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of Jesus Christ to the guilty, ministering the gospel of God, "that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” Thus we see that the writers of the New Testament were in the habit of applying this language to a great variety of subjects ; which makes it less probable that when they applied it to the death of Jesus Christ they meant that we should understand them literally.
Besides, though it is under this image of a sacrifice that they frequently speak of the death of Christ, it is by no means the only representation which they give of it. He is described as a good shepherd laying down his life for his sheep. He speaks of himself as a grain of corn, which, unless it fall into the ground and die, abideth alone, but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit. He is spoken of as a captain leading his followers to salvation. By a variety of figures, he is described as a priest, an altar, a mercy-seat, a high-priest entering within the veil, a sacrifice. Here it appears, that whatever comparisons are made between the death of Christ and the sacrifices, and other ceremonies of the law, they are all capable of being explained in the same way, as expressions having great beauty and propriety when considered as figurative, but destitute of both, if we attempt to explain them by a literal mode of interpretation.
Those passages which represent Jesus Christ as having ransomed and redeemed us, are to be explained in a similar manner, by reference to the general style of sacred Scripture. It is common in Scripture to describe the world as in a state of bondage and captivity, held under the strict dominion and oppression of enemies. Now, it was a custom with most nations to hold
their captives in a state of abject slavery, unless a sum was paid for their restoration to freedom. Mankind were slaves to the grossest superstitions ; the slaves o. sin, under the bondage of sin. From this slavery when they became Christians they were delivered, they were ransomed. When they are described as bought or purchased, this is an expression used in many cases, where, in a literal sense, no price was paid for the deliveranco. Thus Exodus xv. 16, “Fear and dread shall fall upon them, till thy people pass over, O Lord, till thy people pass over which thou hast purchased." Deut. xxxii. 16, “Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people and unwise? Is he not thy father that hath bought thee? Hath he not made thee and established thee ?" God buys a people when he interposes in their favor. And thus Christ purchased us by his death, not from God, but from sin and the power of death ; for he delivered us from the evil course of this world, and gave us motives for holiness and obedience, arising from faith in God to forgive sin unto eternal life. So, with respect to the word redeemed, we are described as redeemed from all iniquity ; and we are exhorted to redeem time, in which no literal notion of purchase can be admitted.
To produce all the passages which relate to this subject, and to afford distinct explanations of them, would greatly exceed the limits of this Tract. What has been said already, may perhaps be sufficient to enable us to understand the principles on which they may be explained consistently with the general sense of Scripture; and so as not to contradict our established belief in the wisdom, goodness and mercifulness of God. And shall we despise the riches and long suffering of God, as displayed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because the means which he has adopted do not exactly accord with our expectations ? Shall we find fault with them as not sufficiently splendid and dignified ? The simplicity of the means employed is surely one of the greatest proofs of the divine origin of the Christian institution. When we consider what important things are revealed to us, what more can we desire ? We are told of the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the dead, and the life everlasting ; of the providence of God ever exercised over us and in our behalf; the ascension and immortality of Christ, the perpetual love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Why should we wish for knowledge on more important subjects? What is there incomplete for direction and instruction in righteousness ? What is there that could have a more happy tendency to inspire us with the most fervent love and veneration of God, and to fill us with sentiments of the most sincere gratitude towards Jesus Christ ? We look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who, having overcome death, is become the author of eternal salvation to all them that believe in him. He that was dead is alive, he is present to intercede for the welfare of his church, and he will come again to receive his faithful followers to himself. May we earnestly strive to prepare ourselves for his glorious appearance, that we may not be ashamed before him, at his coming, but may be received unto glory, and honor, and praise, through the mercy of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
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