'For 1 delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that
Christ died for our sins
according to the Scriptures." — 1 Cor. xv. 3.
The words which are here rendered
" first of all," are otherwise interpreted,
and mean, amongst the chief things or
principal doctrines of the gospel. It is
not very material which of the two sen-
tences we attach to the expression ; for
the words which St. Paul had delivered
to the Corinthians, first in order, were no
doubt considered by him to be first in im-
portance ; they were the foundation, on
which the whole superstructure of Chris-
tianity was to be raised. The great and
astonishing fact that Jesus Christ died
for our sins, as an essential and vital truth
of the gospel revelation, occupies every
where the most conspicuous place in the
preaching of the great gospel : which he
himself describes as being emphatically
the " preaching of the cross." So en-
tirely does the whole fabric of gospel
truth appear to him to rest on this one
foundation stone, that he speaks of it as
being the one needful and sufficient point
of knowledge for the Christian minister;
— " I determined," he says, " not to know
any thing among you save Jesus Christ
and him crucified; God forbid that I
should glory save in the cross of our
Lord Jesus Christ." The hope of Chris-
tians, which was made sure by the resur-
rection of Jesus, had its root in his cruci-
fixion ; for if he had not died for our sins,
his rising again would not have esta-
blished the fact of our justification; life
and immortality would indeed have been
ascertained by that stupendous miracle ;
but it would have been to the conscious
sinner a life of seclusion from the pre-
sence of God and an immortality of wo.
Whatever comfort is to be derived from
the reflection, that the resurrection of
Jesus Christ from the dead is the earnest
and assurance of our own, derives all its
efficacy frop the truth that he died for
our sins. It is only through this medium
that the prospects of the eternal world
can be contemplated without apprehen-
sion by sinful man, — it is this considera-
tion alone which enables us to view the
attributes of God with complacency and
comfort, and diffuses over them a sweet
and attractive view of love. The suffer-
ings and death of our Saviour Christ are
indeed a most interesting and important
subject of inquiry, as evincing his perfect
sincerity and devotedness, and proving
his own entire conviction of the truth of
what he taught ; and we are by no means
to lose sight of this consideration in view-
ing the benefits which have been derived
by us from that wonderful act of conde-
scension and goodness. But if we go no
farther than this, we stop very far short
of the whole truth ; and our notions of
that part of the Christian economy, which
the apostle held to be of primary and vital
importance, will be miserably defective
and inaccurate. If the death of Christ
was nothing more than his last and most
decisive attestation of the truth of his
teaching, it was a mere historical fact in-
volving in itself no peculiar doctrine, — a
fact, of which St. Paul could not have
been ignorant if he had ever heard the
name of Jesus ; and yet he says that he
received it, that is to say, by revelation ;
the subject of that revelation being, not
simply the fact that Christ had died, but
that he had died for our sins.
Again, had our blessed Lord submitted
to a painful and ignominious death, only
for the puri)ose of establishing his own
veracity, and setting a seal to the truth of
the message of holiness which he had
proclaimed, it might indeed have been
said of Him, considering how deeply, the
best interests of mankind were involved
in the belief of that message, he laid
down his life for the sake of mankind, —
for their improvement and for their in-
struction; but in no intelligible sense of
the word could it be said, that, he died
for their sins ; the particle/or — " died for
their sins" — being in the original a word
which signifies on account of; evidently
implying, that as siii caused the death of
Christ, so the death of Christ was to be
the cause of God's forgiving sin. The
expression ^^for our sins,^^ cannot reasona-
bly be taken in any other sense than this
— in expiation of our sins ; as in the fifth
chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews ;
" Every high priest taken from among
men, is ordained for men in things per-
taining to God, that he may oifer both
gifts and sacrifices for sins." But the
concluding words of the text are quite
decisive, as to the sense in which Jesus
Christ is declared, by the apostle, to have
died for our sins. " I delivered unto you
first of all that which I also received, how
that Christ died for our sins according to
the Scriptures," that is to say, according
to the prophecies, concerning the Mes-
siah, which are contained in the Jewish
Scriptures. In these prophecies, there-
fore, we may expect to find, not merely
the declaration, that the Messiah, the
anointed one, should die, but some inti-
mation of the manner in which his death
should be connected with the sins of
mankind ; and such in fact is the charac-
ter of these predictions. Had the writers
of the ew Testament been altogether
silent as to the great object which was to
be achieved by the voluntary death of
Christ, the prophets of the Old would
have furnished an explanation of that
act of humiliation and mercy, calculated
to satisfy all our anxiety, and to animate
all our hopes ; and to make the gospel
dispensation appear in its true colours, as
afibrdinga complete and sovereign remedy
for sin. That the prophets distinctly an-
nounced the connexion between the suf-
ferings of Christ and the salvation of
mankind is a fact pointed out by St. Pe-
ter, of which salvation he says : " The
prophets have inquired and searched
diligently, who prophesied of the grace
which should come unto them searching
what or what manner of time, the Spirit
of Christ, which was in them, did signify,
when it testified beforehand the suffer-
ings of Christ and the glory that should
follow." More particularly in the great
and evangelical prophet, the doctrine of
the atonement is clearly and unequivo-
cally marked out, that we should find in
his glorious foreshadowing of gospel
truth, a sure and immovable foundation
for this vital doctrine : and even if it had
not been seen, as in fact it is, so inter-
woven with the whole texture of apostolic
teaching, every attempt to separate it
would lacerate and mutilate the Christian
system, and leave it disfigured with an
open inconsistency. Let us hear it :
" Surely he hath borne our griefs and
carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem
him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgres-
sion, he was bruised for our iniquities :
the chastisement of our peace was upon
him, and with his stripes we are healed.
AU we like sheep have gone astray ; and
the Lord hath laid upon him the iniquity
of us all. For the transgression of my
people was he stricken." o Christian,
it is to be presumed, will dispute that
these prophecies relate to the sufferings
and death of the Messiah; and will any
one, whether a Christian or not, deny that
the suflferings are described and are spoken
of as expiatory, undergone by one person
in the stead of others, and for the purpose
of redeeming them from the consequences
of their sins. What is the commentary
of the apostle upon this sublime and
atFecting prophecy 1 Hear the words of
St. Peter; — •' Christ also suffered for us,
leaving us an example, that ye should
follow his steps : who did no sin, neither
was guile found in his mouth : who,
when he was reviled, reviled not again :
when he suffered, he threatened not; but
committed himself to him that judgeth
righteously : who his own self bare our
sins in his own body on the tree, that we
being dead to sin, should live unto right-
eousness : by whose stripes ye were
healed." The prophet says, " For the
transgression of my people was he smit-
ten." The apostle says to the Romans,
" He was delivered for our offences ;" and
to the Galatians, " He gave himself for
our sins." Again, the language of Isaiah
is, " The chastisement of our peace was
upon him." St. Paul tells the Ephesians,
" But now in Christ Jesus, ye who some-
times were far off are made nigh by the
blood of Christ." " He was led as a lamb
to the slaughter," is the prophetical de-
scription ; — " Ye were redeemed," says
the apostle, " with the precious blood of
Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish
and without spot." Were there any
doubt as to the bearing of this prophecy
upon the doctrine of satisfaction and
atonement, it would be removed by the
express prediction of the angel solemnly
delivered to Daniel — that the Messiah
should " finish transgression and make
an end of sin, and make reconciliation for
iniquity." If therefore, my brethren,
Christ died for our sins according to the
Scripture, he died in expiation of those
sins, — he died to reconcile man to God.
But the Scriptures of the Old Testa-
ment set forth the expiatory nature of
Christ's suffering and death; not merely
in express prophecy, but in the imagery
of type and shadow. It is to this more
particularly, that St. Paul refers in the
passage which I recommend to your most
serious and careful perusal, as most com-
pletely establishing the doctrine of the
atonement, — I mean the ninth and tenth
of Hebrews. Under the law, offences
committed in ignorance, or through inad-
vertency, might be expiated by certain
sacrifices, which were called, on that
account, sin-offerings, or trespass-ofler-
ings ; but those sacrifices went no farther
than to procure a remission of the tem-
poral punishment due to those offences ;
in consideration of them, God being
pleased to withhold his immediate judg-
ment which had been denounced against
offenders. But it was impossible that
such offerings could, by any intrinsic
worthiness of their own, make amends
for sin, or appease the righteous Judge
of mankind ; that could only be effected
by a sacrifice of a very different kind, of
which those were merely the shadows :
)'et they were the shadows, and therefore
they resembled the substance as to their
outward appearance, especially in one
remarkable feature, — in the shedding of
blood : — " Almost all things," says the
apostle, in the passage above referred to,
" are by the law purged with blood ; and
without shedding of blood there is no
remission. It was therefore necessary
that the pattern of things in the heavens,"
that is, the things under the spiritual
dispensation, " should be purified with
these ; for Christ is not entered into the
holy places made with hands, which are
the figures of the true ; but into heaven
itself, now to appear in the presence of
God for us ; nor yet, that he should offer
himself often, as the high priest entereth
into the holy place every year with blood
of others ; for then must he often have
suffered since the foundation of the
world :" that is, since the Mosaic dis-
pensation : " but now once in the end of
the world hath he appeared to put away
sin by the sacrifice of himself." — This
then is the reasoning of the apostle, as
the expiatory sacrifices under the law
offered year by year continually, were
effectual, by God's gracious appointment,
to procure remission of the temporal
punishment due to offences under the
Mosaic law ; so the sacrifice of Christ
and his precious blood shed upon the
cross, offered by him once for all in the
heavenly sanctuary, is effectual to the
remission of those penalties which are,
from the nature of eternal justice, due to the
sins of all mankind, for which it is impos-
sible that the blood of bulls and of goats
could ever be taken as a commutation.
Aflrr sucli tpstiinony as this, we may
well dispense with all further argument,
to prove FIRST, That Christ died for our
sins, AD SKCODLV, That He died fur our
sins according to the Scriptures. This is,
in truth, the point to which all the Scrip-
tures directly or by implication tend, —
this is the centre to which all the lines
of Christian verity verge ; Christ cruci-
fied to take away the sins of the world,
according to the pre-determined council
of God ; foreshadowed, by his Holy Spi-
rit, in prophecy and type ; carried into
effect by the unwilling- agency of those
who rejected and despised him. If the
death of our Saviour Christ had not been
a real and complete expiation for the sins
of mankind, — had not effected an atone-
ment, that is to say, the reconciliation of
men wdth God, the whole system of
Scripture might have been deprived of
its characteristic beauty, and enervated of
its strejiglh. The apparatus of prophecy,
of type, and emblem would have wanted
its corresponding reality under the gos-
pel dispensation ; the revelation vouch-
safed, by the Holy Spirit, of the nature
of the divine attributes, the law of holi-
ness, and the sinfulness of man — \\hile
they enhanced and magnified the glory of
God, would have blotted out the hand-
writing of ordinances.
The incarnation of our Lord and Sa-
viour Christ is the great mystery of god-
liness; it is a mystery in itself, but it is
a mystery of godliness only when viewed
in connexion with its end, — the death of
an all-sufficient Mediator. His doctrines
were the emanation of perfect wisdom,
holiness, and love ; and they proceeded
from his love in all the persuasiveness of
reality; — the works which he did testi-
fied the truth of his declaration, that he
was the Son of God; and it was placed
beyond all dispute by the most won-
derful of his miracles, — his resurrection
from the dead. Therefore of the truth of
his religion, of his divine authority, and
its paramount obligation on the con-
sciences of mankind, I can entertain no
doubt. But in what respects am I a
gainer by the light which has thus been
shed on the whole of the promises of
God, — by the instruction they have given
of th(? perfect law of holiness, — by the
promises of reward, nay, by the prospect
of immortality, if I am at the same time
assured of what my own reason and con-
science too plainly suggest to me, that
obedience, complete, unvaried obedience,
is not within my power, and that, if it
were possible for me to do all that God
requires of me, I should still be an un-
profitable servant, deserving of no thanks,
Bud no recompense ? What then have I
to look for, knowing how infinitely short
I come to such a sinless, though unpro-
fitable obedience'? I am compelled to
acknowledge with shame and confusion
of face, that my sins are more in number
than the hairs of my head. The gospel
without the atonement might certainly
contribute to my present ease and com-
fort, by regulating my actions and de-
sires ; and it would promote the peace and
well-being of society, because it incul-
cates the duties of forbearance and love :
but it would not remove the load of guilt
which lies so heavily on me in the sight
of a just and holy God ; although it might
diminish, for it could never do away, the
number of my actual transgressions, it
would not suffice to calm the pangs of
remorse, it would not mitigate the horrors
of the parting hour, without the fair pros-
pect of deliverance from the WTath to
come. But admit the doctrine of the
atonement, and the gospel at once appears,
as it was described by the angel who
heralded the birth of its divine author, not
only " Glory to God in the highest" —
but " On earth peace ;" peace between
man and God, Christ reconciling man
unto God by the cross, having slain the
enmity thereby. The gospel is indeed
the glory of God ; but it is from the cross
alone that it beams with a healing reviv-
ing light. The brightness of his presence
would be unapproachable and intolerable
were it not shrouded by the veil of suf-
fering humanity, in the person of his in-
carnate Son, dying for the express pur-
pose of bringing us near to God. For
" now in Christ Jesus, ye who sometimes
were far off are made nigh by the blood
of Christ." " It is not, therefore, by the
precepts merely of the gospel, nor by the
revelations of the gospel, nor by the ordi-
nances of the church, that sinners are
brought nigh unto God, but by the blood
of Christ: and the precepts, and revela-
tion and promises and aids of the gospel
— all were in evidence of the efficacy
which we derive from the shedding of
that precious blood. On this superstruc-
ture stands the whole spiritual temple.
It is the source of humility, the object of
faith, the principle of sanctification, the
key to all the treasures of God's mercy.
On this ground then, as believers in the
gospel, we take our stand ; if we recede
one hair's breadth from this we relinquish
that which holds the whole system to-
gether. If Christ died not for our sins
according to the Scriptures — if his death
was not a full, perfect, and sufficient
sacrifice and oblation for the sins of the
world, then is our preaching vain, and
your faith is also vain; but if it was, we
have that assurance which alone can
satisfy the desires and appease the anxie-
ties of a conscious sinner; we have an
advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ,
and he is the propitiation for our sins.
Well, it may be said, we admit that
the words of Scripture seem to favour
your supposition, but we cannot believe
it, it surpasses the grasp of our reason ;
we cannot understand it; "it is a hard
saying, who can bear it?" What right
have you to expect that nothing should
be proposed in holy Scripture for your
belief, but that which you can thoroughly
comprehend 1 Undoubtedly you can
comprehend the fact that Jesus Christ
did die for our sins, although you may be
wholly ignorant of the mode in which his
propitiation was effectual, and of the rea-
sons which moved the supreme arbiter of
the universe to accept that wonderful
mode of reconciliation. The Scripture
not only proposes to us the doctrine of
the divine Redeemer, but it proposes it
expressly as a mystery — a great mysterj'^ ;
thus primarily excluding it, as to its
mode, from the legitimate province of
reason, and classing it among the things
which are to be believed, simply and ex-
clusively, because God has revealed them
to us. o doubt it would gratify the
pride, and satiate the curiosity of man, to
be made acquainted with all the reasons
of God's providence, especially with
the secrets of redemption, those hidden
springs of love and holiness which were
in action before the foundation of the
world ; but there are some of the divine
councils into which even the angels de-
sire to look, and this probably is one of
The expiatory sacrifice of Christ, and
his divine nature which alone made that
expiation so infinitely meritorious, are
not the onl)' mysterious features of God's
dealings with mankind. The moral state
of man is a mystery throughout, a mys-
tery respecting which reason must be
content with the light which revelation
casts upon it ; and even with that light it
can only be viewed " as through a glass
darkly." For what can be more myste-
rious than the origin of sin and evil in the
world ] A question on which all the
powers of human reason have been ex-
erted without success, which no man pre-
tends to consider as clear and easy of
comprehension ; and if the origin of sin
and evil be mysterious, what reason have
we to conclude that its remedy should
not be mysterious 1
My brethren, if you believe the Scrip-
tures, and apply to them the ordinary
rules of interpretation, nay, if you do not
torture and disfigure them for the express
purpose of getting rid of the mystery,
(and even then you cannot blot it out
from the blessed gospel,) you cannot fail
to perceive the word " atonement,'''' writ-
ten therein in characters of light. Con-
sult then your own conscience ; go down
into the chambers of imagery, unravel the
secrets of your heart, see what they are.
and what they ought to be, and what of
themselves they never can be, and you
will wish the doctrine to be true. Em-
brace it cordially, and with prayer for the
increase of your faith, and you will soon
feel the force of the exclamation, " Oh
wretched man that I am, who shall de-
liver me from this body of sin and
death V Once convinced of your own
sinfulness and insufficiency, you will
readily admit that it is indeed " a saying
worthy of all acceptation,that Jesus Christ
came into the world to save sinners."
But then is it not an awful as well as
an acceptable saying] That our great
intercessor and surety hath put away sin,
is indeed a joyful announcement ; that he
hath done so by the sacrifice of himself,
is a subject of endless wonder and grati-
tude ; that expiation could not otherwise
be made, is a truth above all others cal-
culated to exhibit the exceeding sinful-
ness of sin, — its hatefulness in the sight
of God. Let each man apply that truth
to his own case, and say — It was for me
that Jesus died upon the cross ; it was for
me that he endured the contradiction of
sinners ; it was my sin bowed down his
holy head with sorrow in Gethsemane —
planted upon his brow the crown of thorns
— pierced his hands and his feet; nay,
those very sins which, day by day, and
hour by hour, I am committing, and by
which, as far as in me lies, I render those
sufferings and that death of none effect.
Can any contemplation be more awful
than this 1 Can we imagine a more
powerful discouragement to sin ? And if
it be less effectual to us than it ought to
be, it is because we are not sufficiently
alive to the twofold sense in which Jesus
Christ died for our sins. He died to re-
deem us not only from the penalty of sin,
but from its power, by opening a way for
the Holy Spirit into the soul of man, and
purchase glory to God, by the renewal of
sinners to holiness. " Christ," says St.
Paul, " hath redeemed us from the curse
of the law, being made a curse for us."
But the same apostle tells us that, " He
gave himself for our sins, that he might
deliver us from this present evil world."
But then a deep, heartfelt, abiding sense,
not merely an historical belief, but a cor-
dial and joyful acquiescence in the truth,
that Christ has redeemed us from the
curse of the law, also delivers us from its
power ; for it cannot be that such a con-
viction should take place in the soul, with-
out prayer, and meditation, and drawing
its affections and desires towards God.
Still less can we conceive it possible
that any person could really believe the
vital doctrine of the atonement who neg-
lects the ordinance appointed by the
Great Atoner for the express purpose of
keeping alive the remembrance of that
crowning act. " Do this in remembrance
of me" — not merely your master, your
friend, your instructer, but of me your
Saviour. Let this remind you not merely
of my sojourn upon earth, of my teaching,
of my miracles ; but of my death, my
body broken, and my blood shed upon
the cross for the remission of your sins ;
and not yours only, but the sins of the
whole world. Is it too strong a condem-
nation to say, that the neglect of the
Lord's Supper is a practical denial of the
atonement 1 Blessed Jesus, Saviour of
the world ! can we behold thee stretched
upon the cross, enduring shame and
agony for our sins, shedding forth that
precious blood with which thou hast re-
deemed us on the cross, upheld under all
thy sufferings by the desire of saving us
miserable sinners from eternal death — can
we contemplate this spectacle, and yet
contemn and refuse the consecrated sym-
bols of that body so broken, that blood
which was so shed for our sins 1 Oh
send thy Holy Spirit to pour into our
souls those gracious influences, by which
alone we can realize to ourselves the
blessed fruits of thy cross and passion,
strengthening our faith, subduing our in-
ordinate affections, and animating our
hopes with clearer and clearer prospects
of that glory, in which we shall stand
around the throne, and join in the tri-
umphant hymn which shall then be raised
by all the redeemed of the earth — " Wor-
thy is the Lamb that was slain to receive
power, and honour, and riches, and wis-
dom, and strength, and glory." — " Bless-
ing and honour and glory, be to Him that
sitteth on the throne, and to the Lamb for
ever and ever."

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