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Nazareth ; and the transgressor rejoices in all the rights of the Prince of Peace, and receives the reward which should belong to the holy and just. Thus you behold the striking picture of all that used formerly to take place on the great Day of Atonement: the Lord Jesus is the sacrifice, the lot“ Jehovah” destined to the sword ; while Barabbas is the “ Azazel" free, and at liberty.
It is self-evident, my brethren, that the scene between Barabbas and Christ is also a symbol and parable. The murderer is our representative ; and in the same relation in which he stood to Jesus, we stand also to the Son of God. As this rebel could in no way have escaped the execution of his sentence, had he not been placed in mysterious connexion with Jesus, 80, in like manner, neither could we. The death of the criminal appeared certain, until the question was asked, “ Barabbas or Christ ?" and then it was that the issue of the process seemed no longer doubtful. Had it been “ Barabbas or any other person ?” the detestable Barabbas never could have been chosen : the other would have been named, and then his death would have been certain. But as it was “ Barabbas or the Nazarene ?" the lot of freedom fell on Barabbas.
Thus, my brethren, had any other person, whether man or angel, placed himself in our situation to suffer for us, it would have done no good, for the sentence of death would still have rested upon us. Christ, however, placed himself in our stead—the Man that was not only holy, but who was God in the highest, and who in his own person did not require to suffer,
nor yet to offer obedience: then that which had formerly seemed certain, I mean our condemnation, suddenly appeared doubtful: and I, who formerly must have exclaimed, “I am lost without hope !" could now say, “I or Christ Jesus !" Our deliverance was inseparably connected with his condemnation; and it was only by the lot of death falling upon him that our lives could be saved. Thus you perceive how we have as much to do as Barabbas with the scene before the judgment-seat of Pilate; and if from Barabbas a cry of joy broke forth when he heard the thousand voices exclaiming, “Crucify Jesus !" certainly our hearts should rejoice no less when we read the words, “And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required."
What a great and mysterious moment! Our cause was now eternally decided : the sentence of death was pronounced upon him; and he drew the lot that he was to atone for our sins, and suffer that curse with which we had been threatened. He has done it Hallelujah! Since then we have been free; the sentence of death weighs us down no longer; our sins have lost their condemning power; and in our reckoning with God it is our merits through Christ, and not our debts, which preponderate. Henceforth death has lost its sting, and on our standard is inscribed the divine sentence" Therefore as by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation ; even so by the righteousness of One, the free gift camo upon all men unto justification of life.” III. Let us now contemplate this great matter; it
should not be thought of in church and on solemn days only, but it should be made matter of consideration daily, and in domestic life. It is a truth which should be grasped by the whole soul, and constantly made use of; not locked up like a medal in a cabinet, to be only viewed occasionally. It is a practical consolation which our hearts must receive and enjoy; it was for this purpose
God gave it, Christ won it, and the Bible presents it to us on every side.
But you must be poor sinners before you can be refreshed by this consolation ; since it is only for them that this honey drops out of the rock. You must feel your utter sinfulness, for a partial confession will not do; and the general terms, “I know I am imperfect and deficient in many things,” is not sufficient. God would not have given up your Representative to an accursed death, and to the power of Satan for a time, had he not deemed you worthy of hell. Acknowledge, therefore, that the Eternal is just in the sentence he pronounces over you : say, Yes, we are sinners !” and say it from the depth of your heart, and the bottom of your soul, in genuine humility. Nevertheless, you have no need to say it in despair, nor with anguish and wringing of hands ; but say it with sorrow—a sorrow which cannot be cured until you experience that there exists One, who has taken upon himself the whole weight of the anger of God, which had otherwise rested upon you. Then, and then only, will Christ's passion be able to minister consolation to
You must now regard Barabbas : as yet he knows
not that matters so important to him have taken place ; and far from having any idea of the fortunate lot which has been cast for him, he sits in sullen despair on the floor of his dungeon, awaiting every moment the appearance of the officer who is to lead him to execution, -when, lo! there rushes in a breathless messenger, with joy depicted on his countenance, bringing the most incredible intelligence. “Hail to thee, Barab
. bas !” he cries out, “thou art free, thou art free !" and, even while he speaks, he is unchaining the astonished prisoner, and calling to him to arise and leave his confinement. In the first moment of astonishment, it seems to the criminal as though he were still dreaming ; he then begins to think that he has been permitted, for a few hours, to walk about the court of his prison, to which he must return after enjoying for a short space the free air of heaven. The messenger, however, assures him anew that he is free, and explain how the thing has taken place. Thus Barabbas learns that the sentence of death no longer impends over his head, for it has been annulled and torn; that he has nothing more to do with offended justice, for he has been restored to the rights of a citizen, and no complaints will henceforth be raised against him; on the contrary, he will be treated as though he never had committed a crime; and all this has been done, because another has stood in his place, and suffered death on the cross instead of him. The messenger who brings him this blessed intelligence, withholds nothing, but declares it freely and fully; and is he not in this the type of a faithful evangelist? Yes, ye souls that are weary and heavy-laden, a message similar to what the murderer received is now conveyed to you, only far greater and far more blessed. In clear and simple terms we declare, that since the great exchange took place, before the judgment-seat of Pilate and on Mount Golgotha, there is no more condemnation for you that are in Christ Jesus. And we entreat you to receive this word in faith and humility, for we speak it in Christ's stead, and we bring you the message in the name of God.
The manner in which Barabbas received the joyful intelligence of his being set free, has not been disclosed to us ; nevertheless, let us contemplate the subject for a few moments. If Barabbas, filled with a sense of the magnitude of his crime, had regarded the message as jest and mockery, and instead of availing himself of his offered freedom, had resisted the removal of his chains, and expressed his determination to remain in imprisonment, would ye not have called him a fool? Ye would, my brethren ; but in doing so, ye would condemn yourselves; for do not the greater part of Christians act in the same manner ? Suppose, on the other hand, he had contradicted the intelligence communicated to him by the herald, saying, "It is impossible that your message can be true :" would it not have been virtually accusing, in the severest terms, the government, in whose name the officer came, by giving all of them the lie? Think upon this, ye weak and timid Christians, who will neither believe Christ nor his apostles, when they tell you that there is “ demnation to them which are in Christ Jesus !" Sup