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mouth of an angel, or from the voice of God himself speaking from heaven.”
How different from those of this writer, were the thoughts and feelings of the inspired author of the epistle to the Hebrews !-"God,” says he, “who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in times past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his own Son.” And having in the remainder of the first chapter, illustrated the glory of the person of Christ, as the superior of prophets and of angels, the equal of God the Father, the everlasting and Almighty Creator of all things ;-he deduces from the view just given an inference, founded on the obvious principle, that the importance of the message, and the danger of rejecting it, must bear some proportion to the dignity of the messenger by whom it was sent: “THEREFORE we ought to give the most earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For, if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward :-how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation ? which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him ; God also bearing them witness with signs and wonders, and divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will !*» If Jesus was not superior to prophets and angels, there is no force in this conclusion ; and, on the other hand, the higher his superiority the more impressive is the inference, and the more imperative the duty.
If, indeed, the sole object of the mission of Christ, was to assure men of “the doctrine of immortality,"—if, as the same writer elsewhere alleges, “his business, like that of any other prophet, was nothing more than to deliver a message from God, and to confirm it by miracles ;" we should, in that case, on the supposition of the Divinity of Christ, find it difficult to vindicate the wisdom of God from the charge of exciting useless astonishment, by using a method so extraordinary for the accomplishment of an end, which might surely have been effected by simpler means. On this principle, we should have been constrained to admit, if not entirely, at least in a very great degree, the alleged inutility of the doctrine, which it has been my object to establish.
Heb. ii. 1, 4.
But we distinctly and entirely deny the justice of the representation, which is thus given, of the purpose of Christ's mission. That he was “a teacher sent from God,” we cordially admit. That “life and incorruption were brought to light,” to clear and unclouded light, “ by his Gospel,” we rejoice to know and to acknowledge. But that the sole, or even the principal design of his coming was, to confirm the certainty of a future state, and assure mankind of a judgment to come, we cannot, by any means, allow. We assert, that he came in the charaeter not only of a prophet, but of a priest; not to instruct merely, but to redeem; not only to set an example of obedience but to atone for transgression,
," to put away sin, by the sacrifice of himself:"—that when life and incorruption are said to have been brought to light by the Gospel, the meaning is, not merely that the doctrine of a future state was certified to men; but that by his “ • finishing the work given him to do,” the ground of hope was laid, and the way to enjoyment of eternal happiness in that state clearly and fully made known.
When we consider, that the period denominated “the fulness of the time”--the period of the expected Messiah's advent,holds so prominent a place in the Old Testament Scriptures; appearing there as the point to which all preceding time looked forward that what was then to be accomplished was brought before the eye of hope by so vast a variety of typical institutions ;—that it constituted the “spirit of prophecy;" being the theme of its sublimest and most rapturous anticipations, the burden of its sweetest songs, the chief of its great and precious promises ;--that those "holy men of God who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost,” exhausted on this subject the language of astonishment and delight :-when we consider all this, we should have good reason, surely, to be surprised, if after all, the sum of what was to be accomplished at that remarkable epoch, was nothing more than the confirmation of a truth already known.
While we readily admit, therefore, that the object of the mission of Christ is what ought supremely to engage our attention, we conceive that, even from previous and preparatory circumstances, there was strong ground to conclude that this object was to be something more than what has now been stated; we are convinced that it actually was something more ;-and that the purpose of his appearing was so far from having no connection with the doctrine of his Divinity, that his Divinity was essential to its accomplishment.
Further; if the fact be indeed, as I have been endeavouring to prove, that God was manifested in the flesh; the greatness and singularity of the fact, may well convince us of the magnitude of the design. An event so prodigious as the appearance of God in our nature, could not take place either for no purpose, or for a purpose of trifling moment. The God of infinite wisdom does nothing in vain. Every effort of his power has an end in view, an end always worthy of himself in its nature, and, in its importance, proportionate to the means employed for its accomplishment. The two great general purposes which are constantly regarded by him in all his works, and in all his ways, are, the manifestation of his own glory, and in connection with it, the happiness of his sensitive, and especially of his intelligent creatures. Both of these purposes we consider as having been eminently answered, by the incarnation, sufferings, and death of the Son of God, when viewed in that light in which we believe the word of God to represent them,-As AN ATONEMENT FOR THE SINS OF THE WORLD.
In the preceding part of this epistle, the apostle had proved by an appeal to facts, the universal depravity of the Gentiles and of the Jews. At the tenth verse of this chapter he proceeds to show, that the conclusion, to which facts had conducted him, accorded with the declaration of those Scriptures of which the Jews acknowledged the Divine authority. Having established the sinfulness, he declares the guilt and condemnation of all mankind; he shews the impossibility of any creature's obtaining justification by a law which he has violated, and which in the plainest and most unqualified terms, pronounces against all transgressors the sentence of death; on the hopelessness of this wretched state, he founds the necessity of free forgiveness ; and he then points out the leading object of the mediation of Christ; which was, to render the exercise of God's mercy, in bestowing such forgiveness, consistent, in the eyes of his intelligent creation, with the claims of his dishonoured authority, the demands of his justice, the glory of his holiness, the rectitude of his moral administration, and the general good of the universe.
“Whom” (i. e. Christ Jesus, verse 24.) “Whom God hath set forth as a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his
righteousness, that he might be just, and the justifier of him who believeth in Jesus.”
From these verses, I propose to illustrate, and prove, the five following observations:
I. It is in consideration of the sacrifice of Christ, that God is propitious to sinners.
II. In pardoning the guilty on this ground, God displays his righteousness.
III. The ground on which the pardon of sin is bestowed, has been in every age, and under every dispensation, the same.
IV. An interest in the pardoning mercy of God, through Jesus Christ, is obtained by faith.
V. In resting our hope of forgiveness on the atoning sacrifice of Christ, we build on a sure foundation. Το
say all that might be said, in a field so extensive as this, is more than could well be done in several discourses. It is my intention to confine myself to the more prominent views of the subject; and as I am persuaded that the principal objections brought against the doctrine of atonement, arise from mistaken apprehensions of its nature, I shall endeavour, as much as I can, to avoid controversial discussion, and, with as great brevity and simplicity as the nature of the subject will admit, to state what appears to be the testimony of God.
I. Let me now, then, proceed to the illustration of the first proposition in the series :—IT IS IN CONSIDERATION OF THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST THAT GOD IS PROPITIOUS TO SINNERS.
There are, amongst critics, different opinions with regard to the proper import, in this connection, of the original word translated propitiation. Several of high eminence give it as their judgment, that in its present occurrence, it ought to be translated propitiatory sacrifice; while others prefer rendering it propiatory or mercy-seat. To the latter of these two opinions I am inclined to give the preference. The same word occurs in only one other place in the New Testament; in an epistle generally believed to have been written by the same author : Heb. ix. 5. “ And over it (viz. the ark of the covenant) the cherubim of glory, shadowing the mercy-seat: in which occurrence of it there can be no doubt about its signification. It is the word also which is invariably used by the Greek translators of the Old Testament, for that part of the sacred furniture of the tabernacle. The word translated, in other passages, propitia.
tion, although of kindred origin, is different. On these grounds, I think the word used in the text should be translated propitiatory, or mercy-seat. We shall see immediately, however, that with regard to real effect on the subject now before us, there is no very material difference (if, indeed, there be any difference at all) between the one translation and the other.
According to the meaning thus assigned to the word, we have in the text, an allusion to the mercy-seat under the law, as a type of Jesus Christ, and of the effects, as will appear of his atoning sacrifice.
To the institution of the mercy-seat we must therefore look, that we may rightly understand the allusion, It is to be found in Exod. xxv. 17, 22. “And thou shalt make a mercy-seat of pure gold: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof. And thou shalt make two cherubim of gold; of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy-seat. And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end ; even on the
make the cherubim on the two ends thereof. And the cherubim shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy-seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercyseat shall the faces of the cherubim be. And thou shalt put the mercy-seat above upon the ark; and in the ark shalt thou put the testimony that I shall give thee. And there will I meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercyseat, from between the two cherubim that are upon the ark, of the testimony of all things that I will give thee in commandment to the children of Israel.”
It is from this description that Jehovah receives the appellation of God that dwelleth between the cherubim; an appellation which may consequently be interpreted, as of equivalent import with the New Testament characters—" the God of peace”“the God of all grace." The position of the propitiatory, upon the ark of the testimony, might be intended to indicate the consistency of his appearing in this benign character for the purpose of communing with his guilty creatures, with the claims and sanctions of his righteous law. So that when Jehovah, the God of Israel, “ shone forth” from between the cherubim, “mercy and truth” might be said to "meet together, righteousness and peace to embrace each other.”
Surely this cannot fail to remind you of him who received