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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 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 allwise 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.
If, then, the inquiry is raised in the mind of the reader, Why this particular method was ordained for our salvation ? the reply is obvious—Because it was the best possible method-for the counsels and operations of divine wisdom and love must surely be allowed to have one uniform tendency to that which is best. Again, it may be replied, that the acts of God, unlike those of his frail and comparatively powerless creatures, are often infinitely prolific; and the incarnation and sacrifice of the Son may have had innumerable results of which we know nothing, and to all of which it might, nevertheless, be peculiarly and perfectly adapted.
· For us it suffices that our own salvation is thus provided for, and that the provision so made is CLEARLY REVEALED TO UB 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 Je. sus :" ïïi, 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 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 wes 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 to excite our ardent thankfulness, and by the holiest of motives to induce the unqualified surrender of ourselves to the will of God. If the Father, in his gratuitous compassion, has, indeed, bestowed upon us the unspeakable gift of his own Son—if we i 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 this position with other scriptural declarations, of some of which the apostle is himself the author, it is easy to perceive that the righteousness imputed to the Christian is no imaginary innocency and virtue, but the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ himself; for it is Jesus who is described, by the prophets, as the “ Lord our righteousness :” Jer. xxiii, 6: comp. Isa. xlv, 24, 25. Christ Jesus is made unto us of the
Father, “ righteousness and redemption :" 1 Cor. i, 30. “God hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no-sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God IN HIM :" 2 Cor. V, 21. Again, the apostle says, “ For if by one man's offence death reigned by one, much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ ...... As by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one,* (the free gift) came upon all men unto justification of life. Far as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous :" Rom. v, 17-19 : comp. x, 3, 4.
In what, then, did the righteousness of our Saviour consist ? That Jesus Christ was perfectly devoid of sin, is a truth which the sacred writers have promulgated with equal clearness and frequency. Although tempted in all points like as we are, he. was 66 without sin :" Heb. iv, 15. He “ did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth :" 1 Pet. ii, 22. He “ knew no sin :" 2 Cor. v, 21. He was " holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners :" Heb. vii, 26. He was, as distinguished from all other men, the “ Holy One" of God: Luke iv, 34 : Acts iii, 14. Such expressions are too clear in themselves to admit of mistake or perversion : and the fulness and perfection of their meaning is amply evinced by the collateral consideration, that it was only on the principle of his being himself 6 without blemish and without spot,” that Jesus could possibly be accepted as a sacrifice for sin : 1 Pet. i, 19: comp. Lev. xxii, 20, &c. Perfectly innocent therefore was this Lamb of God. When, however, we find the sacred writers dwelling on the righteousness of Jesus Christ; when we observe it to be declared by them, that he is the “ righteous branch ;" (Jer. xxiii, 5;) “the king of righteousness ;” (Heb. vii, 2;) « the sun of righteousness ;” (Mal. iv, 2 ;)—that he came to fulfil 6 all righteousness ;” (Matt. iii, 15; comp. V, 17;)--that 6 righteousness” was "the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins ;” (Isa. xi, 5;) we must surely receive their doctrine on the subject as declarative, not only of his freedom from all sin, but of his positive, active, and ever-abounding piety, justice, charity, and virtue-the whole constituting a perfect obedience to the law and will of God. That obedience is emphatically mentioned by the apostle Paul ; (Rom.
* Rom. v, 18. diffivès dexcesul detos. Alxeciwpeet, in verse 18, corresponds with it axón in verse 19; and, as Schleusner observes, denotes an obedience to the divine will a perfect holiness and virtue ; vide lex. in voc., No. 3,
V, 18, 19: Heb. v, 8, 9 ;) it characterized every particular of our Lord's moral conduct, was maintained by him unbroken through a long course of unspeakable humiliation and suffering, and was finally consummated in his cruel and shameful death.
Such was the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ ; and such is the righteousness, therefore, which, through faith, is imputed to the Christian. A very slight degree of reflection on the divine nature and infinite dignity of the Son of God, as well as on the perfections of his human character, may serve to convince us that as, on the one hand, he was, on account of his spotless innocence, entirely suited to be a sacrifice for sin, so, on the other hand, his fulfilment of the whole moral law, and more especially his obedience unto death, were infinitely meritorious in the sight of God the Father. When, therefore, we read that the righteousness of Jesus Christ is imputed to the believer, we may reasonably understand such a doctrine to import, that we are not only saved through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, but rewarded through his merits. Our sinfulness may properly be said to have been imputed to Christ, because, when he underwent the penalty which that sinfulness demanded, he was dealt with as if he had been himself the sinner; and it is, I apprehend, on a perfectly analogous principle that his righteousness is said to be imputed to us ; because, through the boundless mercy of God, we are permitted to reap the fruits of it. We are regarded as if, like him, we were absolutely guiltless, and are, therefore, delivered from everlasting punishment. We are graciously accepted, as if, like him, we had meritoriously fulfilled the whole law of God; and are, therefore, rewarded with never-ending felicity. Thus it is, that, in consequence of his union through faith with Jesus, the Head of the Church, the Christian is not only protected from the pains of hell, but is in possession of a well-grounded claim on the joys of heaven. Thus it is that " grace" reigns " through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord :" Rom. v, 21.
As the blood of Christ is effectual for the cleansing away of the believer's guilt, and his righteousness all-sufficient for meriting the believer's reward, so it is another most important feature in the glad tidings of the Christian dispensation, that Christ is himself the unfailing protector and advocate of his people.
Such an office he maintained, with a perfect consistency, during his continuance on earth. The little company of his