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the nearer the provision of satisfaction or atonement comes to the letter of the law, without being the literal infliction of the penalty, the more full and glorious might such an atonement appear. I am therefore instructed to say that, on this principle, as the offenders are condemned for public execution, the illustrious personage who has interposed in their behalf, will, on a given day, take their place on the scaffold, lay his head on the block, and appear again in court as the medium of conveying pardon to them.”
Upon this information, all considerate persons saw that such an expedient would fully answer the ends of government, viz., to check offences and promote the public good; and these ends would be more secured by the humiliation and sufferings of such a personage, than by the infliction of the penalty on all the offenders.
There would, however, be a farther inquiry concerning this personage, viz., whether bis undertaking were perfectly voluntary, and whether in his humiliation he were altogether free and unconstrained. If he were not free and voluntary, such an undertaking would be unjust, unreasonable, unbecoming, and unacceptable to the government.
Hence would arise the question, “How did the king, as the public head of the commonwealth, regard such an undertaking?" If such a spectacle were made without his approbation and appointment, it would be no expression of the king's abhorrence of the offence; it would in nowise strengthen the claims of righteous authority; it would be no satisfaction to the government, as it neither kept the letter nor preserved the spirit of the law; and it would secure no honor or esteem to the intercessor, as his undertaking was self-willed, neither appointed nor approved by any competent authority, But should the king express himself well pleased in such an undertaking of such a personage, and declare himself willing to pardon any offender who would ask forgiveness for the sake of the intercessor, such a spectacle of substituted degradation would present all the elements
of an ATONEMENT to the public justice of the government.
Let us now apply the supposed topics of the above inquiry to the person of the Son of God, the declared mediator between an offended sovereign and sinful
The personal dignity of Christ. What saith the scripture concerning his rank in the state, his gradation in the scale of being, the grandeur of his person?
The language of the scriptures concerning the person of Christ is never reserved, cautious, qualified, or ambiguous: it is free, open, certain, high-toned, and exulting. It never formally proves the divinity of Christ, as it never formally proves the existence of God. It ascribes unhesitatingly to Christ the same perfections, the same titles and names, the same works, and the same worship as are ascribed to the Father. If these particulars be left out of the induction of proofs for the divinity of the Father, it will be impossible to prove the Father's deity. If these particulars prove the divinity of the Father, they must, by fair sequence, prove the divinity of the Son. And if they do not prove the divinity of the Son, they do not prove the deity of the Father.
There is nothing in the testimony of the scripture to encourage the morbid caution and jealousy that would begrudge the honors of the Son, lest they should infringe on the honors of the Father. There is no such mean jealousy implied in any transaction between the Father and the Son, in any description given of heaven, in the design and tendency of the gospel dispensation, or in the graces of the Christian character. When the Lord Jesus Christ was at the lowest point of his humiliation, the identity of his Father's honor with his own is most clearly recognised; John xii. 28, xiii. 31, 32, xvii. 1, &c.
In heaven the same honor and power and glory are ascribed to the Lamb, as to him that sitteth on the throne. In the dispensation of the gospel of the Mediator, “Glory to God in the highest,” is secured by all its provisions. The faith, and the hope, and the love of Christians, honor the grace, the mercy, and the whole paternal character of God, while they triumph in Christ, and bcast and glory in his cross. In the memorials which we have of the lives and doctrines and feelings of eminent saints who excelled in the love of God, we find no dread of displeasing the Father by giving due honors to the Son; no fear of idolatry by calling, like Stephen, on the name of Jesus; nor any checking of their religious affections, saying, "hitherto shall ye go and no farther.” No: they felt as free and unconstrained as the heaven they breathed. They saw that che mediatorial constitution was so arranged as to secure many crowns” to the Mediator, without unsettling or dimming a single gern in the crown of Jehovah. They never used the cold, sophistical, and unsavory language of the modern opposers of the divinity of Christ. They knew that “the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son: that all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. And he that honoreth not the Son, honoreth not the Father which hath sent him.” John v. 22, 23.
The divinity of the person of the Son of God is indispensably necessary to the worth, the sufficiency, and efficacy of the atonement. The grandeur of his person preserved unsullied the public honor of God in treating with a daysman for sinners. It not only vindicated the character of the high party proposing reconciliation, but it magnified that character in the whole of the transaction.
He is one high enough in rank and personal worth to draw public attention to this amazing expedient of the divine government. This was his meaning when he said, “And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all [men) to myself;" that is, “I will draw the attention and the gaze of all beings to my person and work.”
The humiliation of such an exalted person gave a greater expression of God's abhorrence of sin than any other measure of his administrations. God set him FORTH, an atonement, to declare his righteousness-to make a deep and lasting impression, on all intelligences, of God's displeasure against disobedience. If Christ were a mere man, like Moses, or David, or Jeremiah, or John the Baptist, whose humiliation was no condescension, and whose obedience and sufferings were mere duty, it is impossible that his sufferings and death could have been a public expression or declaration of righteousness in forgiving sin. What would be thought of a governor summoning public attention to the equity of his government, by "cutting a dog's neck," or "offering swine's blood?" There would be no dignity in the medium of expressing either the justice of his law, or the majesty of his clemency. But in the divine administration, the sufferings of a person of such dignity and worth as the Son of God, supplied a dignified medium of expressing the righteousness of God, both in his abhorrence of sin, and in his exercise of clemency.
The dignity of his person is calculated to secure the esteem due from offenders to him as the Mediator. If pardon be dispensed in such a manner as is not calculated to secure honor and esteem for the
who is the medium of conveying it, and through him, for the throne which originated it, the pardon will be prejudicial to the public good. It is therefore wise to grant pardon through some person whose rank and character are calculated to secure honor and respect. The Father thought so in the appointment of his Son as Mediator, and said, “They will reverence my son." Had the Son been a mere man, we would have esteemed him something, as we esteem the writers of the scriptures, or the ministers of the gospel, and others who have been the means of conveying to us the knowledge of the truth. But is this the esteem which the apostles expressed towards the person of Chríst? Is such esteem at all adequate to that which the scriptures demand from us towards Christ? Is such an esteem in anywise akin to "honoring the Son even as we honor the Father?” Even a greater esteem than such is deserved and warranted by the disinterestedness of his condescension, by the amiableness of his mission, and by the magnitude of the blessings which he has procurod. But, the divinity of his person tends to secure an esteem that will count all things but loss for his excellency, that will exult in him with joy unspeakable and full of glory, that will cast every crown at his feet, that will love him as “all in all.” It is this alone that can fully justify the awful and tremendous anathema denounced against those who do not love him.
Above all, the Godhead of the Son unites in one person and in one administration the honors of the Mediator with those of the Governor, and blends the interests of the Savior with those of the Lawgiver. He does not exalt the Mediator by sinking the Governor. He never gives salvation in a manner calculated to beget low sentiments of his legislative character.
These considerations fully justify the deductions of Scripture, that the value and efficacy of the death of Christ as an atonement, arise from the grandeur and dignity of his person. It is the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, that cleanseth from all sin. It is He, "who being the brightness of his Father's glory and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, that by Himself purged our sins.” It is because “God spared not His own Son, but delivered him up for us all, that he will also give unto us all things."
The personal relationship of Christ to mankind.
We have already seen that there is a propriety in dispensing pardon to offenders at the instance of a person