« PreviousContinue »
impure, he was a candidate for santification; and ås immortal, he was a candidate for heaven.
Now, the infinite difference between what man was as a sinner, and what he would be as saved, must constitute the ground and measure of the merit needed, to render the offer of salvation possible. Without this merit, pardon would assault the law in its spirit; regeneration, in its penalties; sanctification, in its effects.
The fact of infinite merit in the Redeemer is rendered certain by the fact of salvation; for the law having infinite claims, no one of which ever has been, or can be met by the sinner, and he being saved in the face of the law, either his claims have been compromised, or the merit of the substitute has been equal to his demerit; and as the former is impossible, the latter is certain. It is also confirmed by the character of the Redeemer. He was God-man. And we rest the extent of his merits not upon the amount of his sufferings, but upon the dignity of the sufferer. As we should suppose, a priori, that nothing less than an infinite nature could offer a sacrifice of infinite merit, so the Father has demonstrated in the gift of Emmanuel for the offering. Let then the problem be put in its severest form the law unyielding, how to save the sinner?-And the answer is, “We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.'
" The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all, that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus."
The philosophy of merit is deep as the bosom of God, and, of course, to us fathomless. But this, to the student of nature, tends strongly to confirm the fact; for he finds inexplicable phenomena everywhere, and the suffering of one in behalf of another is so common as to excite neither surprise nor attention. Besides, if the Christian scheme were comprehensible by us in all its principles and facts, it would be human, and hence valueless. That the sufferings and acts of Jesus should be a substitute for legal demands upon sinners, addresses not our reason but our faith—faith divinely produced in the soul, greatly strengthened by the analogy of nature, positively commanded by the evidence of revelation, and fully vindicated by experience. The clear development of this profound philosophy is in Scripture and in history. Its last expression is the will of God. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
The history of merit is the history of Jesus. The surrender of life was a central crisis in that history. But it is not to this alone that we are to look for merit in behalf of the race. We have only to reflect that no single remedial act of the adorable Redeemer could be in any way necessary to himself; that every such act was so much more than was due from him, to be impressed with the truth that they are all meritorious, and parts of the one great offering in behalf of the world. The work of salvation in
progress for more than four thousand years, before the crucifixion, argues the efficacy of mediatorial acts, and strongly indicates their existence. Now the frequent appearance of a Divine Person remedially engaged in the history of the pre-advent church, comes in to confirm this conviction. Grant that all these acts would have availed nothing without the death-scene. It is also true that these were indispensable conditions of that scene--that the existence of one meritorious act involves the principles and certainty of all essential ones—that from the earliest date of determined redemption, this world has been given up to the Messiah for the sole purpose of an effort to save it—and its history has hence been the product of this effort in action with depraved humanity. Meritnot of a single act merely—but of the Son of God; of the Saviour as the whole, in character, and action, begins therefore with man's probation, and must extend to its close.
The effect of this view of the necessity of merit; of the fact of merit; the philosophy of merit; and the history of merit, is to show that the resources of the Saviour in this respect are like his nature infinite, and hence unfailing; and this is the first great condition of his unexampled perseverance.
2. His unlimited power.-Our idea of power is an inference from the fact of power. Limited acts indicate the agency of limited power. Those acts which to us are illimitable suggest the idea of infinite power.
Hence Divine Revelation, to teach us the infinite power of Christ, ascribes to him the work of creation in its absolute, universal, and special sense; and informs us that he will fold up this vast universe as a vesture and lay it aside. These are acts which, by the laws of our being, suggest and prove the infinite power of Christ. When, after this, we learn from authority that he is invested with the awful attribute of omnipotence, we believe it. But this is physical power. A higher necessity exists. Spiritual changes are required to prepare man for endless happiness, which demand a moral power as infinite as that physical power which made the world." What less than this can rouse a sinner from his slumber of death - crush the rebellion of his heart-roll away the burden of his guilt-cleanse his soul from its deep-struck pollutions--and bring him to a permanent residence in heaven? What less than this can break down the barriers which sin has raised to the progress of truth, and hold up the throne of infinite justice, while the work of saving sinners goes on? And here also our evidence both of authority and of fact is perfectly decisive. “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” Not the physical power by which he made the worlds, certainly. This he always had. But the power in heaven to arrest the avenger of blood-to hold the thunders of Divine wrath in abeyance, and to send out the waves of truth, and love, and glory, to deluge the earth. The "power on earth to forgive sins" and" to cleanse from all unrighteousness." This interpretation is sustained by innumerable facts. Sinners are awakened, regenerated, sanctified, saved. The justice of God is maintained, and his throne is secure while the work of redemption is in progress. Thus the question of power is settled. It is infinite as the nature of God. No possible demand can exhaust or diminish it. The fiercest assault of fallen men-the wildest onset of millions of demons can not drive him from the mediatorial throne. From it he directs the affairs of the remedial dispensation amid the tumults and mad strife of the race infuriated by Satan, with the calmness and dignity and ease of Omnipotence. His resources of power are unfailing, and this is the second condition of his perseverance, till the world shall be lit up with the flames of the judgment.
3. His infinite wisdom.-The direction of Almighty power in the work of salvation must be the highest possible effort of wisdom. Difficulties more formidable than we can appreciate must crowd every moment of the mediatorial reign. They baffle the skill of the wisest of men, as often as they engage them. Not indeed in the choice of remedies. One sole relief for the woes of the world is mentioned by the omniscient God. But the disease is so malignant and mysterious that no man can know it. The remedy is too profound for the penetration of finite powers. The place, the time, and the mode of its application, are all infinitely beyond our reach. Omniscience alone is adequate security against fatal mistakes, in such a work as an attempt to save a soul. It is a fearful thing to be limited in intelligence even when we treat the diseases of the body. The peril of life is too often the sad necessity im. posed by defective skill. But how much more fearful would be the result of an error in this great Physician. The undying soul is the seat of the disease. The death it ihreatens is damnation in hell. No wisdom but the unerring is equal to the cure. The most in telligent of men stand aghast before an agonizing sinner sinking to perdition. But the Son of God knows instantly what to do. He who could penetrate the dark bosom of deceit and declare its hypocrisy while it rejoiced in its fancied concealment~he who "needed not that any should testify to him of man, for he knew what was in man"--he can never be at loss to know the power of his own blood—the instant in which its application becomes practicable in the sovereignty of right, and saving in the sphere of the doomed.
The same Omniscient sight penetrates the utmost extreme of this world's darkness, sees at a glance its part, and its whole of corruption, and suffering-its demerit and exposures. He who is omnipresent in history--the history not only of time but eternity, not only of man but of God, sees the work to be done and the way to do it, which the renovation of the race, the establishment of "judgment in the continents of earth," and "the isles of the sea" require. If then to unfailing merit and unlimited power, we add the Saviour's infinite wisdom to direct in the application of both, we have the third great condition upon which this perseverance depends.
4. His exhaustless love.- Only one question remains. Has he love to move him to the use of his merit, his power, and his wis
dom? The demands upon his love are seen in the fact that his efforts are required for the good of the race alone. No necessity for one of them exists in the nature or wants of the Son of God. For man he must have had a love so deep, so infinite as to move him to all his mediatorial acts. And he must toil not merely for the needy and the wretched, but for the corrupt, the guilty, " the rebellious." His vast preparations extending through thousands of years were expressly for a mission to a world in arms against the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! A mission not to destroy, but to save! What depths of holy love must have dwelt in his infinite mind to have moved him to this! It was sufficient. It brought him from the realms of light. It beamed from his countenance. It breathed in his language. It was the ruling element of his acts. It mingled in bis miracles, in his private interviews with his chosen ones, and in his stern rebukes to the hypocrites, by whom he was surrounded. It carried him to the cross. gushed from his heart in the very agonies of death. It bore him to the intercessor's throne. It has sustained him there to this hour. And it is impossible for us to conceive of a necessity greater than that which has demanded his love, since the morning of redemption dawned upon the race, of a principle of love in possible, not already in actual requisition. Our faith in the infinity of Jesus' love wants not a single quality of indubitable evidence. Whatever therefore his unfailing merit would justify; whatever his unlimited power can accomplish, and his infinite wisdom vindicate, his exhaustless love moves him to do. And this is enough. Other causes there doubtless are — causes that lie deep in the infinite intelligence -- but these are satisfactory to us. In merit, and power, and wisdom, and love," he shall not fail." He will therefore not be " discouraged."
II. THE PERSEVERANCE OF CHRIST IN ITS ACTION. 1. It is righteous in its character.—He has been engaged in no selfish work - no attempt to overreach or destroy his enemies. Not a single act of resentment can be traced in all his history. But he saw that the laws of God had been set aside in this earth, trampled upon by the very beings for whose protection they were designed. That man had risen up against his fellow-man, that war and blood had followed in the train of angry passion, proud selfishness, and ungodly ambition. That “justice had gone away backward," retreating in anger from a world in which she had been insulted and defied. “To set judgment in the earth," and give his righteous law to the isles of the sea, was therefore his great and glorious work. The darkness which hung like the night of Egypt over the earth was to be dispersed - man's attention to be engaged to a Divine voice, speaking to his inner nature his thoughtfulness of God, spirit, law, duty, death, heaven, and hell to be raised to a habit — godly sorrow for sin to be wrought in his heart — faith to supersede infidelity. Sin in all its guilt to be pardoned — the soul, dead to God and truth, to be brought to life - polluted, to be cleansed from sin. This for the individual.
For society, the purity and power of a Christian civilization were to be extended to the remotest parts of the earth. A higher, holier life was to be poured through the social system. War, aggression, and injustice of every form to be superseded by goodwill to men. The universal brotherhood of humanity to become a recognized reality. Jehovah enthroned in the hearts of men to become the acknowledged Sovereign of the race, and “the earth be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”
This is the work in which the Son of God is engaged. Verily it is righteous in its character, compared either with the laws of eternal rectitude, or the commonly received opinions of men. Righteous in view of the wants and woes, the bliss and the destiny of the race. Righteous ?--Nay, it is benevolent; it is gracious in every principle it involves, in every impulse it gives to human thought and feeling; it is glorious in every issue revealed to sense, or consciousness, or faith.
2. It is various in its expedients. -- The Divine Redeemer has confined himself to no single mode of carrying out his gracious purposes. His anxiety to succeed, and our vast debt of gratitude are indicated by the almost infinite variety of the means he has adopted.
Look, for instance, at the general system of rewards and punishments - the invariable connection established between virtue and happiness, vice and misery -- the manifestations of himself as the remedial governor of this revolted province of Jehovah's empire. He swept an entire race of sinners from the earth ; He elected the family of Abraham to be the witnesses of his power and medium of communication with the whole world. He delivered his law amid the thunders of Sinai; He moved before Israel in the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire; He scourged the rebels of Palestine by war, and pestilence, and death; terrible vengeance fell upon Sodom and Egypt, Idumea and Babylon; the tabernacle, the temple, and the cross revealed the Divine authority of law, the exalted dignity of worship, and the ineffable glories of redemption. The self-consciousness, the language and the acts of the righteous attest the power of pardon, the wonders of a spiritual resurrection, and the moral splendors of a holy life. Faith disarms the tyrant death -- snatches from the grave its victim, and lights up eternity with the smiles of the Godhead. But proud, rebellious sinners, in war with Jehovah, by guilty millions, “ bite the dust," doomed and damned forever. Thus does the adorable Redeemer seek to guard the laws upon which the harmony of the universe depends, and retrieve the affairs of earth.
Look also at miracles and prophecies.--To emancipate Israel from the thraldom of Egypt, he turned her river into blood, and slew her first-born. He led his people triunphantly through the divided waters, and overwhelmed their raging enemies. In the might of his providence he poured the torrent from the smitten rock, sent bread from heaven, and brought quails upon the camp