The Sinless Sin-bearer
James Smith, 1855
Sin is the greatest evil in God's universe. It does evil — and nothing but evil to all people, at all times, under all circumstances. It is so evil that nothing can be worse! It is impossible to exaggerate, in giving a description of it. God hates it, man suffers from it, the whole world is affected by it. The great question is, How can we get rid of it? Can we be delivered from its guilt? Can we be freed from its power? Can we be rescued from its consequences? We can, for of the Lord Jesus it is said, "He was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin" (1 John 3:5).
Here observe the manifestation of the Son of God. His nature was divine. He ever existed. He had lain in the bosom of the Father from everlasting. His heart was set upon his people. His thoughts were full of them. He had entered into covenant engagements for them. He lasted in his love to them. He appeared so long to be with them, to open his heart to them. At length the set time came, and he assumed the body prepared for him. He was made of a woman, of the same nature as his people. "He who sanctifies, and they who are sanctified are all of one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren" (Hebrews 2:11). He is now manifested in flesh. He is flesh of our flesh, and bone of our bone.
The gospel is the revelation of Jesus Christ. He appears not in a typical or figurative way — but in a substantial form. But (wonder, O Heavens!) it is in the form of a servant; in the likeness of men, in all points like unto his brethren. Now, by faith we view him, and viewing him exclaim, "Great is the mystery of godliness, God is manifest in the flesh; and seen of angels." They, all glorious as they are, love to gaze on Jesus. In him is enough to over-fill their capacious powers. They are melted in love, adoration, and joy. Hark, how they chant his praise! "Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, and goodwill toward men." They recognize him as the Prince of peace, they call to mind his appearance in the bush at Horeb, and the glorious announcement of his coming by the prophet (Isaiah 9:6). O blessed spirits, continue to feast your eyes and your hearts in viewing our adorable Redeemer, and help us to praise him for his love, condescension, and grace.
But is he really godhead shrouded in human clay? Yes, he is, therefore the angel said, "You shall call his name Immanuel, which, being interpreted, is, God With Us" (Matthew 1:23). This is the language of the Holy Spirit, the great glorifier of Jesus. O my soul, wonder, admire, and adore this amazing mystery! Be not curiously inquisitive — but devoutly believe. Ask not, How can these things be? But rather bless God that so it is. Let the subject . . .
fill your meditations,
quicken you in prayer, and
engage you in frequent thanksgivings.
Dispute not — but devoutly adore.
Here mark the sinlessness of the Savior's nature. "In him is no sin." How awful, how unscriptural, how blasphemous that dogma, that the nature of Jesus was sinful! And yet there are those men of talent, men of learning, and men who profess great love to him — who believe it, publish it, and strive to defend it. It almost makes one shudder. The Holy Spirit calls the humanity of Jesus "that holy thing" (Luke 1:35). He tells us that Jesus "knew no sin" (2 Corinthians 5:21). But that he was "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners." He also said himself, "The prince of this world comes — and has nothing in me." No corruption, no seeds of sin, no principles of iniquity to work upon. There was no tinder of corruption on which he could strike his sparks of temptation, as there is in us. No! His godhead was "glorious in holiness," and his humanity was spotless and pure. He was made a little lower than the angels in state — but was always equal to, yes, above them in purity. They delighted to throng around his unsightly bed, when "his birthplace was a stable, and his softest bed was hay." They rejoiced to minister to him in a retired wilderness, after Satan had tried by the most powerful temptations to seduce him. They were pleased to minister to his relief when in his tremendous agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. They delighted to grace his victorious resurrection from the dead, and to attend him in his triumphal ascension from this base earth to realms of unsullied glory. Jesus was always sinless in his nature, words, and deeds.
Here notice the end of his manifestation, "To take away our sins." Our sins were committed against himself. They deserved his everlasting displeasure. They called aloud for his vengeance to awake and punish us. He foresaw the whole of them, in all their variety, enormity, and aggravation. He knew that they would be sins against his law, his love, and his tenderest mercy. Sins against light, out of bitter enmity, and perpetrated over and over again. Sins for which we would never be sorry, unless he sent his Holy Spirit to work in us repentance unto life. Jesus knew the whole amount of our vileness, the accurate number of all our transgressions — far more than we know at present, and yet (Oh, the greatness of his love!) "he was manifested, to take away our sins."
Sin hindered our communion with Jesus — but could not prevent our having a saving interest in Jesus, or being represented by Jesus. We were given to him, identified with him, and interested in him, though totally unacquainted with him. This was at the foundation of his coming. No union to Christ — no salvation by Christ. Sin lay in the way of our present and everlasting happiness; Jesus was determined to make us happy, and therefore he came "to take away our sins." Sin had . . .
incensed Divine justice against us,
exposed us to Jehovah's wrath, and
brought us under the awful curse of his violated law.
Therefore Jesus came and took away our sins, and at the same time . . .
satisfied the claims of justice,
appeased the Father's wrath,
and bore our curse himself!
O wondrous love!
O marvelous grace!
O astonishing mercy!
But more wondrous, more marvelous, more astonishing Jesus — who did this for us, and did it freely, without solicitation, or anything in us to induce him to do it!
But how could Jesus take away our sins? By ancient agreement, in the eternal councils, they were imputed to him, placed to his account, reckoned his as the representative of his Church, and he became responsible, or was pledged to effect their expiation, to the honor of God and the glory of his own grace. At the time appointed, he appeared to meet his responsibility, to redeem his pledge, and perform his work. He surrendered himself to the officers sent to apprehend him, all our sins were then laid upon him, and by justice charged to his account. "God made him to be sin for us."
He bore the weight of them,
he endured the merited punishment,
and he suffered the shame they procured.
He was . . .
separated from men,
tormented by devils,
smitten with the sword of divine justice,
forsaken by his Father,
mocked of his creatures,
overwhelmed with grief,
torn with anguish, and
his heart was broken with reproach and agony.
Sin lay upon him,
the wrath of God was endured by him,
and the most fearful terrors surrounded him!
Heaven, earth, and Hell, appeared as though leagued against him:
men grossly insulted him,
devils tried all in their power to destroy him,
and God was pleased to bruise him, and then leave him to languish in heart-breaking sorrow.
O sad spectacle of misery, grief, and woe!
Was there ever sorrow like unto your sorrow?
Was there ever love like unto your love?
You might have sat upon your throne, enjoying your own glory, happiness, and felicity forever — and have justly left us to perish in our sins, and suffer for our own transgressions! But no, you would be Jesus — you would save your people from their sins! You would come to take away our sins, though in so doing — justice took away your honor, happiness, and life. You would not leave us to perish — but you would put away our sins by the sacrifice of yourself. You have . . .
turned away Jehovah's wrath,
cast all our sin into the depths of the sea, and
bore our punishment in your own body on the tree!
And has Jesus taken away our sins! Yes! Then "there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Who shall lay anything to our charge? Who shall condemn us? Jesus has taken away our sins! Jehovah has turned himself from the fierceness of his anger (Psalm 85:3). His anger is turned away and he comforts us, now that we believe in Jesus. "Behold, God is my salvation! I will trust and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song. He also has become my salvation" (Isaiah 12:1, 2).
O Savior, how shall we sufficiently praise you for taking away our sins! No one but yourself could have done it. No one had the power, the merit, or the love! You have taken away our sins in a way which has glorified Deity, brought eternal honor to your own dear name, and perfectly satisfied every one who receives the atonement. May we live believing that our sin is taken away. That you removed it, and that all that is expected from us is to believe, obey, praise your name, and be happy. Oh, forbid that we should live looking at sin as though it was not removed, instead of looking to you as our great sin-bearer, and sin-remover! Oh, to live assured that our sins are gone, and gone forever; that the eye of justice will rest upon them no more, that the record in the Divine debt-book is perfectly erased, and that when sought for — they shall not be found!
He was manifested to take away our sins — and he has actually done it: and now he reigns to bestow blessings on the objects of his love. He has not done manifesting his kindness yet, for the apostle who wrote the words we are considering tells us, "If any man sins — we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:2). Blessed Jesus, and are you now pleading the cause of my soul, as deeply interested in, and as concerned for my welfare — as when you were "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief," for my sake? Cannot the songs of angels, the hymns of just men made perfect, or the joys and honors of Heaven, divert your attention for one moment, from a poor, sinning, sorrowing, Hell-deserving creature like me? Indeed your love is astonishing, inconceivable, and almost too great for my weak faith to believe!
And will you continue to live, plead for, and keep me while I live? Yes! for your apostle has said, "Herein is his love to us made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world" (1 John 4:17).
Dear Lord Jesus, you are exactly what I need, and you are all I want. Your love will be . . .
a sufficient portion in life,
a divine cordial in death, and
an ocean of felicity in which to bathe forever!
Holy Spirit, bear your witness with my spirit daily, that I am interested in it; cause it to have its clear and proper influence upon my mind; and let me, through your Divine operations, bring forth in my life the fruits which are required in one interested in such wondrous love! Oh, shed abroad the precious love of Jesus in my heart, that I may love him in return, and show forth his praises in body, soul, and spirit. May I exercise confidence in him, rejoicing both in life and death, that he has put away my sins by the sacrifice of himself.