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§ 5. The Work of Christ Satisfies the Demands of the Law.
A third point involved in the Church doctrine on the work of Christ, is that it is a satisfaction to the divine law. This indeed may seem to be included under the foregoing head. If a satisfaction to justice, it must be a satisfaction to law. But in the ordinary use of the terms, the word law is more comprehensive than justice. To satisfy justice is to satisfy the demand which justice makes for the punishment of sin. But the law demands far more than the punishment of sin, and therefore satisfaction to the law includes more than the satisfaction of vindicatory justice. In its relation to the law of God the Scriptural doctrine concerning the work of Christ includes the following points: —
1. The law of God is immutable. It can neither be abrogated nor dispensed with. This is true both as respects its precepts and penalty. Such is the nature of God as holy, that He cannot cease to require his rational creatures to be holy. It can never cease to be obligatory on them to love and obey God. And such is the nature of God as just, that He cannot cease to condemn sin, and therefore all those who are guilty of sin.
2. Our relation to the law is two-fold, federal and moral. It is of the nature of a covenant prescribing the conditions of life. It says, “Ye shall keep my statutes and my judgments; which if a man do, he shall live in them.” And, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.”
3. From this federal relation to the law we are, under the gospel, delivered. We are no longer bound to be free from all sin, and to render perfect obedience to the law, as the condition of salvation. If this were not the case, no flesh living could be saved. We are not under law but under grace.
4. This deliverance from the law is not effected by its abrogation, or by lowering its demands, but by the work of Christ. He was made under the law that He might redeem those who were under the law.
5. The work of Christ was therefore of the nature of a satisfaction to the demands of the law. By his obedience and sufferings, by his whole righteousness, active and passive, He, as our representative and substitute, did and endured all that the law demands.
6. Those, who by faith receive this righteousness, and trust upon it for justification, are saved; and receive the renewing of their whole nature into the image of God. Those who refuse to submit to this righteousness of God, and go about to establish their own righteousness, are left under the demands of the law; they are required to be free from all sin, or having sinned, to bear the penalty.
Proof of the Immutability of the Law.
The principles above stated are not arbitrarily assumed; they are not deductions from any à priori maxims or axioms; they are not the constituent elements of a humanly constructed theory; they are not even the mere obiter dicta of inspired men; they are the principles which the sacred writers not only announce as true, but on which they argue, and which they employ in the construction of that system of doctrine which they present as the object of faith and ground of hope to fallen men. The only legitimate way therefore of combating these principles, is to prove, not that they fail to satisfy the reason, the feelings, or the imagination, or that they are incumbered with this or that difficulty; but that they are not Scriptural. If the sacred writers do announce and embrace them, then they are true, or we have no solid ground on which to rest our hopes for eternity.
The Scriptural character of these principles being the only question of real importance, appeal must be made at once to the Word of God. Throughout the Scriptures, the immutability of the divine law; the necessity of its demands being satisfied; the impossibility of sinners making that satisfaction for themselves; the possibility of its being rendered by substitution; and that a wonderfully constituted person, could and would, and in fact has, accomplished this work in our behalf, are the great constituent principles of the religion of the Bible. As the revelation contained in the Scriptures has been made in a progressive form, we find all these principles culminating in their full development in the later writings of the New Testament. In St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans, for example, the following positions are assumed and established (1.) The law must be fulfilled. (2.) It demands perfect obedience; and, in case of transgression, the penalty of death. (3.) No fallen man can fulfil those conditions, or satisfy the demands of the law. (4.) Christ, the Eternal Son of God, clothed in our natures has made this satisfaction to law for us. (5.) We are thus freed from the law. We are not under law, but under grace. (6.) All that is now required of us is faith in Christ. To those who are in Him there is no condemnation. (7.) By his obedience we are constituted righteous, and, being thus reconciled to God, we become partakers of the holy and immortal life of Christ, and are delivered not only from the penalty, but from the power of sin, and made the sons and heirs of God. (8.) The great condemning sin of men under the gospel, is rejecting the righteousness and Spirit of Christ, and insisting either that they need no Saviour, or that they can in some way save themselves; that they can satisfy all God’s just demands, and deliver themselves from the power of sin. If the foregoing principles are eliminated from the Pauline epistles, their whole life and power are gone. And Paul assures us that he received his doctrines, not from men, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. It is against this rock, — the substitution of Christ in the place of sinners; his making a full satisfaction to the justice and law of God, thus working out for us a perfect righteousness, by which we may be justified, — that the assaults of philosophy, falsely so called, and of heresy in all its forms have been directed from the beginning. This it is that the Gnostics and New Platonists in the first centuries; the Scotists and Franciscans during the Middle Ages; the Socinians and Remonstrants at, and after the Reformation; and Rationalists and the speculative philosophy of our own age, have striven to overthrow. But it remains, what it ever has been, the foundation of the faith, hope, and life of the Church.
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