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CHRIST’S OBJECT IS THE HEALING OF SOULS.
THE healings of Christ in bodies, we have just seen, are in fact an outward type of the more radical and sublime cure he undertakes, by his sacrifice, to work in fallen character. In this cure, we have the principal aim and object of his mission. We may sum up thus all that he taught, and did, and suffered, in the industry of his life and the pangs of his cross, and say that the one, comprehensive, all-inclusive aim, that draws him on, is the change he will operate in the spiritual habit and future well-being of souls. In this fact it is, and only in this, that he becomes a Redeemer. He is here in vicarious sacrifice, not for something else, but for this.
In the unfolding of this general conception, my present chapter will be occupied. It is very commonly assumed that Christ is here for another and different main object; viz., to suffer before God’s justice, and prepare, in the satisfying of that, a way of possible forgiveness for men. From this I must dissent, though without proposing here any controversy, farther than may be implied in the maintenance and due illustration of my 152proposition above stated. What was necessary to be done for the preparation of forgiveness will be considered, at a more advanced stage of the discussion, I only say, for the present, that this is no principal matter in his work, the principal matter being to inaugurate a grand, restorative, new-creating movement on character—the reconciliation, that is, of men to God. The other, the preparation of forgiveness, take what view of it we may, unless we make forgiveness the same thing as reconciliation, can be only a secondary and subordinate matter, the principal work and wonder of all being what Christ undertakes and is able to do, in the bad mind’s healing and recovery to God.
That some very great and wonderful change, or recasting of soul is, in some way, necessary—as well as to Christ is our Regenerator. provide the forgiveness of sins—is generally admitted and asserted with abundant emphasis; but it is not as generally perceived that Christ has any particular agency in it. It is not denied that his teachings have great value, or that what is called his expiatory suffering for sin is effective in a degree, on men’s feeling, as well as efficacious in the satisfaction of justice; and it is continually put to his credit, in this same suffering and satisfaction, that he has purchased the Holy. Spirit, and sends him forth to work the needed change in souls. In this way, some compensation is made for the loss that accrues by a failure to conceive the immediate and really immense agency of Christ in such changes; still there is a loss. No conception of Christ really meets the true significance 153of his mission, that does not find him working centrally in the great Soul-Healing himself; related presently to it, in all the matter of his suffering and sacrifice. It is not his simply to forgive, or obtain the forgiveness of sin, in the lowest and most nearly negative sense of remission; his great and vastly more significant endeavor is, to make the sin itself let go of the sinner, and so deliver him inwardly that he shall be clear of it. And to accomplish this requires an almost recomposition of the man; the removal of all his breakage, and disorder, and derangement, and the crystalization over again, if I may so speak, of all his shattered affinities, in God’s own harmony and law. And, in order to this result, whatever agencies beside concur in it, three things, included in the sacrifice and suffering of Jesus, appear to be specially needed.
1. There is a want of something done, or shown, to preengage the feeling, or raise a favoring prejudice in it; so that, when advance is made, on God’s Pre-engages the feeling. part, in a call to repentance, the subject may not be repelled, but drawn rather. Otherwise it is like to be as it was in the garden, when the culprit hearing God calling after him, fled and hid himself. No bad soul likes to meet the Holy one, but recoils painfully, shivers with dread, and turns away. But the foremost thing we see in Christ is not the infinite holiness, or sovereign purity; he takes us, first, on the side of our natural feeling; showing his compassions there, passing before us visaged in sorrow, groaning in 154distressful concern for us, dying even the bitterest conceivable death, because the love he bears to us can not let go of us. In a word we see him entered so deeply into our lot, that we are softened and drawn by him, and even begin to want him entered more deeply, that we may feel him more constrainingly. In this way a great point is turned in our recovery. Our heart is engaged before it is broken. We like the Friend before we love the Saviour.
2. It is another point of consequence, in the matter of our recovery, that we have some better, more tender, and so more piercing, conviction of sin, than we get from our natural remorse, or even from the rugged Awakens the conscience. and blunt sentence of law. It is well, indeed, to be shot through with fiery bolts from Sinai, but these hard, dry wounds, these lacerations of truth, want searching and wounding over again, by the gentle surgery of love, before we are in a way to be healed. In this more subduing, and more nearly irresistible convincing, we have, in part, the peculiar efficacy of the cross. We look on him whom we have pierced, and are pierced ourselves. Through the mighty bosom struggle of the agony and death, we look down, softened, into the bosom wars and woes Christ pities and dies for in us. And when we hear him say—“Of sin because ye believe not on me”—we are not chilled, or repelled, as by the icy baptism of fear and remorse, but we welcome the pain. As Simeon himself declared, “he is set for the fall,” as well as “for the rising again;” and we even bless the fall that so tenderly prepares the rising.155
In this manner it was, that the conversion of Paul began at the point of that piercing word—“I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.” Penetrated and felled by that arrow of the divine love, his “exceedingly mad” feeling dies, and his resistance, from that moment, is gone.
3. There greatly needs to be, and therefore, in Christ, is given, a type of the new feeling and life to be restored. Abstract descriptions given of holiness or holy virtue, do not signify much to those who Stands for the exemplar. never knew them inwardly by their effects. To conceive a really divine character by specification, or receive it by inventory is, in fact, impossible. No language can give the specification, and no mind could take the meaning of it accurately, if it were given. Hence the necessity that we have some exposition that is practical and personal. We want no theologic definition of God’s perfections; but we want a friend, whom we can feel as a man, and whom it will be sufficiently accurate for us to accept and love. Let him come so nigh, if possible, let him be so deeply inserted into our lot and our feeling, that we can bury ourselves in him and the fortunes of his burdened life, and then it will be wonderful, if having God’s own type in his life, we do not catch the true impress from it in ourselves.
In these three points, we perceive, that the suffering life and death of Jesus are the appropriate and even necessary equipment of his doing force, in what he undertakes 156for character. Observe now what this doing includes, and in how many ways and forms it is set forth. Thus he quickens—“and The Scriptures make him a renewing power. you hath he quickened.” He gives life—“that he should give eternal life.” He liberates the bondage of souls—“If the Son shall make you free.” He new-creates—“new-created in Christ Jesus.” He begets—“hath begotten us again to a lively hope.” He raises from the state of spiritual death—“and hath raised us up together.” He converts—“turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” He is the captain, or bringer on, of salvation—“bringing many sons unto glory.” He reconciles, or changes to conformity of life with God—“to wit that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself.” He redeems—“made unto us redemption.” In the same way he is called “the light of the world,” “the day-star,” “the truth,” “the water of life,” “the bread of life,” the mirror of God’s glory, before which “we are changed from glory to glory.” In short there is no end to the images that spring up, at every turn of the New Testament writings, to express the operative purpose and manner of Christ’s soul-renewing work-presenting it continually as the something he is doing upon us, or to revolutionize and restore our character. This would be more impressively shown, if we could pause on all these various expressions, such as I have briefly cited by catch words, and unfold them by a deliberate exposition of their meaning.
But instead of this, I will recall, in this manner, a 157single expression, or figure, as directly referred to him as any of the others, and commonly overlooked as having any such reference at all—the figure I mean of birth, or regeneration. It is even commonly taught that Christ is not immediately concerned in the change called regeneration, but only in the preparation of forgiveness for it, when the change is wrought by the Holy Spirit, in the office that belongs to him. What then signify such examples as these? “But as many as received him [Christ] to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in his name; which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” [i. e. of God as in Christ.] Again—“Every one that doeth righteousness is born of him,” [Christ.] And again—“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, [the Logos] that liveth and abideth forever.”
This matter of regeneration is referred also to the Holy Spirit, it is true; but not in any such exclusive sense that it is not referred with equal None the less a Regenerator that the Spirit is also. truth to Christ; for it is even declared to be the office of the Spirit to glorify Christ in the soul. Christ is a power to the soul before its thought, and by that which is given to thought in his person. The Spirit is a power back of thought, opening thought as a receptivity towards him, and, in that manner, setting the subject under the impression of Christ’s life, and death, and character. “He shall glorify me,” says the Saviour, “for he shall receive of 158mine, and shall show it unto you.” In Paul’s view conversion is to be described accordingly as the inward discovery of Christ. “When it pleased God,” he says, “to reveal his Son in me,” giving that as the account of his conversion. Christ then is, or is to be, an operative power on men, in the sense that they are to be regenerated in holiness by him. In a remoter and equally true sense, they are regenerated by the Spirit; in a closer and more proximate sense by Christ, as the moral image and love of God, set forth to engage their love and renew them in character. The work required is no such work as can be summarily struck out, by the mere efficiency, or force-principle of God. It requires all there is of God, in the incarnate life of Jesus, in his feeling, in his Gethsemane, in his death; a brooding of the whole deific mercy, and truth, and patience, and holiness, over the inthrallment and death-like chill of the soul. Even as Paul testifies again—“But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
Such is the kind of efficacy which the Scriptures attribute to Christ, and for this kind of efficacy in human character they conceive him to be sent into the world. And, by this kind of efficacy, too, we shall see that he The Christed consciousness in all disciples. is revealed in the consciousness of his disciples. It is not the account of their Christian experience, and of the gospel as related thereto, that Christ has done something before God’s throne, and wholly apart from all effect in them, to make their acceptance possible; and then that the 159Holy Spirit, by a divine efficiency in them, changes their hearts. No such theologic gospel of dry wood and hay is the gospel of the apostles. They find every thing, in their human nature, penetrated by the sense, and savor, and beauty, and glory of Christ. Their whole consciousness is a Christ-consciousness—every thing good and strong in them is Christ within. Worsted in all their struggles of will-work and self-regeneration, they still chant their liberty in Christ and say—“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free.” Their joy is to be consciously Christed, fully possessed by Christ; to have him dwell in them, and spread himself over and through all the senses and sentiments, and willings, and works of their life.
This is Paul, for example, a man transformed, all through, by Christ living in him; consciously weak and little and low in himself, and possible to be lifted only in the hope that, as Christ hath risen from the dead, he may also rise with him, to walk in newness of life. Not that he was captivated simply by his life. He was even more profoundly captivated by his death, and found, in fact, his deepest inspirations there; desiring ever to be with him in the fellowship of his sufferings, and to be made conformable to his mighty sacrifice in them. In that sacrifice it was that he most felt his working. That broke his heart, and there he took the saintly fire that burned so brightly in him. It is as if the Paul-soul were all wrapped in by the Christ-soul, and he only speaks aloud what he feels 160within, when he says—“Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”
It is also a singular confirmation of this kind of evidence, that all living disciples of our own time give the same kind of testimony from their experience, This same view is virtually accepted by those who deny it. when, by their doctrine, they have no right to it. They have no such view, it may be, of Christ, as that he is sent to be a regenerative power on character; the lean kine of judicial satisfaction have devoured the good kine of God’s regenerative bounty, and yet they cling to Christ for a wonderful and blessed something still, which he puts in their feeling, and call him lovingly their life. Sometimes they look after a reason why they are so much bound up in him, and imagine that it is their sense of gratitude to Christ for the squaring of their account with God, by his sufferings; as if they could have him in so great endearment for what he has suffered before God, apart from all that he is and pleads before us. No, this working grace of Jesus goes before all gratitude, to beget us in a spirit of gratitude, when we have none; it is not the satisfaction of our debt, but it is the noble sympathy in which he draws himself to us, the agony of his concern for us, the lifting up of his cross, in which he proves his faithfulness even unto death—by these it is that he installs himself in so tender a devotion, in all believers’ hearts. Thus it is that he gets into their prayers, into their sense of liberty, into their good conscience, bathing them all 161over in the glorious confidence and bliss of his consciously participated life. They sigh after him with Thomas a Kempis, rest in him with Brainard, sing him as the mighty power with Wesley, even though they know him in their doctrine, only as a sacrifice before God’s justice.
Indeed it will be observed that all effective preachers of Christ under the penal satisfaction doctrine, quit their base in it instinctively, when they undertake the capture of the heart—falling, at once, into modes of appeal that make him God’s Regenerative Argument. They show how he loves the world, and testify “the love of Christ constraineth us.” They magnify the tenderness of his healing ministry. They picture the cross to human sensibility, as if they really believed that Christ was lifted up to draw men to himself. They can not sufficiently praise the beauty of his wonderful character. If they think of God’s wrath that could be assuaged only by his blood, no present feeling of consistency forbids their seeing God’s patience in him, and the sacrifice he will make for his enemies. So they preach him directly to men’s hearts, in all the most winning, and subduing, and tenderest things they can say of him; as if he were really incarnated in the world for that kind of use. Meantime they call it preaching Christ, only when they preach the satisfaction, and complain, it may be with real sadness, that now-a-days, there is so little preaching of Christ; understanding in particular, that kind of preaching. When alas! the poorest, most repelling thing done is 162precisely that; and so little of that is done, just because the poverty and repulsiveness of it are silently and irresistibly felt. In general harmony with these appeals to fact and living evidence, it becomes a considerable and sad part Reclamations of lost Scripture. of my duty, in this chapter, to reclaim the lost proof texts, which have been carried over to the side of the satisfaction theory, and away from their very obvious natural meaning. I do not charge it as a fraud, that so much of Scripture has been stolen away from its rightful use and import—every mistaken theory or doctrine of religion, which obtains long use, gradually and unconsciously, or by fixed necessity, converts the Scripture symbols to itself and makes them its proselytes. Take for example the texts that follow.
“Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world.”77John i. 29. It is not said that he taketh away the punishments of the world, but “the sins”—just that which was signified by the sacrifices of the altar and the scapegoat sent away into the wilderness. The lamb was not punished, neither was the goat. The very thing signified was the removal, or deportation of the sin. “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten son into the world, that we might live through him.”881 John iv. 9. “That we might live” gets to mean that we might have our penal 163liability released and nothing more. A previous verse in the epistle—“For the Life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness and show unto you that Eternal Life which was with the Father and was manifested unto us”—raises no barrier against a construction so frigid, even though it tells us expressly that Christ was incarnated to be the manifested Life, the same that was with the Father and is to beget, or be, eternal life in us.
“Who his own self bare our sins, in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sin, might live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed.”991 Peter ii. 24. This passage is used very much as if the “bearing of the sins,” and the “stripes” spoken of, were the whole matter; whereupon the judicial substitution theory has nothing to do but to assign its own construction and take the text into its own particular service. Meantime the very bearing of sins has its end, or aim, plainly declared and is itself to be qualified by its aim—it is that we may “live unto righteousness;” being, as we see, an appeal of suffering for us, to work a change inwardly in our life, and beget us anew in righteousness. And so of the “stripes;” they are not penal stripes, inflicted for God’s satisfaction, but such kind of suffering as works a divine healing in us—“By whose stripes ye were healed.”
“For Christ also hath suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us unto God.”10101 Peter iii. 18. As if this suffering, the just for the unjust, must, of course, 164mean a suffering of penalty for the unjust, when it is even declared, as the object of the suffering ministry and mission—“that he might bring us unto God.”
“Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world.”1111Gal. i. 4. It is not from God’s justice, not from any future wrath, that Christ will deliver, when he gives himself for our sins—no compensation to God’s law is even thought of—but he gives himself to deliver us from a state of evil now present; from corrupt custom, the law of this world, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.
“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ.”1212Gal. iii. 13-14. Probably the expression “being made a curse for us,” does imply that he somehow comes under the retributive consequences of our sin—in what manner will hereafter be explained—but that will not justify the conclusion that Christ’s chief errand is to satisfy God’s justice, and so to prepare the forgiveness of sin. Is not the object plainly declared, viz., “that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles?” Is it then the blessing of Abraham, that God is satisfied in him, and forgiveness of sins obtained by him? or is it rather that the Gentiles might come as near to God as Abraham was, and be so wrought in as to be also friends of God with him?’
Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new 165creature, old things are passed away, behold all things are become new. And all things are of God who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ.13132 Cor. v. 17-18. How much do we hear of the reconciliation of God by Christ! and yet the very word is a word of transformation wholly inapplicable to God; and what is more, it is here even formally applied to us—“hath reconciled us.” Besides the “all things” which are said to come of God, in this reconciliation, are precisely the new things before comprehended in the becoming “a new creature.” It would seem to be even impossible to get these words into the use they have so commonly been made to serve. And then how much more, when it follows immediately as a whole description or summation of the gospel itself—“to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself.” It is one thing to reconcile the world, and a very different to reconcile God.
“That he might be a merciful and faithful high priest, in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.”1414Heb. 17-18. Here we have the priestly figure, and the “reconciliation” is a different word, derived from the atonement service of the altar; and it is a reconciliation not of man, but “for sins;” all which appears to favor, in a certain degree, the satisfaction theory which it is continually cited to support. And yet the object specified in the words that follow turns back, how 166plainly, all such constructions, showing, at the same time, how easy it is to miss the genuine import of this kind of figure, by taking it too closely and with too little range of liberty. For, in that he himself hath suffered, in his great trial and sacrifice, says our apostle, he has brought us succor in our trial, so that he, by that succor, is truly our priest, as he undertook to be, and becomes the soul-help in his sacrifice that takes away our sin. Every thing turns after all, in these high figures of the altar, and is meant to turn, on the nearness into which he is brought, and the dear sympathy proved by his sacrifice.
I will not go on to cite other texts that have shared the same hard fortune, but will only say, in general, that a numerous and very important class, which represent the lustral figures of the Old Testament, and speak of Christ in one way or another as having “washed,” or “purged,” or “cleansed,” or “sprinkled,” the soul, are systematically converted from that natural and easy signification, to denote a clearance before the law, now satisfied; when there is, in fact, no cleansing wrought in the defilement that was created by disobedience to it. Whereas it is the very purpose of these lustral transactions, or rites—that for which they were specially prepared of old—first, by a kind of implicit force, or power of religious association, to push the mind of a crude age forward into a cleanness it could not think; and then, afterwards, to be a symbol under Christ of that spiritual cleansing otherwise difficult to be expressed. Thus when the argument is, “For if the blood of bulls 167and of goats and the ashes of an heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God”1515Heb. ix, 13, 14.—what can be more plain than that the cleansing here spoken of is no mere change in the soul’s legal possibilities, but a lustration of “the conscience” itself, and a turning of the soul inwardly, away from sin, to the service and obedience of God? So of all the like figures—they have no reference whatever to the matter of a judicial satisfaction, but simply to sanctification of character.
If now all these reclamations of Scripture were made, there would be very little left to give a complexion of authority to any other conclusion, than that Christ is here for what he can do in the restoration of character. To prove a negative so wide is difficult, and therefore only do I withhold from saying that nothing will be left. Still, if I am able to show, in the next chapter, that he is represented as having come, first of all, and above all things beside, to be a power on character, which power he became in the vicarious suffering of his life and death, it will amount, as nearly as possible to the same thing.168
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