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THE EFFICACY OF THE DEATH OF CHRIST.
HEBREWS ix. 26.
Now once in the end of the world hath he appeared
to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
The salvation of mankind, and most particularly in so far as the death and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ are concerned in it, and whereby he comes to be called our Saviour and our Redeemer, ever has been, and ever must be, a most interesting subject to all serious minds.
Now there is one thing in which there is no division or difference of opinion at all ; which is, that the death of Jesus Christ is spoken of, in reference to human salvation, in terms and in a manner, in which the death of no person whatever is spoken of besides. Others have died martyrs, as well as our Lord. Others have suffered in a righteous cause as well as he ; but that is said of him, and of his death and sufferings, which is not said of any one else. An efficacy and a concern are ascribed to them, in the business of human salvation, which are not ascribed to any other.
What may be called the first Gospel declaration upon this subject, is the exclamation of John the Baptist, when he saw Jesus coming unto him: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” I think it plain, that when John called our Lord the Lamb of God, he spoke with a relation to his being sacrificed, and to the effect of that sacrifice upon the pardon of human sin : and this, you will observe, was said of him, even before he entered upon his office. If any doubt could be made of the meaning of the Baptist's expression, it is settled by other places, in which the like allusion to a Lamb is adopted; and where the allusion is specifically applied to his death, considered as a sacrifice.
In the Acts of the Apostles, the following words of Isaiah are, by Philip the evangelist, distinctly applied to our Lord, and to our Lord's death.
« He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearers, so opened he not his mouth ; in his humiliation his judgement was taken away, and who shall declare his generation ? for his life is taken from the earth :” therefore it was to his death, you see, that the description relates. Now, I say, that this is applied to Christ most distinctly; for the pious eunuch, who was reading the passage in his chariot, was at a loss to know to whom it should be applied. " I pray thee,” saith he to Philip, “ of whom speaketh the prophet this ? of himself or of some other man?” And Philip, you read, taught him that it was spoken of Christ. And I say, secondly, that this particular
part and expression of the prophecy being applied to Christ's death, carries the whole prophecy to the same subject : for it is undoubtedly one entire prophecy: therefore the other expressions, which are still stronger, are applicable as well as this. “He was wounded for our transgressions ; he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him ; and with his stripes we are healed ; the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” There is a strong and very apposite text of Saint Peter's, in which the
application of the term “ Lamb” to our Lord, and the sense, in which it is applied, can admit of no question at all. It is in the 1st chapter of the 1st epistle, the 18th and 19th verses : “ Forasmuch as ye know, that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” All the use I make of these passages is to show, that the prophet Isaiah, six hundred
years before his birth ; Saint John the Baptist, upon the commencement of his ministry ; Saint Peter, his friend, companion, and apostle, after the transaction was over, speak of Christ's death, under the figure of a lamb being sacrificed: that is, as having the effect of a sacrifice, the effect in kind, though infinitely higher in degree, upon the pardon of sins, and the procurement of salvation ; and that this is spoken of the death of no other
Other plain and distinct passages, declaring the efficacy of Christ's death, are the following: Hebrews
ix. 26. “ Now 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; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” And in the xth chap. 12th ver. “ This man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sin, for ever sat down on the right hand of God, for by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” I observe again, that nothing of this sort is said of the death of any other person : no such efficacy is imputed to any other martyrdom. So likewise, in the following text, from the Epistle to the Romans : & While we were yet sinners Christ died for us; much more then being now justified by his blood we shall be saved from wrath through him ; for if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more being reconciled we shall be saved by his life.”]“ Reconciled to God by the death of his Son;" therefore that death had an efficacy in our reconciliation ; but reconciliation is preparatory to salvation. The same thing is said by the same apostle in his Epistle to the Colossians : “ He has reconciled us to his Father in his cross, and in the body of his flesh through death.” What is said of reconciliation in these texts, is said in other texts of sanctification, which also is preparatory to salvation. Thus Hebrews, x. 10. “ we are sanctified :" how? namely, “ by the offering of the body of Christ once for all :" so again
in the same epistle, “ the blood of Jesus is called the blood of the covenant by which we are sanctified.”
In these and many more passages, that lie spread in different parts of the New Testament, it appears to be asserted, that the death of Christ had an efficacy in the procurement of human salvation. Now these expressions mean something : mean something substantial. They are used concerning no other person, nor the death of any other person whatever. Therefore Christ's death was something more than a confirmation of his preaching ; something more than a pattern of a holy and patient, and perhaps voluntary, martyrdom ; something more than necessarily antecedent to his resurrection, by which he gave a grand and clear proof of human resurrection. Christ's death was all these, but it was something more; because none of these ends, nor all of them, satisfy the text you have heard—come up to the assertions and declarations which are delivered concerning it.
Now allowing the subject to stop here ; allowing that we know nothing, nor can know any thing concerning it, but what is written ; and that nothing more is written, than that the death of Christ had a real and essential effect upon human salvation ; we have certainly before us a doctrine of a very peculiar, perhaps I may say, of a very unexpected kind, in some measure hidden in the councils of the divine nature, but still so far revealed to us, as to excite two great religious sentiments, admiration and gratitude.