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the least obligation, in point of justice, to do either of these things for them. There was no merit in Christ's obedience and sufferings; and there is no propriety in using the term, merits of Christ. The use of this phraseology has led multitudes into gross and dangerous errors, in respect to faith in Christ, justification through his atonement, and the future rewards of the righteous. It is of great importance, therefore, to form clear and just ideas of Christ's atonement, in order to avoid those errors.
4. If the sole design of Christ's atonement was to satisfy the justice of God towards himself, then he exercises the same free grace in pardoning sinners through the atonement, as if no atonement had been made. It has been considered as a great difficulty to reconcile free pardon with full satisfaction to divine justice. The difficulty has arisen from a supposition that the atonement of Christ was designed to pay the debt of sufferings which sinners owed to God. If this were the design of the atonement, it would be difficult to see the grace of God in pardoning sinners on that account.
For there is no grace in forgiving a debtor after his debt is paid, whether by himself or by another. But sin is not a debt, and cannot be paid by suffering. Christ's suffering in the room of sinners did not alter the nature of their sin, nor take away their just deserts of punishment. There is the same grace of God in forgiving them through the atonement, as if no atonement had been made. This the apostle asserts. He says, God justifies, that is, pardons believers freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ. The atonement of Christ rendered it just for God to exercise his grace in pardoning believers, though it did not remove their guilt and ill desert in the least degree. None will deny that it was grace in God to send Christ into the world to make atonement for sin, or that it was grace in Christ to come into the world and suffer and die to make atonement for sin; and it is certain that the atonement he made did not lay God under obligation, in point of justice, to pardon sinners on account of his atonement; it therefore plainly follows, that God exercises as real grace in pardoning sinners through the atonement of Christ, as in sending him to make atonement. Free pardon, therefore, is perfectly consistent with
5. If the atonement of Christ was necessary entirely on God's account, then it is absurd to suppose that it was merely expedient. The Socinians deny that Christ died as a vicarious sacrifice, to make any atonement for sin. They say that God is bound to forgive sinners upon the ground of repentance only, and that he does actually forgive them on that ground. But there are many Trinitarians, who believe that Christ did make
atonement for sin, who yet suppose that his atonement was not absolutely necessary, but only expedient. They suppose that God might have pardoned and saved sinners without any atonement, if he had pleased; and that he pleased to pardon and save sinners through an atonement, merely because it was the most expedient or best way of saving them, but not because it was the only possible way. It is granted that there was no more necessity of God's saving sinners at all, than there was of giving them existence; and certainly there was no necessity of giving them existence. For his own pleasure they are and were created. But after he had given them existence, and they had become sinners, it was morally impossible that he should pardon and save them without an atonement. It did not depend upon his mere pleasure, whether he should save them with or without an atonement. On the supposition that he determined to save them, an atonement was as necessary as his own immutable justice. There was no other possible way of saving them. And so Christ himself supposed : for he said to God in the prospect of his sufferings, “ If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.”
There is no reason to think that God would have subjected the Son of his love to all the pains and reproaches of the cross, to make atonement for sin, if he could have forgiven it without such an infinitely costly atonement. It is easy to see that if the atonement of Christ was founded on the immutable justice of God, it was as necessary as his immutable justice.
6. If the atonement of Christ was necessary entirely on God's account, then we may safely conclude that it consisted in his sufferings, and not in his obedience. His obedience had no tendency to display divine justice, which was the only end to be answered by his atonement. His obedience was necessary on his account, to qualify him for making atonement for the disobedient; but his sufferings were necessary on God's account, to display his justice. Accordingly we find all the predictions and types of Christ, under the Old Testament, represent him as a suffering Saviour. And in the New Testament he is represented as making atonement by his blood, by his sufferings, and by his death. It was by his once offering up himself a sacrifice to divine justice, that he made a complete atonement for sin.
7. It appears from the nature of Christ's atonement, that God can consistently pardon any penitent, believing sinners on that account. By putting Christ to death on the cross, by his own hand, he has declared his righteousness to the whole universe in the remission of sins. He can now be just, and be the justifier of every one that believeth. He can now as consistently pardon one penitent sinner as another; and he is
as willing to pardon one penitent as another. He now commands all men every where to repent, and assures them that if they do repent and believe, they shall be saved, through the redemption that is in Christ. When the eyes of sinners are opened to see the native corruption of their hearts and the sinfulness of their lives, they are ready to think and say that they are too guilty and ill deserving to find mercy in the sight of God. But such views and feelings are totally groundless and sinful. God invites and requires all sinners, without distinction, to accept of pardoning mercy. He is as ready to show mercy to the Gentile, as to the Jew; to the greatest as to the smallest sinner; to the oldest as to the youngest sinner; upon the terms of the gospel. Paul, though the chief of sinners, found mercy. Christ says, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." And again he says, “ All that the Father hath given me, shall come to me; and whosoever cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out." But,
8. None can come to Christ and accept of pardoning mercy on account of his atonement, without accepting the punishment of their iniquities. The great design of the atonement is to show that God would be just in inflicting eternal punishment upon the transgressors of his holy and righteous law. Sinners can see no beauty nor excellence in the character and conduct of Christ, in condemning sin in the flesh by his sufferings and death on the cross, until they have learned of the Father their just desert of the penalty of the law, and cordially approve of it. Then they will see that there is no other possible way of obtaining pardoning mercy, than through the atonement of Christ. They will see that they must completely renounce all self dependence, and self righteousness, and rely alone upon the atonement of Christ as the ground of pardon and acceptance in the sight of God. Though Paul once thought, in respect to obedience to the law, that he was blameless, and stood high in the divine favor; yet as soon as he became acquainted with the justice, spirituality, and extent of its precepts and penalty, all the hopes he had built upon the law, died, and left him in despair. So that he was constrained to say, “ What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.” Christ told sinners that “the whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” No other foundation of pardon can any man lay, than that which God has laid in the atonement of Christ. Sinners must trust in him alone for forgiveness; for it is only for the sake of Christ, that God can forgive iniquity, transgressions, and sin, and save the guilty from the wraih to come. But God is now ready to forgive all who feel the spirit, and speak the language of the publican: “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
THE PURCHASE OF CHRIST'S BLOOD.
To feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
ACT9, XX. 28.
What I pro
Paul, in his return from Asia to Judea, came to Miletus, and sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church, to whom he related how he had preached and conducted, while he resided among them. And before he takes his leave of them, he gives them the solemn exhortation in the text : “ Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” He added this last clause to enforce the obligation of the elders to be faithful in feeding those whom Christ, as God, had purchased with his atoning blood, or for whom he had made complete atonement for sin, by his sufferings and death on the cross. pose in the present discourse is, to consider,
I. What the scripture says concerning Christ's purchasing salvation for us.
II. What he actually did to purchase salvation for us.
I. Let us consider what the scripture says in respect to Christ's purchasing salvation for us. The inspired writers often speak upon this subject in language very similar to the phraseology in the text. Christ said to his disciples, “ The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." Paul said to Timothy, “ There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all.” Paul said to
the Corinthians, “ Ye are bought with a price.” Christ is represented as redeeming men, and they are said to be redeemed by him. Paul said to the Galatians, “ Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." He said to the Ephesians, "In whom," that is, Christ, we have redemption through his blood.” He called the inheritance to which believers are entitled, a “purchased possession.” And John said that he heard the voice of them who actually enjoyed this purchased possession in heaven, "and they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and no man could learn that song, but the hundred and forty and four thousand who were redeemed from the earth.” Thus it appears from the representations of scripture, that by Christ's purchasing salvation for us, we are to understand his ransoming, redeeming, or buying us with the price of his precious blood. Let us next consider,
II. What Christ actually did, to purchase, to buy, to ransom, and to redeem mankind. Upon this point, the inspired writers give us very full and particular information. It appears that Christ became incarnate, before he did anything, properly speaking, to purchase salvation for us. He was born perfectly holy, and continued perfectly holy and innocent from his birth to his death. This he manifested by perfect obedience to all the laws to which he was subject.
In the first place, he obeyed the moral law, which he was under as man.
Accordingly we read, “ When the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law.” The law required Christ to love his heavenly and human father, and all his brethren of mankind. This law we know he perfectly obeyed, by loving God supremely, by loving and obeying his parents, by obeying all in civil authority, and by loving and seeking the good of the whole human race.
In the next place, he obeyed all the laws of his nation. As a Jew, he was under the Mosaic dispensation, and was bound to obey all the moral, civil and ceremonial laws, which God had given to his people Israel. And it appears from the history of his life, that he did punctually and universally obey them. He read the Bible, he prayed in secret, he prayed in private with his disciples, he kept the Sabbath, he attended public worship, and annually celebrated the Passover, from twelve years old to the night before his death.
In the last place, he perfectly obeyed the mediatorial law which his Father gave him personally. He knew his Father's design in sending him into the world, and the work which he had given him to do, in order to accomplish his great and gracious design. From his childhood, he went about his