Imatges de pàgina

guilt of apostasy, on supposition of the truth of what the apostate professes? The hypocrite professes to be sanctified by the blood of the covenant, claims the character of one who has felt the cleansing virtue of the blood of the Son of God, and, supposing it for a moment to be true, how does it aggravate his guilt, that he by his apostasy counts this very blood, wherewith he professes to be sanctified, a common thing? Nothing can be more natural than such a train of reasoning ; and, in this light, the passage presents no opposition to the view of Christ's death for which we contend.

• But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.' (2 Pet. ii. 1.) Some are of opinion that the Lord' here does not refer to Christ; and certainly the original term (J&TTótnr) is not that by which the Saviour is commonly designated. Others, again, think that the buying here does not refer to the meritorious purchase which Christ made of the church with his blood, but to the redemption from Egypt or some other thing of inferior importance. But we are willing to admit that Christ is the Lord spoken of, and that the purchase of redemption by his blood is what is meant by the word • bought:' and yet we see nothing in the text that opposes our doctrine.

It is not necessary to suppose that the false teachers who were to bring on themselves swift destruction, were actually bought with the blood of Christ. It is enough for the apostle's purpose that they were professedly so. He argues against them on their own principles, and shows thus that their conduct was heinous and dangerous in the extreme. And in doing so, he only follows the example of the Saviour himself, who confuted the Pharisees who professed to be righteous and were not, on their own acknowledged principles :- I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons which need no repentance.' (Luke xv. 7.) Are we to conclude, from this, that there were any such just persons who needed no repentance ? Surely not; but there were persons who made pretensions to this character; and against these was the reproof contained in the passage directed. Neither are we, from the expression under consideration, to conclude that the persons spoken of were actually bought with the

price of Christ s blood; but there were persons who pretended to be so and yet acted inconsistently with the supposition; and such pretension certainly tended to enhance the enormity of their guilt

Thus have we brought to a conclusion the argument respecting the extent of Christ's atonement. We have endeavoured clearly to exhibit the state of the question : have stated, it is hoped, with fairness, the difficulties with which the subject is beset; and have brought forward what has seemed to us sufficient to refute what we conceive to be error, and to support what we conceive to be the truth on this important point. It is to be feared that, in the case of many, the opposition shown to a definite atonement, springs from objections to the doctrine of divine sovereignty, and we have reason to be on our guard against this fruitful source of error. Let us beware, too, of being carried away with the mere sound of scripture language, to the overthrow of the analogy of faith. Let saints rejoice that not one of those for whom Christ died shall come short of eternal life; for, whom God did predestinate to be con formed to the image of his Son, them he shall certainly glorify. But let it not be thought, from any thing we have said, that we have a wish to limit unduly the saving virtue of the Redeemer's blood. We repeat, that, in intrinsic worth, we regard it as infinite ; nor would we be understood to mean that its actual efficacy is not greatly extensive. We deny that it is universal, but we rejoice to think, notwithstanding, that it extends to a multitude which no man can number, of redeemed men, who, gathered from every nation, and people, and kindred, and tongue, shall, with harmonious voices and grateful hearts, sing praises to the Lamb that sitteth on the throne, for ever and ever.



The results of the great doctrine we have thus endeavoured to explain, establish, and defend, are so numerous and diversified that an attempt fully to discuss, or even to enumerate them all cannot be presumed. But the present work might be deemed to be essentially defective were these altogether passed over without notice. We beg the reader's attention to the following.

I. The atonement serves to illustrate, in the most interesting manner, the CHARACTER OF GOD.

Even the natural perfections of Deity are thus illustriously manifested. What wisdom is shown in devising a way by which the grand object of redeeming mercy might be gained, in consistency with legislative rectitude, and the seemingly inharmonious conjunction of characters might be effected'a just God and a Saviour!' No mortal mind, no angelic intellect could ever have conceived this plan, could ever have solved this problem. Well may it be characterized as a display of the manifold wisdom of God;' nor can we express ourselves regarding it in more appropriate terms than by saying, “He hath abounded towards us in all wisdom.'

In it we see the power, not less than the wisdom, of God. Powerful love, love stronger than death, must it have been, which moved the appointment of such a plan of salvation. Such a load of guilt as pressed on him who “bare our iniquities, such a weight of wrath as was endured by him whom it pleased the Father to bruise,' could have been borne by no power less than almighty. The curse which he sustained was sufficient to sink the whole guilty world of sinful men to the depths of perdition. What even when inflicted on angels who excel in strength,' requires to be broken up into portions and dealt out through the successive ages of eternity, was poured forth on the head of Emmanuel at once and in one unbroken torrent of accumulated vengeance Nor do the effects resulting from the atone


ment of Christ, in his taking the prey from the mighty, calling into being a new creation, and performing all those acts of almighty grace which evince the gospel to be the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth,' give a less striking display of omnipotence.

Here also the moral attributes of God shine forth. Nowhere else do we meet with such a display of divine holi

He is manifested, indeed, to be the Holy One, of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, who cannot look upon sin ; for such is the immaculate purity of his nature that moral guilt must not be cancelled by a sovereign act of will, nor moral pollution wiped away by a mere effort of power, but sin signally stamped with the brand of Jehovah's deepest abhorrence by the substitutionary sufferings of his own Son. By God's sparing not his own Son but delivering him up for us all, we are more impressively taught the inviolability of divine justice than we could be by laying open the caverns of endless despair, and disclosing to view the horrid and appalling scenes of suffering and wo which they present. In the cross of heaven's spotless Victim we read most plainly that God will by no means clear the guilty. The wrath of God is here revealed as it is nowhere else, against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. The immovable determination of the divine nature, to visit every deviation from rectitude with its merited and appropriate award of judgment, is unanswerably demonstrated. Nor can any thing be conceived, better fitted to fill with terror such as perseveringly outrage the authority of the divine law, for, if the sword of justice was made to awake against the Shepherd, and smite the man who is Jehovah's fellow, who, continuing in a course of sin and unbelief, can expect to escape the vengeance of eternal fire ? If such things were done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry ?

But it is the gracious character of God that is principally exhibited in the atonement of Christ. Compassion, mercy, love, grace, beam with refulgent splendour from the cross, and from the cross only. Wisdom and power, holiness and justice, though here transcendently magnified, are elsewhere displayed to a certain extent: but the atoning sacrifice of Christ is what alone gives any intimation, even the slightest, of forgiving mercy and redeeming love. If left to creation and providence, our anticipations might well be of a different character, seeing the pains and privations, and

sorrows, and death, which everywhere prevail, would seem to announce God's fixed determination to avenge the quarrel of his covenant. But, in the face of the suffering Saviour, we read distinct intimations of mercy and love. Gethsemane and Calvary thus disclose what the fairest scenes in nature can never exhibit. The human face di vine,' even when marred with grief, and lacerated with thorns, and foul with weeping, and pale with death, reflects more of the divine glory than the sun when shining in his strength. The hour of midnight gloom, and darkness, and desertion which came upon the holy soul of the Redeemer, was, so to speak, the noontide of God's eternal love, the meridian splendour of mercy to perishing men, the reign and triumph of superabounding grace,— God commendeth his love toward us in that, when we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.' • Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and gave his Son to be a propitiation for our sins.' • Grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.'

II. It vindicates the honour, and establishes the principles of the Divine moral government in general, and of the moral law in particular.

The homage to his excellence which the Lord of the universe demands of all his rational creatures, of whatever class, together with a duly apportioned expression of his approbation or disapprobation, according as their conduct meets, or falls short of, his demands, constitutes what we understand by the Divine moral government in general. The moral law, again, is that special moral constitution given to the human race in particular, comprehending the divine requirements obligatory on man. The one is just a branch of the other, and, as far as their claims, sanctions, and obligations are concerned, they may be regarded as identical.

The original claims of God's moral government and law are high-entire affection, and perpetual and devoted obedience. These claims are founded on the undoubted supremacy, intrinsic excellence, and inherent proprietorship of God. No testimony to their equity could be more unequivocal than that which the death of Christ supplies. Had they not been at first perfectly equitable, had they been essentially unjust, or even in the slightest degree over rigorous, their tone would certainly have been relaxed, rather than that the Son of God should be subjected to suf

« AnteriorContinua »