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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 moral 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 course towards 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 ac
ceptance 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 way of 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 revolve 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 men are, in virtue of their redemption, introduced to the companionship of angels, to see that these celestial beings have another most powerful reason for contemplating, with the deepest interest, the atonement of Jesus. The things in heaven and things in earth are thus brought together into one. Men and angels are, in consequence, to engage in the same exercises, partake of the same privileges, share in and reflect the same glory. And it admits not of doubt, that this companionship will prove a source of knowledge and of happiness to even the 'elder sons of light.'
Thus extensive does the subject we have had under review appear to be in its influence. Men, some men only, are the subjects of Christ's atonement; but its moral bearing embraces not merely the human race, but the whole moral family of God. As a source of instruction, social happiness, and moral delight, it reaches far beyond the bounds of our earth. It not only scatters blessings over the plains