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doctrine, let us briefly notice the dignity of the victim who gave
bimself up as a sacrifice. God was manifest in the flesh: He who is over all, God blessed for ever ; Jehovah our Righteousness; the Mighty God; the Everlasting Father; the Alpha and Omega; the beginning and the ending, which is, and which was, and which is to come; He was made flesh and dwelt among us. By this mysterious and incomprehensible union of the divine and human natures in the person of our Lord, an infinite value was given to his sufferings and death, so that his blood cleanseth from all sin; he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. It is this view alone that speaks peace to the troubled conscience.
When a mau is truly awakened to a sense of the multitude and the magnitude of his transgressions, the infinite majesty of Him against whom he has offended, and the true desert and tremendous consequences of his sins, he then feels the value of an atonement made by one who is God as well as man, and rejoices in it as that which can alone be a sufficient satisfaction for his guilt.
What then do the Scriptures say of the sufferings and death of the divine Redeemer? In the Old Testament we find various testimonies to his atonement. Thus in the 53d of Isaiah, we read,—The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all—He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastise- ment of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we
are healed. When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed. He was foretold by Daniel, as the Messiah to be cut off, but not for himself. The appointed period of his coming was fixed, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to
make reconciliation for iniquity. The New Testament language is still more express and decisive-The Son of Man came to give his life a ransom for many. Matt. xx, 28. He died for the ungodly. Rom. v, 6. God hath made him to be sin (a sin offering) for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. 2 Cor. v, 21. He gave himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God. Eph. v, 2. He has reconciled both (Jew and Gentile) unto God, in one body by the cross. Eph. ii, 16. Once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many. Heb. ix, 26, 28. Who, his own self, bare our sins in his own body on the frèe. 1 Pet. ii, 24.
These are but a brief selection of passages which shew that the all-important truth of an atonement for sin, made by the Son of God, is confirmed by a great variety of expression, and by repeated testimonies and declarations. How
different would have been the mode of expression, had Christ merely died as an example, and pattern of patience, and long-suffering ! How easy and natural would it have been for all the sacred writers to have used another phraseology, had they designed to convey any other instruction than that which is obvious at the first glance, to every simple and humble mind! The doctrine of the atonement will from such passages be manifest to those who read the Scriptures with an unbiassed and unprejudiced mind!
The great design of this atonement is clearly and fully expressed by St. Paul, in the 3d of Romans. After having shewn the universal sinfulness and guilt of man, he goes on to declare the way of acceptance with the holy and righteous God in these words – Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God: to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness, that he might be just, and the justifier of him which belieneth in Jesus.
We may observe in this passage, that the Apostle notices two leading effects connected with and resulting from the atonement of Christ. It illustrates the divine perfections, and at the same time brings salvation to the guilty
It ILLUSTRATES THE DIVINE PERFECTIONS. The doctrine of Christ's propitiation is the solution of an apparently inexplicable difficulty. The holy and righteous God who had asserted that he would not acquit the guilty, and who had declared, he that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are än abomination to the Lord, had yet for 4000 years been pardoning and blessing sinful man, and was then dispensing pardon to believers through the world. This procedure the Apostle shews is consistent with the justice of God, and the truth of his word, by the death of Christ being an atonement for sin. The strictness, purity, and excellence of God's holy law are fully manifested, his authority is preserved, the ends of justice are obtained, even in a more impressive way by the incarnation, sufferings, and death of the divine substitute, than they would have been merely by the punishment of the guilty creature.
While the mercy of God is fully displayed, his abhorrence of sin is at the same time manifested in the strongest way. Dr. Wardlaw has well expressed this. Speaking of the substitution of Immanuel as a voluntary surety, to bear the curse of the law in the room of the guilty, he says, “In this substitution we see displayed in a manner unutterably affecting and awful, the holy purity of the divine naturé, for no testimony can be conceived more impressive of infinite abhorrence of sin than the sufferings and death of the Son of God, Here, too, we behold the immutable justice of the divine government, inflicting the righteous penalty of a violated law. It is to be considered as a fixed principle of the Divine Government, that sin must be punished, that if the sinner be pardoned it must be in a way
that marks and publishes the evil of his offence. This is also effected by substitution, and, as far as we can judge, could not be effected in
In inflicting the sentence against transgression on the voluntary and all-sufficient Surety, Jehovah, while he clears the sinner, does not clear his sins. Although clothed with the thunders of vindictive justice against transgression, he wears to the transgressor the smile of reconciliation and peace: he dispenses the blessings of mercy from the throne of his holiness; and, while exercising grace to the guilty, he appears in the characters, equally lovely and venerable, of
-The sinner's friend,
And sin's eternal foe. In this way then all the ends of public justice are fully answered. The law retains its complete unmitigated perfection, is magnified and made honourable, the dignity and authority of the Divine Government are maintained and even elevated-all the perfections of Deity are gloriously illustrated and exhibited in sublime harmony. Such a view of the Divine Being is presented on the cross as is precisely calculated to inspire and maintain (to maintain too with a power which will
increase its influence the more closely and seriously the view is contemplated) the two great principles of a holy life, the LOVE and the fear of God, filial attachment, freedom, and confidence, combined with humble reverence and holy dread.”
The importance of the subject, and the justice and excellence of Dr. Wardlaw's remarks, will justify the length of the quotation.
We may observe also that salvation is thus become, as it respects Christ and those for whom he died, an act of divine justice as well as divine mercy. God, as he is a just God, does not condemn believers, since Christ has borne the punishment of their sins, and purchased them for himself. Blessed be God, our pardon and acceptance in Cbrist Jesus, is now built on that very attribute which is so dreadful and alarming to the offending sinner! That which seeined the main bar against our acceptance, is now become the very ground why God accepts. Justice and mercy both triumph together, God remainis righteous, and yet rebellious man may be for ever blessed.
Thus the cross of Christ gives the brightest display of all the divine perfections. It is a glass in which all created intelligences may see and discover, in a way that they never otherwise could, the glory of God's wisdom, power, righteousness, justice, mercy, and truth.
While God is glorified, through the same atonement, A WAY OF SALVATION IS PROVIDED FOR SINNERS. We shall have occasion, in considering afterwards the nature of the New Covenant, to enter into a fuller view of the nature of this salvation, and therefore will here only briefly notice some of the more direct blessinga which are obtained by this atonement.