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motives to keep the law. Thus he magnified the law, that is, greatened the impression of its immutable worth and necessity in the minds of all. If the law of God cannot be relaxed when his own Son is bearing its penalty, it can never be relaxed. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but this holy, beneficent law shall not pass away.
So in regard to the evil of sin, it never seems such a dreadful thing, it never seems so shocking, vile and odious as when we contemplate the sufferings which it cost the Lord Jesus Christ to atone for it.
We may go even further than this, and say that the divine government is stronger because of the sufferings and death of · Christ in place of the sinner. By his suffering in the sinner's stead, an impression, an abiding, overwhelming impression is made on all moral creatures throughout the universe, that the Law-giver is inflexibly just; that sin is an unspeakable evil ; that the law can not be set aside ; that its penalty can not be relaxed. This impression is all the more deeply made, because it is seen that the atonement involves, and expresses not only the justice, but the love of God. Here mercy and truth are met together.” The divine government is strengthened rather than weakened by this penal suffering and death of Christ. You remember the king who made a law the penalty of which was the loss of both his eyes to the transgressor. His own son was the first to offend. He ordered the son to be deprived of one eye, and was himself deprived of one. Here was the sovereign and the father in the same transaction, and though the literal penalty of the law was not paid, which would have been the two eyes of the offending son, yet doubtless a deeper impression was made as to the justice of the father, and the value of the law, and the certainty of its execution, than if the paternal heart had not thus appeared. Certainly the infliction of the penalty upon his son, even though he shared it with him, must have made a far deeper impression upon the whole kingdom, than the punishment of any number of unknown culprits could have done.
So in the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ. A far more striking impression is made as to the immeasurable value and sacredness of the law, and the certainty of its execution, than
would be made by the punishment of any number of the lost. At the first glance there is something very arresting in the fact that Jesus Christ is an innocent person. The guilty suffer and no man takes any notice of it. That is natural. The guilty are expected to suffer. But Christ is immaculate, perfect. And yet his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men, that
many are astonished at the sight.
Moreover, he is the Son of God, not the inferior and so one of many, but the equal, or as Zechariah says, the man that is fellow with the Almighty, and the Shepherd against whom the sword is commanded to awake, and so one alone. That lone, solitary, forsaken sufferer, stretched, bleeding, dying on Calvary, is incarnate Deity! And the hosts of heaven look down and rivet their intensest gaze on the unfolding mystery. The old law-giver, the psalmist, and prophets find him, like a sun that never sets, always visible in their horizon. "The desire of all nations," the nations have shown a blind consciousness of his approach; yea, the stars and the sun, and the earth seemed to acknowledge bis majesty, his advent, and his departure. He bears our sins : He suffers ; yea, even He suffers in the sinner's place. And what is the witness of the lost to the truth of God, and to the sacredness of his law, compared with that of these sufferings of Messiah, God's coequal Son ?
The sufferings of a culprit in any one of our penitentiaries make little impression on the community. True, it is something to know that these stone walls and iron bars exist, and there is a feeling of safety in the thought that the guilty are confined there. But the history and name of the criminal are soon forgotten. His arrest, in a family high or low, gave him a sudden notoriety; his trial, if protracted by means of able counsel, made him conspicuous for the hour ; but he is proved guilty, his punishment is deserved, and, withdrawn from the great living community, lost sight of, he lingers out his miserable life forgotten and unknown.
Just so with sinners on whom the sentence of condemnation and banishment is to be executed in the world to come.
They will be of little consequence, awakening no more interest in
their sufferings, than the guilty occupant of a cell awakens in our minds to-day. Justly condemned, as all will agree, speedily forgotten, unknown to the great mass of the universe, they must wear out a wretched imprisonment, exciting little comment, making little impression. Hence, the testimony which the bearing of their punishment affords to the righteousness of God, and the importance of maintaining his law, must be comparatively limited and feeble.
Not so, when the innocent one, the Messiah of the prophets, the Son of God, takes upon himself our liabilities and bears the penalty in the sinner's stead. That is a sight which arrests the attention of the universe, it is a scene to be woven into the thought and feeling and memory of all intelligent creatures, just as the prediction, and the story of his life and death are woven into, yea, constitute the woof and warp, the shadow and substance, of the whole Bible. He bore our sins in his own body on the tree, and heaven and earth and hell, God, angels, men and devils, witnessed his sufferings. He died, enduring for the sinner the curse of the broken law; and therefore, because of the innocence of his nature, the majesty of his person, and the eternal conspicuousness of his sonship, bore a testimony to the immutability of the divine government, the righteousness of God, the goodness of the law, the certainty of its execution, and the appalling evil of sin. We say, the Son of God, attracting to himself the eyes of all worlds while suffering in the sinner's stead, bore a testimony, and made an impression on the universe, that sinners, suffering their own penalty, never could have borne or made.
Thus the necessity of sustaining the divine government is not lowered in men's esteem, though the guilty are freed; the motives to obedience are not taken away, but immensely strengthened. No man can ever entertain the thought now, that the law will be relaxed, or its penalties changed for something else. The suffering of one so illustrious must be known throughout the whole extent of the divine kingdom, and must make an impression and a record never to be effaced. Thus Christ, by his atonement, meets the necessities of the divine government, honors the law, and magnifies the motives to keep it. Not less fully does the atonement of Christ meet the necessities of the human conscience. What is conscience? It is the divine faculty in man. It is the power which perceives what is right and what is wrong, and passes judgment on each according to its character. It is the side of our nature which is allied with God, which sympathizes with him, which reflects his feeling. Conscience feels, instinctively, though the feeling may never be analyzed, nor acknowledged perhaps in words, that God is displeased with sin, and that his law is righteous, and its penalty a just expression of his displeasure. Conscience feels that sin, as the Bible everywhere teaches, is an evil of such malignity and magnitude that it must be punished. Every truly penitent and believing sinner endorses, involuntarily and with all the strength of his enlightened moral nature, the law which condemns and consigns him to everlasting punishment. No man asks for Christ, no man accepts Christ as his true and only Saviour, until he feels that sentence is passed upon him, and that the sentence is altogether just. And as we condemn ourselves, so, also, do we condemn others for wrong-doing. Even the heathen show this law written on their hearts. It is the human conscience which speaks, when the islanders, watching the viper that comes out from under the burning sticks and fastens upon the hand of Paul, say " among themselves, no doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live.” Conscience is the echo of the divine law whieh demands the punishment of sin.
Still further, conscience, when enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and feeling the guilt of sin, is the most sensitive and timorous thing in the world. Perceiving intuitively the truth of Scripture, and apprehending by a kind of delegated prescience the nature and certainty of the judgment day, conscience feels that the very foundations of the Gospel must be subjected to the most intense scrutiny and fiery trial. The divine government is not a piece of shifting, temporary expediency, but an immutable arrangement founded on the eternal principles of right and justice. And the enlightened conscience, somewhat blindly, indeed, but truly and instinctively, anticipates the searchings and findings of that day of days.
What, then, is the necessity of conscience; the necessity that must be met? Plainly, just this : it must see that the foundation on which the sinner is invited to trust himself, is a foundation which can stand the searchings of eternal justice, a foundation which will stand when the heavens fall, and which is every way undoubted, and adequate to the scrutiny and trial of the final judgment. Conscience can not trust anything else. The enlightened sinner can not believe till he sees and feels that the offered foundation is every way, and for all time, and for all worlds trustworthy.
Besides this, that the proffered salvation must be without flaw, like the lamb for sacrifice, without spot, or wrinkle, or blemish, or suspicion; the provision must sustain, uphold and solemnly confirm in the mind of the sinner the idea that sin is a great and fearful evil : otherwise the instinct of conscience is contradicted and debauched by the very act of forgiveness. Can it be necessary to say, that neither sorrow, nor tears, nor repentance can do this? These are not the correlate of crime.
They can not restore your broken bone if you leap from the roof of the house. You might feel that you would not jump again ; but you have jumped and the consequences are incurred. So under the divine moral government, the deed is done, the penalty is let loose, and repentance can not withstand its tooth and bite, can not undo the deed. The wickedness is committed, and conscience utters its voice. From this there can be no appeal.
This, then, is the necessity of conscience : it must see that the foundations on which it is invited to stand are immovable and firm, that the guilt of sin is crimson in its hues even while it is forgiven. This urgent necessity of the conscience the atonement meets. God is seen to be just while he justifies the guilty. " The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” And in the penalty borne by Christ conscience perceives that justice has not been robbed, but satisfied; and now pardon is offered to the believer in Jesus, is offered to him who trusts in his blood, on those eternal and unchanging principles of right and justice which no judicial exigencies in the history of the world can contravene, which no trial of the judgment day can disturb. On this everlasting foundation, justice satisfied, not