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ON THE REDEMPTION OF MANKIND.
În the two preceding essays we have been engaged, on the one hand, in contemplating the fall and moral ruin of our species ; our loss of the image of God, and with it of eternal happiness; our subjection to the dominion of Satan; and our liability, under the curse of the law, to everlasting destruction : and, on the other hand, we have surveyed the evidences of Scripture respecting the person and nature of the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ-a survey which, I trust, has been amply sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of the doctrine of his proper and unchangeable divinity. Such a course of investigation will be found to afford the most suitable introduction to that comprehensive and all important topic of Christian theology--the Redemption of mankind.
What, we may justly inquire, was the mighty and equivalent purpose for which this infinitely-glorious Person, the Son of God, who is one with the Father in the divine nature, and is, therefore, himself JEHOVAH, did so marvellously humble himself-took our nature upon him, in that nature underwent every species of contumely and contradiction of sinners, and finally died, on the cross, a cruel and shameful death?
When we reflect on the perfect adaptation which always subsists, and is generally apparent, in the operation both of nature and of Providence, between the cause and the effect, the means and the end—when we thus take analogy as the guide of our reasoning—we can scarcely avoid perceiving how strong an improbability attaches to the supposition that such A ONE should not only come into the world, but should live, suffer, and die, as a man, for the single purpose of revealing the truth. Experience teaches us that any inspired person, whose divine mission was attested by miracles, might have been an adequate instrument for such a purpose : for it is evidently on this simple ground that Christians are unanimous in giving their credence to the doctrines delivered to the Jews by Moses, and to the followers of Jesus Christ by his apostles. No doubt, to reveal the truth was one of the offices of our blessed Saviour, -, that chief of prophets ; nor ought we ever to forget that it was another of his offices, by his holy and charitable life and conversation on earth, to institute that perfect pattern, by which the conduct of his disciples, in all ages, was to be formed and regulated. For, Jesus Christ is the Image of the invisible God; and the perfection of the Christian character consists in its conformity to that Image—in its resemblance to the divine model.
But, important and salutary as these offices were, the peculiar circumstances of the case are such as inevitably lead us to believe, that, in humbling himself from the height of his divine glory, in assuming our frail and suffering nature, and in submitting, even to the death of the cross, the Son of God (in unison of counsel with the Father who sent him) had yet higher, nobler, and more comprehensive, purposes in view. When we consider the infinite dignity of our Heavenly Visitor, and the marvellous condescension which he displayed in visiting us, it seems impossible for us not to conclude, that such a dispensation of divine mercy towards us was intended to supply ALL our spiritual need.
It is true that we need information respecting heavenly things ; for, without such information, we are, by nature, in great darkness. It is true also, that, as moral agents, we re. quire, at the hands of our Heavenly Father, a revelation of his law ; for, unless it is revealed to us, we are unable to obey it. Nor can we deny that it is a vast advantage to our weakness, to behold the requisitions of that law embodied in a public and perfect example. Nevertheless, were information, precept, and example, the only blessings conferred on us, through the dispensation of the Gospel, all our need would be far indeed from being supplied. Powerless and corrupt as we are, we should still be left to perish in our sins; and the light thus communicated to us, if unaccompanied with further help, would only aggravate our woe, and render our destruction more terrible. Where is the individual who understands the “plague of his own heart," who is not aware that he stands in need, not only of information, but of reconciliation with God; not only of light, but of life ; not only of precept and example, but of power to obey the one and to imitate the other ? Unquestionably, the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is no message of glad tidings to us, unless it proclaims to us indemnity and cureşthe forgiveness of sins that are past, and a deliverance from sin for the future. Thus, and thus only, does it offer to us the supply of all our spiritual need.
This plain course of reasoning, grounded on scriptural prin
ciples already recognized, leads us, with little difficulty, to the conclusion, that the Son of God did, indeed, come into the world in order to bestow upon us, not only information, precept, and example, but indemnity and cure; or, in a single word, REDEMPTION. But, happily, this is a subject on which we are not left to any conclusions of our own forming. It is one on which the declarations of Holy Writ are at once very abundant and very clear.
In endeavouring to unfold these scriptural evidences, I may, in the first place, briefly advert to those parts of the Bible, in which the doctrine of redemption, or salvation, by Jesus Christ, is promulgated in general terms.
Such a description applies, in full force, to the first passage of the Bible in which the Messiah is alluded to. The great purpose of his mission was proclaimed at a very early stage of the history of man, when, after the fall of Adam and Eve, Jehovah thus addressed the serpent: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel :" Gen. iii, 15. We have already found occasion to notice the evidence afforded by the analogy of Scripture in general, and by some indirect references to this passage in the New Testament, that the serpent who tempted Eve was the devil, the author of moral evil, and the great enemy of the souls of men, and that the seed of the woman, here mentioned, is no other than the Lord Jesus Christ, the descendant of Eve, and the Son of the Virgin Mary, is generally understood and allowed by the professors of the Christian name. From the curse here pronounced, therefore, and from the promise connected with it, we learn that the incarnate Son of God was utterly to subdue our' great adversary, and to deliver mankind from the thraldom of his power. Such an interpretation of Gen. iii, 15, is in full accordance with the doctrine of the apostle, who taught the Hebrews that the Son took part of flesh and blood, in order “ that, through death, he might destroy hiin that had the power of death, that is the devil; and deliver them who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage:” Heb. ii, 14, 15. And the apostle John has written on the same subject, in terms equally explicit : “ He that committeth sin, is of the devil : for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil :" 1 John iii, 8.
The divine purpose in the mission of the Messiah, which was thus obscurely indicated in the original promise of a Redeemer, was further unfolded in other prophecies of the Old
Testament, which make mention of Christ as the Redeemer, or Saviour, of men. Such was the office, for example, which Job attributed to the Holy One of Israel, who was to stand in the latter days upon the earth; (xix, 25;) and by others of the prophets, the design of God, in sending his Son into the world, is expressly declared to be salvation—the salvation of his people—the salvation of mankind It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel : I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be MY SALVATION unto the end of the earth :” Isa. xlix, 6: comp. Isa. xxxv, 4 : Jer. xxiii, 5, 6: Zec. ix, 9.
We know that the proper name of Christ was significant of the same doctrine, “ Thou shalt bring forth a Son,” said the angel Gabriel to Mary, "and thou shalt call his name JESUS; for he shall save his people from their sins ; (Matt. i, 21 ;) and to the shepherds, who were “ keeping watch over their flock by night," the birth of Jesus was announced as the birth of a Saviour-" Unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord :” Luke ii, 11. That the New Testament abounds with passages in which the same general account is given of the office of Jesus Christ, and of the purpose of his mission, it is almost needless to remark. It is the plain and frequent testimony of the evangelists and apostles, (as must be familiarly known to every well-instructed Christian) that Christ Jesus came into the world, “ that the world, through him, might be saved—that “ the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world”--that he is made unto us, of God, “wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption”--that he hath now “obtained eternal redemption for us”--that the Gospel is the “ power of God to salvation:" see John iii, 17 : Rom. i, 16: 1 Cor. i, 30: 1 Tim. i, 15: Heb. ix, 12 : 1 John iv, 14, &c.
I am fully aware how familiarly these terms are applied to Jesus Christ, and to the dispensation of the Gospel, by persons whose views of Christian doctrine are, nevertheless, extremely deficient and limited ; but the least reflection must, I think, suffice to convince the candid inquirer after divine truth, that these are no loose, metaphorical, unmeaning, expressions ; but are pregnant with a deep and most important signification. Such expressions afford a plain and decisive evidence that Jesus Christ came into the world, not merely as a prophet, a lawgiver, and an example, but as the moral and spiritual deliverer of mankind. Nothing, indeed, can be more expressly and powerfully to the point than the declaration of Jesus Christ
himself— the Son of man is come to seek and to SAVE that which was lost :” Luke xix, 10. All mankind, in their fallen and unregenerate condition, are lost. They are deprived of the image of their Creator, and their sins have separated them from their Lord; iniquity marks their course, and never-ending misery is their sentence of condemnation. Now, as is their loss by nature, so is their gain by Christ. Their salvation is to be measured by the depth of their degradation, and by the extent of their ruin-it is to be estimated by the nature of the evils under which they labour, and of the destruction from which they are extricated. When, therefore, we hail the Lord Jesus Christ as the Saviour of the world and the Redeemer of mankind, we hail him, not only as one from whom we derive the most valuable information and instruction, but as one who actually delivers us from the burthen of guilt, from the power of sin, from the tyranny of Satan, and from “ the bitter pains of eternal death."
Such is the general view which the sacred writers present to us, in general terms, of the purpose of the mission of the Son of God—to SAVE LOST MANKIND.
And now, in order to a fuller understanding of our subject, we may consider the two leading branches of it in succession, and may proceed to examine, in their due order, those scriptural evidences which prove that Jesus Christ came into the world, that he might bestow upon us indemnity, on the one hand, and cure, on the other--that he came, in the first place, to make an atonement for our sins, and, in the second place, to procure for us that celestial influence, by which alone we can be regenerated, sanctified, and prepared for heaven.
ON THE SCRIPTURE DOCTRINE OF ATONEMENT.
God, who is rich in mercy, looks down with the compassion of a Father on sinful, wandering, and lost, mankind ;-and this is the language in which he graciously addresses them: Repent, return, and live—“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and unto our God, for he will abundantly pardon :" Isa. lv, 7.
While, however, the pardon of God is thus graciously bestowed on the transgressor who turns away from his iniquities,