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THE DESIGN OF THE MEDIATORIAL OFFICE AND WORK OF CHRIST
WAS TO DO HONOR TO THE DIVINE LAW.
A MEDIATOR, to bring about a reconciliation, supposes the parties concerned to be at variance. If both parties are to blame, it is the business of a mediator to bring both parties to see their faults, to confess, reform, and make restitution, and so to make up. If one party is altogether right, and the other altogether wrong, then one party is to be wholly justified, approved, and commended, as publicly as the controversy is known, and the entire blame to be laid at the other's door; who, if he can make no restitution, must suffer according to his desert, unless the mediator, or some other, will interest himself in his welfare, so as to become his sponsor, and answer in his stead; and if his crime is of such a nature, that his penitence can make no atonement, if ever he is forgiven and received into favor, it must be simply on the credit of his sponsor. But in the case before us, God was wholly right, and we were wholly wrong; and so much to blame, that our deepest penitence ought in reason and justice to be disregarded. However, so far were we from penitence, as rather to be disposed to justify ourselves, and lay the blame on God and on his holy law. And our disaffection to the divine character and government arose even to enmity itself. When therefore the Mediator espoused his Father's honor, and testified of the world that their works were evil, they were angry, yea, they were enraged, and they put him to death as not fit to live; so far were they from a disposition to take the blame to themselves, confess, repent, return, and be reconciled. And this conduct of a set of men, who made very high claims to virtue, was but a specimen of that temper which is natural to all mankind. But what reason have mankind to be so disaffected to the Deity?
God, an absolutely perfect, and infinitely glorious and amiable being, infinitely worthy of supreme love and honor, and of universal obedience, the Creator and original proprietor of the universe, as becomes him, assumes the authority of King and Supreme Governor over his own world, takes the throne, proclaims his divinity, saying, “ I am the Lord, and besides me there is no other God; and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and yield an entire obedience to his will." Adding, “he that doth these things shall live in them; but the soul that sins it shall die.”
For us thus to love, honor, and obey him, is no more than a practical acknowledgment of his Godhead and Lordship; it is no more than barely giving unto the Lord the glory due unto his name. And this is all he requires, and it is our duty; and our obligations to it are infinite, and it is infinitely for our interest. So that our disaffection and rebellion are unreasonable, groundless, nay, infinitely criminal. To be disaffected and to rise in open rebellion, as we in this lower world have done, is a practical declaration in the sight of the universe, (and practice speaks louder than words,) that God's character is not good, and that his law is bad. Or in other words, it is a practical declaration, that he is not what he claims to be, by nature, God, an absolutely perfect, and infinitely glorious and amiable being, and our rightful sovereign.
To have given up his law, founded on his Godhead and Lordship, and which only asserted his proper character and worth, and claimed his proper rights, had been a practical giving up of his divinity and supremacy, in favor of a disaffection absolutely groundless, of a rebellion infinitely unreasonable; a thing very unbecoming the absolutely perfect being at the head of the universe. Better, infinitely better, a whole race of such apostates be doomed to endless woes, as a public practical declaration of the infinite evil of their crimes.
The design of the incarnation, life, and death of the Son of God, was to give a practical declaration, in the most public manner, even in the sight of the whole intellectual system,
that God was worthy of all that love, honor, and obedience, which his law required, and that sin was as great an evil as the punishment threatened supposed; and so to declare God's righteousness, and condemn the sins of an apostate world, to the end God might be just, and yet a justifier of the believer. And this he did by obeying and dying in our room and stead.
The Jewish dispensation, which was designed to prepare the way for, and to introduce the Christian, and which was a shadow of which Christ is the substance, was, in its whole constitution, purposely calculated to do honor to the divine law. The clouds, and the thick darkness, and the flame of a devouring fire on Mount Sinai, the thunders and the lightnings, and the voice of a trumpet exceeding loud, were in honor of the divine law; which was by God promulged to an assembly of men, women, and children, containing near three millions. An affair so grand as this had never before happened in this lower world. And all the variety of temporal curses enumerated and denounced against the transgressor, and all the variety of temporal blessings reckoned up and promised to the obedient, VOL. II.
were in honor of the divine law. And the law being written with the finger of God, on two tables of stone, laid up in the ark, and placed in the holy of holies, under the mercy-seat, the dwelling place of the God of Israel, was in honor of the divine law. And so were all the sacrifices of atonement the altars, the priests, especially the high-priest, dressed in his holy robes, holiness to the Lord written on his forehead, the names of the twelve tribes on his breast and on his shoulder, the blood of atonement in his hand, entering once every year into the holy of holies, into the immediate presence of God, to make atonement. Nor could any transgressor of the law, under that dispensation, obtain remission of sins without shedding of blood.
A plain acknowledgment, that his blood deserved to be shed, who transgressed the law. And so a practical declaration that the law was holy, just, and good.
And answerable to the spirit of that dispensation, the whole congregation of Israel were by the divine direction led, on their entering into the holy land, to Mount Gerizim and to Mount Ebal; and while the curse of the law against the transgressor was proclaimed aloud, all the congregation answered, Amen; as a most public and solemn declaration, that the law was holy, just, and good : nor could a Jew, without this acknowledgment, with any consistency, present a bull or a goat, to die in his stead, and make atonement for his sins.
But all the honors done to the divine law 'under that dispensation were but shadows, but mere shadows. They had no substance in them. They were acknowledgments too mean to be of any avail. They were of no weight at all to counterbalance the reproach cast on the divine Majesty by sin; and therefore the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin; yea, Lebanon was not sufficient to burn, nor all the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt-offering.
Wherefore the Son of God, antecedent to his incarnation, is introduced, saying to his father, “Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire." They had no dignity, no worth, no virtue, and could not answer the end. “Mine ears hast thou bored," as the Jewish master did his servant's, who of his own free will said, "I love my master and will be his servant forever. O, eternal Father, I have offered to become thy servant in this great work, and thou hast accepted the offer, and bored mine ears. Then said I, Lo, I come, I delight to do thy will; yea, thy law is within my heart.” (Compare Exod. xxi. 5, 6. Ps. xl. 6, 7, 8. Heb. x. 5, 6, 7.)
Him, therefore, did God set forth to be a propitiation, to declare his righteousness. And because he thus voluntarily
espoused the honor of his Father's government, and condemned sin in the flesh on the cross, because he thus loved righteousness and hated iniquity, therefore was his Father well pleased, smelt a sweet savor, exalted his Son, and became propitious to an apostate, sinful, guilty world, through him. For he, being God as well as man, was worthy, was of sufficient dignity, and his obedience and sufferings of sufficient weight in his Father's sight.
The import of that perfect obedience to his Father's will, in our stead, through the greatest trials, which the Son of God incarnate performed, was, that “God was worthy of supreme love and honor, and of universal obedience from his creature man." The import of his sufferings in our room, in which he was made a curse to redeem us from the curse of the law, was, that "the curse of the law was strictly just, and such as became his Father to threaten and to execute." The import of his appearing in the presence of God in heaven, with his own blood, to make intercession for transgressors, is, that “he does not, nay, cannot, desire any favor to be shown to sinners under a notion that the law is too severe; but only as being considered holy, just, good, and glorious, worthy to be magnified and made honorable by the blood of the Son of God." And the justice of the divine law will appear in a striking light, when he who thus honored it in his own person on the cross, and thus honors it at his Father's right hand in heaven, appears to put it in execution at the last day on his near relatives, his brethren according to the flesh; who would never own the goodness of the law, nor take the blame of their disaffection and rebellion to themselves, and on this foot despised and rejected the glorious grace of the gospel. And all holy beings will echo to the last sentence, and with the highest approbation join to cry, Amen, Hallelujah ; while the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever.
Thus the whole mediatorial scheme is designed, and in its own nature adapted, to do honor to the divine law.
And to do honor to the divine law was the only thing that rendered the mediatorial office and work of Christ needful in order to the salvation of sinners. For God was not an unrighteous being, and so could not be disposed to hold his creatures bound by a bad law, unless his Son would die to procure their relief. Nor was the goodness of the divine nature so small, that he could not find in his heart to show mercy to sinners, unless his Son, to move his compassions, would die for them on earth, and plead their cause in heaven. Had the law in fact been bad, it had been the most honorable thing in the divine majesty to have laid it aside expressly as such, and no mediator
had been needful in the case ; and had there been no bar in the way of the honorable exercise of divine grace to a guilty world, infinite goodness, by a sovereign act, might, at an infinitely less expense, have pardoned and saved all the human race, and all the labors and sufferings of his Son to make atonement had been needless. God did not want a heart to do us justice; nay he had a heart overflowing with infinite goodness; witness the gift of his Son. And so no mediator was needful to move the divine compassions, much less to prevent his being too severe with us; yea, a mediator for any such purposes had been an infinite reproach to the Deity. A mediator therefore was needful, in order to the salvation of sinners, for no other purpose, but to do honor to the divine law, which we had dishonored by our sins. And thus he asserted the divine character, vindicated the rights of the Godhead, declared the righteousness of the divine government, condemned sin, laid all the blame of our disaffection and rebellion at our own door, while he obeyed and died in our room and stead, that we through him might be saved. But,
I. If Christ died to do honor to the divine law, then there is no glory in the gospel only on supposition that the law is a glorious law. For not one of the divine perfections are manifested in the death of an incarnate God to do honor to the divine law, if the divine law was not worthy of this honor. It was no act of wisdom in God to give his Son to die to do honor to that which deserved no such honor. It was no act of holiness, justice, or goodness. It was neither to the honor of God, nor needful to the salvation of men. And, if not one of the divine persections are manifested in the death of Christ, only on supposition that the law is a glorious law, not one of the divine perfections can be seen in this affair, only in a view of the glory of the law. No glory can be seen in the atonement, only as the law appears to be a glorious law. To every one at enmity against the divine law, the glory of the gospel will be hid.* And,
* If God's law requires, on the penalty of eternal destruction, that which is in its own nature sinful, then it is a wicked law. But that which is “contrary to the law of God," is in its own nature sinful; for sin is a transgression of the law. But, according to Mr. Cudworth, the law requires what is a contrary to the law of God,” what "clashes with our duty.” (p. 222—224.) Therefore, according to him, it is a wicked law. But if it is a wicked law, God is obliged in justice to repeal it. But to give his Son to die, to do honor to a wicked law, of all things in the universe, would be most contrary to all the divine perfections. In this view of the law, therefore, not one of the divine perfections can be seen on the cross of Christ. What, then, does Mr. Cudworth mean by " loving God for his own loveliness as thus discovered by the gospel, every divine perfection being discovered as harmonizing in the salvation of the guilty by