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THE REALITY OF THE ATONEMENT.
The grounds on which our confidence rests, that Christ died with the intention of making atonement for sin, are the following:
I. The state of mind which he displayed in the anticipation, and in the endurance, of those sufferings by which, as we affirm, atonement was especially made. Contemplate him in the garden of Gethsemane, when he had a full view of the awful baptism with which he was about to be baptized. He appears to have been perfectly appalled by the sight. Such was the agony of his spirit, in the prospect of what he was about to undergo, that it forced from him sweat as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground; or, as some imagine, produced a literal exuding of blood through the pores of the skin. If such were the effect of “ that agony upon
his body, in the open air, at midnight, and when they who were not thus exposed found it necessary to defend themselves against the cold,” how intolerable must it have been! Perhaps no person, under the mere apprehension of death, was ever agitated in an equal degree. And now behold him on the cross.
Here his agony reached a higher point of intensity. It extorted from him the bitter and piercing cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” “ It marred his visage more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men :" and it is supposed by some, that the sun was clothed in darkness, not only as an expression of the Divine displeasure against his foes, but also of respect for the sufferer,—to veil the ravages which mental distress had committed upon a countenance, and a form, once adorned by more than human beauty. Now compare the state of mind which our Lord displayed in the prospect and under the pressure of these sufferings, with the conduct of some who followed him in the path of affliction, --with that of Paul, in the view of a painful and ignominious death. “And now,” said the latter," behold, I go
bound in spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there ; save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me.
THE REALITY OF THE ATONEMENT.
But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts xx. 22.)
Compare it, further, with the composure of Stephen, when suffering the agonies of a violent death. “They stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge: and when he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts vii. 59, 60.) Compare it, again, with that of multitudes of the martyrs who stood unmoved under all the cruelties which were inflicted upon them, who uttered no complaint, and died without a groan !
How is this manifest difference to be explained? There appear to me to be only two methods of accounting for it. We must suppose, either, that the sufferings of our Lord were, on one account or another, more dreadful than
which have been experienced by his disciples ; or that, in point of fortitude, and strength of mind, he who came to exhibit what we should be in spirit and in conduct, might have derived an example from some of his followers !
The latter of these suppositions is too bold and blasphemous to be avowed, I believe, by any. It cannot be imagined with decency, that Christ, who exhorted his disciples not to fear those who could kill the body only, would be thus pre-eminently agitated by the prospect, or even by the endurance, of a measure of suffering which certainly did not surpass what has, at least, occasionally, fallen to the lot of man. driven, then, upon the other part of the dilemma ; and constrained to suppose that the sufferings of our Lord must have been, on some account or another, dreadful beyond conception. And yet, if we shut out of our consideration that agony of spirit which was sustained by him, as we suppose, in consequence of his standing in the place of the guilty, what ground is there for the opinion that they can have been more than ordinarily dreadful ? “ The bodily sufferings of Christ,” says Dwight, were not more severe, or even so severe, as those which have been experienced by many others.
PROVED BY THE EXTREMITY
The death of the cross was undoubtedly a very distressing death. But it was probably less distressing than that experienced by many of the martyrs. Some of them were roasted by a slow fire-some were dislocated on the rack, and suffered to expire under long-continued torture. Some had their flesh taken off piece by piece, in a very gradual manner, with redhot pincers. Others expired under various other kinds of exquisite sufferings, devised by the utmost ingenuity of man, and protracted with the utmost cruelty. Multitudes, also, both of martyrs and others, have died on the cross itself, and, for ought that appears, with bodily anguish not inferior to that which Christ himself endured.” Now, if the bodily anguish of the Saviour was not more severe than that which has been endured by others, the entire amount of his sufferings, on the principles of those who consider Christ a mere man, and deny the doctrine of the atonement, cannot have been greater. There is, on their scheme, absolutely no room for the supposition of greater sufferings, if bodily anguish did not render them
And, as that has been shown not to be the case, we are driven back again to that side of the dilemma from which we were glad to escape a short time ago. We must impute defective firmness to him who is the bright example of every Christian excellence! This is really done by the Unitarian system. It libels the Son of God. It represents him as dying with a view to exhibit the manner in which a martyr should suffer, and yet as sinking, and in this precise point too, below the virtues of those who were commanded in all respects to be conformed to his example! Were there no other argument against the Unitarian view of the death of Christ, this would, I acknowledge, be sufficient for me. I dare not thus degrade the Saviour. Let us for a moment consider, on the contrary, how completely every thing is explained on the system adopted by us. That state of mind, on the part of our blessed Lord, to which we have just referred, resulted “not from want of resignation to the will of God, for no other person was ever so resigned ; nor from the want of fortitude, for no other person ever possessed it in an equal degree; nor from more acute bodily pain, for anguish of this kind, as
OF CHRIST'S SUFFERINGS.
severe, has been sustained by many. It resulted from more intense mental suffering,~from the burden of our guilt, which rested upon him,- from that light of his Father's countenance which then suffered a total eclipse, and led him to cry, My soul is full of troubles, and my life draweth nigh unto the grave. Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps. Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves.'” (Psalm lxxxviii. 4—7.)
THE REALITY AND EFFICACY OF THE ATONEMENT,
II. In support of the reality of the atonement, we adduce the direct testimony of the word of God. The proofs which meet our view are abundant, but the classification of them is not so easy. After considerable thought, I am led to adopt the following:
1st. I refer to those texts which represent Christ as bearing the sins of men. “Surely," saith Isaiah," he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. The Lord hath laid," or made to meet, "on him the iniquity of us all. He bare the sin of many." (Isaiah liii. 4, 6, 12.) “ Who himself,” says the apostle, “bare our sins in his own body on the cross. Now the question is, what is meant by bearing sin? We understand the words in the sense of enduring the consequences of sin. This we maintain to be the ordinary and current acceptation of the phrase. “ If a man will act improperly, he must bear his offences;" we are in the habit of saying. The expression is manifestly elliptical ; it evidently means he must bear the punishment, or the consequences, of his offences. This is, also, beyond all question, the scriptural sense of the words, “ Yet ye say, Why doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live. The soul that sinneth, it shall die : the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father,” that is, not die instead of the father; “neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son,"—not die instead of the son ; " the righ