« VorigeDoorgaan »
this purpose he accomplishes by the instrumentality of the There is a time coming, when light shall be furnished out to us in another way-when there shall be no need either of the sun or the moon to lighten the city of our habitationbut where the glory of God shall lighten it, and the Lamb shall be the light thereof. But this is not the way at present; and, therefore, it is both true that it was God's purpose there should be light over us and around us at this moment, and that unless the sun had risen upon us this morning, there would have been no such light. It may be the purpose of God to bless the succeeding year with a plentiful harvest. He could accomplish this purpose in two ways. He could make the ripened corn start into existence by a single word of his power. But this is not the actual way in which he carries such designs into accomplishment. He does it by the co-operation of many visible instruments. It is true, he can pour abundance among us, even in the midst of adverse weather and unfavourable seasons. But he actually does it by means of favourable weather, and favourable seasons. It is not in spite of bad weather that we receive from his hands the blessings of plenty-but in consequence of good weather-sunshine and shower succeeding each other in fit proportion-calm to prevent the shaking of the corn, and wind in sufficient quantity to winnow it, and make a prosperous in-gathering. Should it be the purpose of God to give to us a plentiful harvest next year, it will certainly happen; and yet it may be no less true, that unless such weather come, we shall have no plentiful harvest. God, who appoints the end, orders and presides over the whole series of means which lead to it." To apply this admirable illustration to the case before us, eternal life, it may be observed, is the end to which God has appointed his people; faith and perseverance are the means which lead to it. It follows, therefore, on the principles stated above, that, unless we endure unto the end, we cannot be saved. And, since this is the case, it is highly proper, and indeed necessary, to declare this publicly. It would be so, indeed, if we knew as certainly who were ordained to eternal life, as Paul knew it was the purpose of God that no life should be lost in the
THE FALLACY OF THE
voyage of which we have been speaking. "Even though such knowledge were imparted to us, still it would be our part to say to those of whose final salvation we were assured, 'Believe the gospel, or you shall not be saved; purify yourselves, even as God is pure, or you shall not be saved.' But we are not in possession of the secret: and how much more, then, does it lie upon us to ply with earnestness the fears and the consciences of our hearers by these revealed things which God has been pleased to make known to us. What! if Paul, though assured by an angel from heaven of the final deliverance of his ship's company, still persists in telling them that, if they leave certain things undone, their deliverance will be impossibleshall we, utterly in the dark about the final state of a single hearer we are addressing, let down for a single instant the practical urgency of the New Testament? The predestination of God respecting the final escape of Paul and his companions from shipwreck, though made known to the apostle, did not betray him into the indolence which is ascribed, and falsely ascribed, to the belief of this doctrine; nor did it restrain him from spiriting on the people to the most strenuous and fatiguing exertions. And shall we, who only know in general that God does predestinate, but cannot carry it home with assurance to a single individual, convert this doctrine into a plea of indolence and security? Even should we see the mark of God upon their foreheads, it would be our duty to labour them with the necessity of doing those things which, if left undone, will exclude from the kingdom of God. But we make no such pretensions. We see no such mark upon any of your foreheads. We possess no more than the Bible, and access, through the Mediator, to Him who by his Spirit can open our understandings to understand it. The revealed things which we find there belong to us, and we press them upon you. 'Unless ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.' 6 If ye believe not on the Son of God, the wrath of God abideth on you.' 'He that endureth unto the end,' and he only, shall be saved.""
To this eloquent statement I will only add, that, as faith and perseverance are the means of salvation, so exhortations to
continue in the faith are the means of perseverance. God keeps his people in the faith by means, as well as brings them to final salvation by means. And those exhortations to diligence and watchfulness, those solemn admonitions against apostasy, those earnest and pressing calls to prayer, and labour, and perseverance, which the Scriptures address to them,-constitute the means, in part at least, by the influence of which their will and affections are retained on the side of God, until he shall come and take them to the eternal enjoyment of himself.
THE general office of Mediator, assumed by our Lord, imposed on him the necessity of doing all that was required to repair the broken bonds of amity between God and man. To effect this much was needed to be done on both sides; for God was at variance with man, and man was an enemy to God. "The priesthood of Christ" is a comprehensive phrase, descriptive of all that was done by him in reference to God himself, with a view to the healing of the breach. It comprehends the sacrifice which he presented to God on earth, and the intercession which he carries on within the veil. The term atonement designates the first of these great branches of the sacerdotal office. The following pages will treat of the nature, the necessity, the manner, the reality, the efficacy, and the extent of the atonement.
I. THE NATURE OF THE ATONEMENT.
The inquiry on which we enter here refers exclusively to the precise idea which the Scriptures lead us to attach to the statement, that atonement for sin was made by the Son of God.
A very ingenious writer gives the following explanation of the word atonement. "Moses," says he, "saw two Hebrews striving together, and endeavoured to reconcile them. Had he succeeded, he would have produced a-one-ment. He would have made them at-one-ment. In plain English, he would
THE ATONEMENT DEFINED.
have made them friends again." That this is the primary meaning and force of the term there can be little doubt. The phrase," to make atonement," meant originally to reconcile two parties at variance. It did not contain any reference to the means by which the reconciliation was effected. Yet as, in every case of variance, some means must be resorted to by the mediator to repair the broken bonds of amity, the word atonement would easily acquire a secondary signification; and the phrase, "to make atonement," would come to be understood as indicative of the employment of those means which were required by the nature of the case to effect the reconciliation at which the mediator aimed. Hence, when we speak of the atonement of Christ, we do not merely intend to denote the reconciliation which he effected between God and man; but to express the means, also, by which it was accomplished. We design, in short, to state, "that he has made peace by the blood of his cross."
The atonement may, then, be defined as that satisfaction for sin which was rendered to God, as the moral Governor of the world, by the perfect obedience unto death of our Lord Jesus Christ;-a satisfaction which has removed every obstacle, resulting from the Divine perfections and government, to the bestowment of mercy upon the guilty in any method which Divine wisdom may see fit to adopt. This definition is sufficiently comprehensive, it is presumed, to include all that is essential to the atonement, and to guard against certain false conceptions which have been formed of its nature. It exhibits especially the three following particulars, each of which it is necessary to keep distinctly in view, if we would entertain enlightened and correct conceptions of this essential article of the Christian faith;-the character in which Jehovah requires and receives the atonement,-the nature of the satisfaction which it rendered to him,-and the ground on which pardon flows to those who repent and believe the gospel on account of it; or the connexion which exists between it, and the forgiveness of sin.
First, the character in which Jehovah requires and receives. the atonement, demands our notice. It might have been sup