« AnteriorContinuar »
this truth; and yet pay no more attention to it, than if it was a cunningly-devised fable? Let us inquire what occasion there was for it, and what ends God designed to accomplish by it. These are stated in the words before us. The children, whom he designed to redeem from death and hell, were in such a state, that nothing short of this would avail for their final happiness: they were subjected to death, and could be delivered from it only by one dying in their stead they were in bondage to Satan, and could only be rescued from his dominion by one who should overcome this great adversary, in their nature, and in their behalf; in a word, by one who should both suffer what they merited, and gain the victories which they needed.
These are the ends of our Saviour's incarnation, as specified in the text.
I. The more immediate end was to suffer
Suffer he must, even unto death, if he would effect the deliverance of his chosen people.
1. The necessities of his own people required it
[They were reduced by sin to the lowest ebb of misery. Doomed to participate the lot of the fallen angels, they were as incapable as they of effecting their own deliverance. What then must be done? Must they be left to perish for ever? or shall an atonement be made for them? But who can offer an atonement that shall be of sufficient value to expiate their offences? The blood of bulls and of goats will not suffice: nor if the highest angel in heaven could offer himself, would that be adequate to the occasion; seeing that his merits, whatever they might be, could never extend to all the millions of our guilty race: the sacrifice, to answer that end, must be of infinite value it must be offered by a person of infinite value: it must be offered by a person of infinite dignity: he must be God as well as man. He must be man, that he may suffer; he must be God, that his sufferings may be available for the desired end. Hence the necessity for our blessed Lord to become incarnate; and hence the necessity for him to die. Supposing him to come from heaven, and to teach us both by precept and example, that would not answer the necessities of man: Divine justice must be satisfied for the sins of men: the holiness of the Deity must be displayed in the punishment of sin: the truth of God, which denounced a curse against every transgression
of his law, must be kept inviolate: in a word, a sentence of death was gone forth against sinners; and it must be inflicted on them, or on a surety in their stead. Hence, if Jesus would ever bring us back to God, "he must suffer, the just in the place of us the unjusta." If he would redeem our souls, he must "give his own life a ransom for us."]
2. His own covenant engagements required it—
[From all eternity did the Son of God engage to repair the evils which it was foreseen would in time be introduced by sin. A council of peace was held between the Father and the Son: the terms which were then agreed upon, are expressly mentioned by the Prophet Isaiah; "When thou shalt make thy soul an offering for sin, thou shalt see a seed, who shall prolong their days; and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in thy hand." These terms being acceded to on the Son's part, "a body was prepared him," and "he came in due season, made of a woman, and under the law, that he might redeem them that were under the lawe." His incarnation alone would not have fulfilled his engagements: he must suffer: and hence, when his sufferings came upon him to the uttermost, and he felt, as a man, disposed to deprecate them, he especially called to his remembrance the engagements he had entered into, and submitted to drink the cup which was put into his hands: "Now is my soul troubled: and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? But for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name!"]
3. All the predictions concerning him required it—
[The very first promise clearly pointed it out: he, as "the seed of the woman, was to bruise the serpent's head:" but in the conflict "his own heel was to be bruiseds." To what an extent he was to suffer is fully declared: "his visage was to be so marred, more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: and so was he to sprinkle many nations h." Standing in the place of us who deserved utter excision, he must suffer it. All the sacrifices of the Mosaic law shadowed forth this awful event. He was to be a priest; but what sacrifice could he offer? He was not of the tribe to which alone the offering of animal sacrifices belonged. He had no offering but his own body which therefore he did present; and "with his own blood he entered within the vail, there to carry on and perfect the work he had begun on earth." Looking forward
a 1 Pet. iii. 18. d Heb. x. 5.
8 Gen. iii. 15.
i Dan. ix. 26.
b Zech. vi. 13.
e Gal. iv. 4, 5.
c Isai. liii. 10.
f John xii. 27, 28.
h Isai. lii. 13-15. See also liii. 4-12.
k Heb. viii. 3, 4. and ix. 11, 12.
to his death, he often referred to it as that which should speedily be accomplished, as the appointed means of saving a ruined world'. And, when his disciples were stumbled at his death, and regarded it as an event by which all their hopes and expectations were frustrated, he reproved them for their ignorance and unbelief, and shewed them, that it had been the great subject of prophecy from the beginning of the world; and that it was necessary to the accomplishment of the work he had undertaken m
Such was the more immediate end of Christ's incarnation!
II. The ultimate end of it was to reign and triumph
In overlooking the previous humiliation of their Messiah, the Jews greatly err: but in their expectation of a triumphing Messiah, they are right. He was indeed " to drink of the brook in the way;" but he was then "to lift up his head." His sufferings were to precede: but the whole Scripture attests, that a glory was to follow" and by the very sufferings which he sustained, his triumphs were secured to him. He was to triumph,
1. In the destruction of Satan's empire
[Satan, that "murderer," had introduced sin and death into the world: and by his continual agency he is carrying forward the work of death amongst the sinners of mankind; and exulting in the multitudes which are daily subjected to his tyrannic sway. But Jesus, we are assured, came to weaken and destroy his empire: "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil"."
But the point particularly to be noticed is, that Jesus was to accomplish this victory by means of his own death: "By death he was to destroy him that had the power of death." By reason of sin, all the human race were subjected to everlasting chains of darkness in the regions of despair. But Jesus, nailing to the cross the hand-writing that was against us, has cancelled it for ever. Satan thought, that, when he had so far prevailed as to secure the death of the Lord Jesus, he had gained his cause but it was that very event which gave the death-blow to all Satan's power, in that it removed the only ground on which Satan could maintain his stand against the children of men. It was by that event that Jesus satisfied the demands
1 1 John xii. 31-33. n 1 Pet. i. 11.
m Luke xxiv. 21, 25-27, 44–46.
• 1 John iii. 8.
of law and justice, and discharged the debt which had been contracted by mankind. And, that once discharged by our Surety, we can claim our release from all obligation to pay it ourselves. Hence we are told, that Jesus, whilst upon the cross, "spoiled principalities and powers, triumphing over them openly in it."Yes, if Jesus had, as some have feigned, gone down himself to hell, and opened the prison-doors to those who were already there, he would not have more signally displayed his power, than he did in his death and resurrection, whereby he vanquished Satan and "led captivity itself captive."]
2. In the deliverance of his own people
[Death being inflicted as the penalty of sin, and being a prelude to an unknown state, all men by nature dread it. Though many, through pride and thoughtlessness, may brave it on a field of battle, no man can behold its gradual approaches without an awful apprehension of its terrors. But the Lord Jesus would not suffer that his people should remain in such bondage; and by his death he has effectually freed them from it. The sting of death is sin: but he by his death has cancelled sin, and blotted it out as a morning cloud. The offering which has satisfied the justice of the Deity, satisfies the sinner's conscience, and brings perfect peace into the soul. And it was one end of our Lord's death to effect this; that his people might be brought into perfect liberty, and enjoy a very heaven upon earth. To them death is now become a friend, for whose arrival to look forward with eager desire: it is numbered amongst their treasures also; and all fear, either of its present terrors, or future consequences, is removed. "The Son has made them free; and they are free indeed."]
1. The captive sinner—
[How lamentable is it that the effects of Jesus' death should be so limited, as we see they really are! Though Satan is a vanquished enemy, there are but few who will "put their foot upon his neck." Many are his willing captives still: and love the chains wherewith he binds thems. O, beloved, what an awful thought is it, that to multitudes the incarnation and death of Christ are a curse, rather than a blessing! "Had he never come to die for them, they had not (comparatively) had sin but now they have no cloak for their sin :" and the state of Sodom and Gomorrha is less terrible than theirs. When will ye lay this to heart, O ye who "walk according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of
P Col. ii. 14, 15.
q 2 Pet. iii. 12.
s 2 Tim. ii. 26.
the air, who worketh in all the children of disobedience?" Do but reflect on the account which you must hereafter give, and on the self-condemnation which you will feel in the day of judgment, when the full effects of your present disobedience will come upon you. I cannot contemplate your condition now, or your feelings in that day, without saying with the prophet, "O! that my head were waters, and mine eyes were a fountain of tears, that they might run down day and night in your behalf!" O let not all the wonders of redeeming love be in vain to you, yea, worse than in vain—a melancholy source of tenfold condemnation!]
2. The awakened penitent
[Are you beginning to feel your sins a heavy burthen? Bless and adore your God for the provision he has made for you in the Son of his love. Your guilt is expiated by your Saviour's blood: and Satan, who has kept you hitherto in such cruel bondage, is dethroned. Look unto this Saviour. Did he come down from heaven? It was to seek and save the lost, yea, and the very chief of sinners. Lay hold on him; plead with God the sacrifice which he has offered; and seek an interest in the victories he has gained. It is for that he has lived; for you he has died; for you he reigns: and never is he better satisfied with the travail of his soul, than when he sees such as you born to God through him*.
3. The trembling believer
[What would you that God should add to all that he has done for you? What is there wanting to dispel your fears, and encourage your hearts? Are you afraid of Satan? He is a vanquished enemy. Are you afraid of death? To you it is only as the gate of heaven. Be of good cheer. If you are weak, "your Redeemer is mighty;" and his "strength shall be perfected in your weakness." He, who for your sakes "partook of flesh and blood," with all the sinless infirmities of your nature, knows by experience all that you feel, and will afford all needful succour. Fear not; "He will not break the bruised reed, or quench the smoking flax, but will bring forth judgment unto victory." Rejoice then in him; rejoice evermore: and doubt not but that he who has begun a good work in you, will for his own sake perfect it to the end."]
t Isai. liii. 11.