« AnteriorContinuar »
If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
As this is Saint Paul's reasoning, who certainly had a right understanding of Christianity; so it not only confutes such affirmations as that just mentioned, which are cited and improved by deistical writers " in the cause of infidelity : but also at the same time, these words of the apostle precisely determine what it was that rendered the death of Christ necessary, in order to the justification and salvation of sinners. The law was weak through the flesh, (Rom. vii. 3.) i.e. through our depravity; and although originally ordained to give life, (Rom. vii. 10.) was now unable to do it. For the law required perfect obedience on pain of eternal damnation ; as it is written, cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the lare, to do them. Gal. iii. 10. But all have sinned, and so the whole world stand guilty before God, according to the law, which all the world are under. Rom. iii. 9. 19. This law, therefore, which was ordained 10 life, can now be only unto death. Rom. vii. 10. And there is no other law. So there is no law which can give life. This rendered the obedience and atonement of Christ absolutely necessary in order to prevent the universal ruin of the human race. For the law being holy, just, and good, (Rom. vii. 12.) must not be set aside. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but
, not one jot or tittle of the law must fail; it must be all fulfilled. Mat. v. 17, 18. Could men have answered the demands of the law, Christ's obedience and death had been needless. For if righteousness come by the law, Christ is dead in vain. So that this was the end of Christ's death, and that, but for which he never would have died, his death being needless and in vain on any other account, according to Saint Paul.
It is true, the divine and holy manner in which he went ihrough his sufferings, exhibits a glorious example for all his disciples to follow, when they are called to go through sufferings in his cause. But as there would be no virtue in exposing ourselves to death, when not called to it; so there could he no virtue in going through death in ever so heroic a mag
n Tindal. p. 354.
ner in such a case. Rather it might be judged, that we fling away our lives, not only imprudently, but very sinfully. And our example would be so far from deserving to be admired and imitated, that it ought to be publicly condemned; to the end that others might hear and fear, and do no more so wickedly. If, therefore, our Saviour laid down his life, when there was no need of it, there was no virtue in his conduct, nothing commendable in his example, nor worthy of imitation; but the whole was a scene of deliberate wickedness. But thus it is written, and thus the all-wise God, whose judgment is always according to truth, viewed the affair, viz. If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
“ that although righteousness does come by the law, yet Christ did not die in vain, as his death was needful to seal his testimony to the truth, as other martyrs have done,” is not only expressly to contradict the Holy Ghost, (Gal. xi. 21.) but is even an affront to common sense.
Other martyrs were sinners, and deserved to die; for death is the wages of sin : but he was innocent, and holy to perfection. And had he called for twelve legions of angels, and out of his enemies' hands ascended to heaven in visible glory, it had been a sufficient attestation to the truths be taught, had he only been a prophet sent from God to republish the law of nature. But how then should the Scriptures have been fulfilled, which had marked bim out for a sacrifice of atonement, to make an end of sin, and bring in everlasting righteousness. For he was, according to the plan laid in heaven, intimated in the sacred writings, to be wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was to be upon him, that by his stripes we might be healed: For we all like sheep had gone astray, and the Lord had laid on him the iniquities of us all. Isai. liii. On this design, the Son of God became incarnate, and for this purpose he died; and had it not been for this, the death of an incarnate God had been entirely needless. For thus heaven has declared, if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
Well therefore might the holy apostle sum up the whole of the glorious Gospel in one word, We preach Christ crucified: For indeed this was in effect the whole of the good and glori
ous news they had to proclaim to a guilty world. It was long before decreed in heaven, that he should die; it was the determinate counsel of God, from the beginning, that through death he should destroy the devil, break up his scheme, and thoroughly bruise his head. And for this, in the fulness of time, he left his father's bosom. For this he became flesh; and for this he entered upon his public ministry, characterized by John the Baptist, at that juncture, the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world: the true antitype of all the Jewish sacrifices. For this he called the twelve from their nets, that they might be his witnesses to all nations. For this he went up to Jerusalem, knowing what should befall him; and how am I straitened, said he, till it be accomplished. For this he went into the garden, knowing that his enemies would find him there; and in a view of the absolute necessity of his death for the salvation of sinners, he said to his Father, thy will be done : and then voluntarily resigned himself up into his enemies' hands, when he could have struck them dead, or had twelve legions of angels to have guarded him from their malice. I lay down my life for the sheep. This commandment have I received from my Father. For him did God the Father set forth to be a propitiation, to declare his righteousness, that he might be just. And for this the Father lored him, because he laid down his life for the sheep. And to testify his lore and well-pleasedness in the sight of the whole intellectual system, he raised him from the dead, set him at his own right hand in heaven, declared himself ready to be reconciled, and ordered repentance and remission of sins to be preached to all nations in his name. Nay, all power in bieaven and earth is committed into his hands, that he might reign till all his enemies are put under his feet, and satan's whole scheme completely disappointed. For as he loved rightcousness and hated iniquity with such fervour, as moved him 10 interpose and die in this cause, to discountenance sin, and magnify ihe divine law, bring glory to God, salvation to men, and so destroy the devil; wherefore God hath anointed himi with the oil of gladness above his fellows. Heb. i. 9. Given him a name above every name. Phil. ii. 9. And decreed, that he should sue of the trarnil of his soul, and be satis; ed. (Isai.
liii. 11.) That is, see as much glory to God and benefit to the creature, result from his death on the cross, as his soul desires.
Was his love to God, zeal for his glory, and for the honour of his government, and compassion to lost sinners, so great, as to bring him from his Father's bosom, worshipped by all the heavenly host, to hang naked, tortured, insulted on the cross, and there expire in the utmost agonies! As great glory to God, as great honour to his law, as great salvation to lost sinners shall result herefrom, as to be equal to his love, and zeal, and pity, infinite as they were.
For he shall see the truvail of his soul, and be sutisfied. He shall see the fruit of his labours till he says it is enough. But what can be enough in the
eyes of such an one! What can satisfy a heart like his ! whose regard to the honour of God and of his law, and to the welfare of lost sinners, was so infinitely great! Eye hath not seen, ear huth not heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive! But in the midst of all this, we have the highest possible assurance of his sincerity in saying, Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out ; (John vi. 37.) for these the Father gave him; they were the sheep he loved, and laid down his life for; the joy set before him, for whose salvation he endured the cross and despised the shame; these are his seed, the travail of his soul, for whom he was smitten of God, and in whose stead he became a curse, to redeem them from the curse, and that the blessing of Abraham might come upon
them, Thus this is the sum and substance of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. We preach Christ crucified : this was the glorious and joyful news the apostles proclaimed to a revolted, guilty world. And if to the Jews Christ crucified was a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness; yet to them who were CALLE, Christ crucified was the power of God and the wisdom of God.But this leads us to take a view of the glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,
A general view of the glory of the Gospel. THE Gospel is denominated the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ ; and its glory is represented to be divine glory. For it is called the glory of God, and the glory of the Lord. 2 Cor. iii. 18. Chap. iv. 6. The law, as a ministration of death and condemnation, is said to be glorious; but the Gospel exceeds in glory, (2 Cor. iii. 7. 10.) because we have in the Gospel a. more full and bright manifestation of the glory of the divine nature. The glory of both is of the same nature, divine glory; but in the Gospel it shines with greater brightness. Now the glory of the divine nature consists in infinite wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. These perfections are the beauty of the divinity. But how are they manifested in the Gospel - It is true, the ends proposed in the Gospel are very glorious, to bring glory to God, salvation to men, and destruction to satan's cause. But how are the means glorious ?--Christ crucified. How are the divine perfections manifested in bringing about these ends by the incarnation and death of the Son of God? This has been a stumbling-block to the Jew, and foolishness to the Greek; and yet is affirmed to be in an eminent and peculiar manner the wisdom of God. But how and wherein does the wisdom of God appear in the death of his Son? This is the point to which we are now carefully to attend.
It has been observed that the death of Christ was designed to answer the demands of the law in our stead. The law had said, cursed is every one that continueth not in all things writtin in the book of the law to do them. But by the deeds of this law no flesh can be justified in the sight of God; for by it all stand condemned as sinners. Therefore Christ was made a curse to redeem us from its curse : not because it was a bad law; and so the fault in the law-giver; but because the law was holy, just, and good, and mankind without excuse, guilty before God, as much to blame as the curse of the law imported. He was set forth to be a propiliution to declare God's