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the case be seen to be, lame, imperfect, and in many respects unsatisfactory. Nothing more can be expected on this subject by a sober man, than a removal, or diminution, of some of the most obvious doubts; and even this, perhaps, may be attempted in vain. Let it be remembered, however, that the difficulties, attendant upon our inquiries in the present case, arise, not from any perceptible absurdity of what we know, but from the mere inexplicableness of what we do not know; from the nature of the subject, in itself free from all absurdity, but incomprehensible by such minds as ours.
With these things premised, I will suggest, as a direct, but partial, answer to these inquiries, the following observations.
1st. We are prejudiced judges of this subject. Our own case, and that a case immensely interesting to us, is concerned. Where we have interests depending, of very moderate importance, our judgments usually are partial. Here they must of course be extremely partial.
2dly. No government of the Universe can become the character of the Creator, except a moral government. A government of force would be obviously destitute of any moral excellence, or any intellectual glory. The ruler, so far as he was obeyed, would be obeyed only from fear, and never from confidence, or love. This is the obedience of a slave; as the government would be that of a tyrant. It is unnecessary to multiply words, to prove,
that in this case the ruler could never be reverenced, nor loved, by his subjects ; or that his subjects could never be virluous and amiable in themselves, or loved and approved by him.
3dly. The Law of God is, and must of necessity be, a rule of aclion for an immense multitude of beings, that is, for the whole intelligent Universe, throughout eternity. The wise and perfect regulation of this vast kingdom cannot but require a course of adininistration, in many respects different from that, by which a little part of this kingdom might, perhaps, be effectually governed. Regulations, also, which are to extend their influence through eternity, must of course differ from those, whose influence is confined to a little period of time. Particularly,
4thly. The Motives to obedience must be great, uniform, always present, and always operative. We well know by familiar expe
rience, that a little State can be kept in order by, what is commonly called a very gentle administration : that is, the government may consist of mild laws, holding out motives to obedience of moderate efficacy, and an administration of those laws, presenting by its gentleness similar motives. Whereas a great empire, containing vast multitudes of people, can be successfully controlled, only by what is called a more vigorous or energetic government; inducing obedience by more powerful motives, addressed unceasingly to every subject, both in the laws and in the administration. The degree, to which these motives need to be extended in the government of the universe, can be comprehended only by an unlimited understanding.
5thly. All motives to obedience are comprised in natural good and natural evil; that is, in enjoyment and suffering. As a moral government influences only by motives, and only in this way preserves the peace, and ensures the happiness, of those who obey ; it is plain, that these motives, found in enjoyment and suffering, must in such a kingdom, as this, possess, if its peace and happiness are to be secured, very great power; power, sufficient to accomplish the end. How great the suffering, or the enjoyment, proposed by the law, and produced by the administration, as motives to obedience and disobedience, must be, God only can determine.
6thly. A great part of all the motives to obedience, in such a Government, is presented by the Uniformity, and exactness, of the administration. No State, in the present world, is ever well governed; is ever orderly, peaceful, and happy ; under an administration inconsistent with itself; an administration at one time rigid, at another lax; at one time severe, at another indulgent. This is proverbially acknowledged. Such a government of the Universe would, not improbably within a little time, throw its affairs into confusion, and involve its inhabitants in very extensive evil, if not in absolute ruin. If the law of God, then, were not to be executed, unless occasionally; if its penalties were not inflicted on penitents; this inconsistency would be seen in all its extent, and be productive of all its evil consequences.
But this could not be honourable to God; nor, as it would seem, useful to his Intelligent kingdom.
7thly. The law of God is formed in such a manner, as to ensure, if obeyed, the supreme glory of his character, and the highest happiness of his subjects. Nothing can be so honourable to God, as to sit at the head of an immense and an eternal kingdom, composed of subjects, who love him with all the heart, and each other as themselves ; a kingdom, therefore, of perfect order, harmony, and rectitude. But these immense blessings are secured, as well as generated, by this law. A law of such importance can neither be given up, nor changed in any manner, consistently with the honour of God.
8thly. The advent of Christ is every where exhibited, as fraught with peculiar blessings to mankind. It was published by the Angel to the Bethlehem shepherds, as an event, the news of which were good tidings of great joy. It was sung by his heavenly companions, as the foundation, and source, of glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, and good-will towards men. But if Christ did not make an atonement for sin, it will be difficult; I presume it will be impossible ; to point out, or to conceive, in what respect his advent was of such importance, either to the glory of God, or to the good of mankind. On this ground, he certainly was not the means of pardon to men; because they are pardoned without his interference. He was not the means, even of publishing this pardon ; for it had been published long before, and amply; by the Prophets of the Old Testament. A broken heart, and a contrite spirit, says David, thou wilt not despise. Let the wicked forsake his way, says Isaiah, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him turn to the Lord, for he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
If Christ made an Atonement for the sins of mankind; all the magnificent expressions concerning his mission, and character, the declarations, that he is the only Saviour of mankind; and that there is Salvation in no other; are easily understood; if not, I am unable to see how they can be explained. Particularly, I am unable to discern how God is so solemnly said to be peculiarly glorified by the mission of Christ: for, according to this scheme, he was sent for no purpose, which had not been accomplished before; and which might not, for aught that appears, have been accomplished afterwards, without his appearance in the world.
THE PRIESTHOOD OF CHRIST.
THE MANNER IN WHICH IT IS PERFORMED.
ROMANS iii. 24-26.
Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is
in Christ Jesus. Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness; that he might be just, and the Justifier of him, which believeth in Jesus.
In the last sermon, I proposed to discourse on the Atonement of
1. The Nature,
The two first of these I considered sufficiently in that discourse. The three last I propose to examine at the present time; and shall proceed, without any preliminary remarks to show,
III. The Existence of an Atonement for sin.
It is hardly necessary to observe here, that, as all our knowledge of this subject is revealed, all proofs of the fact in question must be derived from Revelation. The proofs, which I shall allege, I shall arrange under the following heads :
1st. Those passages of Scripture, which speak of Christ as a Propitiation for sin.
These are the Text, 1 John ii. 2, and 1 John iv. 10. Of these, the Text first claims our consideration. In the text it is declared, that God has set forth Christ to be a propitiation. The word, here rendered propitiation, is inasagiov. This word is used only twice in the Greek Testament; viz. in the text, and Hebrews is. 5. Its proper meaning is the propitiatory, or mercy-seat; as it is rendered in the latter passage. The mercy-seat, in the tabernacle and temple, was the place, where God manifested himself, peculiarly, by the Shechinah, or visible symbol of his presence; heard the prayers, and accepted the offerings, of his people;
and dispensed to them his mercy, in answer to their supplications. The mercy-seat, we are taught in the text, was a type, of which Christ, the true inasngrov, was the antitype. In him God hears our prayers, and dispenses his own mercy to us. The mercy-seat, the place where God exhibited himself as thus propitious to mankind, was itself a mere shadow, or symbol, depoting Christ; the means, by which he is rendered propitious. Although the word differs, therefore, from that, used in the other passages inentioned, the meaning is the same. It is accordingly rendered in the same manner by the translators.
A propitiation for sin is the means, by which God is rendered merciful to sinners. Christ is here declared to be this pitiation. But the only possible sense, in which Christ can have become the means of rendering God merciful to sinners, is by making an atonement for them. This Atonement I have explained to consist in making sufficient amends for the faults, which they have committed, and placing the law, and government, of God in such a situation, that when sinners are pardoned both shall be equally honourable, and efficacious, as before. The motives to obedience, also, must in no degree be lessened. Further the *haracter of God, when pardoning sinners, must appear perfectly