« PreviousContinue »
takes up the passionate yet dignified avowal, 'God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.'
VI. The atonement more or less affects all the divine dispensations toward our world.
Even the creation of the world, there is every reason to believe, was with the view of its being a theatre on which to exhibit the work of man's re
demption by the eternal Son. It is the workmanship of his hand. This is the purpose which it serves; and that it was framed with a view to its serving its purpose is surely no disputable assertion. Difficulties connected with that profound mystery, the origin of moral evil, may encumber this statement. But we are not bound to remove every difficulty from such a subject before being entitled to demand for it the assent of the mind. The apostle, in express terms, not only claims for Christ the honour of the world's creation, but asserts the purpose of its creation to terminate in Him:-'All things were created BY him, and FOR him.' He is the final as well as the efficient cause of this world's creation. Our earth was selected as the chosen spot on which the mystery of redemption was to be displayed; and all the scenes of the mediatorial economy were here exhibited. The advent of the promised Messiah took place here; here was led his instructive life; here were wrought his wondrous miracles; here were spoken his still more wondrous addresses; here were borne his mysterious sufferings; here was accomplished his awful decease; and here were achieved his
glorious victories over men and devils, over sin and death. This is indeed the glory of our world. it was the abode of Christ and the scene of redemption, throws over it a surpassing lustre, imparts to it a matchless honour. It is the glory of the world that he who formed it dwelt in it; of the air, that he breathed it; of the sun, that it shone on him; of the ground, that it bore him; of the sea, that he walked on it; of the elements, that they nourished him; of the waters, that they refreshed him; of us men, that he lived and died among us, yea, that he lived and died for us." Yes; and we may add, had it only been that it was stained with his blood, it was honoured by him beyond all human conception.-It is through the atonement, also, that the things of this world come to be properly enjoyed, as it lays a foundation for that covenant-right to their possession 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.
Who wore the platted thorns with bleeding brows,
But shows some touch, in freckle, streak, or stain,
His presence who made all so fair, perceived,
The dispensation of providence regards the atonement as 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, inall its several stages,
2 Hamilton's Sermons.
stands, of course, in intimate connexion with the cross of Christ. Revelation, the record of these progressive dispensations, 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 cir
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 commission 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