« PreviousContinue »
not be improper then to inquire, whether or no, and how far, that consequence may be agreeable to the real case ; in other words, whether or no, and how far, the death of Christ is to be considered, as in itself, or separately from the consideration of his worthiness or goodness, effecting our redemption from death. Now in order to determine this, with as much clearness and precision as I can, I would beg leave to observe, 1. First, that it will, I should think, be admitted, that God, if he had so pleased, might have accepted of the death of Christ, even in itself considered, as a reason. or ground of his pardoning sinners, or of sparing their forfeited lives. Those at least, if I mistake not, will make no difficulty of allowing this, who consider, that He, who undoubtedly could, if he so pleased, have pardoned his offending subjects without any consideration at all, was certainly at liberty to pardon them, upon any such condition or consideration as he might think proper to appoint or accept of Let us suppose, for instance (to go no lower) that God, being disposed to shew mercy to sinful men, had been pleased to send an angel into this world, and had appointed him, being first clothed with our nature, to die, as a sacrifice for our sins: who can justly take upon him to say, that he might inot have granted us apardon, even in consideration of his death alone 2 And who idoes not see, that in such a case, the death of the angel might have been properly said to have effected our redemption, abstracting from every consideration but that of the will or appointment of God 2 whose good pleasure it is, which must give virtue and efficacy to whatever he appoints (let it be the death, or obedience, or righteousness of any being) as the ground or condition of his pardoning sinners : for there is maturally, i.e. independently of his will or appointment, no more a connexion between the obedience or righteousness of any person, and the redemption of another upon the account of it, than there is between the death of the same person, considered as a vicarious sacrifice, and the same effect. That which constitutes the connexion in either case, is the divine pleasure ; which therefore, if it can create it in the one case, may, if it be thoughtfit, equally do it in the other. It will then, I hope, be allow
ed, that God might, if he had so pleased, have appointed the death of Christ at least, even considered in itself, to be a ground of pardoning sinners. But I shall go a step farther, and even venture to assert, 2. That this is what he has actually done. And of this, I cannot, for my own part, but look upon it as an abundant proof, that our redemption, reconciliation to God, &c. are so constantly ascribed in the New Testament to the death, or blood, or cross of Christ: for this surely (the reality of which I may, I suppose, safely take for granted) they would not have been, had not his death, or the shedding his blood on the cross, been a means of his procuring them for us, even abstracting from the consideration of that great goodness, which, every one must acknowledge, he shewed in dying for us: in other words; had there not been something in his very dying for us, which was appointed and designed to be a ground of our redemption from death, it is hardly to be thought, that this effect would have been so invariably ascribed to it as we find it is. But it may be said, ‘that our Lord, in “dying for us, shewed his obedience to * God, and goodness to men, in an eminent ‘and peculiar manner; and that therefore “ (as it was by his obedience and goodness “that he made atonement for us) our re* demption is in scripture so constantly at* tributed to his death,” see No. 161. It must be owned, that our Lord displayed these virtues at no time more eminently ...than when he laid down his life for us, and (as I shall observe anon) that they are, and will be available, in several important respects, ito his true followers: but then, as she shewed his obedience and goodness through the whole course of his life, and in some parts of it, perhaps I may say, in a smanner as eminently as when he died for us; it still seems to me difficult to account for the sacred writers so uniformly ascrib-ing our redemption, or the atonement which he made for us, to his death, without supposing, that it was, in itself, or abstractedly considered, effectual to our redemption. Had the atonement, which he made for the sins qf the world (161) been made, not by his death or the shedding his blood only, but by his obedience or worthiness, as you suppose ; surely, as these were very illustriously displayed by him
at other times, as well as when he was on the cross ; our forgiveness would have been sometimes at least ascribed to them in general, as the ground or foundation of it. But as that seems not to be the case ;% but a constant and remarkable stress is laid: upon his blood, as that, to which our reconciliation is particularly and directly owing ; may we not reasonably conclude, that his death was appointed by the divine wisdom. to be the direct and immediate cause or ground of it 2 Besides, if there is reason to believe, as I think there is (whether or no Ihave proved that there is ; you and others must judge) that the expiatory sacrifices under the law made atonement for the offerers (so far as their virtue reached) even abstracting from the temper of their minds; then there is reason also to believe, that our Lord made atonement for the sins of the world, abstracting, in like manner, from that temper of mind with which he suffer. ed: it being allowed on all hands, (148)
* If what is said of the obedience of Christ, Rom. v. 19, should seem to contradict what is here supposed ; I would refer you to what is said in relation to it, by the author of jesus, Christ the Mediator, &c. p. 77.