This article is taken from a sermon preached by Christmas Evans in 1800, based on Romans 3:25
When our world fell from its first estate it became one vast prison. Its walls were adamant and unscaleable, its gates were brass and impregnable. Within, the people sat in darkness and shadow of death, without, inflexible Justice guarded the brazen gate brandishing the flaming sword of the eternal law. Mercy, as she winged her flight of love through the worlds of the universe paused to mark the prison aspect of our once Paradisiac world. Her eye affected her heart, her heart melted and bled as the shriek of misery and yell of despair rose upon the four winds of heaven. She could not pass by, she descended before the gate and requested admittance.
Justice, waving the flaming sword in awful majesty, exclaimed, ‘No one can enter here and live’, and the thunder of his voice outspoke the wailings within. Mercy expanded her wings to renew her flight amongst the fallen worlds. She re-ascended into mid air but could not proceed because she could not forget the piercing cries from the prison. She therefore returned to her native throne in the heaven of heavens. It was a glorious high throne from everlasting, and both unshaken and untarnishable by the fallen fate of man and angels, but even there she could not forget the scene she had witnessed and wept over.
She sat and weighed the claims of all the judicial perfection of Jehovah and all the principles of eternal law, but though they rose upon her view in all their vastness she could not forget the prison. She re-descended with a more rapid and radiant flight and approached the gate with an aptness of equal solicitude and determination, but again she was denied admission. As she stood still her emotion was visible. Justice ceased to brandish the sword. There was silence in heaven. ‘Is there admission on no terms?’ she asked. ‘Yes’, said Justice, ‘but only on terms which no human being can fulfil. I demand an atoning death for their eternal life, blood divine for their ransom.’ ‘And I’, said Mercy, ‘accept at once the terms’. It was asked in amazement on what security. ‘Here’, said Mercy, ‘is my bond, and four thousand years from this time demand its payment on Calvary for the redemption of man. I will appear in the incarnate form of the Son of God and be the Lamb slain for the sin of the world’. The bond was accepted without hesitation and the gate opened at once.
Mercy entered leaning on the arm of Justice. She spoke kindly to the prisoners and gave them some hints of her high undertaking on their behalf. All were amazed and many melted by this timely interference and to confirm their hopes Mercy from time to time led the captivity of some captive that their salvation might be the wedge and prelude of her eventual triumphs, and thus the gathering of first fruits in the field of redemption went on for ages and at last the clock of prophecy struck the fullness of time. Then Mercy became incarnate in the Son of God who appeared in the form of a servant, publishing his intention and determination to pay the mighty bond and soon the awful payment arrived.
Then the whole array of the judicial attributes of Jehovah took their stand on Calvary, with Justice at their head bearing the bond of redemption. Angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim, principalities and powers left their thrones and mansions of glory and bent over the battlements of heaven gazing in mute amazement and breathless suspense upon the solemn scene, for now the Mediator appeared without the gates of Jerusalem crowned with thorns, followed by the weeping church. As he passed along the awful array of the judicial perfections of the divine church, none of them glanced a look of sympathy at him. It was the hour and power of darkness above him and all the vials of divine wrath and the thunder of the eternal law were ready to burst on his devoted head; around him were all the powers of darkness on the tiptoe of infernal expectation waiting for his failure.
None of these things moved him from the purpose or spirit of redemption. He took the bond from the hand of Justice and moved on to the Cross as a lamb to the slaughter. He resigned himself to that altar of ignominy. Then Justice unleashed his flaming sword and marshaling all his terror went up to the altar to enforce his claims. The rocks rent under his tread, the sun shrank from the glance of his eye, he lifted his right hand to the eternal throne and exclaimed in thunder, ‘Fires of heaven, come down and consume this sacrifice’. The fires of heaven, animated with living spirit by the call, answered, ‘We come and when we have consumed the victim we will burn the universe’.
They burst and blazed and devoured until the humanity of Immanuel gave up the ghost. But the moment they touched his divinity they expired. That moment Justice dropped his flaming sword at the foot of the Cross and the law joined the prophets in witnessing to the righteousness which is by faith, for all heard the dying Redeemer exclaim in triumph, ‘It is finished’.
The weeping church heard it and lifting up her head cried, ‘It is finished’. The attending angels caught the shout of victory and winged their flight to the eternal throne, singing, ‘It is finished’. The powers of darkness heard the acclamations of the universe and hurried away from the scene in all the agony of disappointment and despair, for the bond was paid and eternal redemption obtained.
This article first appeared in the April 1997 edition of the Banner of Truth Magazine