« PreviousContinue »
the only power that could cleanse and purify us, but as to which we feel that it has in itself no limit, and that its result in us will only be limited as the measure of our being yielded up to it is limited. In our begun life of sonship through the faith of the Son of God, in our feeble lisping of the Father's name,—we have consciously the earnest of the eternal inheritance. The perfecting of our conscience as worshippers by the sprinkling of the blood of Christ, we discern to be the commencement of that experience which will hereafter utter itself in the song, “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. Amen.”
Finally, when from thus contemplating the atonement as accomplished by Christ, and seeing ourselves in its light-realising how hopeless our state had been apart from it, while conscious to the living faith and hope towards God which the faith of it is quickening in us—we lift up our thoughts to the Father, and consider what the great work of redeeming love has been to Him, and hear in relation to it the testimony of the Father to the Son,—“This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye Him,” we are, indeed, filled with the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Seeing the Father in the Son,-seeing the eternal, divine elements of the work of the Son in the Father, seeing that what we are contemplating is, indeed, but the perfect doing of the Father's will, the perfect declaring of His name-raised up by the faith of the will of God as done,—of the name of God as declared to the apprehension of the Eternal Will, the Unchanging Name, we understand the complacency of the Father in the Son; we understand the excellence in the sight of the Father of the work of Christ, viewed simply in itself, we understand how it pleased the Father to bruise the Son and put Him to grief, we understand how the Father saw it good to put into the hands of the Son of His love the cup concerning which He had prayed that if it were possible it should pass from Him ;—for we understand how, viewed in itself, the revelation of love in all its long-suffering, forgiving, self-sacrificing might and depth, was a result worthy of God to accomplish, even at so great a price; while yet we understand that this neither was nor could have been but in relation to the further results which this revelation of the name of the Father contemplated,—that it was as being “bringing many sons to glory,” that "it became Him of whom are all things, and by whom are all things, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” And the oneness of sonship, the identity of the life of sonship, as seen accomplishing the atonement and as partaken in by men through participation in the atonement, and the excellent glory of the hope of sonship in its inheriting of the Father,—as it is said, “ heirs of God, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,”—is to us the full justification of the Father in all that travail of the soul of Christ, of which our salvation is the fruit.
THE DEATH OF CHRIST CONTEMPLATED AS HIS “TASTING
DEATH,” AND “FOR EVERY MAN;" AND THE LIGHT IT
T HAVE nothing to add in direct elucidation of the
view now taken of the nature of the atonement; but both the necessity for the perfecting of the atonement in the death of our Lord on the cross, which the fact of His death in connexion with His prayer in the garden implies, and the constant reference to the cross as suggestive of the whole work of redemption, are reasons for presenting here to the reader's attention some thoughts in relation to the death of our Lord, viewed in itself and in the light of His consciousness in passing through death, which may be profitable, and especially, practically.
The words of our Lord in death, “Into thy hands, O Father, I commend my spirit,” are given to help us to understand the life of sonship, which we are seeing passing out of our sight, and to reveal to us in this its final triumph the secret of its victory all along. For, in this trust in death, we are not contemplating a new manner of faith. The perfection of its development and measure of its manifestation only are new. The faith which this last utterance of the voice of sonship presents to our faith, is not anything else than that trust in the Father manifested in death, which had pervaded the Lord's whole life; for, Christ's following of God as a dear child, walking in love, always implied that direct
and immediate living by the Father, which these words used in death expressed. He ever through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God. To hold and use this life in the flesh in sonship, and to yield it up in sonship, these were divers actings of one faith. Therefore, the words, “Into thy hands, O Father, I commend my spirit,” should shed light back to us on the whole of our Lord's path on earth. There was a saying, “Not my will, but thine be done,” a dying to live in all our Lord's life, as well as at the close.
I have already spoken of the shame of the cross in its relation to that second commandment of which Christ's perfect brotherhood towards man was the fulfilment, as His sonship towards the Father was the fulfilment of the first. If we know anything of life as a nieeting in the strength of sonship the call which the first commandment makes on us, and know that rejection of all independent life in self and our neighbour which this implies, our own experience will help us in endeavouring to realise the oneness of the faith in which Christ lived, seeking not His own glory, but His glory who had sent Him, with the faith in which in death He said, “Into thy hands, O Father, I commend my spirit.” The Apostle speaks of “dying daily;" and, if we are attempting to “follow God as dear children, walking in love,” we know that this implies such a dying daily as is possible only in a faith which is a constant commending of our spirit into the Father's hands. For lonely as death is, not less lonely is true life at its root and core,—I mean lonely as respects the creature, a being left alone with God.
But, while the faith tried and proved in our Lord's tasting death was the same that had been tried and proved in His whole life, yet was the trial peculiar and extreme, and in its nature fitted to be the final trial, as well as to shed light back on all former trials. I have already noticed the sinless, I should rather say righteous,—desire of the life that is in man's favour, which our Lord's fulfilment of the second commandment implied, and which explains to us the intenseness of feeling under the injustice done to Him in men's estimate of Him, expressed in the words, “Reproach hath broken my heart.” In bearing the contradiction of sinners, our Lord was continually drinking of cups, which naturally and sinlessly, nay, because of love, and therefore righteously, He must have desired not to drink; which yet as presented to Him by His Father He desired to drink, and which, in the strength of the eternal life which is in the Father's favour, He did drink.
Now death itself, as the close of life so lived and passed through in the strength which the words reveal, “Into thy hands, O Father, I commend my spirit," was in harmony with such a life and its fitting close; for it was the perfect manifestation and consummation of the faith in the Father, which was the secret of that life. I say, it was the “perfect manifestation" of that faith, because it revealed the strength in which our Lord had been able to do without the honour which cometh from man,—the life that is in man's favour,and how it was that He had not feared those whose power can go no further than to kill the body. The life which was common to them and to Him, the life through which they could reach Him and cause Him pain, that life had conferred upon them no power over His spirit; for that life He had held, as He now parted with it, in the strength and freedom of sonship. I have also said, “consummation,” because it was the perfected development of that faith. I cannot help having the words in reference to Abraham's offering