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to which all preceding providences looked forward, and to which all subsequent providences look backward. It was in the fulness of time, at a crisis which providence had matured, that Christ offered the atonement of his death, In this atonement, as the centre of power and influence, Christ stands, amid the numerous revolutions of providence, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.
The mediatorial administration of Providence founded
on the Atonement.
The sacred scriptures regard the atonement of Christ as the ground and reason for committing the adıninistrations of providence into his hands.
Let us hear what Jesus Christ himself says, “All power is given to me in heaven and earth. Mat. xxviii. 19. In this passage Christ regards himself as the President of the entire universe. He declares his power to be universal. He has authority over heaven, to employ all its intelligences in his service, and to dispose of all its happiness and honors according to his sovereign will and pleasure. His authority extends over all the earth, over all beings and things, over all times, works, and events,—and especially over the probation and the destinies of man. This language does more than merely assert the universal domination of the Redeemer, it gives also an intimation of the harmonious administration of this immense power. The
power exercised in heaven is not opposed to the interests of the earth; and the authority employed on earth is subservient to the great interests of heaven. It is by the influence of the atonement that the will of God will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
The whole language of the New Testament is an echo of this regal proclamation of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Mediator is “King of kings, and Lord of
lords.” He is "Lord of all." "He has power over
“ all flesh.” He has "the keys of Hades and the grave," and is “Lord both of the dead and the living.” He is the “head of all principality and power," the Lord of glory.” “Every judgment is committed unto him.” Indeed, “all things are delivered unto him of the Father, who was constituted bim the heir of all things, who has put all things under his feet, and who has issued a public edict from his throne, “that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, of things in earth, and things under the earth.”
Another class of passages distinctly asserts that the person of the Mediator is invested with this authority and dominion on account, and in consequence of his atonement. Take Phil. ii, 8—10 as a nucleus for the others. “Being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
WHEREFORE God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name—that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” To possess this universal empire was one design of his sacrifice. “For, for this end Christ died that he might be Lord both of the dead and the living." It was after that he offered one sacrifice for sins, that he for ever sat down at the right hand of God. The apostle Peter represents Christ as "gone into heaven, and on the right hand of God; angels, authorities, and powers, being made subject unto him.” i Peter iii, 22. He entered heaven in his priestly office, and in his atoning character, as the high priest entered the holy of holies; and on this official entrance into heaven, he took public possession of all power and authority.
It was not now that the grant of universal dominion was made to him; nor was it now that he commenced his mediatorial government; but it was now that he was publicly inaugurated into the administration of divine providence. Though in virtue of the original and eterQal grant of the Father, Christ had been in the actual possession of all power, yet it was not till after his ascension in his atoning office, that he assumed the public exercise of his mediatorial authority over providence. Probably the new aspect which the administration of providence assumed about this time towards the Gentiles was designed to be a proof of this, as it seemed reserved to honor the coronation, and to adorn the triumphs of the Mediator. And the copious effusion of gracious influences at this time seemed to give a new character to the dispensations of providence, as royal largesses scattered among the people to grace the auspicious entrance of Christ upon the public exercise of his mediatorial power, as the official organ of moral government.
Without an atonement there would have been no providence exercised among mankind. If there be no relationship between the atonement of Christ and the providence of God, it is impossible to account for the continuation of mankind on the face of the earth.'
Suppose for a moment that the arrangements of the constitution with Adam in Eden had been carried out into literal execution. In the day that our first parents would eat of the forbidden fruit, "dying they were to die.” They did eat. And bad this constitution been executed to the letter, they would immediately have died and perished; and, consequently, would have had no posterity. If the threatening had been executed literally, there would have been no human race. They, however, sinned, and became liable to the literal infliction of the threatened punishment, but the infliction of the literal penalty was suspended, and they lived. How did this come to pass? It was by the introduction of a new dispensation, a dispensation ihat was sparing, restorative, and saving. The ground of this new dispensation was the Seed of the woman bruising the serpent's head, and obtaining, by his sufferings and conflicts, a mastery over the world, and over all evils.
From the moment that the threatened penalty was suspended by the introduction of another constitution,
Adam and Eve lived under a new dispensation, and under this new dispensation Cain and Abel were born; yea, under this new dispensation the whole posterity of Adam has been introduced into the world. This has been long and strenuously disputed, but on no solid and scriptural grounds. I would just ask, if the penal sanctions of Eden had been literally inflicted on our first parents, how was it possible for them to have a race of offsprings? If the human race is born under the Eden constitution, or as it is called, the covenant of works, where is the Eden test of probation on whom has its literal threatenings ever been executed? who has ever died in the day that he first sinned?
The case of mankind, I conceive, stands thus. In the wise and harmonious exercise of divine prerogative and public justice, the original penalty or curse threatened against Adam was suspended. I do not consider the sentence pronounced on our first parents after the fall, to be the same with the curse that was threatened to them before their fall. The sentence is daily executed, but the original curse or penalty threatened was suspended. It was suspended, on the ground of the atonement of Christ as an equivalent, that is, as an expedient that was substituted instead of it, and that would answer the same public ends as it. By such a substitution another dispensation was introduced, and by the introduction of another dispensation, our first parents and their posterity were allowed to live.
The human race, then, owes its very existence, with all the blessings and advantages of that existence to the mediation and the atonement of Jesus Christ. For without a regard to the atonement, it is impossible to view the suspension of a punishment which had been solemnly threatened, to be either honorable or safe to the divine government. If God can with honor to his government remit any punishment irrespective of the atonement, he might remit all-which would make the atonement of Christ altogether vain.
If the dispensations of providence be separated from the influence of the atonement, no principle remains to account for the harmonious administration of judgment and mercy in the government of the world.
Take away the atonement of Christ, and the state, and the circumstances, and the prospects of man, present a labyrinth for which we have no clue. If man be what he was first made, and what he ought to be, in the service and in the favor of his Maker and Owner, how will you account for his misery and degradation? If man be abhorred, and spurned, and cursed of his Maker and lawgiver, how will you account for his mercies, for his probation, for the call on him to repentance, and for the numerous answers which God has given to his prayers?
Man is evidently under a mixed administration. He himself is regarded in the mixed character of a condemned sinner, and a probationary candidate. God governs bim in the mixed character of a sovereign Lord, and just Judge. Scripture and observation prove that these things are really so. The difficulty is to find some ground or medium in which prerogative and law, or mercy and judgment, shall harmonize. Such a medium is the atonement of the death of Christ.
This medium is not necessary to the existence of mercy and justice in God, nor, perhaps, to a separate exercise of them. God has these attributes and perfections irrespectively of the mediatorial constitution, and they harnionize in his nature with perfect loveliness, for in him can be no clashing attributes or contradictory principles. A medium is necessary only to harmonize their exercise in a mixed administration of moral goxernment,
The atonement of the death of Christ is a suitable medium for this. It supposes man to be a sinner, and yet a candidate in probation. It supposes God to be a sovereign Benefactor, and yet a righteous Governor. It exhibits God in the fulness of his character, a righteous Legislator who published a good law; a gracious Lord