Imatges de pàgina

atonement, also, that the things of this world come to be properly enjoyed, as it lays a foundation for that covenant-right to their possessions which is essential to all true enjoyment. The righteous enjoy the good things of the present life, because they know they are secured for them by the blood of Emmanuel, and are taught to use them as the provision of a temporary state, looking forward to a better and an enduring portion in the skies. And thus it is, that to them the rose of the garden appears to wear a deeper blush, and the lily of the field to reflect a purer tint, and the sun to shine with a richer splendour, and the morning star to sparkle with a brighter beam, because they are the handiworks, as they are the consecrated emblems of him who died on Calvary.

-“ One spirit-His,
Who wore the platted thorns with bleeding brows,
Rules universal nature. Not a flower
But shows some touch, in freckle, streak, or stain,
Of his unrivalled pencil.
His presence who made all so fair, perceived,
Makes all still fairer.”

Cowper. The dispensation of providence regards the atonement az its centre. Redemption is the grand central point of providence, and atonement is the central point of redemption. The whole apparatus of redemption owes its being and its efficacy to the death of Christ; and every movement of the complicated wheels of providence derives its impulse from redemption. Preceding events look forward, succeeding events point backward, and meet as in a common centre in the cross. The course of providence for four thousand years before the advent of the Son of God prepared the way for this stupendous event; and the train of occurrences since only serves to follow up the great design of his coming. "The Lord reigneth-the government is upon his shoulders.' “The world is, therefore, not a wandering star, abandoned in wrath, discarded from use, rushing to destruction, but is still held for a design, and turned to an account the most glorious. Its Maker has not denounced nor disowned his property. It may be a rebel, but he is still its sovereign; it may be a recusant, but he is still its Lord.'*

The dispensation of mercy, in all its several stages, stands, of course, in intimate connexion with the cross of * Hamilton's Sermons.


Christ. Revelation, the record of these progressive dis. pensations, is everywhere sprinkled with the blood of atonement. History, type, prophecy, song, epistle, all breathe the sweet-smelling savour of this one theme; and their varied contents derive a character of unity from this pervading circumstance.

From Adam to Moses, the practice of sacrificing, we have seen, existed. Adam, Abel, Noah, Lot, Abraham, all presented their burnt-offerings, which, from the substance of which they consisted, and the language in which they were spoken of, appear to have been both designed and understood to prefigure the great Christian Expiation. Without this they have no meaning, no worth ; but are a cruel mockery of man's misery, and a deception of human hopes.

The Mosaic economy had innumerable rites and institutions, calculated to convey distinct ideas of propitiation and vicarious suffering. But, without the atonement of Christ, they were meaningless, useless, hurtful all. The whole system was nothing better than a pompous parade of gaudy ceremonies ; a criminal waste of valuable property; a wanton infliction of unnecessary pain on sentient unoffending creatures. The atonement of Christ is what gives it all its significancy, utility, and consistency.

The peculiarity of the new testament dispensation consists in a free, full, unhampered proclamation of mercy and salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ, to all men.

It is an offer of eternal life and every spiritual blessing to them that believe. ·Holding forth the words of eternal life.' • Come unto me, and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth, for I am God, and beside me there is no Saviour.' But on what ground do these universal proffers proceed? Whence derive they their consistency and their power, but from the perfect, all-sufficient atonement of the Son of God? “We preach Christ crucified.' I determined not to know any thing among you save Jesus Christ and him crucified.' God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the language held by its ministers; and, indeed, every individual benefit it bestows, they are accustomed to speak of in language which marks the same connexion. Is it redemption? We have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.' Is it reconciliation ? • God hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ.' Is it peace ? We have peace with

God through our Lord Jesus Christ.' Is it justification? • Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.' The gospel minister's commis. sion is sealed with the blood and stamped with the cross of Emmanuel; nor can he ever execute it, in consistency with the character and glory of God, unless he exhibit the sacrifice of Christ as the chief article of his message, the burden of his doctrine, the central orb of the Christian system, which gives to every part its living energy, and binds the whole together in sweet and indissoluble union.

The divine forbearance toward our guilty race is greatly more extensive than either the efficacy or revelation of the dispensation of mercy. The history of the world is one continued illustration of this fact. The loud warnings which are uttered in the ears of mortal offenders, the apparent reluctance with which the sovereign Judge proceeds to execute his threatenings, and the manifest reservation even with which they are inflicted, bespeak the long-suffering and forbearance of God. • Judgment is his work his strange work.' “Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be destroyed.' How shall I give thee up, Ephraim ? how shall I deliver thee, Israel ? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim ?'

Yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath. Now, how are we to account for this, in consistency with the character of God? On the principle of the atonement alone. Natural benevolence does not explain it, as this would have dictated the same toward the angels who sinned, whereas the dispensation of forbearance is limited entirely to our race. Nor is it that He is waiting to see whether man will not clear himself of guilt, and return of his own accord to the path of duty. No. He knows that forbearance, in itself, can never secure salvation. Man may as soon annihilate himself or create a world, as emerge from guilt to innocence by his own merit, from corruption to holiness by his own power. It is with no such view, then, that the Almighty forbears to execute his just judgments on the workers of iniquity. The atonement of Christ explains the phenomenon, and gives consistency to this part of the divine procedure toward fallen man. The atoning death of Christ renders the salvation of men possible; and the execution of justice is suspended, that men may have time and opportunity to repent and be saved, for God is not willing that



any should perish, but rather that they should turn unto him and live. But for the atonement, mankind had known as little of the divine forbearance as the fallen angels; the guilty pair had perished as soon as they had sinned ; the instant of their disobedience and that of their death had been the same; at the eating of the forbidden fruit, not merely had • sky lowered and muttered thunder,' but the bolt had leapt from the heavens, and bursting on their heads, crushed them in their impotent rebellion.

Even the final judgment will exhibit a connexion with the work of Christ. Not only is all judgment committed to the Son, as part of his mediatorial reward ; but the equitable condemnation of the unbelieving and impenitent will derive its character and force from this source, while the sovereign acquittal of the righteous will rest upon the atonement as its proper foundation.

The eternal state, whether of bliss or of misery, will derive a character from this circumstance. In heaven, the relations of the redeemed to God, and to the Lamb, shall take their rise from the atonement; all the communications of knowledge, and holiness, and felicity, shall flow through eternity in this channel ; while every service they perform shall find acceptance with God only on this ground. And in hell, it is not to be questioned, that the miseries of the damned shall be inconceivably aggravated by the contemptuous disregard they have shown to the



escape provided for them by God in the death of his Son. The rejection of Christ gives a highly aggravated character to their sin ; and the remembrance of this rejection will give weight and pungency to their misery. The blood of Christ, which extinguishes the fire of 'Tophet as regards such as believe, will have only the effect of making its flames burn more intensely as regards the finally impenitent. The thought of having despised Christ, and counted the blood of atonement a common thing, will haunt the wretched memories of the wicked for ever and ever, inflicting on them, without cessation or diminished intensity, the horrific effects of its torturing power.

• If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin, but now they have no cloak for their sin.' • He that despised Moses' law died without mercy: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of

the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace ?'

VII. In fine. The atonement of Jesus Christ will form a theme of interesting and improving contemplation to the whole universe of moral creatures throughout eternity.

The saving effects of this blessed fact are limited, it is true, to our race: not so its moral effects. These are wide as the universe. It is not the redeemed from among men only that sing praise to the Lamb; angels, beings of a higher order, more ethereal in their nature, and of more elevated endowments, strike their harps to the song, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.' Angels desire to look into this mystery, and claim right to celebrate the praises of the Redeemer of men. And well they may. By the atonement of the Son of God, new and enlarged discoveries are made to them of the character of God. • Unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places are made known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.' Without this, they could never have known even what they do of the natural and moral perfections of the Deity; and of his gracious character they could not have had so much as an idea. But here they have a display of infinite sovereignty, in saving men at all, and not leaving them, like the rebels of their own class, to perish in their sins; and of infinite love and mercy, in choosing for salvation, of the two races of sinful creatures, that which occupied the lowest place. These are views for which they are entirely indebted to the scheme of atonement; for had none been saved, they could have had no knowledge of mercy; had both orders of fallen creatures been saved, they could not have had the same display of sovereignty; and had angels been preferred to men, they could not have known that the mercy of God was the greatest possible. Marvellous wisdom! which thus, by overlooking the order of angels, gave them a brighter manifestation than could otherwise have been given of the character of God! What a scheme this for intelligent creatures of the highest rank to revolvo through eternity! As moral creatures, too, angels cannot but feel interested in the atonement, which establishes the inviolable rectitude of the divine government. As benevolent in their dispositions, they must also take delight in what confers such an amount of dignity, and holiness, and happiness, on so large a number of human beings. And we have only to reflect, that the redeemed from among

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