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confessed, is not universal ; and, very distinctly let us add,
; such a fact would be the most frightful of all, at once antidivine and anti-human. But we have not so learned Christ. We rejoice with exceeding joy in the propitiatory sacrifice of the Mediator, and trust confidently in the atonement made by - the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world.” We can conceive of no right and availing preparedness for the vast hereafter, but such as is grounded by faith in the one perfect Sacrifice, through renovation from the one infinite Spirit, inspiring constant devotion to the service and honor of the one Almighty God. We look to Christ reconciling the world unto himself, and not imputing unto them their trespasses ; see him lift off from the men of this guilty planet the burden of the violated law, bearing it himself in his own body on the tree, that he may magnify that law, and make it honorable : we hear him proclaim a full release from all its tremendous penalties, but in such a way that the truth which declared them, and the justice which should execute them, remain untainted under a dispensation of mercy, and feel that the mild, peaceful light of the Sun of Righteousness, shining benignly on all, has greatest power to melt the obdurate into penitence, and the believing into joy. True religion is perfect reconciliation, and is every way reciprocal in its influence, as well as ennobling in its effects. In Christ, all our powers, all our faculties, are brought to unite with God. He knows, and we are made wise unto salvation. He is holy, and the sinner is accepted through the imputed righteousness of the sinless Redeemer. He is supremely happy, and the sanctified soul, having partaken of the divine nature, shares forever in the felicity of the highest divinity whom it serves and adores. Thus Christianity is a bond which time cannot loosen nor eternity outlast, and if man holds one extremity of the chain, God holds the other.
The mysterious constitution of the person of Christ, and the glorious atonement consequent upon his sacrifice, form the stupendous link which unites God and man, earth and heaven; that mystic ladder, on which the angels of God ascended and
descended, whose foot is in the dust of our sinful world, and whose summit scales the pinnacles of celestial glory. Fully to comprehend the obscure wonders of this theme is a task and a privilege reserved for the future state ; the nature of the case forbids a perfect comprehension. Says Robert Hall,
" It is the greatness which forms the mystery of the fact; the matchless love and condescension constitute the very nucleus of the difficulty. It could only be brought within the sphere of our comprehension by a contraction of its vast dimensions, by a depression of its native grandeur. A prostration of it to the level of our feeble capacities would only render it incapable of being the magnet of souls, the attraction of hearts, the wonder of the universe. The effect of this great fact on every one who has sufficient humility to believe the word of God, is not at all diminished by its mysterious grandeur. On the contrary, the fact itself is replete with moral influence and practical effect. Could the whole theory of the incarnation be laid open to our view, no additional force would be given to those motives to fervent gratitude and devotedness to the service of our Redeemer which the mere fact is adapted to inspire. The practical influence is not at all impaired, but rather heightened, by the speculative difficulties which attend it, because they result merely from its ineffable grandeur. The same may be said with respect to the doctrine of the Trinity. The distinct parts assigned to the three divine persons
exhibit the beautiful harmony of the plan of redemption; the Father sending his Son, the Son executing his Father's will, the Holy Spirit sanctifying the people of God by dwelling in their hearts. These truths are not less practical because of the mystery which attends the doctrine. We are as able to adore the grace of the Father, the love of the Son, the communion of the Holy Spirit, to value the distinct agency of the several persons in the work of our salvation, as if we could perceive the theory of this unspeakable mystery.
“ With regard to the doctrine of the atonement, we are taught all that it is necessary for us to know that the blood of Jesus
Christ is the price of our redemption, and that it was infinitely worthy of God, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.' We can perceive, in some degree, its tendency to advance and maintain the honor of God, as Moral Governor of the world. But many questions may be proposed, with respect to the extent of its efficacy, which our reason cannot penetrate. What connection this great sacrifice may have with the happiness, what influence on the destiny, of beings of a higher order, of which the Scriptures give some faint intimation, we have no distinct and satisfactory knowledge; but this affords no objection to the testimony they contain, that “for us men, and for our salvation,' the Son of God became incarnate, suffered, and died. It is worthy of the reserve of Infinite Majesty to give us very brief hints with respect to the influence of these great facts on the innocent and holy part of creation, to the utmost extent of his dominions."
It is with the practical character of the atonement, rather than with its speculative aspects, that we as sinners have to do; and it is enough for us to know that, however far the radiance of the cross may flow beyond the domains of humanity, it at least includes all our race. Christianity was designed for the whole world, not merely as a system of instruction, but an awakening, an appeal, the means and source of spiritual life. Its Founder taught every truth, performed every miracle, employed every agency, moved every part of the universe, exhibited every perfection of the divine character, which was in the least essential to the instruction and salvation of mankind. True Christian liberty consists in a common gospel for all, unfolding its sacred records for general instruction, and bestowing the spirit of all grace to seal each believer unto eternal life. It does not necessarily follow that all will avail themselves of the means of salvation which infinite love has so amply provided, or that all the disciples of our blessed Lord attain unto the same degree of progress, but that resources adapted to every possible want are proffered to each without money or price. “There is one body and one spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all."
“ But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ;” and it is Christ “from whom the whole body, fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love." We can no more conceive of the means of salvation being limited, than we can conceive of a limit to the affections of an infinite God; the capaciousness of both of which gloriously characterizes the whole New Testament, and at its close bursts forth in the overwhelming eloquence of mercy and love, the epitome of the entire gospel: “ The spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”
Herein we have attempted to show that Christ died for the wretched, whose sorrows he felt; that he thereby atoned for the sinful, whose guilt he assumed ; and that he triumphed alone on the cross in gloom, that he might open the gates of glory to all, and proffer to each a crown. From this whole discussion we deduce three points.
First, the divine atonement is unlimited, and all of us should avail ourselves of its saving power.
We are aware that some think this a too generous view of the gospel. They profess to believe that its worth is vitiated, and its Author dishonored, by such a wide expansion and comprehensive grasp. They look rather for a monopoly of heavenly grace, and will be very sure to regard themselves, the special and selected favorites of predestined life. Christ found the earth burdened with such, and strove with all his might to drive them from the altars they disgraced, while standing and thanking God heartlessly that they were not as other men are; and planted purer examples along the highway of salvation, which they encumbered in arrogant and hypocritical display of fine morality, not
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in their daily life, but patched on their garment's filthy hem. These were the bigots of an earlier age, who were accustomed to speak of themselves as chosen of God, before all meaner creatures, holy and clean ; while the Gentile nations were sinners beyond the reach of salvation, reprobate dogs. And why was this? It was because they, like the Pharisees of modern times, clung to the dogma, “out of their church, no salvation ;" the latent principle of death in all those sects which have embraced or ever do embrace such a creed.
The immediate influence of teaching like this is bad enough, leading the hearer stupidly to wait for conversion, if that chances
a fixed fact” in his case, as a dead tree stands on a dreary mountain top to be struck by lightning, should a sovereign cloud, in passing, vouchsafe it an irresistible bolt. But the hereditary influence of such doctrine is, if possible, still more pernicious. Who can read, without horror, the statements in some standard works? One says, “ God by his own will has made the frightful difference between the elect and the reprobate.” Another asserts that “God needed, anterior to the foresight of original sin, to predestinate some and condemn others; all this is arbitrary in God.” While a third, still more orthodox in the faith of that age, declares, “ Jesus Christ no more died for the salvation of those who are not elected, than he died for the salvation of the devil.” It was only one step farther that a disciple of the same school went, when, at the funeral of a woman who died in childbirth, he stated, for the edification of the faithful and consolation of all the bereaved, that “it is certain that the devil possesses the soul of a little infant in the womb of its mother.” This theology, in all its glory every where, we think, comes from Man, and not from Jesus Christ. It has little affinity for the cross, when he who dies thereon, the Savior of the world, cries, “ It is finished”
-the veil of the temple is rent in twain, and every barrier between the ranks of men broken down in this preternatural gloom the Sun of Righteousness is apparently extinguished here in this place of a skull, overlooking the metropolis of a limited