Obrázky na stránke

being satisfactory, which cannot be applicable to those that Christ endured ; and as for that despair, attended with impatience, and other sins committed by those that suffer eternal

through sin, the law is become weak to give life: but that faith acknowledges and embraces Christ, as lie who fulfilled the righteousness of the law, was made a curse for us, and set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, not only in his doctrine, but in his blood, for a demonstration of the righteousness of God.

And why else was “ Christ crucified unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness ?” Surely, not so much on account of the capital truths of rational religion taught by him. The Jewish doctors, and the best philosophers among the Heathens, who had acknowledged thein were honoured on that account. Nor was it because Christ, continuing a worthy and faithful, but an unsuccessful teacher of his doctrine, was unjusily accused, and shamefully put to death. The memory of a condemned Socrates was not held in contempt The reason was purely this, that the Saviour's suffering was proclaimed as the only ground and cause of our reconciliation and salvation : while the Jews and Hea. thens thought to be saved by the value of their own virtue: and to them it was exceeding strange, and most mortifying to their pride, that penitently acknowledging their guilt, they behoved to seek life in the deep abasement of a crucified Mediator, and in his justifying resurrection.

All our reasoning thus far makes it evident, that we must not understand the sufferings of Christ for sin, merely as if God, being about to announce by the gospel, grace and life to the nations, would previously manifest his aversion to sin, by a striking example of his vengeance; and for that purpose, deliver up an ambassador vested with extraordinary privileges, to so much sorrow and shame. Surely all preceding ages had already exhibited awful instances of God's fearful displeasure with the sins of in lividuals and communities, without deliverance from sin being ever ascribed to them. That a mean man among the people, that a teacher wandering about in porerty, should be shamefully put to death by a civil judge, was much less calculated to exbibit a signal and extraordinary exam. ple of divine wrath, than the immediate interposition of Providence, which had often, in former times inflicted, and still could inflict miraculous punishments on the most eminent persons, or on whole nations. At any rate, to manifest a righteous abhorrence of sin, vengeance behoved not to fall upon one perfectly innocent. This last would be quite absurd; unless the innocent person, (as holy scripture has already taught us) should with God's approbation, as spontaneously, as generously, substitute himself in our place, by bearing our sin.-Accord. ingly, sacred scripture represents the sufferings of Christ, not only as a proof and confirmation, but as the cause of our reconciliation.

We by no means exclude other advantages ascribed by Socinus to the Sa. viour's death. Beyond all doubt, he thereby confirmed his integrity and the truth of his mission. But, pray, was it ever heard, that a false prophet, in the founding of a new society, mentioned his own, his certain, his fast approaching, and most offensive punishment of death, as the intention of his ministry; and made it an article of his doctrine ?-In confirmation of his doctrine and mission, Jesus generally appealed to his miracles; and yet, where are the forgiveness of our sins and a title to life ascribed to his miracles, as they often are to his bloody death? For what doctrine was Jesus condemned ? Not for the truths and prescriptions of natural reason; but because he declared himself to be higher far than any human prophet. (See Section IX.) If the celestial chorus at his birth, if the Father's voice at his inauguration, if his glory on the mount, had been openly perceived by the Jewish council and all the people; if the lightnings darted forth in conBrmation of Moses and Elias, had caused him to be honoured; especially if he had satisfied their prejudices concerning the Messias ; if, with legions of his Father's angels, he bad destroyed the Roman government, broken that yoke, recovering and extending David's mighty kingdom: their infidelity would have been conquered, and eagerly would they have confided in him. They would have

punishments, that arises from the eternal duration of them, as well as from the corruption of nature, which refuses to subscribe to the justice of God therein, while complaining of the severity of his dispensations.

Thus we have considered Christ's death, as a true and proper sacrifice for sin. We might now take notice of an expression that is used in this answer, which is taken from the words of the apostle, that once offered himself, Heb. ix. 28. and that without spot to God, ver. 14. This offering being sufficient to answer the end designed, there was no need of repeating it, or of his doing any thing else with the same view; the justice of God having declared itself fully satisfi d when he was raised from the dead. But having before considered the infinite value of what he did and suffered, and its efficacy to bring about the work of our redemption, whereby it appears to be more excellent than all the sacrifices that were offered under the ceremonial law, I need not say any more on that sulject; and as we have also considered Christ as being sinless, and therefore offering himself as a Lamb, without spot and biemish, and how this was the necessary result of the extraordinary formation and union of the human nature with his divine Person, and the unction which he received from the Holy Ghost: I shall only observe, at present, what is said concerning his offering himself to God. This he is said to have done, in the scripture but now referred to, through the eternal Spirit; which words are commonly understood of his eternal Gouhead, which added an infinite value to his sacrifice, or, like the altar, sanctified the gift, which is certainly a great truth: But it seems more agreeable, to the most known sense of the word Spirit, to understand it concerning his presenting, or making a tender of the service he performed by the hand of the eternal Spirit unto God, as an acceptable sacrifice.

been more easily drawn by giving bread, or causing manna to rain, than by proinising them his flesh and blood. -A steady martyrdom was more necessary to the preaching of the apostles; because their doctrine in a great measure referred to and was built upon the truth of the all-important events of the Saviour's death and exaltation. In relation to wbich, as they could not be deceived, so likewise their sincerity behoved to be put beyond suspicion. But the Lord Jesus Christ had abundance of glorious means to confirm his doctrine; and if nothing else had been to be effectuated by it, he behoved not to have undergone a cursed death upon the hill of infamy; and that under the pretence of a legal procedure, which caused the multitude to revolt from him, his friends to be offended at him, and plunged his best followers in deep distress.

We also respect the design of exhibiting in his sufferings, an example of love, submission to, and confidence in God. But such an extremity of shame was not necessary for that purpose; and his sufferings were accompanied with so mucli perturbation, vehement distress, cries and tears, that quite other ends were ever to be obtained by them; else he would not have exceeded many valiant martyrs. Besides, could any apostle, courageously foreseeing, and alluding to his own martyrdom in confirmation of the truth, and for an example to others, be able to say, as did Christ, “ wboso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; for my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed, &c.?” 2 Tim. iv. 6. compared with John vi. 51-57

Do men in spite of the divine testimony, find reasons and scruples against a vicarious satisfaction; if we are not much mistaken, they are easy to solve. But far stronger reasons combat the persuasion, that the Holy Supreme Being can show himself favourable, or indifferent, to the voluntary violation of those laws and moral duties from which he himself cannot absolve a rational creature; or to speak in a plain and familiar manner, that God can, and also will suffer sin to escape with impunity.

If then, (to conclude in the language of the apostle, when enlarging on the glory of Christ,) the Son of God, by himself purged our sins ; how narrowly and how perversely would we limit his saving work to his preaching? How inconsistent is it with this, that men, according to the usual phrase among Christians, ascribe efficacious merits to Christ; but in an unusual sense understand them only of his doctrine and his excellent character? against which sentiment, too, much could be objected. How evidently then is that confirmed, which we asserted, that Christ himself in his person and performances, is the cause and ground of our salvation? If the suffering and death of Christ alone have merited salvation for the innumerable multitude of all them who ever believed in him, or shall believe; if his suffering, though short in duration, was the satis. factory ransom, to deliver all those sinners from the fear of death, and from the wrath to come; then the infinite worth of his person and work, must surpass all understanding: then from that most gracious deliverance we deduce an important proof of his more than human, his

divine excellency.”


But the main difficulty to be accounted for, in this scripture, is, what is objected by the Socinians, and others, who deny his deity, namely, how he could be said to offer himself to God, since that is the same as to say, that he offered himself to himself, he being, as we have before proyed, God equal with the Father. But there is no absurdity in this assertion, if it be understood concerning the service performed by him in his human nature, which, though it was rendered worthy to be offered, by virtue of its union with his divine Person, this act of worship terminated on the Godhead, or tended to the securing the glory of the perfections of that divine nature, which is common to all the divine Persons; and it is in this sense that some ancient writers are to be understood, when they say, that Christ may be said to offer up himself to himself, that is, the service performed in the human nature was the thing offered, and the object hereof, to which all acts of worship are referred, was the divine nature, which belongs to himself as well as the fa ther. (a)

(a)" In the consideration of this subject, which every Christian must deem most highly deserving the closet examination, our attention should be directed to two different classes of objectors: those who deny the necessity of any mediation whatever; and those who question the particular nature of that mediation, which has been appointed. Whilst the deist on the one hand ridicules the very notion of a Mediator: and the philosophizing Christian on the other, fashions it to his own hypothesis ; we are called on to vindicate the word of truth from the injurious attacks of both; and carefully to secure it, not only against

VI. We shall now consider the persons for whom, as a Priest, Christ offcred himself, and so enter on that subject, that is so much controverted in this present age, namely, wh her

the open assaults of its avoweri semues, but against the more dangerous misre presentations of its false or mistaken friends:

The objections which are peculiar to the tormer, are upon this subject, of the same description with those which they advance against every other part of revelation ; bearing with equal force against the system of natural religion, which they support, as against the doctrines of revealed religion, which they op. pose. And indeed, this single circum tance, if weighed with candous and reflection; that is, if the deise were truly ihe philos pher he pretends to be; migut suffice to convince hiin of his error. For thi closeness of the analo. gy between the works of nature, and the word of the gospel, being found to be such, that every blow which is aimed at the one, rebounds with undimrished force against the other : the conviction of ther common origin must be the infe. rence of unbiassed understanding:

Thus, when in the outset of his argument, the deist tells us, that as obedience must be the object of God's .; probation, and disobedience the ground ci nis displeasure, it must follow by natural consequence, that when men have tran. sesso ed the divine commands, repentance and amendment of life will place them in the same situation as if they had never offended :-he does not recollect, that actual experience of the course of nature directly contradicts the assertion; and that, in the common occurrences of life, the man who by intemperance and volupiuousness, has injured iis character, his fortune, and his health, does not find himself instantly restored to the full enjoyment of these blessings on repenting of his past misconduct, and determining on future amendment. Now, if the attributes of the Deity demand, that the punishment should not outlive the crime, on what ground shall we justify this temporal dispensation? The difference in degree, cannot affect the question in the least. It matters not, whether the pun. ishment be of long or short duration; whether in this world, or in the next. If the justice or the goodness of God, require that punishment should not be inAlicted when repentance bas taken place; it must be a violation of those attributes to permit any punishment whatever, the most sligbt, or the most transient. Nor will it avail to say, that the evils of this life attendant upon vice, are the effects of an established constitution, and follow in the way of natural consequence. Is not that established constitution itself, the effect of the divine decree? And are not its several operations as much the appointment of its Almighty framer, as if they had individually flowed from his immediate direction ? But besides, what reason have we to suppose that God's treatment of us in a future state, will not be of the same nature as we find it in this; according to established rules, and in the way of natural consequence? Many circumstances might be urged on the contrary, to evince the likelihood that it will. But this is not necessary to our present purpose. It is sufficient, that the deist cannot prove that it will not. Our experience of the present state of things evinces, that indemnity is not the consequence of repentance here: can he adduce a counter-experience to show, that it will bereafter? The justice and goodness of God are not then necessarily concerned, in virtue of the sinner's repentance, to remove all evil con. sequences upon sin in the next life, or else the arrangement of events in this, has not been regulated by the dictates of justice and goodness. If the deist admits the latter, what becomes of his natural religion ?

Now let us inquire, whether the conclusions of abstract reasoning will coincide with the deductions of experience. If obedience be at all times our duty, in what way can present repentance release us from the punishment of former transgressions? Can repentance annihilate what is past? Or can we do more by present obedience, than acquit ourselves of present obligation? Or, does the contrition we experience, added to the positive duties we discharge, constitute a surplusage of merit, which may be transferred to the reduction of our former demerit? And is the justification of the philosopher, who is too enlightened to

Christ died for all men, or only for the elect, whom he designed hereby to redeem, and bring to salvation ; and here let it be premised.

be a Christian, to be built, after all, upon the absurdities of supererogation? “ We may as well affirm,” says a learned Divine, " that our former obedience atones for our present sins, as that our present obedience makes amends for antecedent transgressions.” And it is surely with a peculiar ill grace, that this sufficiency of repentance is urged by those, who deny the possible efficacy of Christ's mediation ; since the ground on which they deny the latter, equally serves for the rejection of the former: the necessary connexion between the me rits of one being, and the acquittal of another, not being less conceivable, than that which is conceived to subsist between obedience at one time, and the for. giveness of disobedience at another.

Since then, upon the whole, experience (as far as it extends) goes to prove the natural inefficacy of repentance to remove the effects of past transgressions ; and the abstract reason of the thing, can furnish no link, whereby to connect present obedience with forgiveness of former sins: it follows, that however the contemplation of God's infinite goodness and love, might excite some faint hope, that mercy would be extended to the sincerely penitent; the animating certainty of this momentous truth, without which the religious sense can have no place, can be derived from the express communication of the Deity alone.

But it is yet urged by those, who would measure the proceedings of divine wisdom by the standard of their own reason; that, admitting the necessity of a Revelation on this subject, it had been sufficient for the Deity to have made known to man his benevolent intention; and that the circuitous apparatus of the scheme of redemption must have been superfluous, for the purpose of rescuing the world from the terrors and dominion of sin; when this might have been ef. fected in a way infinitely more simple and intelligible, and better calculated to excite our gratitude and love, merely by proclaiming to mankind a free pardon, and perfect indemnity, on condition of repentance and amendment.

To the disputer, who would thus prescribe to God the mode by which he may best conduct his creatures to happiness, we might as before reply, by the application of his own argument to the course of ordinary events: and we might demand of him to inform us, wherefore the Deity should have left the sustenance of life, depending on the tedious process of human labour and contrivance, in rearing from a small seed, and conducting to the perfection fitting it for the use of man, the necessary article of nourishment; when the end might have been at once accomplished by its instantaneous production. And will he contend that bread has not been ordained for the support of man ; because that, instead of the present circuitous mode of its production, it might have been rained down from heaven, like the manna in the wilderness ? On grounds such as these, the philo. sopher (as he wishes to be called) may be safely allowed to object to the notion of forgiveness by a Mediator.

With respect to every such objection as this, it may be well, once for all, to make this general observation. We fmd, from the whole course of nature, that God governs the world, not by independent acts, but by connected sys. tem. The instruments which he employs in the ordinary works of his Providence, are not physically necessary to his operations. He might have acted without them, if he pleased. “He migirt, for instance, have created all men, without the in. tervention of parents : but where then had been the beneficial connexion between parents and children; and the numerous advantages resulting to human society from such connexion?” The difficulty lies here: the uses arising from the connexions of God's acts may be various; and such are the pregnancies of his works, that a single act may answer a prodigious variety of purposes. Of the several purposes we are, for the most part, ignorant: and from this ignorance are derived most of our weak objections against the ways of his Providence; whilst we fool. ishly presume, that, like human agents, he has but one end in view.

This observation we shall find of material use in our examination of the re

« PredošláPokračovať »