Page images

turn to the thought of with a vague hope. And such a governor and Lord God is in the ordinary thoughts of men, and such a vague hope towards God is the ordinary hope of men. And on such a conception of their relation to God have men ignorantly engrafted the gospel, -conceiving of it as giving a special and definite form to the indefinite combination of judgment and mercy, which has sustained that vague hope of salvation which they had cherished. But the gospel, truly apprehended, raises us into another and a higher region,-a region, indeed, in which divine mercy or clemency, as previously conceived of, is felt to have been but as the dimmest twilight of kindness and goodwill towards men, in comparison of the noonday light of the love of the Father of spirits to His offspring,—but a region also in which no arbitrary dealing with us can find a place. In the light that shines in that region, it is clear to us, that the relation between the blessedness that is seen there, and the rightness that is recognised there, is fixed and immutable. So that the liberty which, in the lower region, we ascribed to mercy, is here found not to belong to love; nor the discretion which we ventured to attribute to the righteous governor, found to pertain to the loving Father; but, on the contrary, the law of the Father—the principle on which happiness is dispensed by Him to His offspring as His offspring—is found to be fixed and altogether unbending, incapable of accommodation in a way of pity, or indulgence, or consideration of circumstances. “No man cometh unto the Father but by the Son.” All modification of this law is impossible; for sonship and fatherliness are mutually related in an eternal relation. The Father, as the Father, can only receive His offspring to Himself as coming to Him in the spirit of sonship;-neither other



[ocr errors]


wise than as coming in the spirit of sonship can they in spirit and in truth draw near to Him.

I have spoken of a way into the holiest as what must have its nature determined by the nature of holiness; so a way to the Father must have its nature determined by the nature of fatherliness. These are two aspects of one spiritual reality; a reality, reader, which we must steadfastly contemplate, to the certainty and fixedness of which we must be reconciled, -a reality in the light of which we must see the free pardon of sin and redeeming love, and all the divine mercy to us sinners which the gospel reveals. In that lower' moral region to which I have referred, in which men are not dealing with the Father of spirits, but with the moral governor of the universe, (but whose moral government, while thus not illumined by the light of His fatherliness, is never understood,) we may be occupied with the punishment of sin and the rewards of righteousness, in a way that permits us to connect the atonement directly with the idea of punishment and reward, and invests it simply with the interest of that desire to escape punishment and to be assured of happiness, which may, even in the lowest spiritual state, be strong and lively in us. But if we will come to the atonement, not venturing in our darkness to predetermine anything as to its nature, but expecting light to shine upon our spirits from it, even the light of eternal life; if we will suffer it to inform us by its own light why we needed it, and what its true value to us is, the punishment of sin will fall into its proper place, as testifying to the existence of an evil greater than itself, even sin; from which greater evil it is the direct object of the atonement to deliver us,-deliverance from punishment being but a secondary result. And the reward of righteousness will be raised in our conceptions


from the character of something that can be ours by the adjudication of the judge on arbitrary grounds which mercy may recommend, to its true dignity as that blessedness which is essentially inherent in righteousness, and in that glorifying and enjoying of God of which righteousness alone is the capacity, and which no name, nor title, nor arbitrary arrangement, can confer.

The atonement, thus seen by its own light, is not what in our darkness we desired; but it soon reconciles us to itself, for it sets us right as to the true secret of well being. A spiritual constitution of things that would have been more accommodating to what we were through sin, we soon see as precluded alike by the nature of God, and the nature of man in its relation to the nature of God,--a relation, to violate which would not be the salvation, but the destruction of man. We, indeed, see ourselves encompassed by necessities, instead of flexible, compromising, weak tendernesses; but they are necessities to which we are altogether reconciled, for we are reconciled to God. One has said, “ It is a profitable sweet necessity to be forced on the naked arm of Jehovah.” That “no man cometh to the Father but by the Son” is the great and all-including necessity that is revealed to us by the atonement. But, as combined with the gift of the Son to us as the living way to the Father, we rejoice to find ourselves shut up to “so great salvation."




T HAVE said that the character of the Mosaic instiI tutions, as commented upon in the Epistle to the Hebrews, ought to have saved us from the direct connecting of the atonement with the subject of rewards and punishments, and more especially from that direct connecting of forgiveness through the blood of Christ with exemption from punishment which has so prevailed, seeing that the blood of the victim was intended to purify and cleanse for participation in worship. In this light as to the relation of the sacrifice to worship, and seeing the worship typified to be that worship which is sonship, we see how perfectly that which our Lord taught in saying, “No man cometh unto the Father but by me"-meaning to fix the attention of His disciples on what He Himself was in their sight, as the revealer of the Father by the manifested life of sonship,--accords with the elements of confidence in drawing near to God, which the Apostle enumerates in exhorting men to “draw near in the full assurance of faith, having their hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and their bodies washed with pure water.” That our Lord and the Apostle must have contemplated the same thing as the due and accepted worship we cannot doubt. But it is only when we understand, that the shedding of the blood of Christ had direct reference to our relation to God as the Father of our spirits, and to the opening of a way in which we as rebellious children can return to the bosom of the Father's love, according to the truth of what the Father is, and what sonship is, that we see that, “having boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He hath consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say His flesh, and having an High Priest over the house of God,” is the same thing with the Son of God being to us a living way to the Father.

The doctrinal form of thought which the language of the Apostle presents, would probably have been more difficult of apprehension to the disciples, who had yet to learn that "it behoved Christ first to suffer and afterwards to enter into His glory," than even their Lord's language as to their own favoured position as the chosen companions of the path of Him who could say, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” Yet, afterwards, they could look back and see the identity of what they subsequently learned, with what had been presented to their faith in their personal acquaintance with Christ. These disciples, indeed, knew not then the form which the work of redemption must take in being perfected, but they had received under the Lord's personal ministry that spiritual teaching, for the want of which, no familiarity with the full record of the finished work of Christ can compensate, and in the absence of which, our study of that record never is safe; for already they were fit subjects for that high testimony from their Lord, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world;" they had received the Son as coming to them in the Father's name, and that was quickened in them which was according to the truth of our relation to God as the Father of our spirits. Their attraction to their Master was, that they felt that He “had the words of eternal life;"_their cry

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »