COLOSSIANS i. 20. – And by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
THE reconciliation of Things in Heaven, is the part of the text which I shall attend to.
Let reverence and humility possess my heart, while I develop the character of the Deity and let all who hear me? at awful distance bow.
All the changes that have taken place from the beginning until now, and all that will take place hereafter, give to the Almighty no new ideas furnish him with no novel matter for consideration. Things which are past, present, or to come, with men, are all in the eternal now of the great Jehovah, and yet he speaks of himself (in anthropopathia) as if thoughts and designs entered his mind in a train of succession.
The Divine Being is not composed of parts, or possessed of passions like men; he, nevertheless, in condescension to our weakness; speaks of himself as having head, eyes, ears, face, mouth, nostrils, shoulders, arms, hands, fingers, feet, bosom, back, heart, soul, etc., as also being jealous, angry, contrary, pacified, reconciled, having his anger turned away, etc.
Our text implies a contention in heaven, and that the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ undertook to reconcile the contending parties to himself, by Jesus Christ, and that Jesus obtained a peace among all the jarring interests in heaven, by the blood of the cross. The particulars to be attended to, are,
1st. To explain the cause of this contention.
2nd. To nominate the parties at variance, together with their respective pleas.
3rd. To point out the person by whom, and the Beans by which this reconciliation was effected.
First. I am to explain the cause of this contention.
The Creator of the heavens and the earth, and all things therein, is a free, sovereign agent. He owes neither existence nor obedience to any other being. He is under obligation to nothing which we can conceive of, except the innate law of his nature, and the voluntary words of his mouth, neither of which stand opposed to his infinite freedom.
But all rational creatures owe their existence and obedience to their Maker; of course they are not free agents, any further than that they are left free in their wills, for they are all of them accountable to God for their works and words.
The law of God is the eternal rule of right, binding en all rational creatures, and is, in all periods, places and conditions, that which is proper for them to do, and that which tends to their own happiness. It may, therefore, be called, with propriety, the moral law of perfect orders It prohibits nothing but what is injurious to men – it enjoins nothing but what leads to their felicity.
Any transgression of this perfect rule is sin, for sin is said to be a transgression of the law. No action of man which is not contrary to the holy law, can be called sin. Man, did, at first, by some cause, as unaccountable as inexcusable, abuse the freedom of his will – pervert his moral agency – break over the law of due order, and sin against his God. By one man sin entered into the world.
Man, by sin, not only commenced rebel against his God, but, like an electric shock, it affected all his mental and physical powers, so that his transgressions increased like arithmetical progression.
Angels were placed upon a footing of such independence, that neither the guilt nor misfortune of one could be transferred to another. But all the human race were to proceed from one progenitor, in a succession of procreation. If, therefore, the guilt of a crime, committed by a father, cannot be transferred to his child, yet the misfortune can, and generally is. In the case now before us, it is universally transferred.
This rebellion of man, against his God, is that which gave rise to the contention in heaven, implied in the text.
When this contention began in heaven, (to speak after the manner of men,) the great I AM arraigned the criminal man, and summoned all the contending parties to appear and make their pleas, before the great white throne of divine glory. Which leads me,
Secondly. To treat of the contending parties and their pleas.
The holy Law began. “My rise is not from revelation, although that does me honor: throughout the sacred volume I hold conspicuous rank, and have been magnified and obeyed by the son of God. But my origin is from the great scale of being itself, so that, if there had been no revelation among men, honor and regard would have been my due. Yet with all the sacred majesty due to my character, man, the dependent creature, has risen in rebellion and disregarded my voice: not only in one instance, but sin, taking advantage by me, has wrought in him all manner of concupiscence, so that the imagination of his heart is only evil continually.
Now we know a law is nothing without a penalty to enforce it, and a penalty threatened is but a piece of mockery, unless it is executed. In this case, therefore, should man escape with impunity, the divine government would be reduced to contempt, and every fugitive vagrant would be hardened in his wickedness. My demand, therefore, is, that man should die without mercy.”
Truth next approached the throne, and, after attending to and confirming all which the holy law had said, added, “The soul that sins shall die – cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the law – he that offends in one point is guilty of the whole – the wicked shall be turned into hell – in the day thou rebellest thou shalt surely die. These are true sayings of God: sentences which came from the mouth of that Being who cannot lie: the veracity of the Almighty is therefore pledged, that the sinner, man, be speedily executed, without delay; for, if sentence against an evil work be not speedily executed, the hearts of the vicious will be fully set on mischief, and nothing but anarchy and confusion will be seen in the empire.”
Justice then advanced with piercing eyes, like flaming streams and burning tongue, like the devouring fire, and made his plea, as follows: “My name may sound inharmonious to the guilty, but that which is just must be right, and the least deviation therefrom must be wrong. I plead for nothing but what is just. I come not with an expost facto law, to inflict a penalty which was not known at the time the sin was committed, but I come to demand the life and blood of the rebel, man, who sinned with eyes open; for guilt will always stain the throne of glory, till vengeance is ta. ken on the traitor.”
Holiness then addressed the sovereign arbiter of life and death in the words following: “My name and nature forbid the continuance of the sinner, man, in the empire. He is full of wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores; from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot, there is no soundness in him; among all his helpers there is no healing medicine, and if there was, yet he is so stubborn that he would not apply it. Therefore, as two can neither walk nor live together, except they be agreed, either the polluted sinner or consummate Holiness must quit the regions.”
By this time, darkness and smoke filled the temple, and seven thunders uttered their voices:
“The flashes of vindictive fire
Broke out impatient from the throne;
And the angelic messenger
Wav’d his dread weapon, which, high brandished, shone,
Thirsting for human blood; – while hell grew proud,
In hopes of prey, and laughed profanely loud.”
The sun became black as sackcloth, and the heavens were all in angrier convulsion – the earth shook to its centre, and the everlasting hills trams bled. Angels stood astonished at the awful emblems of divine displeasure, expecting each moment to see the rebel hurled to eternal darkness, as they had seen their fallen brethren, Who left their first estate, in a former period.
Omnipotence appeared as the executioner of the criminal clothed in panoply divine – robed in awful majesty – thunders roared before him the shafts of lightning darted through the etherial vault – the trumpet sounded – the mountains slipped like rams, and the little hills like lambs: even Sinai itself was moved at the presence of the Lord. At the brightness that was before him His thick clouds passed, hailstones and coals of fire. In one hand he had an iron rod, with which he could dash his enemies to pieces like a potters vessel, and in the other, a sharp sword with two edges. He set one foot on the sea, and the other on the earth, and lifted his hand to heaven. His face was awfully majestic and his voice as the roaring of a lion, but none could learn, from his appearance, whether he chose to strike the vengeful blow, or interest himself in behalf of the criminal. At length he spoke.
“I am able to destroy as I was mighty to create; nothing is too hard for me to do. All worlds were spoken into existence by my word, and all material worlds hang upon nothing, through my power; yet I have no will, no choice of my owl. Let all the contending parties agree, and I am at their command, all acquiescent The charges against the criminal as they now stand, will call for my vindictive stroke; but, if any expedient shall be found to overrule the pleas which have been made, when the final result is made, then I shall act. Vicious beings feel power, and forget right; but omnipotence is governed by right. The works which I perform, are those which all perfections of Deity, in concert, point out.”
Wisdom then arose, and spake to the following effect: “Why is the decree so hasty from the king? the matter is of the first importance. One soul is worth more than all the world. The pending decision not only effects this one criminal, but the millions and millions of human kind. I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions. I, therefore, object to the execution of the criminal, not to controvert the pleas of the law, truth and justice, but to wait until it shall be known whether man has any friend at court, who is wise, powerful, and good enough to relieve him in a way that law, truth and justice, will be satisfied with.”
Love then comes forward in all its winning forms; his bosom swelled with philanthropy, and his eyes bespoke the benevolence of his heart. In mellifluent accents he began, “My name is love; no one in heaven claims higher rank than myself, for God is love; of course, none deserves to be regarded more than I do. My love to man is everlasting, and neither death nor life, angels, principalities, nor powers, things present, things to come, nor any other creature, shall ever extinguish my love.
Mine is an unchanging love,
Higher than the heights above,
Deeper than the depths beneath,
Free and faithful, strong as death.
Should the rebel, therefore, be doomed to perdition, with all his vast progeny, the cross of my love would cause eternal mourning in heaven: to prevent which, my fervent cry is, let the rebel live.
Grace also appeared on the side of the criminal, and made the following plea; “if a creature receives from a fellow creature, or from his God, a compensation for any services rendered unto him, it is rewards and not grace; but, if he receives a favor, for which he has no claim on the donor, it is grace. If, moreover, a donor confers a favor, not only on a needy creature, who has no claim on the donor, nor any thing to buy with, but on one, who, in addition to his need, has contracted guilt, and is an enemy to the donor, this is grace of a marvellous kind. This is my name, and this is- my memorial, and shall be through all ages. To do good for evil, is God-like. My plea, therefore, is, that all the transgressions of the criminal may be blotted out – cast behind the back of his God – sunk in the midst of the sea, and he himself raised to a station far more exalted than he possessed before he sinned. If this should not be the case, grace would be a word without meaning, and the benevolence of Jehovah would be obscured forever.”
Mercy, in concert with Love and Grace. was all divine oratory in favor of the rebel, and proceeded, “I cannot claim the same rank among the attributes of Deity, that wisdom, power, holiness, goodness, truth and justice Gang but, am myself the child of love; or rather a new name given to love, since sin and misery have entered the moral system. All the essenstial attributes of Jehovah, can have a free and full circulation in the Divine Being, detached from all creatures; otherwise, divinity itself would not be self-glorious; but mercy, (which always presupposes want and misery,) can have no seat in that divine circle, because there is no need or misery in the Almighty.
The attributes of God are always spoken of in single number, thus: love, power, truth, justice, &c. and will not admit of the plural, loves, powers, truths, justices, &c. Now as the name mercy, admits of the plural, mercies, the conclusion is, that mercy is not an attribute.
All the attributes of God can, not only have a free circulation in Deity, but, also, a full display to sinless creatures; but, mercy cannot show her pitying face where need and misery are absent.
If mercy is an attribute, then, sin and misery, were necessary among the creatures of God, otherwise, mercy must have continued dormant forever; useless in the Creator, and unknown to the creatures.
If mercy is an attribute, then the Creator was dependent on the creature to do that for himself, which his maker could not do for him, himself, nor make the creature do, that which he forbid him to do, in order to reduce himself to a condition where he could have a discovery of mercy.
If sin was necessary, then, creatures should love that necessary something; and, if necessary sin should be loved, why are men called upon to hate it and repent of it?
That sin adds anything to Jehovah, is inadmissible in idea. If any beings, therefore, receive any advantage from sin, creatures must; but, where is there an individual in the universe, that can coolly say for himself, or of whom it can be said, in truth, that he has received an advantage by sin? If it cannot be said of an individual, it cannot be said of the universe; for the universe is composed entirely of a multitude of units. Had sin never entered the world, love could, and would have raised creatures to a state exalted as mercy can expect or wish for; and all the intermediate evils would have been avoided. This would not have been the case, supposing love, grace and mercy, gain their suit, in behalf of the rebel man; but, should he, or any of his progeny fail of deliverance, all their misery must be fathered upon sin.
What idea can be formed of a being, whose essential attributes are such, that they cannot be revealed without the sin and misery of those to whom they are revealed.
Justice is an essential attribute of Deity, which can shine as effulgent among the innocent as among the guilty, but when creatures are become guilty, the display of justice is punishment. So Love is an attribute which pervades the bosom of Jehovah, fills the angels with rapturous joy, and is the delight and companion of all that are innocent: but when innocent creatures fall into need and misery, the display of Love assumes my name, Mercy. As I, therefore, have a name in heaven – as Mercy is magnified above the heavens – as Jehovah is rich in mercy – and is the Lord God, gracious and merciful, I plead for the life of the criminal at the bar.”
Here the pleas closed for a season, and profound silence filled the temple of God.
One thing appeared very remarkable in their pleadings: not the least ill will was to be seen personally existing among the disputants; no false coloring, or black consequences were cast upon the arguments of each other. Law, Truth, and Justice never accused Love, Grace, and Mercy of disorganization or anarchy, because they pleaded for the life of man; nor did the latter reproach the former with cruelty because they demanded his death, or represent the character and desert of the criminal less vile and obnoxious than the former. Perfect agreement had always existed among them, and nothing that ever emerged, except the transgression of man, made them take different sides at court.
After a solemn pause, the great I AM, the sovereign judge, delivered the following speech: “The statements and demands of Law, Truth, and Justice, against the criminal are well supported. Love, Grace and Mercy have discovered abundance of goodness and good will toward the sinner, but they have not shown any expedient how the law can be honored, truth supported, and justice satisfied, in the forgiveness of the rebel; and unless such an expedient can be produced, man must die without mercy. If any of the celestial angels, or any being in the universe can suggest the expedient, the sinner lives – if not, he dies.”
He spake – he closed – but all was still, and silence reigned in Heaven!
The elect angels knew how Love, through a Mediator, could confirm innocent creatures in their innocency, but had no idea how criminals could be pardoned.
At the instance of Justice, Omnipotence arose, like a lion from the swelling of Jordan, made bare his thundering arm; high raised his brandish. ed sword; waved his iron rod and advanced toward the rebel with hasty strides.
Love cried forbear, I cannot endure the sight.
The Law replied, cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the law to do them. The soul that sins shall die.
Grace exclaimed, where sin bath abounded, grace shall much more abound.
Truth said, in the day thou transgressest thou shalt surely die.
Mercy proclaimed, Mercy rejoiceth against judgment.
Justice, with piercing eye, and flaming tongue, said strike! strike! strike the rebel dead! and remove the reproach from the throne of heaven.
At this the angels drooped their wings, and all the harps of heaven played mournful odes. The flaming sword, to pierce the criminal came near his breast, and the iron rod, to dash him to pieces, like a potter’s vessel, was falling on his head; when lo! on a sudden, the voice of Wisdom sounded louder than seven thunders, and made the high arches of heaven ring and reverberate. The voice said, deliver him from going down to the pit, for I have found a ransom.
In that all-eventful crisis the eternal Son of God, in mediatorial form appeared, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. Angels paid him profound reverence, the great I AM placed him at his right hand. He saw the ruined, guilty man,
“And oh! amazing grace! he loved;
With pity all his inmost bowels moved.”
He said, I was set up from everlasting, my goings have been of old, and my delights are with the sons of men. The sinner shall live.
The Law, in awful majesty, replied, I am holy, just, and good, my injunctions on the rebel were perfectly proper for a human being, and my penalty, which the rebel has incurred, is every way proportionate to his crime.
Mediator. All you say is true. I am not come to destroy the law, but to fulfil. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but not a jot or little of the law shall fail.
Truth. The lips that never spoke amiss, have said, that the wicked shall be turned into hell. My veracity is therefore pledged to see it executed.
Mediator. That part of truth which was proper to reveal unto man, as a moral agent, has said as you relate, with abundance more to the same effect; but that part of truth which the great Jehovah, my heavenly father, spake unto me, in the covenant of peace, which is made between us both, has declared, that, on account of an atonement which I shall make, sin shall be pardoned and sinners saved.
Holiness. I am so pure that I never can admit a sinner into heaven. Nothing unclean or that worketh a lie, shall ever enter there.
Mediator. Provision is made in the new covenant, whereof am the Mediator and Messenger, to remove the pollution as well as the guilt of sin. I have guaranteed that sinners shall be washed in my blood and made clean, and come before the throne of glory without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing.
Justice cried out again, strike.
Mediator. Not the sinner but the surety.
Justice. Can heaven admit of a vicarious suffering?
Mediator. It is that which no government on earth ever will admit of, or ever ought to do, but is the singular article agreed upon in the scheme of salvation, which will astonish the universe in its accomplishment.
I now appear in human form; but in the fulness of time, I shall assume the nature, which I now appear in form of, shall be born of a woman, be made under the Law, and perfectly obey and magnify it; which is all that the Law can require of human nature, in reason; shall suffer that penality for sinners that justice will be pleased with, and God accept of; shall die and follow death to its last recess; shall rise again with the same flesh and bones, and thereby obtain the victory over death; shall continue a while in the lower world after I rise, to give incontestible proofs of the resurrection, and then reascend the throne of glory.
I have engaged to do everything in behalf of the sinner, that law, truth and justice can ask for, in a way of holiness, which will reflect the great. est honor on wisdom.
Unchangeable love, grace and mercy will stimulate my heart, and Omnipotence will execute my designs.
In the meantime, the creature man is to live and propagate his species to an immense host; but in succession, one after another, all of them must die, and rest in death for a season; for I have not undertaken to save them from dying, but to rescue them from death.
Between this and the time fixed upon, when I am to pay the dreadful debt, make the great atonement and bring in everlasting righteousness, those of the human race, who repent of their sins, believe in my character, and obey my voice, are to be admitted into paradise, upon the dissolution of their bodies, on account of what I am to do, at the appointed time.
After that period, when I shall do all that is necessary to be done to make an atonement for sin, the world will continue for a season; but the day of days will commence, the “great day of dread, for which all other days were made,” will arrive: on that day, the dead shall all be raised, and those who are living on earth shall be changed from a mortal to an immortal state, and all of them shall come to judgment before my bar. Those who are like goats among sheep, like tares among wheat, who are unclean and polluted, who are lovers of transgression and haters of obedience, who have broken the law – wantoned with atoning blood, and done despite against the work of the Holy Ghost; shall be expelled the kingdom – cast into outer darkness and knaw their galling bands forever.
But the righteous, both those whose souls have been in Paradise, and their bodies sleeping in the dust, and those also who never shall have died, shall be admitted into the kingdom prepared for them – shall enter into life eternal.
Now, if any one in heaven has ought against this plan, let him speak; for I have undertaken to reconcile all things and beings in heaven, to the salvation of man. He closed! but O what rapturous joy beamed forth on every face in heaven ! Law, Truth, and Justice cried out, “It is all we want or wish for.” Love, Grace, and Mercy shouted, “It is the joy of our hearts – the delight of our eyes, and the pleasure of our souls.” The great I AM said, “It is finished – the expedient is found – the sinner shall live – deliver him from going down to the pit, for a ransom is found!” The angels, filled with heavenly pity and divine concern, who had been waiting in anxious suspense, through the important contest, now swept their golden harps and sang, “glory to God in the highest, peace on earth and good will to man. Thou art worthy, O, thou Son of God, to receive glory, and honor, and riches, and power, forever and ever. Man, though a little lower in nature than the angels, shall be raised a little higher, being in likeness of nature, more like the Son of God. While angels will be ever adoring confirming love through a Mediator, men will be extolling the riches of redeeming blood and the freeness of boundless grace.”
The great I AM then said to the Mediator, “For as much as thou best undertaken to reconcile all things in heaven and in earth to me, and hast proposed a plan of reconciliation, in which all contending parties are agreed – in which mercy and truth meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other; justice and judgment surround my throne; and mercy and truth go before my face: And whereas I am perfectly satisfied that thou wilt, at the time appointed, fulfil all thy engagements, at the expense of thy blood; therefore, behold I give thee a name which is above every name – that at the name of JESUS every knee shall bow and every tongue shalt confess. Thou shalt have dominion from sea to seat and from the river to the ends of the earth. I will divide thee a portion with the great, and thou shalt divide the spoil with the strong. I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. I will glorify thee with myself, with the glory which thou hadst before the world was.”
I now proceed, thirdly, To point out the person by whom and the means improved to effect this reconciliation.
This I have already done, so far as it respects the new covenant agreement; but the appearance of the person among men, and the means actually administered, are yet to be considered.
In the foregoing observations I have personified the perfections of God, and used arguments rather in an allegorical, visionary way, which I shalt have no occasion to do in the subsequent remarks.
Leaving, therefore, the great transactions which took place before the world was, (of which, however, many hints are given in scripture,) I turn my attention to those things which have taken place in signet on the face of the earth; being assisted by that guide which God bath given to menu the sure word of prophecy, which is a light shining in a dark place.
Of revelation there are two kinds, oral and written. Oral revelation was first; in this God made known his will to men, but left them no means of preserving its only their memories: This register was treacherous; and the communication from father to son, down through a succession of generations, greatly obscured and perverted what was first revealed. It is from this source, however, that those nations destitute of written revelation, get their ideas of the future state of the soul, after the body is dead. After letters became of use among men, Moses, and many others were inspired, to record what God, at various times and in various manners, revealed unto men. From this source men obtain information, that God can pardon sin, and that he will raise the dead, &c
The Grecians, with all their improvement In philosophy, gained no evidence that the dead could be raised. This appeared to them a thing incredible. Hence, when their friends died, they gave themselves up to excessive sorrow, having no hope In the resurrection. Their philosophy could no more account for the resurrection, than it could for creations Upon the reduction of the Greeks, the Romans arose to the pinnacle of fame; but with all their military conquests and political maxims, they never found out how crimes could be pardoned. In their government, they did not admit of an innocent man suffering stripes or death for the crimes of one who was guilty, and had no idea that their gods would admit of it. The Jews, to whom were committed the oracles of God, read and believed that the Messiah would come; but they formed an idea that he would appear an illustrious potentate, and restore the civil kingdom of the house of David, again to Israel. The rest of the nations were as barbarous and cruel in their laws and customs, as they were ignorant and superstitous in their religion.
In this condition the world was, when the due time, appointed by the Father of all worlds, arrived for the Mediator to appear on the earth, and make reconciliation to God by his own blood, far the sine of the people, according to the great plan which was formed before the world was.
That there was such a person on earth as Jesus Christ, we have as good reason to believe, as we have to believe that there was such an emperor of Rome as Augustus Caesar, in whose reign it is said, the child Jesus was born; as sacred and profane history treat of both. And that Jesus said and did that which is recorded of him, we have no more reason to doubt, than we have to doubt whether Demosthenes, Cicero, Alexander, and Julius Caesar said and did the things recorded of them.
That the four Evangelists gave a true history of Jesus, is a rational conclusion; for when Constantine established Christianity in the empire, and received Christ Jesus as a God to adore, greater than Jupiter, he caused no other history of him to be written, than that which was extant.
That the Bible in general, the New Testament in particular, is as true as other histories are, not to say more true, we have abundant reason to believe; it has been as much contested by its enemies as any history has, and has hitherto triumphed.
For the sake of argument, and to lead on to that which I have in view, let it be conceded, that the New Testament stands on a level with other histories, not written by inspiration; true in its prominent features, but subject to error in some circumstances. On this footing, how far it exceeds all other histories, because it details facts infinitely more important.
Should a messenger come to any of our houses, with intelligence that a sparrow had dropped a feather in the field, and produce such evidence that we should believe him, without any kind of doubt, the report, though true, would be of very small consequence. Let another messenger arrive and inform us that the earth had taken fire at the seaboard – that the mountains were melting, and all was consumed one thousand feet deep – that it raged with amazing velocity, in a direction towards our dwellings, and that, with. In a few hours, it was morally certain, that we should share the same fate in the conflagration, that thousands already had done. If the evidence which the last messenger produced, was equally good with that of the first, his report would certainly concern us much more.
So in the present case. The histories which come before us, treat of the boundaries of countries – their natural curiosities – their mountains, streams and bays – their produce and animals – the manners, laws, government, and religion of the inhabitants the talents and exploits of their first rate men, etc.
But when He turn our eyes to the Bible, we are there informed how the world was made, and by whom – how apostacy, disease and death entered the world – how Christ came into the world and died for sinners, that they might live. Here we learn the moral character of God, and the accountability of all rational creatures. In this book, we are informed how sin can be pardoned, and how the dead can be raised. This book assures us that the earth will be dissolved, the dead raised, the general judgment commence – the righteous taken from the wicked and placed in life eternal, and the wicked cast into everlasting fire.
The history of the late French revolution may contain a thousand false statements; but there are four facts so well supported, that no men question them.
1. They revolutionized from their former government.
2. They beheaded Louis, their former king.
3. Their conquests have been extraordinary.
4. Bonaparte is now their emperor.
Now, if we suppose the Bible is fraught with many mistakes, and as full of error as the history just alluded to; yet, allowing it equal credit, there are four facts, at least, which admit of no doubt.
1. That all men have apostatized from God, and thereby exposed themselves to misery, death and hell.
2. That Jesus Christ was God incarnate, and made such an atonement for sin, that all those who repent and believe in him shall obtain pardon and life everlasting.
3. That Jesus Christ did rise from the dead, and will, in the fulness of time, raise the bodies of all the dead.
4. That God has appointed a day, in which he will judge all rational beings by Jesus Christ; when every one will receive a reward, according to the deeds done in the body.
The Bible is reprobated by many on account of the many contradictions which it is said it contains. But are these contradictions certainly contained in the Bible? How many absurdities and contradictions are found by a Young student in the mathematics, which age and experience dispel; and, as the scholar grows sage, he condemns his former ignorance and rashness. In thin case, also, many things which appear contradictory, to a novice in divinity, in greater maturity, appear, not barely reconcilable, but as harmonious links in the great chain. The great age of the Scriptures – the different habits, customs, and dialects of the ancients from ours, may account for many seeming contradictions which are to be met with in them. But, if there are are some real contradictions in the Bible, respecting places, names and numbers, (occasioned by the many transcriptions and translations which the writings have passed through,) must the facts, therein detailed, be considered as false accounts? As well may the four things respecting the French nation be considered forgeries, on account of the mistakes in the history of the French revolution.
It is true, that there are sort: e things recorded in the Bible, of which the laws of nature afford no parallel. This is the case in the creation of the world, and in the resurrection of the dead; nevertheless, the first has taken place, and the last will. Let those who disapprove of the last, confute the first. To believe these facts, I confess, requires With of the marvellous kind; but, not to believe the divinity of the Scriptures, requires a more marvellous faith. For sublimity, majesty, picturesqueness and politeness, no book besides bears any comparison to it.
For sublimity, read Solomon’s prayer, at the dedication of the Temple, and the prayer of Jesus, in the seventeenth chapter of John. For majesty, see the eighteenth Psalm, and the third chapter of Habakkuk. For picturesqueness, observe the figures in Job, the tropes in Isaiah, and the rhetoric in Paul’s Epistles. For politeness, look over the book of Ruth, and the precepts of the New Testament, which, on the subject Of good man nets, as far exceed any of the writings of Greece, Rome, France, England or America, as the brightness of the sun surpasses the rays of a candle; and, therefore, to believe that they are of human invention, requires a faith more marvellous, than it does to believe any article therein re. corded.
The existence of the New Testament, proves that it was written by some hand. The writers must have been either bad, designing men, or good, honest historians.
If the writers of it were deceivers, it is unaccountable that they should form a book to condemn themselves. The world affords no parallel to this. Surely the writers of it would have omitted their own errors, and covered their own crimes, if they had been evil inclined; but this they have not done.
To suppose that bad men should ever have formed such a book, which condemns every species of wickedness, requires faith so marvellous, that it must be unreasonable.
The conclusion, therefore, is, that the writers of the New Testament were true men, and wrote, as they pretended, by the finger of God. From this history, therefore, I now proceed to state and support the things which remain to be canvassed.
The appearance of the person on earth, by whom, and the means by which the reconciliation of all things in heaven is effected, are jet to be considered.
That Christ, the Mediator, is the person, by whom, and what he did and suffered, particularly the blood which he shed on the cross, is the means of this reconciliation, our text declares.
I shall investigate the subject, by examining what the great errand of Christ to this world was; and the works which were necessary to be performed by him to accomplish his embassy. His errand into this world, may be briefly summed up, by extracting a few texts of Scripture.
“The father sent not his son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world, through him, might be saved.”
“For this purpose was the son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. I am come to seek and save that which was lost. The Son of Man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. Forasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself took part in the same, that through death he might destroy death, and him that bath the power of death, that is the Devil; and deliver them who, through the fear of death, are all their life time subject to bondage.”
From theses and many coincident texts, it is evident that the salvation of men, was the object of the embassy of Christ.
Some, however, conclude that it is beneath the dignity of God, ever to act from motives beneath his glory; and, therefore, the glory of God was the highest motive that Christ could have in coming into this world, and dying on the cross.
I feel no disposition to dispute the point with those good souls who are jealous for the glory of their God; but would just reply, that the essential glory of God cannot be added unto, by all that God and man can do; nor can his declarative glory appear more conspicuous in his own view, on account of anything done by him, or by his creatures. What, therefore, displays the glory of the divine character most among his creatures, is most for his glory. Now, as nothing ever done among men, made equal display of the moral perfections of God, with the death of Christ for sinners, we may safely say, that God has his own glory always uppermost, and yet the very object of Christ’s mission, was the salvation of men.
The works, which were necessary for him to do to accomplish his great undertakings, were: –
1. To keep the precepts of the law.
2. To give evidence of his complex character, and show forth his glory.
3. To super for sinners, and make an atonement for sin.
4. To disconcert the schemes of Satan.
5. To conquer death.
Of these, I shall treat particularly.
First. To keep the precepts of the law.
I can form no idea of human nature being free from the obligation of the law; consequently, when the Word was made flesh, manifested in flesh, Immanuel was under the same bonds to keep the law, that Adam, Abraham, Moses, or any of us are. Perfect obedience he owed to the law; and this obedience was necessary for himself, as a failure would have been fatal to the last degree. If this statement is just, then his per. feet obedience to the moral law formed no part of that merit by which we are justified. When a man pays his debt, he does a good deed, but nothing meritorious. So the obedience of Christ discharged what he owed to the law, but formed no part of the atonement.
Two advantages, however, we receive from this moral obedience.
1. We have him as a perfect example, and see what human nature is capable of.
2. As he was entirely free from sin, he was a proper lamb, without spot, to be offered for a sacrifice to take away sin.
But, as Jesus Christ was made under the law – that law which was equally binding on him and on us – so he was under another law, which none of us are. I call it a law, because it had the force of law in it: I mean the stipulated articles of agreement, which he voluntarily engaged to fulfil in the great covenant of peace. His obedience to this law was meritorious, and by this obedience many are justified. This law included all his mediatorial works and sufferings, “for he learned obedience by the things which he suffered.”
It is sometimes said, “that Christ obeyed all the precepts of the moral law, and bore the penalty, or curse of the same law, for us.” But the propriety of the saying is difficult to conceive of. If Christ obeyed all the precepts of the law for us, then for us there was no penalty due; other. wise punishment would be inflicted where there was no crime. It is best, therefore, to say, that he obeyed the law for himself, and suffered the penalty for us. “He bore our sins in his own body on the tree.”
Second. It was necessary that Christ should give evidence of his complex character, and show forth his glory.
That Christ was the “true God and eternal life,” the Scriptures declare, and his word and works confirm the same. The winds and the seas obeyed his word.
The works which he did, in healing the sick and raising the dead, are works that none but God can do, or otherwise they must be done in the name of the Lord. The prophets and apostles did these works in the name of the Lord, by faith and prayer, but Jesus did them, not in the name of another, by prayer, but authoritatively, in his own name, which proves that he was God.
Both Jews and Christians believe that “none can forgive sins but God only;” and Pagans have the same notion of their gods: but Jesus wrought a miracle, to prove that “the Son of Man had power on earth to forgive sins.” Now, as God would not have assisted him to work a miracle to support imposture, it follows, of course, that he could forgive sins, which none but a God can do. Hence the evidence that he was God.
No being but God is omniscient; He only knows the hearts of all men: This knowledge, however, Jesus had; He knew his enemies, that they had not the love of God in them; He perceived their thoughts, and knew what was in man. Surely then he was God.
The incommunicable name of the Almighty, Jod he vau he, translated Lord, is found more than six thousand times in the Old Testament. The word comes from a verb, which signifies to be, and is expressive of the external existence of the great Supreme. Many of the texts in the Old Testament, where this word is found, are applied to Jesus, in the New Testament. If, then, the New Testament writers understood themselves, Jesus is Jehovah, God eternal.
The names, in general, by which the Holy One of Israel is called, in the Old Testament, are also given to Christ, either in the New Testament, or in those prophecies, which manifestly treat of the Messiah: such as the First and the Last – the Everlasting Father – the Creator – Deliverer – Redeemer – only Saviour – Shepherd – Husband, etc.
As Jesus Christ, in the beginning, laid the foundations of the earth – as by him all things were created – as the creative word was God as he up. holds all things by the word of his power, he must be God essential. “In him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.”
We cannot form a higher idea of Deity, than that he is the Creator and Preserver of all worlds – the Redeemer and Saviour of men, and these works are the works of Christ. Now, if we suppose he was only an exalted creature, and that he, by a delegated power, has done and still does all these mighty works, we are entirely at a loss how to conceive any difference that can exist between the Creator and the creature – the Author and the agent, and must consequently form the conclusion, that the Almighty Creator has made a creature equal to himself.
But as he was God essential, so he was man real.
The assumption of Christ in human nature, was a new thing in the earth which the Lord created. That a woman should compass a man – a virgin conceive, by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a holy thing, which should be none other than the Son of God, is a mystery of godliness so great, that we can no more account for it than we can account for the creation of the world, or for the resurrection of the dead; and yet, with the two last articles, is equally true. The hungering and thirsting of Jesus – his weariness and sleeping – his weeping, praying, crying, sighing, bleeding, groaning, dying, flesh and bones, all declare that he was man.
As man he was sorely tempted: as God he could not be tempted. As man, by grace, through striving and praying, he withstood every temptation, and thereby gave the fullest evidence of his human virtue.
Had the attacks of the enemy been at his God head, they would have had no impression, and therefore would not have made the soul of Christ “exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” And if the conquests which the Saviour obtained over Satan, had been solely by the Deity, it would have been like the conquest of a giant over an infant, and not like the conquest which virtue gains over vice, in long and doubtful contest, to the last exerting every effort, and triumphing at last, to the wonder and astonishment of all that behold. That the sufferings and victory of Jesus are spoken of in the Scripture, in this last sense, is very evident.
As Christ was, in truth, God and man, so he gave the fullest evidence of his complex character, and calls upon men to believe in him as such a being, upon the rational evidence which he has given evidence of an hypostatical union, which creatures cannot comprehend, and has said, “if ye believe not that I am he,” the promised Messiah, “ye shall die in your sins.”
Third. He came also to suffer for sinners and make an atonement for sin.
It would be extremely improper to admit of a vicarious punishment in the governments on earth, for by it the innocent would be punished, and the guilty be hardened to repeat their crimes: whereas, the very design of civil government is, to protect the innocent in their rights, and punish the guilty, and the guilty only.
But in the divine government, where the actions and motives of all men are perfectly known, without evidence – where He that suffered death for the guilty, had power to rise again, and thereby prevent any loss of subjects in the state – where He, who suffered for the guilty, had the power to change the hearts of the transgressors, and make them true men, and thereby prevent future crimes – the objections which forbid a vicarious suffering among men lose all their weight.
That Christ Jesus suffered, groaned, bled and died for sinners, is abundantly proved in scripture; and that his sufferings, in soul and body, were exquisitely painful, beyond what we can conceive of, seems evident from the expressions used by himself and his historians, when he was in his agony.
The nature of his sufferings, in some respects, is exceeding difficult to form an idea of.
I once believed that the sufferings of Christ were exactly such as damned souls endure, but have seen cause to question my former belief. Wherein do the torments of damned souls consist? Are they sovereignly imposed, or are they naturally incurred, or both? I mean, do they all arise from the pressures of guilt and shame, or does the righteous Judge inflict stripes on them, besides what torments they feel within? When a criminal is exposed and condemned, his personal guilt is a severe scourge for his crime, but still he has the lash of the law to bear besides. And is this the case with the guilty sinner? When a sinner is given up to the fury of Satan and sin, his torment must be exquisite, for sin seems to form the quintessence of hell. And yet the language of the Bible, which is to be preferred above all logical arguments, is, that sinners shall be beaten with stripes.
It appears as safest, therefore, to conclude, that part of the sufferings of miserable souls arise from the dominion and guilt of sin, which is torment of itself, and part proceeds from the judicial hand of the righteous judge, and yet it is difficult to conceive how instruments of torture can be found in that beings who is essentially Love: but as difficult as it is to conceive of, if we do not admit of the idea, we are entirely at a loss to conceive of the nature of Christ’s sufferings, for he did not assume a guilty nature; he never transgressed the law, and therefore he could not feel the personal remorse that sinners do, when given up to the dominion and guilt of sin. Yet his sufferings were extreme, as his words, his agony, and his bloody sweat declare.
Some have supposed that the sufferings of the Saviour consisted in the fear of death and in dying. But this supposition, if true, would render the naughty conqueror void of courage, and more timorous than thousands of thousands who have braved death without a groan.
On the whole, it may be concluded, that the part of a sinner’s torment, which is judicially imposed, the Saviour could and did endure; but that part which arises from guilty remorse, from the dominion and fury of sin, he could not and did not endure. I say he could not; for it is beyond my comprehension, to conceive how guilt can be transferred from one to another.
The weakness of Christ must ever be in view, as well as his strength. The prophecies and history which treat of the sufferings of Jesus, represent his sorrows as rising and falling like the tide. As a God he knew, and as a prophet he foretold of his conquest over death; but if he did not (through the weakness of human nature) sometimes doubt about the resurrection of the dead, it is not easy to conceive how he could be tempted in all points like unto his brethren. None had ever been raised from the dead, with immortal bodies, when Jesus was on earth. The regions of death had never been explored by himself; and the certainty of his rising from the dead, at times hung exceedingly gloomy on his mind. All was here at stake! On this pivot the beam turned for eternity! By man came death; and if by man death could not be destroyed, then an enemy would triumph, Christ fail of his crown, be crossed in his love, and all the human race be eternally lost. When all this was at a risk, we may easily conclude, that every doubt in the mind of the Saviour of his obtaining a complete conquest over death, filled his soul with exceeding sorrow.
With the light which I now have, I consider this struggle in the mind of the suffering Mediator, to have formed a very essential part of his suffer. dings. Nor do I know any light in which Heb. v. 7, can be so naturally understood: “Who, in the days of his flesh, when he had offered prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears, unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared.”
But whether this mode of reasoning does honor to the subject or not, one thing is certain, viz., Christ has suffered for sin, for sinners, for the ungodly; and made such atonement for sin as the great JEHOVAH is pleased with, and on account of what Jesus has done, he can be just, and justify the ungodly who believe. Though, as a lawgiver and judge, he was angry with men, yet, through the mediation of Christ, his anger is turned away, and he comforts them; and he will give eternal life to all who obey him.
Peace is obtained by the blood of the cross – the blood of Christ speaketh better things than the blood of Abel. We have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins. Ye that were sometimes far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ. He hath washed US and made us clean in his own blood. His blood he sprinkled o’er the burning throne, and turned the wrath to grace. The Father lays his thunder by and looks and smiles, and loves.
Fourth. Another object of Christ’s mission was, to disconcert the schemes of Satan.
The early attacks of Satan on the parents of the human race, were successful in their seduction. As it is criminal to sin, either with or without temptation, so likewise it is criminal to tempt the innocent to commit sin. The Devil first sinned himself, and then tempted and deceived Eve to transgress, which finally brought on the rebellion of Adam.
When the Lord God came into the garden, and summoned the tempter and the tempted to appear at his bar, he said unto Satan, “because thou hast done this, I will put enmity between thy seed and the woman’s seed; it shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Christ Jesus was the seed of the woman, whose heel, the inferior part, the human nature, was bruised to death by Satan and his auxiliaries. But the head, the wisdom and deep concerted schemes of Satan, were all to be disconcerted by Christ. And for this purpose was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the Devil. The Devil sinned from the beginning; was the first sinner, and therefore sin is called his work. The Devil is a liar, a deceiver, and a sinner. But Jesus destroyed his lying, by speaking the truth; his deceit, by sincerity; the sin which he introduced, by holiness of life, and by suffering for sin; bearing sin in his own body on the tree, and thereby making an end of sin in one day.
As the Devil introduced sin among men, which brings on death; and, as Satan lives and reigns in the department of death, it is said that he has the power of it; but Christ has assumed the nature of man (flesh and blood) that he might destroy death, and him that had power of it, that is the Devil.
By the conquest that Christ obtains over the Devil, we are not to understand that the Devil will be annihilated, nor yet that his enmity will be destroyed; but, the usurper will be bound in chains, and confined in the bottomless pit; and, all who are ultimately deceived and ruined by him, instead of honoring their leader, will reproach him for his folly, usurpation, and temptations.
It should be noticed, that Satan has his synagogue, as well as his palace; his religion, as well as his politics. The golden calves of Jeroboam, are called devils; and idolatry is a work which Satan has instituted for religion; but Christ came to destroy this Work from among men, and turn them to the worship of the true God.
I proceed to show,
Fifth. That it was necessary for Christ to conquer death.
Persecutions, captivity, and anarchy, are called death, as well as the dissolutions of the body, the apostacy of the soul, and the punishment of both soul and body in hell. These deaths all entered among men at the door of sin. But, that all these deaths were contained in the first threatening of God to man, viz. In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die, is more doubtful. It is pretty evident that the depravity of the soul took place before the test of Adam’s obedience was broken; for, if his mind had not first been corrupted, he would not have rebelled. Lust did first conceive, before it brought forth the action of sin. If, therefore, the internal depravity preceded the transgression of eating of the prohibited tree, it could not be the penal consequence thereof.
And further, it is difficult to distinguish between moral depravity, (often called spiritual death,) and sin itself. Now, with what propriety could God have said unto Adam, “In the day thou sinnest, thou shalt surely die.”
Nor is this all. To be carnally minded, is death; the carnal mind is enmity against God, &c. Here the inspired description of spiritual death, is, to be under the government of a carnal, envious, irreconcilable mind. If spiritual death, therefore, was included in the threatened penalty, God must have said, “In the day that thou eatest thereof, I will make thee a carnal, irreconcilable enemy to myself.”
Supposing a father should lay his injunction on his child, not to leave the place where he was, and go to a certain tree: to make this injunction effectual, he should, moreover, threaten him with stripes if he disobeyed. The child, however, should break over the prohibition of the father, and run to the interdicted tree: on his way a poisonous adder should leap at him, and inject a deadly poison into his flesh and blood. In this supposed instance, it could not be said that the deadly poison was any part of the father’s threatening, nor could the calamity of the child exempt him from the threatened stripes.
From these remarks, it is safest to conclude, that, although the world is in a deplorable state of depravity, yet moral depravity, which is called spiritual death, was no part of the threatening of God to Adam.
There is a doleful state of existence frequently spoken of in the Scriptures: hell, hell-fire, everlasting fire, eternal fire, everlasting punishment, everlasting destruction, the second death, etc. In common conversation, it is most frequently called eternal death, and thin death is supposed, by many, to be included in the threatening of God to man, which we are treating of.
But, if moral death is excluded, eternal death cannot be included, for moral death is such an essential part of eternal death, that the last cannot exist where the first is absent.
Furthermore, the death which was threatened, was to take place on the day of transgression; whereas, Adam and Eve did not experience eternal death on the day in which they fell; if they had experienced it their bodies must have been immortalized, and, with their souls, have been in a state and condition in which they could not have propagated their species.
But natural or corporeal death was included in the threatening. Whether there was a poisonous quality in the fruit which grew on the forbidden tree, which mortalized Adam and Eve, from which death immediately began to prey on them, by disease, or whether disease was a penalty inflicted on them for transgression, are questions attended with some doubt.
If the fruit was poisonous in its nature, and tended to mortalization and death, then the prohibition of God was only cautionary, to preserve the new made pair from poisoning themselves to death: and, if this was the case, then, if there had been no prohibition, and they had eaten of it by mere accident, it would have had the same eject. But, if all this was true, (which, to me, is highly probable,) still the prohibition was made the test of Adam’s obedience. So the rainbow, though depending on a natural cause, was made a token of the covenant made with Noah.
If, on the other hand, there was no poisonous quality in the fruit, but it was prohibited, simply, as a test to Adam, then, by eating, he did not mortalize himself, but only rebelled against his God, and for his rebellion, mortal disease was that day implanted in him, which neither food nor physic can remove.
In either of the cases, death began his career on the day of the transgression: a career, which, if I may be allowed to personify death, he has unweariedly been pursuing ever since, and which he will pursue, until Adam, in all his offspring, shall fall before him.
The first great threatening of God to man, has its full accomplishment without abatement. In this instance, the Almighty does not recede from his word. The coming of a Mediator into the world, less in no degree mitigated it, for the blessed Saviour did not come to save men from dying, but leave them all to die, as universally as though he had not come; but he came to destroy death and raise the dead – to swallow up death in victory – to take captivity captive, and deliver those who are appointed to die. As death came by man, so by man shall death be destroyed, for, as in Adam, all died, so, in Christ, shall all be made alive.
My proposition is, that Christ came to destroy death.
He first destroyed death in himself: he had power to lay down his life and take it again, he died through weakness, but rose again by the power of God.
The resurrection of Christ, is abundantly proved in the Scriptures, and let the man who can comprehend eternity, and mete out immensity – who can conceive of the mode of external existence, and account for the creation of the world – who can tell where the winds began to blow, together with their destination, and measure the depths of the sea – who can fill the high heavens with loud thunder, and dart the shafts of lightning through the ethereal vault – who can shake the earth to its centre, and swell the seas into raging fury; let such, and none but such, contend with their Maker, exalt reason above revelation, and deny the resurrection of the dead have now briefly attended to what was first proposed, and considered:
1st. The cause of the contention in heaven.
2d. Spoken of the parties at variance, together with their respective pleas.
3rd. Treated of the person, by whom, and the means by which a reconciliation was obtained.
These particulars were drawn from the text: That God undertook, by Christ, to reconcile all things in heaven, to himself; and that Christ elected the work by the blood of the cross.
Two things more present themselves to view, on repeating the text. First, by all things in heaven, we may understand the spirits of the just which were in heaven, when Christ died on the cross. By virtue of the ancient engagement of the Mediator, these souls were admitted to heaven, but the price of their reconciliation was not paid until Jesus died on the cross, and thereby made remission for sins that were past. The sins of Abel, Noah, Abraham, &c, were as much atoned for by the sufferings of Christ, as the sins of any who were then living; so that whether his people were on earth or in heaven, Christ obtained peace for them, by the blood of his cross.
Secondly. By all things in heaven, we may also understand the angels in heaven. These angels, it has been suggested, were confirmed in their innocency, through a Mediator; but, as they never apostatized into a state of opposition to God, they could not be reconciled in the same sense that sinners can be; but, in another sense, they could be. Angels are holy, and could never be reconciled to dwell with unholy sinners in heaven; and, especially, to see them rise to heaven at the expense of God’s law, justice, and government. But, when they saw how peace could be obtained by the blood of the cross, how the law could be honored, justice satisfied, and the divine government supported, in the pardon of sinners; and, also, how sinners could be delivered from the dominion of sin, and cleansed from all pollution, they were entirely reconciled to the plan of God, and to the accession of sinners into heaven for their companions. These things the angels desired to look into, and are so well pleased there. with, that there is joy in heaven among the angels of God, when one sinner repenteth.
Now unto the king eternal, immortal, and invisible, the only wise God, be glory and honor, world without end, Amen.
Elder John Leland
First Published in 1814
The Writings of the Late Elder John Leland
Pages 383 – 405
 Though I am treating of events which took place before the world was peopled, and the law given to man, yet my arguments run through time, and treat If men and things. So God calls things that are not as though they were.