« PreviousContinue »
and foretold his own death, he always represented it as being designed to lay a foundation for forgiveness, or to open the way for God to save sinners from the punishment of sin. “As Moses, says he, 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 eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Again he says, "The Son of man came to give his life a ransom for many.” And when he instituted the memorials of his death, he clearly explained the design of it to his disciples. Having taken the cup, and given thanks, he said to them, “Drink ye all of it: For this is my blood of the New Testament which is shed for many, for the remission of sins.” The first time of his appearing to his disciples after his. death, “He said unto them, these are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures, and said unto them, 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.” In all these passages, Christ plainly intimates, that the great design of his death was to open the way for the pardon, remission, or forgiveness of sin. Agreeably to these declarations of Christ, his apostles represented forgiveness, as the great and only favour granted to sinners, on his account. Thus Peter preached to the awakened multitudes on the day of pentecost: "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their
heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” In another discourse to persons in the same situation he says, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out;" that is, forgiven. And when he preached Christ to Cornelius and his family, he taught them, “that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." This is precisely the same language which Paul holds in our text. “Be it known unto you therefore, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins.” And Paul not only preached, that the atonement of Christ was designed to procure forgiveness on. ly; but he also wrote in the same manner in his epistles, in which he professedly explains the design of Christ's death. Treating upon this subject in the third chapter of Romans, he says, “Therefore by the deeds
of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight. For * all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to de. clare his righteousness for the remission of sins." He also says to the Galatians, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. The obvious meaning of these words is, that pardon, forgiveness, or freedom from the curse of the law, is the great and sole benefit we receive on Christ's account. Thus the types of Christ, his own declarations, and the declarations of his apostles, unite to prove, that his atonement is the only ground of forgiveness, and forgiveness is the only favour, which God ever grants to men on account of it. And it will further confirm this truth, if we consider,
3. That believers are expressly said to be forgiven for Christ's sake. The apostle uses this phraseology in his exhortation to the Ephesians, when he says, “Be kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiren you.” In another place, speaking of Jesus whom God raised from the dead, he says, “Who delivered us from the wrath to come;" that is, from future and eternal punishment He says again, “God commendeth his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Much more then, being justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him." By the blood of Christ here we are to understand his atonement, which the apostle says is the ground of justification, or freedom from eternal destruction, which is the proper expression of divine wrath. But there is one or two more expressions, which the apostle uses respecting forgiveness through Christ, that deserve particular notice. After telling the Ephesians, that they were chosen and accepted in Christ, he further observes, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.” And he makes the same observation to the Colossians. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” The mode of expression, in these two passages, plainly implies, that forgiveness is the one peculiar favour, which God grants to believers, merely in respect to the redemption of Christ. And this was undoubtedly the apostle's meaning, otherwise he would not have selected forgiveness from all other divine favours, and represented it as the great and only blessing bestowed upon believers, on Christ's account, er merely for his sake.
But here it may be objected, that the great design of Christ's atonement was, to lay a foundation for the sanctification, rather than the forgiveness of sinners. To this purpose may be alleged that passage in the first of Matthew, where we read, “She shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins." Also that passage in Titus, in which it is said of Christ, “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
To these and other passages of the same import, two things may be replied.
First, to be saved from sin generally means in scripture, to be saved from the pupishment of it; which is precisely the same thing as forgiveness. There does not appear any need of atonement, in order to lay a foundation for the mere regeneration or sanctification of sinners. Though God could not have consistently forgiven Adam, the first moment after he had sinned, without an atonement; yet he might have renewed or sanctified him, as an act of mere sovereignty, without any atonement, and without forgiveness. Hence we may conclude that it was not the primary or principal design of Christ in coming and dying for his people, to redeem or save them from the power and dominion of sin; but to save or redeem them from the punishment of it. Though God meant to raise the elec: from a state of sin to a state of holiness; yet all that Christ had to do, as a Redeemer, for this purpose, was to open a way for a pardon, by making a full atonement for sin. This being done, it belonged to the office of the Holy Spirit, to sanctify and propare them for the kingdom of glory.
But, secondly, as God means to sanctify none but those, whom he intends to pardon through the atonement of Christ; so his atonement is a remote, but not a next or immediate cause of their sanctification. It is only the occasion, or cause without which, none would be sanctified, or prepared for heaven. There appears to be no propriety in God's renewing and sanctifying any whom he means to shut out of heaven and consign to everlasting destruction, though such a mode of treating sinners would not be inconsistent with justice; because they would deserve eternal misery after they were sanctified, as much as they did before. But there is no ground to think, that God ever has sanctified, or ever will sanctify any but those whom he means to pardon and save. Hence it appears, that the atonement of Christ is designed to render it consistent with justice for God to pardon sinners, and consistent with wisdom to sanctify them. So that men are not sanctified on Christ's account, in the same sense in which they are pardoned or forgiven on his account. In a word, the atonement of Christ is the occasion of the șinner's regeneration, and the sole ground of his pardon or justification; which is perfectly agreeable to the leading sentiment in this discourse.
It may be further objected, that we are required to ask for other favours, besides forgiveness, in Christ's name, or for his sake; which seems to imply, that God bestows not only forgiveness, but every other favour, on Christ's account. Among other texts, the following plainly convey this idea. “Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that he should go and bring forth fruit, and that your