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The Atonement a demonstration of the Evil of Sin.
It was a cardinal article in the creed of the apostles that Jesus Christ "died for sin." They exhibit the Lord Jesus Christ as being a sin offering—as bearing our sins in his body on the tree-as condemning sin, and taking away the sin of the world. Indeed, according to their doctrine, Christ bears no office, wears no title, and sustains no relation but what presupposes sin.
The atonement of the Son of God is the greatest proof that can be given of the existence of moral evil in our world. As the institution of a hospital in a neighborhood is a proof of the prevalence of disease and sickness there, so the provision of salvation denotes the existence of a moral disorder. And as the demanding, or the receiving of a satisfaction by any man supposes a wrong committed or sustained, so the astounding fact that Jesus Christ offered himself up to God, as a "propitiation,” is a public and clear proof of the existence of moral evil and wrong.
One of the designs of the institution of typical sacrifices was to bear universal and an uninterrupted testimony to the actual existence of moral wrong in the world. They brought sin into remembrance every year, and their vicarious provisions supplied the first clue, to that scheme of substitution by which the evils of sin should be taken away by the Lamb of God. The visible inflictions of awful judgments on guilty heads were, “far between,” and in the interval, the rebels might think their crimes had ceased to be wrong, or God had become tired of the contest. Therefore sacrificial victims were instituted by God, and their crimson tide flowed through all the hamlets of the human race, a stream of evidence that sin existed. The flood of the atonement takes up this testimony and demonstrates, that if One died for all, then were all dead in trespasses and in sins.
God sets forth, also, the atonement of his Son as a demonstration of the tremendous evil, and horrible wickedness, malignity and turpitude of sin. Perhaps there is no greater proof of the stunning influence of sin, on an intellectual being, than the dreadful fact, that there are millions of intelligences who have no conception how sin can be injurious, or offensive, to a Governor of such glory and benignity as God is represented to be. If God is not susceptible of physical injury, they cannot understand how He is capable of moral injury. This is, as if they could understand that a king might be injured by corporal ill-usage, but do not know how a king can be injured in his feelings, character, and honor. God always speaks of sin as what he abominates, and to condemn sin was one purpose of giving his Son to the death of the cross. The withholding of his just rights from a Being of infinite excellence; the refusal of the esteem, homage and obedience which he deserves and demands; and the contemptuous insults offered to bim in the Atheism, idolatry, blasphemy, and perjury of mankind, must be wrongs and injuries of infinite magnitude, and of unutterable malignity.
1. When a wise ruler is offended, he will not precipitately make the offenders feel the immediate effects of a hasty wrath. The benignity of his nature will make him ready to forgive; but it will suit neither his character, nor his honor, to forgive in such a manner as to leave an impression that the offence was petty and trivial. To avoid this he would call in a third party-of a rank and dignity corresponding with those of the offended. If, for the purpose of mediating between the parties, this umpire undergoes great trouble, and cost, and pain, the arrangement will be more calculated to make on the offenders, vivid impressions of the heinousness of the offence in the estimation of the offended. We discover. in every-day life that an offender feels that his offence is not lightly regarded when a third party is called to interpose—and that this feeling will be enhanced in proportion to the dignity of the interposer, and to the trouble which he takes in the affair.
God has adopted this method to impress us duly with a sense of the evil of sin. He has called in the mediation of a third Party—hat party is a Person of great dignity and worth, yet his mediation costs him unparalleled sorrows, degradations, and sufferings, which he voluntarily and cheerfully endures for the sake of the offenders. It is fariber revealed that even this Daysman is selected to mediate, on account of his well known abhorrence of the offence. “Thou hast loved righteous
. ness and hated iniquity, therefore God, even thy God hath anointed thee.” Heb. i, 9. Every thing, therefore, in the provision of One to mediate this affair tends to give enlarged views of the greatness of the wrong.
2. The atonement shews the evil of sio by manifesting the amiable character of the moral governor against whom men have revolted. Sometimes the tyrannical character and the oppressive laws of a king justify an opposition to his government. These excuses cannot be advanced to vindicate the rebellion of the world against God. God is Love. Even the law which he gave was the law of love and liberty. His forbearance and long-suffering towards the offenders who insult him, show Him to be a Being of infinite benignity and supreme excellence. The provision of an expedient, to offer even deliverance and pardon to them with honor to his character, is "a far more exceeding.” evidence of the transcendent Amiableness, and Goodness, and Worthiness of Him, against whom men has rebelled.
It was calculated to awaken every offender to exclaim, “Herein is LOVE!--not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and gave His Son to be a propitiation for our sins. What could have maddened us to rebel against a God of such boundless love and clemency!”
Sin was made to appear more exceeding sinful by the contrast which the dignity of the Mediator suggested between the offence and the Majesty of the Great and Blessed God. The mediating Daysman was none other than “God manifested in the flesh.” The offence must be heinous to require a mediator of such grandeur. Then how desolating and ruinous must a state of things be, that requires such a Mediator to become a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief! In such a mediation the offenders can see nothing to extenuate their blame-worthiness—but everything to enhance it. The great sufferings of the Mediator were intended to be an expression of the awful effects of sin, and of its being so abhorrent to God, that he proclaimed it "condemned,” by the death of his own Son. The whole arrangements of the atonement exhibit sinning against such infinite excellence as a crime unutterably vile, and the rebellion that challenges omnipotent abhorrence as infinitely contemptible and eternally ruinous.
3. The life and character of the atoning Mediator showed the loveliness, the justice, and the goodness of the law which offenders had violated and trampled. It was an honor to the moral law to have been obeyed by such a Personage. In proportion as his obedience magnified the law and made it honorable, it condemned the transgression and the transgressors of it. The life of Jesus Christ teaches us that the law is adapted to our circumstances and faculties, that it is possible to observe and keep it, and that it deserves the affection and obedience of all men. The Mediator was “higher than the heavens,” in supreme dominion, omnipotent power, and exalted station, yet be regarded this law as worthy of all the respect and honor with which he could
invest it by his obedience. If any might think themselves above it, he more. Yet he yielded to it an obedience which the whole divine government contemplate with ineffable approbation and complacency. The life and the character of the Mediator, clearly showed to mankind, that this law was not unreasonable in its demands. It required no impossibilities. Jesus Christ could not obey it, but with the same faculties that we possess; and we are not destitute of a single power or faculty with which Christ obeyed the law. His were mental powers and intellectual faculties in which he grew and made advances; and in every state of his progress as a child, a youth, and a man, he honored and kept the law.
It was an honor to the law to be exhibited as suffi. ciently good, and free, and broad, to be the rule for the mediatorial life of the Son of God. As God and Man he was a Personage new to the universe. The life of such a personage, in a course of transactions between God and man, would be unexampled and eminently extraordinary. The law which he recommended to the esteem of mankind, he took for the rule of his own life. He was made of a woman, and made under the law, the very law on which men had trampled. He showed by his obedience to it, what kind of life the law required from man.
He obeyed to the highest perfection all its perfect commands. In the entire course of his life, he
fixed on this rule. In him was found no sin; he was completely perfect; yet He was not more perfect than this law required him to be! O how amiable and lovely must that law be, that was a sufficient pattern for the transcendant loveliness of the mediatorial character of the Son of God! When the highest being in the universe took upon him the form of a servant and entered upon a course of obedience, and suffering, and glory, he observed this law in all his stupendous transactions with the divine government, and in all his merciful dispensations towards rebellious man. In all his undertaking he established the law. By his