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must necessarily have subjected the whole human race to the severest effects of the divine displeasure, had not some atonement, some expiation, some satisfaction to their offended Maker, been interposed between them and the punishment so justly due to them. This expiation, this atonement, the Son of God himself voluntarily consented to become, and paid the ransom required for our deliverance by his own death upon the cross. gave himself for us, as the Scriptures express it, an offering and a sacrifice to God. He was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He suffered for sin, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; with his stripes we were healed. In his own blood he washed us from our sins ; in his own body he bore our sins
upon the tree, that we being dead unto sin might live unto righteousness*.” This is that great doctrine of REDEMPTION, which is so fully explained and so strongly insisted on in various parts of the sacred writings, which forms
1 Pet. iii. 18.
* Ephes. v. 2. Isa. liii. 5. Rev. i. 5.
Rev. xii. 8.
so essential a part of the Christian system, and is the grand foundation of all our hopes of pardon and acceptance at the great day of retribution.
This mode of vicarious punishment, this substitution of an innocent victim in the room of an offending person, can be no surprise to any one that reflects on the well-known practice of animal sacrifices for the expiation of guilt, which prevailed universally, not only among the Jews, but throughout the whole heathen world; and which evidently proves it to have been the established opinion of mankind, that (as the apostle expresses it) “without blood there could be no remission *.
Still it must be acknowledged, that in the stupendous work of our redemption, there is something far beyond the
power of our limita ed faculties to comprehend.
That the Son of God himself should feel such compassion for the human race, for the wretched inhabitants of this small spot in the vast system of the universe, as voluntarily to undertake the great and arduous and painful task of rescuing them from sin and misery, and
* Heb. ix, 22.
eternal death ; that for this purpose he should condescend to quit the bosom of his Father and the joys of heaven; should divest himself of the glory that he had before the world began ; should not only take upon himself the nature of man, but the form of a servant; should submit to a low and indigent condition, to indignities, to injuries and insults, and at length to a disgraceful and excruciating death, is indeed a mystery, but it is a mystery of kindness and of mercy; it is, as the apostle truly calls it, “ a love that passeth knowledge * ," a degree of tenderness, pity, and condescension, to which we have neither words nor conceptions in any degree equal. It is impossible for us not to cry out on this occasion with the Psalmist, “ Lord, what is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him *. ?"
But what effect should this reflection have upon our hearts ? Should it dispose us to join with the disputer of this world in doubting or denying the wisdom of the Almighty in the mode of our redemption, and in quarrelling with the means he has made use of to save us, * Ephes. iii. 19. + Psalm viii. 4.
because they appear to our weak understanding strange and unaccountable? Shall the man who is sinking under a mortal disease refuse the medicine which will infallibly restore him, because he is ignorant of the ingredients of which it is composed ? Shall the criminal who is condemned to death reject the pardon that is unexpectedly offered to him, because he cannot conceive in what manner and by what means it was obta ined for him? Shall we, who are all criminals in the sight of God, and are all actually (till redeemed by Christ) under the sentence of death ; shall we strike back the arm that is graciously stretched out to save us, merely because the mercy
offered to us is so great that we are unable to grasp with our understanding the whole nature and extent of it ? Shall the very magnitude, in short, of the favour conferred upon us be converted into an argument against receiving it; and shall we determine not to be saved because God chuses to do it, not in our way, but his own ? That our redemption by Christ is a mystery, a great and astonishing mystery, we readily acknowledge. But this was naturally to be expected in a work of such infinite difficulty as that of rendering the mercy of God in pardoning mankind, consistent with the exercise of his justice, and the support of his authority, as the moral Governor of the world, Whatever could effect this, must necessarily be something far beyond the comprehension of our narrow understandings; that is, must necessarily be mysterious.
And therefore this very circumstance, instead of shocking our reason, and staggering our faith, ought to confirm the one, and satisfy the other.
After the crucifixion of our Lord follows the account of his burial by Joseph of Arimathea, who went to Pilate and begged the body of Jesus ; and having obtained it,
wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed. On this I shall make no other observation than that it was the exact fulfilment of a prophecy in Isaiah, where, speaking of the promised Messiah, or Christ, it is said, “ he shall make his grave with the rich*.” And accordingly
* Isaiah liii. 9.