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Finally: It is an example in which divine wisdom and excellence united with the most perfect human mind, coinciding with all its designs, and guiding it to unmingled excellence. To the amiableness and beauty of the most finished created virtue, were superadded and united the authority and greatness of the Divinity, by which that mind was inhabited.
The combination, therefore, was a combination of all that is lovely with all that is awful, exalted, and divine. What mind that can be persuaded from sin must not this example persuade? What mind that can be allured to holiness must not this example allure ?
TO BE A PROPITIATION, THROUGH FAITH IN HIS BLOOD, TO DECLARE HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS THAT ARE PAST, THROUGH THE FORBEARANCE OF GOD. TO DECLARE, I SAY, AT THIS TIME, HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS; THAT HE MIGHT BE JUST, AND THE JUSTIFIER OF HIM WHICH BELIEVETH IN JESUS.
ROMANS III. 24–26.
In a former Discourse I proposed to consider, as parts of the Priesthood of Christ, the holiness of his character; the sacrifice which he offered for sin ;-and, the intercession which he makes for sinners.
The first of these subjects has been examined at length. The present Discourse shall be occupied by the second, viz.
THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST FOR THE SINS OF MEN.
In considering this subject I shall endeavour to show,
I. I shall attempt to show the nature of an atonement.
some amends or satisfaction for the neglect of some duty, or the commission of some fault; a satisfaction with which, when supposed to be complete, the person injured ought reasonably to be contented, and to demand of the offender nothing more on account of his transgression. This satisfaction may, in certain cases, be made by the offender himself. Whenever he has owed some piece of service, and this was all he has owed, he may, if he have failed to perform this duty, atone for the fault by a future service, which he did not owe, and which is equivalent to that which he neglected, and to the damage occasioned by his neglect. A servant, who owes an estimated day's work to his master every day, may, if he have neglected to work half a day, atone thus for his fault, by such future labour as shall be equivalent to the extent of his neglect, and to the injury occasioned by it to his master. In this case it will be seen, that the atonement respects only the fault which has been committed. The servant owed his master so much labour : the payment of so much labour would be a discharge therefore of the debt. But we do not say, that the debt in this case is atoned. The fault only which has been committed, in neglecting or refusing to pay in the proper season and manner, demands or admits of an atonement. In case where an atonement exists, it is in the same manner a satisfaction for an injury or fault.
In some cases, the party offending cannot atone for his offence, but the atonement, if made at all, must be made vicariously, that is, by the intervention of a third person between the offender and the offended.
Of this nature is every case, of which the offender owes as absolutely every duty which he could afterwards perform, as he owed that, the nonperformance of which constituted his fault. In this case, all his future efforts are necessarily due for the time being, and can, therefore, never become a satisfaction for faults which are past. Amends for any injury can never be made by services which are due to the injured person on other grounds, and the refusal of which would constitute a new injury. In other words, they must be services rendered only on account of the injury already received. He, thereforo, who owes to another all his services for himself, can never become the means of atoning to him for the faults of another. In all cases of vicarious atonement, the substitute must ho mder no personal ob
ligation to render the services which are to be accepted as a satisfaction of the principal, or in other words the offender. Nothing is more plain, than that which is due to himself, cannot be transferred to the account of another.
In every case of personal or vicarious atonement, the services rendered must be of such value as to become a reasonable and full satisfaction for the injury done ; all that justice can fairly demand or render; such as will place the person injured in as good a situation as that which. preceded the injury. Where the injury has been great, therefore, or multiplied, the services must also be proportionally great.
An atonement for a crime, committed against a government of any kind, supposes the offender, if he is to receive the benefit of it, to be pardoned. In this case, it must be such as to leave the government in as good a state, as firm, as honourable, as easily and certainly efficacious in its future operations, after the offender is pardoned, as it would have been, if he had been punished with exact justice. In no other manner can it become a satisfaction for the injury. If all the services of the offender, in this case, were due to the government after his crime was committed, it would be impossible for the atonement to be made, unless by another person.
Sin is a crime committed against the government of God. All the services of sinners are owed to God for the time being. No future services of any sinner, therefore, can be any satisfaction for his past sins. If an atonement be made in this case, then, it must be made by a substitute ; and this substitute must be able to render services of sufficient value to repair the injury done. In the performance of these services he must leave the divine government as firm, as honourable, as efficacious in its operations, after the atonement is made, as it was before the crime was committed.
It will perhaps be objected here, that the divine government cannot become less firm, or less honourable than it originally was, because it is supported in its full strength by infinite power and wisdom. To this objection I answer, that the government of God over his moral creatures, is a moral government ; that is, a government of rules and motives; or of laws, rewards, and punishments. Such a government, even in the hand of omnipotence, may become weak and inefficacious, in tho ricw of its subjects. A law which, after it has been violated, is
not vindicated by punishing the violator, loses of course a part its authority. A moral governor will cease to be regarded with veneration, if, when he is insulted by his subjects, he does not inflict on them the proper punishment. A government of mere power may be upheld in its full strength by the exercise of power only. But a moral government cannot be thus pre
a served, unless the motives to obedience are continued to the view of its subjects in their full force. An atonement for sin, therefore, that is, a complete atonement, must be such as to leave these motives wholly unimpaired. It must consist of such services as, whatever else may be their nature, will, after the sinners are pardoned, leave the government of God in no degree less venerable, less efficacious, or less likely to be punctually obeyed, than before the sins were committed. As these sins have been numerous, and very great; it is farther evident, that the services rendered as a satisfaction for them must be of great value.
II. I shall endeavour to show the necessity of an alonement.
In order to understand this part of the subject, and I forewarn my hearers that it is a part of high importance to the subject itself, and to all just views of the Christian system, it will be necessary to bring up to view the state of man, as a transgressor of the divine law.
The language of this law, and its only language, was, He that doeth these things shall live by them.'—* This do, and thou shalt live.'— Cursed is every one, that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law, to do them.' This law God published, as the rule by which his own infinite wisdom and rectitude determined to govern the world. or course it is a right and just rule. Of course, also, it is 'a rule which the same wisdom and rectitude are pledged to maintain in its full force. The very reasons for which it was enacted require, with their full strength, that it should be also maintained. If it was wise and right to enact it, it was equally wise and right to maintain it. If to enact it was the dictate of infinite wisdom and rectitude, to maintain it must equally be the dictate of the same attributes.
If these observations be admitted, and it is believed that they cannot be refused an admission, it follows of necessity,