Bearing the Sin of Those He Loved
“The justified believer finds his joy in the righteousness of Christ augmented to the highest exaltation by the fact that this righteousness is not only not his own, but is the righteousness of one so beloved, so closely related to him as his living head, his elder brother – “my Lord and my God.” Had it been the righteousness of one standing in no endearing relation to him (were this conceivable) one who in future should be nothing more to him than any other, or one never more to be heard of, or at least never to be enjoyed in the embrace of friendship and the offices of love: the believer’s joy in such a righteousness imputed to him would have been unspeakably less. The exulting delight, unspeakable and full of glory, which the believer cherishes in clasping to his heart that righteousness of Jesus which is all his boast before God and angels, and which evermore is as a cordial to his fainting heart, the ever-reviving fountain to him of life from the dead, the secret and inexpressible exultation of his joy in this righteousness of Jesus just springs from the remembrance that it is the righteousness of one whom his soul loveth; of one who is all his salvation and all his desire; of one with whom he shall dwell forevermore – and thus better to him far than had it been his own. Imputation, therefore, it is evident, can carry with it a fervour and intensity of joy to which actual and personal possession can never reach.
And ah! Why may not this principle operate when imputation infers sorrow, being the imputation of sin? If Jesus had been forced to assume the place and responsibilities of the guilty (were that conceivable) the case in this respect would have been very different from what it was. It must not be forgotten that it was love that induced him to accept the imputation of iniquity – to bear away, as the Lamb of God, the sin of the world. Had it been the imputation of the sins of those whom he did not love (were that conceivable) his resulting sorrow would have been unutterably less; and there might have been some scope or place for the idea that the sin being merely imputed, and not all his own, he could afford to let it lie lightly upon his soul. But it was the sin of those whom he was not ashamed to call, and could not be induced to refrain from calling brethren – the sin of his children; his Church; his dearly beloved; his elect; his bride – “the Lamb’s wife.” His electing and everlasting love, therefore – free, sovereign, distinguishing, self-consuming – choosing this sinful Church into this intensely and divinely endearing relation, wherein his delights were with her by anticipation ere yet the morning stars sang for joy – bound her iniquity upon him as his own, even as it bound her as a seal upon his heart and as a seal upon his arm. Thus came the Holy One of Israel to have sin to reckon for – sin not his own in his own name, yet still his own in her name. And so, having guilt, and having conscience, even while he had not a guilty conscience, his soul was “exceeding sorrowful even unto death.” For he realised that he was “made sin”!
Oh, let us not think that, because personally and in himself perfectly holy, Jesus could on that account have experienced little sorrow from being numbered with the transgressors.”
Hugh Martin, “The Shadow of Calvary”