« VorigeDoorgaan »
cruel and unrelenting, but as one who must do what is right, and will abide by his original law, which denounced death upon transgressors,
When we affirm, that he would not pardon sin without an atonement, we do not impute to him any want of mercy, but ascribe to him the perfection of justice, which required that compensation should be made for the wrong which he had sustained, and security should be given for the preservation of his rights and prerogatives.
In the third place, It is objected, that the doctrine of the atonement supposes God to be liable to change, to be first angry, and then pacified. But this objection might be made to every system of religion which admits that sin is displeasing to God : for the same change must take place, when a sinner repents. It might be made to prayer, the professed design of which is, to obtain blessings from him, which he would not otherwise have bestowed. The atonement did not make God hate sin less than he did before, or excite feelings of compassion towards us, which did not formerly exist. He loved us before he gave his Son; and sin still is, and ever will be, the object of his utmost aversion. The effect of the atonement was a change of dispensation, which is consistent with immutability of nature. He could now extend mercy to those whom he was always willing to pardon, but could not pardon honourably, till his justice was satisfied. In fact, he demanded an atonement, because he does not change ; and, therefore, would not revoke his threatening, nor lay aside his abhorrence of sin. They represent him as mutable, who assert, that he pardons sin without satisfaction to his justice.
In the fourth place, It is objected, that this doctrine supposes a price to have been paid for our redemption, whereas it is represented in the Scriptures as free. This objection does not bear particularly upon the doctrine, as stated and maintained by us, but it is applicable to the Scripture itself, which says, that we are bought with a price, and yet declares, that we are saved by grace. It is true that the blood of Christ was shed as the ransom of our souls ; but still, in respect to us, redemption is free, because nothing is given by us in exchange for it, and it is enjoyed by every man who receives it with humility and gratitude. It is farther evident, that our redemption is of grace, although the death of Christ was the indispensable condition of it, because it originated in the free purpose of God, who might have left us in a state of guilt and misery ; because, in this scheme, a surety was admitted instead of sinners themselves, whom the law had marked out as the objects of the penalty; because the surety was chosen and appointed by God, on whose part all the advances were made ; and because the office of redeeming us was devolved upon a person so high in dignity, and so closely related to God, that his mission will for ever remain a proof of unmerited and ineffable love. • Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."*
In the fifth place, It is objected, that to suppose Christ to have died for our sins, is to suppose him to have made an atonement of himself; because, if he is God, he was offended as well as his Father. The objection is founded on our imperfect knowledge of the doctrine of the Trinity; and it is surely absurd to oppose to a truth clearly revealed, arguments drawn from a subject which surpasses our comprehension. Assuming the doctrine of the Trinity, we must pronounce it to be presumptuous to say that a thing was impossible, although Scripture has told us that it was done, solely because we cannot conceive how it was done. If there is a plurality of persons in the Godhead, the union and distinctions of whom we do not understand, shall we venture to say, that one of them could not act economically in the character of Supreme Lawgiver and Judge, and another, in a different nature assumed for the pur. pose, do what was necessary to display his justice, and prepare the way for the exercise of his mercy? There have been many instances of human legislators, who, in a private character, gave satisfaction to their own laws. That such cases can be considered as strictly analogous to the present, I will not say; it is certain, however, that in Scripture our Redeemer is represented, during his sufferings, not as the Lawgiver, but as the subject of the law,—not as the equal of the Father, but as his servant. The difficulty of conceiving this arrangement, is not a reason why we should call in question the fact, that he was made under the law, and fulfilled it by his obedience and death.
1 John iv, 10.
In the sixth place, An objection is founded on the sufferings and death of believers ; for how could they be subject to these evils, if he fully expiated their guilt? When a debt is paid by a surety, the debtor is completely and instantly released, because the surety was included, as well as the debtor, in the original obligation. But, in a case of punishment, where the offender alone was the object of the penalty, the admission of a substitute, being an act of grace, may be accompanied with such conditions as the Lawgiver shall choose to prescribe. It was not, therefore, inconsistent with justice, that in the present case it should be stipulated, that sinners should be pardoned, not immediately after they had offended, but at some period during their lives; and that, although from that moment they should be freed from the sentence of eternal death, they should remain under the original law of mortality. It was certainly in the power of the Supreme Legislator to determine, whether the whole penalty, or only a part of it, should be remitted. And the efficacy of the atonement appears from the removal of the principal part of the penalty, in comparison with which, the evil which is inficied is as nothing, yea, less than nothing. Besides, that evil, in consequence of the atonement, has virtually the nature of a blessing, being corrective and not properly penal, subservient to the good of the soul, affording scope for the exercise of many virtues, and contributing to prepare the people of God for a happier and more perfect state. Death itself proves to be the gate of life.
With regard to the objection, that the doctrine of vicarious punishment is calculated to remove the restraint of salutary fear, and to encourage men to go on in sin that grace may abound, it is so stale, and so fully refuted by Scripture and experience, that I deem it unworthy of any farther notice.
ON THE PRIESTLY OFFICE OF CHRIST.
The Intercession of Christ-Place of Intercession—Its Objects, the Elect-Mode of Interces
sion, Prayer— The subject of it-Its Cause or Reason—Christ the only Intercessor— The Popish Doctrine of the Intercession of Saints and Angels, contrary to Scripture and Reason.
We have proved that Jesus Christ is the priest, as well as the prophet of his church, and that there were two important duties incumbent on him in this character, sacrifice and intercession. The first he performed upon earth, when he died upon the cross ; for it has appeared that his death was a true and proper sacrifice offered to God, to appease his justice, and to obtain our eternal redemption. It was, in truth, The sacrifice by way of eminence, all others being merely types of it, and having no efficacy in themselves to expiate guilt. We now proceed to speak of his intercession, which signifies in general those
acts of his priestly office, the object of which is to obtain the communication of the benefits of his sacrifice to men, for their pardon and final salvation.The proper place of his intercession is heaven, into which he entered not long after his resurrection, and where he will continue to minister till all the ends of his office are accomplished. But it is not confined to heaven, for we find him interceding in his state of humiliation. In this sense some understand that passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews, in which it is said, that, " in the days of his flesh he offered up prayers and supplications to God, with strong crying and tears.”* I doubt the propriety of this application of it, because the apostle expressly declares, that he offered his supplication to Him that was able to save him from death,” representing them as supplications for himself, that he might be supported under his severe afflictions, and ultimately delivered from them. The intercession of Christ signifies his prayer for us. His prayer on the cross for his enemies has also been referred to his intercession, “ Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”+ Here, however, there is equal reason to doubt. If his intercession is prevalent, or if he always obtains what he asks in the character of our High Priest, it would follow, that all the persons who were concerned in his death will be forgiven.But, although it is certain that many of them did afterwards repent, and acknowledge him to be the Son of God and the Redeemer of Israel, we are not warranted by Scripture to say, that mercy was extended to the whole multitude that demanded his crucifixion, to all the members of the Sanhedrim who pronounced him to be worthy of death, to Pilate who condemned him, to the Roman soldiers who executed the sentence, and to every individual who consented to the nefarious deed. We must, therefore, consider this prayer as expressive of the spirit of charity, which he has enjoined upon his followers, and of which his own conduct has afforded a perfect example. As a man, he forgave his persecutors, and it was his desire that his Father would forgive them. His official prayers are founded on his knowledge of the purpose of God with respect to individuals ; his private prayers on the law, which commands every man to desire the good of others, and to promote it by all lawsul means in his power. But, while we leave out these cases, there remains enough to show that Christ acted as an intercessor in his state of humiliation. As he was often engaged in prayer, and sometimes spent whole nights in it, there is no doubt that the subject of his supplications was not himself alone, but his disciples and his church in every age of the world. He told Peter that he had prayed for him that his faith might not fail; and on the evening before his crucifixion, he presented a solemn address to his father for all his followers, which is recorded in the seventeenth chapter of John: “ Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word.”! Although he had not yet died as a propitiation for sin, yet he commenced the work of intercession, because he was already invested with the priestly office, and the atonement would be soon made, from which all the efficacy of his prayers is derived. It was allowed him to anticipate the work of heaven, because it was certain that he would not fail to satisfy the demands of justice, and to pay the price of spiritual blessings.
The Scripture represents the intercession of Christ as consisting in his appearance for us in the heavenly sanctuary. “ Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true ; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.”'S When he had risen from the dead, he ascended to the celestial temple, the seat of the glurious presence of God; and he entered in the character which he had sustained
• Heb. v. 7. VOL. II.-11
† Luke xxiii. 34.
# John xvii. 20.
$ Heb. ix. 24.
upon earth, namely, that of our representative. After his resurrection he showed himself to his disciples, with the wounds in his hands, and feet, and side, which his enemies had inflicted, and, as nothing is said which implies that they afterwards disappeared, it may be supposed that they remained when he returned to heaven. This may seem to be confirmed by one of the visions of John: “I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a lamb as it had been slain ;'* that is, bearing the marks of a violent death. Hence it has been conjectured, that he appears before God with the visible tokens of his sufferings in his body, as the Jewish high priest carried into the holy of holies a part of the blood of the animal sacrifices, in testimony that they had been slain. It is certain, however, that this exhibition is not necessary to remind his Father of his merits, nor is it for this purpose that it can be conceived to be made. Since it will be acknowledged not to be essential to the design of his ministrations in heaven, it may be questioned whether it be consistent with the present state of his body; and although it would be presumptuous to speak decidedly on a subject of which we know so little, it may be said, with some appearance of truth, that it is not suitable to our conceptions of a glorified body, that it should retain any vestige of infirmity, any mark, however honourable from the manner in which it was acquired, which might in any degree impair its beauty. Laying aside, therefore, this notion, which is more fanciful than solid, we understand
appearanee for us in heaven" to signify, that he presents himself before God in the body which was erucified for our sins, and in the character of our High Priest, to plead his atonement as the ground on which the blessings of salvation should be communicated to men. It signifies, not the simple presentation of his human nature ; for although God manifests himself in a peculiar manner in the upper world, we are as really, though not as sepsibly, present with him on earth as in heaven; but an official presentation of it, or, in other words, a ministration by which the design of his office is accomplished. Jesus Christ has left this world, but he has not ceased to act as our High Priest. He retains his office, and performs its duties in his state of exaltation.
Before I proceed to point out more distinctly the nature of his intercession, it will be proper to inquire for whom he intercedes. We may say, then, that he intercedes for the elect, whether they are, or are not in a state of grace.With regard to those who are not converted, he does not pray, that, continuing as they are, they should be saved, or that their state should be immediately changed; but that, at the appointed time, they should be brought to the knowledge of the truth : “ Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold ; them also must I bring, and they shall hear my voice ; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.”+ These words he spake upon earth, and we cannot doubt that he is still as mindful of those who have not yet entered into the fellowship of his Church. Although living in ignorance and sin, they are dear to him as persons for whom he shed his blood. He looks forward to their conversion as the reward of his sufferings; and it is owing to his appearance in their behalf, that the Holy Spirit is sent to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of their sins, and inheritance among them which are sanciified by faith."! Faith is the gift of God, and is bestowed upon these alone for whom our Saviour prays; “ for in him we are blessed with all spiritual blessings."'S Enough has been said with respect to this class of the objects of his intercession.
The other class comprehends those who are in a state of grace, and of hiş prayers for them we shall afterwards speak. He does not pray for all men who
• Rev, v. 6.
† John x, 16.
# Acts xxvi. 18.
$ Eph. i. 3.
are at present alive, or shall hereafter come into existence. His intercession is not more extensive than his sacrifice; and he has told us, that, “ as the good Shepherd, he has given his life for the sheep."* He has pointed out its limits in the following words: “I pray for them : I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.” “Neither pray I for these alone,”—the few disciples who had attached themselves to him during his public ministry,—“but for them also which shall believe on me through their word.”+ Under the Mosaic economy, the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were engraven upon twelve precious stones in the breast-plate which the high priest wore when he appeared before God in the most holy place, and in this manner it was signified that he was the representative of the whole nation. The twelve tribes were typical of believers under the gospel, who are the spiritual Israel ; and Jesus Christ, their representative, bears them upon his heart in the heavenly sanctuary. He remembers them with the most tender affection, and manages their affairs with wisdom and fidelity. He did not shed his blood at random, as would have been the case if the sole design of his death had been to render God placable to sinners, and to pave the way for the salvation of those who should comply with the terms upon which it was offered. “ The Lord knoweth them that are his,” for they were given to him by his father, and he has taken them under his protection. They live in distant ages; they are scattered over the face of the earth ; they are placed in different circumstances; and some of them are so obscure, such solitary and disregarded sojourners in the vale of tears, that their nearest neighbours know little of their character, and still less of their wants and sorrows. But he is as fully acquainted with the case of each individual as if he were the sole object of his care; and hence, as he is a merciful, so he is a faithful High Priest, who does not neglect the interest of the poorest and meanest of his followers. He observes them all, who said to Nathanael, “ When thou wast under the fig-tree, I saw thee."I
In his intercession, Jesus Christ expresses his desire for the salvation of his people. We have seen that he appears for them in the presence of God; but ihat something more is implied than the simple presentation of himself in our nature, we may infer from his own information: “I will pray the Father, and he will send you another Comforter.” We know that, in reference to men, prayer is the offering up of their desires to God for the blessings which they need; and we have no reason to think that, in the present case, the meaning is materially different.
Prayer is not inconsistent with the dignity of the human nature of our Saviour, as united to the second Person of the Trinity, and at present in a state of exaltation. In that nature he executed his offices during his residence upon earth, and in the same nature he continues to perform the duties of his priesthood. It is now glorified; but it is essentially the same as it was in its state of humiliation. It then was, and it still is, a creature, and consequently is dependent upon God, and cannot therefore be dishonoured or degraded by an act which flows from that dependence, or belongs to any office with which it is invested. We have seen that it was not deified when it became the nature of him who is God; and although, being now above all want, the man Christ Jesus does not stand in need of prayers for himself, as related to men, who are encompassed with sins and infirmities, and have no resources in themselves, he may be conceived to pray for them without any diminution of his dignity. What, indeed, can be more honourable to him than to interpose between God and the human race, and to obtain, by his requests, the supplies of the Holy Spirit, by which thousands and millions are sanctified and comforted ?
John X. 11.
† John xvii. 9, 20.
# John i. 48.