Writer: C. H. Mackintosh (1820-1896)
In considering this great subject, two things claim our attention: first, what Christ has done for us; secondly, what He is doing for us. In the former we have atonement; in the latter, advocacy. He died for us on the cross. He lives for us on the throne. By his precious atoning death, He has met our entire condition as sinners. He has borne our sins, and put them away for ever. He stood charged with all our sins — the sins of all who believe in His name. "Jehovah laid on him the iniquities of us all." (Isa. 53) And again, "For Christ also has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." (1 Peter 3:18).
This is a grand and all-important truth for the anxious soul — a truth which lies at the very foundation of the whole Christian position. It is impossible that any truly awakened soul, any spiritually enlightened conscience, can enjoy divinely-settled peace until this most precious truth is laid hold of in simple faith. I must know, upon divine authority, that all my sins are put away for ever out of God's sight; that He Himself has disposed of them in such a manner as to satisfy all the claims of His throne, and all the attributes of His nature; that He has glorified Himself in the putting away of my sins, in a far higher and more wonderful manner than if he had sent me to an everlasting hell on account of them.
Yes, He Himself has done it. This is the very gist and marrow, the heart's core of the whole matter. God has laid our sins on Jesus, and He tells us so in His holy word, so that we may know it upon divine authority — an authority that cannot lie. God planned it; God did it; God says it. It is all of God, from first to last, and we have simply to rest in it like a little child. How do I know that Jesus bore my sins in His own body on the tree? By the very same authority which tells me I had sins to be borne. God, in His marvellous and matchless love, assures me, a poor guilty, hell-deserving sinner, that He has Himself undertaken the whole matter of my sins, and disposed of it in such a manner as to bring a rich harvest of glory to His own eternal name, throughout the wide universe, in presence of all created intelligence.
The living faith of this must tranquilize the conscience. If God has satisfied Himself about my sins, I may well be satisfied also. I know I am a sinner — it may be the chief of sinners. I know my sins are more in number than the hairs of my head; that they are black as midnight — black as hell itself. I know that any one of these sins, the very least, deserves the eternal flames of hell. I know — because God's word tells me — that a single speck of sin can never enter His holy presence; and hence, so far as I am concerned, there was no possible issue, save eternal separation from God. All this I know, upon the clear and unquestionable authority of that word which is settled for ever in heaven.
But oh the profound mystery of the cross! — the glorious mystery of redeeming love I see God Himself taking all my sins — the black and terrible category — all my sins, as He knew and estimated them. I see Him laying them all upon the head of my blessed Substitute, and dealing with Him about them. I see all the billows and waves of God's righteous wrath — His wrath against my sins — His wrath which should have consumed me soul and body in hell throughout a dreary eternity; I see them all rolling over the man who stood in my stead; who represented me before God; who bore all that was due to me: with whom a holy God dealt as He should have dealt with me. I see inflexible justice, holiness, truth, and righteousness dealing with my sins, and making a clear and eternal riddance of them. Not one of them is suffered to pass! There is no connivance, no palliation, no slurring over, no indifference. This could not possibly be, once God Himself took the matter in hand. His glory was at stake; His unsullied holiness, His eternal majesty, the lofty claims of His government.
All these had to be provided for in such wise as to glorify Himself in view of angels, men, and devils. He might have sent me to hell — righteously, justly, sent me to hell — because of my sins. I deserved nothing else. My whole moral being, from its profoundest depths, owns this — must own it. I have not a word to say in excuse for a single sinful thought, to say nothing of a sin-stained life from first to last — yes, a life of deliberate, rebellious, high-handed sin.
Others may reason as they please as to the injustice of an eternity of punishment for a life of sin — the utter want of proportion between a few years of wrong-doing and endless ages of torment in the lake of fire. They may reason, but I thoroughly believe, and unreservedly confess, that for a single sin against such a Being as the God whom I see at the cross, I richly deserved everlasting punishment in the deep, dark, and dismal pit of hell.
I am not writing as a theologian; if I were, it would be a very easy task indeed to bring an unanswerable array of scripture evidence in proof of the solemn truth of eternal punishment. But no; I am writing as one who has been divinely taught the true desert of sin, and that desert I calmly, deliberately, and solemnly declare, is, and can be, nothing less than eternal exclusion from the presence of God and the Lamb — eternal torment in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.
But — eternal hallelujahs to the God of all grace! — instead of sending us to hell because of our sins, He sent His Son to be the propitiation for those sins. And in the unfolding of the marvellous plan of redemption, we see a holy God dealing with the question of our sins, and executing judgment upon them in the Person of His well-beloved, eternal, and co-equal Son, in order that the full flood-tide of His love might flow down into our hearts. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4:10).
Now this must give peace to the conscience, if only it be received in the simplicity of faith. How is it possible for a person to believe that God has satisfied Himself as to his sins, and not have peace? If God says to us, "Your sins and iniquities I will remember no more," what could we desire further as a basis of peace for our conscience? If God assures me that all my sins are blotted out as a thick; cloud — that they are cast behind His back — for ever gone from His sight — should I not have peace? If He shows me the man who bore my sins on the cross, now crowned at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens, ought not my soul to enter into perfect rest as to the question of my sins? Most assuredly.
For how, let me ask, did Christ reach the place which He now fills on the throne of God? Was it as God over all, blessed for ever? No; for He was always that. Was it as the eternal Son of the Father? No; He was ever that — ever in the bosom of the Father — the object of the Father's eternal and ineffable delight. Was it as a spotless, holy, perfect Man, whose nature was absolutely pure, perfectly free from sin? No; for in that character, and on that ground, He could at any moment, between the manger and the cross, have claimed a place at the right hand of God. How was it then? Eternal praise to the God of all grace! it was as the One who had by His death accomplished the glorious work of redemption — the One who had stood charged with the full weight of our sins — the One who had perfectly satisfied all the righteous claims of that throne on which He now sits.
This is a grand, cardinal point for the anxious reader to seize. It cannot fail to emancipate the heart, and tranquilize the conscience. We cannot possibly behold by faith the Man who was nailed to the tree, now crowned on the throne, and not have peace with God. The Lord Jesus Christ, having taken upon Himself our sins, and the judgment due to them, He could not be where He now is if a single one of those sins remained unatoned for. To see the sin-bearer crowned with glory is to see our sins gone for ever from the divine presence. Where are our sins? They are all obliterated. How do we know this? The One who took them all upon Himself has passed through the heavens to the very highest pinnacle of glory. Eternal justice has wreathed His blessed brow with a diadem of glory, as the Accomplisher of our redemption — the Bearer of our sins; thus proving, beyond all question, or possibility of a question, that our sins are all put away out of God's sight for ever. A crowned Christ, and a clear conscience, are, in the blessed economy of grace, inseparably linked together. Wondrous fact! Well may we chant with all our ransomed powers the praises of redeeming love.
But let us see how this most consolatory truth is set forth in holy scripture. In Romans 3 we read, "But now the righteousness of God, without law [coris nomou], is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God, by faith of Jesus Christ, to all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God has set forth a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission [or passing over] of sins that are past [in time gone by], through the forbearance of God; to declare at this time his righteousness; that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believes in Jesus."
Again, in Romans 4, speaking of Abraham's faith being counted to him for righteousness, the apostle adds, "Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him: but for as also to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification." Here we have God introduced to our souls as the One who raised from the dead the Bearer of our sins. Why did He do so? Because the One who had been delivered for our offences had perfectly glorified Him respecting those offences, and put them away for ever. God not only sent His only begotten Son into the world, but He bruised Him for our iniquities, and raised Him from the dead, in order that we might know and believe that our iniquities are all disposed of in such a manner as to glorify Him infinitely and everlastingly. Eternal and universal homage to His name!
But we have farther testimony on this grand fundamental truth. In Hebrews 1 we read such soul-stirring words as these: "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners [or in divers measures and modes] spake in times past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by [His] Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." Our Lord Christ, blessed be His name, would not take His seat on the throne of God, until he had, by the offering of Himself on the cross, purged our sins. Hence a risen Christ at God's right hand is the glorious and unanswerable proof that our sins are all gone, for He could not be where He now is if a single one of those sins remained. God raised from the dead the self-same Man on whom He Himself had laid the full weight of our sins. Thus all is settled — divinely, eternally settled. It is as impossible that a single sin can be found on the very weakest believer in Jesus, as on Jesus Himself. This is a wonderful thing to be able to say, but it is the solid truth of God, established in manifold places in holy scripture; and the soul that believes it must possess a peace which the world can neither give nor take away.