Here is the strength of Christ's plea, and ground of his advocation, that "he is the propitiation." The advocate is the priest, and the priest is the sacrifice, and such efficacy this sacrifice hath, that the propitiatory sacrifice may be called the very propitiation and pacification for sin. Here is the marrow of the gospel, and these are the breasts of consolation which any poor sinner might draw by faith, and bring out soul refreshment. But truly, it comes not out but by drawing, and there is nothing fit for that but the heart, that alone can suck out of these breasts the milk of consolation. The well of salvation in the word is deep, and many of you have nothing to draw with, you want the bucket that should be let down, that is, the affectionate meditation and consideration of the heart, and therefore you go away empty. You come full of other cares, and desires, and delights, no empty room in your hearts for this, no soul longings and thirstings after the righteousness of God, and therefore you return as you came, empty of all solid and true refreshment. Oh, that we could draw it forth to you, and then drop it into your hearts, and make it descend into your consciences!
In these words, you may consider more distinctly, who this is, and then, for whom he is made a sacrifice, and withal, the efficacy of this sacrifice, and the sufficiency. Who this is, is pointed out as with the finger. "He is," that is, "Jesus Christ, the righteous." The apostle demonstrates him as a remarkable person, as in his evangel the Baptist doth -- "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world." And the church, (Isa. lxii.1,) taketh a special notice of this person, "Who is this that cometh from Edom?" And that which maketh him so remarkable, is his strange habit, after the treading the wine-press of wrath alone, -- that he was made a bloody sacrifice to pacify God. And to show you how notable a person he is, he is signally and eminently pointed out by the Father, Isa. xlii.1, "Behold my servant," &c, as if he would have the eyes of all men fixed upon him, with wonder and admiration. And for this end, he singled him out from the multitude, by a voice from heaven, which testified unto him particularly, "This is my well beloved Son, hear him." Therefore the apostle had reason to say, (2 Cor. v.14.) that he is "one for all," so notable an one, that he may serve for all. He stands in more value in the count of God than all mankind. All creatures are ciphers, which being never so much multiplied, come to nothing, amount not beyond nothing, but set him before them, put Christ on the head of them, and he signifies more than they all do, and gives them all some estimation in the count. And so they stand in Paul's calculation, (Phil. iii.) which he makes with very great assurance and confidence, "Yea, doubtless, I count all dung, but the superexcellent knowledge of Christ," -- Christ is only the figure that hath signification, and gives signification to other things.
But in this business, the consideration of the persons interested, he and us, maketh us behold a great emphasis in the gospel. He a propitiation, and that for our sins, is a strange combination of wonders. If it had been some other person less distant from us, that were thus given for us, and standing in our room, then we should have better understood the exchange. Things of like worth, to be thus shuffled together, and stand in one another's place, is not so strange. But between the persons mentioned, him and us, there is such an infinite distance, that it is wonderful how the one descends to the room of the other, to become a sacrifice for us. O that we could express this to our own hearts, with all the emphasis that it hath! He the Lord, and we the servants; he the King, and we the poor beggars, he the brightness of his Father's glory, and we the shame and ignominy of the whole creation, he counting it no robbery to be equal with God, and being in the form of God, and we not equal to the worst of creatures, because of sin, and being in the form of devils! Had it been a holy and righteous man for sinners, it had been a strange enough exchange, but he is not only holy and harmless, but higher than the heavens. O what a vast descent was this, from heaven to earth, from a Lord to a servant, from an eternal Spirit to mortal flesh, from God to creatures! And to descend thus far for such persons, not only unworthy in themselves, such as could not conciliate any liking, but such as might procure loathing, -- as is described, Ezek. xvi., Rom. v.6, 1 Pet. iii.18, -- "while we were enemies," and might have expected a commissioner from heaven, with vengeance against us. Behold how the mysterious design of love breaks up and opens itself to the world, in sending his own Son for us! And this is exceedingly aggravated from the absolute freedom of it, that there was nothing to pre-engage him to it, but infinite impediments in the way to dissuade him, many impediments to his affection, and many difficulties to his power, and then, no gain nor advantage to be expected from such creatures, notwithstanding of such an undertaking for them.
Now, herein is the strongest support of faith, and the greatest incentive to love, and the mightiest persuasive to obedience that can be. I say, the strongest support of faith, for, a soul apprehending the greatness and heinousness of sin and the inviolableness of God's righteousness, with the purity of his holiness, can hardly be persuaded, that any thing can compense that infinite wrong that is done to his Majesty, though ordinarily the small and superficial apprehension of sin makes a kind of facility in this, or an empty credulity of the gospel. The reason why most men do not question and doubt of the gospel, and of their acceptance before God, is not because they are established in the faith, but rather because they do not so seriously and deeply believe, and ponder their own sins, and God's holiness, which, if many did, they would find it a greater difficulty to attain to a solid and quieting persuasion of the grounds of the gospel: they would find much ado to settle that point of the readiness of God, to pardon and accept sinners. But now, I say, all this difficulty, and these clouds of doubts will evanish at the bright appearance of this Sun of righteousness, that is, at the solid consideration of the glorious excellency of him that was given a ransom for us. Herein the soul may be satisfied, that God is satisfied, when he considers what a person hath undertaken it, even Jesus the righteous, the only Son of God, in whom his soul delighteth, whose glorious divine Majesty puts the stamp of infinite worth upon all his sufferings, and raiseth up the dignity of the sacrifice, beyond the sufferings of all creatures. For there are two things needful for the full satisfaction of a troubled soul, that apprehends the heinousness of sin, and height of wrath, nothing can calm and settle this storm, but the appearance of two things first of God's willingness and readiness to pardon sin, and save sinners, next of the answerableness of a ransom to his justice, that so there may be no impediment in his way to forgive. Now, let this once be established in thy heart that such an one, so beloved of God and so equal to God, is the propitiation for our sins that, "God hath sent his only begotten Son," for this very business, unrequired and unknown of us then, there is the clearest demonstration of these two things that can be -- of the love of God, and of the worth of the ransom. What difficulty can be supposed in it, actually to pardon thy heinous sins, when his love hath overcome infinitely greater difficulties, to send One, his own Son, to procure pardon, John iii. Certainly, it cannot but be the very delight of his heart to forgive sins, since he "spared not his Son" to purchase it, since he hath had such an everlasting design of love, which broke out in Christ's coming. And then, such a person he is, that the merit of his sufferings cannot but be a valuable and sufficient compensation to justice for our personal exemption, because he is one above all, of infinite highness. And therefore his lowness hath an infinite worth in it, -- of infinite fulness, and therefore his emptiness is of infinite price of infinite glory, and so his shame is equivalent to the shame and malediction of all mankind. So then, whatsoever thou apprehendest of thy own sins or God's holiness, that seemeth to render thy pardon difficult, lay but in the balance with that first, the free and rich expression of the infinite love of God, in sending such an one for a ransom, and sure, that speaks as much to his readiness and willingness, as if a voice spake it just now from heaven, and then, to take away all scruple, lay the infinite worth of his person, who is the propitiation, with thy sins, and it will certainly outweigh them, so that thou mayest be fully quieted, and satisfied in that point, that it is as easy for him to pardon, as for thee to confess sin and ask pardon, nay that he is more ready to give it thee, than thou to ask it.
But, in the next place I desire you to look upon this as the greatest incentive of affection. O how should it inflame your hearts to consider, that such an one became a sacrifice for our sins, to think that angels hath not such a word to comfort themselves withal! Those innumerable companies of angels, who left their station, and were once in dignity above us have not such glad tidings to report one to another in their societies, as we have. They cannot say, "He is the propitiation for our sins." This is the wonderful mystery, that blessed "angels desire to look into." They gaze upon it, and fix the eyes of their admiration upon "God manifested in the flesh," wondering at the choice of mortal man, before immortal spirits, that he is a ransom for them, and not for their own brethren who left their station. How should this endear him to our souls, and his will to our hearts, who hath so loved us, and given himself for us! Hath he given himself for us, and should we deny ourselves to him, especially when we consider what an infinite disparity is between the worth and difference in the advantage of it. He gave his blessed self a sacrifice, he offered himself to death for us, not to purchase any thing to himself, but life to us. And what is it he requires but your base and unworthy self, -- to offer up your lusts and sins in a sacrifice by mortification, and your hearts and affections in a thanksgiving offering, wherein your own greatest gain lies too? For this is truly to find and save yourselves, thus to quit yourselves to him.
The efficacy of this is holden out in the word, "propitiation for our sins." The virtue of Christ's sacrifice is to pacify justice and make God propitious, that is, favourable and merciful to sinners. In which there are three considerable things imported. One is that sin is the cause of enmity between God and man, and sets us at an infinite distance -- that sin is a heinous provocation of his wrath. Another is expressed, that Christ is the propitiation, -- in opposition to that provocation, he pacifies wrath, and then conciliates favour by the sacrifice of himself. All the expressions of the gospel import the damnable and deplorable estate that sin puts man into, reconciliation imports the standing enmity and feud between God and man, propitiation imports the provocation of the holy and just indignation of God against man, the fuel whereof is our sins, justification implies the lost and condemned estate of a sinner, under the sentence and curse of the law. All that is in the gospel reminds us of our original, of the forlorn estate in which he found us, none pitying us nor able to help us. I would desire that this might first take impression on your hearts, -- that sin sets God and man at infinite distance, and not only distance, but disaffection and enmity. It hath sown the seeds of that woful discord, and kindled that contention, which, if it be not quenched by the blood of Christ, will burn to everlasting, so that none can dwell with it, and yet sinners must dwell in it. There is a provoking quality in it, fit to alienate the holy heart of God, and to incense his indignation, which, when once it is kindled who can stand before it? Do but consider what you conceive of wrongs done to you, how they stir your passions and provoke your patience so that there is much ado to get you pacified, and what heinousness must then be in your offences against God, both in regard of number and kind? O that you could but impartially weigh this matter, you would find, that in the view of God all wrongs and injuries between men evanish. "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned." That relation and respect of sin to God, exhausts all other respects of injuries towards men. It is true, that his Majesty is free from passion, and is not commoved and troubled as your spirits are. Yet such is the provoking nature of sin, that it cries for vengeance, and brings a sinner under the dreadful sentence of divine wrath, which he both pronounceth and can execute without any inward commotion or disturbance of spirit. But, because we conceive of him after our manner, therefore he speaks in such terms to us. But that which he would signify by it is, that the sinner is in as dreadful and damnable a condition by sin, as if the Lord were mightily inflamed with anger and rage. The just punishment is as due and certain as if he were subject to such passions as we are, and so much the more certain, that he is not. Now I desire you to consider, how mightily the heinousness of sin is aggravated, partly by the quality of the persons, and partly by the consideration of his benefits to us. A great man resents a light wrong heavily, because his person makes the wrong heavier. O! what do you think the Most High should do considering his infinite distance from us, his glorious majesty and greatness, his pure holiness, his absolute power and supremacy? What vile and abominable characters of presumption and rebellion do all these imprint upon disobedience! Shall he suffer himself to be despised and neglected of men, when there is no petty creature above another, but will be jealous of his credit, and vindicate himself from contempt? And then, when ingratitude is mingled in with rebellion, it makes sin exceeding sinful, and sinful sin exceeding provoking. To proclaim open war against the holy and righteous will of him to whom we owe ourselves, and all that we are or have, to do evil, because he is good, and be unthankful, because he is kind to take all his own members, faculties, creatures, and employ them as instruments of dishonour against himself, there is here fuel for feeding everlasting indignation, there is no indignity, no vileness, no wickedness to this. All the provocations of men, how just soever, are in the sight of this groundless and vain, like a child's indignation. All are but imaginary injuries, consisting but in opinion, in regard of that which sin hath in the bosom of it against God.
But how shall any satisfaction be made for the injury of sin? What shall pacify his justly deserved anger? Here is the question indeed, that would have driven the whole world to a nonplus, if once the majesty and holiness of God had been seen. But the ignorance of God's greatness, and men's sinfulness, made the world to fancy some expiations of sin, and satisfactions to God, partly by sacrifices of beasts, partly by prayer, and repentance for sins.