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THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.
ROMANS iii. 24.
Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jegus.
HAVING endeavoured to explain and establish the doctrine of justification, it remains for me,
III. TO SHOW THE CONSISTENCY OF ITS BEING OF FREE GRACE, AND YET THROUGH THE REDEMPTION OF JESUS CHRIST. This is subject of the last importance. Almost every thing pertaining to the way of salvation is affected by it. The principal reason alleged by those who reject the doctrine of atonement is, its inconsistency with grace. God needed nothing, they say, but his own goodness, to induce him to show mercy; or if he did, it is not of grace, seeing a price is paid to obtain it. The question, however, does not respect the first moving cause of mercy, but the manner of showing it. The friends of the doctrine of atonement allow that the sacrifice of Christ was not the cause, but the effect, of the Father's love. They do not scruple to admit, that his love was sufficient to have pardoned sinners without an atonement, provided it had been consistent with the righteousness of his character and government." It is not the sentiment, but the expression of love" that requires an atonement. David was not wanting in love to his son Absalom; for his soul longed to go forth to him; but he felt.
for his honour, as the head of a family and of a nation, which, had be admitted him immediately into his presence, would have been compromised, and the crime of murder connived at. Hence, for a time, he must be kept at a distance, and, when introduced, it must be by a mediator. This statement, which has been made, in substance, by our writers repeatedly, has seldom, if ever, been fairly met by writers on the other side. I never recollect, however, to have seen or heard any thing like a fair answer to it.
It is remarkable too, that those who make this objection never appear to regard the doctrine of grace, but for the purpose of making void the atonement. On all other occasions, grace is virtually disowned, and works are every thing; but here it is magnified, in much the same manner as the Father is honoured, as the object of worship, to the exclusion of the Son....
Cases may be supposed, I acknowledge, in which the ideas of grace and atonement would be inconsistent. First: If the atonement were made by the offender, himself enduring the full penalty of the law, his deliverance would be a matter of right, and there would be no grace in it. But, as in a case of murder, it is not in the sinner's power to make atonement for himself, so as to survive his punishment. The punishment threatened against sin is everlasting, which admits of no period when the penalty shall have been endured. No man, therefore, can, by any length of suffering, redeem his own soul.
Secondly If the sufferings of another could avail for the offender, and he himself were to provide the substitute, his deliverance might be a matter of right, and there might be no grace in it. But neither of these suppositions can exist in the case before us. Strict distributive justice could not admit of the innocent suffering for the guilty, even though the innocent were willing. Its language is, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book. But, if it could, the guilty party could not find a substitute either able or willing to stand in his place.
Thirdly: If God himself should both consent to accept of a substitute and actually provide one, yet if the acts and deeds of sinners be considered as literally becoming his, and his theirs, whatover grace there might be in the acceptance and provision of the
substitute, there would be no place for the FORGIVENESS of the sinner, and justification would be merely an act of Justice. If Christ, in having our sins imputed to him, became a sinner, and, as some have said, the greatest of all sinners, then, in his sufferings, he was only treated according to his desert: and that desert, belonging to him could no longer belong to us so that, had we been in existence, and known of it, we might, from that moment, have claimed our deliverance as a matter of right. And if we, in having the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, become that which he was, namely, meritorious, or deserving of eternal life, then might we disown the character of supplicants, and approach the Judge of all in language suited to those who had always pleased him. But neither can this be. The acts and deeds of one may affect others, but can, in no case, become actually theirs, or be so transferred as to render that justice, which would otherwise have been of grace. The imputation of our sins to Christ, and of his righteousness to us, does not consist in a transfer of either the one or the other, except in their effects. Christ suffered, not because he was, but merely as if he had been the sinner: notwithstanding the imputation of sin to him, he died the just for the unjust. On the other hand, we are justified, not because we are, but as though we were righteous; for the worthiness belongs to him, and not to us.
Finally If justification through the redemption of Christ were considered as not only CONSISTENT WITH justice, but, REQUIRED BY it, it must, I think, be allowed, that every idea of grace is excluded. That favour toward creatures which justice requires must needs be their due; which leaves no room for grace. It is only of God's essential justice, however, that this is true, and not of his covenant righteousness which relates to his own free engagements. God, having pledged his word, would be UNRIGHTEOUS to forget the work and labour of love of his believing people; and thus it is, that, If we confess our sins, he is FAITHFUL AND JUST to forgive us our sins. The righteous fulfilment of engagements, made in a way of grace, is not opposed to it; but that which is required by essential justice, is.
This representation of things cannot, in any wise, depreciate the merit of Christ for, be this what it may, it is not ours, and can
not, therefore, constitute any claim on our behalf, but in virtue of God's free promises, which, being made in grace, continue such in all their fulfilments.
It is enough if the justification of sinners be consistent with justice; and this renders the whole in harmony with grace. Such was the value of Christ's blood-shedding, as, in regard of its effects on the divine government, to be equivalent to our being everlastingly punished; and such the merit of his obedience, as to be worthy of all that God has bestowed on us in reward of it; yet, as there is no transfer but of the effects, it does not, in the least, interfere with grace.
If the principles on which the doctrine of atonement proceeds be carefully considered, they will be found, not only consistent with grace, but will rank among the strongest evidences in favour of it.
In proof of this, let the following observations be duly consid ered :
1. It is common among men, in showing kindness to the unworthy, to do it out of regard to one that is worthy: which kindness is, nev• ertheless, considered as a matter of free favour. You had a friend whom you loved as your own soul. He died, and left an only son. The son proves a dissolute, worthless character, and reduces himself to beggary. Still he is the son of your friend, and you wish to show him kindness. If your kindness be unaccompanied with an explanation of your motives, he may think you have no dislike to his vices. Young man,' say you, therefore, I am sorry it is not in my power to be your friend from a respect to your own character; but I knew and loved your father, and what I do for you, is for his sake!" Here is an exercise of both justice and grace; justice to the memory of the worthy, and grace in the relief of the unworthy. The worthiness of the father is imputed to the son, inasmuch as, in consequence of it, he is treated as though he were himself worthy; but it makes no difference as to his reat character or deserts, nor, in any wise, renders what is done to him less a matter of grace than if it had not been done in consideration of his father's worthiness. If Onesimus were forgiven by Philemon, at the intercession of Paul, (as there is no reason to