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only, but for the sins of the whole world.” That Christ made, by his sufferings and death, an atonement for sin, is a doctrine which lies at the foundation of the Christian system, and affords the most lively display of the infinite love of God, and the most animating motives to trust in his mercy.
Q. How do you vindicate the doctrine of vicarious satisfaction, or the substitution of an innocent person to suffer for the guilty ?
Å. The scheme of vicarious satisfaction is not unjust; because the Saviour was infinitely willing to suffer in the place of man; and God, who was offended, was willing to accept the satisfaction of the substitute. The scheme is not unreasonable; because a greater good was oltained, by affording sinful man, through the satisfaction of Christ, an opportunity of obtaining everlasting happiness, than could have been obtained, by inflicting on man, personally, the punishment of his transgressions : and by the suffering of Christ in the place of man, the authority of God, and the dignity of his government, are maintained, and a glorious display afforded of all the divine perfections.
Q. Did Christ suffer in his divine nature ?
A. The divine nature is of infinite and eternal happiness, and therefore incapable of suffering. Our blessed Saviour suffered, therefore, only in his human nature. But since there was a mysterious, but intimate conjunction of both the divine and human natures in his person, the attributes, properties, actions, and passions of the one may, with propriety be attributed to the other; and therefore, as Christ was the Son of God, as well as the Son of man, may
be said that his sufferings were the sufferings of God the Son.
Q. What instruction should we derive from the commemoration of the sufferings of Christ?
A. Since it was necessary that the Son of God should take upon
him our nature, and suffer and die to atone for our sins, we should learn the infinite evil and guilt of sin, and should be excited sincerely and deeply to confess our unworthiness, and renounce our sins. The sufferings of Christ should impress us with a lively sense of his infinite love towards us, and excite us gratefully and zealously to serve him. The enjoyments of this life cannot be so valuable, nor its calamities so considerable, as we are apt to suppose, since the blessed Saviour himself was destitute of the common comforts and conveniences of life, and shared 30 largely in its afflictions and sufferings. Prosperity, therefore, is not a certain sign of God's favour, nor affliction an evidence of his displeasure. We should bear with patience and resignation the evils of this life, which we deserve to suffer, since our innocent Redeemer sustained infinitely greater sufferings on our account. The sufferings of Christ too should animate us with the joyful confidence, that we have an almighty Intercessor and Guide, who is touched with a feeling of our infirmities, and who will, therefore, be always as ready as he is able to support and succour us under all our trials. The contemplation of the sufferings of the Son of God for us, who were his enemies, is one of the most powerful means of subduing in our hearts the emotions of nalice and revenge, and of cherishing the sentiments of benevolence and charity.
1 John ij. 2.
Holy SATURDAY, or EASTER Even.
Q. WHAT is the fast of this day designed to commemorate?
A. The fast of Easter Even is designed to commemorate the state in which our Saviour was between his death and his resurrection ; for, “after he died for us, he was buried, and went down into hell."
Q. In what sense is the descent of Christ into hell to be understood ?
A. There would be no impropriety in supposing that, in the interval between his death and resurrection, Christ went in the place of condemned spirits, to proclaim, in the king, dom or residence of the great adversary and destroyer of men, the glorious triumphs of his cross. .* But Christ's descent into hell is, with more propriety, thought to mean his descent into the place where the souls of the faithful rest in hope till the resurrection. The word hell is expressed in the original by two words,* one of which is used to denote the place of torment, and the other the place of departed spirits; and in this latter signification it is supposed to be used in the Creed.
* Though the Church, by reciting, in the epistle for this day, the passage which is commonly applied (doubtless improperly) to prove Christ's descent into the place of torment, may be thought to favour this opinion; yet, from the rubric before the Apostles' Creed, it appears that she considers Christ's desarnt into hell as meant of vis descent into the place of departed spirits.
Q. What proof hare you from Scripture, of the existence of a place where the souls of the departed rest till the resurrection?
A. The Scriptures represent the rewards of heaven, and the punishments of hell, as adjudged to the righteous and the wicked at the general judgment after the resurrection. As, therefore, it is contrary to reason and Scripture to suppose that, after death, the soul is for any time in a state of insensibility, the souls of the righteous and the wicked must remain till the general judgment, in a state distinct from the proper heaven of happiness and hell of torments; the souls of the righteous, in the joyful expectation of the consummation of their bliss, both in body and soul, in the heavenly kingdom of their Saviour; and the souls of the wicked, in the fearful anticipation of being doomed to that hell of torments, where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.t
Q. What provision has the Church made for our devotion on this day?
A. The Church, on this day, directs us to private acts of meditation and abstinence; and calls us, in her public service, to a consideration of the glorious consequences of our Saviour's death, burial, and resurrection, which are set forth in the lessons, epistle, and gospel for the day.
Q. In what manner was our Saviour buried ?
A. According to what was predicted concerning the Messiah,' Christ "made his grave with the rich.” Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man, and a disciple of Jesus, begged his
, body from Pilate; and having wrapped it in a linen cloth, put it into his own new tomb; which the Jews rendered secure, by shutting it up with a stone, sealing the stone, and setting a
* réeyve and afns.
† For a more full explanation of Christ's descent into hell, the reader is referred to an excellent Sermon of Bisnop Seabury; and the author, in an appendix to an Ad dress at the Funeral of the Right Rev. Bishop Moore, has endeavoured to give a complete view of the doctrine of the descent into hell.
& Isa. liii. 9.
watch.' These circumstances tend to establish the reality of our Saviour's death, as well as the certainty of his resurrection, by refuting the story of the Jews, that the body of the Saviour was stolen from the sepulchre.
Q. Since we must all pass through the gate of death, to a state of never-ending happiness or misery, ought it not to be our principal concern to prepare for death?
A. It should be our supreme concern to prepare for death, that we may avoid the everlasting torments, and secure the eternal joys of that unchanging state of existence on which we then enter. The prospect of death must excite terror in all but those faithful servants of God, who can view it as the gate to a joyful resurrection, to never-ending glory and felicity.
Q. What is our only security against the fears of death?
A. The constant exercise of piety and virtue can alone authorize us to place that reliance on the mercy and grace of the Redeemer, which will be our only security against the fears of death. He who has made his peace with God by sincere repentance and faith, and through divine grace endeavours to “keep a conscience void of offence towards God and towards man," may look forward to the approach of death, not only with composure, but with lively hope.
Q. Is not repentance a necessary preparation for death?
A. In order to make our death safe and happy, we must reconcile ourselves to God by a sincere and hearty repent
“The sting of death is sin ;” and a soul loaded with guilt is not only incapable of the happiness of heaven, but is excluded from it by the absolute decree of God. To the work of repentance, therefore, we should immediately apply, lest sickness and death overtake us before we have made our peace with God. For though the approach of death may be a proper season to renew our repentance, it is the most unfit time to begin it; and there can be but little hope that it will then be sincere and effectual.
Q. Is not a degree of indifference to worldly enjoyments, as well as moderation in the pursuit of them, necessary to prepare us for a safe and happy death ?
A. To wean our affections from the world is necessary to prepare us to meet death with composure and with hope. Our sorrow and concern at parting with the things of the world, will be in proportion to the love and esteem wherewith we
t Matt. xxvii. 57, &c.
have cherished them; and to be separated from objects on which we have fixed our hearts, must be attended with great pain and uneasiness. We should, therefore, accustom ourselves to resign freely to God those worldly objects from which death will inevitably snatch us, and gently to loose the ties which bind us to the world, that we may have less pain when they are entirely broken. We should habitually endeavour to moderate our desires for the enjoyments of this world ; and suppressing all ambitious and covetous desires, and retrenching at times our innocent pleasures, we should hold ourselves in readiness to part with what we love most; and committing all our concerns to the disposal of God, we should bear without murmuring, all the losses and afflictions that assail us. In this manner we may be said, in the language of the apostle, "to die daily;""" since we shall feel daily less fondness for life, less desire for its glories, less eagerness for its emoluments, less concern for its highest pleasures. Death will thus find us prepared to leave the world, and to enter on the joys of our eternal rest.
Q. Is not circumspection in spending our time also a necessary preparation for death ?
A. Time is the invaluable talent entrusted to us by God, on the right use of which will depend our eternal destiny. To abuse it, or squander it away in dissipation, in idleness, or sensual indulgences, will be to prepare for ourselves misery and anguish at the hour of death, when we come to review our past lives. By diligence and faithfulness in the discharge of the duties of our respective stations, and by making our everlasting salvation the supreme concern of life, we shall so employ the time allotted us, that, at the hour of death, we may be able to look back upon it with humble satisfaction and pleasure.
Q. Is not the proper regulation and settlement of our worldly affairs also a necessary preparation for death ?
A. The prudent and proper regulation and settlement of our worldly affairs should be attended to while we enjoy health and spirits for the work. The disposal of our estate requires time and consideration, so as to distribute it justly among our own families, friends, and dependents, and to appropriate a proper proportion of it to pious and charitable purposes. This important business, therefore, should not be left to our last moments, when the mind is disordered, and
u 1 Cor. xv. 31.