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to express that fearful amount of mingled terror, and amazement, and horror, which then seized, with all its intensity, on the holy soul of the devoted sufferer. Without any visible cause, his sufferings were awfully intense, as the bitter tears which he wept, and the deep sighs which he heaved, and the loud groans which he uttered, and the bloody drops which he sweat, and the heart-rending exclamation to which he gave vent, do all most abundantly testify. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.'
Such are the facts of the case. They are recorded plainly on the page of inspired history. It is no exaggerated description, no overcharged picture we have given of the sufferings of the Man of sorrows. The recital may fall below, but it certainly does not go beyond, the matter of fact. And now comes the question, Can these facts, respecting the Saviour's sufferings, be accounted for without an atonement? Let
The sufferings of Jesus of Nazareth cannot be explained on the simple principle of retributive justice. He was perfectly pure and innocent in himself. Not only was his life unmarked by any atrocious wickedness demanding a peculiar severity of punishment, but he was so free from the slightest stain of sin as not to have had 'one recollection tinged with remorse.' If it be denied that he suffered as the substitute of
guilty men, it concerns such as hold this opinion to show, how, in consistency with the equity of God, he could have been subjected to a single pang of that accumulated woe which came upon him to the uttermost, much less to the whole amount of this fearful suffering. The ordinary course of equitable retribution fails to account for a single drop of that full and bitter cup of wrath, which he drank to the very dregs.
The same reason, namely, the innocence of the sufferer, precludes the supposition that the sufferings were simply corrective,-chastisements, severe in themselves, but kindly meant for the good of him who was their subject. In the case of one who was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, one who had no sin, of what could his sufferings be corrective? for what could they be chastisements ? God corrects man for iniquity; but Jesus had no iniquity. If his children forsake his law and walk not in his judgments, God visits their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes; but he of whom we now speak 'did always those things that pleased the Father.' Even the daring theory which represents the Redeemer as a peccable mortal will not avail here; as it is not the liability to transgress, but actual transgression, which calls for correction; not the possibility of going astray, but actual deviation from the right path, which calls for chastisement.
Nor will it do to assert, that the sufferings and death of Christ were necessary to confirm the truth of his doctrines in general, as if this were the only
purpose served by them. This is all that many will admit. He suffered and died, say they, as a martyr. That his sufferings and death prove his sincerity, is readily granted, and thus far they may be said to involve the idea of martyrdom. But it merits consideration here, that to prove the sincerity of belief in a doctrine is one thing, and to prove the truth of the doctrine believed in, is quite another thing. Sufferings and death on its behalf may do the former; but they cannot do the latter. The sufferings of Christ could never have proved his doctrine true, had it been false. They cannot then be said, properly speaking, to confirm its truth, so much as to confirm the sincerity of his belief. But the death of Christ is what makes his doctrine true. The doctrines of the gospel derive their truth itself, rather than the confirmation of their truth, from the death of Christ; and had Jesus not suffered and died, there could never have been such a system of doctrinal truth as the gospel exhibits. Incarnation-atonement-resurrection the Spirit's influence, would all have been nonentities. The tendency, then, of the theory which explains the fact of Christ's suffering on the principle of its being confirmatory merely of his doctrine, is virtually to annihilate the priesthood of Christ, and all the peculiarities of the gospel. According to this, he is to be looked upon only as a Teacher, a Prophet, an Instructor:-a teacher, too, of nothing more than the simple principles of deism. The divine Being is thus robbed of all legal satisfaction in the salvation of sinful men; the language of
scripture in general on the subject of salvation is converted into unmeaning, unintelligible jargon; while the epistle to the Hebrews in particular becomes a forced and unnatural allegory. Where, in this case, is the propriety of so much being said about the sacrifice, and blood, and cross of Christ? Why is he so often and so emphatically called a Saviour, if all that his death effected was merely to seal the truth of what he taught? Nay, where, this being the whole, was the necessity at all for his becoming man? Could not the truths of revelation have been established without so formidable an expedient as this? Was there so great a lack of external and internal evidence, as to render such a step indispensable ? Were the doctrines, in which it was thought necessary that the world should be instructed, possessed of so little intrinsic reasonableness? Were prophecy and miracles so destitute of all power to convince, that nothing would suffice, but that the Son of God must leave the heavenly glory, assume the likeness of sinful flesh, tabernacle with men upon the earth, submit to every form of bodily pain and mental anguish, and finally die the accursed death of a malefactor; and all for no higher purpose than to give credibility to a system of divine truth? Before this can be received as the true explanation of Christ's sufferings, it must be shown,-which never can be shown, that there was no possibility of establishing the truth of the gospel without them. Nay more, it must be proved that the gospel truth could not have been confirmed without the whole amount
of suffering to which he was subjected. For, admitting that suffering and death were necessary for the purpose, it will be difficult to show that such severity, variety, and intensity of suffering, were indispensable. But, unless it is maintained that had one pang of all that he endured been spared, there would not have been sufficient ground to believe the gospel, the theory fails satisfactorily to account for the sufferings of Christ.
It may be said, that, if the death of Christ was not necessary to confirm the truth of his doctrine in general, it was indispensable to put us in possession of that of his resurrection in particular. True; without his death there could not be such a thing as his resurrection. But, while we believe the doctrine of Christ's resurrection from the dead to be a most important and essential part of Christianity, it is surely going too far to say that his death had no other or higher design than to put us in possession of this tenet. According to this he died only that he might rise again. To be sure, that he might rise it was necessary he should die; but it is not the simple fact of his death or of his resurrection, which gives to either its importance. Had not the purpose and design of his death been what we conceive them to have been, his resurrection would have been void of all that importance which attaches to it in the Christian system. It is as the testimony of God to the value of his sacrifice, and as the pledge and security of his people being raised, that the resurrection of Christ possesses so high a claim on our regard; and both of these