The Substitution of the Innocent for the Guilty
Isaiah 53:8-9
He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living…

Let us consider what circumstance met in this case, and must be supposed to concur on any occasion of this kind, to render fit and proper the substitution of an innocent person in the place of the guilty; and what is peculiar in the character of our Saviour, which renders it worthy of God to set Him apart as "a propitiation the sins of the world," and annex the blessings of eternal life to such as believe in the doctrine of the Cross, and repent, and turn to God.

I. It is obvious that such a procedure as we are now contemplating, in order to give it validity and effect, MUST BE SANCTIONED BY THE SUPREME AUTHORITY. For a private person, whatever might be his station in society, to pretend to introduce such a commutation of punishment as is implied in such a transaction, would be a presumptuous invasion of legislative rights, which no well-regulated society would tolerate. This condition was most unequivocally satisfied in the mystery of Christ's substitution.

II. Another indispensable circumstance in such a proceeding, is, that IT SHOULD BE PERFECTLY VOLUNTARY ON THE PART OF THE SUFFERER. Otherwise, it would be an act of the highest injustice; it would be the addition of one offence to another, and give a greater shock to all rightly-disposed minds than the acquittal of the guilty without any atonement. Here there appears, at first sight, an insuperable difficulty in the way of human salvation. How could that be rendered which was, at once, due to sin and mankind at large? Where could one be found that would endure the penalty freely, which was incurred by a sinful world? This our Saviour did. No sacrifice should go unwillingly to the altar. It was, indeed, reckoned a bad omen when any one did so. None ever went so willingly as He.

III. It is farther necessary that the substitute not only undertake voluntarily, but that HE BE PERFECTLY FREE FROM THE OFFENCE WHICH RENDERS PUNISHMENT NECESSARY. Accordingly, in the case of man Divine justice cannot be willing to acquiesce in a substitute who is a sharer in guilt; for the law has a previous hold upon him; there is a debt due on his own account. But Jesus Christ, though a man, was, by reason of His miraculous conception, free from the taint of original sin.

IV. There would be a great propriety in this also, that THE INNOCENT PERSON SUBSTITUTED FOR THE GUILTY, SHOULD STAND IN SOME RELATION TO HIM. Now, our Lord Jesus Christ was related to mankind; one like them whom He came to redeem. This was shadowed forth in the law of a Redeemer of a lost estate. The person who was to redeem must be related: hence a redeemer and a relation were expressed by one term, and the nearest relation was to redeem. Hence, then, the incarnation of our Lord was necessary.

V. If the substitution of the innocent in the room of the guilty is at all permitted, it seems requisite that NO ADVANTAGE SHOULD BE TAKEN OF A MOMENTARY ENTHUSIASM, a sudden impulse of heroic feeling, which might prompt a generous mind to make a sacrifice, of which, on cool deliberation, be repented. In the ease we are now contemplating, nothing could reconcile the mind to such a procedure but such a settled purpose on the part of the substitute as precludes the possibility of a vacillation or change. But this condition is found in the highest perfection on the part of the blessed Redeemer. His oblation of Himself was not the execution of a sudden purpose, the fruit of a momentary movement of pity; it was the result of deliberate counsel, the accomplishment of an ancient purpose, formed in the remotest recesses of a past eternity.

VI. In the case of the substitution of the innocent for the guilty, it seems highly requisite that HE WHO OFFERS HIMSELF AS THE SUBSTITUTE SHOULD JUSTIFY THE LAW BY WHICH HE SUFFERS. In the substitution of the Redeemer of mankind were conjoined the most prompt and voluntary endurance of the penalty, with the most avowed and cordial approbation of the justice of its sanctions. It was a great part of the business of His life to assert and vindicate by His doctrine that law which He magnified and made illustrious by His passion. Never had the law such an expounder as in the person of Him who came into the world to exhaust its penalties, and endure its curse.

VII. That the voluntary substitution of an innocent person, in the stead of the guilty, may be capable of answering the ends of justice, nothing seems more necessary than that THE SUBSTITUTE SHOULD BE OF EQUAL CONSIDERATION, AT LEAST, TO THE PARTY IN WHOSE BEHALF HE INTERPOSES. The interests sacrificed by the suffering party should not be of less cost and value than those which are secured by such a procedure. But the aggregate value of those interests must be supposed to be in some proportion to the rank and dignity of the party to which they belong. As a sacrifice to justice, the life of a peasant must, on this principle, be deemed a most inadequate substitute for that of a personage of the highest order. We should consider the requisitions of justice eluded, rather than satisfied, by such a commutation. It is on this ground that St. Paul declares it to be "impossible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take away sins." In this view the redemption of the human race seemed to be hopeless; for where could an adequate substitute be found? The mystery hid from ages and generations, the mystery of Christ crucified, dispels the obscurity, and presents, in the person of the Redeemer, all the qualifications which human conception can embody as contributing to the perfect character of a substitute.

VIII. However much we might be convinced of the competence of vicarious suffering to accomplish the ends of justice, and whatever the benefits we may derive from it, A BENEVOLENT MIND COULD NEVER BE RECONCILED TO THE SIGHT OF VIRTUE OF THE HIGHEST ORDER FINALLY OPPRESSED AND CONSUMED BY ITS OWN ENERGIES; and the more intense the admiration excited, the more eager would be the desire of same compensatory arrangement, some expedient by which an ample retribution might be assigned to such heroic sacrifices. If the suffering of the substitute involved his destruction, what satisfaction could a generous and feeling mind derive from impunity procured at such a cost! While we rejoice in the cross of Christ as the source of pardon, our satisfaction is heightened by beholding it succeeded by the crown.

IX. If the principle of substitution be at all admitted in the operations of criminal law, it is tog obvious to require proof that IT SHOULD BE INTRODUCED VERY SPARINGLY, only on very rare occasions, and never be allowed to subside into a settled course. It requires some great crisis to justify its introduction, some extraordinary combination of difficulties, obstructing the natural course of justice; it requires, that while the letter of the law is dispensed with, its spirit be fully adhered to; so that, instead of tending to weaken the motives to obedience, it shall present a salutary monition, a moral and edifying spectacle. The substitution of Christ in the room of a guilty race receives all the advantage as an impressive spectacle which it is possible to derive from this circumstance. It stands amidst the lapse of ages, and the waste of worlds, a single and solitary monument.

X. Whenever the expedient of vicarious suffering is adopted, A PUBLICATION OF THE DESIGN OF THAT TRANSACTION BECOMES AS INDISPENSABLY NECESSARY AS OF THE TRANSACTION ITSELF; since none of the effects which it is intended to produce can be realized but in proportion as that is understood. Hence we see the infinite importance, in the doctrine of the Cross, that not merely the fact of our Lord's death and sufferings should be announced, but that their object and purpose, as a great moral expedient, should be published to all nations. The doctrine of remission of sins, through the blood of that Victim which was once offered for the sins of the world, forms the grand peculiarity of the Gospel, and was the principal theme of the apostolic ministry, and is still pre-eminently "the power of God to salvation."

(R. Hall, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

WEB: He was taken away by oppression and judgment; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living and stricken for the disobedience of my people?

The Stricken Christ
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