Page images
PDF
EPUB

8thly. The advent of Christ is every where exhibited, as fraught with peculiar blessings to mankind. It was published by the Angel to the Bethlehem shepherds, as an event, the news of which were good tidings of great joy. It was sung by his heavenly companions, as the foundation, and source, of glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, and good-will towards men. But if Christ did not make an atonement for sin, it will be difficult; I presume it will be impossible ; to point out, or to conceive, in what respect his advent was of such importance, either to the glory of Gɔd, or to the good of mankind. On this ground, he certainly was not the means of pardon to men; because they are pardoned without his interference. He was not the means, even of publishing this pardon ; for it had been published long before, and amply, by the Prophets of the Old Testament. A broken heart, and a contrite spirit, says David, thou wilt not despise. Let the wicked forsake his way, says Isaiah, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him turn to the Lord, for he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

If Christ made an Atonement for the sins of mankind; all the magnificent expressions concerning his mission, and character; the declarations, that he is the only Saviour of mankind; and that there is Salvation in no other; are easily understood ; if not, I am unable to see how they can be explained. Particularly, I am unable to discern how God is so solemnly said to be peculiarly glorified by the mission of Christ: for, according to this scheme, he was sent for no purpose, which had not been accomplished before ; and which might not, for aught that appears, have been accomplished afterwards, without his appearance in the world.

SERMON LVI.

THE PRIESTHOOD OF CHRIST.-HIS ATONEMENT.ITS EXISTENCE.

THE MANNER IN WHICH IT IS PERFORMED.-ITS EXTENT.

Romans iii. 24-26. Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is

in Christ Jesus ; whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, lo declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

IN the last sermon, I proposed to discourse on the Atonement of Christ, under the following heads :

1. The Nature;
II. The Necessity; and,
III. The Existence; of an atonement for sin :
IV. The Manner, in which it was performed : and,
V. Its Extent.

The two first of these I considered sufficiently in that discourse. The three last I propose to examine at the present time; and shall proceed without any preliminary remarks to show,

III. The Existence of an Atonement for sin. It is hardly necessary to observe here, that, as all our knowledge of this subject is revealed, all proofs of the fact in question must be derived from Revelation. The proofs, which I shall allege, I shall arrange under the following heads :

1st. Those passages of Scripture, which speak of Christ as a Propitiation for sin.

These are the Text, 1 John ii. 2, and 1 John iv. 10. Of these, the Text first claims our consideration. In the text it is declared, that God has set forth Christ to be a propitiation. The word, here rendered propitiation, is inasngiov. This word is used only twice in the Greek Testament; viz. in the text, and Hebrews ix. 5. Its proper meaning is the propitiatory, or mercy-seat ; as it is rendered in the latter passage. The mercy-seat, in the tabernacle or temple, was the place where God manifested himself, peculiarly, by the Shechinah, or visible symbol of his presence ; heard the prayers and accepted the offerings, of his people; and dispensed to them his

mercy, in answer to their supplications. The mercy-seat, we are taught in the text, was a type, of which Christ, the true nasngrov, was the antitype. In him God hears our prayers, and dispenses his own mercy to us. The mercy-seat, the place where God exhibited himself as thus propitious to mankind, was itself a mere

shadow, or symbol, denoting Christ; the means by which he is rendered propitious. Although the word differs, therefore, from that used in the other passages mentioned, the meaning is the same. It is accordingly rendered in the same manner by the translators.

A propitiation for sin is the means, by which God is rendered merciful to sinners. Christ is here declared to be this propitiation. But the only possible sense, in which Christ can have become the means of rendering God merciful to sinners, is by making an atonement for them. This Atonement I have explained to consist in making sufficient amends for the faults, which they have committed, and placing the law, and government, of God in such a situation, that when sinners are pardoned both shall be equally honourable, and efficacious, as before. The motives to obedience, also, must in no degree be lessened. Further ; the character of God, when pardoning sinners, must appear perfectly consistent with itself and exactly expressed by the law. Finally; God must be seen to be no less opposed to sin, and no less delighted with holiness, than when the law was formed.

This doctrine is completely established by the text. God is here said to have set forth Christ to declare his righteousness, or, as it is better rendered by Macknight, for a proof of his own right, eousness in passing by the sins, which were before committed, through the forbearance of God; for a proof, also, of his righteousness, at the present time, in order that he may be just, when justifying him, who believeth in Jesus. In this passage, the end, for which Christ was set forth to be a propitiation, is asserted to be, that Christ might declare, or be a proof of, the righteousness of God, in passing by, or remitting, sins which were past; and of his righteousness, also, at the present time, when justifying believers. In these assertions we are taught in the most unambiguous manner, that, unless Christ had been set forth as a propitiation, the righteousness of God, in remitting past and present sins, would not have been manifested. It is also declared in the same decisive manner, that, if Christ had not been set forth as a propitiation, God would not have been just, when justifying believers. Christ, therefore, in the character of a propitiation, and only in this character, has made the pardoning, or justification, of sinners consistent with the justice of God. To pardon sinners, therefore, without a propitiation, would have been inconsistent with divine justice, and of course, impossible.

The same doctrine is further confirmed by St. John, who in his first Epistle ii. 2, and iv. 10, declares that Christ is a propitiation for our sins. The word, used in both these passages, is inaduos; the proper English of which is a propitiation, a propitiatory sacrifice, or sin-offering. This word is often used by the LXX. ; and appropriately signifies, in their use of it, a sacrifice of atonement.

Thus *Κριοσ ιλασμου is a Ram for a sin-offering, and tπροσφερειν ιλασμον, is to offer a sin-offering: The same signification it has, and can only have, as used by St. John.

ždly. Those passages of Scripture, which speak of Christ as a Ransom for mankind.

These are Matthew xx. 28; the corresponding passage in Mark x. 45; and 1st of Timothy ii. 6. The passage in Matthew is, Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. That in Mark is a repetition of this. That in Timothy is, Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. The word, translated ransom in the two first of these passages, is aurgov; which signifies the price, paid for the deliverance of a captive from the slavery, or death, to which, among the ancients, a captive was, or might be, regularly condemned. The word, in Timothy, is avsidurgov; which, according to Estius, denoted the ransom, paid for the life of a captive, by giving up the life of another person. The aur gou might be a sum of money. But the signification in all these passages is unquestionably the same in substance; because exactly the same thing is referred to in them all. This, in the passage from Timothy, is declared to be giving up his own life for the life of sinners; or in other words, dying, that sinners might live. i know not how the fact, that Christ made an atonement, could have been declared in more explicit, or more forcible, language.

Of the same nature are all those passages, which declare, that we are REDEEMED by Christ. The Greek word, which signifies to redeem, is aureow ; as that which signifies redemption is arourgwais: both derivatives from auogov, ransom. Every one, who has read his Bible, knows, that Christ is there appropriately styled our Redeemer ; and that we are often said to be redeemed, and to have redemption, by him. For example, Ephesians i. 7, In whom we have redemption through his blood. 'Rev. v. 9, Thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood. Gal. iii. 13, Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. In all these, and various other passages of the New Testament, it is declared, that Christ redeemed us: that is, he brought us out from the bondage and condemnation of sin by his blood, and by being made a curse for us, in that he died upon the accursed tree. It will be unnecessary to multiply words, to show that exactly the same thing is here taught, as in those passages, where Christ is declared to have given himself as a ransom.

3dly. Those passages, in which Christ is spoken of as a Substitute for mankind.

These are very numerous, and of many forms. A few of them, only, can be recited at the present time. Surely, says Isaiah, he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. But he was wound

* Lev. vi. 6, 7. Numb. v. 8.

+ Ezek. xliv. 27. Parkhurst. Macknight.

ed for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all; for the transgression of my People was he stricken. By his knowledge shall my righteous Servant justify many; When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin;

For he shall bear their iniquities. And he bare the sin of many.* These passages can need no explanation. Language cannot more clearly, or more strongly, assert, that Christ was a substitute for sinners; that he bore their sins, and suffered for their iniquities; or, in other words, that he became an Atonement for them.

Daniel, in his 9th chapter, recites, from the mouth of Gabriel, the following words : Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people ; to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness —and to anoint the most Holy. In the following verse, he further informs us, that, at the end of the seventy weeks, the Messiah should be cut off, but not for himself. Accordingly, at the end of seventy weeks, or four hundred and ninety years, from the going forth of the commandment to rebuild Jerusalem, published by Artaxerxes Longimanus, the Messiah was cut off, but not for himself; that is, within four years, after he had been anointed by the Holy Ghost, according to the same prediction. The effect of his being cut off was to make an end of sin, and to make reconciliation for iniquity. i Cor. xv. 3, Christ died

for our sins, according to the Scriptures. Here it is not only asserted, that Christ died for our sins; but this fact is said to have taken place, according to the general tenour of the Scriptures. The same doctrine is taught by Christ himself, first to Cleophas and his companion, and next to the eleven; Luke xxiv. 25, 26, 45, 46. Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to have entered into his glory? Then opened he their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures ; and said unto them, Thus it is written; and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead, the third day. In both these passages our Saviour asserts his death to have been due, or necessary; because it had been before declared by the prophets, and in the Scriptures; reproves the two disciples for not thus understanding, and believing, the prophets; and teaches them, that this is the substance of all, which the prophets had spoken; and the eleven, that to understand this great fact, in a proper manner, is to understand the Scriptures themselves at large.

Gal. i. 4, Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this evil world. Hebrews i. 3, When he had by himself purged our sins. 1 Peter ii. 24, Who his own self bare our sins in

Isaiah lii

« PreviousContinue »