Page images

tive rectitude. These are but parts of the one allwise system of the universe, and the connexion betwixt them rests on a basis of infinite wisdom and justice. This basis is the formation of a moral constitution, according to which, on the one hand, guilt and punishment should be transferred to a divine. Substitute, and, on the other hand, the obedience and sufferings of this surety imputed to those who are to be saved. This transference of sin and imputation of merit proceed, let it be distinctly marked, on principles of right reason and perfect equity, on a divinely-constituted union of nature and federal relationship between the spotless victim and those who reap the advantages of his meritorious sufferings. By this constitution, such a reciprocal proprietorship is made to exist betwixt the parties, that, as regards the benevolent issue, the universal law of cause and effect which God has established is upheld and illustrated rather than infringed. Taking the benevolent intention and holy nature of deity into the account, that the sufferings and death of the Son of God should procure the salvation of sinners, rests on as firm a basis of philosophical truth as any other case of antecedence and consequence in the universe.1

This brings us directly to the subject of this section, which is to inquire what it was about the sacrifice of Christ which rendered it an adequate cause to produce the effect of human salvation; that

1 See Smith's Disc. on Sac., pp. 38, 282.

is to say, what it is that constitutes the moral worth or value of Christ's atonement.

The value of Christ's atonement, we conceive to arise, not from the nature, or intensity, or continuance of his sufferings. The work of Jesus was not a mere commercial affair of debt and payment. We have no conception that, had the number of those for whom he suffered been greater than it was, or had their sins been more numerous or more aggravated than they were, his sufferings must have been proportionally increased. Neither can we subscribe to the notion that one pang or pain of all that he endured was itself sufficient to effect atonement. We conceive, on the contrary, that he suffered nothing but what was necessary, that if less could have sufficed less would have been required; while, on the other hand, the intrinsic worth of what he actually endured was such as to render it sufficient for the salvation of many more than shall be ultimately saved, had God only seen meet to extend to them his mercy in Christ Jesus. The sufferings of Christ we regard as a moral satisfaction to the law and government of God, which would have been necessary had there been only one to be saved, and which would have been found sufficient had the whole human race without exception been to rank among the redeemed. Just as the arrangement which exists for the outward illumination of our globe, would have been required had there been but one inhabitant to reap the benefit presently enjoyed, and would have been sufficient had there been many more millions in exist-

ence than actually inhabit the earth. The worth or value of Christ's atoning sacrifice we conceive to have arisen, not from one circumstance alone, but from several circumstances combined, none of which can be dispensed with in forming a proper estimate on the subject. These circumstances we shall now attempt to unfold.

I. The first is the dignity of the Saviour's person.

He who, in making atonement, is at once the priest and the sacrifice, is divine. He is the Son of God, the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person. He is God himself, coequal with the Father, Jehovah's fellow. Titles which involve essential dignity are unhesitatingly ascribed to him. He is spoken of as possessing all the necessary attributes of Deity. Works which belong only to God, are said to be performed by him. And the highest forms of divine worship are used by all moral creatures, in doing him homage. The truth of these assertions, we must be permitted to take for granted, as to exhibit even an outline of their evidence would lead us into an improper digression. The doctrine of Christ's dignity is prominently set forth in the volume of revealed truth. It is the glory of christianity. It sparkles, like a radiant gem, in every part of the sacred field. It invests the whole Christian system with heavenly beauty. It imparts a peculiar grandeur and sublimity to the doctrines of the cross.

From the dignity of the party offended by man's sin, it was requisite that he, who should successfully

transact for pardon, should possess a corresponding elevation of character. He who is offended is the infinite Jehovah, the great God of heaven and of earth. It is the infinite Majesty whose honour has been violated; it is the throne of the Eternal whose stability and authority have been invaded. To effect reconciliation, in such a case, is a work to which no man, no angel, no superangelic creature is adequate. No priest of less personal consequence than the Lord of glory, is competent to the office of appeasing the wrath of the high and lofty one who inhabiteth eternity. But we have suCH an High Priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the majesty in the heavens.

The sacrifice by which atonement is made for offences of infinite moral turpitude, must be possessed of infinite moral worth. The relative value arising from divine appointment is not enough; else it could never have been said, 'It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats could take away sin.' The blood of inferior animals was as capable as any other of all the worth which mere appointment can impart. But an intrinsic worth was required, which could be possessed by nothing short of 'blood divine.' Hence the sacrifice of Christ is so often spoken of in scripture as being himself. Christ hath loved us and given HIMSELF for us an offering and a sacrifice to God.—Who gave HIMSELF a ransom for all.—When he had by HIMSELF purged our sins. He offered up HIMSELF.-He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of HIMSELF.”

2 Eph. v. 2; 1 Tim. ii. 6; Heb. i. 3.—vii. 27.—ix. 26.

As the substance of Christ's atoning sacrifice consisted in his sufferings or death, it has been alleged that its intrinsic worth could be nothing more than human, as his human nature alone could suffer and die. But the close and inseparable union subsisting between the divine and human natures in the person of the Son of God is here to be remembered. Although the human nature alone could either suffer or die, it was the Son of God, as possessed of this nature, who endured the sufferings and died the death of the cross. The possession of a human nature qualified him for suffering; the divinity of his person gave to his suffering a worth equivalent to its own dignity. Although the human nature was alone capable of suffering, it was nevertheless the person to whom this nature belonged who suffered. It may be thought that at this rate, as the person was divine, such an assertion involves the blasphemy that Deity suffered. By no means. When a person suffers it does not follow that he suffers in all that pertains to him. He may suffer in his property and not suffer in his honour; he may suffer in his happiness and not in his character; he may suffer in his body, and not in his soul: still it is the person who suffers. So, in the case before us, while the Son of God suffers in his human nature it is still the person which suffers. If, before we are entitled to say that a person suffers, all that pertains to him must suffer, it follows that we can never say a person dies, as the soul, an essential constituent part of the person, never dies.

But, granting that it is the person who suffers, it

« PreviousContinue »