“Justified freely by His grace, through redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness”
But a Savior has come along this valley. Salvation is in Him. What He did and suffered saves; and when He testifies of Himself He brings the salvation near. If in Exodus 34:6-7, there be a sevenfold proclamation of the name of the God of grace, not less is there in this passage a sevenfold unfolding of the grace which our God and Savior brings.
We write at this time especially for those whom God has led down into that valley, persons whom God has awakened, and who are moving about amid gloomy apprehensions of sin, guilt, helplessness, wrath, death, and God’s averted face. We wish to direct you to God’s real feelings toward you, God’s gracious provision for your case, God’s grand means of relief ready for you, as set forth by the Holy Ghost in the above passage of the Word. It was to the Ethiopian eunuch, when reading the Word, that the Holy Ghost drew near; and it was the truth about the Lamb led to the slaughter that the Holy Ghost used in bringing joy to that anxious soul, when “walking through dry places, seeking rest and finding none.” So it is still His way to make use of the Word, and of what the Word tells of the Savior. There is some view of God in Christ exactly fitted to confront and to compose every vexing thought and every alarm in your convinced soul; all which views you must find in the written Word, for you can find them only there. The Word is the glass or mirror in which the heart and mind of God are reflected and made known to us. To the Word you must go; your own thoughts and feelings can afford you no guidance. Be, then, like Augustine, who, at a time when his soul was as tossed and darkly troubled as yours, seemed to hear a voice saying, “Take up and read! Take up and read!” and who, in so doing, by one of the passages of this Epistle, was led to rest. Or, better still, let us pray that you, dear reader, may be as the poet Cowper, who, in the act of reading the very verses before us, obtained a clear view of the gospel, was filled with joy unspeakable, and spent some days thereafter in nothing but prayer and praise. What say you then?
Is not this a ray of hope? There is such a thing with God as justification.
Is this not a ray of hope penetrating your dungeon, through a chink in the prison door?
Is not this another bright ray of hope?
What say you now? Is not this a brighter ray than before? Surely the prison door is opening?
A propitiation means something spoken or given or done or borne, by which the burning displeasure of a superior is calmed down and removed. That was a propitiation which Jacob sent to his brother Esau (Gen. 32:13-20) when he sent a present, and added words of submission and regard and kindness. And you see another instance of propitiation in the conduct of Abigail, at the time when David was breathing out revengeful indignation against Nabal. Abigail put herself to the trouble of going forth personally, in all her engaging beauty; she spoke words of confession and gentleness, falling at the feet of the offended one, and presenting loaves, corn, cakes of figs, provisions sufficient for every man’s need. Now, Christ thus came forth, when our God was most justly offended at our willful, flagrant, persevering violation of His holy law. What awakened soul is there that has not felt something of the awfulness of that anger, when crying in bitterness of spirit, “Rebuke me not in Thy wrath, neither chasten me in Thy hot displeasure” (Ps. 38:1)? In these circumstances, we say, Christ came forth; He confessed our sins without reservation or palliation, and then laid down before the offended Father the reparation of the wrong done to His law, by His own obedience and suffering unto death. The Father’s displeasure passes away, and His countenance shines with unmingled goodwill and delight, when Jesus thus presents Himself before Him as the propitiation for sinners. Even as David’s brow relaxed into a smile of deeply complacent satisfaction, when Abigail, in her own person, laid her propitiation at his feet.
Thus it is that “faith” links us to the redemption.
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