« AnteriorContinuar »
tells us, that“ whosoever believeth on him shall not see death for he will raise him up at the last day.” He that dies a man, shall revive an angel, clothed with light and immortality.
I will conclude this argument with the words of St. Austin, Lib. 13. de Civ. Dei, c. 4; “Ablato criminis nexu, relicta est
Nunc verò majore et mirabiliore gratiâ Salvatoris in usum justitiæ peccati pæna est conversa ; tum enim dictum est homini; “Morieris si peccaveris;' nunc dictum est martyri; ‘Morere ne pecces. Et sic per ineffabilem Dei misericordiam et ipsa pena vitiorum transit in arma virtutis, et fit justi meritum etiam supplicium peccatoris.” Although the guilt of sin is removed, yet death remains; but by the admirable grace of the Redeemer, the punishment of sin is made an advantage to holiness. The law threatened man with death if he sinned; the gospel commands a martyr to die that he may not sin. And thus by the unspeakable mercy of God, the punishment of vice becomes the security of virtue; and that which was revenge upon the sinner, gives to the righteous a title to a glorious reward.
I. From hence we may discover more clearly the evil of sin, which no sacrifice could expiate but the blood of the Son of God. It is true, the internal malignity of sin, abstracted from its dreadful effects, is most worthy of our hatred; for it is in its own nature direct enmity against God, and obscures the glory of all his attributes. It is the violation of his majesty, who is the universal Sovereign of heaven and earth; a contrariety to his holiness, which shines forth in his law; a despising of his goodness, the attractive to obedience; the contempt of his omniscience, which sees every sin when it is committed ; the slighting of his terrible justice and power, as if the sinner could secure himself from his indignation ; a denial of his truth, as if the threatening were a vain terror to scare men from sin. And all this done voluntarily, to please an irregular, corrupt appetite, by a despicable creature, who absolutely depends upon God for his being and happi
These considerations seriously pondered, are most proper to discover the extremity of its evil; but sensible demonstrations are most powerful to convince and affect us: and those are taken from the fearful punishments that are inflicted for sin. Now the torments of hell, which are the just and full recompense of sin, are not sensible till they are inevitable; and temporal judgments cannot fully declare the infinite displeasure of God against the wilful contempt of his authority. But in the sufferings of Christ it is expressed to the utmost. If justice itself had rent the heavens, and come down in the most visible terror to revenge the rebellions of men, it could never have made stronger impressions upon us than the death of Christ duly considered. The destruction of the world by water, the miraculous burning of Sodom and Gomorrah by showers of fire, and all the other most terrible judgments, do not afford such a sensible instruction of the evil of sin.If we regard the dignity of his person and the depth of his sufferings, he is an unparalleled example of God's indignation for the breach of his holy law; for he that was the Son of God and the Lord of Glory, was made a man of sorrows. He endured derision, scourgings, stripes, and at last a cruel and cursed death. The Holy of Holies was crucified between two thieves. By how much the life of Christ was more precious than the lives of all men, so much in his death doth the wrath of God appear more fully against sin, than it would in the destruction of the whole world of sinners. And his spiritual sufferings infinitely exceeded all his corporeal. The impressions of wrath that were inflicted by God's immediate hand upon his soul, forced from him those strong cries, that moved all the powers of heaven and earth with compassion. If the curtain were drawn aside, and we could look into the chambers of death, where sinners lie down in sorrow forever, and hear the woful expressions and deep complaints of the damned, with what horror and distraction they speak of their torments, we could not have a fuller testimony of God's infinite displeasure against sin, than in the anguish and agonies of our Redeemer; for whatever his sufferings were in kind, yet in their degree and measure they were equally terrible with those that condemned sinners endure. Now, how is it possible that rational agents should freely, in the open light for perishing vanities, dare to commit sin?
Can they avoid or endure the wrath of an incensed God? If God spared not his Son when he came in the similitude of sinful
ftesh, how shall sinners who are deeply and universally defiled, escape? Can they fortify themselves against the supreme Judge? Can' they encounter with the fury of the Almighty, the apprehensions of which made the soul of Christ heavy unto death? Have they patience to bear that for ever, which was to Christ, who had the strength of the Deity to support him, intolerable for a few hours ? If it were so with the green tree, what will become of the dry when exposed to the fiery trial ? If he that was holy and innocent suffered so dreadfully, what must they expect, who add impenitency to their guilt, and live in the bold commission of sin, without reflection and remorse ? What prodigious madness is it to drink iniquity like water, as a harmless thing, when it is a poison so deadly that the least drop of it brings certain ruin? What desperate folly, to have slight apprehensions of that which is attended with the first and second death ? Nothing but unreasonable infidelity and inconsideration can make men venturous to provoke the “living God,” who is infinitely sensible of their sins, and who both can and will most terribly punish them for ever.
II. The strictness of divine justice appears, that required satisfaction equivalent to the desert of sin.
The natural notion of the Deity, as the governor of the world, instructed the heathens, that the transgression of his laws was worthy of death, Rom. i. 32. This proves that the obligation to punishment doth not arise from the mere will of God, which is only discovered by revelation ; but is founded in the nature of things, and by its own light is manifested to reasonable creatures. From hence they inferred, that it was not becoming the divine nature, as qualified with the relation of supreme Ruler, to pardon sin without satisfaction. This appears by the sacrifices and ceremonies, the religions and expiations which were performed by the most ignorant nations. And although they infinitely abused themselves in the conceit they had of their pretended efficacy and virtue, yet the universal consent of mankind in the belief that satisfaction was necessary, declares it to be true. This, as other natural doctrines, is more fully revealed by scripture. Under the law " without shedding of blood there was no remission :" not that common blood could make satisfaction for sin, but God commanded there should be a visible mark of its necessity in the worship offered to him, and a prefiguration that it should be accomplished by a sacrifice eternally efficacious.
And the economy of our salvation clearly proves, that to preserve the honour of God's government, it was most fit sin should be punished, that sinners might be pardoned; for nothing was more repugnant to the will of God absolutely considered, than the death of his beloved Son; and the natural will of Christ was averse from it.. What then moved that infinite wisdom, which wills nothing but what is perfectly reasonable, to ordain that event? Why should it take so great a circuit, if the way was so short, that by pure favour, without satisfaction, sin might have been pardoned ? Our Saviour declares the necessity of his suffering death, supposing the merciful will of his Father to save us, when he saith, that “ as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish.” It is true, since God had foretold and prefigured his death by the oracles and actions under the law, it necessarily came to pass; but to consider things exactly, the unchangeable truth of types and prophecies is not the primitive, and main reason of the necessity of things, but only a sign of the certainty of the event. In strictness, things do not arrive because of their prediction, but are foretold because they shall arrive. It is apparent there was a divine decree before the prophecies; and that in the light of God's infinite knowledge things are, before they were foretold. So it is not said, a man must be of a ruddy complexion, because his picture is so; but on the contrary because he is ruddy, his picture must be so. That Christ by dying on the cross should redeem man, was the reason that the serpent of brass was erected on a pole to heal the Israelites, and not on the contrary. Briefly, the apostle supposes this necessity of satisfaction is an evident principle, when he proves wilful apostates to be incapable of salvation, “because there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin ;" for the consequence were of no force, if sin might be pardoned without sacrifice, that is, without satisfaction.
III. This account of Christ's death takes off the scandal of the cross, and changes the offence into admiration.
It was foretold of Christ, that he should be a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence; not a just cause, but an occasion of offence to the corrupt hearts of men, and principally for his sufferings. The Jews were pleased with the titles of honour given to the Messiah, that he should be a king powerful and glorious; but that poverty, disgrace, and the suffering of death should be his character, they could not endure: therefore they endeavoured to pervert the sense of the prophets. His disciples who attended him in his mean state, expected those sad appearances would terminate in visible glory and greatness ; but when they saw him arrested by his enemies, condemned and crucified, this was so opposite to their expectation, that they fainted under the disappointment; and when Christ was preached to the Gentile world, they rejected him with scorn. His death seemed so contrary to the dignity of his person and design of his office, that they could not relish the doctrine of the gospel. They judged it absurd to expect life from one that was subjected to death, and blessedness from him that was made a curse. To those who look upon the death of Christ with the eyes of carnal wisdom and according to the laws of corrupt reason, it appears folly and weakness, and most unworthy of God; but if we consider it in its principles and ends, all these prejudices vanish, and we clearly discover it to be the most noble and eminent effect of the wisdom, power, goodness, and justice of God. Accordingly the apostle tells the Jews, “Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain,” Acts ii. 23. The instruments were deeply guilty in shedding that immaculate blood, yet we must not terminate our thoughts on them, but ascend to the supreme Disposer, by whose wise and holy decree that event came to pass. To the eye of sense it was a spectacle of horror, that a perfect innocent should be cruelly tormented ; but to the eye of faith, under that sad and ignominious appearance, there was a divine mystery, able to raise our wonder and ravish our affections; for he that was nailed to the cross, was really the Son of God and the Saviour of men ; his death with all the penal circumstances of dishonour and pain, is the only expiation of sin, and satisfaction to justice. He, by offering up his blood, appeased the wrath of God, quenched the flaming sword that made paradise inaccessible to us; he took away sin, the true dishonour of our natures, and purchased for us the graces of the Spirit, the richest ornaments of the reasonable creature. The doctrine of the cross is the only foundation of the gospel, that unites all its parts and supports the whole building. It is the cause of our righteousness and peace, of our redemption and reconciliation. How blessed an exchange have the merits of his sufferings made with those of our sins! Life