3. This reconciling and redeeming work of Christ culminates in His suffering unto death, which is indeed more of an act than an experience. Here, in the Cross, is the summit of His revelation of grace, of sin, and of Humanity. And the central feature of this threefold revelation in the Cross is the holiness of God’s love. It is this holiness that deepens error into sin, sin into guilt, and guilt into repentance; without which any sense of forgiveness would be but an anodyne and not a grace, a self-flattering unction to the soul and not the peace of God.
4. In this relation to God’s holiness and its satisfaction, nobody now thinks of the transfer of our punishment to Christ in its entirety – including the worst pains of hell in a sense of guilt. Christ experienced the world’s hate, and the curse of the Law in the sense of the suffering entailed on man by sin; but a direct infliction of men’s total deserts upon Him by God is unthinkable. His penalty was not punishment, because it was dissociated from the sense of desert. Whatever we mean by atonement must be interpreted in that sense. And judgment is a much better word than either penalty or punishment.
5. What we have in Christ’s work is not the mere pre-requisite or condition of reconciliation, but the actual and final effecting of it in principle. He was not making it possible, He was doing it. We are spiritually in a reconciled world, we are not merely in a world in process of empirical reconciliation. Our experience of religion is experience of a thing done once for all, for ever, and for the world. That is, it is more than even experience, it is a faith. The same act as put God’s forgiveness on a moral foundation also revolutionized Humanity. Hence we are not disposed to speak of substitution ** so much as of representation. But it is representation by One who creates by His act the Humanity He represents, and does not merely sponsor it. The same act as disburdens us of guilt commits us to a new life. Our Savior in His salvation is not only our comfort but our power; not merely our rescuer but our new life. His work is in the same act reclamation as well as rescue.
6. Another thing may perhaps be taken as recognized in some form by the main line of judicious advance in our subject. The work of Christ was moral and not official. It was the energy and victory of His own moral personality, and not simply the filling of a position, the discharge of an office He held. His victory was not due to His rank, but to His will and conscience. It lay in His faithfulness to the uttermost amid temptations morally real and psychologically relevant to what He was. It was a work that drew on His whole personality, and was built into the nature of that personality as a moral necessity of it. What He did He did not do simply in the room and stead of others, He did it as a necessity of His own person also – though its effect for them was not what it was for Him. He fulfilled an obligation under which His own personality lay; He did not simply pay the debts of other people. He fulfilled a personal vocation.
And His faithfulness was not only to a vocation. It was to a special vocation, that of a Redeemer, not merely a saint. The immediate source of His suffering was not the sight of human sin, and it was not a general holiness in Him. It was not the quivering of the saint’s purity at the touch of evil. But it was the suffering of One who touched sin as the Redeemer. He would not have suffered for sin as He did, had He not faced it as its destroyer. Not only was this His vocation as a moral hero, but His special vocation as Savior. It was the work of a moral personality at the heart of the race, of One who concentrated on a special yet universal task – that of Redemption.