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be made the righteousness of God in him :" he is spoken of as “the just," in opposition to the whole race of mankind, who are denominated" the unjust ;” and his perfect purity is strongly marked when it is affirmed, that we are “ redeemed not with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." Still further : the Apostle Paul, when treating of the priesthood of our Redeemer, speaks of him as “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners;" and contrasts him with the Jewish High Priests, who needed daily to offer sacrifice, first for their own sins, and then for those of the people.
But while the humanity of our Lord was thus perfectly free from corruption, he was in all other respects made like unto us. He submitted to a state of the greatest lowliness and humiliation; he “ emptied himself, taking upon him the form of a servant ;" he became a sharer of our weakness, our temptations, and our sufferings ; until in death he completed the work of atonement, and soon rose from the dead, to enter upon a state of mediatorial exaltation and glory. Thus, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, St. Paul, having dwelt on the eternal Deity of Jesus Christ as the Son, goes on to speak of him as allying himself to our tempted, and suffering, and dying race; and as condescending to own as his brethren all who believe in him, and are conformed to his moral image : “For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.—Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their life-time subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.”
The second great event which the text brings before us, as involved in the plan of our redemption, is, the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ. . “God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin,” (or, “as a sacrifice for sin,”) “ condemned sin in the flesh.” It was not enough that the Son of God should assume our nature, and dwell for a while among men, sympathizing with our woes, and enduring the temptations and sufferings which are common to humanity: it was requisite, also, that, as our substitute, he should pass through scenes of the lowest humiliation and shame ; that he should experience an inward agony, into the depth of which no finite mind can penetrate; and that he should, in death, bear our iniquities.
We are taught to regard such a method of redeeming man, as in the highest degree worthy of the character and universal government of the Most High. “ For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” It was of the utmost moment, that the peculiar economy introduced for the pardon and salvation of our guilty race should be such as to convey, to the whole universe of intelligent beings, just conceptions of the character of God; and that it should uphold, and preserve in full and efficient exercise, all the principles of his general moral government. These objects are secured by the atonement; and thus the death of Christ is ever represented as that through which the covenant of grace and peace is established, and as the only medium of access to the throne of Deity. Our Lord himself has instructed us in the doctrine of his sacrificial death, and has affirmed its absolute necessity : Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” “ Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem."
“ This cup
is of the new covenant, which is shed for many, for the remission of sins." The Apostles of the Saviour, with one voice, direct us to his cross, as that by which he effected our redemption. They proclaiin “ Christ crucified” as the grand theme of their ministry; they affirm that “Christ hath once suffered for sin, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God;" and they teach all who have received the Saviour to unite in the song of praise, -—“Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us Kings and Priests unto God and his Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever.”
By this peculiar interposition of the Son, and especially by his sacrificial death, God has “condemned sin in the flesh.” One idea which this declaration may be considered to include is, that the Most High has thus shown, in the clearest and most affecting manner, the essential vileness of sin, its offensiveness to himself, and its utter opposition to the welfare of his rational creatures. He has stamped upon it the deepest mark of his displeasure ; and has thus added a sacred dignity to the precepts of the moral law. The scenes of Gethsemane and Calvary, where the Son, clothed in our nature, agonized and died, show, even more clearly than the thunders of Sinai, the deformity of sin, and the hatred with which it is regarded by Almighty God. That man who can derive from the doctrine of the atonement the slightest encouragement to sin, awfully abuses and perverts it. He has never beheld the cross in its true light, or felt its proper influence upon
But the statement of St. Paul seems chiefly to refer to that deliver
ance from sin which God has provided for us, by thus sending his own Son in our nature, that he might become our substitute and sacrifice. He has “condemned sin in the flesh,” inasmuch as he has adjudged it to be overthrown and destroyed. The inward dominion of sin, which the law of itself could not break down and remove, may now be utterly abolished. Under the economy of redemption, the way to the mercy-seat is thrown open to man ; the offer of salvation through faith in the blood of Christ is authoritatively made to him ; and the grace of the Spirit is imparted, first, to awaken reflection, and call forth emotions of penitence, then to lead him onward to a living faith in the Redeemer, filling his heart with peace, and purity, and love. Thus is the reign of sin subverted, and man is morally restored. The assurance of personal acceptance raises his mind to God with the ardour of grateful love; he possesses power to resist and overcome every evil suggestion ; and the Holy Ghost, as the Comforter and the Sanctifier, dwells within him, to inspire devout and benevolent affections, to succour him in the season of temptation and conflict, to sustain and deepen his piety, to purify him from all remaining corruption, and to bring every Christian grace to a state of heavenly maturity. Those aspirations after holiness and spiritual freedom which were breathed forth in vain before he was led to the cross, are now realized and satisfied. No longer does he exclaim,“ Wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?” but with humble triumph he declares, “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death."
III. We have to consider, in the third place, the great design of the mediatorial economy,--to restore us to personal holiness, and to enable us to yield a spiritual and constant obedience to the divine precepts. “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
The phrase, “ the righteousness of the law,” is here to be understood as signifying the requirements, the righteous precepts, of the law. It occurs in Rom. ii. 26 : “ Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law ?" The original word, which is here translated “righteousness,” is found in several other passages with the meaning now assigned to it; so that we may safely adopt this method of interpretation, consistent as it is with the general train of thought which pervades this passage.
Thus the clause before us inculcates the great principle, that the present economy of grace is designed to re-establish the dominion of the divine law in our hearts, and to lead us to a practical observance of its holy precepts. This principle should ever be distinctly recognised, and it should exert a powerful influence on our disposition and conduct. The plan of our redemption is not intended to set us free from the obligation of the law, or even to allow us to treat its
precepts with indifference, and afterward rise to the peace and joy of heaven: it is intended, rather, to open to us the way of reconciliation and life, that we, becoming the subjects of new spiritual affections, may devote ourselves to God, and serve him with all the constancy of filial reverence, submission, and love. While the ground of our acceptance is still the exercise of faith in the atonement of the Lord Jesus; and all the blessings which we receive are to be referred to the grace of God, as manifested through the incarnate and suffering Son; we are yet called to holiness, as that which the Saviour appeared on earth to establish in the hearts of his people, and which only can prepare us to take our place in the society above, where all is pure, benevolent, and perfect. The profession of faith in Christ, then, while the heart continues under the power of some cherished sin, or while the life is distinguished by open acts of transgression, is an insult to the Redeemer. “ He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” The great promise of that covenant, under which his dying love has placed us, assigns a marked prominence to our personal sanctification. The people of Christ are even to reflect his own excellencies in their deportment and conduct; and are thus to show forth the power of that
grace which flows to man through the atonement: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a boly nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”
The language of St. Paul, in that portion of the text which we are now considering, distinctly marks the agency of the Holy Spirit in the production. of gracious affections; and it marks, also, the practical character of that holiness to which we are called : “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” These two particulars must ever be borne in mind, if we would form a right estimate of the provisions, and the design, of the economy of grace. The purity which Christ bestows on his people is a living and active purity. The heart is itself renewed, and made the temple of the Holy Ghost. A new creation is effected within it; and new principles, desires, and tendencies are implanted by Him whose power is diffused throughout the universe, and who is to be adored as the Source of every excellence. But, then, this new creation shines forth to the view of others in that rectitude and benevolence, blended with humble and intelligent devotion, which mark the character and conduct of the regenerate man. We are to “ walk after the Spirit,” regulating all our conduct by the pure and spiritual maxims of divine truth, and developing all those holy affections which the Spirit has implanted in our hearts. Christianity knows nothing of a holiness that does not extend to our deportment and conduct. While it frowns upon a cold and lifeless morality,-a morality which seems to imply that God has no claim on the warmth of our affections, and the devotion of our hearts,-it equally frowns upon that form of
character which substitutes temporary and indefinite emotion, for deep and settled principles of piety and rectitude. That knowledge of God which elevates and purifies the understanding, and that filial love to him which gives repose to the heart, and prepares man for the associations of a better world, will be invariably manifested in practical obedience to the divine will. “Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.”
The restoration of man to holiness, is the great design of the plan of redemption. While the law is upheld and honoured by the incarnation and sacrificial death of the Son of God, provision is made for the re-establishment of its dominion over the human heart. And here is the glory of redemption. The Antinomian scheme essentially alters the character of the evangelical economy, and robs it of all its dignity and excellence. If it were the design of the Christian redemption to exempt individuals from the punishment of sin, and to confer on them the high privilege of the divine friendship, while under the tyranny of unholy principles, and their lives were stained with transgression, it would fail to show forth the divine purity, and would even draw a cloud over the essential righteousness of the divine administration. But when we keep in view the great principle which the text affirms, we perceive the moral dignity and beauty of the dispensation of grace. It is, indeed, a peculiar economy, involving the deepest mysteries of condescension and mercy; but harmonizing with the principles of God's universal government, and being directed to the same great results. The plan of redemption, originated in the ineffable love and purity of the Triune Jehovah, and accomplished by the incarnation and the sufferings of the Son, throws a sacred lustre around the precepts of the law, and teaches lessons of richest wisdom to the angelic hosts, while it provides for the rescue of man from his captivity to sin, and his re-union with the whole family of pure and happy beings.
And now, my brethren, in conclusion, suffer me to urge on you the important truth, that you can never be happy, except by having your hearts brought into a conformity to the divine will. The various precepts of that law were dictated by the essential benevolence of God, as well as by his love of moral rectitude ; and which, under every dispensation of religion, preserves the same high and glorious character,it is “holy, and just, and good." In vain do you attempt to compose your minds to abiding tranquillity, or to fill them with lively satisfaction and joy, if you are still at a distance from God, destitute of his friendship, and hostile to his government. Those earthly pleasures which are generally sought with the greatest avidity,-could you even command them in all their variety and fulness, and could you ward off those sufferings which render all earthly pleasure distasteful, would not meet the wants of your immortal spirits, or give you peace and satisfaction. You may expend your energies in the pursuit of worldly gratifications, and retire at length, regretting the fruitlessness of that