« ПредишнаНапред »
cessarily belonging to all the determinations, and conduct, to which these Perfections give birth. The same moral excellence and glory are attached to all the acts of Christ's obedience, subsequent to his assumption of the character of a subject. Every one of them is an act of the Mediator; and derives its true worth and importance, from the greatness and excellency of his Personal character.
As Christ assumed the Office of a Mediator, and the condition of a subject, voluntarily; as he was originally subject to no law, and could be required to yield no act of obedience; he could, if he pleased, become with propriety a substitute for others; and perform, in their behalf, vicarious services, which, if possessing a nature and value, suited to the case, might be reckoned to their benefit, and accepted in their stead. Had these services been due on his own account, and necessary to his own justification, as all the services of Intelligent creatures are, throughout every moment of their existence; they could never have assumed a vicarious character, nor have availed to the benefit of any person, at his final trial, beside himself. Now, the services of the real Mediator were all gratuitous; demanded by no law; and in no sense necessary to the justification of himself. All, therefore, that could in this case be required, to render them the means of justification to others, must be these two things only: that they should be of such a kind, as to suit the nature of the case; and that they should be of sufficient value.
That the actual services of the Mediator were suited to the real nature of the case, we know; because they were prescribed, and accepted, by the Father. We may, also, be satisfied of this truth by the manner, in which the subject is exhibited by the Scriptures. The law of God is there declared, as it is, also, by the nature of the fact itself, to be dishonoured by the transgressions of men. This dishonour, as is evident from both these sources of information, is equally done to the character and government of the Lawgiver. To pardon the transgressors in this case would be to consent to the dishonour; and to acknowledge, practically, that the law which they had transgressed, the character of the Lawgiver who prescribed it, and the government founded on it, were unreasonable and unjust. It would be to declare, and that in the most solemn manner, that such obedience, as was enjoined by the law, could not be demanded, nor expected, by a righteous and benevolent Lawgiver. But this declaration would be false; and could therefore never be made on the part of God.
But, when Christ offered himself as the substitute for sinners, he restored, to use his own language, that, which he took not away. He restored that honour to the divine law, character, and govern. ment, which men had refused to render; and removed the dishonour, done to them all by their disobedience. Nay, he did much more. In obeying the precepts of the law, he testified, that they
were such, as Infinite perfection was pleased to obey; that the government founded on them, and the character of him who published them to the universe, as the rule by which he intended to govern it for ever, were of the same glorious and perfect nature. This testimony none but Christ could give. A testimony of equal weight, the universe could not furnish. Thus in a manner, which nothing else could rival, he magnified the law, and made it honourable, according to the prediction of God by the prophet Isaiah, in the sight of Angels and men.
The influence of this conduct of Christ upon the future obedience of virtuous beings could not fail to be supreme. What creature, however exalted, can refuse to be subject to that law, to which the Son of God voluntarily became subject? Who can deny those precepts to be reasonable, all of which he exactly, and cheerfully, obeyed? Who can hesitate to believe that law to be holy, just, and good; who can doubt, that it is infinitely honourable to its Author, and supremely beneficial to the universe, when he knows, and remembers, that a person of infinite knowledge, rectitude, and dignity, of his own accord, submitted both his affections and his conduct to its absolute control. So far as I can see, higher glory was reflected on this great rule of righteousness by the obedience of Christ, than could have resulted from the united obedience of the whole Intelligent creation.
It is hardly necessary to observe, that the obedience of Christ, and his holiness, are convertible terms; and that all the importance of the things, mentioned under these three heads, is no other than the importance of this attribute to his priestly character.
III. To give the necessary efficacy to his sufferings for man
The sufferings of Christ were of no value, as mere sufferings. There is no worth, or excellence, in the mere endurance of evil. The real merit of the sufferings of Christ, as of all other meritorious sufferings, lay in these two things: that they were undergone for a valuable End; and that they were borne by a good Mind with the spirit of Benevolence and Piety. The End, for which Christ endured the Cross, and all the other evils of his humiliation, was the best of all ends; the glory of God, and the salvation of men. The Mind of Christ is the best of all minds; and the Spirit, with which he encountered, and sustained, his sufferings, was that of supreme Benevolence and supreme Piety.
In undertaking the Office of a Mediator between God and man, he gave the most solemn and glorious testimony to the equity of the divine law in all its precepts, and in all its penalties. In enduring the sufferings, which he underwent as the substitute for sinners, he completed this testimony by cheerfully consenting, in this character, to obey, and to suffer. If he had not been perfectly holy, he would, instead of becoming a substitute for others, have
needed a substitute for himself, to expiate his sins. No supposition can be more absurd, than that Christ should make an atonement for the sins of others, when he needed an atonement for his own sins; or that God should accept him as a Mediator for sinners, when he himself was a sinner; or that he should become the means of delivering mankind from the penalty of the law, when he himself deserved to suffer that penalty.
Thus it is evident, that without consummate holiness Christ would not only have utterly failed to execute, to the divine acceptance, the office of a priest; but that he could not have entered upon that office.
IV. To qualify him for executing the office of Intercessor.
Absolute holiness seems entirely necessary to render the prayers of any being, even when offered up for himself, if offered in his own name, acceptable to God. The same holiness seems even more indispensable to render intercession for others accepted; and especially for a world of sinners. Such intercession, also, appears plainly to demand, as a previous and essential qualification on the part of the intercessor, that he should acknowledge, in the amplest manner, the perfect rectitude of the divine government in condemning sinners to that punishment, for their deliverance from which his intercession is undertaken. It cannot, I think, be supposed, even for a moment, that God would accept of any person in this office, who denied, doubted, or did not in the most open and complete manner acknowledge, the equity and propriety of his administrations. It seems further necessary, that he, who made this acknowledgment, should be a competent judge of the nature of the divine government; so that the acknowledgment should be made with intelligence and certainty, and not be merely a profession of faith.
The holiness of Christ, manifested in his obedience both to the preceptive and penal parts of the divine law, was the most direct and complete acknowledgment of the rectitude of the divine law, and the divine government, which was possible; because it was voluntarily undertaken, and perfectly accomplished. It was, at the same time, the obedience of a person, who was a finished judge of the nature of both, from the entire rectitude of his disposition, and the unlimited greatness of his understanding. It was, also, the acknowledgment of a person, possessed of infinite dignity, in the nature of all his attributes, in the supremacy of his station, and in the eternal and immeasurable extent of his dominion.
As an intercessor, therefore, Christ comes before his Father, both in the most amiable and the most exalted character; having confirmed, beyond all future debate, the rectitude of his law and government, and supremely glorified his name in the sight of the Universe; and pleading with divine efficacy both his obedience and his sufferings, on the behalf of those for whom he intercedes.
What must not such an Intercessor be able to obtain? From such an intercession what may not penitent sinners hope? How plain is it, that such an high priest became us; was fitted to expiate all our sins, and to secure to us an inheritance undefiled and unfailing in the everlasting love of God; an high priest who was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens!
THE PRIESTHOOD OF CHRIST.-HOLINESS OF HIS
IMPORTANCE OF THIS ATTRIBUTE.-HIS EXAMPLE.
1 JOHN ii. 5.-He, that saith he abideth in him, ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
IN my last discourse, I considered the Importance of the Holiness of Christ, in his character of High Priest, as being necessary to give him that distinction, without which the attention and confidence of men could not have been excited towards him; as necessary to enable him to magnify the Law of God; and to become a propitiation, and an Intercessor, for the children of Adam.
The subject, which naturally offers itself next for our consideration, is the Importance of this attribute to Christ, as an Example to mankind.
That Christ was intended to be an example of righteousness to the human race is completely evident from the passage of Scripture, which I have chosen for the theme of this discourse. He, that saith, he abideth in him; that is, he, who professes himself a Christian; ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked. Every Christian is here required to follow the example of Christ. But every man is bound to become a Christian. Therefore, every man is required to follow the same example. I have given you an example, said our Saviour, when he washed his disciples' feet, that ye should do, as I have done to you. John xiii. 15. And again; If any man will serve me, let him follow me. John xii. 26. Be ye followers of me, says St. Paul, even as I also am of Christ. 1 Cor. xi. 1. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, says the same Apostle, urging upon the Philippians the duty of humil ity, and arguing, at length, their obligations to be humble, from our Saviour's example. Phil. ii. 54, &c. In the like manner, he urges upon the Romans the character of benevolence, from the same source of argument; Rom. xv. 1, &c. and the Hebrews to patience and fortitude in the Christian race; Heb. xi. 1, &c. It will be useless to multiply passages, any farther, to this purpose. Even these will probably be thought to have been unnecessarily alleged.
The example of Christ is formed of his holiness, directed by his wisdom, or more properly by his understanding. Of all its parts, holiness is the substance, and the soul. Without this attribute, he would only have been a more sagacious sinner, and therefore a more malignant example, than other men. A proper exhibition of the example of Christ, in which its nature and usefulness are