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النشر الإلكتروني

HIS ATONING WORK

An object lesson.—The doctrine of salvation.-Sin.

Expiation.—Justification by faith.

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An object lesson.—The clearest exposition of the Atonement is that which Christ himself gave in his conversation with Nicodemus. The rabbi had greeted him with a compliment, “Master, we know that thou art a teacher come from God.” This was a mere courtesy on his part; but back of it, deep down in his heart, was a strong desire to know the way of eternal life.

As an expert in the art of forensic dissimulation he naturally gave no outward token of this desire; but the Lord perceived it. He diagnosed his case at a glance; and giving no heed to the compliment, he proceeded straightway to the matter in hand. He knew that what his visitor wanted was light on the great problem of salvation; and he instructed him precisely as if he had been a little child. If a kindergartner wishes to explain roundness to a child he does not give the dictionary definition but holds up an orange to illustrate it. So Christ gives Nicodemus an object lesson, to make clear the doctrine of salvation. “Do you remember," he says, "how Moses lifted up the serpent in the

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wilderness?" Of course he remembered; for this was an old story and the Hebrew people were all familiar with it.

The doctrine of salvation. Our Lord used this incident to illustrate the doctrine of salvation; and the analogy is very close. In this doctrine there are three essential facts.

Sin.-The first fact is sin. Here is the startingpoint. We shall make no progress toward a solution of the problem until we get a right idea of sin. I am aware that this way of thinking is quite out of fashion; nevertheless sin is a fact; and there is none to dispute it.

Sin, like the venom of the serpent, is all-pervasive. It courses through the blood from the heart to the very finger-tips. It corrupts the mind, perverts the conscience, enfeebles the will, so that “the whole head is sick and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it: but wounds and bruises and fresh stripes."

Sin, like the venom of the serpent, is deadly. “The soul that sinneth it shall die." And to the mind of a right-thinking man there can be no death more frightful than eternal exile from a holy God. There is no cure in our materia medica for it. In vain did the Israelites search for an antidote for the serpent's bite. Their herbs and nostrums and incantations were unavailing.

unavailing. The

world, in like manner, has been groping through the centuries for some remedy for sin. The problem is, What shall I do to be saved? How shall God be just and yet the justifier of the ungodly? How shall a man be just with God? In all the mythologies and philosophies and false religions of the world there is no hint or suggestion of any method for the removal of sin.

Expiation. The second of the essential facts in the doctrine of salvation is expiation. This is set forth in the lifting up of the serpent. Jesus said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” The resemblance is clear.

To begin with, the brazen effigy on the pole was really no serpent at all. It was wholly innocuous. There was no venom in it. So it is written of Christ that he was "holy, harmless and undefiled” among the sinful children of men. There was no fault in him at all.

But the brazen effigy was like a serpent. So it is written, “God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us.” And, still more emphatically, "Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God."

As the brazen serpent was impaled, "even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” The phrase "lifted up” was generally understood as a proverbdie."

ial reference to crucifixion. “But this he said, signifying by what manner of death he should

A further explanation is given in these words: "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.”

As the brazen effigy, like a madstone, drew the poison from the wound, so Christ crucified has power to save. This is because he died as our substitute. Our sin is laid by imputation upon him, that he in turn may cast about us the imputation of his righteousness, as a garment of fine linen, clean and white. He is indeed the sinless one; yet hanging yonder impaled, as it were, before the offended law he becomes, in our behalf, the very chief of sinners. The curse of the whole ruined race is laid upon him. The blood upon his forehead seems like a frontlet, bearing the word "Accursed.” It is by virtue of this imputation that he, being made in the likeness of sinful flesh,” delivers us from sin. He "bore our sins," and bore them away "in his body upon the tree."

But now arises the supreme question: How shall we get the benefit of this salvation which was wrought for all the children of men? If it be true that he “tasted of death for every man,” then that

What remains to be done that I may be saved by it?

means me.

Justification.- This brings us to the third of the essential facts in the doctrine of salvation, which is justification by faith. “Look, and live!" "He

that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him."

There was obviously no healing virtue in the glance. So far as that was concerned it would have answered just as well to look at the face of Moses or at the noonday sun. So faith in itself is a valueless thing. There is no essential grace in it; nevertheless it is the indispensable condition of life.

The only reason why the sufferers in the Jewish camp were healed by looking at the brazen serpent was because God had declared that so it should be. In like manner faith in Christ is made the condition of the forgiveness of sin. No one will question the fact that the God who wrought the miracle of healing in the wilderness had an indisputable right to make his own terms concerning it. It should be equally clear that the God who bestows the gift of pardoning grace has the right to place a condition upon it. This he has been pleased to do. His grace is free, free as air or water; but the air must be breathed, and a man will perish of thirst if he does not dip up the water and drink it. In like manner the great salvation is offered to all on the sole and simple condition that they will by faith receive it.

I remember seeing a tract entitled “The Gospel in Three Colors, or The Alchemy of Grace.” Apart from the title page it contained not a single word; only three leaves, black, red and white. In

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