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AS WELL AS THE DEATH OF CHRIST.
the blessings of pardon, justification, and eternal life, are more frequently ascribed to it, than to his active obedience. It is not because there was not atoning influence in the one,--but more, so to speak, of atoning influence in the other; for what is atonement, but the removal of those obstacles, on the part of the Divine government, which prevented the communication of his grace to man? Now, to the removal of these obstacles, the righteousness of Emmanuel contributed as really, if not as powerfully, as his death. Hence the exaltation and glory of Christ are represented, not merely as the reward of his death, but of his previous humiliation and sufferings. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus : who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of
men ; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name ; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth ; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. ii. 5—11.)
The obedience of Christ, and the sufferings of his life, must not then be considered merely as necessary acts of preparation for the great work of atonement; they enter, on the contrary, into the very essence of the atonement; though we mainly ascribe that blessed result to his death. The sufferings by which that important and solemn event was preceded, were not so emphatically mental sufferings, as those which immediately attended the close of his career of woe. When in the garden, it is said of him, that his soul was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death. He manifested there, and especially on the cross, unequivocal symptoms of the most deep and overwhelming affliction. Just before he yielded up his spirit, he cried with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"-an exclamation, clearly evincing that the most bitter ingredient in the cup of suffering, then put into
FROM WHAT HIS SUFFERINGS RESULTED.
his hands, was the hiding of his Father's countenance. I am well aware that it is difficult, or rather impossible, to form adequate conceptions on this deeply, this awfully mysterious subject; but if we regard our blessed Lord, on this occasion, more in the light of a perfectly holy man, than we are, perhaps, accustomed to do, shutting out of our consideration the Divinity within, in which light we are, I apprehend, not only authorized, but obliged to view him; since it was only the human nature that could suffer,) we shall be likely to succeed better. Conceive, then, of the Saviour extended on the cross. He had a view of the evil of sin, incomparably more distinct and affecting, than was ever possessed by man or angel before or since that time. The intercourse which, as man, he had with God, in consequence of the union of the two natures in his person, was entirely sui generis. It was incomparably more intimate than had ever been enjoyed by a merely human prophet. It gave opportunity for the powers of the human nature to reach a higher point of advancement and perfection, than could possibly have been the case in other circumstances. It may be supposed, also, that, for a short time previous to our Lord's final sufferings, and during their continuance, there was communicated to the human nature a more than ordinarily vivid and affecting view of the evil of sin, -of its irreconcilable hostility to the character, and perfections, and government of God, of the infinite abhorrence in which it must be held by Jehovah,—and the awful consequences which it justly entails upon all who practise it. It would be unpardonable to speak with confidence upon a subject like this—a subject on which I have never seen any thing which fully satisfies my own mind; but I would suggest, with much deference to my brethren, whether this peculiarly vivid view of the evil of sin, did not constitute one of the penal ingredients of the cup which was then put into his hands. It will constitute, doubtless, an ingredient in that cup of wrath which is mingling for the finally impenitent in the future state. Standing, therefore, as the Saviour did, in the place of the sinner,--conscious of the infinite dignity of his person, (though the inferior nature only suffered,)—and possessing this peculi
STATEMENTS OF DWIGHT.
arly vivid and affecting view of the infinite odiousness of sin, it is not for us properly to appreciate what the Saviour must have suffered when he was treated as if he had been the sinner ;-when he died the death of the sinner,-a death abhorred by men, and accursed by God; and this acute and inconceivable suffering was aggravated by the withholdment of counterbalancing support. God "hid his face from him;" i. e., says a late able writer, “he withheld from him wholly those manifestations of supreme complacency in his character and conduct, which he had always before made. As this was itself a most distressing testimony of the Divine anger against sin, it is probably implied in the language of the prophet, “It pleased the Father to bruise him."
“The views and feelings,” proceeds this writer, "of one mind towards another can produce the highest sense of suffering of which we are capable. The esteem and love of intelligent beings are, when united, the most exquisite of all enjoyments; and are naturally, and, in all probability, necessarily coveted more than any other, except the approbation of our own mind. Their mere indifference to us, when they have an opportunity of being so far acquainted with us as to give room for being esteemed and loved by them, is ordinarily the source of severe mortification. In proportion as they are more intelligent and worthy, their love and esteem are more important to us; and the refusal of it excites in us more intense distress.”
“ The complacency of God, whose mind is infinite, and whose disposition is perfect, is undoubtedly the first of all possible enjoyments. The loss of it, therefore, and the consequent suffering of his hatred and contempt, are undoubtedly the greatest evils which a created mind can suffer; evils which will, in all probability, constitute the primary anguish experienced in the world of woe. Omniscience and Omnipotence are certainly able to communicate, during even a short time, to a finite mind, such views of the hatred and contempt of God towards sin and sinners, and of course towards a substitute for sinners, as would not only fill its capacity of suffering, but probably put an end to its existence. In this manner, I
FROM WHAT THE SUFFERINGS
apprehend, the chief distresses of Christ were produced. In this manner, principally, was that testimony of God against disobedience exhibited to the Redeemer, and ultimately to the universe, which so solemnly supported the sanctions of the Divine law, and so illustriously honoured the Divine government, as to prevent the pardon of sin from being regarded by intelligent creatures as the mere indulgence of a weak and changeable disposition in the infinite Ruler."
While there is so much to commend in this generally admirable passage, one cannot but most deeply regret the incaution, to say the least of it, of one or two of its statements. I refer more especially to the implied assertion, that our Lord actually sustained the contempt and anger of God. No sober-minded man can admit this. The fact of the case most unquestionably is, that the Father did not despise him,—was not angry with him when he hung upon the cross. Never, indeed, did he regard him with such ineffable complacency. How, then, could he manifest that displeasure which did not exist? The supposition, in the case of God, is impossible. But he might withhold the manifestations of that complacency which did exist. Dr. Dwight seems to have departed, most unnecessarily and most unfortunately, from the well-chosen phraseology with which his statement commences. At the beginning of the discussion, he says, that “God withdrew from him” (I would rather say, withheld from him) " those manifestations of his supreme complacency which he had formerly made." I apprehend that this, and only this, is warranted by the language of the sacred writer. • He hid his face from him ;" words which do not convey the idea of a positive act of removal, but the cessation of accustomed communications. I cannot, therefore, but regret that this respectable writer should, in the progress of his discussion, vary his statement so materially from the non-communication of former manifestations of love, to the actual manifestations of contempt and
anger. There is no reason to suppose that that awful cloud which oppressed the mind of our blessed Lord, when he hung upon the cross, was the result of any positive act on the part of God. Ceasing to act is all that can, with
OF CHRIST RESULTED.
any reason, be attributed to the Father; i. e., discontinuing those manifestations of love which he had formerly made to the Son. It has sometimes, indeed, struck me, that of the light of his Father's countenance, or his conscious sense of his favour, the Saviour may have been rather indirectly deprived, than otherwise. The sun may pour forth its full effulgence, but we do not see it if a cloud should intervene. May not, then, the awful and affecting sense of the evil of sin, which, as we have supposed, was imparted to our Lord during his closing sufferings,-together with the mental agonies which that sight could not but occasion,-in addition to his deep sense of shame, and his acute bodily pains,-may not these, combined, have constituted that intervening cloud ? May they not, for a season, have absorbed all his attention, and thus, by natural consequence, deprived him of that exalted enjoyment, which he habitually derived from a conscious sense of his Father's favour? May not this be a sufficient explanation of the manner in which God hid his face from his Son? I merely throw out this as a suggestion upon a subject which has ever appeared to me to be as deeply and awfully mysterious as any within the whole compass of Divine revelation.
The whole of the preceding statements are adapted to show why the atonement which our Lord presented to the Father is mainly ascribed to his final sufferings and death. That these sufferings were heavy beyond all precedent and conception is placed beyond the possibility of doubt; and they were sustained in honour of the Divine law-to evince the rectitude of its precepts, and the equity of its curse—to proclaim that Jehovah is a God of justice, and of truth—and to show, that under his government no sinner can escape with impunity. Though there was not, then, a single act in the Saviour's life which did not tend to make atonement, that tendency was especially apparent in his death. On his cross we see inscribed in letters of blood, “The soul that sinneth shall die."