« AnteriorContinuar »
ON THE FEAR OF DEATH,
Heb. ii. 14, 15.
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, be
also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy bim that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who, through the fear of death, were all their life time subject to bondage.
N discoursing from these words, we observed,
that death is rendered formidable to man, by a threefold consideration, and that three considerations of an opposite nature strip him of all his terrors, in the eye of the believer in Christ Jesus. Death is formidable, 1. Because of the veil which conceals, from the eyes of the dying person, that state on which he is about to enter: 2. From remorse of conscience, which the recollection of past guilt excites: 3. From the loss of titles, honors, and all other earthly possessions.
In opposition to these, the death of Christ, 1. removes the veil which conceals futurity, and constitutes an authentic proof of the immortality of
the soul : 2. It is a sacrifice presented to divine justice for the remission of sin: 3. It gives us.complete assurance of a blessed eternity. These are the considerations which disarm death of his terror, to the dying believer.
We have finished what was proposed on the first particular, and have shewn, ļ. That the doctrine of Jesus Christ fully establishes the soul's immortality: and 2. That the death of Jesus Christ is an irresistible proof of the truth of his doctrine.
But to no purpose would it be to fortify the mind against the apprehension of ceasing to exist, unless we are delivered from the terror of being for ever miserable. In vain is it to have demonstrated that our souls are immortal, if we are baunted with the well-grounded apprehension of their falling into the hands of that God, who is a consuming fire. In this case, what constitutes a man's greatness, would constitute his misery. Let us endeavor,
II. In the second place, to dissipate the dreadful apprehension which a guilty conscience awakens, in the prospect of judgment to come. Having considered Jesus Christ as a martyr, who sealed with his own blood the doctrine which he preached, and his death as an argument in support of the immortality of the soul, taught in that doctrine: let us contemplate our divine Saviour as a victim, which God has substituted in our place, and his death as a sacrifice offered up to divine justice, for the expiation of our offences.
One of the principal dangers to be avoided in controversies, and particularly in that which we are going to handle, is to imagine that all arguments are of equal force. Extreme care must be taken to assign to each its true limits, and to say, this argument proves thus far, that goes so much farther,
We must thus advance step by step up to truth, and form, of those arguments united, a demonstration so much the more satisfactory, in proportion as we have granted to those who dispute it, all that they could in reason ask. On this principle, we divide our arguments into two classes. The first, we propose only as presumptions in favor of the doctrine of the satisfaction. "To the second we ascribe the solidity and weight of demonstration. Of the first class are the following.
1. We allege human reason as a presumptive argument in support of the doctrine which we maintain. We do not mean to affirm, that human reason derives from the stores of her own illumination, the truth of this doctrine. So far from that, we confidently affirm, that this is one of the mysteries which are infinitely beyond the reach of human understanding. It is one of the things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neilher have entered into the heart of man, 1 Cor. ii. 9. But we say that this mystery presents nothing that shocks human reason, or that implies a shadow of contradiction. What do we believe? That God has united the human nature to the divine, in the person of Jesus Christ, in a manner somewhat resembling that in which he has united the body to the soul, in the person of man. We say that this composition, (pardon the expression) this composition of humanity and of deity, suffered in what was human of it; and that what was divine gave value to the sufferings of the man, somewhat after the manner in which we put respect on a human body, not as a material substance, but as united to an intelligent soul.
These are the terms in which we propose our mystery. And there is nothing in this which involves a contradiction. If we had said that the dis
vinity and humanity were confounded or common; if we had said that the deity, who is impassible, suffered; if we had said that Jesus Christ as God, made satisfaction to Jesus Christ as God, reason might have justly reclaimed ; but we say that Jesus Christ suffered as man ; we say that the two natures in his person were distinct; we say that Jesus Christ, suffering as man, made satisfaction to God, maintaining the rights of deity. This is the first step we advance in his career. Our first argument we carry thus far, and no farther.
2. Our second argument is taken from the divine justice. We say, that the idea which we have of the divine justice, presents nothing inconsistent with the doctrine we are endeavoring to establish, but, on the contrary, leads us directly to adopt it. The divine justice would be in opposition to our doctrine, did we affirm that the innocent Jesus suffered as an innocent person ; but we say that he suffered, as loaded with the guilt of the whole human race. The divine justice would be in opposition to our doctrine, did we affirm that Jesus Christ had the iniquity of us all laid upon him, whether he would or not; but we say that he took this heavy load upon him voluntarily.
The divine justice would be in opposition to our doctrine, did we affirm that Jesus Christ took on himself the load of human guilt, to encourage men in the practice of sin ; but we say, that he acted thus, in the view of sanctifying them, by procuring their pardon. The divine justice would be in opposition to our doctrine, did we affirm that Jesus Christ, in assuming the load of our guilt, sunk under the weight of it, so that the universe, for the sake of a few guilty wretches, was deprived of the most distinguished being that could possibly exist ; but we say, that Jesus Christ, in dying for us, came off victorious
over death and the grave. The divine justice, therefore, presents nothing inconsistent with the doctrine of the satisfaction.
But we go much farther, and affirm, that the idea of divine justice leads directly to the doctrine. The atonement corresponds to the demands of justice. We shall not here presume to determine the question, Whether it is possible for God, consistently with his perfections, to pardon sin without exacting a satisfaction. Whatever advantage we might have over those who deny our thesis, we shall not press it on the present occasiun. But, in any case, they must be disposed to make this concession : That if the wisdom of God has devised the means of obtaining a signal satisfaction to justice, in unison with the most illustrious display of goodness; if he can give to the universe an equivocal proof of his abhorrence of sin, in the very act of pardoning the sinner ; if there be a method to keep offenders in awe, even while mercy is extended to them, it must undoubtedly be more proper to employ such a method than to omit it. This is the second step we advance toward our conclusion. Our second argument we carry thus far, and no farther.
3. Our third consideration is taken from the suggestions of conscience, and from the practice of all nations. Look at the most polished, and the must barbarous tribes of the human race; at nations the most idolatrous, and at those which have discovered the purest ideas on the subject of religion. Consult authors of the remotest antiquity, and authors the most recent : transport yourself to the ancient Egyptians, to the Phenicians, to the Gauls, to the Carthaginians, and you will find that, in all ages, and in every part of the globe, men have expressed a belief that the deity expected sacrifices should be offered up to him; nay, not only sacrifices, but