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1 Cor. i. 20.
WHERE IS THE WISE ? WHERE IS THE SCRIBE ?
WHERE IS THE DISPUTER OF THIS WORLD?
FROM the train of reasoning pursued in
the preceding discourse, it has, I trust, been made evident, that, though repentance and reformation are without doubt indisputably necessary towards procuring the pardon of sin, (so necessary, that without them not all the sacrifices on earth, nor all the mercies of heaven, can avail to save us,) yet they are not of themselves sufficient to wash away the stains of past guilt, to satisfy the justice of an offended God, and restore a wicked and rebellious world to his protection and favour. It appears, both from the nature of the
things themselves, from the clearest deductions of reason, from the ordinary course of human affairs in the present world, from the common apprehensions, and the universal practice of mankind, before the appearance of Christ upon earth, and, above all, from the positive declarations of God himself, both in the Old and New Testament, that, besides the contrition of the sinner himself, something must be done or suffered by some other being on his account; some sort of expiation must be made for him, and accepted, before he can be exonerated of guilt, and redeemed from punishment, and stand justified in the eyes of his offended Maker.
This principle being established, (and it appears to me incontrovertible,) who shall afterwards presume to say that the particular kind of expiation, or, in other words, the particular mode of Redemption, which God actually fixed upon for the preservation of mankind, was not the best and fittest that could be devised. If some victim, some propitiatory sacrifice, was plainly necessary for this purpose ; who shall undertake to affirm,
that the very individual sacrifice appointed by God himself, was not the properest and most effectual to answer the end proposed ? If commutative punishment and vicarious suffering appear not only to have prevailed among all Heathen nations from the earliest ages, and to have been established among the Jews by the express appointment of God, but even at this hour to make a part of the ordinary dispensations of God's providence in the present world, (where we continually see men rescued from ruin by the interposing kindness, the generous exertions, and the voluntary sufferings of others on their account,) who shall say, that there was either cruelty or injustice in appointing Christ to die, much less in his voluntary consent to die, “ for us men and for our salvation ?” If, in fine, the value of the victim offered was usually proportioned to the magnitude of the offence, and the number of the offenders, why should it appear in the least incredible, that when the inhabitants of a whole world, (perhaps of many worlds and systems of worlds,) and all their generations, from the very fall of our first parents to the end of time, were to be cleansed from guilt, nothing less than the blood of the Son of God himself should be thought to possess sufficient purifying powers to wash away stains of so deep a dye, and so vast extent?
It is evident, then, that all the plausible objections of “ the wise, the scribe, the dis“puter of this world,” against the Scripture doctrine of Redemption, founded on the nature of the sacrifice made by our Lord, on the dignity of his person, on the union of the Divine nature with the man Christ Jesus, or any other circumstance of that nature, are utterly void of all foundation in truth, in reason, in experience, and in the actual course of human affairs in God's administration of the universe. We may, therefore, safely dismiss them without further notice : and may assume it as an undoubted truth, that though we ourselves could not; with our short-sighted faculties, discover the smallest traces of wisdom or propriety in the Redemption of the world by the death of Christ, yet that it is in fact the wisest that could be chosen; that the difficulties attending it arise only from that impenetrable darkness which
surrounds the throne of the Almighty, and must necessarily rest on many of his works, both of nature and of grace; and that it is, notwithstanding, as the Scripture most accurately and sublimely expresses it, “ the 65 wisdom of God in a mystery.”* Yet still, by contemplating this mystery attentively, we may, even with our limited understandings, discover some marks of Divine wisdom; some reasons which might induce the Almighty to prefer this method of redeeming the world to any other; reasons sufficient at least to show that when the veil is wholly withdrawn, when we no longer “ see through “ a glass darkly,” but are admitted to contemplate “ in open day” the whole plan and the entire system of our Redemption, we shall have as much reason to reverence the depth of the counsels of the Almighty, as we confessedly have, even at present, with all our ignorance, and all the natural obscurity of the subject, to adore his goodness.
Out of many of these marks of Divine wisdom, in the mode of our Redemption, which might be produced, I shall select only a few of the most important.
* 1 Cor. ii. 7.