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lated to that truth, and as necessary to expound
to us its spiritual force, as is the doctrine of the
Father and the Son. We find that this funda-


mental truth, as to the moral Being of God,
throws a new and bright light on this article of
the faith, and gives a new significance to it, as
not a mere dogma to be believed because we find
it in Holy Scripture, but as a living principle of
unutterable value as regards our own relation
to God and our spiritual intercourse with Him.

14. There is another point to be noticed here,
on which the relation of the Holy Spirit to the
moral Being of God supplies much material for
thought. There are in the apostolic writings
several intimations as to the symptoms of the
spiritual state (to which I referred at the close
of the first Lecture) in which the soul has
become hopelessly barren, and is rejected as
finally incapable of that spiritual fellowship with
God which is life eternal. " For the land which
hath drunk the rain that cometh oft upon it,
and bringeth forth herbs, meet for them for
whose sake it is tilled, receiveth blessing
from God, but if it beareth thorns and thistles,
it is rejected and nigh unto a curse ; whose end
is to be burned."'^' And the state of which the
apostle speaks is the condition of those who,
having been once enlightened and made par-
takers of the Holy Ghost, then fall away ; and of

^^ II eb. VI. 4-8.


these it is said that it is impossible to renew
them again unto repentance. And the same
apostle elsewhere says '^^ that for those who
*'sin wilfully after they have received the
knowledge of the truth there remaineth no
more a sacrifice for sins," for that to those that
have done ''despite ttnto the Spirit of grace!'
the fire of God's jealousy becomes the ven-
geance which consumes the adversary. For
the sinner who continues in a state of wilful
sin after he has known the love of God in
Christ, has identified himself with his sin. To
such identification of sin with the will of the
sinner our Lord referred when He spoke of the
sin against the Holy Ghost, which, He declares/^
'' shall not be forgiven, neither in this world
nor in that which is to come." So that while
omniscience alone can determine what the state
is which shall at last be proved incapable of
spiritual fellowship with the love of God, this at
least is certain : that the region of man's being
in which, when there is such fellowship, the
Holy Spirit expresses Himself by our feelings
and thoughts and desires, and identifies them
with His own, is also the region in which the
capacity or the incapacity for this spiritual

^- Heb. X. 26, 31. "' St. Matt. XII. 32.


union must be proved. It is the region of the
will, the inmost sanctuary of the spirit of man,
in which his true personality resides.



I. The connection of the Christian doctrine
of the redemption of man with the truth as to
the Being of God to which Holy Scripture
directs us, is in itself sufficiently obvious. Re-
demption is indeed expounded, both by Christ
Himself and by His apostles, as the one signal
and sufficient evidence of God's love to man.
" God so loved the world," Jesus Christ said,'^
** that he gave his only begotten Son that
whosoever believeth on him should not perish
but have eternal life." "Herein is the love
manifested in us, that God hath sent his only
begotten Son into the world that we might live
through him. Herein is love, not that we
loved God, but that God loved us and sent his
Son to be the propitiation for our sins." ^^ It is

** St. John III. i6.

** I St. John IV. 9 ; cf. also Rom. V. 8 ; Ephes. I. 5 to 7 ;
Rev. I. 5, etc.



needless to multiply passages. And yet a pre-
liminary difficulty here presents itself on the
very threshold of our inquiry, which it is neces-
sary carefully to consider, in order to exhibit
the whole scheme of Christian faith and doc-
trine, as consistent with itself. For how can the
same word be used, — one the special force of
which, as we have seen, is so exactly deter-
mined, — when Holy Scripture speaks of the
love of God to His only begotten Son, *' in
whom he is well pleased," and of His love for
a world which is by nature alienated from God,
and the course of which is opposed to the will
of God .f* What is the meaning of mankind
being by nature *' children of wrath," and yet at
the same time so specially the objects of the
love of God, that He spared not His only be-
gotten Son that they might live through Him 1
It is, indeed, the very first moral difficulty that
presents itself to the awakened conscience.
And the difficulty seems only increased by the
particular word that the Spirit of God has se-
lected to describe the love which is the Being of
God, — reminding us that divine love cannot be
like the blind, unreasoning partiality of human
affection, but must be in accordance with reason
and with truth.


2. To avoid, or rather conceal, this diffi-
culty, theologians will sometimes speak of the
love of God toward mankind as a love of mercy
and compassion only ; and thus different in kind
from that love which He has toward those who
love Him and, above all, toward His Son Jesus
Christ. But such a conception of the love of
God is radically defective, and cannot but affect
detrimentally our apprehension of Christian
faith and doctrine. For pity, or compassion, is
a form of benevolence of which suffering, desti-
tution, or danger is the moving cause ; but it is
not peculiar to love, much less to be identified
with love. Compassion may be felt by us
toward a suffering animal, as truly as for our
own child. It is certain, therefore, that we
cannot, without much moral and spiritual loss
or without risk of grave error in the theologi-
cal exposition of Christianity, conceive of the
love of God, on which redemption is based, as
being nothing more than mercy, however largely
this element of mercy may — as it certainly does
— direct and, we may perhaps say, intensify that

3. But when we refer to the primary Idea In
the word which Holy Scripture has chosen to
express the love of God, the reality of His love


for man, as distinguished from mere compassion,
is at once apparent. For since man was created
originally ''in the image and likeness '' of God,
it is certain that, on account of this spiritual re-
lation to his Creator, he must have a value in
the sight of God infinitely beyond all the irra-
tional creation. He is *' dear " to God, as being
beyond all comparison more precious than the
whole world besides. And further, when we
consider the other element in love, by which it
is distinguished from mere benevolence, I mean
the demand for the return of love in spiritual
fellowship and communion, we find that this
also must altogether distinguish the affection of
God for man from that goodness of God which
is over all His works ; for man is created capable
of that spiritual fellowship with his Maker of
which the lower creation is wholly incapable.
Indeed, in the history of man's creation, lan-
guage is used so nearly resembling that by
which the relation to God of the uncreated Son
is expressed, as of itself to explain sufficiently
that which at first seems a moral contradiction ;
I mean, that the love of God for sinful man is so
truly of the same kind with His love to His
*' only begotten Son," as to be described by
the very same word. '' Let us make man,"


God said, '* in our Image, after our likeness."
'' So God created man in his own image."
Even thus the Son is the image {eiKcov) of God
and '' the exact representation (x^^paKTr/^) of His
substance." The language is indeed by no means
identical ; and we must notice that whatever
may be the exact difference between the words
£z7imv and 6/AoiGDffi?^ the latter is never predi-
cated of the Son of God, who is not only
ojioiovaioiy as a created and finite being may
be, but opioovGio^, ^^ But that man is, as a
created being, the very counterpart of the
eternal and uncreated Son, the inspired history
of creation plainly indicates. And that this is
not only true of man in the state of his inno-
cence, but that it also describes his relation to
God after his fall from that estate, is distinctly
taught in Holy Scripture.'*^ He is therefore un-
utterably precious to God because of this rela-
tion, and, next to His *' only begotten Son,"
His ayaTtrjro?.

4. And yet, as Holy Scripture teaches no
less clearly, that the very purpose of redemption
in reo^ard to man is his restoration into the
image and likeness of God, which only in Christ,

*'' St. John X. 30, €y(^ uai 6 Ttarrfp ev ifffxEv.
" Cf. Gen. IX. 6 ; St. James III. 9 ; i Cor. XI. 7.


the Second Adam, the Son of Man, is in its per-
fection and complete heavenly form, it is
evident that since the fall of man this divine
likeness, which He has received by cre-
ation, is in him not aduallyy but pote7itially
only. And this is yet more apparent, when we
consider that the actual likeness of God in man
must be the Love which God is ; while, in his
present natural state, man not only does not
love God but is alienated and at enmity. So
that the love of God to man cannot be that of
satisfaction in any actual likeness to God natu-
rally existing in man ; but the love which, recog-
nizing in man the capacity for that perfect image,
loves him, even in his enmity, not with a mere
compassion, but as the father loves the prodigal
son, and longs for his return. That man was
created in God's image, explains the reality of
the love ; the tremendous necessity that that
likeness should be actually reproduced in him,
explains its intensity.

5. Before we consider the method, revealed
in Holy Scripture, which God ordained for the
restoration of man from a state of ahenation
from God, which is spiritual death, to a state of
fellowship with his loving Creator, which is
life everlastino^, there are several truths to be


borne in mind. And first of all it must be re-
membered that in man, as a spiritual being in
whom the knowledge of good and evil has been
awakened, there is what Holy Scripture teaches
us to call *' the conscience." It was the express
purpose of the Old Dispensation to call into
activity this spiritual principle, the witness for
God within ourselves, and to enable man more
distinctly to recognize that the transgression of
God's law is worthy of death and its necessary
consequence. But (as St. Paul teaches '^^) man,
even without this revelation, had, from God's
works in creation, sufficient knowledge of God's
" everlasting power and divinity," to leave him
without excuse for his perversions of divine
truth. And the apostle adds further, that
''when Gentiles, which have no law, do
by nature the things of the law, these having
no law are a law unto themselves ; in that they
show the work of the law written in their hearts,
their conscience bearing witness therewith, and
their thoughts (or reasonings) one with another
accusing or else excusing them." A further pur-
pose of the law was to educate the conscience
of man as to the necessity of a sacrifice, or pro-
pitiation, being offered for sin, in order that the

*« Rom. I. II.


sinner may be restored into spiritual fellowship
and communion with a God of Love. But it is a
mistake to suppose that this truth was originally
or exclusively taught by the Mosaic law. ** The
first impulse of men, under the dictates of nature,
has almost always been to acknowledge a re-
sponsibility to a Divine Power, and to offer some
expiation for the offences they have committed.
The sacrifices of the Jev/s are but a more elab-
orate illustration of the universal practice of
mankind ; and if the general prevalence of an
instinct can be regarded as any proof of the be-
lief it implies, there are few cases in which ex-
perience supplies a stronger argument than is
afforded in favor of the necessity of an atone-
ment by the practice of expiating sacrifices." ^^
This demand of conscience — though in hea-
thenism it has manifested itself in superstitious,
monstrous, and indeed impious forms, wholly
inconsistent with the truth that God is Love,
— is nevertheless (however defective and erro-
neous) a universal witness in man to the neces-
sity of satisfaction being made for the transgres-
sion of God's law ; and the demand cannot be

*' Wace's Boyle Lectures for 1S74. Lecture VI., " ThePrinciple
of Atonement." I have taken several suggestions from this valuable
and interesting lecture.


satisfied except by a reality. While the express
purpose of the elaborate distinctions and the
carefully provided order, in the sacrifices com-
manded by the law of Moses, was to guard
against the heathen perversions of the idea of
sacrifice, and to teach that propitiation through
sacrifice is consistent with God's fatherly love
to man, yet the sacrifices themselves, though
ordained by divine authority, were proved by
their constant repetition year by year (as the
Epistle to the Hebrews reminds us) to be
wholly unable to satisfy and purify the con-
science, which nothing whatever but spiritual
and divine reality can ever absolve.-^" All that
these sacrifices could do, was to point forward
to a real propitiation for sin, hereafter to be
manifested ; in which man's guilty conscience
should be once for all reconciled to its God.
'' But Christ having come a high priest of the
good things to come, through his own blood
entered in once for all into the true holy place,
heaven itself, having obtained redemption for
us." " For if the blood of goats and bulls satisfy
unto the cleanness of the flesh," — purifying
from ceremonial defilement, — *' how much more
shall the blood of Christ, who through the

" Heb. IX. 9, 10, 14 ; X. 1-4.


eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish
unto God, cleanse your conscience from dead
works to serve the living God.

6. But, further, for the complete restoration
of man into a state of fellowship with God, it
was necessary not only that the conscience
should be cleansed by a real satisfaction for sin,
but also that the love of God toward us should
be so manifested as to be the rational ground
for our loving Him. It is certain that there is
no other religion, except Christianity, which has
even professed to reveal any method whatever
through which this moral and spiritual restora-
tion of man, from a condition of alienation from
God and His love, to one of fellowship with that
love, could be effected. And yet the necessity
for this, if man is to be a partaker of the bless-
edness of God, and to obtain salvation from the
evils with which human life is filled, as we know
by our own miserable experience, is obvious.
That is, it is obvious if we allow the funda-
mental principle, that the moral Being of God is
Love. What that method for restoring man is,
which is embodied in Christian faith and doc-
trine, and how truly and fully it is the exponent
of that infinite love of which the eternal Son of
God is the primary and all comprehensive ob-
ject, we must now examine more fully.


7. There is no book of Holy Scripture in
which the subject of redemption, in its pro-
foundest aspects, is more completely, and (we
may say) scientifically expounded, than in that
Episde to the Hebrews to which reference has
been already made as teaching the subjective
efficacy of redemption, of Christ's sacrifice, as
regards the conscience. The exposition being
intended for those who have been trained
through the teaching and the ritual of the Old
Dispensation, exhibits Christianity as the devel-
opment and only true fulfilment of the Mosaic
economy ; yet it is far from being a mere com-
mentary on that religious system, or setting
forth any one particular phase of Christian
faith and doctrine. It is as catholic, in its repre-
sentation of Christianity as intended for the
whole race of mankind, as if it had been written
for Gentile converts. Its primary subject is the
Son of God, in whom God has spoken in these
latter days, and through whom, in the begin-
ning, all things included in the conditions of
time and space were created ; who, being God
of God, Light of Light, and one God with the
Father, of the same almighty and universal
sovereignty, after that through a brief period of
humiliation '' He had made purification of sins,'*


sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on
high, as being Himself superior to all the high-
est and most glorious of created beings. The
nature of this humiliation, through which He
made this purification of sins, is then more par-
ticularly described.

8. In order, however, to apprehend the rela-
tion of the redemption of man, as here described,
to the Being of God as Love, we must first recall
our Lord's words, when, in anticipation of His
death and passion. He said^^: '' Therefore doth
the Father love me, because I lay down my life
that I may take it again ; no one taketh it from
me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power
to lay it down, and I have power to take it
again. This commandment have I received of
my Father." The work of redemption is repre-
sented by Christ Himself as His own voluntary
fulfilment of the will of the Father, In order that
He might glorify the Father and Himself in
this marvellous work.^^ And this view of
redemption is further explained by St. Paul
when 53 he speaks of our Redeemer as one who,
being in the form of God, might have claimed
equality with God as His right, yet chose

" St. John X. 17, i8. " Compare St. John XVIII. i, 2,5.

" Phil. II. 6, II.


humiliation in our nature as the means of our
salvation, even though it involved obedience
unto death, yea, the death of the cross. And
in return for this, He received from God exal-
tation, as the Redeemer of mankind, to the
right hand of Majesty, and a name above every
name, in which all creation should recognize
Jesus as their Lord to the glory of God the
Father. There is, it will be observed, perfect
consistency throughout in the view of redemp-
tion, as given both by our Lord Himself and by
St. Paul ; and this view we find completed in
the Epistle to the Hebrews. The apostolic
writer refers ^^^ to a prophecy in the eighth
Psalm, of the exaltation of man by God visiting
him, which was to be fulfilled in Christ ; and
though we do not, as yet, see all things subject
to man, as foretold, yet we behold Him who
was made for a little while lower than the an-
gels, even Jesus, because of the suffering of
death crowned with glory and honor, that by
the grace of God He should taste death for
every man. *' For it became Him " — that is,
God — '' for whom are all things, and through
w^hom are all things, in bringing many sons unto
glory, to make the author (or leader) of their

" Heb. II. 6, etc.


salvation perfect through sufferings." In other
words, it was consistent with the character of God,
who is Love, that, in the fulfilment of His purpose
of love to the children of man, their Redeemer
should in all things be qualified for His mighty
work of salvation. This was to be effected
through suffering, even unto death, in man's
nature, for His suffering was essential to that
exaltation, by which alojte His work would become
available for the whole family of man. And this
argument the apostle confirms and further illus-
trates, from that to which we referred, in con-
sidering the meaning of the love of God to man,
though fallen and disobedient ; I mean that
very intimate relation between the Redeemer
and the redeemed, the Sanctifier and the sanc-
tified, of which the incarnation and death of the
Son of God, for the sake of those who by crea-
tion are children of God, is the result.

9. In this argument it must be first noticed,
as regards the relation of the doctrine of
redemption to the fundamental principle of
Christian theology, that the primary purpose
in this divine work, as here represented, has
respect to Him who, (we have concluded from
the Being of God as Love,) must from all eternity
and throughout all ages be the primary object


of Divine Love, which God is. There are some
theological explanations of redemption from
which it would be impossible not to draw the in-
ference, — which is not only absurd but impious,
— that when God spared not His own Son, but
delivered Him up for us all, He loved the world
of sinful men more than He loved His only Son.
Especially is this the case with som.e of the rep-
resentations of the passion and death of Christ
as punishment endured as an equivalent , for that
which was due to God's justice on account of
the sins of those who are delivered from the
punishment through the debt being paid. This
mean view of redemption, which is an instance
of the danger of drawing conclusions from the
mere letter of Holy Scripture,^^ is one that has
often excited prejudices against Christianity ;
and yet it is difficult to conceive any view more
inconsistent with its spirit, or that tends more
to make the whole revelation both of God's
love, and of God's wrath against sin, which is
the necessary opposite of His love, an unreal-
ity. It assumes also that there is some moral
or spiritual value in suffering in itself, as if the
value were not merely in the love itself of

*^ See on this, Wace's Boyle Lectures for 1874, Lect. VI. (before
referred to), and for a philosophical discussion of the question, Cole-
ridge's yiz^j' to Reflection, 313-331.


which it is the exponent ; and, further, it loses
sight of the truth that the wrong done by the
sin of man, though it may be expressed meta-
phorically as a debt incurred, yet is a wrong
to love, and cannot be repaired on any such
principle as the payment of a debt ; for who
does not know that " if a man would give all
the substance of his house for love it v/ould be
utterly contemned"? 5^ Reparation for an in-
jury to love can only be made by acts or other
proofs of love, with which he who has done the
wrong is personally in spirit identified. But
without considering further here what are the
fatal objections to any view of redemption in
which such truths as these are forgotten, it
seems to me, I confess, the most serious objec-
tion of all to that which represents the sacrifice
of Christ as " vicarous punishment," that it ob-
scures the truth that the love of God for man is
wholly in Christ the Son of His Love, In the
view given in the Epistle to the Hebrews this
truth is of all the most prominent ; Christ, the
eternal Son, is the one object that Holy Script-
ture here reveals as the representative of God's
love in the act of redemption.

lo. Instead, therefore, of attempting, either

"Cant. VIII. 7.


on the theory before referred to, or on any-
other, to explain to our speculative reason the
mystery of the Atonement, which can lead to no
profitable result, but will only encumber Chris-
tianity with doctrines for which it is in no way
responsible, let us consider what is the sum
and substance of the whole doctrine of redemp-
tion, as here presented to our faith. It is that
for our sakes, the eternal Son of God, in whom
He is always well pleased, was made man, in
order that He might voluntarily bear the whole
burden of suffering and sorrow to which man-
kind is liable. It is impossible for any one to
doubt that this world is full of moral and physical
evil, and of suffering and death, whatever may
have been the origin. If revelation tells us
that the origin was man s own disobedience, it
tells us also that man is not left to struggle by
himself against an irresistible flood of evil, but
that God, his loving Father, through the sacri-
fice of the Son of His love, has provided the
remedy. This is the view of Christianity which
the apostle expounds in the following argument
of his epistle. He does not attempt to explain
the objective efficacy of Christ's death as the
propitiation for sin, beyond saying that He took
our nature in order ''that through death He


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Online LibraryHenry CotterillRevealed religion expounded by its relations to the moral being of God → online text (page 4 of 7)