffices that our own salvation is thus provided for, and that the provision so made is CLEARLY REVEALED To us in the Holy Scriptures. To believe in the truth as it is in Jesus, and with all willingness of spirit to accept a crucified Redeemer as our only hope of glory, is at once our unquestionable duty and our highest privilege. It may not, however, be improper, under the guidance of Scripture, to point out two moral and practical purposes which are conspicuously answered by this particular method of salvation -purposes which are in themselves sufficient to unravel (to a very great extent) the mysteries of the atonement. The first of them is adverted to by the apostle Paul, who, in a passage already cited from his Epistle to the Romans, declares that God hath set forth" Christ "to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus:" iii, 25, 26. The word just, in this passage, I conceive to be of a very comprehensive import, relating to that inherent righteousness or holiness of the Supreme Being, which requires the maintenance, in all its purity and perfection, of the true standard of the moral law, and which utterly
General Observations. [Ess. XI. rejects and renounces all manner of iniquity. This inherent righteousness, or holiness, is inscribed for our instruction (and it may be for the instruction of the whole universe) in the brightest and most conspicuous characters, on the doctrine of the propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ; not only because, while the sinner was forgiven, the penalty of sin was exacted, but because the burthen of that penalty was borne by no less a person than the Son of God.
For, if the Son of God himself (who, in the divine nature, is one with the Father) could alone be accepted as a sacrifice to purge away sin, it is evident, that sin, in the sight of the Almighty, is an evil of infinite malignity; nor is it possible for us to conceive any other method by which its malignity could have been so clearly, so powerfully, and so beneficially, displayed and demonstrated. And such is proved by experience to be the actual operation of this fundamental doctrine of Christianity; for, it may, I believe, be uniformly observed, that the more just and comprehensive the views of men are respecting the divinity and atonement of Jesus Christ, the fuller and clearer is their apprehension also of the depth and demerit of sin.
Such an apprehension must surely be regarded as of primary and essential use in the formation of the Christian character ; and of equal importance to that true end of all our religion is a due sense of the immeasurable love of God in sending his only-begotten Son into the world of the immeasurable love of Christ in sacrificing himself for us. Here, then, is the second moral and practical purpose to which I would direct the attention of the reader; for such a method of effecting our salvation is evidently, in the very highest degree, calculated so excite our ardent thankfulness, and by the holiest of motives to induce the unqualified surrender of ourselves to the will of
Ess. xi.] on the Merits and Advocacy of Christ. 423 God. If the Father, in his gratuitous compassion, has, indeed, bestowed upon us the unspeakable gift of his own Son—if we are assured that “ with him also,” he will “freely give us all things"-how shall we refuse to offer unto God the acceptable return of a faithful and undivided heart? If THE SON has, indeed, assumed our suffering nature -has, indeed, bled and died on the cross, a sacrifice for our sins—how shall we not feel bound, by every tie of love, duty, honour, and gratitude, to obey his law, to promote his cause, and to devote ourselves to his service ?
ON THE MERITS AND ADVOCACY OF CHRIST.
The Scripture doctrines of atonement, and of the merits of Jesus Christ, are so intimately interwoven, and are in some respects, so very nearly identical, that we had need exercise peculiar caution when we attempt to draw any thing like systematic distinctions between them. It may, indeed, be justly said, that when Jesus Christ offered himself up on the cross a voluntary sacrifice for sin, he thereby merited all the blessed consequences by which that sacrifice has been followed. Nevertheless, a few observations respecting the righteousness of Christ will, I trust, serve to add clearness and completeness to the view which we are now endeavouring to take of the redemption of mankind.
It is a position very plainly laid down by the apostle Paul, that we are justified by faith in Christ without the deeds of the law, Rom. iii, 28; or, in other words, (elsewhere adopted by him) that “ without works” " righteousness” is “ imputed” to the believer in Jesus: Rom. iv, 6, 11. Now, on a comparison of