« PoprzedniaDalej »
such as had, as far as it was possible, something like a proportion to his greatness. Hence those magnificent temples; hence those hecatombs; hence those human victims; hence that blood which streamed on the altars, and so many other rites of religious worship, the existence of which no one is disposed to call in question. What consequence do we deduce from this position ? The truth of the doctrine of the atonement ? No: we do not carry our inference so far. We only conclude, that there is no room to run down the Christian religion, if it instructs us that God demanded satisfaction to his justice, by an expiatory sacrifice, before he could give an unrestrained course to his goodness. The third argument we carry thus far, and no farther.
4. A fourth reflection hinges on the correspondence of our belief, respecting this particular, with that of every age of the Christian church, in uninterrupted succession, from Jesus Christ down to our own timés. All the ages of the Christian world have, as we do, spoken of this sacrifice. But we must not enlarge. Whoever wishes for complete information on this particular, will find a very accurate collection of the testimonies of the fathers, at the end of the treatise on the satisfaction, composed by the celebrated Grotius. The doctrine of the atonement, therefore, is not a doctrine of yesterday, but has been transmitted from age to age, from Jesus Christ down to our own times. This argument we carry thus far, and no farther.
Here then we have a class of arguments which, after all, we would have you to consider only as so many presumptions in favor of the doctrine of the atonement. But surely we are warranted to proceed thus far at least in concluding: a doctrine in which human reason finds nothing contradictory: a doctrine which presents nothing repugnant to the di
vine attributes; nay, to which the divine attributes directly lead us; a doctrine perfectly conformable to the suggestions of conscience, and to the practice of mankind in every age, and of every nation; a doctrine received in the Christian church from the beginning till now; a doctrine which, in all its parts, presents nothing but what is entirely worthy of God, when we examine it at the tribunal of our own understanding : such a doctrine contains nothing to excite our resentment, nothing that we ought not to be disposed to admit, if we find it clearly laid down in the scriptures,
Now, my brethren, we have only to open the Bible in order to find express testimonies to this purpose ; and not only do we meet with an infinite number of passages, in which the doctrine is clearly taught, but a multitude of classes of such passages.
1. In the first class, we must rank all those passages which declare that Jesus Christ died for us. It would be no easy matter to enumerate them: I delivered unto you first of all, says St. Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthians, xv. 3. that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures, Christ also hath once suffered for sins, says St. Peter, in his first epistle general, iii. 18. the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. 2. In the second class must be ranked those
passages which represent Jesus Christ as suffering the punishment which we had deserved. The fifty-third chapter of the prophet Isaiah turns entirely on this subject : and the apostles hold the self-same language. They say expressly that Christ was made to be sin for us, who knew no sin, 2 Cor. v. 21. that he was made a curse for us, Gal. iii. 13. that
he bare our sins in his own body on the tree, I Pet. ii. 24.
3. In a third class must be ranked all those passages in which our salvation is represented as being the fruit of Christ's death. The persons, whose opinions we are combating, maintain themselves on a ground which we established in a former branch of this discourse, namely, that the death of Jesus Christ was a demonstration of the truth of his doctrine. They say that this is the reason for which our salvation is considered as the effect of that death. But if we are saved by the death of Jesus Christ, merely because it has sealed a doctrine which leads to our salvation, how comes it then, that our salvation is no where ascribed to the other parts of his ministry, which contributed, no less than his death, to the confirmation of his doctrine ? Were not the miracles of Jesus Christ, for example, proofs equally authentic as his death was, of the truth of his doctrine? Whence comes it, that our salvation is no where ascribed to them? This is the very thing we are maintaining. The resurrection, the ascension, the miracles, were absolutely necessary to give us assurance, that the wrath of God was appeased; but Christ's death alone was capable of producing that effect. You . will more sensibly feel the force of this argument, if you
attend to the connection which our text has with what follows in the 17th verse: Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren ; that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest. .... to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
If we are saved by the death of Jesus Christ, merely because that event sealed the truth of his doctrine, wherefore should it have been necessary for him to assume our flesh. Had he descended
from heaven in the effulgence of his glory; bad he appeared upon Mount Zion, such as he was upon Mount Sinai, in flashes of lightning, with the voice of thunder, with a retinue of angels; would not the truth of the gospel have been established infinitely better than by the death of a man? Wherefore, then, was it necessary that Christ should die? It was because the victim of our transgressions must be put to death. This is St. Paul's reasoning. And for this reason it is that our salvation is no where ascribed to the death of the martyrs, though the death of the martyrs was, like that of Jesus Christ, a proof of the truth of the gospel.
4. In a fourth class, must be ranked all those passages which represent the death of Jesus Christ as the body and the reality, of which all the sacrifices prescribed by the law, were but the figure and the shadow. We shall select a single one out of a multitude. The greatest part of the Epistle to the Hebrews must be quoted to this effect. It is evident, that the great object of its author, is to engage Christians to look for that in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which the Jews, to no purpose, sought for in those which Muses prescribed. Now what did the Jews look for in their sacrifices ? Was it rot the means of appeasing the deity ? If, therefore, the sacrifices of the Jews were the expiation of sin, only in figure, and in a shadow, if the sacrifice of Jesus Christ be their body and reality, does it not follow that Jesus Christ has really and literally expiated our transgressions ? To pretend that the Levitical sacrifices were not offered up for the remission of great offences, but only for certain external indecencies, which rather polluted the flesh, than wounded the conscience, is an attempt to maintain one error by another: for a man has only to open his eyes, to be convinced that the Le
vitical sacrifices were offered up for offences the most atrocious; it is needless to adduce any other evidence than the annual sacrifice prescribed, Lev. xvi. 21, 22. in the offering of which, Aaron laid both his hands upon the head of th· live goat, and confessed over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins .... and the goat did bear upon him all their iniquities.
5. In a fifth class must be ranked all the circumstances of the passion of Jesus Christ, and of his agony in the garden ; that sorrow, those fears, those agitations, those cries, those tears, that bloody sweat, those bitter complaints: My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me ? Matt. xxvii. 46. The argument derived from this will appear of still greater weight, if you support it by thus reflecting, that no person in the universe onght to have met death with so much joy as Jesus Christ, had he suffered a mere ordinary death. Christ died with a perfect submission to the will of his Father, and with a fervant love to mankind. Christ died in the full assurance of the justice of his cause, and of the innocency of his life. Christ died completely persuaded of the immortality of the soul, and of the certainty of a life to come.
Cbrist died under a complete assurance of the exalted felicity which he was to enjoy after death. He had come from God. He was returning to God. Nay, there ought to have been something more particular in his triumph, than in that of the generality of believ
Because he had made himself of no reputation; God was about to give him a name which is above every name. A cloud was going to serve him as a triumphal car, and the church triumphant was preparing to receive him with acclamation of joy: Lift up your heads, 0 ye gates, and be ye