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would have been under the final punishment of their sin. To be obnoxious to natural death is not meant, because whatever the death is, they are to be delivered from it by Christ's death; but all die a natural death. Though spiritual death may be implied, yet it is not chiefly intended. Legal death, or a state of guilt is unquestionably meant; for the death of Christ is plainly for the purpose of delivering them from it. If he died only a natural death it could avail them nothing: he could not die a spiritual death. They were under a death of law-condemnation. He took the sentence upon himself, and died legally in their place, and secured their life. If any should rather think that spiritual death is meant, it is proper to remind them that they remain in this condition, as the punishment of sin, and that unless legal death is removed by Christ's as their surety, spiritual death will remain. This death of law.condemnation is described at large Rom. v. 15-18.
To the same purpose does the Apostle reason in his epistle to the Romans.“ In due time Christ died for the ungodly.” “ While we were yet sinners, Christ died. for us." Chap. v. 6, 8. “ Dying for us” cannot here mean merely for our good, though this will unquestionably follow. We are represented as “ without strength.” This cannot be corporeal weakness, but debility of soul. It cannot admit of a doubt, that Christ is here introduced as dying to accomplish something for us, which, on account of this weakness, we could not do for ourselves. We are also “ ungodly,” our hearts full of enmity against God, and our lives impious. We are, sinners too, heinous transgressors of the divine law. This being a true portrait of our character, we are weak indeed: we can make no atonement for
God by hence in the We might
our sins, nor can we render any obedience to the law to secure the divine favour. “ Our carnal minds are enmity against God, are not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” “We are enemies" ver. 10. If Christ died only to confirm his doctrine, preach the gospel of the kingdom, and set us an example, he could not do us any advantage by it, as we are incapable of copying his example, and can only treat his gospel with contempt. Christ's death must then have been in our stead, to remove our guilt and procure that grace by which we might obtain strength to serve God. Hence in the context. we are “reconciled to God by the death of his Son justified by his blood, and saved from wrath through him.” But by the aid of a comparison introduced for illustrating the subject, we get easily at the mind of the Apostle. “ Scarcely for a righteous man will one die ;. yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.”'. He makes the supposition that were a wise, generous, benevolent, and public-spirited man to be condemned, one who regarded the public interest might offer himself to die in his stead, to save
his life. But we were all condemned as guilty and mungodly, and Christ died for us to effectuate our des liverance. The cases are exactly parallel.
The Apostle Peter also confirms this truth. “ Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” 1 Pet. iii. 18. When Christ is said to suffer, or die for sins, it does not mean substitution in the place of sin, as Socinians ludicrously ask; and we might ask in our turn, if he died for the good of sin, as they would have the word always understood. He dies for sin as a sacrifice, and for sinners, as a surety. Those for whom Christ died are at a distance from God, hariag no interest in his
favour, unjust, or unrighteous; or as the prophet denominates them, “ far from righteousness." Christ by his death “ brought in an everlasting righteousness," which he puts upon the guilty sinner and brings him unto God. Many other places of the same import might be mentioned, some of which may fall in our way after, but these shall suffice at present.
4. In his sufferings, Christ is represented as being made sin, and as bearing sin; expressions which can. not admit of any other sense but that of proper punishment.
Jesus was not made sin by the infusion of any corrupt principles into his soul; for he was “ holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." He was not made sin by being seduced to commit it. This would have prevented him from becoming “the Lord our righteousness.” Nor can it mean that he was treated as a sinner, though perfectly innocent. Abraham certainly formed a just view of the character of Jehovah, when expostulating with him about the cities of the plain : “ That be far from thee to do after this mano ner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee. Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?" If Jesus was under no charge of moral guilt, when he suffered, God acted in direct opposition to this character. The only sense remaining in which he could be made sin is legally and penally. This is the Scripture view of it. 2 Cor. v. 21. “ For he hath made him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us.” This was the work of God, who could not treat him as a sinner, if under no charge of guilt. The sense in which he was made sin is plain from the context. 6 God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their tres.
passes unto them.” ver. 19. The non-imputation of sin to them is owing to God being in Christ, and imputing it to him, or making him sin. On this footing he beseeches them to be reconciled to God. But more than imputation is implied here, for reconciliation is made, which never was done by imputation, but by sacrificing. This is farther evident from the other part of the contrast, “ That we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” “ He became the end of the
law for righteousness,” by his death ; and by union to · him his righteousness becomes ours, and consequently
is imputed to us. The prophet uses language nearly to the same purpose, Isaiah liii. 10; “When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed,” &c. The same word is used to express both the sin and the punishment of it, and may be here rendered guilt.* “ When thou shalt make his soul guilt."
* VERY different modes of thinking have obtained, concerning the impus tation of sin; what is meant by Christ's bearing it; and in what sense the. word sin ought to be understood, in these expressions.
To impute is used in various senses. We are concerned, at present, only with that legal sense in which it is applied to men and to Christ; in which instances it is always an act of God. Some consider it as constitutive of a person's state, or making him either guilty or righteous. By this act they consider all mankind as made guilty of Adam's first sin; Christ made guil. ty by the sins of the elect; and the elect made righteous in him. It never has any such meaning when applied to God; but always signifies, legally to sustain or account a person as righteous or guilty according to the state in which he exists, or the footing on which he stands. All men are guilty in Adam by virtue of the federal union between them. God, therefore, accounts them guilty. It is not, then, God's imputing act that makes them guilty, but that act by which he constituted Adam their moral head. This imputing act holds them to be in a guilty state and liable to punishment. Agreeably to this view the word translated impute and account often occurs. 66 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” Rom. iv. 8. The obvious meaning of the word here, is, to pardon, or cease to hold the person guilty and liable to be punished; as is evident from ver. 6. Not imputing their trespasses.” 2 Cor. v. 19. Adual sins, as well as original sin,
Punishment necessarily follows guilt. That it did so in the case of Jesus is evident from the whole of the following context.
are implied. To those, whom God does not pardon in Christ, he imputes their own sins, as well as original sin. He does so because they are transgressors. When Paul made his defence before Cæsar, all his companions deserted him, which was sinful. But says he, “I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge,” i. e. imputed. 2 Tim. iv. 16. Their own act made them guilty, and he prayed that God might not bold them so. When Paul wrote Philemon about Onesimus, he said, “ If he oweth thee ought, put that on mine account.” Phile. 18. Paul became liable by his own act, and told Philemon to impute it to him. God's imputing act does not put the believer in possession of Christ's righteousness; this is done when the believer unites himself to Christ by faith; but God's act follows faith, accounting and sustaining him as actually interested in that righteousness. It is the uniform language of Scripture, that God, immediately on a person's believing, accounts him righteous, or imputes righteousness to him. “ Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” Rom. iv. 3. That he was in actual possession of that righteousness before it was imputed, and that the same thing holds true in all his believing seed, is evident from ver. 10, 20, 21, 22, 24. God cannot account a person guilty, unless he is guilty; nor account him righteous, unless he is righteous; for his judg. ment is always according to truth. Christ became guilty in the room of his people, in virtue of that engagement by which he became the surety-head of the elec. He could not however be formally and legally guilty until he actually possessed that nature on which the law could lay hold. So soon as he was made of a woman, he was made under the law. Gal. iv. 2. The law laid hold of his human nature, demanded the obedience of all its faculties, and and its subjection to the curse. God then imputed sin to him, or accounted him guilty, and liable to be punished, and proceeded, accordingly, to punish him. “ Sin is not imputed where there is no law.” Rom. v. 13. The moral law was given to man; and was broken by him. It is according to it that sin is imputed. But sin can be imputed to none who are not under that law, and guilty according to the tenor of it. Christ, then, could not be held guilty by that law until he was under it; but he could not be under it till he had that nature to which the law was given, and by which it was broken. All this must take place ere God can impute sin to him. To impute sin is not, in words, applied to Christ in Scripture: the truth contained in them is, however, denionstrable. “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” 2 Cor. v. 19. God reconciles the sinner to himself by the non-imputation of his sin: but he did it in Christ by the imputation of sin to him, and receiving satisfaction from him.