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It is not denied that the office of a prophet, of a heavenly instructor, does truly belong to Christ; but to him also belongs, as truly, the office of a priest, literally fulfilled by offering himself on the altar of the cross for the redemption of sinners: and to that voluntary offering is constantly attributed an importance and an efficacy, to which his death, considered as that of a mere martyr, could have laid no claim. The shedding of his blood, the laying down of his life, is uniformly represented as that which, by the Divine appointment, has not only ratified but effected the redemption of the world.
Thus we read, among many other similar declarations, that "Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many;" that "he is the propitiation for our sins;" that "we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for ail;" that by that "one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified;" that he "hath appeared once in the end of the world, to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself;" that he "shed his blood for the remission of sin;" that "in him we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of our sins f that "Christ once suffered for sins, tiie just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God;" and that "God hath made him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us, (that is, a sin-offering for us,_) that we might be made the
righteousness of God in him."—I need not multiply quotations on this subject; for the New Testament is half composed of them.
I have often exhibited before your minds this most important view of the Redeemer's death, and of the redemption thereby secured; and there is nothing in scripture which more effectually settles my conviction of his divinity. For whilst "noman could redeem his brother, or offer unto God a ransom for him," this weighty and momentous task devolved on the Beloved of the Father. And it should ever fill our hearts with a deep sense of the unspeakable value of the soul's redemption, to recollect that it was accomplished through the voluntary sufferings, and death, of a being of such transcendant excellence and glory.
Brethren, you will recollect that whilst I have uniformly taught you the doctrine of atonement for sin, by the death of Christ upon the cross, as constituting, in my estimation, the most prominent and important feature of his high mediation, I have ever carefully guarded against what I take to be a very unscriptural, however prevailing, view of the subject—I mean, that of regarding the atonement effected by the Redeemer's death, in the light of an exact and full equivalent for human transgression—an equivalent, which the Father of all could not in strict justice refuse to accept. This is, perhaps, too common a sentiment on the subject—to me it appears to have no foundation in scripture.
I admit, that among the various forms of expression employed by the sacred writers to set forth the redemption by Christ, the following may be met with:—"he gave himself a ransom for all;" "he hath purchased the church with his blood;" and some others of similar import. But a mind accustomed to look at the general scope and bearing of the gospel, and especially at the accounts of the mediation and atonement of the Redeemer, will have no difficulty in understanding such expressions in their true and legitimate sense—will have no difficulty in guarding against that narrow and rigid interpretation of such expressions, which some have not been ashamed to give them.
But, suppose we were to understand them according to this confined interpretation, look at the inevitable consequence. They necessarily remove and destroy all sense of obligation, in this case, to the great Father of all; and surely it cannot be a just or scriptural view of the subject, which has any such tendency. Suppose one person to discharge a pecuniary debt for another, there is great benevolence in the deed; but it is plain that the whole of the obligation belongs to the person who has discharged, and no part of it to the person who has received, this debt. Just so, if we were led by a few insulated, and ill-understood expressions, to look upon the atonement by the death of Christ in the light of an exact and perfect equivalent, which the Father could not but in justice accept of, we might, indeed, lay the foundation of supreme gratitude to the Son, but we should leave no room for the exercise of grace and mercy on the Father's part—we should present the Father only in the attitude of stern, unrelenting, inexorable justice—we should, I fear, take away all ground of obligation, and gratitude, and love, to him whom the scriptures uniformly represent as the original source and foundation of all good.
And I appeal to the feelings and to the candour of those who may have honestly and conscientiously entertained this view of the subject, whether it has had no tendency to exhibit the Son of God to their minds, in a character, in a point of view, more amiable, engaging, lovely, and benevolent, than the Father Almighty himself? I make this appeal from my own experience; for I well remember the time, when this view of the subject remained impressed by education,, and hereditary faith, upon my own mind, and when upon that mind it had the tendency, and actually produced the effect which I have endeavoured to describe.
But look upon the doctrine of the atonement, as held up to view in the light of scripture—look upon the free grace of the Father Almighty, as
the source whence the inestimable gift of a Saviour originally flows—look upon the sufferings and death of that Saviour, as the medium appointed of the Father, through which to convey to his fallen children the incalculable blessings of the pardon of sin, of restoration to his favour, and of life everlasting, and, whilst this has no tendency whatsoever to lessen our obligations to that divine Saviour, who, for a season, laid aside his inconceivable glory, took upon him the form of a servant, and voluntarily submitted to humiliation, and an ignominious death, for our redemption, it yet exhibits the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in his true character of paternal benevolence, and preserves inviolate the primary ground of obligation, gratitude, and praise, unto him to whom all glory is ultimately due. Then we can say, with something like truth and consistency, "herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his dear Son to be the propitiation of our sins." Then we can say, with something like truth and consistency—" Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again to this living hope."
You will also recollect, brethren, that whilst I have uniformly, and, I will say it, sincerely and earnestly, taught you the great doctrine of atonement by the death of Christ, as what the scrip