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in some way related to them, either by neighborhood, office, or kindred. The Scriptures represent the author of the great atonement for sinners as sustaining a near and intimate relationship to them.
He is related to men by office, having "power over all flesh,” by kindred, being made of a woinan,” and by neighborhood, having "tabernacled among them full of grace and truth.” It became him for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, to offer reconciliation, and to bring many sons to glory, by such a personage. “For both he that expiates, and they who are expiated, are all one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren. Forasmuch then as the children were partakers of Aesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same, that through death, he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them, who through fear of death, were all their lise-time subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto bis brethren; that he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.” Heb. ii. 14-17.
Let this energetic and beautiful passage be applied to any good man, to any deliverer, to any prophet, to any apostle, to any martyr; or let it be read irrespective of the doctrine of atonement; and the whole becomes pointless, vague, and flimsy. The atoning priesthood of the Savior, on the contrary, gives it body and consistency, weight and edge.
The expedient of an atonement was introduced into the administration of God's moral government to "declare” the righteousness, or the public justice of God in forgiving offenders. It was therefore necessary that the atonement be “shewn forth,” that is, that it be effected and published in the province where the offence was committed. An atonement effected solely by the divine nature, or by an angelic being, could not have been
"shewn forth," and made visible and tangible to mankind; consequently the author of atonement took upon him the nature of the offenders, "before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth crucified among them.” An atonement thus visibly wrought, in the nature and in the province of the offenders, was calculated to produce salutary impressions on them. It would humble the offenders to have, in the moral government of which they were a province, such a decided demonstration of firm justice. It would gain their confidence, that the divine government had been devising means for the honorable exercise of mercy in their district. And it would endear to them the friendly Mediator “who though he was rich, yet for their sake became poor, that they through his poverty might be made rich.”
The nature of things, and the order of society, also, seem to shew the propriety, that an atonement should be as much like the infliction of the threatened punishment, as could, under the direction of infinite wisdom, be consistent with its nature as an expedient for the suspension of the literal penalty. Hence, the illustrious Mediator assumed a nature that could sustain visible sufferings, and endure a public death, even the accursed death of the cross. By such an arrangement, the whole government has been honored in the nature, if not in the persons of the offenders. “If one died for all, then did the All die."
To pardon an offender for the sake of the relationship which a friend of ours sustains towards him, and especially to pardon at the instance of that friend, is a fact in common life every day. A child disobeys his father, and, through the intercession of his mother in his behalf, is forgiven. We receive a wrong at a neighbor's hand, but at the interposition of a mutual friend, we look it over. Such a circumstance often occurs also in the administration of civil government, when it is deemed honorable and safe; as when the life of a condemned criminal is spared through the petitions of the
respectable inhabitants of his native place, or when a king shews favor to any one on account of bis connection with an honorable and worthy family. It was something of this kind that we see in David shewing kindness to Mephibosheth for the sake of Jonathan his father, 2 Sam. ix, 1–8. David as a king felt that there was no impropriety, danger, or dishonor, in restoring Mephibosbeth to all bis inheritance in such a way as this. By doing it for Jonathan's sake, it shewed that he had a high regard for Jonathan, that he considered nothing in the house of Saul as forming a claim on his clemency; and, consequently, no friends of that house could think that the king was relaxing his government, and that they might safely rebel. Thus God is in Christ reconciling the world unto himself-but it is for Christ's sake. For Christ's sake, be is willing to forgive the greatest sin, to accept the vilest sinner, and to confer the greatest favor. In thus acting for Christ's sake, the boasting and the worthiness of the singer are excluded, and the divine government is safe and honorable.
The personal character of Christ; or, what is called,
His active Righteousness.
Mere relationship to the offender is not a sufficient ground for a safe dispensation of pardon: the person who intercedes must have also a worth and weight of character in the estimation of the government.
When Amyntas interceded with the Athenian senate for the life of his brother Æschylus, he pleaded, by lifting up the stump of his arm, the honors which he had achieved for the government at the battle of Salamis. The senate, at the instance of a person of such character and worth, granted the pardon. It was on this principle that Abraham interceded for the sparing of Sodom and Gomorrah. His plea was the moral worth of fifty righteous souls: and the efficacy of the plea is
distinctly recognized by the Angel Jehovah. Paul also interceded with Philemon for Onesimus, by pleading his own character in the estimation of Philemon, as "being such a one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.” This is the principle on which the Lord Jesus Christ makes intercession for transgressors, by representing to the moral governor bis own infinite worth as an honorable ground for sparing thern. It is as THE JUST, that he died for the unjust. It is as THE RIGHTEOUS, that he is now an advocate with the Father.
Hence we learn the design and the plan of what is called, the active obedience of Christ, in the plan of the atonement. The atonement did not consist in the death of Christ simply as death, or as the death of a person so related to the offenders, but it consisted in being such a death of such a person. The Lord Christ would not have been such a person in his sufferings and death, had not the obedience of his life preceded his agonies. The obedience of his life gave him a mediatorial character in the estimation of the divine government, so that it is an honor to the moral law to honor him.
The personal worthiness of Christ is so great and meritorious, that were we to consider him in his moral character alone, irrespectively of his divinity, it would have been no wonder, but rather, the expectation and the delight of all intelligences, if the divine government in all its authorities had interposed in the justice-ball of Calvary to vindicate and to honor such a character; to give him the "life" promised in the law that he had honored, and to confer upon him the recompense of the
But to the eternal astonislıment of all the worlds of God, on that spot, he stood The Just for the unjust; in their stead; and voluntarily suffering death, not as the inflicted penalty of the law-because, for a person of his character, the law had no penalty—but he voluntarily suffered death as an agreed arrangement, and as a received "commandment" from his Father. The divine government has been more honored by the obedience of such a person, than it has been dishonored by
the disobedience of the offenders. The obedience of Christ is worthy of honor from the law, because that he himself was not worthy of death. He did not die because the law required it, for the law could not require a just person to die. He died because he had received a commandment to die from his Father—that for the sake of the dying of a person who did not deserve to die, he might pardon those who had deserved death. In such an arrangement, no subject will think lightly of the divine government, when mercy is exercised only for the sake, and in the name of one who has done so much to honor the law; but every one must, in obedience and homage, fall down before the Lamb of atonement, saying, “Thou art worthy to take the book, for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood.”
The personal substitution of Christ. A mediator interposing for offenders puts himself in their place, and, as we have seen, proposes to substitute some expedient instead of their punishment. Thus did Paul in his interposition for Onesimus. On the same principle the Lord Jesus Christ has mediated for sin
The sin of man is a public injury to the divine commonwealth; and for such a public injury the law has provided a public punishment. Before this public punishment can be honorably suspended, some public expedient must be substituted, that will answer the same ends. Why? The very reasons which required the original penalty to be annexed as a sanction to the law, require, in case of its suspension, that what is substituted for it should secure its ends. It is not the letter of the penalty that is essential to good government, but the influence and the ends of the penalty.
What Zaleucus substituted for the infliction of the total blindness due to his son, was honorable to his