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Yes, for this difficulty, so infinitely surpassing, in the conception of all created understanding, all possibility of solution, the wisdom and goodness of the holy Trinity have found a perfect reconciliation. A man appears, and voluntarily offers to suffer and answer for all the rest; and such a man he is, that God acceps the sacrifice of his life, for the sins of the world.
As we were led into sin by our first parent, as we became corrupt and guilty in the sight of God, through the disobedience of a representative; it seems reasonable, that a representative, if such there may be, should atone for our guilt, and by suffering, remove, our punishment. Nay, it is as reasonable, that we should become righteous by imputed goodness, as guilty by imputed sin.
And as to our own actual sins, we having been betrayed into them by a corruption of our nature, derived from the original seduction, merely in consequence of God's own appointment, who sent us into being through a natural entail of that corruption; it appears most highly agreeable, not. only to the goodness, but the very justice of God, that if a representative may take away the guilt of original, he may remove that of actual sin also, provided it is truly repented of.
But in order, that sin may be truly repented of, and all men become fit objects of the divine mercy, by a thorough reformation, it farther appears to be reasonable, that the new representative should not only suffer the punishment due to our sins, which is death, but should likewise undertake to create us anew, and instead of sinful creatures, as we are by nature, to make us holy and good in the sight of God. If we continue in sin, we cannot be objects of mercy at any rate, nor possibly be forgiven.
Who now is able to do all this for us? Who can offer a sufficient ransom and atonement for the sins of all men ? Who is able to create us anew ?
No creature, nor number of created beings, though ever so highly dignified, can atone to God for the sins of others.. They cannot suffer a punishment proportionable to the majesty of him who hath been offended ; nor to the importance of the law that hath been violated; nor to the insolence of those who have repaid infinite goodness with an infinite pro
vocation; nor to the danger of such, as may make light of sin, in case its atonement or punishment should not appear to be of the greatest weight.
Besides, created beings have nothing of their own. All that they are, and all that they enjoy, is the pure gift of God. Wherewithal then can they make a proper atonement for the smallest of their own faults ? How much less can they do it for the most provoking crimes of others, of all mankind ?
And, if they can make no atonement, neither can they presume to interpose, in the character of mediators, between God and their fellow creatures. The most exalted creature in heaven would consider, that it must cost more than he could offer, 'to redeem the souls' of his fellow creatures, and so would be forced to let that alone for ever.'
Nor can any being less than God, undertake to create mankind over again. He only, ' by whom all things were made, and without whom was not any thing made that was made,' is able to make the new creature,' to make all things new. If, therefore, we are to be redeemed from sin, and the punishment of sin, if we are to be made new creatures, it must be by God alone. Our teacher, our representative, our sacrifice, must be truly divine.
But were it possible for a mere creature to redeem us, God would never admit of his interposition, nor suffer him to do it, because by that means our gratitude and love must be carried off from God to the work of his hands, and all men taught to worship the creature,' even as, nay more • than, the Creator.'
To fill up these characters of a Creator and Redeemer, and to effect the high, and otherwise impossible, purposes of both, the son of God, the second person in the blessed Trinity interposes; and, that he may by " the word of his power,' speak us into a new life, and suffer the punishment due to our sins, ' becomes flesh, makes his tabernacle among men, is delivered up to death for our offences, rises again for our justification, and, placing himself at the right hand of his father, urges the merits of his all-sufficient sacrifice for cvery one who believes in him, and effectually hears his call to repentance.
Jesus Christ then, by dying for us hath made peace be
tween God and us; hath procured us admittance into his family and service; hath, both by precept and example, by his sabbaths, his sacraments, his ministers, taught us how to serve him; hath by his grace enabled us to perform whatsoever in that service is above our natural strength; hath, by an assurance of eternal rewards and punishments, brought over desire and fear, our strongest springs of action, to assist in the struggles of virtue against temptation. In the agony of that death, whereby sin and the old creature are destroyed, he cries out, · It is finished,' the great work of rooting out evil, and subduing its author, is finished; and, immediately on his rising from the dead, he cries, • Behold! I make all things new. No sooner is the moral world made over again, than' a new heaven and a new earth' are fitted to it. Man is a new creature, and consequently all other things that were made for him, are become new to him. These things that lately tempted him to sin, now no less powerfully prompt him to gratitude, to love, to piety, to goodness, and to a new life.
I hope by this time you are convinced that the mystery of our redemption, when tolerably understood, and fairly considered, not only justifies itself to right reason, as necessary, so that · Christ the son of God, and sinless, must needs have suffered,' or neither the prophecies could have been fulfilled, nor mankind saved; but claims also the wonder and adoration of all men, who may see in it an abyss of mercy and love, not less profound or extensive than its wisdom. How does the understanding stretch to comprehend this wisdom! How should the heart dilate to make room for a right sense of that love !
Was it thou, the wisdom, the word, the light, the eternal son of God! Who from the beginning lay in the bosom of the Father! Who sat with him on the throne of heaven, in unapproachable light and glory! Who, with him, received the hallelujahs of all the heavenly hosts! Hallelujahs paid for their being, and that of all the worlds, the thrones, the dominions, the principalities, the powers that were created in thee, by thee, and for thee! Was it thou who came to save us from sin, and all the horrors of the pit! to make us partakers of thy holiness, and of thy glory!
And didst thou, from the highest heavens, descend into this nether world, and take on thee the form of a servant (a servant, not only to thy Father, but even to us) and wash our feet,' and our yet more filthy souls ! How infinite was thy humility! how tender thy pity for us !
And, who are we Lord ! 'that thou shouldst come under our roof?' We are not among the great ones of thy creation, not among the principalities and powers; no, but dust and ashes ! little! weak! foolish ! vain ! and Othat this were all !
O Lord, we are wicked also ! rebels in arms against thy Father and thee! enemies ! aliens ! ungrateful! contemners of all thy infinite bounty to us! slaves 'sold under sin,' who have chosen to serve thy adversary rather than thee ! and prisoners for this in chains and darkness, under the just sentence of death, temporal and eternal! And art thou come to save such a race of monsters from ourselves ! from that adversary! from that sentence! O mercy infinite! O mystery of mercy inconceivable !
And what hast thou done to save us ? What is the price thou hast laid down for our souls? O how can it be told ? What were the banishments, the oppression, the poverty, to which thou wast exposed, in comparison to the persecutions and accusations, levelled with infernal bitterness against thy person and character! What were these persecutions and accusations, to thy agony in the garden, when by the extreme torture of thy thoughts the blood was forced through thy pores! Or what again was this to the weight of all our sins, and the wrath of divine justice, poured at once upon thy head! To this, death such as ours, would have been pleasure, and despair, joy. It would have been impossible for thy human nature to have sustained this load, or withstood the violence of such a rack, had not the divine nature upheld the human, and hardened it for the horrible encounter.
And now, blessed Jesus, having accompanied thee, but O at two great a distance, like thy first disciples, we have heard the false accusations laid against thee; we have heard the popular cry set up for thy blood; we have heard thy judge acquit and condemn thee on the same evidence. Now they strip thee! clothe thee again in purple as a mock king! and bind thy temples with a crown of thorns ! Now they buffet that sacred head, where infinite wisdom is seated! Now they load that awful face, adored by angels, with nauseous spittle ! Now they tear the flesh from off thy bones with their scourges! All this time we hear no complaints nor answers from thee, thou humble, thou silent Lamb of our salvation! Nay, as often as we can discover thy countenance through the blood, and sweat, and spittle which besmear it, we behold in it a settled composure, mixed with compassion and tenderness. What dignity in thy humility! What heroism in thy patience! what a triumph is mercy making over malice!
But the cross, that altar for the great sacrifice is now prepared; the amazing, the melancholy procession sets out for the place of execution; and lo thou art nailed to the accursed tree, for the greater reproach, between two thieves. Were we as much thy members, blessed Jesus, as we ought to be, we should feel these nails as keenly as thou didst. Behold! thy murderers taunt and deride thy agonies, and endeavour to prove thee not to be the son of God nor the king of Israel, by the reproach of thy cross; and so the noblest instance of goodness that ever was exhibited. to mankind, is represented by art and malice, as nothing but impotence and imposture. Let heaven and earth attend to thy return for this, as to a sound more sublime and sweet than that which is sent up to the throne by the whole celestial choir ; . Father forgive them, for they know not what they do. O surely thou couldst not pray in vain for the pardon of sin, now made thy own, at the instant of atoning for it with thy blood. If this thy prayer was not heard and granted, we all perish for ever, inasmuch as we all have joined in the sct of thy murder. Our sins as well as theirs, have spit in thy face, buffeted thee, crowned thee with thorns; we as well as they have nailed thee to the cross, have laboured to dishonour thee in the sight of infidels, have shed thy precious blood.
What other words are those we hear from thee, more expressive of misery than the groans of the damned, - My God, my God, why hast thou fotsaken me! Yet in these words, which beyond all others ever uttered, mark the heinousness of sin, what consolation, could he taste it, for him.