<< DISCOURSE VIII: Difficulties on the Atonement >>
But God commendeth His love towards us, in that,
while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.—ROM. v. 8.
God commended His Love towards us, a Love Infinite and Divine, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Human love will die for a friend, only Divine Love will die for an enemy.
Regard for a moment, my beloved friends, the Love of God in Christ. Such is the Infinite Majesty of Him who is King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s, the High and Lofty One who inhabiteth Eternity, whose name is Holy, that it is a condescension for Him to notice the heavens: He humbleth Himself to behold the things that are in heaven (Ps. cxiii. 6). For Him to descend to earth to assist a good man, would be an act of wondrous benignity and grace. But to bow the heavens and to come down to aid sinners is indeed wonderful. His name shall be called Wonderful. But if, for the God of Love to live on earth at all would be marvelous, what then is it to live to endure for man opposition, contradiction, malignity, taunts, ingratitude, treachery, thorns, buffeting, the assaults of hell, death, the death of the cross? And this for sinners, for the world, for me.
Amazing mercy! Love immense,
Surpassing every human sense,
Since time and sense began!
That man might shun the realms of pain,
and know and love His God again;
His God became a Man!
The mystery of love is unsearchable. None but those whose hearts are touched with Love Divide can even receive its marvels. Well might the apostle exclaim, For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Great is the mystery of Godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, !received up into glory (1 Tim. iii. 16).
The incarnation, the Redemption of the world, and the Glorification of His Humanity by our Lord and Savior, will be the wonder find the adoration of angels, as well as of good men, for ever. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever should believe in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John iii. 16). God commendeth His Love to us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
This one thing we must ever bear in mind, that Redemption and Atonement were from the Love of God, equally with Creation. In His love and in His pity He redeemed us. (Isa. lxiii. 9).
In our former discourse, we endeavored to set forth the reel character of the Atonement, as performed by God Himself, from love to fallen man, and set forth so simply by the apostle. God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself. But, with some there is difficulty in accepting this simple truth, because they have been long taught otherwise. They have been accustomed to hear that there were two Divine Persons, and that in redemption they mere variously affected and engaged.
The first person, regarded as God Himself was angry at man for transgressing His law, and demanded satisfaction, by punishment.
The second person was merciful, pitied man’s estate as doomed to everlasting misery, and offered to die in mans stead. The offering was accepted, and thereby, the man who believes this, goes free.
Often with a great show of reasoning this doctrine is put forward, and with many particularities. Some undertake to relate what took place in a council held by the three divine persons, of whom they (and not the Scriptures) speak, where the persons of the Godhead settled what each should do, when man fell, and the part each should take in his restoration, or at least the restoration of a portion of his race, then determined upon, to be saved.
To the difficulties against receiving the apostolic doctrine thus restored in the New Dispensation of Divine Truth to mankind, felt by sincere minds, we now give our best efforts, and entreat they may be received in a spirit of kindness, as an attempt to magnify the Divine Love of the Lord Jesus Christ alone, as our Father, Redeemer, and Savior, in One adorable person, the First and the Last, the Christians all in all.
The first difficulty arises chiefly from the idea that there is in God a principle which must retaliate upon one who does wrong; and this is called justice. When a sin has been committed, it is said, it cannot be pardoned unless God’s justice has had satisfaction. And this satisfaction is believed to be equally complete, whether it is the wrong-doer who is punished, or another, instead of him, provided that other is willing and competent to suffer. The Savior, it is said, was willing and competent, to suffer, because He had no sin of His own for which to answer, therefore, His punishment was a complete Atonement, and Justice was satisfied.
But all this is simply an illustration of the declaration in the Psalms, Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself (Ps. 1. 21). The natural men thinks it just that he should be revenged upon any one who has injured him. But not so the spiritual man; not so the Christian. He has been taught by the Divine Being Himself, Love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall he great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for He is kind unto the unthankful, and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful (Luke vi. 35, 36).
Let any one ask himself whether the natural man, with his revengeful justice, or the spiritual man, with his merciful justice, is the best likeness of the Lord, and he will soon decide that the spirit of retaliation can have no existence in Him who is Love Itself, except in the form He has given it to His servants upon earth. Do good to them who hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them that despitefully use you (Luke vi. 27, 28). He maketh His sun to rise upon the evil and upon the good, and sendeth rain upon the just and upon the unjust (Matt. v. 45).
Mans sins cannot hurt the Divine Being: they injure himself; and they originate the miseries that poison his life on earth, and create the hell which exists first in his own bosom, and which he takes with him into the eternal world to form part of the awful collection of the fixedly wicked and miserable beings there, whom we denominate hell.
Of the Lord, our grateful love must ever say, O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good; for His mercy endureth for ever (Ps. cxxxvi. 1).
The real justice of God is unswerving love, unswerving righteousness. He does not weakly alter His laws; He sustains them under all circumstances, because they are the expression of Infinite Love, Wisdom, and Mercy. It would be no mercy to a wicked man to prevent him receiving the pain which flows from his evils. That pain is a true index to the wrong he has done, and is full of merciful lessons, tending to reformation. Sorrow cannot be separated from sin. Remove sin and you remove sorrow. The maintenance of His Divine Laws in time and in eternity is from Infinite Love; having the everlasting happiness of His creatures as its end. Punishment is not the end. Happiness from love is the end. This rectitude, therefore, can never change. This is God’s justice. It is the inflexible adherence to right, for the sake of the end, which is mans everlasting salvation. This justice is always on the side of salvation. I am a just God, and a Savior; Jehovah says, THERE IS NONE BESIDES ME (Isa. xiv. 21). The Lord Jesus Christ is said to be just, and having salvation (Zech. ix. 9).
Because God was just to His own infinite love, when man changed and fell, He never changed. He followed man still with tender exhortations, with prophets, angelic messengers, and at length with his own presence as a Savior in the world. All this flowed from His justice, which in Him is the unchangeable adherence to His own nature, which is Unutterable Love.
The justice of God the Father, it is said, was offended by mans sin, and only the adequate punishment of the offender could appease it. But if one asks, if God the Sons justice would not also be offended, and require adequate punishment to be inflicted upon some one, and if God the Holy Ghosts justice also would not be subject to the same anger and appeasement, the argument is seen at once entirely to fail. If the two latter needed no punishment of any one to satisfy them, why did God the Father need it? Are they not all alike? In fact, this idea, is founded upon a mistake from beginning to end. It is attributing to God the desire for retaliation which only belongs to fallen man. God’s justice is an attribute of His love. When man sins, he shuts out from himself the divine blessing which God desires to give him. And so long as he continues wicked, so long that exclusion must continue. When he repents, and turns to the Lord, he opens his heart and mind for the reception of the divine blessing, which never fails, because still the Lord desires to give it.
How grandly the divine nature was proclaimed before Moses. The LORD, the LORD GOD, merciful and gracious, long suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty (Ex. xxxiv. 6, 7).
The Lord forgives (that is, removes) iniquity, transgression, and sin from the penitent, but there are NO MEANS by which he who is still guilty can be admitted to happiness.
When a man repents, and seeks pardon and regeneration, the spirit is there, which the Lord accepts. No payment is needed to insure His acceptance. The very desire to come is prompted by the Lord, that He may bless him. If thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquity, who shall stand? but there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared (Ps. cxxx. 4). A certain creditor had two debtors, the one owed five hundred pence, the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, He frankly forgave them both. Tell me, therefore, which of them will love Him most. Simon answered and said, I suppose that he to whom He forgave most. And he said, Thou hast rightly judged.
The law which determines how much is forgiven, is the law of how much we love.
Hence the Lord said of the penitent woman, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.
Another form, in which the difficulty we have been considering is sometimes urged, is that God gave a law to man in Eden, and this was the tenor of it: In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die (Gen. ii. 17). It is said that God’s honor was at stake, and he was necessitated to see that this law was executed. Hence man, including the whole race, of which it is assumed Adam was regarded as the head and representative, must die, unless a substitute could be found. This substitute was the Lord Jesus Christ. Through His death, man escaped. The difficulty in this form speedily disappears when it is closely examined. The law spoken of was not law; it was a caution and a warning. That warning was fulfilled. In the day man sinned, he did die. The soul that sins always dies; or, in other words, comes into that carnal-mindedness and misery which the Scriptures call death, and which is the only real death, the death of holy thoughts and affections in the soul. TO BE CARNALLY-MINDED IS DEATH (Rom. iii. 6). And, since the effect forewarned took place, there is no ground for demanding any other or further punishment. God’s laws always execute themselves, they never fail.
The Divine allegory of Eden is most beautiful and instructive, when truly understood. It describes the state of the early men. Adam is the Hebrew name for man. At that time, as at this, man was in freedom. The divine love and wisdom was a tree of lives in the center of their souls. Their happy state is described by the garden of delights, or Eden, which signifies delights. They hail also the tree of their own knowledge of good and evil, acquired by the senses. If they partook of the tree of lives, and its kindred trees, they would be fed celestially from the Lord, and all would be well. If under the persuasion of the love of sensual thought and indulgence, they chose their own short-sighted knowledge of appearances, they would sink into evil and falsehood, which is spiritual death. The Lord would not make them die. They would die of themselves. He would follow to raise them again. And so He did. In a passage, very puzzling to those who look at the letter only, it is written, They heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden, in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees* of the garden. * Hebrew, tree.
And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? (Gen. iii. 8, 9).
In this divine account, the operation of the Spirit of the Lord in the conscience is described. When man sins the Lord always comes there. It is the cool of the day. It is chilly, when we fall away from love and light. Joy and warmth fly when innocence is no more. The stirrings of divine mercy in the conscience are well described by asking the question, so strange at first sight for the Omniscient to ask, Where art thou? But He asks questions, not for His sake, only for ours. It was to lead fallen man then to ask himself, Where art thou? Thou wert in a state of innocence and bliss, of light and joy, of hope and peace. Now, all these angels within have fled. Gloomy thoughts have overspread thy spirits atmosphere; then art cold and unhappy. The trees of Eden are hid from thee, and thou art concealing thyself from thy Makers presence in the tree of thine own poor knowledge. Where art thou? Come back, in penitence and love. Humble thyself. Take the sorrow thy folly has brought, but be henceforth wise, diligent, and trustful. A Savior will be revealed, to bruise the serpents head, and restore thy race when at its worst. But be thou grateful, repentant, and sincere at once, and thou shalt be regenerated and restored. The law of Adams posterity was given to Cain, and was still merciful. If thou doest well, shalt then not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at thy door (Gen. iv. 7).
Such is the divine lesson, which comes from a true consideration of the history of Eden; and it is all a lesson of mercy. There is no being bound by any necessity to punish either Adam or his posterity. Sin does that itself. Divine love warns where danger is; and when we have fallen, comes to save. The did view is painfully inconsistent. It assumes that God undertook to put man to death, which is not at all to be found in the text. It then declares that God could not be untrue to his threat, and then it makes Him shrink from it; first, in not putting man to death that day, according to the warning, and secondly, not doing it at all, but finding some one to be put to death instead, which was no part of the so-called law. It begins by saying, He must keep His word, and it ends by showing He kept no part of it.
Thus, this professed logical reason for the punishment of the Lord Jesus by the Father, is entirely wanting in all logical connection.
It assumes that literal death, that day, was threatened as a consequence of sin. And, then, that it did not happen that day, but nine hundred years after. It asserts that the Lord Jesus received the punishment due to mans sin, although man had, at least in part, been receiving it himself. And, although the Lord Jesus paid the debt of man in full, yet man has been dying still. In fact, anything more inconclusive and unsatisfactory to a thoughtful mind, it is hard to conceive.
This old view assumes that it is required by justice, the natural mans justice, or what is really his revenge. But even the natural mans justice claims punishment ONLY UPON THE OFFENDER. The wild passion that burns to destroy the innocent for the guilty, is many degrees lower than the moral sense of the natural man, yet this is attributed to God.
On the other hand, without this theory, all is instructive, clear, and beautiful. Man had every ability from his Heavenly Father to be wise and good, He closed himself against the kingdom of life, and sank into evil. The love of the Lord was unchangeable, and the means of restoration were supplied, and at length, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, He visited and redeemed His people.
Another difficulty, which has occasioned some hesitation in sincere minds to embrace that view of the Atonement which exhibits the One God, our Heavenly Father, being Himself the Reconciler of His children, Himself the Seeker and the Saver of them who were lost, has resulted from the prevalence of an erroneous idea of sacrifice. They have been taught that sacrifice meant punishment;–that the animal was punished for the sin of the man who offered it, and he went free. Hence, when they have read that our Lord was sacrificed for us, they have tacitly concluded that it means He was punished for us.
This is altogether a mistake. The true idea of sacrifice is offering, gift, worship, dedication. Hence, there are sacrifices of praise, sacrifices of thanksgiving, sacrifices of righteousness, sacrifices of doing good, spiritual sacrifices to be offered by Christians, the living acceptable sacrifices of our bodies, which is called a reasonable service (Rom. xii. 1).
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise (Ps. ii. 17).
To do the divine will, is the truest sacrifice. The animals offered up by the Jews mere the correspondences of the different thoughts, affections, and principles of the soul, and these were offered up by fire, to denote the offering up of these principles in ourselves, from a spirit of love. The Lord in His Humanity did always the Will of the Divine Love. In every act He dedicated Himself to carry out its sublime purposes in the work of redemption. In every hour, in every thought, in every word, what Infinite Love dictated to be done He did; what Love dictated to be suffered He suffered, even to enduring all the malignity of hell, and all the sorrows of the cross. He was the grand sacrifice, the center of all other sacrifices. We sacrificed Himself for us. For us He lived; for us He died; for us He rose again; for us, He offered Himself, a whole burnt offering. This is the very nature of God, to give Himself to others to make them happy. This nature He communicated to His manhood, more And more, until the crowning act of the CROSS. He gave Himself for us all, that His love might commend itself to us all; and, by being commended to us, it might be embraced by us, and thus be enabled to save us. God sacrifices Himself infinitely. He has written sacrifice upon everything. The sun throws itself off to invigorate, beautify, and fertilize the worlds by which he is surrounded. Each star throws off its radiance, to illuminate the firmament with brilliancy and glory. Each mountain stream that dashes from rock to rock, and sparkles in the sunbeams like liquid silver, rushes to be sacrificed. Each flower gives its sweetness to all around. Each tree loads itself with fruit, to be yielded for others. All things in divine order sacrifice themselves, give themselves away to increase the universal bliss. A parent lives for the children, a friend for a friend. The wife gives herself to her husband, loses her name even for him and his, and the more perfectly she does this, the more perfectly without seeking it, she reigns over heart and home. So with our Savior. He saved others; Himself He could not save. Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us; and by this sacrifice he was won hearts, and will win hearts for ever. We love Him, because He first loved us. His truth comes, commenced by His love. It is accepted as a seed. It sinks into the ground, and seems to slumber and be forgotten for a time. In this very forgottenness it is acquiring strength, and will appear again a goodly tree, the parent of a paradise with in.
The Lamb that was slain died and rose again, that He might be Lord of the dead and the living. Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? Who could believe such a report? The eternal God would become a Man: not a Man only, but a Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, and despised and rejected of men. He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes are we healed.
His creatures fell, no pitying eye,
No mighty arm to save was nigh,
Or aid our feeble powers.
He came, He saw, He fought alone,
And conquered evils not His own,
That we might conquer ours.
Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. The Divine Love of the Godhead gave Him for us. The Divine Human Love of the manhood gave Himself for us, to redeem and save us from all iniquity, and be our all in all.
Perhaps the best illustration that earth affords of the self-sacrificing nature of true love, is afforded by the full yielding of herself to another of a pure and loving woman. If she perceives the God-given qualities which form her ideal of a noble soul-companion, in the man by whom she is sought, she sacrifices freely her affections, her self-control, and at the altar her person and her very name. Yet in this sacrifice, how is she raised again with love and honor. She reappears strengthened and surrounded by her husbands love, her husbands strength, her husbands care. She is enthroned queen of the domestic circle. The more perfectly she is affectionate and unselfish, the more perfect is her command of those higher inner feelings in all who surround her, that will command, with most lasting influence, their abiding esteem and love. The self-sacrificing wife, with gentlest words secures her husbands loving acquiescence. The self-sacrificing mother impresses the gentle influence of her spirit on young souls, who afterwards move their thousands, and bless a nation, and who in age and death own as their God’s priceless gift to them, a self-sacrificing, tender, loving mother.
All saintly souls are self-sacrificing. They give themselves more and more perfectly, as their regeneration progresses, to the Will such Wisdom of the Highest, to the purposes of Christian and public good.
Their meat and drink it is to do their Fathers will. They do good, and communicate, for they know that with such sacrifices God is well pleased (Heb. xiii. 16). But oh! How poor is the sacrifice of the highest and best to that sacrifice of perfect devotion which He made, who was infinitely rich, yet for our sakes became poor. He made Himself of no account. Monarch of all worlds, He was born in a manger. Possessed of all wisdom He submitted to contradictions and taunts from His short-sighted creatures. Possessed of all power, He suffered Himself to be led like a lamb to the slaughter. Possessed of all purity, He submitted to be tempted by the wicked, and even by the impure inhabitants of hell. He suffered Himself to be treated as He suffers His Word to be treated now. Yet, thus, Love Divine triumphs. The Crucified One inaugurated the kingdom of Sacrifice. All lower powers have influences more or less limited; their wave moves on, and dies. But the power of love and self-sacrifice, the feeblest of all at first, grows and gathers, founds schools, churches, hospitals, breaks off the chains from slavery, obliterates selfish landmarks, sanctifies homes, ennobles nations, still widens its hallowing mercies, evidently foreshadowing the time when all the nations of the earth shall be varied parts of one great family of love; the Lamb in the midst of the throne being the center of all purity, innocence, strength, sacrifice, and blessing. O Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world, impart thine innocence, and take away from us all self-will, and pride of heart; take away all hesitation and distrust; impart to us of thy spirit of sacrifice, and enable us to offer up ourselves sweet smelling savors to Thee, as Thou didst offer up Thyself to thy Love, to carry out the Redemption and Salvation of the world. Yes, in very deed, Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us and He gives Himself to be eaten by every Christian pilgrim, who has his loins girded for the great journey of the regenerate life. And he who eats Him, lives by Him, as the Passover indeed (John vi. 57).
The influence of God’s all sacrificing Love, especially as displayed in the Savior, is like the suns heat in nature. It comes so softly, it stirs not a leaf, it rustles not a blade, yet it is the great power which insinuates itself into all the myriad pores of nature, upheaves all its juices, unrolls bud and leaf, flower and fruit, and crowns the earth with plenty.
The Love that gives itself to all, imparts to its subjects new powers of receiving, and gains for itself its only reward, fresh opportunities of blessing. God is all-sacrifice. He draws all beings to Himself that He may give them more.
SHEDDING OF BLOOD.
In the sacrifices of the Old Testament, there was shedding of blood, and in the New Testament it is written: Almost all things are, by the law, purged with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission. And some have gathered from this, that the blood-shedding is to appease the wrath of an offended Deity. But in this, they pay no regard to the reel expressions of Scripture. The Scripture always states, that the sprinkling of blood upon the altar and the other objects of the tabernacle, was to hallow them, and cleanse them, not to appease God. See Exodus xxix. 36, 37. And thou shalt offer every day a bullock for a sin-offering for atonement, and thou shalt cleanse the altar when thou hast made an atonement for it, and thou shalt anoint it, to sanctify it. Seven days then shalt make an atonement for the altar and sanctify it; and it shall be an altar most holy; whatsoever toucheth the altar shall be holy. See also, Leviticus xvi. 18, 19. And he shall go out unto the altar that is before the Lord, and make an atonement for it; and shall take of the blood of the bullock and of the blood of the goat, and put it upon the horns of the altar round about. And he shall sprinkle of the blood upon it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel. In all these cases the statements of the Sacred Word have been read upside down. The statements are that the blood was to hallow and cleanse mans holy things. They have been read to mean that the blood was to appease God. In the same way the apostle states, Without shedding of blood, there is no remission (or removal) of sins. He does not say there is no pacification of God’s anger. The truth is, the remission of sins was promoted by the shedding of blood in two ways, the literal and the spiritual. Literally, the Lord’s Cross and Passion, by manifesting His Love, excited the love of His creatures, and thereby their repentance, aversion, and removal of sin.
But the blood, which is the life, spiritually corresponds to the Life of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Wisdom from Him, which circulates through the regenerating soul and imparts new life, throwing off old evils and building up the new man in holiness, and true righteousness. By this shedding of blood, there is remission of sins. Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, said the Lord, hath eternal life. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him (John vi. 54-56). It is the blood of the Divine Truth which washes us from our sins, which washes our robes and makes them while in the blood of the Lamb (Rev. vii. 14). But in all these cases, and in all others, let it not be forgotten, the blood affects and changes man, not God.
CHRIST, A RANSOM.
This brings us to another form of speech, which occurs, in speaking of the Lord’s work of Redemption. He is said to have given His life a ransom for us (Matt. xx. 28). We are said if to be bought with a price (1 Cor. vi. 20). And, these figures have sometimes been pressed to very remarkable conclusions. It has been said, a ransom is a sum paid to a slaveholder to let his captives free. And strange attempts have been made to carry out the figure in this style, although there is often some confusion in the minds of those who use it, that prevents them from fairly settling whether the slave-holder in this case is God or the Devil. From the time of Origen, in the fourth century, to the time of Anselm, in the twelfth, those who thus pressed the figure too extensively, concluded that the slave-holder was the Devil; but, from Anselms time to the present, the verdict has rather leaned to its being God. A somewhat different conclusion certainly, and not very honorable to the All-Good. But, really the whole theology of those who contend that the Atonement consists in the First Divine Person punishing the Second Divine Person for the sins of man, involves that strange inversion that clothes the Best of beings with the attributes of the worst.
A worthy gentlemen once said to me, how thankful we should be, my dear sir, that we have so rich and glorious a Redeemer. He has paid for our sins twice over. He fulfilled the law Himself, perfectly satisfying all the requirements of justice as a man, for us, and then He died, and paid by all His sufferings the penalty of all our sins besides.
So you see how safe we are. We have been paid for twice over. He then cited, as a confirmation, the words applying to a very different subject, She has received at the Lord’s hand double for all our sins (Isa. xl. 2). In such a confused manner Scripture is often quoted. My worthy friends pious exultations were, however, a little checked, when I remarked:–But if the Lord has paid for us twice over, somebody has received twice as much as He ought to receive; and you know, in ordinary affairs, we do not esteem such a creditor quite an honest man. Oh, he said, you know Satan is not very particular. But, I said, my dear friend, you don’t mean to say that the Savior has been paying Satan. We owed him nothing. You don’t think that the wrong person has been paid. In such case we are as little clear as ever. My worthy friend drew off with the remark, that we must not be too strict in our examination of these things. An observation always made by those who are not very clear, either in their doctrines or illustrations. I finished the conversation by strongly pressing upon him the importance of I determining who received the price of our Redemption, God or the Devil?
The price, however, by which the Lord has bought us, is all that he has done and suffered for us, and all He is now doing and suffering for us. We are bought to the Lord Jesus, and by the Lord Jesus, by all the benefits we have received. Joseph bought the love of his brethren by the kindness and the favors bestowed upon them. They received those benefits. They had their corn, they had also their money in their sacks. They were thus won to reverence and love. So our Father and Savior has bought us by all our blessings in Creation, by the blessings of our Redemption, and by all the blessings of our daily mercies in nature and in grace. Those who are truly ransomed, are ransomed from self, by love; from folly, by wisdom; from iniquity, by virtue and obedience, all from the Lord. They will any always with the angels, they are bought TO GOD, not from God (Rev. v. 9); and has made them kings and priests unto God, for ever and ever (Rev. i. 6).
KEEPING THE LORD’S COMMANDMENTS.
A deep necessity is supposed by many to exist for some other mode of satisfying the requirements of the Divine Being, from a conviction of their inability to keep the commandments of the Lord in the virtues of a good life.
And so strange is the conception they have of God, that they imagine God can be satisfied for their shortcomings by punishing the Lord Jesus, and then will esteem them holy because Jesus kept the commandments. In this the object of the divine laws is entirely forgotten. That these laws, the Ten Commandments, are the laws of happiness and of health, spiritual and natural, the gift of divine mercy and wisdom, is quite overlooked. They seem to be regarded as a sort of test. Man is commanded to do what it is impossible to accomplish, that God may have a justification for sentencing him to eternal death. But would such a case form a justification? If I command my son to do what I have not given him the means to do, would any just person sanction me in the infliction of punishment? Besides, the origin of this argument may be plainly manifest. It contemplates the Divine Being receiving gratification, or at least satisfaction, from the infliction of punishment, when it is well known that only a bad men does that? A good man has the utmost aversion to the infliction of pain or loss upon any one, and only permits such infliction to a criminal, for the good which he hopes will be attained by it, good to the criminal, and good to society. To punish, for the sake of punishing, is the spirit of a wicked one, and infinitely distant from the disposition of our Father who is in heaven. To charge this upon Him, is a repetition of the charge made by the man in the Gospel, who hid his talent in a napkin: I knew that thou wert a hard and austere man, reaping where thou hadst not sown, and gathering where thou hadst not strawed. I went and hid thy talent in a napkin. But no one else knew this but him. He knew it not because it was so, but because his own evil nature made such suggestions against the all-merciful Giver of all talents. So, in the giving of the divine commandments, the natural man regards the Divine Being as requiring more than can be reasonably expected. He thinks the Lord hard and austere. And strange indeed is it to find religious men endorsing this sentiment, and making a theology from it. Nothing can possibly exhibit the low character of religious teaching in the last hundred years, more strikingly than this often reiterated declaration, that the Lord’s Commandments are hard, and cannot be kept.
Why, this is the very doctrine of evil spirits. If you seek to prevent a thing from being done, try to prove its impossibility, and it is never attempted. No reasonable person starts on a journey he knows he can never accomplish. It ought to be the aim of the servants of heaven to show the beauty and reasonableness of the divine laws, for they are in accordance with the essence of reason. It should be the work of the ministers of the Lord to remove difficulties, and to commend to their fellow-creatures the blessedness of doing upon earth the will of Him whose perfect kingdom is realized in the perfect obedience and the perfect happiness of heaven.
For false men and evil spirits to bring discredit on the Commandments, by the asseveration that they are too hard to be kept, and were never meant to be kept, would be what we might expect. But to find this become the theology of the churches themselves, is indeed the sign of the abomination that maketh desolate, being in the Holy Place.
Divine Law is the perfection of right. None could possibly be happy, however they might be forgiven, who did not lovingly rejoice to keep the Divine Law whole and undefiled.
The good amongst the Jews never spoke of the commandments of the Lord being hard, but on the contrary, of their being the very joy and rejoicing of their hearts. And, is it for Christians, with all their higher motives: for gratitude, and their fuller revelation of spiritual light and immortality, to adopt a maxim that would have struck a pious Jew as unworthy of the law of the One Adorably Good.
If the Ten Commandments are difficult to keep, that difficulty announces our distance from the kingdom, and the necessity of our instant determination to commence. If any one had abstained from walking until his limbs had become so stiff that it would be difficult to make the effort, the earnest physician would say there is no time to be lost, begin the reformation at once, or the power will be totally gone, and restoration will be impossible. But such a ease would be no argument that walking was not essential to health, or was never intended to be done.
So, the keeping of the Divine Commandments has become irksome, because we have become godless. We must turn this irksomeness into ease and pleasure, by setting our hearts in love and faith to follow the Lord. He magnified the law, and made it honorable by perfect obedience, and by opening up its spiritual and deeper application, not to induce men to obey it less, but to obey it more.
He has given a thousand reasons and motives to good works, more than mere known to the Jews, and his announcement is, Blessed are they that keep His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, anti may enter through the gates into the city.
The holy city of the blessed is for those who have fitness for the inheritance of the blessed, and they have the right who, by keeping the commandments, attain such fitness.
Under what pretense can any one urge that God’s commandments are grievous to be done? The apostle John says His commandments are not grievous, and the Giver of the commandments, (for it was really the Lord Jesus Christ as Jehovah before the incarnation, who gave them–i Pet. i. 11,) says the same thing. My yoke is easy, and My burden light (Matt. xi. 30).
It is always easy to act according to the true nature of things. If a machine is worked as its maker intended, it works well, and works easily. It is when it is attempted to be worked by ignorance or malice, contrary to the true principles on which it is constructed, that difficulty and destruction come. So is it with man. If he is trained according to the true nature of his mind, his training is easy. How weakness and wickedness often contravene the laws of mind in the training of children, the sad results of a wide experience show. If they were not so difficult altogether to spoil, still fewer would turn out well than we now see. How largely they are led away from the Lord, rather than led to Him! How largely do they see examples in those whom their impulses implanted by the Lord, and their duty, prompt them to love, which can only lead them to habits they ought most sedulously to be taught to shun! No; human beings, fallen as they are, are grand in their ruins, and can be totally depraved only by the efforts of diabolical subtlety and perseverance. There is a terrible struggle before all the lights of the soul are extinguished, and man or woman sits down quietly in the darkness of the shadow of death. The young soul often escapes from the dreariest bondage, and though laid among the bulrushes, becomes a prince among men. Many a Joseph, in despite of cruelty in false brethren, of pits in the wilderness, of seduction in a myriad forms of false and oppressive bondage, becomes a beacon and a blessing to his fellows.
The wonder is that so many escape.
The commandments difficult! It is the breach of them that constitutes all the obstructions to happiness in the world.
If men loved God and their neighbor, which is the essence of the commandments, would not the woes of the world soon disappear? And who is the thankless spirit, the hardened heart, that feels no cause to love and praise, and obey the Lord of all good; the God of this and all other worlds, the Source of every blessing?
Why, if there is a little pressure in the supply of food, and some benefactor comes who lowers the price by increasing the store, how grateful all but the most vicious are! Yet, the Lord gives abundance to all, and gives it gratis. If an eye is diseased, and we suffer pain and partial blindness, how grateful we are to the physician who restores health and all its blessings to the suffering organ. Yet the Lord gives the organs themselves, with all their wondrous arrangements from head to foot, and all the elements in which they move and have their being. The light, the heat, the air, the magnetic elements, and all the wondrous powers of nature, from the subtlest to the coarsest are His gifts. They are so many we cannot number them. They are so vast, we cannot measure them. Those of the mind far exceed those of the body, and are everlasting. Wondrous are they in time, still more wondrous in eternity. And we cannot love the All-gracious Giver? O, prodigy of ingratitude! And He has revealed Himself. The Invisible became a Man. Mankind saw Him, and saw that He was Love. The King in His sorrowful beauty was seen, and men mere thus kindly trained to know Him in His humiliation as their Redeemer, to prepare them to know Him in His Glorification, as the King in His inexpressible Majesty; King of kings, and Lord of lords. And shall the God of heaven thus humble Himself to us, and we not love Him? O, rather say:–
Lord, it is my chief complaint
That my love is weak and faint;
Still I love Thee and adore,
Help me, Lord, to love Thee more.
Does the keeping of the commandments, in relation to our neighbor, feel hard and difficult?
The very hardship and difficulty tell how essential to us is the work of regeneration, and this proceeds as we labor to shun evil and do good, or, in other words, keep the commandments.
Do kind feelings make our duties hard to our brothers, sisters, wives, husbands, families, friends, and all mankind? Is it not the opposite? When dislike creeps in, duty is toilsome. When love is there, the wheels of action go quickly mid easily. When a man, from earnest kindness, does his duty justly and truthfully in whatever he undertakes to do; when he labors genuinely and uprightly in his calling or his dealing, is it then he finds difficulty? is it not rather when he ceases to be upright and truthful? With fraud comes fear. With falsehood come suspicion, jealousy, anxiety, harassing care. These things poison life. Evil is a seed which has a hateful following. Short-sighted are they who suppose that innocence, truthfulness, justice, and judgment make hardships for mankind. It is the want of these. Self-love, self-indulgence, a desire to make others subservient to ourselves, the spirit of covetousness engendering envy, cupidity, unfairness–these are the things which make lifes course full of thorns and thistles.
Is it a heavy undertaking for us to begin a right course? Let us pray to the Lord for help, and be earnest and sincere. Help will be given. Unto such as receive Him, to them gives He power to become the sons of God, even to such as believe on His name. With earnest love, and a faithful application to the Lord and His Word, the crooked will be made straight, and the rough places plain.
It is the business of the minister of religion to encourage the penitent, to cheer the faint, to confirm the wavering. He has trodden the ground, and knows that evil can be vanquished. He has done it. Giant habits can be slain. He has slain them. The ten false spies in Joshua’s time magnified the dangers and diminished the chances of success. But Joshua and Caleb said The land which we passed through to search it, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delight in us, then He will bring us into this land, and give it us, a land which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the Lord; neither fear ye the people of the land, for they are bread for us; their defense is departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Fear them not (Deut. xiv. 7-8).
And they who disheartened the people: even those men that did bring up the evil report upon the land, died by the plague before the Lord (Deut. xiv. 31). But Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess; for we are well able to overcome it (Deut. xiii. 30).
O, that the teachers of religion were all like Caleb and Joshua. Then, instead of those miserable Jeremiads, by which men ale led to take it for granted that they cannot overcome the grievous evils of their fallen nature, or the evils that afflict trade, commerce, government, society in general, they would be engaged in a trustful and sincere spirit, and many a Jericho which seems too strong to be subdued, would fall at once. Religious virtue, a life of loving obedience, begun in this spirit, with the Savior ever as our Captain, His Word ever as our pillar of cloud by day, and fire by night, no obstacle would be too great for us. The pilgrimage which began with heavy feet would gradually become lighter and lighter, until we should run and not be weary, and walk and not be faint.
Look at the worthies of old. They were not accustomed to speak of the precepts of the Lord as heavy burdens, of the commandments as a frightful battery of artillery, as some do now. Let any one lead the one hundred and nineteenth Psalm, day by day, until its spirit has permeated his mind, and he will learn to prize the law of the Lord, as the very way of truth, of life, and of happiness.
Thy hands have made me, and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn Thy commandments. The law of Thy mouth is better unto me, than thousands of gold and silver.
O how I love Thy law I it is ray meditation all the day.
These men were not afraid of the law. They knew that He who had made them had made the law; and that its lessons were the precious rules of happiness. And now that our blessed Savior has magnified the law, by opening its deeper spirit and meaning, and at the same time given us a mightier power, the power of His Holy Spirit, to give an obedience which Pharisees never knew, are we to misrepresent our Fathers laws of happiness as burdens too grievous to be borne?
The keeping of the commandments, according to the prophetic Psalmist, is the very way to become wise. Through Thy precepts I get understanding (Ps. cxix. 104). Thou, through thy commandments, hast made me wiser than mine enemies.
Practice is, indeed, the may to get understanding in all other things, and it is also the case in religion. A theorizer supposes he is wise, but a practical man really obtains understanding.
To love the law of the Lord brings peace. Great peace have they that love Thy Law, and nothing shall offend them (Ps. cxix. 103).
Obedience to the commandments conjoins us with purity, understanding, and wisdom, and with the Lord, and He gives the peace which passes all understanding, the great peace which pervades the whole soul in time, and continues to eternity.
Let any one look to the commandments, and say which cell be neglected or broken, and the soul continue happy.
The Ten Commandments may be divided into three, which contain our duties to the Lord, and seven, which contain our duties to our neighbor. The seven may again be divided, into five which relate to forbidden acts, and two to forbidden motives.
The first three commandments ore briefly summed up by our Lord in the Divine Words, Thou shalt love the Lord with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength. And can happiness be attained without this? Must not love to God pervade the will, the intellect, and the action to unite us with Him, the Source of every joy? Could heaven be happy unless each angel received happiness interiorly from its Source, by opening himself in love to His Creator and Redeemer?
To His claims as our Maker, He has added those of our Savior. And not to love, surrounded as we are, and ever shall be, with mercies and blessings innumerable, is to have self as our center; and that principle, as a rule, is the very spring of misery, the essence of hell. Not to love the Lord, who has provided for us from the first breath we drew, who has blessed us in soul, and blessed us in body; who has made us a wonderful center of appetites, that all may be gratified in true order, is to be ungrateful, beyond all other ingrates; and how could such be happy?
Again, regard the five succeeding commandments, down to Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. Could a community of thieves be happy; or, a community of those whose habits are more polluted still. Could a community of haters or murderers be happy?
Could a community of those who love falsehood and make lies, be happy? In any one of these cases, forbidden by the Lord, however much forgiveness might be extended to a community if the evil disposition were not removed, there could be no happiness; turmoil and misery would soon be experienced.
But, say some, the very motives are to be pure. We are not to covet anything of our neighbors? Certainly not. A covetous disposition is the very destroyer of peace. The gnaw of unsatisfied desire, (and nothing can satisfy the inward pining of a grasping spirit,) is the very embodiment of living misery. Cleanse first the inside of the cup and the platter and the outside will be clean also. A correct outward demeanor, but with a covetous heart, would be but a den of impure and hateful lusts, a curse to its owner, and, at no distant period, a curse to all around.
On the contrary, let a man in sincerity turn to his Savior, ask from Him the power sincerely to conquer his evils, especially the one to which he is most prone, and faithfully use that power. If he fail the first time, let him try again and again, and he will be sure to conquer. I give you power, said the Great Conqueror of hell, to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Love Him, follow Him, and every difficulty will vanish. Soon, instead of its being a hard task to walk in the path to heaven, you will find you can run and not be weary, and walk and never faint. Your language will be like that of the servants of the Lord of old. Therefore I love Thy commandments above gold, yea, above fine gold. I will delight myself in Thy statutes: I will not forget Thy Word. Blessed are they that keep His testimonies, and that seek Him with the whole heart.
Let, then, the dreary and absurd cry, No man can keep the commandments, become one that Christians ore ashamed to use, as a libel on their heavenly Father. Let them, on the other hand, hear Him uttering the words of infinite wisdom and tenderness: O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments, then had thy peace been like a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea (Isa. xlviii. 18).
It has been common to confound together, doing the commands of the Lord from love, and doing them from a desire for merit; but they are wide as the poles asunder.
The Lord Himself drew the distinction accurately when He said, And ye when ye have done all those things which are commanded you, say we are unprofitable servants. We have done that which was our duty to do (Luke xvii. 10).
There is no more merit in having works, than there is in having faith, or having love. Every grace we possess is from the Lord. His only should be all the praise.
The Humanity of the Lord is called the Mediator. There is one God, and one Mediator between God and Man, the MAN Christ Jesus. It was impossible for the Divinity, so pure that no man can see His face and live; so pure, that it was a condescension to Him to behold the things that are in heaven, to manifest Himself among men, and live amongst them, and to come into contact even with the powers of darkness, except by means of a Humanity. The Humanity, however, was assumed as a Mediator by the Divinity to work out its purposes of love, to bring back man from the slavery of sin, self, and hell, and be reconciled and conjoined to our merciful Father and His heavenly kingdom. The mistake in the prevalent views has been not in the facts of redemption and mediation, but in regarding them in an inverted order, turning them upside down. There was a reconciliation effected between God and man in redemption, by bringing man to his God again: thus man was reconciled to God; but the common idea is, that it was God who was reconciled to man. There was a Mediator, the Manhood of God manifest, that He might thus reach and save man. The common idea is that the Mediator was to pacify God. The Lord came into the world to restore us to that regenerate state, when it would be our highest delight to do His blessed commandments, and make a heaven upon earth. The common idea is, that he came to make it unnecessary to keep the commandments at all. We go to heaven by believing in what He has done.
Mediation is the law of the universe. All good is ever communicated by mediums. The Divine Love created all worlds and all existences by the Divine Wisdom. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God was the Word. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.
The Word is the Divine Light, Wisdom, Power of God. That was the True Light that enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world. The Divine Will can only bring about its ends by the Divine Thought as the Mediator. Human will can only operate by human thought as mediator. Human thought, again, can only act through speech as mediator. The soul can only act through the body as mediator. All central things act upon other things through mediation. Essences can only act thus through forms.
In the Israelitish dispensation, all its arrangements of priest and tabernacle were mediatorial. The tabernacle, will its three-fold division, was the center of all the blessings of the twelve tribes. The Holy of holies, with the ark, the Mercy Seat, and the cherubs, all of gold, were the mediatorial center of every good to Israel. Thou shalt put the Mercy Seat, said the Lord, above the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee. And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the Mercy Seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment into the children of Israel (Ex. xxv. 21, 22). These were for mediation and for propitiation; not, however, to induce an angry God to be merciful, but that a merciful God might thereby bless the people. We should constantly bear in mind that these arrangements were all directed by the Lord Himself. He desired thus to provide for the safety and well-being of Israel. So in the temple of His body, the living tabernacle in which God was manifest, its mediatorial character was not to induce the Father to be merciful, but the merciful One assumed it that man might be saved. God was in the Humanity to reconcile the world into Himself. The golden array or the Holy of holies, but symbolized the celestial love present in the Humanity from the Father, to win man from his sins and from self, to His all-merciful Parent. There the Lord would meet him, not to be made placable, but that His Love might be visible: not to be propitiated, but to propitiate man by turning him from his evils. There the Lamb of God would take away the sins of the world. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (I John ii. 2).
We must never forget that there was mediation, and that the Humanity of Jesus our Lord was the Mediator; but at the same time ever remember that His mediation was the operation of Infinite Love acting through a Divine Manhood to speak the words of tenderness, to act the deeds of mercy, to evince loves purity, loves patience, loves sorrow, loves perseverance, through opposition, suffering, and death, to rescue fallen man. The Lamb that was slain redeemed us TO GOD by His blood, out of every kindred and tongue, and people and nation (Rev, v. 9).
Intercession is the work of the Divine Love at all times, and it may be regarded in three points of view: as it existed in the bosom of the Lord, as it existed in Divine Humanity, and as it exists in the Spirit of the Lord, inwardly prompting us to ask for such things as are requisite for our happiness, and Divine Mercy, is therefore desirous of bestowing. The intercession of Love in the bosom of the Deity is portrayed to us in the Gospel, in the parable of the unprofitable fig-tree: A certain man had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard, and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he to the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none: cut it down: why cumbereth it the ground. And he answering, said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it, and if it bear fruit, well, and if not, then thou shalt cut it down.
Here the inspection and judgment of truth upon the states of the wicked, is described by the examination of the proprietor of the vineyard, and the proposal to cut down the barren tree, which had remained fruitless for three years. The merciful impulses of the Divine Love are expressed by the entreaty, let it alone this year, also. The Divine Love, in this sense, constantly intercedes, and constantly provides every means possible for human help and restoration. This is done by the Lord, not for the sake of another, but for His own sake. I, even I, am He, the Lord says, that blotteth out thy transgressions FOR MINE OWN SAKE, and will not remember thy sins (Isa. xliii. 26). To this graciousness on the part of the Divine Mercy, all penitents are taught to appeal. If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? but there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared (Ps. cxxx. 3, 4).
Continually, in the Psalms, is the Lord exhibited as doing every act of redemption, salvation, or regeneration for His goodness sake, His mercy’s sake, His loving-kindness sake, His names sake, but never for the sake of another.
In a mothers breast there is always a love that pleads for her erring child, and Infinite Love, as compared to the love of all the mothers since the world began, is an ocean as compared to a drop. Can a mother forget her sucking child, or cease to have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, she may forget, but will I not forget thee (Isa. xlix. 15).
This intercession of the Divine Love, in the all-merciful bosom of our Heavenly Father, provides that no means shall be wanting for the possible salvation of every one of His children. The Truth exposes mans perverse condition, lays open his uselessness, his iniquity, the plagues of his heart, the wickedness of his life, so that Truth alone would always any, Why cumbereth he the ground? In the bosom of the Almighty there is no Truth done. LOVE still pleads, Let him alone this year also. I will dig him about. I will stir up any latent good there is in him. I will remind him of past prayers for him, past hopes, of east resolutions in earlier and better days of the innocence of childhood. I will bring all past experience to his assistance, as well as excite his trust in the future, and if he bear fruit, well. Thus Love pleads, and God is Love, and all the counsels of His wisdom are the counsels of Love. That is the Great Intercessor. That led Jehovah to bow the heavens and come down for our redemption. God so LOVED the world, that He gave His only begotten Son. And just as Love was, in the only Divinity, the Father, so was it in the Divine Humanity. As the Father hath life in Himself so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself Life is Love.
In the assumption of Humanity, and in the operation of the Divine in the Human, the idea we have of it is often too confined. We should remember the wondrous complexity, and arrangement of degrees and faculties of being, of which Humanity consists. The Divine assumed the Human, not as the hand assumes a glove, which latter has no life in it but as the higher degree of mind assumes the lower, giving to it a consciousness of life, existent, as if of itself as the soul assumes the body, giving to it the appearance of distinct and independent consciousness; as life assumes an organ.
Hence in the human powers of the Savior, the Divine was a secret soul, but giving them to feel and to net, to do and to suffer, as of themselves. Love in the Humanity appeared as human love for the Divine will, and mans salvation. Human, with a touch of infinite tenderness, working as of itself, but really from the Divine within. This love of the Redeemer in the Humanity, was at first straitened by the conditions of Humanity assumed by the Lord, but always yearning, always interceding, always pleading in Him, to accomplish the Will of the Father in the salvation of man. As the Lord’s life in the world proceeded, this Love in the Humanity expanded and permeated all its powers more and more, and thus the Divine was glorified in the Human. The Son of Man was glorified, and God was glorified in Him (John xiii. 31).
Now, the intercessory work of Love in the Humanity of the Lord, was the constant yearning, desiring, pleading, longing, agonizing even, that man might be saved, and that thus the Will of the Father, the Divine Love might be done. In the natural degree of a good mans mind there is a constant yearning for purity, for spiritual-mindedness, for deeper, fuller, broader, all-permeating wisdom, love, peace and joy. This yearning is the presence of the spiritual element in the natural, and is the source of all those aspirations, prayers, efforts, abiding purposes, and longings for perfect order, perfect submission to the Divine Will, perfect resting in the Lord, and perfect peace, which every good man feels.
This, in man, is the spiritual in the natural. In the Humanity of the Lord, there was a similar yearning, but a yearning in His case, however, for the salvation of the whole human race. It was the Divine in the Human, inducing the Human to become the exact and full correspondence, or complete image of the Divine.
This desire of love in the Humanity, to be altogether one in purpose, with the Inmost Divine, or the Father, was manifest through the life of the Redeemer. When a boy in the temple, and found there by Joseph and His mother, He said, Wist ye not that I must be about my Fathers business? (Luke ii. 49.)
This originated those prayers to the Father, which most strongly suggest a diversity of persons in the Godhead, to those who have not with equal strength impressed upon themselves the truth of the Unity of person in the Redeemer.
The Humanity had to work out its Glorification as if of itself, though really from the Father, as man in the natural degree of his mind has to work out his regeneration, as if of itself, though really all the power to do so comes from the Lord, through his inward man, or spiritual degree. See the intercessory prayer, John 17. It is a prayer for Glorification, and through such Glorification, for the salvation of men. Glorification was effected when the Divine Love was complete in the Human, so that the whole nature of the Human was to the Divine, like a harp, with music divine, perfectly arising from every string, or as a whole burnt offering unconsumed, but perfectly obsequious to, and perfectly pervaded by, the Fire Divine.
When, in the Humanity, He felt Himself shrinking from the appalling presence of loathsome fiends, who pressed on as the hour of darkest gloom approached in His trials and temptations. Father, glorify Thy name, he said, as a good man Says, O, that I were fully spiritual! O that I were altogether conformed to the image of heaven.
Thus, the Son of Man was glorified, and God was glorified in Him, again and again (John xiii. 32), until that work was completed, and then a full and eternal union was effected in the Redeemer, of Essential Divinity and Glorified Humanity. One Divine self was formed, in which Divinity was Human, Humanity Divine.
This work of Glorification was ever advanced by the desire for Glorification in the Son, and the impartation of it by the Father. The desire for Glorification was the INTERCESSION OF LOVE in the Humanity, not to change the Father and make Him merciful, but to become as the Father, all glowing with AFFECTION INFINITE. Father, glorify thy Son that thy Son may glorify thee (John xvii. 1). As thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given Him. Those who suffered themselves to be attracted by the Divine Love, to come to the Savior and receive His truth, are said to be given by the Father, and He, the glorified Savior, would be thenceforth the channel, the new and Living Way, of eternal life to them.
Eternal life comes from interior conjunction with Eternal Love, the only true God, and that Glorified Humanity by which He has approached His creatures, which is not another, but Himself in a new relation to His erring children (ver. Iii.) He that seeth me, said the Savior, seeth Him that sent me (John xii. 45).
The Son had glorified the Father on earth (ver. 4); had done perfectly the requirements of the Divine Love; had done in all things the Divine will; had shrunk from no humiliation,–from no sorrows–from no suffering which would forward mans salvation; had spared nothing in Himself which was weak or infirm from the mother, and now was prepared for full union with the Fathers own self.
GLORIFY THOU ME WITH THINE OWN SELF; that is, altogether fill me with the FULNESS of thine own infinite love. These desires are from thee, O Father! In thine Infinite bosom they were glorious from eternity–they were glorious in the Godhead. Make them glorious in the Manhood by which thou hast made thyself known in me. Let no infirmity–no weakness, no intrusion of human shrinking from sorrow, from agony however terrible–be with me. Not my will, but thine be done. Let LOVES infinite sacrifice be offered so that thou art glorified in me. Glorify thou me, with thine own self, so that as we were ONE from eternity in first principles, we may be ONE to eternity in last principles, and thou in me, and I in thee–love and Wisdom in eternal embrace–in manhood as in Godhead, may be first and last, for ever. All things worldly have gone from me, but my disciples have still to struggle, still to be saved. Thus they who have been secretly drawn to me by the tender impulses of Thy love, and have received the words of Divine truth from me and kept them, have still to suffer, that their regeneration may be completed. But, I sanctify myself, that they may be sanctified by the TRUTH (ver. 17). Make me altogether one with thee, O Love Infinite I then will every word of mine go with a sun like power, with melting, subduing affection; and all mine will be thine, and thine will be mine, and I shall be glorified in them (ver. 10). Let this highest, closest, most perfect union take place WITH US, in will, in wisdom, in operation, be thou, O Love Divine in me, and I in thee, and so let the bright and holy sphere go forth, softening, illuminating, and transforming, until the Church may be in all things one ill its degree, in us. As we are one infinitely, that they may be one, finitely.
I in them, as their visible God, Thou in me as the invisible Source of all things. Thus may the Church be regenerated and be one in love, faith, hope, and virtue, and through the Church, the world be regenerated, and become one grand family, rejoicing in truth and love. We one in the highest degree; heaven and the Church one in the next degree; the world one in itself, and with the Church in the lowest degree (ver. 23). Thy love, O infinite tenderness, through my wisdom diffusing itself through all; saving, hallowing, and blessing all; circulating through and sustaining all, while I, the central Divine Man, shall be in them and to them–shall be for ever the fountain of peace and joy (ver. 21).
We have thus given a sketch of the intercessory prayer of the Redeemer; and it will be seen that its whole purport is not to appease the wrath of an angry Father, but to bring the Spirit of the Bather down into the manhood, and that the manhood might be fully glorified by being made as the Father, glowing with LOVE, and a source of blessing to mankind, to heaven, and earth. This is the second kind of intercession–the yearning of Divine love in the Humanity for full glorification, that redemption might be finished, and man be saved.
In reference to this second kind of intercession, John says–We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 Ep. i. 1). The term Advocate, is in the original Comforter. And the glorified humanity is called a comforter with the Father, because by its means the Godhead can now fully carry out its saving designs. It is a mercy seat, whence radiates the Holy Spirit to remove sins, to diffuse holiness, to restore a mined world, to plant Paradise afresh, to bring heaven once more upon earth. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the. sins of the whole world (ver. 2). The Glorified Humanity, as the medium by which Omnipotence sustains His Church, and regenerates His servants, is represented as being at the right hand of God, and making intercession for us (Rom. viii. 34).
The third kind of intercession, of which the Scripture speaks, is the secret operation of the Spirit of the Lord Jesus prompting us to ask for blessings, and thus to intercede for us, in us. The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities, for we know not what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us, with groanings that cannot be uttered (Rom. viii. 26).
The Divine Mercy waits to be gracious; nevertheless, man must ask before he receives, must seek before he will find, must knock before it will be opened. If there were no co-operation there would be no regeneration. The Spirit of the Lord then excites us to pray, and suggests the prayer. And in this sense He maketh intercession for us. But, every one will see, that such intercession is not to excite His mercy, or to change Him from wrath to grace, but is the operation of His grace forming in us, those desires and affections, those dispositions and virtues, by which we can be conducted from carnal-mindedness, to perfect purity, and perfect peace. The inner warmth that prompts each beauteous flower to unfold its graceful petals to the sun, and receive fresh streams of brightness and of bounty, was also derived from Him. The life that comes for fresh blessings is itself the gracious proof that it has been blessed before. Every good and every perfect gift cometh down from the Father of Lights, with whom there is no variableness nor shadow of turning (James i. 17).
The sum of all our remarks is, and with this we would leave this important subject, that Atonement, with all its blessings, Reconciliation with all its mercies, Regeneration with all its parities and joys, flow from the unbought Love of the Highest, Himself. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over an His works. We joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom WE HAVE RECEIVED THE ATONEMENT (Rom. v. 11). Here, in the only place in the New Testament, in the English version, where the word Atonement occurs, it is declared we, and not God have received it; and in every other place, where the same word occurs in the original, but is rendered by some form of the idea of reconciliation, it is always He who reconciles, and we who are reconciled. And, having made peace, through the blood of His cross, by Him, to reconcile all things UNTO Himself; by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometimes alienated, and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath HE RECONCILED (Coll. i. 20, 21).
He is the blessed Father, who needs no inducement to be merciful; but while His children are very far off, matches over them with unceasing care, and prompts them to repentance.
And, when the returning prodigal lifts his eyes and hands to heaven, and sighs forth the prayer of penitence, this Father of Mercies has compassion on him, runs and falls upon his neck and kisses him. Bring forth the best robe, He says, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat and be merry, for this My Son was dead and is alive again: he was lost and is found (Luke xv. 22-24).
No one needs suffer to induce Him to be merciful. He is Himself the Fountain of all Mercy, the Author of all Salvation, the Giver of all Peace.
The Savior suffered for us, and was impelled by the Divine Love, meant by the Father, to suffer for us, that He might redeem us, because hell would not give up its prey without the most terrible efforts to bruise, and to destroy the Redeemer. It pleased the Lord (Jehovah) thus to bruise Him, to put Him to grief; that is, it pleased the Divine Love that He should thus endure, for the sake of mans salvation.
Surely, He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. While wicked men and wicked spirits were smiting Him, and he, impelled by love from the Father, was content to receive it, to exhaust the cup of sorrow to the last awful drop, we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. But it was not God, it was men nod devils who opposed, who pained, and who crucified Him. The very first revelation of a Redeemer had said, to the serpent, the personification of self-love and of hell, He shall bruise thy head, and THOU shalt bruise His heel; THOU shalt bruise His heel. When in the midst of the sorrows which were crowned by His death, the Savior said to the Jews, THIS IS YOUR HOUR, AND THE POWER OF DARKNESS (Luke xxii. 53).
He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. All we, like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all, or, as it ought to be rendered, the Lord (Jehovah) hath caused to meet in Him the iniquities of us all (Isa. liii. 6).
In no other way could the iniquities of mankind be but by their assumption in a, humanity, in which all their tendencies could be met and subdued by Power and Purity Divine.
Into the humanity of the Savior, then, these infirmities were taken; God made Him to be (hereditary) sin for us, and then By purifying and glorifying that nature He made it to be the Righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. v. 31).
In stooping to this contact with our fallen nature, who can tell the depth of the Divine Sorrow, in sustaining the assaults of hell, in the Humanity; who can describe the grief of unutterable Purity, the shrinking, the horror which the Savior would feel at the loathsomeness of hell; then, there was the rejection of Him by the men whom He came to save, the betrayal and forsaking of Him by the very disciples who had been His intimate associates, and who were, with the exception of the betrayer, to be the heart and center of the New Church. Yet His love, the Divine Love, in Him, would not spare itself for the sake of the end. He saved others, Himself He could not save.
Through this inexpressible sorrow, there was seen the subjugation of infernal power, the glorification of His Humanity, the redemption of the world, the salvation of the humbly good, and the onward spread of His Kingdom, until a regenerated world would exist once more; the earth full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea, and none should hurt or destroy in all God’s holy mountain (Isa. xi. 10).
For these great ends, it pleased the Lord to bruise Him to put Him to grief (Isa. liii. 10). For these great objects His soul (that is His life) was made an offering for sin, that is an entirely consecrated and glorified offering up of His entire Manhood, to put away sin, and then He saw His seed, He prolonged His days, and the pleasure of the Lord (Jehovah) prospered in His hand. The Manhood bare the sins of many, all removable hereditary sins, indeed, and made intercession for the transgressions (ver. 22), by becoming a NEW AND LIVING WAY (Heb. x. 20), through which Divine Love could come to man, and penitent men, weary and heavy laden, could come to Him, and find rest unto his soul.
One passage there is which has been thought to authorize the idea, that God the Father Himself punished the Savior. Awake, O sword, against my shepherd and against the man, that is my fellow, saith the Lord of Hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered; and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones (Zach. xiii. 7).
The wicked are called the Sword of the Lord (Ps. xvii. 13), because of their evil propensities, and under the Divine Government, they are permitted to be made subservient to the arrest and correction of greater evils than those in which they themselves indulge, and thus are overruled for good. Awake, O Sword, then, meant that Divine permission was given by Infinite Love, that the Savior should be opposed, smitten, crucified, because out of His sufferings would come, life for the world. This, He willingly sustained, and if for a moment there was a mental disposition to shrink from His immediate sorrows, as in the garden of Gethsemane, He exclaimed, Not my will, but thine be done (Luke xxii. 42). The Fathers will was the salvation of the world, at whatever cost of suffering; the Sons will, when shuddering, was conformed to the Fathers.
In all this, the one grand lesson is,–and we wish it should remain with us, sink deeply into our hearts, and rise in grateful confession at all times, God commended His love to us, in that while me were yet sinners Christ died for us.
Oh, there is such an unspeakable spring of consolation in the conviction that God loves us, has Infinite Love for us, that we would wish to implant it in every heart. It gives such a motive to perseverance in the penitent, to courage in the weak, to comfort in the desponding, that we would wish it written in letters of gold in every home; we would inscribe it on every soul,–God your Creator, the Maker of all worlds, loves yen, and became Himself your Redeemer. In His Manhood, He spared not Himself, but lived in sorrow for you, died for you, rose again for you, all from His unsearchable Love!
There was no wrath of one Divine Person punishing another Divine Person in the sorrows of the Redeemer. There was the Divine Manhood, formed by the Father, enduring for you, fighting for you against the powers of darkness, until the temptation became so bitter, and the gloom so intense, even as it is in human temptation in its extremities of woe, that all holy light was gone, and He cried out in agony, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me (Matt. xxvii. 46). This was misery at its deepest depths. He was not, however, forsaken. It was an appearance only. It was the last moment of exhausted wretchedness, and entire devotion, just ere the conflict ended, and by suffering, the Captain of our Salvation was made perfect (Heb. i. 10).
The Father was inwardly sustaining Him, and preparing for that complete glorification by which He would become Lord of the dead and the living, King of kings and Lord of Lord’s. For to this end, Christ both died, and rose, that He might be Lord of the dead and the living (Rom. xiii. 9). Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing (Rev. v. 12).
The Adorable God-Man could now say, All power is given unto Me in heaven and on earth (Matt. xxviii. 18). The government was upon his shoulder. He was seen to be, and His name was now called what prophecy proclaimed it would be, Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.
On God’s part, the work of Atonement, or Reconciliation, was completed when He proclaimed on the Cross, It is finished. On mans part there was required Faith in the Lord his Savior. Faith, that is, trust, confidence, child-like reliance on the truth: And this faith is an all-embracing principle; it is belief in the Lord as HE IS, and belief in what He teaches and commands. Some have strangely misunderstood this glorious principle. They imagine it to be a belief in the fact, that the Lord died for us, a fact certain of itself, but forming only a portion of a true Christian faith. We are saved by faith, through the grace of our Lord, when that faith is heartfelt and child-like; heartfelt in springing from love, and child-like in believing the Lord’s teaching when He says, If thou wouldst enter into life, keep the commandments (Matt. xix. 17). A faith that selects some Divine truths which it will accept, and rejects others, is vitiated by prejudice, and perhaps by pride, and is wanting in the groundwork of an honest, earnest heart; With the heart a man believes unto righteousness (Rom. x. 10). Faith, grounded in earnest love, believes on the Lord Jesus fully, believes that He can conquer every sin in us, and enters with child-like trust on the holy work of keeping His commandments. Faith delights to believe and adore Him as all-sufficient. When the Lord Jesus says, If ye love me, keep my commandments (John xiv. 15); He that hath my commandments and keepth them, he it is that loveth me (ver. 21);
If it man love me, he will keep my words (ver. 23); If ye keep my commandments ye shall abide in my love (John xv. 10); faith looks upwards with trustful gaze, and utters with the earnest one of old, Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief. Through faith, the Holy Spirit of the Lord Jesus forms in the soul those affections, and in the conduct those righteous habits, which constitute the righteousness of God, in man.
The righteousness thus wrought out is imparted gradually to all those who truly believe. They pray in their desire to be made like to their glorious Lord, and as their regeneration proceeds, a heaven of peace and joy is opened within them; a consecrated life makes their light shine before men, who glorify their Father who is in heaven. Thus, their faith working by love (Gal. v. 6), gives them constant victories over themselves, and all their evils, and they are filled with that love of God which makes it easy to keep the, commandments, and they can say with St. John, By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world; and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith (John v. 2-4.).
Author: Jonathan Bayley—Twelve Discourses (1862)