Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

By historical evidence that Christ died as a sacrifice for sin, which I intended to produce in the third place, I mean especially that which arises from the consideration of his mental “ agony.” previously to his crucifixion, and at that solemn event. When he was at Gethsemane, the evening on which he was betrayed, the evangelist Matthew says, he “ began to be very “ sorrowful and full of anguish, and said to his dis“ ciples, My soul is very sorrowful, even unto “ death.” (k) Mark, in like manner, says, “ he be“gan to be greatly astonished, and to be full of anguish.(1) Indeed, the original language employed by Mark conveys a stronger sense than that in this translation; for éxbaubecobai imports the most shocking mixture of terror and amazement; and nepínuròs, in the next verse, intimates that he felt on every side surrounded with sorrow, and pressed down with despondency. While thus “ drinking of the brook by “ the way,”(m) thrice did he pray to his Father to “ take away the bitter cup,” and though it was in the cool of the evening, “ the sweat” occasioned by the agony of his mind " was as it were great drops of 6 blood falling down to the ground.” (n) And when hanging on the cross, his piteous and heart-rending exclamation, “ My God, my God, why hast thou for“ saken me?” (0) doubtless arose from the want of a comfortable sense of God's presence. (k) Matt. xxvi. 37, 38. . () Mark, xiv. 33, 34. . (m) Ps. cx. 7.

(n) Luke, xxii. 44. (0) Matt. xxvii. 46. On this subject see some very profound and exquisite reflections in Hooker's Eccles. Polity, lib. y. & 48, p. 202, Ed. o 1666. melce

of 1666.

Now whence arose this agony, this interruption of the sense of God's presence, this intense feeling of destitution, during our Lord's great extremity, but from the necessity that he should suffer? Bodily pain might have been lost in enjoyment, even during crucifixion (as has been manifested in the delights of some martyrs in the midst of their tortures); but in that case the “ soul” of the Messiah could not have been“ an offering for sin,” as Isaiah predicted it must be. To this end it was that it “ pleased Jeho“ vah to crush him with affliction :” and it is next to impossible to meditate upon his pathetic exclamations amid his severe sufferings without adopting again the recently quoted language of the same prophet,

“ Surely our infirmities he huth borne ;
“ And OUR sorrows he hath carried..

If this explication be rejected, it is natural to ask upon what principles of equitable retribution, or of consistency of character, can that extreme anguish be accounted for, which was endured by a pure and perfect being, who had not on his own account “one “ recollection tinged with remorse, or one anticipation “ mingled with dread ? ” This question admits but of a single answer, and that in my estimation a very absurd one: for, to allot a series of exquisite sufferings to an individual who is without sin, and with regard to whom of course they cannot be penal, and at the termination of his life, when they cannot be corrective, merely for the purpose of calling into exercise “pa6 tience and resignation," and thus tending to “our “ benefit and example,” (p) is to adopt à mode of government entirely irreconcileable with all “ rational” ideas of wisdom and justice, and completely repugnant to every attribute of Deity.

The answer here adverted to, is, moreover, as contrary to matter of fact as it is to reason : for, if the doctrine of satisfaction be denied, Jesus Christ did not present a splendid example of patience and resignation. Compare his behaviour under suffering with that of other martyrs, many, for example, in the third century. He suffered for the space of a few hours only; they were made to sustain sufferings for days, weeks, months, nay, in some cases, years. He suffered the punishment of the cross; they have agonized under boiling oil, melted lead, plates of hot iron; or have been broiled for days over a slow fire, or shut up in fiercely glowing brazen bulls; or have had their members cut and torn off, one after another, in tedious and barbarous succession. Yet he lamented, and they triumphed. Is not this infinitely astonishing, upon any other theory of religion than ours? Is it not incomprehensible that the Master of our faith, the “ Captain of our salvation,” should be abashed and

(p) Fellowes's Theology, vol. i. p. 210. They who assign this reason for our Lord's sufferings should, before they urge it confidently, free it from an objection advanced by themselves against our opinions. For even this would be to suffer for us,-for our good. If it be just in God to permit the innocent to suffer for such an end as this, why should it be unjust in him to permit him to suffer for that which we specify as the true cause of his suffering? “ Can it be just in God (asks Dr. Ward. “ law) to inflict sufferings on the innocent for an inferior end, and " yet unjust in him to inflict the same sufferings, on the same person, 66 for an end obviously and incalculably superior?” Sermons, p. 217.

astounded at the sight or even the contemplation of death, and that his servants and followers should triumph in the midst of unequalled torments ? The one is seized with sorrow even unto death; the others are transported with joy. The one sweats as it were drops of blood, at the approach of death ; the others behold a divine hand wiping off their blood, but not their tears, for none do they shed. The one complains that God forsakes him ; the others cry aloud with rapture that they behold Him stretching forth his hands to encourage and invite them to bim!

All this cannot be because his bodily torment is greater than theirs ; nor can it be, because they have more internal strength and holiness than he has. But it is, because God administers more comfort to them than to him. Yet why so, if Jesus Christ be his “ Son 66 in whom he is well pleased !” Why, indeed, but because he regards him as our pledge, having constituted him “a sin offering for us?”

Contrast, again, the dismal agony of our Lord with the holy, serenity of Stephen, or the joyful anticipation of Ignatius, or the heroic fortitude of Blandina, whose patience outstood the successive labours of a series of tormentors; (g) and then ask-If the approbation of God ordinarily comforts those who suffer for righteousness' sake, could it not much better have consoled Jesus Christ? If the certainty of possessing an eternal life of bliss makes the martyrs leap with joy and exultation when they are about to lose a temporal life, shall not a like certainty, superadded to that of " finishing the

(1) Euseb. Hist. Eccles. lib. v. cap. 1.

w work for which his Father sent him into the world” fill Jesus with joy, too? Shall men, who are accustomed to love the earth, rejoice to leave it; and shall Jesus Christ, who loves heaven alone, be smitten with a thousand mortal terrors because he is going thither! How truly inexplicable must all this for ever remain, if the orthodox hypothesis be rejected.

Before I produce the fourth class of evidences from the Scripture, or those which are positively declaratory, I request you will bear it in mind, that the New Testament, being intended for universal use, and of course for that of plain unlettered men as well as others, does not deal in logical distinctions and metaphysical subtleties, but conveys its momentous truths in the simplest language ; and, to rivet them the more firmly upon the mind, often has recourse to a variety of apt and striking metaphors and allusions, to communicate the same general idea. Thus, with regard to atonement, and words of analogous import, correct notions may be readily obtained when the different lights in which sin is represented are contemplated. If, for example, sin be regarded as a breach of the law, which calls down its curses, and excites God's anger, then an atonement (which literally signifies a covering) screens from the curses of the law, covers, or appeases, or propitiates the angry countenance of Deity. If sin be that which interrupts the friendship which would otherwise subsist between man and his Maker, then what is needed is something to procure reconciliation between the parties at variance. If sin be considered as a debt incurred by man, then what he requires is something

« EdellinenJatka »