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ATONEMENT OF CHRIST.
“Ye are bought with a price.” 1 Cor. vi. 20.
In the history of the creation, revelation teaches, that when the Almighty formed man, he made him just and upright, furnished with the means and fitted for the enjoyment of unadulterated happiness. That moral nature which was his glory, and capacitated him for the felicities for which he was designed, required that he should be free ; and his sovereign Creator thought it best that a sense of his dependence should be impressed upon him, and his obedience tried by an easy, bevevolent, explicit law, enacted and promulgated by the lips of the Deity himself.
Whether the command of not eating the fruit of the forbidden tree in paradise is to be interpreted literally, or allegorically, of some other prohibition expressed in these terms, agreeably to the stile and genius of the oriental writers, it matters not. This diversity of interpretation makes no difference in the case. Whatever the test of man's obedience was, the will of the lawgiver is clearly announced, “ If thou art guilty of disobedience, thou shalt surely die.”
Obedience then had the promise of continued life, the penalty threatened to disobedience was death. The gift freely bestowed on a certain condition, was to be withdrawn on the breach of it, and though the loss was immense, to the loser no wrong was done, and no complaint in reason can be made, for what man had no right to demand, might be offered, on what terms the giver pleased.
In this first state of trial, I could shew the wisdom and the goodness of the Deity, and the obligations thus imposed upon his new moral creatures, of implicit compliance with his will.
But, at present, it concerns us only to observe, that in abuse of that freedom, by which he was ennobled, man violated the law of his Maker, in defiance of the awful
sanctions with which it was enforced. The divine displeasure was incurred, misery and destruction became the sinner's doom, and thus the human race were ruined and degraded. The solemn monuments of this fall are every where too numerous-We carry them about us in this earthly tabernacle--We inherit from Adam a nature subject to a curse, its peace with its author, and with itself broken, its spiritual and moral health impaired, and death, its terrible desert. The consequence of this grand apostacy is 'contained in this mournful record—"By one man's disobedience sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Such is the moral narrative of man.' The figures of the piece may vary, and the colouring be sometimes of a darker and sometimes of a lighter hue, but the principles of the composition, the grand outlines are every where the same.
Wherever we direct our view, we discover the melancholy proofs of depravity, whether we look to ancient or modern times, to barbarous or civilized nations, to the conduct of the world around us, or to the monitor within the breast, whether we read, or hear, or act, or think, or feel, the same humiliating lesson is forced upon us, “ Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin (that is, with a contaminated nature) hath my mother conceived me.” Psal. li. 5. .
Of his inability to expiate his own offences, man has every where manifested a common sentiment; wherever we find him thoughtful of bis condition, and mindful of his God, we see him standing by an altar, offering a victim, with the blood of which he is hoping to propitiate his Maker. No where has he reposed with confidence on his own intrinsic merits--No where has he trusted wholly to his contrition, and his tears.* The universal prevalence of this idea of a sacrifice, indicates that it was derived from some authentic and traditionary source, and as there is no congruity in the nature of things, between shedding of blood and remission of sins, I infer that God, who only could be the unchangeable oracle of truth, informed man, soon after his fall, of the necessity of an atonement, and graciously taught him to support his faith, and sooth his anxieties with typical sacrifices, till the great sacrifice should be offered for him, in which he should find his peace. It is this view of man in his fallen state which gives to the gospel its full
* The repentance of a sinner cannot be an atonement for his crime. In what manner does his present penitence affect his former offences ? will his sorrow for sin make it cease to be sin ? will the confession of his guilt make him cease to be guilty ? will his resolutions of amendment, or his actual reformation, obliterate the transgressions of his past life? If man be a depraved creature, it is plainly impossible that he should be justified by the law of God. When he comes before his Maker to be judged according to his works, he must be said to have done eyil, because he has in fact done it. The law has declared that “the soul which sinpeth it shall die.” By the law therefore he must die, because he has sinned: consequently God cannot pronounce him just, or acquit him of guilt because he is guilty. In this situation, as far as we are able to discern, the atonement of Christ was absolutely necessary for the human race; and without it, consistently with the moral government of God, we can conceive no possible way of salvation.