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BY REV. MOSES BALLOU.
“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.”—1 PETER Č. 18.
FOR what were the sufferings and death of Christ?
The Church has given us three answers to this question, viz.,
1st. They were a substitute for those of the sinner.
2d. They were designed to appease the anger, and placate the wrath of God.
3d. They were designed to vindicate the honor of the divine law.
It is well known that we reject the sentiments involved in these replies. We believe that nothing of this kind can be harmonized, either with the dictates of reason, or the teachings of
revelation. Those, therefore, who have held these opinions, have made the inquiry a somewhat anxious one. They have asked us, on the supposition that these replies were incorrect, For what did Jesus suffer and die? In what are we to look for its necessity? What purposes did his sacrifice serve to aid? Where are the advantages to be derived from it? And how shall that large class of passages be interpreted, which speak of Christ, as“ being made a curse for us ?” Gal. iii. 13, as bearing our sins in his own body on the tree?” i Peter ii. 24, and suffering “ for sins, the just for the unjust?" 1 Peter iii. 18.
I. In the first place, the death of Christ was the closing up of the whole system of legal offerings which the Jews, by divine appointment, had observed under the old dispensations.
No small part of the religion, instituted through the mediation of Moses, consisted in its sacrifices. These, though of many kinds, and required to be offered under a great variety of circumstances, you will find, if you examine them carefully, are never spoken of as affecting, in the least degree, or designed to affect, the Supreme Being ; but
seem“ to have been required as the symbols of the temper of mind — the tokens of the moral feelings of those who offered them:" *
One fact alone seems to settle this question, viz., that a sacrifice was, or was not, acceptable to the Divine Being, just according to the motives, feelings, principles, and disposition of the person or persons who gave it. Hence, the same offering was sometimes approved, and sometimes rejected, from the same person; and hence, too, the same thing occurred when the offering was made by different individuals. Everything depended on the spirit and temper of the offerer, whether the service was acceptable and satisfactory.
Now, this whole Jewish system, Christ abolished. He introduced an entirely new dispensation. His blood became the seal of the new covenant, as the blood of the Jewish offerings had been the seal of the old; and his death, under the gospel dispensation, of which that of High Priest under the law was a type, was the closing up, and finishing of all the long list of sacrificial offerings.
* Rev. S. R. Smith.
This you will find fully explained in the eighth, ninth, and tenth chapters of St. Paul's letter to the Hebrews.
I do not regard this, by any means, as the main object of the death of Christ, or as furnishing the principal reason for that great event; but his death, having been called for by other good and sufficient considerations, as I shall show you, answered this purpose, also. It appropriately ended the Mosaic dispensation. All its sacrificial offerings were merged in, and swallowed up, by that of Christ.
II. I regard the sufferings and death of Christ, as, in a very important sense, those of a martyr.
This sacrifice of himself, he could not well have avoided, without being untrue to the high purposes of his mission. His publicly announcing and defending the great truths of his religion, had given mortal offence to the Jews. He had told them of the abrogation of their longcherished and dearly-loved systenı.
Their splendid ritual, he had announced, must pass away. The long line of their illustrious and venerated priesthood, the gorgeous temple
worship at Jerusalem, everything which they held sacred, except merely the moral laws of God, and even their national existence, all were to be blotted out; and, like an unsubstantial pageant, faded,
“ Leave not a wreck behind.”
The High Priest, Scribes, and Pharisees, were almost frantic with rage. They were clamorous for his very heart's blood. And there was but one of three things before him: 1st. He must either retract the position he had chosen, give up the interests of the cause he had espoused, and leave the world in its darkness and sin, or, 2d, he must encounter his enemies by physical force, or, lastly, he must go forward like a true moral hero, bearing all, and suffering all, and sealing his mission, at last, with the martyr's blood. The first, of course, he would not do. He had fully counted the cost before he commenced his work. He had began an enterprise, from which there was to be no shrinking, no turning back. And to have adopted the second, would have amounted essentially to the same