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ON THE ATONEMENT IN ITS RELATION TO ALL THE
WORKS OF GOD.
By "all the works of God” I understand, all the productions of God, called the works of his hands, and which the Psalmist calls "all the places of his dominions," and which the New Testament calls "heavenly places," that is, the whole universe, with all its intelligences and orders, ranks and dignities.
The New Testament reveals very clearly that the great atonement of the Son of God is related to other worlds in the divine empire, as well as to our world. It is, therefore, necessary to a full and enlarged consideration of the extent of the atonement, to examine and survey it in this aspect and relation.
I feel happy to be able to introduce my sentiments upon
of the atonement on the universe in the following passage, of great beauty and sublimity, from LORD BACON. “I believe that God is so holy, pure, and jealous, that it is impossible for him to be pleased in
any creature, though the works of his own hands: so that neither angels, man, nor WORLD would stand, or can stand, one moment in his eye, without [his] beholding the same in THE FACE of A MEDIATOR. And therefore [I believe] that before him, with whom all things are present, the Lamb of God was slain before all worlds; but that out of his eternal and infinite goodness and love, purposing to become a Creator, and to communicate to his creatures, he ordained in his eternal counsel, that one person of the Godhead should be
united to one nature, and to one particular of his creatures, so that in the person of the Mediator, the true ladder may be fixed, whereby God might descend to his creatures, and his creatures might ascend to God; so that God by the reconcilement of the Mediator, turning his countenance towards his creatures (though not in equal light and degree) made way unto the dispensation of his most holy and sacred will; whereby some of his creatures might stand and keep their state; others might possibly fall and be restored, and others might fall and not be restored to their estate, but yet remain in being, though under wrath and corruption: ALL WITH RESPECT TO THE MEDIATOR, which is the great mystery and PERFECT CENTRE OF ALL God's ways with his creatures, and to which ALL HIS OTHER WORKS AND WONDERS do but serve and refer."*
The Constitution of the Universe Meditorial.
'The whole universe is represented in the word of God, as a beautiful and glorious system, adjusted around the mediation of Jesus Christ, in which he should be felt as a central orb, to attract all its portions into union and harmony, and to maintain all its dependencies in beauty and order.
God by his gospel has made known to us "the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself, that in the dispensation of the fulness of times, he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him,” Eph. i, 9, 10. To apply this language to the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles only, is to render the passage turgid and inane. As if designedly to guard against such an interpretation of his meaning, the apostle in his letter to the Colossians,
* Bacon's Works, vol. iv, p. 413.
written at the same time as that to the Ephesians, distinctly enumerates the intelligences of the universe as intended by “the all things gathered together in Christ.” “By him (the Mediator) were all things created that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him and for him; and he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church, the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in all things he might have pre-eminence. For it pleased the Father that in bim should all fulness dwell, and having made peace (or atonement) through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile (or to harmonize) all things unto himself, whether they be things in earth or things in heaven." Col. i. 16-20.
It is impossible, I think, to read these passages without a vivid impression of the wide and expanded views, which the apostle had of the atonement, as sustaining a high and intiinate relation to all the length and breadth, the height and the depth of the universe of God.
It is this relation of the atonement to the universe that gives life and glory to the prophet Malachi's enraptured view of "the Sun of Righteousness.” The more I consider this vision of the last Seer of Israel, the more I am entranced with his splendid emblem of the high dignity, and of the diffusive influence of the Lord from heaven. This symbol, though the most noble and brilliant which the creation could supply, can but very dimly image forth the grandeur and beauty of “the Sun of Righteousness.” By the light of astronomy the sun is viewed, not merely as a luminary suspended in the heavens, but as the centre of a system of worlds, and the source of light and heat, of motion and harmony to them all. By the light of revealed theology, also, we are taught to view the great atoning Mediator, not only as a "light to lighten the Gentiles,' but as the centre of an immense moral system, composed of all existences, constitutions, and dispensations, shedding his beams to bless dependent worlds, and bathing the whole in the effulgence of his loveliness and glory.
This imagery of Malachi teaches us that God contemplated a beautiful and immense system of good dispensations, called here a system of Righteousness; that in the midst of this system of Righteousness as the central orb, he placed the Lord Jesus Christ; and that the revolutions of this system have a most benign and “healing” aspect on the interests of our world.
A further enlargement on this topic will not be deenied necessary, especially since, in the first section of the chapter on the purposes of God, I have explained in what manner I regard the constitution of the universe as partaking of a mediatorial arrangement. Consecutiveness of plan, seemed to me to require a distinct, though a brief, notice of this subject here.
Only one more illustration will be introduced to explain the connection that exists between the atonement and the universe. The apostle Paul speaks of the universe as a commonwealth, or family receiving its designation, constitution, and happiness from the Lord Jesus Christ, who is felt and owned every where, as the head of power and of influence. “Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named." This public commonwealth or family consists of "an innumerable company of angels, the general assembly and church of the firstborn,
which are written in heaven; God the Judge of all; the spirits of just men made perfect; Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant”-all in intimate connection with the blood that speaketh better things than the blood of Abel.” Gal. iii, 15. Heb. xii, 22–24.
The atonement a subject of interest and benefit to
the intelligences of the Universe.
The scriptures represent the intelligences of the universe as having been informed of the atonement, as hav
ing been witnesses and spectators of the whole amazing transaction. They take a high interest in its administration, and are greatly benefitted by its provisions.
The blessed God regards the expedient of the atonement as so fit a medium for giving a full display of the divine glories, that he reveals it to be the ground for creating the universe. He "created all things by Jesus Christ, to the intent, that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known, by [means of ] the church, the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Eph. iii. 9—11.
The whole immense progress of the Mediator's career, from the throne to the manger, and from the manger to the cross, was "seen of angels." They were spectators of his public entrance into heaven after finishing bis atoning work: and they were witnesses of his splendid triumph over spiritual wickedness in high places, when “having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them" in his cross and atonement.
These intelligences are now daily made acquainted with all the instances of conversion from sin to holiness among the sinners of our world. And they are informed of the progressive improvement which believers make in Christian character, and of the maturity of the Christian graces wbich has ripened them for “Abraham's bosom." The apostle Peter says, that angels generally (not the angels,) meaning all heavenly intelligences, take a high interest, complacency and delight in these subjects. He enumerates the salvation of man, the inquiries of the prophets, the sovereign grace of God, the work of the Spirit, the sufferings and glory of Christ, and the preaching of the gospel, as the things which angels desire to look into.” The original phrase is expressive of the intense energy and keen relish, with which they inquire into the doctrine of the atonement, and its relatious. “Likewise there is joy in the pres