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1. The governmental bearings of this scheme are perfectly apparent. The whole transaction tends powerfully to sustain God’s law, and to reveal His love and even mercy to sinners. It shows that He is personally ready to forgive, and needs only to have such an arrangement made that He can do it safely as to His government. What could show His readiness to forgive so strikingly as this? See how carefully He guards against the abuse of pardon! Always ready to pardon, yet ever watchful over the great interests of obedience and happiness, lest they be imperilled by its freeness and fullness!
2. Why should it ever be thought incredible that God should devise such a scheme of atonement? Is there anything in it that is unlike God or inconsistent with His revealed character? I doubt whether any moral agent can understand this system and yet think it incredible. Those who reject it as incredible, must have failed to understand it.
3. The question might be asked—Why did Christ die at all, if not for us! He had never sinned; did not die on His own account as a sinner; nor did He die as the infants of our race do, with a moral nature yet undeveloped, and who yet belong to a sinning race. The only account to be given of His death is, that He died not for Himself, but for us.
It might also be asked—Why did He die so I See Him expiring between two thieves, and crushed down beneath a mountain weight of sorrow. Why was this? Other martyrs have died shouting; He died in anguish and grief, cast down and agonized beneath the hidings of His Father’s face.
All nature seemed to sympathize with His griefs. Mark—the sun is clothed in darkness; the rocks are rent; the earth quakes beneath your feet; all nature is convulsed. Even a heathen philosopher exclaimed—Surely the universe is coming to an end, or the Maker of the universe is dying! Hark, that piercing cry, “My God, my God; why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
On the supposition of His dying as a Saviour for sinners, all is plain. He dies for the government of God, and must needs suffer these things to make a just expression of God’s abhorrence of sin. While He stands in the place of guilty sinners, God must frown on Him and hide His face. This reveals both the spirit of God’s government and His own infinite wisdom.
4. Some have impeached the atonement as likely to encourage sin. But such persons neglect the very important distinction between the proper use of a thing and its abuse. No doubt the best things in the universe may be abused, and by abuse be perverted to evil, and all the more by how much the better they are in their legitimate use.
Of the natural tendency of the atonement to good, it would seem that no man can rationally doubt. The tendency of manifesting such love, meekness, and self-sacrifice for us, is to make the sinner trust and love, and to make him bow before the cross with a broken and contrite heart. But many do abuse it; and the best things, abused, become the worst. The abuse of the atonement is the very reason why God sends sinners to hell. He says, “He that despised Moses’ law, died without mercy under two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and counted the blood of the covenant an unholy thing, and hath done despite to the Spirit of grace?”
Hence, if any sinner will abuse atoning blood, and trample down the holy law, and the very idea of returning to God in penitence and love, God will say of him, “Of how much sorer punishment shall he be thought worthy” than he who despised Moses’ law and fell beneath its vengeance?
5. It is a matter of fact, that this manifestation of God in Christ does break the heart of sinners. It has subdued many hearts, and will thousands more. If they believe it and hold it as a reality, must it not subdue their heart to love and grief? Do not you think so? Certainly, if you saw it as it is, and felt the force of it in your heart, you would sob out on your very seat, break down and cry out—Did Jesus love me so? And shall I love sin any more? Ah, your heart would melt as thousands have been broken and melted in every age, when they have seen the love of Jesus as revealed on the cross. That beautiful hymn puts the case truthfully-
“I saw One hanging on a tree,
In agony and blood;
Who fixed His languid eyes on me,
As near the cross I stood.”
But it was not the first look that fully broke his heart. It was only when-
“A second look He gave which said,
I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid-
I die that thou mayest live,”
that his whole heart broke, tears fell like rain, and he withheld no power of his being in the full consecration of his soul to this Saviour.
This is the genuine effect of the sinner’s understanding the Gospel and giving Jesus Christ credit for His loving-kindness in dying for the lost. Faith thus breaks the stony heart. If this demonstration of God’s love in Christ does not break your heart, nothing else will. If this death and love of Christ do not constrain you, nothing else can.
But if you do not look at it, and will not set your mind upon it, it will only work your ruin. To know this Gospel only enough to reject and disown it. can serve no other purpose save to make your guilt the greater, and your doom the more fearful.
6. Jesus was made a sin-offering for us. How beautifully this was illustrated under the Mosaic system! The victim was brought out to be slain; the blood was carried in and sprinkled on the mercy-seat. This mercy-seat was no other than the sacred cover or lid of the ark which contained the tables of the law and other sacred memorials of God’s ancient mercies. There they were, in that deep recess—within which none might enter on pain of death, save the High Priest, and he only once a year, on the great day, of atonement. On this eventful day, the sacred rites culminated to their highest solemnity. Two goats were brought forward, upon which the High Priest laid his hands and confessed publicly his own sins and the sins of all the people. Then one was driven far away into the wilderness, to signify how God removes our sins far as the east is from the west; the other was slain, and its blood borne by the High Priest into the most holy place, and sprinkled there upon the mercy-seat beneath the cherubim. Meanwhile, the vast congregation stood without, confessing their sins, and expecting remission only through the shedding of blood. It was as if the whole world had been standing around the base of Calvary, confessing their sins, While Jesus bore His cross to the summit, to hang thereon, and bleed and die for the sins of men. How fitting that, while Christ is dying, we should be confessing!
Some of you may think it a great thing to go on a foreign mission. But Jesus has led the way. He left heaven on a foreign mission; came down to this more than heathen world, and no one ever faced such self-denial. Yet He fearlessly marched up without the least hesitation to meet the consequences. Never did He shrink from disgrace, from humiliation, or torture. And can you shrink from following the footsteps of such a leader? Is anything too much for you to suffer, while you follow in the lead of such a Captain of your salvation?14
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