« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
doubt that he was,) he would not on that account, think of its being less an act of grace.
2. God, in his dealings with mankind, has frequently proceeded upon the same principle, bestowing blessings on the unworthy out of respect to one that was worthy; which blessings, nevertheless have been of pure grace. God promised the posterity of Noah exemption from a future flood: but knowing that they would utterly corrupt themselves, his covenant was primarily made with him. It was thus in the blessings promised to the posterity of Abraham. The Lord knowing that they would be very corrupt, spake thus to Abraham himself: As for me, behold, my covenant is WITH THEE, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Hence, in a great number of instances wherein mercy was shown to the rebellious Israelites, they were reminded, that it was not for their sakes, but on account of the covenant made with their father Abraham, and renewed with Isaac and Jacob. Thus also, in the covenant made with David, God blessed his posterity for his sake, saying, My covenant shall stand fast WITH HIM. And when the heart of Solomon was turned away from the Lord God of Israel, he was told, that, if the Lord did not rend the kingdom utterly from him, it would not be for his sake, but for David his servant's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake which he had chosen. In these instances, there was a display of both justice and grace, and the righteousness of the fathers was, as I may say, imputed to the children, inasmuch as, in consequence of it, they were treated as if they themselves were righteous; but it makes no difference as to their deserts, nor in any wise renders what was done to them less a matter of grace, than if it had proceeded merely from the divine goodness, and without any consideration of the righteousness of their fathers. So far from this, the very language, Not for your sakes do I this, be it known unto you,—but for my holy name's sake,—and for the covenant that I made with your fathers, would tend, more than any thing, to humble them, and to impress them with the idea that what they had was altogether of grace.
If it be objected, that in these cases, though the blessing was of grace to the party receiving it, yet it was in reward of the party for whose sake it was given; I answer, It is in respect of VOL. VII..
the party receiving, and him only, that it is called grace; and this is sufficient for its being so denominated. It is of what justification is to us, and not what it is to Christ, that the Apostle speaks. It is enough if it be of grace to us, and if God's bestowing it upon us out of respect to the worthiness of his Son, do not diminish that grace, but on the contrary, augment it.
But it may be said, that in these cases, there was no example of the innocent suffering for the guilty; no atonement; no redemption of the parties by a sacrifice offered in their stead. We therefore proceed to observe.
3. God, in the appointment of animal sacrifices (though they were only shadows of good things to come,) sanctified the principle of sin being expiated by the sufferings of a substitute, and yet represented the sinner as FREELY FORGIVEN. The process of the burnt offering is thus described: If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will, (or, as Ainsworth renders it, for acceptance,) at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord. And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt-offering: and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him, &c. The current language concerning these sacrifices is, And the priest shall make an atonement for him as concerning his sin that he hath committed, and IT SHALL BE FORGIVEN HIM. In all these transactions there was justice and grace; justice in requiring a sacrifice, and grace in forgiving the transgressor. There was also imputation: the sin of the party was imputed to the appointed victim, which was reckoned as though it were the sinner, and treated as such in the divine administration. The atonement made by the sacrifice was, on the other hand, imputed to him that offered it; that is, it was reckoned to his account, and he was treated accordingly. This is clear from what is said of one, the flesh of whose offering was neglected to be eaten before the third day according to appointment. It shall not be ACCEPTED, neither shall it be imputed unto him that offereth it: it shall be an abomination, and the soul that eateth of it shall bear his iniquity; implying, that, if offered according to the divine appointment, it
was accepted for him, and imputed to him, and he should not bear his iniquity.
In all these substitutional sacrifices, atonement did not operate to the diminution of grace; they were not such a payment of the sinner's debt as that he should be entitled to deliverance as a matter of claim; since the issue of all was, And his sins shall be FORGIVEN him. On the contrary, every thing was calculated to magnify the grace of God, and to humble the sinner in the dust before him. Of this tendency, particularly, was his having to lay his hand upon the head of the sacrifice, confessing his sin, and acknowledging, in effect, that, if he had been treated according to his deserts, he himself must have been the victim.
The doctrine of sacrifices receives an interesting, illustration from the case of Job and his three friends: And it was so, that after the Lord had spoken these words unto Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath. Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you, for him will I accept; lest I deal with you after your folly. We see here that the three friends could not be justified on the ground of their own conduct. They must either be accepted through a sacrifice and intercessor, or be dealt with according to their folly. And this sacrifice and intercession, instead of making void the grace of the transaction, goes to establish it. It must have been not a little humiliating to Eliphaz and his companions, to be given to understand, that all their zeal for God had been folly, and required an atonement; that the Lord would not receive a petition at their hands; that the sacrifices must be brought to Job, and offered up in his presence; and that, after all their contumelious language to him, they must owe their acceptance to his intercession. Had they been forgiven without this process, their sin must have appeared light, and the grace of God in its forgiveness have been diminished, in their apprehension, in comparison of what it
4. The New Testament, while it represents the interposition of Christ as necessary for the consistent exercise of mercy, ascribes the whole of our salvation, nevertheless, to the free grace of God. I need not prove this position by a number of references. The doctrine of the New Testament, on this subject, is summarily comprehended in the verses following the text, which contain the Apostle's explanation of his own words. Having stated, that we are justified freely by grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, he adds, Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time, his righteousness, that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation: We see here, in what the redemption of Christ, by which we are justified, consisted. He himself was made an expiatory sacrifice, through which God might be propitious to sinners, without any dishonour attaching to his character.
Through faith in his blood: In order to an Israelite being benefitted by the appointed sacrifices, it was necessary for him, or for the priest on his behalf, to put his hands upon the head of the animal and there to make confession of sins. Hence the offerers of sacrifices are denominated the comers thereunto. And thus it is necessary to our deriving benefit from the propitiation of Christ, that we should believe in him.
To declare his righteousness for the remission of sins: The first thing necessary in our justification, is the remission of sin. The grand impediment to this was, that it would reflect upon the righteousness of God; representing either his precepts and threatenings as too rigid to be put in execution, or his mercy as being mere connivance. Hence, when a great act of mercy was to be shown, it became necessary to preface it by a declaration, or demonstration, of righteousness. God, by making his beloved Son a sacrifice, practically declared, or demonstrated in the presence of the universe, his determination to maintain the honour of his government, and his utter abhorrence of sin. Having done this, he can now forgive the believing sinner, without any suspicion of connivance attaching to his character.
Sins that are past, through the forbearance of God: The propitiation of Christ was not only necessary in behalf of believers under the times of the gospel, but of those in former ages. Those who had offered sacrifices were not forgiven in virtue of them, but of this. On the ground of Christ's undertaking to become a propitiation in the fulness of time, the forbearance of God was exercised towards them. And, now that his righteousnes is declared, he can be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
Supposing the foregoing comments to be the substance of the Apostle's meaning, what is there in any part of it, which renders void, or in any wise diminishes, the free grace of God? Does the declaration, or demonstration, of his righteousness for the remission of sins render it no remission? Would it have been more of a favour for God to have pardoned sin without any regard to righteousness, than with it? Is there any thing, in the whole proceeding, that puts the sinner in possession of a claim on the ground of essential justice, or which warrants him to hope for an interest in its blessed results, without coming to the Saviour as guilty and unworthy?
There is nothing in the New Testament which represents the death of Christ as superseding the necessity of repentance, confession, and humble supplication, or as investing the believer with any other claim of spiritual blessings, than that which arises from the free promise of God through his dear Son. We never read there of "suing out our right;" nor of mercy being a matter of demand, since Christ has paid the debt. All is in the language of supplication in the name of Christ.
The intercession of Christ himself, on our behalf, proceeds upon the same principle. It would not otherwise be intercession. "Grace," as Dr. Goodwin observes, "requires to be applied for in a way of entreaty and intercession.*
*The words of our Lord in John xvii. 24. Father, I WILL, &c. have been thought to convey a different idea:
With cries and tears he offered up
His humble suit below;