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CHAPTER X.

THE ATONEMENT, AS ILLUSTRATED BY THE DETAIL OF THE SACRED NARRATIVE.

REGARDING the atonement as the development of the life that was in Christ, I have now considered its nature in the light of that life,--and the unity of a life has, I trust, been felt to belong to the exposition offered. But the life of Christ had an external history, and took an outward form, from the successive circumstances in which our Lord was placed, from the manger to the cross, according to the divine ordering of his path. And while this history can only be understood in the light of that inward life of which it has been the outward form, the contemplation of the outward form must help our understanding of the inward life; and if the view taken of the nature of the atonement be the true view, must both confirm it and illustrate it.

We are thus prepared to find the outward course of life appointed for the Son of God, as that in which He was to fulfil the purpose of doing the Father's will, determined by the divine wisdom with special reference to that purpose. Another condition, also, we expect to find fulfilled in the circumstances in which the Son is seen witnessing for the Father, viz., that they shall accord with the testimony of the Father to the Son. The witnessing of the Son for the Father would have manifestly been incomplete as to us without the Father's seal to it. But this sealing was an essential part of the divine counsel,--not only that outward testimony, however solemn and authoritative, which was in the 241 words of the angel to Mary, the voice from heaven at the Lord's baptism by John, and again on the mount, but that also to which these special testimonies of the Father to the Son in humanity direct our minds, viz., that testimony of the Father to the Son in the Spirit which always is, and out of which all responsibility for faith in the Son of God arises, being that on which such faith must ultimately rest. With this testimony of the Father to the Son, as well as with the witnessing of the Son for the Father, the divine ordering of our Lord's path would necessarily accord; so that, however the aspect of that path, judged according to the flesh, might seem in contradiction to the words, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," seen in the light of God it would be known to harmonise with that acknowledgment. What would accord with the Father's testimony to the Son must manifestly be one with what would accord with the Son's honouring of the Father in our sight; so that we have not really here two conditions to be fulfilled, but one only; nor does the need-be that there should be fitting scope for the manifestation of brotherhood in relation to men, add any new element, seeing the unity of sonship towards God and brotherhood towards men. But it is important that we approach the consideration of the course of our Lord's life, realising that we are to contemplate it in relation equally to the Father's acknowledgment of the Son, and to the Son's witnessing for the Father,--"No man knoweth who the Son is but the Father, and who the Father is but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal Him."

This, therefore, is the aspect in which we are to contemplate the actual history of the work of redemption. We are to contemplate it as the Son's witnessing for the Father by the manifestation of sonship towards

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God and brotherhood towards men, in circumstances which divine wisdom ordained with reference to the perfection of that manifestation, and which we are to see in the light of the Father's testimony to the Son.

As our Lord "increased in wisdom and in stature," so the elements of the atonement gradually developed themselves with the gradual development of His humanity, and corresponding development of the eternal life in His humanity. The sonship in Him was always perfect sonship. At no one moment could He have said more truly than at another, "The Son doeth nothing of Himself; but whatsoever things the Father doeth, the same doeth the Son likewise." But submitting at once, both to the Father's inward guidance, "opening His ear as the learner, morning by morning," and to His outward guidance, "not hiding His face from shame and spitting," Christ's inward life of love to His Father and love to His brethren was constantly acted upon by the circumstances appointed for Him, receiving its perfect development through them: so that, tracing our Lord's life as thus a visible contact with men, while an invisible abiding in the bosom of the Father, and endeavouring to realise the bearing and operation of outward things upon His inward life, we may expect the light of the atonement to shine forth to us with increased clearness, as the light of that life which is the light of men.

We are not told much of the course of our Lord's life before He entered on His public ministry; we may say we have its general character in the words. He "increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favour with God and man." His doing of the Father's will, His following God as a dear child, had then that attraction in the eyes of men, which goodness often has, while it commends itself to men's consciences without 243 making any positive demand upon themselves. And this record concerning our Lord,--that at this time, and while His life was to men's eyes the simple filling of His place in relation to Joseph and Mary, and His kindred and neighbours, according to the perfect form of childhood and youth in a young Hebrew, He had the acknowledgment of human favour,--should put us on our guard against hastily concluding that the favour of men may not even now, in certain circumstances, follow the favour of God.

When, however, our Lord entered on His public ministry, and the words which He spake, and the miracles which He wrought, constrained men to attend to and consider the demand which He made for His Father, and the condemnation on men which that righteous demand implied,--we see the darkness soon disturbed by the light, and beginning to manifest its enmity to the light. Yet neither was this universal--and not only did some attach themselves to Him as immediate disciples and followers, but many more rejoiced in His teaching; and the response which His testimony had in their hearts, commanded an outward acknowledgment of Him, which indeed was so general and so strong, that those in whom enmity was most moved, were restrained as to the manifestation of their ill will by "the fear of the people." How superficial the hearing was with which the great multitudes that followed Him listened to His words, we know, both from His own care to warn them of the cost of discipleship, (Luke xiv. 25-33,) which He saw they were not counting, and from the subsequent history of that favour, when the cry "Hosannah to the Son of David" so soon gave place to the cry, "Crucify Him, crucify Him." But doubtless between those who, as Peter says of himself and the rest, "forsook all and followed Him," and those who early 244 set themselves against Him, knowing that His word condemned them, and that the acceptance of His teaching with the people would be the subverting of their own consequence and influence, there were many shades of feeling,--the internal witness in men's hearts to the outward word of Him who spake as never man spake, being dealt with in many different measures of reverence and rebellion. On the whole, however, for a time, the power of evil came forth but in measure; and though He could early say, "I honour my Father, and ye dishonour me," and though so much of even what was of another character was to Him who knew what was in man, but a shew of good which did not deceive Him, yet it was but gradually and towards the close, that He had to taste in all its bitterness that enmity to God to which He was exposing Himself in coming to men in His Father's name. The public ministry of the Lord, with its mixed character of favour and dishonour, of loud acclamations of those who at the least believed Him to be a teacher sent from God, and secret machinations of enemies whose malice could not calculate enough on sympathy to make its expression safe, was ordered of God to continue for a time; and "no man could lay hands on Him, for His hour was not yet come."

It was however but a brief time, much briefer than the previous period of private life, in which the favour of men was conjoined with the favour of God; and it was followed by another distinctly marked period, of which the character is the patient endurance of all the full and perfected development of the enmity, which the faithfulness of the previous testimony for the Father's name had awakened. This last is much the briefest division of our Lord's life on earth; and its darkest portion is to be measured by days, or rather by hours: as if He who spared not His own Son, but gave Him to 245 the death for us, yet spared Him as much as possible, making the bitterest portion the briefest.

We cannot doubt the importance of that portion of the fulfilment of the purpose, "Lo I come to do thy will," which constitutes the private life of our Lord, antecedent to His entering upon His public ministry. The scantiness of the record is no reason for doing so. We know how that scantiness has been attempted to be compensated by fictitious narratives, intended to meet the natural desire to know more of what was so large a proportion of our Lord's whole life on earth. But this has been a part of the error, of not seeing that that life itself, and that life as it abides in His being who lived it, and not the mere written record of that life, is our unsearchable riches which we have in Christ. When the promise is fulfilled to us, that the Comforter would take of that which is Christ's, and shew it unto us, this acting of the Comforter is not limited to what is recorded. He takes from the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, stored up for all humanity in the humanity of the Son of God,--revealing the life of Him who "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin," in its relation to our individual need, with that minuteness of application of which that life, thus revealed to us in the Spirit, is capable, but of which no written record could be capable. How many a little child, remembering that Jesus was once a little child, and grew in wisdom, and in stature, and in favour with God and man, and looking to Him for help according to the need felt in seeking to follow God as a dear child, and be in obedience to those related to him as Joseph and Mary were to the child Jesus, has found his trust met, and felt no want of "a gospel of the infancy of Jesus." Let the divine favour, testified as resting upon that first portion of our Lord's life, sanctify 246 to our hopes private life,--the large proportion of the life of all, the whole of the life of most; and let us see that on which that favour rested, as a part of the eternal life given to us in the Son of God, which is to be God's glory in us in private life, a store from which to receive all that pertains to life and godliness as we are individual Christians,--as truly as His life as a preacher of the kingdom of God, is that to a special participation in which those who are called in this to walk in His steps, are to look,--as truly as His witnessing before Pontius Pilate a good confession, is for strength according to their need, to those who are called to suffer as martyrs for His name.

As to our Lord's personal ministry, its distinguishing character is to be seen in this, that that ministry was the outcoming of the life of sonship. By this character of a life was His ministry distinguished from that of all who were only "teachers sent from God." In this respect was it that He spake as never man spake. What He spake, as what He did, was a part of what He was. His words were spirit and life, and not a mere testimony concerning life. As now in the inner man of our being, when the Son of God is known as present in us claiming lordship over our spirits, there is a testimony of the Father to the Son in the Spirit, which in calling Jesus Lord we are welcoming, so we cannot doubt that then in Judea the man Jesus, in His living witnessing as the Son for the Father, had a testimony of the Father borne to Him, which men heard according as they welcomed the teaching of God. This testimony was a testimony to what He was, to the life that was shining forth in His deeds and words. And the unconscious sense of this has manifestly gone beyond the intelligent recognition of it; so that we find men unable to resist the authority and 247 power with which He spake, even though not beholding, as the disciple did, ''His glory as the glory of the Only-begotten of the Father."

Unless we realise this, and that that was presented to men's faith, if they could receive it, which pertained to one who could say, in reference to His own conscious life, "I am the light of the world," we cannot enter into that immediate presenting to men of what He Himself was as the Gospel, which we have seen in the words, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest . . . Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." And in that testimony as to who are "blessed," with which the discourse which we call the Sermon on the Mount opens, we are to recognise the same thing. All these declarations as to the blessedness of the several conditions of spirit which our Lord there specifies, are rays of the light of the life that was in Him; and will be such to us, being heard as utterances of that life,--utterances of Christ's own consciousness in humanity, a part of His confessing the Father before men, being testimonies in humanity to the blessedness of sonship in doing the Father's will.

Accordingly the whole discourse keeps the Father before us. The foundation of every counsel is our filial relation to God. All is in harmony with the prayer which He teaches, putting the words, ''Our Father," in our lips, and adding, as the first petitions which we are to present, the expression of an interest in the Father's "name" and "kingdom" and "will,"--an interest which, if these petitions are to proceed from unfeigned lips, must imply our participation in that life of sonship which is presented to us in Him who teaches us so to pray.

Nor are we to leave out of accont in contemplating our Lord's ministry as giving glory to the

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Father in being manifested sonship, that not only was this in our nature and in our circumstances, but that the consciousness of its being so, and the full knowledge of the amount of the demand made on us when called to learn of Him, is distinctly expressed,--the knowledge that to call on us to follow Him, is to call upon us to take up the cross. When we in very truth betake ourselves to Him as to that high-priest who is "touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin," and who "in that He Himself hath suffered, being tempted, is able to succour us when we are tempted," we then learn to value the tone of full conscious entering into the amount of the demand which He makes upon men in calling upon them to hate their life in this world, which pervades our Lord's teaching equally with the consciousness of being Himself living that life in the Father's favour which He is commending.

But that life of which our Lord's ministry was thus the living outcoming, in the consciousness of which He testified who are blessed, in the consciousness of which He declared to the weary and heavy laden what is the true rest,--speaking to us also in all this as our very brother,--that life needed, in order to its perfect development, as the light of life to us, to have the depth of its root in God--its power to overcome the world--the nature of its strength and victory--the weight of the cross which it bore in suffering flesh--revealed, as even the living teaching of the Lord's ministry did not reveal it. Therefore was that hour and power of darkness permitted which the closing period of our Lord's course presents, in which sonship towards the Father and brotherhood towards man have had their nature manifested and their power displayed to the utmost.

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As the time drew near, the Lord prepared the disciples for this hour and power of darkness. "And Jesus, going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn Him to death, and shall deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify Him; and the third day He shall rise again." (Matt. xx. 17, 18, 19.) His own feelings in looking forward to what, as to its outward form, He thus foretold, were such as to impress their minds with the most solemn anticipations, and His words then, so far as they are recorded, remain to us a portion of Scripture on which we meditate as bringing us near to a region of feeling into which we scarcely dare to venture: and yet these expressions of mental agony are recorded for our instruction as belonging to that life of Christ which is the light of life to us.

"I have a baptism to be baptised with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished," Luke xii. 50. "Now is my soul troubled; save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name," John xii. 27. And even after the conclusion which the words "For this cause came I to this hour" seem to express, when the awful hour was close at hand, it again became the subject of earnest pleading with the Father,--pleading, the earnestness of which, while it reveals to us the measure of the apprehended bitterness of the cup, and terror of the hour to which it refers, makes a demand upon our faith as to the reality of life which was in our Lord's prayers, and how truly, in dealing with the Father, He dealt with a living will and heart, and not with a fate, which blessed are those who are able truly and fully to respond to. "And they 250 came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and He saith to His disciples, Sit ye. here, while I shall pray. And He taketh with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; and saith unto them. My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. And He went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt." Mark xiv. 33-36. ''And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground." Luke xxii. 44.

In this awfully intense prayer we have to mark its alternative nature, and that the latter part was as truly prayer as the former: the former uttering the true and natural desire to which He was conscious as contemplating that which was before Him in the weakness and capacity of suffering proper to suffering flesh; the latter uttering the desire of the spirit of sonship, being that which was deepest, and to which the other, while consciously realised, was perfectly subordinated.

After being offered the third time, our Lord's prayer was answered, and the mind of the Father, which was the response to His cry, was revealed to Him in the Spirit, He was not to be spared the dreaded hour. The cup was not to pass from Him; and therefore, in that truth of sonship in which He had said, ''Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt," the Father's will was welcomed, the bitter cup was received from the Father's hand as the Father's hand, and in the strength of sonship the Lord drank it. "And He cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and 251 take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. And immediately, while He yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders." Mark xiv. 41, 43. "Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me to drink, shall I not drink it?" To those who had come with Judas He said, "When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness.'' Luke xxii. 53.

The precise point of time at which the anticipated hour and power of darkness had its commencement is thus clearly indicated,--the moment in which the cup, in reference to which He had prayed, was put into our Lord's hand--the moment at which the baptism began, as to which He was straitened until it should be accomplished. And I ask attention to this, because the record clearly separates between the actual experience which these expressions, "hour,"--"cup,"--"baptism," refer to, and the agony in the garden, in which that experience was only anticipated, being still the subject of the prayer, if it were possible, that it should not be, as well as of the prayer that if the Father so willed, it should be.

The history of the hour and power of darkness, now come, follows, and is given with a fulness of detail commensurate with its importance; while it is widely separated from all recorded suffering of man from man by the preternatural circumstances that accompanied it; circumstances which, in their awfulness, accorded with that relation which the sufferings of the sufferer bore 252 to the sin of man; yet which, in their connexion with what was visible of Christ's bearing under His sufferings, had that character impressed upon them which drew from the Roman centurion the acknowledgment, "Truly this was the Son of God."

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