The life of those who dwell in the secret place of the Most High may be called a Hidden Life, because the animating principle, the vital or operative element, is not so much in itself as in another. It is a life grafted into another life. It is the life of the soul, incorporated into the life of Christ; and in such a way, that, while it has a distinct vitality, it has so very much in the sense, in which the branch of a tree may be said to have a distinct vitality from the root.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Need of Atonement

Sin, under a perfectly just administration, can never be forgiven without an atonement. Mercy fails to be truly and beneficially exercised, when it fails, at the time of its exercise, to yield its homage to what is right. Hence the necessity of a mediator. We are taught, in many passages of Scripture, that Christ came into the world, that he was born, and died, in order that man's sins might be forgiven, and that God, in connection with forgiveness, might recreate the principle of faith, and restore him to sonship. "Behold the Lamb of God," said John the Baptist, "which taketh away the sin of the world." "Christ," says the apostle Paul, in the Epistle to the Galatians, "hath redeemed us from the curse of the law." And again he says, in the same Epistle: —"When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them  that  were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." "Christ," says the apostle Peter, "also suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow his steps, who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live to righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed." Isaiah, in one of the many prophecies which are understood to have relation to the Saviour, says, "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows." And again, "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." The word of God, whether we consult its history or its poetry, its prophecies or its precepts, is full of this great truth. So that the apostle Peter, when "filled with the Holy Ghost," had good reason to say to the rulers of the people and the elders of Israel, — "This is the stone, which is set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved."

The doctrine of the atonement seems to have a philosophical, as well as a religious foundation; that is to say, it will be found to be sustained not only by many passages of Scripture, but by sound philosophical inquiry. The conceptions of right and wrong, of merit and demerit, of reward and punishment, and of the necessary and fixed relations among them, are elementary in the human mind; — not so much the results of reasoning as connatural and necessary; and are common to all men. The human mind has never separated, and never can separate, the relations of merit and reward, of demerit and punishment.  It is not more true that there is an universal conviction, than it is that there is an universal law represented in that conviction, that virtue is and must be followed by happiness, and that crime is and must be followed by misery. And it is a conviction not less universal, that God, as the administrator of the universe, and as the administrator and sustainer of the truth and the right, cannot and does not allow these important relations to be violated. It is not possible, under a perfectly holy administration, for the wrong-doer to escape punishment, and to be forgiven, except by means of an atonement.

Such, at least, on a thorough inquiry, will be found to be the general feeling of mankind. Feelings represent principles. And they do so because they spring from them.  If man feels his need of some mediatorial agency in order to become reconciled to God, it is because he is secretly convinced, although he may be unable to analyze that conviction, of its moral necessity. It would be well for men who are given to philosophical inquiries, to turn their attention to this point. They cannot do it with any care, without seeing how widely spread is the sense of sin, and how deeply men, in all ages, have felt, not only the need of reconciliation, but the need of some mediatorial power.

It is for this reason, that, in all nations, and in all ages of the world, offerings have been made, and burning altars have been kindled. It was necessary, as it seemed to men, that the offended Deity, under whatever form or name he might be believed in, should be propitiated. They did not then know, that the benevolence of God could be exhibited in connection with his justice; that God himself, in the person of his Son, would be the sinner's offering; and that the fires of human altars would be quenched in the blood of the incarnate Immanuel.

The atonement being made, God appeared once more as the restorer and new creator of the violated and lost sonship. Angels proclaimed the message. To all the world it was announced, "Peace on earth; good will to men." As many as were of a broken heart returned, and God gave them power to believe. Beaten by the world's tempests, disappointed and ruined in all their worldly expectations, they ceased to have hope in the finite, and turned their weeping eye to the Infinite. They found God by having faith in God, when they lost themselves by ceasing to have faith in themselves. Their necessity became the mother of their faith. In their sorrows they turned to him, who alone could give hope. The golden link, which had united the Father and his children in the garden of Eden, was readjusted, and they became one.

A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 2, Chapter 3.

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