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him forth to be a propitiation, that through faith in his blood, we might receive forgiveness of sins; and yet God be just, and the honour of his law be secured in the sight of all worlds.
So that the doctrine of Christ's atonement, considered in its antecedents, effects, and consequences, is the sum and substance of the Gospel. This is the good news, that God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish; but have everlasting life. John iii. 16. And therefore St. Paul sums up all in these words, Christ crucified, 1 Cor. 1. 23. Jesus Christ, and him crucified. i Cor. ii. 2. and sometimes merely in the cross of Christ. Gal. vi. 14. Yea, in that one word, the cross. 1 Cor. i. 18.
When the Gospel was first published to fallen man, it was in words to this effect; The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head. But how bruise the serpent's head? It was not then a proper time to declare in express language, but sacrifices were instituted to show how, by way of emblematical representation, as they were types and shadows of the great atoneinent. Abel sacrificed, Noah sacrificed, and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob offered sacrifice; and almost the whole external worship of God, under the Mosaic dispensation, which was designed as an introduction to Christianity, consisted in offering sacrifice; and without shedding of blood there was no remission. And the meaning of all this was made plain, when the Son of God became incarnate, that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil : and deliver them who through fear of death were all their life-time subject to bondage. Heb. ii. 14, 15.
How had the devil the power of death? It was the devil's original design to be the death and destruction of all the human race, perhaps, that in the ruin of God's new-made world, he might be revenged for his expulsion out of heaven. He thought that if they sinned, they must inevitably die, according to the express declaration of God's law. He had lately felt the force of the divine law he was under. He sinned, and he was banished from the celestial regions, down to eter12. If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in tain.
As this is Saint Paul's reasoning, who certainly had a right understanding of Christianity; so it not only confutes such affirmations as that just mentioned, which are cited and improved by deistical writers " in the cause of infidelity : but also at the same time, these words of the apostle precisely determine what it was that rendered the death of Christ necessary, in order to the justification and salvation of sinners. The law was weak through the flesh, (Rom. vii. 3.) i, e. through our depravity; and although originally ordained to give life, (Rom. vii. 10.) was now unable to do it. For the law required perfect obedience on pain of eternal damnation; as it is written, cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the lare', to do them. Gal. iii. 10. But all have sinned, and so the whole world stand guilty before God, according to the law, which all the world are under. Rom. iii. 9. 19. This law, therefore, which was ordained to life, can now be only unto death. Rom. vii. 10. And there is no other law. So there is no law which can give life. This rendered the obedience and atonement of Christ absolutely necessary in order to prevent the universal ruin of the human race. For the law being holy, just, and good, (Rom. vii. 12.) must not be set aside. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but not one jot or tittle of the law must fail; it must be all fulfilled. Mat. v. 17, 18. Could men have answered the demands of the law, Christ's obedience and death had been needless. For if righteousness eome by the law, Christ is dead in vain. So that this was the end of Christ's death, and that, but for which he never would have died, his death being needless and in vain on any other account, according to Saint Paul.
It is true, the divine and holy manner in which he went through his sufferings, exhibits a glorious example for all his disciples to follow, when they are called to go through sufferings in his cause. But as there would be no virtue in exposing ourselves to death, when not called to it; so there could be no virtue in going through death in ever so heroic a man
n Tindal. p. 354.
ner in such a case. Rather it might be judged, that we fling away our lives, not only imprudently, but very sinfully. And our example would be so far from deserving to be admired and imitated, that it ought to be publicly condemned ; to the end that others might hear and fear, and do no more so wickedly. If, therefore, our Saviour laid down bis life, when there was no need of it, there was no virtue in his conduct, nothing commendable in his example, nor worthy of imitation ; but the whole .was a scene of deliberate wickedness. But thus it is written, and thus the all-wise God, whose judgment is always according to truth, viewed the affair, viz. If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
To say, “ that although righteousness does come by the law, yet Christ did not die in vain, as his death was needful to seal his testimony to the truth, as other martyrs have done,” is not only expressly to contradict the Holy Ghost, (Gal. xi. 21.) but is even an affront to common sense. Other martyrs were sinners, and deserved to die; for death is the wages of sin : but he was innocent, and holy to perfection. And had he called for twelve legions of angels, and out of his enemies' hands ascended to heaven in visible glory, it had been a sufficient attestation to the traths he taught, had he only been a prophet sent from God to republish the law of
But how then should the Scriptures have been fulfilled, which had marked him out for a sacrifice of atonement, to make an end of sin, and bring in everlasting righteousness. For he was, according to the plan laid in heaven, intimated in the sacred writings, to be wounded for, our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was to be upon him, that by his stripes we might be heuled : For we all like sheep had gone astray, and the Lord had laid on him the iniquities of us all. Isai. liii. On this design, the Son of God became incarnate, and for this purpose he died; and had it not been for this, the death of an incarnate God had been entirely needless. For thus heaven has declared, if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
Well therefore might the holy apostle sum up the whole of the glorious Gospel in one word, We preach Christ crucified: For indeed this was in effect the whole of the good and gloriVOL. II.
nal wo and endless despair. He tempted man to sin, that he might be joined in the same state. For if God will be so severe as to kill and damn for the first offence, satan's praclice seemed to declare, that he could wish God might have nothing else to do among all his subjects. So that when a fallen world was doomed to death, it was the very thing satan would have. And so death became, as it were, his servant. It served his will, it accomplished bis scheme, and answered his ends, as though it had been in his power. God seemed obliged in honour to put his law in execution ! but in doing of it, he would gratify the devil, the greatest enemy to God, to law, and to the whole system. This was satan's malicious crafty scheme, and thus perhaps was he ready to say, “ If law is put in execution, man must die; and God will be disappointed of the glory of his new creation, and I shall triumph. If law is vacated and set aside in favour of rebel man, no more let the Almighty monarch pretend to impartial justice. As well might law have been set aside in my case : my exclusion from heaven was an arbitrary act : if arbitrary, then tyrannical. And what care I for the wrath of an angry tyrant? Hell will be no longer hell to me.” Wherefore, there was a peculiar propriety in the first promise being delivered to man in the form of a threatening to satan. The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head. For it was a chief design of infinite wisdom to disconcert the devil's scheme, break up his plan, and so kill the old serpent in a way suited to his own nature. And what can excruciate him more, and put him to greater torment, than to see law honoured, and man saved, both at once; and an eternal end put to his influence, in a way most honourable to God, and advantageous to the system : whilst himself and all his obstinate adherents are doomed to everlasting fire.
But how can law be honoured, and man saved, both at once? For this end Christ became incarnate, and placed himself in our room and stead, that through death he might destroy the devil, break up his scheme, set at liberty his guilty trembling captives, who through fear of death are all their life-time subject to bondage. For he was made a curse to redeem us from the curse of the lare : set forth to be a propitiation, to
declare God's righteousness, that God might be, and appear to be, just, while he justifies the sinner; and so the law be magnified and made honourable, while the sinner is saved ; death turned into a blessing, and be succeeded by a glorious resurrection, and a blessed immortality,
And thus the design of Christ's death, was to secure the honour of the divine government, and open a way for the honourable exercise of his grace in the salvation of sinners. And this is so plainly held forth in the whole of divine revelation, that it is, at least in words, generally agreed to by almost all parties, however differently they profess to think in many other points. In words, I say, for if in reality it was agreed to, all parties would soon agree in every other important article of the Christian faith.
It is true, there are some divines, who seem to think, that God might arbitrarily have set aside his law in favour of fallen man; and that even his own perfections obliged him to it; and to pardon and receive to favour his sinful creatures upon their repentance, had there never been a mediator or an atonement. Repentance and reformation was all the atonement they could make, and all that God could demand. “I affirm," says one, “it is an article of natural religion, that forgiveness does certainly follow repentance. If God be a merciful and benign being, he will accept the payment we are able to make ; and not insist on impossible demands with his frail bankrupt creatures m."
But little do such divines think how their confident affirmations are really subversive of the whole of Christianity. For if there had been a law, which could have. given life, verily righteousness had been by the law. Gal. iii. 21. If it had been an article of natural religion” that any doings of ours could have in reason entitled us to the divine favour, verily God would have proceeded with mankind upon the principles of natural religion, and not needlessly have been at such infinite expense, as the sacrifice of his Son. For if upon the principles of natural religion, sinful man could obtain the favour of God, the death of Christ was unnecessary. Gal. ii.
m Mr. Nye, Natural and Revealed Religion, p. 85, 86.