« السابقةمتابعة »
ther, to do whatsoever thy hand and counsel determined before to be done." chap. iv. 27, 28. This was an event which they could not hinder; neither could they accelerate nor prolong the hour of its execution. Pilate would have released him; but he could not: he was determined to let him go; but the counsel of God must stand. Contrary to the insinuations of Unitarians and Socinians, Jesus considered his sufferings as unalterably fixed. He came, not to engage in an uncertain and undetermined work, but to execute the counsels of his Father. When he prayed to him, to save him from the hour of his sufferings, he added, “ But for this purpose came I unto this hour.” " Thou hast fixed this hour, and the important work of this hour; it is thy determined pleasure that it should be so; and, therefore, I shall most cordially execute it.”
THAT these sufferings should have been fixed was highly proper. Elect sinners were predestinated to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ; but his sufferings must intervene to secure the privilege. No pardon; no regeneration; no title to heaven; no adoption into the family of God; nor communion with him, but through this medium. The head of Satan must be bruised; his kingdom overthrown, and his works destroyed; a church must be formed, mercy extended to sinners, their sins taken away,
and themselves saved: but ere these can take place, the Son of God must suffer. With what propriety, then, did he say to the disciples? Ought not Christ to have suffered these things? --Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer.” Luke xxiy. 26, 46.
7. The salvation of sinners by the sufferings of Christ exhibits a glorious display of the love of God.
This truth demands our attention. These sufferings,
when considered as penal, have been represented as incompatible with the love of God to Christ. The infinite excellence of Jehovah renders him essentially good. The enjoyment of him must be the highest good to rational creatures. If goodness is beautiful and becoming in God, it must also become him to appear to be so; but this cannot take place unless in the communication of his goodness to his creatures. As he necessarily loves himself, he cannot but love his image in man, delight in it, and communicate his goodness unto it. This becomes God.
Divine goodness is denominated according to the different views that may be taken of its object. If the object is holy, it is denominated love; if the object is considered as unworthy, it is called grace; and if the obje&t is miserable, it assumes the appellation of mercy. Unworthiness, guilt, and misery, form the sinner's character. God in his goodness would have the sinner saved; but his law had been violated, his authority disregarded, his majesty insulted, and his goodness despised; hence justice had an extensive claim, which behoved to be answered before the sinner could partake of the divine goodness. God would have his irreconcilable hatred of sin, and his sense of the dishonour done to him by it, manifested in its punishment. Love will have its object' saved, and justice will have the honour of God vindicated; wisdom is, therefore, set to work to devise the plan, and the result is, the Son of God must sufler.
In no other way could divine love have appeared with so much advantage. Among men, love is justly accounted great, in proportion to the difficulties it has to surmount in reaching its object. “ Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his
friends." One man's love to another must be strong indeed, when he is willing to sacrifice his own life to promote his interest: it is parting with all that is desireable and agreeable in life, for the sake of another. The great difficulty to be surmounted by God, in order to extend his love to sinners, was the death of his own Son. Without this, love could never have reached the sinner. “ Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins." The blood of the sinner could avail nothing here. The divine Word must be made flesh--made under the law-made a curse, in the room of the guilty sinner. In proportion as these sufferings were terrible and ignominious, the love of God to sinNers appeared inexpressibly great and glorious. “ God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth on him might not perish, but have everlasting life." John iïi. 16. Striking instances of love have appeared among men, but nothing that can bear a comparison with the love of God to sinners. The personal image of the invisible God appeared, not only incarnate, but in a state of accursed debasement, to bear the weight of Jehovah's wrath, to empty the cup of his indignation, and to sustain all the indignities which men and devils could devise; that in him, as a suffering Saviour, the divine love might be displayed to the greatest advantage; and that he might be the medium of its communication to sinners. Thus “ God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
While these sufferings exhibit such an astonishing display of the love of God to sinners, they have been represented as irreconcilable with the Father's love to the Son. Such objectors cannot conceive how the immaculate, the holy, the obedient Jesus, whose greatest
aim was to do the will of his Father, and who was the supreme object of his regard, should be subjected to such sufferings. Hence, they deny their penal nature, and represent them as merely accidental. Jesus must be considered as standing in different relations to the Father, and in different capacities. As a divine person, the eternal Son of his Father, he is the object of infinite love, because there is nothing in him but what the Father must love, if he love himself. “ This is my beloved Son.” “ The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.” John iii. 35. “ The Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doth.” John v. 20. On what other footing can we account for all those promises which were made to him, and fulfilled during his humbled, and suffering state, but the love of the Father? As God-man he “ was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.” Every thing in him was approved of and loved by his Father. But the Father, as sustaining the rights of Deity, acted as a judge; and Jesus, as our surety, had to deal with him in that character. In this character, he was made sin for us, and punished by God as a judge. Even in this view, the enmity of God against him was purely legal, belonging to the character of the judge, as such. We are not to imagine that the heart of God was alienated from Christ, and changed into implacable hatred against him: This would have made God mutable. Sin, in the person of the surety, was the true object of the divine hatred; as that alone, and not the person of the Mediator, was opposite to the nature of God. When a judge pronounces sentence against a criminal, he manifests the nature and enmity, or opposition of the law against the crime, while, in his heart, he may love, and commi
serate the person. That which God destroyed, by punishment, was the object of his hatred, namely, sin; that which he took care of, preserved, and carried through all sufferings, was the object of his love, viz. his own Son, the man Christ Jesus.
But such objectors will find much more difficulty, in reconciling their own scheme with the love of God to Christ. They admit that God gave up unspotted innocence to be treated as if he had been the most notorious malefactor; yet deny the imputation of sin, or that it was punished in the person of Christ. It is true, they attribute his sufferings to the wickedness of the Jews; but it is evident that it is with a design to exclude God from having any hand in them. But the Scripture is not more express, in asserting any truth, than in ascribing these sufferings to God. Acts ii. 23. and iv. 27, 28. Christ himself ascribes them to his Father. « The
my Father hath given me shall I not drink it?" John xviii. 11. It was fully in the power of his Father to have protected him from any sufferings, had he so chosen. Nothing could be more opposite to all just notions of love and justice, than to suppose God capable of delivering up to the most excruciating sufferings, one against whom no charge of guilt could be brought, either imputed or contracted. The Father's love would certainly have exempted his Son from all suffering, had he not been under the legal imputation of our sin; and justice would have stepped forward to vindicate the cause of innocence. The sufferings of Christ, if not legal, could answer no good end, nor could God have any good end to answer, by inflicting them. Socinians, it is true, hold these sufferings to have been very trivial, having no legal wrath in them, and not reaching the soul of Christ: but even on this supposition, they