Following on from our previous chapter regarding the blood, by which alone atonement for sin can be made, and in order that a Scriptural, well-grounded hope may be set forth, we continue with a contemplation of him by whom that blood was shed, namely to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, as a substitute. If the Holy Ghost gives a gracious view of this, and shows the reader his own personal interest in Christ, as his substitute, then he will enjoy a "peace that passeth all understanding."
Now, if God having made a law binding upon his creatures, and said he that broke the law should surely die; and yet, although the law was broken, the offender did not die; God would no longer be a God of truth! His word would not be taken! His law would be dishonored, and he himself dishonored likewise. He would forfeit his character, in order to save the offender.
But whilst the Lord God can "by no means clear the guilty," (Exo. 34:7) yet he has provided a way in which "he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." (Rom. 3:26) Now, the Lord did by providing a Substitute! Hence we read, "Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom." (Job 33:24)
The great doctrine of suretyship or substitution was strikingly illustrated by Judah, one of the sons of the Patriarch. When famine prevailed in Canaan, and Jacob wanted his sons to go a second time into Egypt to buy corn in order that they should not perish with hunger; they objected because, said they, "The man did solemnly protest unto us, saying, ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you." At length, and as the only way to meet the difficulty, "Judah said unto Israel his father, Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go; that we may live and not die, but we, and thou, and our little ones. I will be surety for him: of my hand shalt thou require him. If I bring him not unto thee, then let me bear the blame for ever." (Gen. 43:8,9)
This was suretyship!
And, afterwards, when Joseph proposed to detain Benjamin as a servant, Judah stepped forward, and, having pleaded in the most touching manner the cause of his father, himself, and his brethren, he added, "Now, therefore, I pray thee, let thy servant abide instead of the lad, a bondman to my Lord; and let the lad go up with his brethren." (Gen. 44:33)
That was substitution!
The same all-important subject is most strikingly set forth in the law which the Lord God himself laid down with respect to the scape-goat. We read, "And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness. And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited; and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness." (Lev. 16:21,22) Now, there was a transfer of sin and iniquity from the person of the transgressors to the victim who was made a substitute. He bore the whole away into a land not inhabited. Indeed, the Jews say that "the edge of the wilderness had a precipice where the goat fell over and was dashed to pieces."
All this was to set forth the glorious suretyship and substitution of Christ, of whom it was said, "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isa. 53:5,6)
Hence, as the blessed result of Christ, the great Surety and Substitute, having "borne our sins in his own body on the tree," (1 Pet. 2:24) that glorious truth is established, "In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found." (Jer. 50:20) Again, we read, "And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." (Heb. 10:17)
Well does Augustus Toplady sing upon this blessed subject:
"Payment God cannot twice demand,
First at my bleeding Surety's hand,
And then again at mine."