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THE SCHEME OF VICARIOUS REDEMPTION INCONSISTENT WITH
ITSELF, AND WITH THE CHRISTIAN IDEA OF SALVATION.
BY REV. JAMES MARTINEAU.
"NEITHER IS THERE SALVATION IN ANY OTHER; FOR THERE IS NONE
OTHER NAME UNDER HEAVEN GIVEN AMONG MEN, WHEREBY WE MUST
The scene which we have this evening to visit and explore, is separated from us by the space of eighteen centuries; yet of nothing on this earth has Providence left, within the shadows of the past, so vivid and divine an image. Gently rising above the mighty “ field of the world,” Calvary's mournful hill appears, covered with silence now, but distinctly showing the heavenly light that struggled there through the stormiest elements of guilt. Nor need we only gaze, as on a motionless picture that closes the vista of Christian ages. Permitting history to take us by the hand, we may pace back in pilgrimage to the hour, till its groups stand arcund us, and pass by us, and its voices of passion and of grief mock and wail upon our ear. As we mingle with the crowd which, amid noise and dust, follows the condemned prisoners to the place of execution, and fix our eye on the faint and panting figure of one that bears his cross, could we but whisper to the sleek priests close by, how might we startle them, by telling them the future fate of this brief tragedy,-brief in act, in blessing everlasting ; that this Gali
lean convict shall be the world's confessed deliverer, while they that have brought him to this, shall be the scorn and by-word of the nations; that that vile instrument of torture, now so abject that it makes the dying slave more servile, shall be made, by this victim and this hour, the symbol of whatever is holy and sublime; the emblem of hope and love; pressed to the lips of ages; consecrated by a veneration which makes the sceptre seem trivial as an infant's toy. Meanwhile, the sacerdotal hypocrites, unconscious of the part they play, watch to the end the public murder which they have privately suborned; stealing a phrase from Scripture, that they may mock with holy lips; and leaving to the plebeian soldiers the mutual jest and brutal laugh, that serve to beguile the hired but hated work of agony, and that draw forth from the sufferer that burst of forgiving prayer, which sunk at least into their cene turion's heart. One there is, who should have been spared the hearing of these scoffs; and perhaps she heard them not; for before his nature was exhausted more, his eye detects and his voice addresses her, and twines round her the filial arm of that disciple, who had been ever the most loving as well as most beloved. She at least lost the religion of that hour in its humanity, and beheld not the prophet but the son had not her own hands wrought that seamless robe for which the soldiers' lot is cast; and her own lips taught him that strain of sacred poetry, “My God, my God, why hast thou fora saken me ?” but never had she thought to hear it thus. As the cries become fainter and fainter, scarcely do they reach Peter standing afar off. The last notice of him had been the rebuking look that sent him to weep bitterly; and now the voice that alone can tell him his forgiveness, will soon be gone! Broken hardly less, though without remorse, is the youthful John, to see that head, lately resting on his bosom, drooping passively in death; and to hear the involuntary shriek of Mary, as the spear struck upon the lifeless body, moving now only as it is moved ;-whence he alone, on whom
she leaned, records the fact. Well might the Galilean friends stand at a distance gazing; unable to depart, yet not daring to approach; well might the multitudes that had cried “crucify him” in the morning, shudder at the thought of that clamour ere night; “beholding the things that had come to pass, they smote their breasts and returned.”
This is the scene of which we have to seek the interpretation. Our first natural impression is, that it requires no interpretation, but speaks for itself; that it has no mystery, except that which belongs to the triumphs of deep guilt, and the sanctities of disinterested love. To raise our eye to that serene countenance, to listen to that submissive voice, to note the subjects of its utterance, would give us no idea of any mystic horror concealed behind the human features of the scene; of any invisible contortions, as from the lash of demons, in the soul of that holy victim; of any sympathetic connection of that cross with the bottomless pit on the one hand, and the highest Heaven on the other; of any moral revolution throughout our portion of the universe, of which this public execution is but the outward signal. The historians drop no hint that its sufferings, its affections, its relations, were other than human,-raised indeed to distinction by miraculous accompaniments; but intrinsically, however signally, human. They mention, as if bearing some appreciable proportion to the whole series of incidents, particulars so slight, as to vanish before any other than the obvious historical view of the transaction; the thirst, the sponge, the rent clothes, the mingled drink. They ascribe no sentiment to the crucified, except such as might be expressed by one of like nature with ourselves, in the consciousness of a finished work of duty, and a fidelity never broken under the strain of heaviest trial. The narrative is clearly the production of minds filled, not with theological anticipations, but with historical recollections.
With this view of Christ's death, which is such as might be entertained by any of the primitive Churches, having one of the gospels only, without any of the epistles, we are content. I conceive of it, then, as manifesting the last degree of moral perfection in the Holy One of God; and believe, that in thus being an expression of character, it has its primary and everlasting value. I conceive of it as the needful preliminary to his resurrection and ascension, by which the severest difficulties in the theory of Providence, life, and duty, are alleviated or solved. I conceive of it as immediately procuring the universality and spirituality of the Gospel; by dissolving those corporeal ties which gave nationality to Jesus, and making him, in his heavenly and immortal form, the M essiah of humanity ; blessing, sanctifying, regenerating, not a people from the centre of Jerusalem, but a world from his station in the Heavens. And these views, under unimportant modifications, I submit, are the only ones of which Scripture contains a trace.
All this, however, we are assured, is the mere outside aspect of the crucifixion; and wholly insignificant compared with the invisible character and relations of the scene; which, localized only on earth, has its chief effect in Hell; and though presenting itself among the occurrences of time, is a repeal of the decretals of Eternity. The being who hangs unon that cross is not man alone; but also the everlasting God, who created and upholds all things, even the sun that now darkens its face upon him, and the murderers who are waiting for his expiring cry. The anguish he endures, is not chiefly that, which falls so poignantly on the eye and ear of the spectator; the injured human affections, the dreadful momentary doubt; the pulses of physical torture, doubling on him with full or broken wave, till driven back by the overwhelming power of love disinterested and divine. But he is judicially abandoned by the Infinite Father ; who expends on him the immeasurable wrath due to an apostate race, gathers up into an hour the lightnings of Eternity, and lets them