« VorigeDoorgaan »
Happy they, who, rejecting the vain reasonings of the car. nal mind, and the cob-web-defences of the short-fighted creature, have been laid prostrate as guilty and helpless, before the sovereign and almighty Creator. All mankind, in the several ages of the world, have in general discover. ed such a jealousy of their condition, and have so far felt the reproof and condemnation of natural conscience, that their attempts and inventions have been innumerable to appcase the offended Deity.
But blessed be the name of God, we are not left to any uncertainty as to this important question. We may chearfully apply our minds to it, and receive unspeakable confolation " through the tender mercy of our God; whereby “the day-spring from on high hath visited us.” The way to life and peace is fully explained in the glorious gospel of the Son of God. We are indeed, by nature, guilty sinners, enemies to God in our minds, and by wicked works; but there is a gracious provision made for our recovery in the mediation of Christ. This is the strong hold and refuge of the finner; it is the foundation stone and confidence of the believer. In the 8th and oth verses of the preceding chapter, the apostle John says, “If we say that we « have no fin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not " in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to “ forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrigh“teousness.” And in the verse preceding the text, “My “ little children, these things write I unto you, that ye “ fin not. And if any man fin, we have an advocate 66 with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” He then teaches the Christian to live by faith in the Saviour's blood: And be is the propitiation for our sins. And that he might further illustrate the extent and eflicacy of the great atonement, he adds, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. In further discoursing on this subject, I propose, through the assistance of divine grace,
1. To consider Christ as the propitiation for fin, or what is implied in his being so called.
2. To consider the extent of this propitiation, or its being for the sins of the whole world. And,
3. To make some practical improvement of the subject.
1. First, then, Let us consider Christ as the propitiarion for sin, or what is implied in his being so called. We find our Saviour designed as a propitiation in several other passages of scripture; as in this epistle, chap. iv. 10. “ Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he * loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our " fins;" and Rom. iii. 25. “Whom God hath set forth " to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.” It is the opinion of many learned men, that Christ is called a propitiation, or the propitiation, in allusion to the mercy-feat above the ark, which was set up at first in the tabernacle, and afterwards in the temple in the most holy place. To confirm this, it is observed, that the original word here used is the same which the Greek translators of the Old Testament always use to denote the mercy-feat, and which the apostle to the Hebrews uses when speaking of the same subject, Heb. ix. 5. “And over it the cheru" bims of glory shadowing the mercy-seat : of which we “ cannot now speak particularly.” But I apprehend there is some inversion of the order of things in this remark: for Christ is not called a propitiation in allusion to the mer. cy-seat, which, independent of him, could ill bear that denomination; but the mercy-seat hath this title given to it because it was an eminent type of Christ. It beautifully indeed represented the benefit which we derive from him as our propitiation. For as God, by the Shechinah, or symbol of his presence, dwelt of old upon the mercy-seat, between the cherubims, and was from that place propitious to his people ; so now God dwells in Christ, and by him reconciles sinners to himself: 2 Cor. v. 19. “ To wit, “ That God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto “ himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and " hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” In that ancient dispensation, every worshipper was to look toward the mercy-seat ; and it was from thence that God accepted them, and gave intimations of their acceptance: so it is through Christ, or in his name, that we have now access to God; and it is in him that he feweth us favor, and maketh us accepted; Eph. i. 6. “ To the praise of " the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accept« ed in the beloved.” It was from the mercy-feat thal God spake to his people by the intervention of the highpriest, and by Urim and Thummim; so it is by his Son that God now speaks to us, and shews us the way of salvation : Matth. xvii. 5. “ This is my beloved Son, in « whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.”
But the true and proper meaning of Christ's being a propitiation, is to be taken from the facrifices in general, and particularly points at his undertaking the office of mediator or peace-maker between God and man, and in that capacity suffering the wrath of God in the room of sinners. By this he appeaseth him, rendereth him propi. tious or gracious to us, and purchaseth our pardon : Rom. iii. 25. “ Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, " through faith in his blood.” Remember how intimately it is connected with redemption, another expression which runs through the whole of the New Testament, and is considered as equivalent to the forgiveness of lins : Eph. i. 7. “ In whom we have redemption through his “ blood, the forgiveness of fins, according to the riches 6 of his grace.” Now, redemption certainly signifies purchasing or buying with a price.
The facrifices under the Mofaic economy did all of them imply a substitution in room of something that had been forfeited, or was due. It is observed by one eminent for his knowledge of Jewish antiquities, that besides what was done when any particular person presented a sin-offering, at the continual burnt-offering there were certain men appointed to represent the whole congregation of Israel. Their office was, to lay their hands upon the head of the lamb, and thus as it were transfer the guilt from the people to the victim. On this account they were called stationary men, because they attended conti. nually for this end. And as the very purpose of the facrifices under the law was, to typify the sacrifice of Christ, they are a ftanding evidence of the early and original reference to him, as the ground of divine mercy.
Nothing is more undeniably true, than that the offer. ing of facrifices was both early and universal in every nation under heaven; and it is no less certain, that those
who used them did consider them as expiatory, or propi. tiatory, to render the offended Deity placable, and obtain his mercy. This was at once a confession of guilt, and a declaration, that they apprehended the necessity and propriety of an atonement. Neither is it possible to account for the universal prevalence of sacrifices in any tolerable manner, but by supposing, that they were the remains of what had been taught in the ages immediately after the fall, by divine appointment.
I apprehend it is also undeniably evident, that this is the light in which the sacrifice of Christ is represented in the holy fcriptures. How many passages might be adduced to this purpose ?. In ancient prophecy, this part of his work is set forth in the following manner, If. liii. 4, 5. 6, 7, 8. “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried “ our forrows: yet we did efteem him stricken, smitten 56 of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our * transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities : the
chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his “ stripes we are healed. All we like fheep have gone
astray: we have turned every one to his own way, and « the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He " was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not " his mouth : he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, 16 and as a sheep before her fhearers is dumb, so he open" eth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and “ from judgment: and who shall declare his generation ? “ for he was cut off out of the land of the living : for the " transgression of my people was he stricken." Dan. ix. 24. “ Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people, “' and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and * to make an end of fins, and to make reconciliation for «' iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and " to feal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the 6 most Holy."
In the New Testament, he tells us, he was to lay down his life for his people : John X. II. “I am the " good shepherd : the good shepherd giveth his life for " the sheep.” The same thing he plainly says in the in.
ftitution of the facrament of the Lord's supper, Matth. xxvi. 26, 27, 28. “And as they were eating, Jesus took “ bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it the “ disciples, and said, Take eat; this is my body. And “ he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, “ faying, Drink ye all of it: for this is my blood of the .66 New Testament, which is shed for many for the re. “ mission of sins.” That his body broken and blood shed for his people, was to be understood of his being made a fin-offering, is plainly testified in the apostolic writings, 2 Cor. v. 21. “ For he hath made him to be sin for us, " who knew no fin ; that we might be made the righ“ tequiness of God in him.” Gal. iii. 13. “ Christ hath “ redeemed us from the curse or the law, being made a
curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that
hangeth on a tree.” Heb. ix. 26, 27, 28. “But now “ once in the end of the world, hath he appeared to put “ away fin by the facrifice of himself. And as it is ap
pointed unto men once to die, but after this the judg
ment: fo Christ was once offered to bear the sins of " many; and unto them that look for him, shall he ap“ pear the second time, without fin, unto salvation.” See also the assertion of the apostle Peter, 1 Pet.iii. 18. “Christ “ also hath once suffered for fins, the just for the unjust, “ (that he might bring us to God) being put to death in " the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.” It is evidently also on this account, that he is called the Lamb of God, and we are called to attend to him in that capacity, John i. 29. “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away “ the fin of the world.”
It is lamentable to think, that there should be any who call themselves Christians, and yet refuse to acknowledge this truth, which is woven, if I may so speak, through the whole contexture, both of the law and gospel. It brings to my mind the story of an ancient artist; who, being employed to build a magnificent and elegant temple, had the ingenuity to inscribe upon it his own name, and fo to incorporate it both with the ornaments and body of the structure, that it was impossible afterwards to efface the name, without at the same time destroying the fabrick.