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The Propitiatory—and the Righteousness of God-or After

Thoughts on Rom. iii. 24, 25, 26.

The import of the passage-which was the subject of inquiry in the preceding chapter, depends much on the meaning of the word that has been variously translated “propitiation,” “propitiatory,” and “mercy-seat,” and the meaning of the phrase “the righteousness of God,” as used by the Apostle.

As the word variously translated is the same which in the Old Testament is rendered “mercy-seat,” there can be no doubt that it was the Mosaic mercy-seat to which Paul alluded, in representing Christ as having been “set forth" by God as a propitiatory or mercy-seat.

We have then to inquire, what was the use of the ancient mercy-seat? After God had directed Moses how to form the mercy-seat, he proceeded to say :

- Thou shalt put the mercy-seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee; and there I will meet with thee and commune with thee from above the mercy-seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I shall give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.” Exod. xxv. 21, 22.

This passage represents the mercy-seat as a place of God's special presence-the seat of merciful manịfestations—the medium of communication between a holy God and a guilty people ;—from which God gave instructions to Moses for the benefit of the sons of Israel.

Another fact deserves notice; the blood of the sin-offering” was to be “sprinkled on the mercy-seat, and before the mercy-seat.” Directions for this are several tiines repeated in the 16th chapter of Leviticus.

As the sin-offering was a symbolical confession of sin, the blood was to be " sprinkled on the mercy-seat and before the mercy-seat.” By what symbolical acts could a person express,

in- - a manner more affecting, his reliance on the pardoning mercy of the Lord, who instituted and who occupied the mercy-seat?

Is it not then reasonable to believe that Paul meant to teach Christians, that instead of the Mosaic mercy-seat, 6 God hath set forth ” his Son as the gospel mercy-seat, consecrated by his blood; and that as the former mercyseat was the medium of communication between God and the Israelites, so is Jesus Christ the medium of intercourse between God and the world? Through him God manifests his love to men, reveals the purposes of his mercy, his readiness to pardon, and the conditions of forgiveness and salvation. On the other hand, through Jesus Christ we have access to the Father of mercies, and, as disciples of the crucified Messiah, offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God--the sacrifices of broken hearts, confessions of sin, prayers for pardon and other favors, and such obedience to the precepts of the Gospel as is implied in “the righteousness which is by faith.” Besides, the "putting away of sin,” “ cleansing,” or “purging” from sin, and thus bringing rnen near to God, was a great purpose of the exhibition of a mercy-seat as connected with the sin-offering. So this was a special purpose of God's setting forth his Son, as the gospel mercy-seat, and for which Jesus sacrificed his life. Hence we read that

“ he hath appeared once in the end of the world to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” Heb. ix. 26. Also “ when he had by himself purged our sins, he sat down on the right-hand of the Majesty on high.” Heb. i. 3. In this last text, what Christ came to effect, is spoken of as accomplished; because what he had done and suffered, was intended to cleanse us froin sin, was adapted to that purpose, and will ultimately have that effect on all who shall obey him.

I may now inquire, what is meant by the phrase, “the righteousness of God”_"God's righteousness "_"his righteousness," as used by Paul ?

The phrase "the righteousness of God,” is ambiguous, and may mean the righteousness of God's own character, or the righteousness which God requires ; as the phrase, "the works of God,” may mean works which God performs, or works which God requires of men. The phrases to be considered, all meaning the righteousness of God, occur eleven times in the New Testament,-nine of which are in the writings of Paul, and five of them in the chapter which contains the passage in dispute. I shall first present the phrases as they occur in other chapters.

“ Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness." Matth. vi. 33.

« The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.James i. 20.

“That we might be made the righteousness of God in him." 2 Cor. 5, 21.

" For therein "—that is, the gospel " is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” Rom. i. 17.

“For being ignorant of “ God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.Rom. x. 3.

Baxter, Campbell, Newcome, Macknight, and Adam Clark are agreed, that in these instances, “ the righteousness of God” means the righteousness which God requires, “the righteousness which is by faith," and which God approves for the remission of sins. I may now exhibit the instances in which the phrase occurs five times in the one chapter.

“But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance ? ” Rom. iii. 5.

“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested." v. 21.

“ Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all, and upon all them that believe."

v. 22.

“ To declare his righteousness for the remission of sins.”

v. 25.

“ To declare his righteousness that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.” Verse 26.

Of these five instances the first is the only one in regard to which the meaning appears to me at all doubtful. The righteousness which God requires seems to be clearly meant in the other four instances. This meaning is intiinaled in verse 21, by adding the clause “ without the law." In verse 22, the meaning is clearly explained—" the righteousness of God which is by faith.No one can reasonably suppose that this explanation is applicable to the attribute of righteousness in God; yet it was meant to

explain what Paul intended by the righteousness of God, as he used the phrase.

The text in which the Savior set the example of using such language, is by Dr. Campbell and Archbishop Newcome translated as follows :-"Seek first the kingdom of God, and the righteousness required by him.” Campbell has an important note to justify this translation, in which he gives it as his opinion, that such is the meaning of the phrase in “ Rom. ii. 21, 22, and Rom. x. 3.” I might quote the opinions of other respectable translators and expositors to the same purpose. But I rely more on Paul's own explanation, than on the opinions of many uninspired writers. In view of his explanation, verse 22, I shall venture to express what I believe to be the principal ideas intended by him in the 24th, 25th, and 26th verses.

“Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ, whom God hath set forth as a mercy-seat, consecrated by his own blood; to declare the righteousness which God requires for the remission of sins-even the righteousness which is by faith, that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.”

This is not given as a literal translation of the passage, por as containing all the ideas expressed by Paul in the three verses; but as what I verily believe to be his meaning in those clauses of the passage which have been supposed to suggest that the righteousness of God stood in the way of pardoning the penitent, till he had inflicted on Christ as our substitute," the punishment due to our sins.' In support of the interpretation which I have given of the passage, and of the phrase “ the righteousness of God,” I submit the following facts and considerations.

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