Page images

whatever class, together with a duly apportioned expression of his approbation or disapprobation, according as their conduct meets, or falls short of, his demands, constitutes what we understand by the Divine moral Government in general. The moral Law, again, is that special moral constitution given to the human race in particular, comprehending the divine requirements obligatory on man. The one is just a branch of the other, and, as far as their claims, sanctions, and obligations are concerned, they may be regarded as identical.

The original claims of God's moral government and law are high, entire affection, and perpetual and devoted obedience. These claims are founded on the undoubted supremacy, intrinsic excellence, and inherent proprietorship of God. No testimony to their equity could be more unequivocal than that which the death of Christ supplies. Had they not been at first perfectly equitable, had they been essentially unjust, or even in the slightest degree over rigorous, their tone would certainly have been relaxed, rather than that the Son of God should be subjected to suffer the accursed death of the cross. His being so subjected thus proclaims in the most determinate accents that the law is holy, just, and good.

The sanctions of the Divine moral government are necessary, as well as its claims. Without these, neither could the displeasure of the Supreme moral Governor at the breach of his law be adequately expressed, nor could the subjects of this law ever be deterred from sin. While it is obvious, that to

effect these ends they require to be awful, it is equally plain, that the moral Governor himself is alone entitled to determine what shall be thought adequate. This he did by giving forth the appalling declarations, 'In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die''cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them.' But the doctrine of atonement, which supposes this curse of the law to be borne by the Son of God himself, surely strikingly demonstrates, that these sanctions, however awful, were nothing more than just, nothing more than necessary; that they were dictated by no little feeling of revenge, founded on no pitiful calculation of expediency, and were utterly incapable of being departed from in any one instance.

Thus, the permanent obligation of the requirements and sanctions of the supreme moral government was satisfactorily and for ever established. It appears that these obligations are not to be violated with impunity, nor altered, nor abated in the slightest degree. No abrogation, or abridgment, or modification of them can take place out of respect to man's disinclination, or to what is called human frailty. Though palpably irrational, the heart of man has been wicked enough to conceive this monstrous supposition; and, but for the direct confutation it receives from the vicarious sufferings of the Redeemer, there is reason to fear that the baseand pernicious principle would have been extensively adopted. But for these sufferings, on the supposition that man had been saved, it must have gone forth to the moral uni

verse, that the law, though requiring perfect obedience, would be satisfied with less, and though denouncing condemnation on every guilty violator, would permit the perpetrator to escape with impunity. And the consequence of this announcement must have been, to give such a view of the Lawgiver and his law, as could not fail to encourage moral subjects, of every order, to revolt, and embark in the most hardened and extensive rebellion. The atonement, on the other hand, proclaims the stability of the law, and the unflinching rectitude of the Lawgiver. It assures us that the one is not to be insulted, nor the other to be trifled with; that either God must be obeyed, or the consequences of disobedience must be borne; that the throne of the divine moral government is strictly inviolable, and that his rectoral powers are not to be let down to the most presumptuous mortal on earth, or to the most ambitious archfiend in hell. The law is magnified and made honourable. Christ appears to be the end of the law for righteousness. He came not to destroy the law but to fulfil it. And God hath set forth a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his right


III. It affords a demonstration of the exceeding evil of sin.

That sin could not be pardoned without a satisfaction, and that no satisfaction could suffice but the death of God's own well-beloved Son, are surely demonstrative of the dreadful and malignant nature of moral evil. No proof equal to this was ever given.

Abstract reasonings from the infinite excellence and holiness of God, and practical comments on the overthrow of angels, the drowning of the Antediluvians, the burning of Sodom, and the extermination of the Canaanites, must all yield to the affecting scene of Calvary. Even the most profound study of the law itself, to which sin is opposed, could convey no such impression of its deep demerit. The cross is 'the mirror which reflects the true features and lineaments of moral evil.' It is when looking upon Him whom we have pierced, that we see sin in such light as to induce us to mourn as one mourneth for a first-born, and to be in bitterness as one that is in bitterness for an only son. Men, in their ignorance and partiality, may conceive of it as a small matter, and speak of it as 'a little thing;' they may palliate their offences and plead excuses for them, as if they were too light to be noticed, or too trivial to be severely punished. But let them seriously weigh the momentous truth, that Christ died for our sins, that the Son of God had to pour out his soul unto death before a single transgression could be forgiven; let them recall the contradiction of sinners and the fury of devils, the agonies of the garden and the tortures of the cross, the desertion of his friends and the hidings of his Father's face, to which he had to submit before one iniquity could be pardoned, and then say whether sin does not now assume a new character; whether it does not appear to be an evil and a bitter thing; whether they are not better prepared to appreciate the language in which it is spoken of as 'exceeding

sinful—'the abominable thing which God hates.' It is thus that we learn to entertain right views, and to cherish right feelings, with regard to moral evil. Grief, and shame, and abhorrence can only be inspired by a believing view of this doctrine; and thus only can those pungent convictions for the past, and those vigorous determinations to resist it in future, be felt, which are the essential characteristics and ingredients of genuine repentance. Nowhere do the tears of godly sorrow flow with such profusion as at the foot of the cross; nor is there another station so well calculated to nerve the penitent with the resolution to say, 'I have done iniquity, I will do so no more.' Oh, who is there that, living under the habitual influence of the cross of Christ, is not induced to hate sin with a perfect hatred? Who is there, with the sufferings of a crucified Saviour full in his view, that can bring himself to love sin, or roll it as a sweet morsel under his tongue; that is not rather impelled to purify himself from all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit, and to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord.


[ocr errors]

IV. It infallibly secures the perfect and everlasting salvation of the chosen of God.

This is the grand benevolent purpose of the divine will, whose nature, preparations, and consequences bespeak its transcendent magnitude and importance; and every barrier to which, whether arising from the perfections of Deity, or the principles of the divine government, or the moral corruption of man's nature, has been removed by the blood of atonement.

« PreviousContinue »