« PreviousContinue »
to rest on all who believe, brings along with it a title to positive favour, which is something more than forgiveness. The creditor who cancels our debt, does us a distinct and additional good, when, furthermore, he puts the deeds or the documents into our hands by which we are constituted the rightful claimants of any given property. And so
Christ, in one place, is represented as a surety for the sins of those who believe in Him; and in another, as having purchased for them an inheritance, to which they, and they alone, have the right of entry and of possession. Moreover, we read of Christ being "delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification;" or, that by His death He made atonement for sin; and by His resurrection He reentered heaven, and is there employed in preparing those mansions by which are rewarded the righteousness of those who believe in Him. One fruit of the mediation of Christ is said to be peace with God. But not only so, writes the apostle; in addition to having drawn back His hostility, He sends forth upon us His loving-kindness. And hence another fruit of the mediation is, that we have access to the grace wherein we stand. Yet it must be owned, that, notwithstanding the real distinction which there is between release from a penalty and admittance to a positive reward, and the corresponding distinction that has been made by theologians, between the passive obedience of Christ, by which it is held that the one has been averted, and the active obedience of Christ, by which it is held that the other has been rightfully earned for us,-it must be owned, we say, notwithstanding, that it is
the obedience of Christ unto the death which seems to have formed the main price, not only of all the immunities, but of all the privileges that believers enjoy. It was from His death that the incense of a sweet-smelling savour arose unto God. It was because of His death that God highly exalted Him, and gave Him a name above every name. It was from the grave that He ascended, rich in the spoils of a superabundant merit, wherewith He decks and dignifies all His followers. And thus there is not only a remission, but a righteousness that has been wrought out by the expiation on the cross. It was there that He became sin for us, though He knew no sin; and it was also in virtue of what has been done there, that we are made the righteousness of God in Him. The hope of our glory, as well as the price of our deliverance, stands connected with the knowledge of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
We affirm it to be of the very essence of gospel mercy, that, instead of a mere demonstration of Heaven's love, there went along with it a full demonstration of Heaven's righteousness-that it rendered glory to the law, and by the very act wherewith it rendered grace unto those who had trampled on the law. The forgiveness that is unto the sinner under this dispensation, bears upon it an awful character of sacredness and majestyseeing that it never could have issued on a guilty world but through the channel of a consecrated priesthood, and with the blood of a divine expiation. There is pity on high to the children of men-but it is pity enshrined in holiness, and to which there is no other way of access than by the safeguards
of a government that is unchangeable. We cannot come unto the throne of grace but through a mediatorship, where at once may be seen the manifested truth and vindicated justice of the Godhead-nor can we obtain the compassion of our offended Lawgiver, without knocking at the door of a sanctuary, where dwell, in still unviolated purity and greatness, all the wondrous attributes that belong to Him.
Now, this is what we hold to be the leading and the characteristic peculiarity of the dispensation under which we live. All that we receive is, doubtless, in the way of a gift-and yet it is a gift for which a price has been rendered, so as to make it legally and rightfully ours. The penalty is remitted to us, but not till it was paid down, as it were, by another's sufferings. Heaven has been. granted to us, but not till it was purchased by another's services. So that the believer has not merely privileges simply and gratuitously conferred upon him; but he is invested with a right to these privileges. He can lay claim to them as a thing of obligation—not in virtue of any equivalent that has been rendered by himself, but in virtue of a full equivalent that has been rendered by another. When eternal life is bestowed upon us, it is not in the shape of a bare donative, the fruit of a movement of generosity alone. It is a reward granted to us on consideration of a righteousness, although that righteousness is not properly and personally ours. Still, it is the fulfilment of a stipulation the implementing of a contract or a covenant between parties; and when man enters
upon his blissful eternity, he only takes possession of that which is his due, and which God hath bound Himself, as by the conditions of a treaty, to award unto him.
And here it is of importance to mark-how much more secure our hope of heaven is, when laid upon such a foundation. Had the sinner nothing else to build upon than the single attribute of 'mercy, well might he dread the outbreaking upon his person of the other attributes, and feel the perpetual disturbance of fears and of jealousies in his bosom, as he bethought him of the majesty of God, and the unchangeable recoil of a nature that could hold no fellowship with evil. Now, how it must overrule these terrors, when, with the righteousness of Christ as a plea put into his hand, he now finds even the most menacing attributes of the Divinity enlisted on the side of his salvation. Were his hopes suspended singly on the pity of God, while the question of all his other perfections was yet undisposed of, there would still be room in the sinner's heart for doubts and many many
disquietudes. But how it must allay all these, and what firmness it must give to his anticipations of heaven, when, instead of vaguely trusting for it to the indulgence of God, he in Christ hath acquired a distinct and a well-defined right to it. He is like the man who at first eyed some beautiful estate with fond and foolish expectation, because of the reported generosity of him who owned itbut who afterwards had the title-deed put into his hand, on which he might challenge the property as his own, and step into the secure and undisputed
forward to heaven.
possession of it. And thus may a Christian look He can plead a right for it. He can argue in his behalf a purchase-money that is commensurate to the purchase. He can speak of a value that has been given, and which is adequate to the value that he expects. And he lives beneath his privileges he is insensible to the whole worth and security of his condition, if his spirit do not rest and be at ease among the guarantees of a sure and a well-ordered covenant -and if, while he rejoices in the gift of his coming inheritance, he do not fortify his trust by thinking well of the soundness and the equity of his claim to it.
But while we like to say every thing to a believer that should minister to the stability of his confidence, we would say nothing that could minister to his pride, or excite a sense of haughty independence in his bosom. It is not as if he defied God, and entered with Him on a field of litigation. It is not as if he challenged, and with a tone of resolute assertion, that which he felt to be rightfully his own, and demanded it accordingly. What might disarm him of this spirit altogether is, that though now possessed of a right to the citizenship of heaven, the right was not won by himself, but conferred upon him by a Mediator. It is not an inherent, but a derived privilege, and for which he stands indebted to another's bounty. What, we ask, are the suitable feelings with which he ought to prosecute his claim upon God, when, in fact, God was the Being who furnished him with this claim against himself? God so loved the world, as to send His