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Isaiah un. 5, 6.
He Was Wounded For Our Transgressions; He Was Bruised For Our Iniquities; The Chastisement Of Our Peace Was Upon Him; And By His Stripes Are We Healed. All We Like Bheef Have Gone Astray; We Have Turned Evert One To His Own Wat; And The Lord Hath Laid On Him The Iniquity Of Us All.
The sentiment of this passage may perhaps be made more perspicuous, by a translation of it somewhat nearer to the spirit of the original.
"He was wounded on account of our transgressions; he was smitten on account of our iniquities; the chastisement by which our peace is procured was laid on him; and by his wounds are we healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have wandered each one in the path that he chose; and Jehovah hath laid on him the punishment due to us all."
This passage, no less than the august personage to whom it relates, has been to the Jews of ancient and modern times a stumbling block, and to many of the Gentiles foolishness. Very soon after Christians began, when disputing with the Jews about Christ crucified, to make their appeal to it, as proof that a suffering and atoning Saviour, Jesus of Nazareth, was foretold in the Hebrew Scriptures, the Jews set themselves to find out some other person> or class of men, concerning whom the prophet might be regarded as here speaking. Some of them have maintained that he had reference to their nation at large; some that he had respect to Uzziah, Hezekiah, or Josiah; while others suppose that Isaiah, Jeremiah, or some one of the prophets, was the subject of his description. Nor have commentators and critics among Christians been wanting, who have advocated these opinions proposed by the Jews. Of late, the prevailing sentiment among a certain class of critics is, that the prophetic order of men among the Hebrews, rather than any particular individual of it, is referred to by Isaiah. As the prophets, in ancient times, were often subjected to sufferings and death, by the persecuting spirit which reigned among their cotemporaries; so they are supposed to be represented, in our text and context, as bearing the sins of the nation, and making atonement for them.
It is not my present design to enter into a particular examination of these discrepant and very unsatisfactory opinions. To the Jew I would say, In what other part of the Old Testament are the sufferings of any mere king or prophet ever represented as expiatory? The Mosaic law has prescribed expiatory sacrifices; and has prescribed all that were to be offered under the ancient dispensation. What part of this law speaks of expiation by the sufferings and death of any mere king or prophet? Or if the Jewish nation at large be the subject of the prophet's description, where is this nation, when persecuted and suffering, represented as an cxpiatory sacrifice? and for whom did they make expiation? On the contrary, are they not always represented as bearing the punishment due to their own transgressions, and not as bearing that due to others?
To the commentator bearing the name of Christian, and disposed to follow these wanderings of unbelief and offence at the cross of Christ, in which the Jews have so long indulged, I have only one brief remark to make; which is, that evangelists and apostles have told us, who is the subject of the prophet's description in our text and context. When the treasurer of the Ethiopian queen had been up to worship at Jerusalem and was returning home, by an express direction from the Spirit of God Philip the evangelist met him. As Philip drew near, he heard the Ethiopian reading a portion of our chapter; "He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb before his shearers, so he opened not his mouth. In his humiliation, his judgment was taken away; and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch said to Philip, of whom speaketh the prophet this? Of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same Scripture, and preached unto him Jesus." Acts vm. 26—35.
Peter also has applied a part of our chapter to the same distinguished sufferer. "Christ suffered
for us his own self bare our sins in his own body
on the tree by whose stripes we are healed; for
ye were as sheep going astray." 1 Pet n. 21—25. The two last phrases are quotations from our text itself, and are certainly applied by the apostle directly to the Saviour.
I add only, that Jesus himself cites a part of our chapter, as containing a description of his own sufferings. "I say unto you, that what is written must be accomplished in me; And he was reckoned among the transgressors." Luke Xxii. 37, comp. Is. Lol 12.
I feel no concern further to vindicate the application of the text to the person of the Messiah. The matter resolves itself into the simple question, whether the interpretation of evangelists and apostles is to be admitted, and believed to be correct; or whether our own conjecture or philosophy is to be the ultimate authority, to which we make our appeal.
From the language of our text, as applied to Christ, I deduce the proposition, that He Suffered
AS OUR SUBSTITUTE; Or, that HIS SUFFERINGS AND DEATH WERE AN EXPIATORY OFFERING, ON ACCOUNT OF WHICH OUR SINS ARE PARDONED AND WE ARE RESTORED TO THE DIVINE FAVOUR.
My present object is to discuss the doctrine of the atonement made by Christ, which this proposition brings to our view; and in doing this, I design
I. To make some explanations necessary to a right understanding of the subject
II. To prove the doctrine.
III. To answer some objections alleged against it
According to the method proposed, I am, first, to make some explanations necessary to a right understanding of our subject
In order to avoid all misapprehension of the design which I have in view, let me observe at the commencement of this discourse, that it is not my object to treat of the obedience of Christ, considered as having an influence upon our redemption, or in procuring salvation for us. I speak of obedience here, in the sense which many of the older divines mean to express, when they employ the phrase active obedience of Christ, in order to distinguish his positive fulfilment of the divine law from what they name his passive obedience, by which they mean his humiliation and sufferings. To pursue the inquiry, in what sense, or to what degree, the active obedience of Christ contributes to our redemption, would carry me too far from the specific object which I now have in view. I shall therefore dismiss this topic with simply remarking, that while the sufferings and death of Christ are every where represented as the special procuring cause of our redemption, yet his obedience is also represented as a concurring cause or ground of our salvation. The Saviour's entire obedience Or sinless perfection was essential to his character as a substitute for sinners; for if he himself had sinned, instead of presenting an accept-' able sacrifice for others, himself would have needed an expiatory offering. That all which he did and said, during his incarnate condition, had some bearing on the great work which he came to accomplish, and did in some way contribute to it, cannot reasonably be doubted. But his expiatory sacrifice appears to be the great point, on which rests, in a peculiar manner, the hope of our restoration to the divine favour.