The Freeness of the Atonement
The Anxious Sinner Venturing on Christ
"Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." -Rom. iii. 24.
When speaking of the great unfolding of Divine mercy in the redemption by Christ, the apostle employs language the most concise and expressive; he terms it, "The grace of God that brings salvation," Tit. ii. 11. In this short but emphatic sentence, he elevates his reader at once to the source and fountain-head of all grace; he sets forth its author, its nature, and its end. It is the grace of God, constituting as essential and substantial a part of the Divine existence, as the attributes of power, holiness, justice, or goodness. With an eminent divine, we would pass to higher ground even than this; we would rather not call it an attribute, but the will of God which brings all other manifestations of the Divine character before the eye: "It is not mercy, though mercy is to be seen in grace; it is not holiness, though holiness is to be seen in grace; it is a mere act of the Divine will, which manifests itself to all it pleases. It is necessary to go still higher; it is not merely the second in a series of ascending steps; it is not a repairing of a breach; but an exalting of the handiworks of God into a higher region; in humanity to make the Godhead forever manifest, and to lift man up, and make him the nearest link in that chain that hangs from the throne of God."
A less theological, and, perhaps, more simple, definition of grace may be acceptable to the general reader; and as the great manifestation of this grace we are now to consider is the Atonement of Christ, we prefer the phrase, the freeness of the Atonement, as expressing "the grace of God that brings salvation." Should not even this be deemed sufficiently explicit, we mean then, the perfectly gratuitous and unconditional manner in which the blessings of pardon and justification, flowing through the Atonement of Christ, come to the vilest sinner, sensible of his lost state, and made willing to accept of Jesus in the day of God's mighty power. We enter the more readily on the discussion of this subject, not only from a deep consciousness of its vast importance, but also from the conviction, which much conversation with inquiring souls has tended to deepen, that from the lack of clear and spiritual views of the freeness of the gift, the perfectly unconditional bestowment of the blessing, many are kept, even among those "called to be saints," from entering fully into the liberty and peace of the Gospel. They have been convinced of their need of Christ; they have been made to hunger and thirst for pardon and acceptance; they have been brought, it may be, through a deep 'law work of the soul,' to stand, as on the very borders of the land that flows with milk and honey; but, looking more to themselves and less to Christ, lingering on its margin, while the river flows so richly and so freely at their feet, waiting for some condition to be performed, some fitness to be experienced, or some price to bring, they are kept back from those rich and untold blessings which a closing in with Jesus, the Savior of sinners, would assuredly bring into their possession.
For the purpose of clearness in the discussion of our subject, the reader will be first led to consider the simple and express testimony of God's Word; then, the medium through which its blessings flow to the seeking soul; and, lastly, some scriptural examples will be adduced confirmatory of the doctrine before us.
In the observations now to be made, we particularly address ourselves to that class of our readers who, with brokenness of heart and deep contrition of spirit are inquiring, "What shall I do to be saved?" With you, dear penitent reader, the anxious question is, "Will God have mercy upon me? Will he have a wretch so vile as I?" Read then, with close attention and prayer, the following statement, and may the Eternal Spirit give you light, joy, and peace!
In adducing the simple and express testimony of God's Word on this subject, let not the reader be amazed if we lead him first into the Old Testament. For where will be found more distinct and glorious views of the Atonement- its nature, design, and freeness- than are found in the Old Testament writings? The single point of course now under proof is, the perfect freeness of the gift. This is the testimony: "Ho! every one that thirsts, come to the waters, and he that has no money; come you, buy and eat; yes, come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price," Isa. lv. 1. Behold the freeness of the rich and inestimable blessing! "Without money- without price." The simple meaning of which is- without worthiness, without fitness, without condition. So that the most unworthy, the most vile, the most penniless, may come and drink water freely out of the wells of salvation. This is the language of God, by the mouth of his prophets. What a gospel, then, is here revealed! how full the supply! how free the gift! And if this was the language of God under the obscure exhibition of the Gospel, what must be his free welcome to poor sinners under the full meridian glory of the Gospel? Now that Christ has come, and the Atonement has been made, and the fountain has been opened, and the invitation has gone out, can we suppose that the blessing of pardon will be less freely bestowed? Again, "Thus says the Lord, You have sold yourselves for nothing; and you shall be redeemed without money," Isa. lii. 3. Again, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings unto the poor; he has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound," Isa. lxi. 1. Mark the expressions as descriptive of the characters to whom our blessed Lord came- "broken-hearted," "captive," "those who are bound." Where was the worthiness here? What price with which to purchase their redemption, had these "broken-hearted," these "captives," these "bound?" See, then, reader, how the glorious Atonement received its stamp of freeness, even under the legal dispensation.
Come we now to the clearer revelations of the new Dispensation. Take those remarkable words, "And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both," Luke vii. 42. O sweet expression! "Nothing to pay." Entirely bankrupt. Poor, wretched, penniless, bereft of all, nothing to pay, and yet frankly forgiven; that is, fully, freely, cordially forgiven; forgiven with all the heart of God! But one other passage is adduced- "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that hears say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whoever will, let him take the water of life freely," Rev. xxii. 17. See how the Word of God closes with the proclamation of a free-grace salvation. The last words that linger in sweet vibration on the ear, as the blessed canon of Scripture closes, are, "the water of life freely!" Let us view the subject in another point of light.
If it be shown from God's truth, that faith, and not the works of the law, is the grand medium through which pardon and justification flow, then, even as faith is the gift of God's grace, it will be clear that, in this respect, the Atonement must be free and unconditional. What says the Scripture? "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-- he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law." Romans 3:20-28. Thus, by one of the finest arguments in the apostolic writings does Paul triumphantly establish the perfect freeness and unconditional character of a sinner's acceptance with God. Review the outline of his reasoning: "By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified." By "the deeds of the law," he has reference to those many and fruitless efforts to obey the law which men in a state of nature are found so zealously to aim at. Are you striving, reader, to conform to the requirement of this holy, this inflexible law of God? Let me assure you, that all these strivings, all these works, all that toiling, is worse than worthless in God's holy sight; they are sinful, they proceed from an unregenerate nature, from an unrenewed, unsanctified heart, they flow not from faith and love; and therefore, the heart being thus a fountain of corruption, every stream that branches from it must partake of the foulness of the source from where it flows. Let the failure of the past suffice to teach you that you can never keep this holy law. Let your formal prayers, your lifeless religion, your vows foresworn, your resolutions broken, all confirm the solemn declaration of the apostle- "By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight." Again, "For by the law is the knowledge of sin." Accompanied by the Spirit of God, it discloses to the soul the sinfulness of the heart and life, convinces it of sin, and brings it in guilty and self-condemned before God. Now, how is it possible that the law can ever be an instrument of life and an instrument of death to a sinner? It is utterly impossible that it can be. It never yet gave spiritual life to the soul, it never yet emancipated the soul from its thraldom, it never yet conducted it to Jesus, it never yet whispered liberty and peace. It can, and does, condemn- it can, and does, curse- and this is the utmost extent of its prerogative. O then, resign all the hope you fondly cherish of life, peace, and acceptance by "the deeds of the law," and betake yourself to Him who has, by his most precious blood, "redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us."
Having established the incapacity of the law to justify the sinner, the apostle then proceeds to unfold the glory, fitness, and freeness of that righteousness which can and does justify the soul before God. He takes up and argues two important points- the nature of the righteousness, and the instrument by which it is received. With regard to the first he declares it to be "the righteousness of God," ver. 21, 22. As we have enlarged upon this point in another chapter, we dismiss it now with but one observation- nothing but the "righteousness of God" can justify a soul in the sight of God. It must not be the righteousness of angels, nor the righteousness of Adam, nor the righteousness of Moses; it must be the righteousness of God in our nature. Away with every other refuge, away with every other covering; and let not the reader dream of entering with acceptance into the presence of a holy and heart-searching God, clad in any other righteousness than that which the adorable Immanuel wrought out. In this righteousness the believing sinner is safe, and safe forever: take him for a moment out of this righteousness, and he is lost, and lost forever!
The instrument by which this divine righteousness is received, is the second point established by this conclusive argument of the apostle. He clearly proves it to be by faith. Thus: "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe." Romans 3:22. And in verse 25: "For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God's anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us." How perfectly does this statement of the instrument or medium by which the blessings of pardon and justification are received into the soul, harmonize with every other portion of God's Word! Thus, for instance: "By Him all who believe are justified from all things." Acts xiii. 39. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved." Acts xvi. 31. "God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John iii. 16. "And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what hinders me from being baptized? And Philip said, If you believe with all your heart, you may. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." Acts viii. 36, 37. O see, disconsolate soul, the freeness of the gift! "To him that believes," not to him that works, not to him that deserves, not to the worthy, but "to him that believes." "Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? No: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith (in Christ) without the deeds of the law."
Let not, however, the subject of faith be misunderstood. Wrong views, views contrary to God's Word, and inimical to the soul's spiritual peace, may be entertained by the seeker of salvation. There is a danger of giving to faith, precious and important as it is, undue prominence. We may deify faith; we may convert it into a Savior; substitute it for Christ, the great object of faith. Where this is the case, let not the seeking soul wonder that it finds no peace. Anything, even if it be the blessed production of the Eternal Spirit of God, which takes the place of Christ, which shuts out Christ from the soul, is dangerous. In the great work of salvation, Christ must be everything or nothing; from him solely, from him entirely, from him exclusively, must pardon and justification be drawn. Whatever then rises between the soul and Christ- whatever would tend to satisfy the soul in his absence- whatever would take his place in the affections, must be surrendered. Is it as the plucking out of a right eye?- it must be yielded. Is it as the cutting off of a right hand?- let it go. Christ in his Godhead, Christ in his humanity, Christ in his great and finished work, Christ in his mediatorial fulness, must be all in all to the sinner.
Now, this making a Christ of faith, this substituting of the instrument for the great Object, is the danger of which we caution the soul seeking for salvation. On this point we cannot be too earnest, or too explicit. The matter of a sinner's standing before God, the method of the soul's acceptance of Christ, are momentous themes. It is of the utmost importance that none should be satisfied with crude and obscure views. We say then, that faith is not the source of pardon and peace to the soul, but the mere instrument, the simple channel through which the Atonement, with its attendant blessings, is received by the repenting sinner. It is not the Savior, but the instrument by which that Savior is received; it is not the fountain, but the channel through which that fountain flows; it is not the blood, nor the righteousness of Christ, but the eye that looks at both. In itself, it possesses no intrinsic efficacy; it has no healing, peace-imparting power. It is efficacious, it is healing, it is peace-speaking as it leads, and only as it leads, the soul to Jesus, to his healing, peace-speaking blood. And what is that hanging back, that lingering, that waiting for more faith, for stronger faith, before the soul closes in with Christ- what is it, but making a Savior of faith? It is not great faith that saves the soul: it is not strong faith that pardons and justifies it: it is a weak faith, small faith, "looking unto Jesus," as a rich, a full, an able and willing Savior. "So that office of faith," in the words of an old divine, "is to receive from, and not bring to, Christ, unless it be needs and weakness, ill and hell deservings, sins without number, and obligations to punishments without end. Of all the graces of the Spirit, faith is the most emptying; it accordingly goes empty, poor, and indigent to Christ. Other graces bring something, as it were, along with them; whereas faith brings nothing to Christ but a naked back. As in nature the hand and the mouth are both of them adapted to receive- the one a gift, the other food; so is faith adapted to look, to receive, and to close with the Lord Jesus Christ; and, having received him, to realize all those Scripture motives, by which we are persuaded to abide with him, and to follow him: so that faith in the business of justification before God is not to be considered as a working, but as a receiving grace, though it is both, and sows in tears of godly sorrow, and works by love; but its first and great business is with the person and righteousness of Christ, particularly to receive the Atonement."
It is delightful to trace THE DIFFERENT EXHIBITIONS OF FAITH which the Holy Spirit has presented to our views in his own Word. And he seems to have thus spread them out before us, that the ever-varied and varying circumstances of the saints of God may be adequately met. In some sections of his Word, he has presented to our views sturdy characters, impressed with the lineaments of a strong, gigantic faith.
For example: that was strong faith in the centurion, when he said, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed." Matt. viii. 8. That was great faith exhibited in the case of the woman of Canaan, who, at the apparent repulse of the blessed Lord, would take no denial, but met his seeming objection by saying, "True, Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. Then Jesus answered, and said unto her, O woman, great is your faith: be it unto you even as you will." Matt. xv. 27, 28. That, too, was strong faith in Abraham, who could take his son, his only son, his son whom he loved, and offer him up at God's bidding. And, to mention no more, that was strong, unwavering faith in Job, who could say, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in him."
But, on the other hand, the Holy Spirit presents to the view some of the weakest exhibitions of faith, in order that no dear child of God, reposing by simple reliance on Christ, might despair. That was feeble faith which the leper exercised when he said, "Lord, if you will, you can make me clean." Matt. viii. 2. Here was no doubting of Christ's ability- the only point he seemed to question was, his willingness to cleanse him. That was faith of the same feeble character, exercised by the father who brought his child possessed of a mute spirit to Jesus, to be dispossessed, with the request thus couched- "If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us," Mark ix. 22. In this case, Christ's willingness was fully believed, his ability only doubted; and yet, in both cases, the one that doubted his willingness, and the other that doubted his ability, Christ manifested his compassion, and answered their request. Let no anxious, seeking soul, then, hang back from Jesus, because of the weakness of its faith. It may be small faith; it may be small in its degree, and weak in its exhibition; yet it is "precious faith," yes, "like precious faith" with Abraham and job and all the prophets and apostles. If it be faith, however small, it yet is "the faith of God's elect;" it is of the mighty operation of the Holy Spirit: and though feeble, yet, if it directs its eye out of, and off itself, simply to Jesus, that single glance shall sweep the ocean fulness of his love in the soul. Only let the dear reader bear in mind, that faith is not Christ, and can never be a substitute for him.
We pass now to the consideration of those kindred passages which declare the salvation of the sinner to be an act of mere GRACE. The reader will bear in mind our simple definition of grace: it means God's unmerited favor to sinners; it implies no worthiness whatever in the creature. This is the glory of the gospel: "By grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." Eph. ii. 8, 9. "Now when a man works (O mark his expressions!), his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness." Romans 4:4-5. "Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace." ver. 16. "And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work." Rom. xi. 6. What language can possibly establish the doctrine of the freeness of the Atonement more conclusively than this? See the force of the apostle's argument. It lies here: if there be anything of merit in the creature; if the works of the sinner are the ground; even partially so, on which salvation is bestowed; then the reward, or the blessing, is not a free gift, but the discharge of a debt- a debt, let it be borne in mind, due from God to the sinner! And in consequence of his merit, in consequence of his works, pardon and justification are thus made over to him! What doctrine can be more horrendous than this? what more opposed to God's Word? And yet the doctrine that teaches me that I may present myself before the Holy God with some fitness of my own, some price in my hand, something to merit God's forgiveness, is this very doctrine. Survey again the apostle's argument: if there be anything of merit in the creature, if it be so much as the raising of my hand, salvation then is not of grace, the Atonement is not free; and God, we tremble while we write it- God becomes the sinner's debtor!
The Atonement itself precludes all idea of human merit, and from its very nature proclaims that it is free. Consider the grandeur of the Atonement- contemplate its costliness: incarnate Deity- Perfect obedience- spotless purity- unparalleled grace and love- acute and mysterious sufferings- wondrous death, resurrection, ascension, and intercession of the Savior, all conspire to constitute it the most august sacrifice that could possibly be offered. And shall there be anything in the sinner to merit this sacrifice? Shall God so lower its dignity, underrate its value, and dishonor himself, as to barter it to the sinner? And if God were so disposed, what is there in the sinner that could purchase it? Where is the equivalent, where the price? "Alas!" is the exclamation of a convicted soul, "I am a spiritual bankrupt: I lost everything in my first parent who fell; I came into the world poor and helpless; and to the sin of my nature, I have added actual transgression of the most aggravated character; I have nothing to recommend me to the favor of God; I have no claim upon his mercy; I have no price with which to purchase it; and if redemption is not free, without money, and without price, I am undone." The very costliness then of the Atonement puts it beyond all price, and stamps it with infinite freeness.
The great source of the Atonement stamps its freeness. What is that source? The heart of God! The Atonement, with all the blessings it involves, originated in the very heart of Jehovah. Where else could the thought have originated, of saving a guilty world, and saving it in such a way and at such a sacrifice? It was a stupendous thought even that of saving- of showing mercy to rebellious man. The bare idea of exercising love towards the apostate race, was in itself so mighty, that God alone could have conceived it. But when the plan of salvation is viewed- when the method of mercy is contemplated- when the sacrifice, "the price of pardon" is weighed- that sacrifice, his only begotten and well-beloved Son- that price, his own most precious blood: O the grandeur of the thought! It was fit only to have originated with God, and is, in every view, worthy of himself. From what other and higher source, then could the Atonement have proceeded, if not from the very heart of God? And from his heart it did proceed. And not more freely does the sun pour forth its streams of light, and not more freely does the air fan with its refreshing influence, and not more freely does the ocean billow heave, than the Atonement flows from the heart of God. "God is love;" and the seat of that love is his heart. Towards a sinner standing in the righteousness of his Son, that heart is love, all love, and nothing but love. Not an unkind thought lodging there; not a repulsive feeling dwelling there: all is love, and love of the most tender character. Yes, we dare affirm, that towards his chosen people, there never has been, and there never will be one thought of unkindness, of anger, of rebuke in the heart of God: from eternity it has been love, through time it is love, and on through eternity to come it will be love. "What! are not their afflictions, their chastisements, the rough and thorny path they tread, proofs of God's displeasure? What! is that individual loved of God, whom I see yonder bearing that heavy and daily cross; against whom billow after billow dashes, and to whom messenger after messenger is sent; whose gourds are withered in a night, and whose fountains are all broken in a day; whose body is diseased, whose domestic comforts are fled; who is poor, feeble, and dependant; what! is that individual beloved of God?" Go and ask that afflicted saint; go and ask that cross-bearing disciple; go and ask that son and daughter of disease and penury; and they will tell you, their Father's dealings with them are the most costly proofs of his love; that instead of unkindness in that cross, there was love; instead of harshness in that rebuke, there was tenderness; and that when he withered that gourd, and broke up that cistern, and removed that earthly prop, and blighted that budding hope, it was but to pour the tide of his own love in the heart, and satiate the soul with his goodness. O dear cross! O sweet affliction! O precious discipline! thus to open the heart of God; thus to unlock the treasury of his love; thus to bring God near to the soul, and the soul near to God. But to return to the subject.
Let it not be forgotten that the Atonement had its origin in the heart of God; it follows then that it must be free. To recur again to our illustrations: Does the sun need bribing in order to shine? Does the wind need persuasion in order to blow? Does the ocean wave need argument in order to roll? Is the sunlight purchased? Is the air purchased? Is the water that flows from the fountain purchased? Not less free is the love of God, gushing from his heart, and flowing down through the channel of the cross of Christ, to a poor, repenting, believing sinner. Without works, without merit, without money, without price, without a previous fitness. Convictions do not merit it; repentances do not merit it; tears do not merit it; faith does not merit it. Pardon to the chief of sinners, forgiveness to the vilest of the vile- the blotting out of sins of the deepest dye- the justification and acceptance of the most unworthy- all, free as the heart of God can make it. The hungry and the thirsty, the poor and the penniless, the weary and the heavy laden, may come to the gospel provision, for the heart of God bids them welcome.
THE OBJECTS CONTEMPLATED in the special and gracious design of the Atonement, establish its perfect freeness beyond all question. Who are they? Are they spoken of as the worthy, the righteous, the deserving, the rich, the noble? The very reverse. They are sinners, ungodly, unworthy. Let the Holy Spirit speak: "To him that works not, but believes on him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." Rom. iv. 5. "When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." "God commends his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Rom. v. 6. 8. And see how our blessed Lord confirms this statement: "I have not come to call the righteous (that is, the self-righteous- those who were righteous in their own estimation, and despised others), but sinners to repentance." Matt. ix. 13. "The friend of publicans and sinners," was the charge that these self-righteous religious leaders brought against him. "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, (O listen to it, reader; it is the declaration of one who styles himself the chief of sinners,) that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief." 1 Tim. i. 15.
And who did He save when upon earth? Were they the worthy or the most unworthy? were they the righteous or sinners? Let us examine? Take the case of Saul of Tarsus. His own description of his previous character will certainly be believed: this it is- "who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious." And, in detailing before Agrippa the nature of his persecutions of the Christians, he says, "And I punished them often in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities." Acts xxvi. 11. And yet Saul of Tarsus "obtained mercy:" and why? He himself replies- "that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all patience, for a pattern to those who should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting." 1 Tim. i. 16. If Saul of Tarsus, then, obtained mercy- obtained it as a sinner, as a sinner of the deepest dye- obtained it fully, freely, aside from all human merit, penitent reader, so may you.
It would expand this volume beyond our intended limits, were we to adduce every prominent case of conversion recorded in the New Testament, as illustrating the freeness of the Atonement. The reader is requested to open God's Word and turn to the cases of Zaccheus, the Philippian Jailer, the woman of Samaria, Mary Magdalene, and the thief upon the cross. Let him examine minutely these several instances, and ascertain if there was anything of worthiness, of claim, of previous fitness, of price, in these individuals, why they obtained mercy; but, on the contrary, if they were not ungodly, unrighteous sinners- sinners of the most unworthy kind.
Let us attempt the APPLICATION of this subject to the case of the anxious, inquiring reader, to whose eye this page may unfold itself. To such we observe,
First- The atoning blood of Christ possesses a pardoning efficacy. We will suppose that you have been convinced of this cardinal truth, that God is holy, and, from the very necessity of his nature, cannot but hate sin. "Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong." Habakkuk 1:13. We will suppose, too, that you have been brought by the Eternal Spirit to the deep consciousness of your utter sinfulness; that, convinced of having broken, and in breaking of having incurred the penalty of God's holy law, you are looking pensively around you for some effectual remedy for the wound, some sure shelter from the storm, some city of refuge to screen you from the avenger of blood. O, then, what tidings are here! Through this blood of Christ, God, the holy God, the God against whom you have sinned, and whose wrath you justly dread, can pardon all your sins, blot out all your transgressions, and take from you the terror of a guilty conscience. O what news is this! Do you doubt it? Do you look incredulous at the declaration of a truth so amazing? We know it is an amazing fact, that God should pardon sin, and that he should pardon it, too, through the blood of his dear Son; yet take his own word as a full confirmation of this stupendous fact, and doubt no more- "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin." 1 John i. 7. O yes, blessed declaration! it cleanses us from all sin- "all manner of sin." We ask not how heavy the weight of guilt that rests upon you; we ask not how wide the territory over which your sins have extended; we inquire not how many their number, or how aggravated their nature, or how deep their dye: we meet you, just as you are, with God's own declaration, "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin." Many there are who can testify to this truth. "Such were some of you," says the apostle, when writing to the Corinthian converts, who had been fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortioners; "such were some of you: but you are washed." 1 Cor. vi. 9-11. In what had they washed? where were they cleansed? They washed in the "fountain opened to the house of David, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and uncleanness." To this fountain they came, guilty, vile, black as they were, and the blood of Jesus Christ cleansed them from all sin. Mourning soul, look up; the Fountain yet is open, and open, too, for you. Satan will seek to close it, unbelief will seek to close it; yet it is ever running, ever overflowing, ever free. Thousands have plunged in it, and emerged, washed, sanctified, and saved. To this Fountain, David, and Manasseh, and Saul, and Peter, and Mary Magdalene, and the dying thief, and millions more, came, washed, and were saved; and yet it has lost nothing of its sin-pardoning, sin-cleansing efficacy! full and free as ever! O, say not that you are too vile, say not that you are too unworthy! You may stand afar from its brink, looking at your unfitness, looking at your poverty; but listen, while we declare that, led as you have been by the Holy Spirit to feel your vileness, for just such this precious blood was shed, this costly Fountain was opened.
We can tell you of one, who, in her deep sorrow for sin, was brought to the extreme of mental anguish. Despairing of mercy, and anxious to anticipate the worst of her punishment, she resolved, when none should be near her, to terminate her life, and go, reeking with her own blood, to the bar of God. The fearful opportunity presented itself. The door was fastened, the knife prepared, and she fell on her knees to accomplish the awful deed. At the moment her hand was raised to give the fatal stroke, these words came to her mind with overwhelming power- "The blood of Christ Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin." Her arm fell motionless at her side, the weapon dropped from her convulsed grasp, and she exclaimed in a transport of relief, 'If the blood of Christ Jesus cleanses from all sin, then why not mine too?" She arose- her fatal purpose was broken- her shaken spirit was calmed- and her heart drawn out in prayer to God. On the following Sabbath she hastened to the house of God; and, to her astonishment, the minister announced as his text- "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin." The Holy Spirit completed the work so graciously begun in her soul. The blood of Christ was applied to her conscience; and from the terror and gloom of sin, she passed into the sunshine of God's full and free forgiveness. Anxious soul, you too may come. Why not you? True, you are unworthy; true, you are poor and penniless: so was this individual, yet she "obtained mercy." And why not you?
Second- It is peace-speaking blood. It not only procures peace, but, when applied by the Holy Spirit to the conscience, it produces peace, it gives peace to the soul. It imparts a sense of reconciliation: it removes- all slavish fear of God, all dread of condemnation, and enables the soul to look up to God, not as "a consuming fire," but as a reconciled God- a God in covenant. Precious peace-speaking blood, flowing from the "Prince of Peace!" Applied to your heart, penitent reader, riven asunder as it may be with godly sorrow, it shall be as a balm to the wound. Sprinkled on your conscience, burdened as it is with a sense of guilt, you shall have "beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." It is peace-speaking blood.
Third- It is through simply believing, that the blood of Christ thus seals pardon and peace upon the conscience. Forget not this. "Only believe," is all that is required: and this faith is the free gift of God. And what is faith? "It is looking unto Jesus;" it is simply going out of yourself, and taking up your rest in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ- this is faith. Christ has said, that "whoever comes unto him, he will in no way cast out;" that "He saves to the uttermost all who come unto God by him; that he died for sinners, and that he saves sinners as sinners: the Holy Spirit working faith in the heart, lifting the eye out of, and off the wound, and fixing it on the Lamb of God, pardon and peace flow like a river in the soul. O! stay not then from the gospel-feast because you are poor, penniless, and unworthy. Why starve and die, when there is food enough in your Father's house, and to spare? See the provision, how full! see the invitation, how free! see the guests- the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind! Come then to Jesus just as you are. We stake our all on the assertion, that he will welcome you, that he will save you. There is too much efficacy in his blood, too much compassion in his heart for poor sinners, to reject you suing at his feet for mercy. Then look up, believer, and you shall be saved; and all heaven will resound with hallelujahs over a sinner saved by grace!