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viour's exaltation, manifested in his resurrection, his ascension, his intercessorial dignity in heaven, and his appointment to be the judge of all mankind at the final consummation, evinces that “he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” In this branch of the evangelical economy, there is an astonishing adaptation to the present condition of human nature, and the strongest tendency to produce the most admirable moral results. To me it has always been matter of surprise that the doctrine of the atonement should ever have been so obstinately contested by those, in particular, who pretend to be the most rational Christians. I have, under the head of Christian doctrines, stated my view of that subject; and it is unnecessary here to repeat what I have formerly said. I shall just observe, that all revealed religion is designed for the benefit of man, and must be adapted to his circumstances. That man is a guilty and fallen creature, cannot rationally be denied. Whatever religion has existed in the world, bears the strongest testimony to this truth by the modes of expiation of sin which have been devised ; and one principal part of human misery has consisted in the terrors of divine vengeance for real transgressions, and even for those ima
a Heb. vii. 25.
ginary ones, which sprang from the consciousness of these. How much the temporal happiness of mankind, both in their individual and social and civil capacity, was affected by the superstitious and absurd modes of appeasing the Deity, prevalent in the heathen world, is evident from the history of all heathen nations. These have ever been subject to the dominion of ignorant, yet crafty priests, whose interest it was to increase the alarms for which they pretended to afford effectual remedies; and, in order to retain the people in this miserable subjection, they prompted them to perform, as acts of religious service, deeds which increased tenfold the guilt proceeding from the general corruption of human nature. They thus deeply aggravated that depravity which true religion is designed to correct.
By the sufferings and death of Christ, “ in whom dwelt the fulness of the Godhead bodily,'': a solemn and heart-soothing pledge is given, that no further sacrifice for sin is necessary ; that repentance will be admitted ; that nothing more is required on the part of man, than the ready acceptance of this mode of dispensing pardon; and, in a reliance on the assistance promised, assiduous endeavours“ to bring forth fruits meet for repentance.
The pangs of
a Col. ii. 9.
b Heb. x. 26.
c Matt. iii. 8.
The terrors of conscience are mitigated. All doubts with regard to future security are removed. The awful majesty of omnipotence is tempered by the mercy of infinite goodness condescending to establish remission on a basis which reconciles its endearing exertions, in behalf of offenders, with the maintenance of those laws of justice and rectitude on which depends the happiness of the whole moral creation.
By the voluntary corruption of man, by the abuse of freedom of will—a freedoin characteristical of the rational and moral nature-disorder has been introduced into the whole intellectual and moral system, by which beings of a nature superior to that of man might be affected ; and, if absolute and unconditional impunity had been bestowed, the contagion of vice might, as far as we know, have spread to the most remote extent of the rational world. Reason leads us to suppose, and revelation confirms the supposition, that there are orders of being greatly exalted above the human species. “ The angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, God reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day." This instance of divine severity was un
a Jude 6. 2 Pet. ii. 4.
doubtedly founded on the strongest reasons. The higher were the faculties bestowed on the reprobate angels, the greater was their guilt, and the more pernicious their example to other intelligent beings. Besides, when such exalted powers had been perverted and abused, it was perhaps morally impossible to renew them, and, as a preliminary step, to bring the criminals to a due sense of their guilt and consequent misery. The case was different with the human race, the lowest order of the intellectual creation, as far at least as our observation extends. The comparative inferiority of their station in the scale of rational existence seems to have marked them as fit objects of divine clemency, and as a proper contrast to those objects of severity, “whom God spared not, but cast down into hell, and delivered into chains of darkness, tọ be reserved unto judgment.” Here I may be permitted to use the language of the apostle Paul, though applied to another subject. “Behold the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity ; but towards thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness; otherwise thou shalt also be cut off.” But it seems, at the same time, to have been necessary that this mercy should not be dispensed to mankind, without such mode of propitiation as was sufficient to im
a 2 Pet. ii. 4.
b Rom. xi. 22,
press not only those who were the objects of it, but also every other class and order of intelligent beings to whom this scheme might be revealed, with a deep sense of the demerit of disa obedience to God, and of the indispensable necessity of a speedy return to compliance with all the laws of moral rectitude. The moral renovation of a considerable proportion of the human race must exhibit the most admirable display both of infinite goodness and of infinite power. But such knowledge, extending to the different parts of the divine administration, is, after all, “ too wonderful for us; it is high, we cannot attain unto it." A Christian is too modest to state his own speculations as the dictates of unerring wisdom. Deists only have the presumption to fix their own opinions as rules for the divine government. But whatever be the full and comprehensive extent of the clemency of God manifested towards man, according to the gospel scheme, it is at any rate certain that it directly “ leadeth him to repentance, pentance to amendment, and amendment to an increasing progress in all virtue.
II. If the assurance of the pardon of sin, established by the gospel on the firmest foundation, thus leads to the renovation and improvement of our moral nature, it is evident that this grand
99b and re
a Psalm cxxxix. 6.
b Rom. ii. 4.