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ture, in order that he might suffer. Phil, Il b'—B. Heb. ii. 9. Great as his sufferings were, yet they were not like those of the damned, sufferings of absolute and hopeless despair. He could look beyond them, when hanging on the cross. He did. He could see the glory and prosperity of his kingdom as the certain result of them. He had a resurrection from the tomb in full view; he anticipated his ascension to the throne of majesty on high, in order to become "head over all things to the Church," and the object of heavenly worship—in order to participate in "the glory which he had with the Father before the world was." However great then his sufferings were, we can hardly conceive of their having been equal in quantity (so to speak) to those which were due to sinners, for whom he suffered.
When I say then that Christ in his sufferings was our substitute, I do not mean that those sufferings were an equivalent of the first kind, for the penalty remitted; or, in other words, that he did actually suffer torments the same in kind and quantity as were due to sinners. But still, it seems to me to be impossible for us to ascertain how great his sufferings really were. The peculiar constitution and the unspeakable dignity of the Saviour's person; the spotless innocence of his character; the agony in the garden which forced his whole frame to sweat as it were great drops of blood; his complaint on the cross that his God had forsaken him; the fact that he expired sooner than those who suffered with him; the commotion of the natural world at the woes which he endured; the heavens shrouded with darkness; the luminary of the skies extinguished; the vail of the most holy place rent, by which Jehovah's presence was concealed; the rocks and tombs bursting asunder; and the mouldering dust of the saints becoming reanimated with life—all, all concur to shew that the scene of suffering was such as the world had never witnessed; and that it is probably not in the power of language to express, nor of our minds to conceive, the extent of the agony which Jesus endured.
That he endured all this as our substitute, or on our account, is what I expect hereafter to prove. At present I would merely ask, Since he did not suffer on account of any guilt of his own, on what ground can they reconcile his sufferings with the justice of God, who hold that he was not a substitute for sinners?
Let me dwell a moment longer on the subject of the Saviour's agony, and observe, that unless the sufferings of Christ be regarded as exceedingly great, and in many respects of a nature altogether peculiar, his demeanour under them is quite irreconcileable with the undaunted constancy and patience and firmness, which he at all other times exhibited. When did he ever before shrink from suffering? When was he ever before appalled by danger? Never. Yet now, in what an agony do we behold him in the garden, at the prospect of crucifixion. What sinking of soul, what unutterable horror, does he exhibit on the cross. Thousands of other sufferers have met death, in all its most
dreadful forms, with far more composure, even when unsupported by the consolations and hopes of religion. Thousands of martyrs, feeble, emaciated, thousands even of the more delicate sex, have been stretched on the rack, or cast into the flames—punishments more dreadful than simple crucifixion— while with a dauntless, nay with a triumphant spirit, they rejoiced in the midst of torments. But here is a sufferer, the only one on earth who ever had a spotless character—filled too with exalted and certain hopes of ultimate triumph and glory—first shrinking with horror from the cup of suffering which he was to drink, and then uttering language of the highest possible agitation and distress upon the cross.
Here now is a difficulty which cannot be solved, on the ground that his death was in any respect like that of a common man. If it indeed were such, must he not be regarded by every one who contemplates his demeanour on the cross, as wanting in calmness and fortitude of soul, when he was so appalled and agitated with sufferings which others have triumphantly endured? Are we not constrained then to regard him as suffering in a degree unparalleled, indescribable, in short not capable of being conceived by us?
What this degree was, the Scriptures have not explicitly declared; nor indeed was such a declaration necessary. Enough, that in his sufferings the awful displeasure of God against sin has been manifested in a most impressive manner. Enough, if God has judged that his sufferings, as our substitute, were carried to such a height, as was by infinite wisdom deemed necessary, in order to promote the best designs of the divine government.
To pursue my explanation; although I cannot consider an equivalent of the first kind as being rendered by the death of Christ, yet I fully believe that one of the second kind was rendered. The object of the penalty affixed to the divine law is not revenge. w God takes no pleasure in the death of him that dieth." The object of all penalty, under every wise and benevolent government, is to put restraint upon offences, to exhibit awful testimony or warning against them, and thus to secure the interests of virtue.
If now virtue be in the best manner promoted, and sin restrained, by the death of Christ and the consequences that necessarily flow from it, then the great object of the divine law and its penalties is promoted in the most effectual manner. Such I suppose to be the fact; but this is not the proper place to establish it I only state so much, therefore, as is necessary to elucidate the meaning which I assign to the language that I have employed. Indeed, I view the great object of the divine law as answered by the death of Christ in a much higher degree, than it could have been by a mere law-administration and literal infliction of the penalty. Must not his death be regarded as a more awful manifestation of divine displeasure against sin, than the execution of the law on sinners themselves? I am forced to view the subject in this light, when I contemplate the infinite dignity of the ISaviour's person, and the spotless purity of his character; and then turn my eye to Gethsemane, and to the scenes of the cross.
I confess myself averse to indulging much in ~ speculation here, as to the how and the why of the , ✓ equivalency in question. My reason is, that the sacred writers do not seem to indulge in any curious speculation on the subject Some things, as presented by them, appear exceedingly plain. When they bring to our view the Word, who was '/ in the beginning with God, and who was God ; who created all things; who is God Over All, and blessed forever; the True God and eternal life; and represent him as becoming incarnate—as taking the form of a servant and becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross; and all this on our account, that we might be redeemed from deserved ruin; they do this to excite our gratitude, our love, our humility, our obedience; and to urge upon us our obligation to devote ourselves, with all we have and are, to the service of him " who loved us, and who gave himself to die for us." They teach us that the gospel presents motives to obedience of a higher nature, and puts restraints upon vice that are more effectual, than a system of law could do. With this we may well be content; for with this they appear to have been satisfied. Where is there any philosophizing, any refined speculation in their writings, about the manner in which equivalency or satisfaction is or can be made out? Can we not acquiesce in the subject,'just as