« ПредишнаНапред »
him. It cannot, I think, be imagined, even with decency, and certainly not in any consistency with the character of Christ, as manifested elsewhere, that the mere prospect of death, even of a most cruel and bitter death, was so overwhelming to his mind, as to convulse his constitution in this manner, or to force from him such a prayer. Perhaps no person, under the mere apprehension of death, was ever agitated in an equal degree. Had it not pleased Jehovah to bruise him, there is no reason to believe that he would have been anxiously solicitous concerning the utmost evils, which he could suffer from the hands of men. He had directed even his disciples, notwithstanding their frailty, not to fear them, who could kill the body, and after that could do no more. It cannot be supposed, that his own conduct was not exactly conformed to this precept.
5thly. Christ himself appears to have decided this point, in the manner already specified.
In his exclamation on the cross, he said, My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me? As this was his only complaint, it must, I think, be believed to refer to his principal suffering. But the evil, here complained of, is being forsaken by God. In the language of the Psalmist, God hid his face from him; that is, if I mistake not, withdrew from him, wholly, those manifestations of supreme complacency in his character and conduct, which he had always before made. As this was in itself a most distressing testimony of the divine anger against sin; so it is naturally imagined, and, I think, when we are informed that it pleased Jehovah to bruise him, directly declared, in the Scriptures, that this manifestation was accompanied by other disclosures of the anger of God against sin, and against him, as the Substitute for sinners.
The views, and feelings, of one mind towards another can produce the highest sense of suffering, of which we are capable. The esteem, and love, of Intelligent beings are, when united, the most exquisite of all enjoyment; and are naturally, and in all probability necessarily, coveted more than any other, except the approbation of our own minds. Their mere indifference towards us, when they have opportunity of being so far acquainted with us, as to give room for being esteemed and loved by them, is, ordinarily, the source of severe mortification. In proportion as they are more intelligent and worthy, their love and esteem are more important to us, and more coveted by us; and the resusal of it creates in us more intense distress.
The complacency of God, whose mind is infinite, and whose disposition is perfect, is undoubtedly the first of all possible enjoy. ments. The loss of it, therefore, and the consequent suffering of his hatred and contempt, are undoubtedly the greatest evils, which a created mind can suffer; evils, which will, in all probability, constitute the primary anguish, experienced in the world of wo. Omniscience and Omnipotence are certainly able to communicate, during even a short time, to a finite mind, such views of the hatred
and contempt of God towards sin and sinners, and of course towards a Substitute for sinners, as would not only fill its capacity of suffering, but probably put an end to its existence. In this manner, I apprehend, the chief distresses of Christ were produced. In this manner, principally, was that testimony of God against disobedience, exhibited to the Redeemer, and últimately to the Universe, which so solemnly supported the sanctions of the divine law, and so illustriously honoured the divine government, as to prevent the pardon of sinners from being regarded by Intelligent creatures, as the mere indulgence of a weak and changeable disposition in the infinite Ruler.
6thly. The active obedience of Christ was, in my apprehension, essentially concerned in his Atonement.
This position I shall illustrate under the following particulars.
1st. If Christ had not obeyed the Law perfectly, he could not have aloned for the sins of mankind at all.
It was as a lamb without blemish, and without spot, that he became a proper, acceptable offering; and in this character only. Had he been stained with iniquity, his sufferings would have been, and would have been regarded, as the mere punishment of his own sins; and not as an expiation for the sins of others. Had he been of a neutral character, his sufferings would have been of no apparent value. On the contrary, they would have been considered as strange, inexplicable, and resembling those accidents, which being unconnected with any thing preceding or succeeding, are fitted only to excite a momentary attention, and wonder. The excellency of Christ gave all the real value, and efficacy, to his sufferings. But can it be said, that that, which gave all the real value to his sufferings, constituted no part of the atonement, which he made by them? The atonement of Christ certainly did not consist in mere suffering; but in such sufferings of such a person. But Christ could not have been such a person without his active obedience; nor could his sufferings have been of such a nature, if he had not been such a person. If he had not suffered, he could not have atoned for sin at all. If he had not obeyed, his sufferings would have been of no value.
2dly. It was indispensable to the existence of the atonement of Christ
, that he should magnify the Law and make it honourable. This I consider as having been done by his obedience in the first instance, and in the second by his sufferings. The former was as truly indispensable, as the latter; and was indispensable to the existence of the latter. In the predictions of the Old Testament, and the declarations of the New, similar stress is laid on both these great articles. I have expressed my views of this subject in a late discourse; I will not repeat them here; but will only and, that the obedience of Christ as truly honoured the preceptive part of the law, as his sufferings, the penal. The doctrine, which has been taught by some wise and good men, that, if the Law is not discerned
by itself to be holy, just, and good, the obedience of Christ cannot make it appear so; but only show, that it was a law, which he was so desirous to support as to be willing to obey it; is, I am bound to say, contrary to my own conviction. The character of Christ, as excellent, is certainly capable of being seen, and realized, independently of the divine law. Christ, as all those with whom I am now contending, will acknowledge, is a Divine person. Surely we are not obliged to have recourse to the law of God, as the only means of proving the excellency of his character. Independently of this, we are able to prove, that the infinite Mind is possessed of infinite excellence; and of course cannot but discern, that a law, which this excellence is disposed to obey, as well as to promulgate, must be of the most glorious kind possible. The mere promulgation of the law consists in declarations only. But who does not know, that actions carry with them an evidence, far more convincing, and especially far more impressive, than any declarations whatever? At the same time, the transcendent dignity of the Son of God lends the same lustre to his obedience, as to his sufferings; and renders the former of the same influence in recommending the precepts of the law, which the latter possess in vindicating its penalty. Besides, the same objection may be made against the proof, derived from the sufferings of Christ, that the penalty of the law is just. For it may with the same propriety be alleged, that if the penalty of the law does not appear just in itself, the sufferings of Christ' can never make it appear so: since they prove no more, than that Christ was so desirous to support the law, as to be willing, for this end, to undergo such sufferings. Should it be said, that the sufferings of Christ involved self-denial; and that thus they exhibited the sincerity of his regard for the law, because selfdenial is the strongest proof of sincerity: I answer, that his consent to become a subject, and all the parts of his obedience involved self-denial also ; less, apparently at least, in degree; but the same in kind. Should it be said, that the sufferings of Christ were a testimony of God's displeasure against sin, and of the righteousness of the penalty denounced against it: I answer; So is his obedience equally a testimony of God's complacency in the precepts of the Law, and the righteousness of requiring his intelligent creatures. to obey them. Should it be said that his sufferings were inflictions from the hand of God: I answer, that his obedience was required by God, and was, therefore, equally a testimony of his pleasure. Finally ; should it be said, that Christ's obedience was voluntary ; I answer, that his sufferings were equally voluntary: otherwise, they would never have existed; or, if we suppose them to have existed, would have had no efficacy.
Upon the whole, the attempts made to discriminate between these parts of Christ's mediation, and to assign to each its exact proportion of influence in the economy of redemption, seem to me to have been very partially successful.
V. I shall now, in a few words, consider the extent of Christ's Atonement.
On this subject I observe,
By this I mean, that it was such, as to vindicate the law, government, and character, of God. This we know, because Christ repeatedly declared, that his work was finished; because it was appointed, and accepted, of God; as we are assured by the many testimonies of his approbation, given to Christ; and because the SPIRIT OF GRACE descended in a glorious manner, on the day of Pentecost, to carry the design of it into execution.
2dly. The degree of suffering, which Christ underwent in making this atonement, was far inferior to that, which will be experienced by an individual sufferer beyond the grave.
It will not be supposed, as plainly it cannot, that Christ suffered in his divine nature. Nor will it be believed, that any created nature could, in that short space of time, suffer what would be equivalent to even a slight distress, extended through eternity. 3dly. The Atonement of Christ was still of infinite value.
The Atonement of Christ, great as his distresses were, did not derive its value principally from the degree in which he experienced them; but from the infinite greatness and excellency of his character. Although the Divine nature is necessarily unsuffering; yet, in this case, it exactly coincided in its dictates with all the conduct of the created mind of Christ; and lent to that conduct its own infinite weight and worth.
4thly. The atonement of Christ was sufficient in its extent to open the door for the pardon of all human sinners.
This doctrine is so often and so plainly declared in the Scriptures, that I am surprised to find a doubt concerning it, entertained by any man. Who gave himself, says St. Paul, a ransom for all, to be testified in due time: and again, Who is the Saviour of all men, especially of them that believe. He is the propitiation for our sins; says St. John, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. It is needless any farther to multiply passages to this effect.
When this discourse was first written, disputes concerning the Extent of the Atonement had not openly appeared in this country; and I did not suppose it to be necessary to canvass the ques. tion with any particularity. The length of the present discourse forbids me to dwell upon the subject now. Yet I will very briefly suggest two or three arguments for the consideration of my audience.
1st. If the Atonement of Christ consisted in making such amends for the disobedience of man as should place the law, government, and character of God in such a light, that he could forgive sinners, of the human race, without any inconsistency; then these Amends, or this Atonement, were all absolutely necessary, in order to render such forgiveness proper, or consistent with the law and characVOL. II.
ter of God, in a single instance. The forgiveness of one sinner, without these Amends, would be just as much a contradiction to the declarations of the law, as the forgiveness of a million. If, then, the Amends, actually made, were such, that God could consistently forgive one sinner; he might with equal consistency, and propriety, forgive any number, unless prevented by some other reason. The Atonement, in other words, which was necessary a world, was equally necessary, and in just the same manner, and degree, for an individual sinner.
2dly. The Atonement was by the infinite dignity and excellence of the Redeemer rendered infinitely meritorious. But it cannot be denied, that an infinitely meritorious atonement is sufficient for all the apostate children of Adam.
3dly. If the Atonement of Christ consisted in suffering what those, for whose sins he atoned, deserve to suffer ; his mediation did not lessen the evils of the apostacy. All the difference, which it made in the state of things, was, that he suffered in the stead of those whom he came to redeem; and suffered the same miseries, which they were condemned to suffer. In other words, an innocent being suffered the very misery, which the guilty should have suffered. Of course there is in the divine Kingdom just as much misery, with the mediation of Christ, as there would have been without it, and nothing is gained by this wonderful work, but the transfer of this misery from the guilty to the innocent.
4thly. If Christ has not made a sufficient Atonement for others beside the Elect; then his Salvation is not offered to them at all; and they are not guilty for not receiving it. But this is contrary to the whole tenour of the Gospel ; which every where exhibits sinners as greatly guilty for rejecting Christ. Yet if Christ be not offered to them; they cannot be guilty of rejecting him.
5thly. The Gospel, or glad tidings published by Christ, is said to be good tidings unto all people. But, if there be no Atonement made for the sins of all people; the Gospel, instead of being good news to them, is not addressed to them all.
6thly. Ministers are required to preach Faith, as well as Repentance, to all sinners as their duty. But if no Atonement has been made for their sins, they cannot believe: for to them Christ is in no sense a Saviour; and therefore, not even a possible object of their faith.
Should it be asked, why then, are not all men pardoned? I answer; because all mankind do not evangelically believe in this Atonement, and its Author. No man is pardoned merely because of the Atonement made by Christ; but because of his own acceptance, also, of that atonement, by faith. The way is open, and equally open, to all; although all may not be equally inclined to walk in ii.
The proffers of pardon on the very same conditions are made, with equal sincerity and kindness, to every man. He who does not accept them, therefore, ought to remember, that nothing stands in his way, but his own impenitence and unbelief.