On the Atonement
1 Corinthians 15:3-4
For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;…

I. The expediency of Christ's interposition for our salvation may be inferred from THE GUILT AND DEGRADATION OF MANKIND. Once, indeed, there was, as it has been called, a golden age; but the same persons who have described it, also delineate the degeneracy of our race. Good men, according to one ancient writer, were scarce as the gates of Thebes, or the mouths of the Nile. Another tells us, that peace had left the earth, truth taken her departure, and fidelity fled far away. In consulting the records of ages that are past, amiable qualities, no doubt, occasionally appear which attract our esteem, and splendid virtues are displayed which excite admiration; still, however, misconduct and crime are the prominent features. Yes, crimes follow in close succession, while virtues are rare like those beautiful flowers which spring up here and there among the weeds of the wilderness. They who contemplate the wandering idolaters in the wilds of Tartary, not to mention the ancient votaries of superstition in Greece and Rome; they who behold the Indian on the banks of the Ganges, or the Samoeide situated on the frozen ocean, must discern, in a striking point of view, the degraded state of humanity, and the expediency of that plan of salvation which the gospel unfolds. The degraded state of humanity, on account of the numberless violations of duty, is productive of many apprehensions and alarms. In the presence of a Being of infinite perfection man has trembled to appear, being timorous and dismayed, like the progenitor of our race, when he "hid himself from the presence of the Lord among the trees of the garden." If he would still hope for happiness, after his manifold provocations, he suspects that he cannot demand it from the inflexible justice of the Almighty, but that he must intreat it from the tender mercy of his God. And how astonishing the display of the Divine mercy to the children of men!

II. The expediency of His interposition may be deduced from THE INEFFICACY OF EVERY OTHER KNOWN MODE OF ATONEMENT FOR TRANSGRESSION. Much efficacy has been ascribed to repentance; but it is doubtful how far mere repentance is a reparation for wrong. Is not guilt often attended with punishment which repentance alone cannot remove? Has not the murderer been tortured with remorse, after sincerely deploring his crime, and firmly resolving to shed no more innocent blood? True penitence implies a complete change of life: but who ceases entirely to do evil? Erring man sins, repents, and sins again. Even his best resolutions are at times fallacious, and as the stream of brooks they pass away. Hence he is full of anxious disquietude, apprehensive that, while the corruptions of his nature continue, the Divine displeasure will also remain. Distrusting the efficacy of repentance for appeasing His anger, he naturally fears, as a great philosopher has justly remarked, lest the wisdom of God should not, like the weakness of man, be prevailed on to spare the crime by the most importunate lamentations of the criminal. Some other intercession, some other sacrifice, some other atonement, he imagines, must be made for him beyond what he himself is capable of making, before the purity of the Divine justice can be reconciled to his manifold offences. But legal oblations were deficient in efficacy. It was not possible, according to the declaration of an apostle, that these should take away sin. A superior sacrifice was requisite, and a better atonement than these. On the Saviour's merits the believer reflects with hope and trust, gratitude and transport, in his last moments.

III. The atonement was expedient TO VINDICATE THE HONOUR OF THE DIVINE GOVERNMENT. Mercy to the guilty without suitable expiation might produce ruinous effects. Were breach of order not punished, all would become anarchy and confusion. When the genius of justice seems to slumber for ages, she is scorned like the threatenings of Noah. Never will that Omnipotent Being, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity but with abhorrence, allow guilty mortals to trample on the majesty of His laws, and with impunity to set examples of crimes the most atrocious. That obnoxiousness to punishment which results from the violation of the Divine laws was transferred to Christ when He offered Himself as a substitute for sinners. And this substitution, completely voluntary on His part, and consequently highly meritorious, exalted in every point of view, instead of debasing the doctrine of "the natural placability of the Divine Being."

IV. Our Saviour's interposition was expedient as being A SUBJECT OF PROPHECY, and the Divine veracity interested of consequence in its accomplishment. Many hundred years before His appearance on earth, the interposition of our Redeemer was predicted with the utmost perspicuity. The whole scene of His sufferings passed before the prophets, and they describe them as circumstantially as if they had been spectators of the crucifixion on Mount Calvary. Without controversy, it was a great and mysterious sacrifice. But mystery is merely a relative term. To infinite intelligence all is plain in the whole economy of grace, the arrangement of providence, and the system of nature. Let us, who are children of the dust, receive with reverence every doctrine which is revealed from heaven, rather availing ourselves of the light of the sun, so to speak, than attempting to gaze on his glory.

(T. Laurie, D.D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

WEB: For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,

Jesus Christ Died for the Sins of Men
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