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NATURE OF ATONEMENT.
· How can man be justified with God? This is the most important, by far, of all the questions that can ever awaken human inquiry. From the universal consciousness of guilt, it may be presumed, that every individual of our race, has, at one time or another, been forced to utter a similar interrogation. The very language in which it is expressed conveys the idea of difficulty; and one can scarce conceive of its being used without being accompanied, in the countenance of the inquirer, with at least a look of deep anxiety, if not an air of utter despondency. It is a question, too, on which the mind of man, unassisted by revelation, finds itself utterly undone. The light of reason, the lamp of philosophy, the torch of science, have been unable to shed a single ray of hope on this momentous subject; and, left to these, we should have been doomed to the blackness of darkness for ever. Not that there have been no attempts to answer, without the aid of inspiration, the all-momentous question; but the answers have ever been such as were calculated to bewilder and deceive, rather than to quiet the
apprehensions of an awakened conscience, or to impart true peace of soul. The utmost that schoolmen, or philosophers, or natural religionists, have been able to effect in this department, has tended only to apply palliatives to the wounded heart, or to administer stupifying opiates to the patient. 'Forgers of lies, physicians of no value' were they all, leaving their patients, so soon as the temporary effect of their worthless expedients went off, as ready as ever to exclaim, in mental agony, Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?
To the light of divine revelation alone does it belong to irradiate this moral gloom; to the wisdom of Jehovah was it reserved, to point out a sovereign remedy for the deep-rooted malady of human guilt. This he has done in his word, which contains full, multifarious, and satisfactory information on the most important of all human inquiries. All who believe the scriptures, profess to regard the work of Christ as the only remedy for moral evil. They all agree in considering that he has conferred the greatest possible benefit on the world, and that he is to be regarded as the only Saviour of men from sin and wrath. But by those who agree thus far very different views are taken respecting the nature of the remedy Christ has provided. These views may be conveniently reduced to three, which have been distinguished by the names of the Socinian, the Middle, and the Catholic.
The Socinian system is founded on the supposition that pure goodness, or unmixed benevolence, con
stitutes the whole character of God. Discarding vindictive justice, the abettors of this opinion represent him as ready to forgive the sins of his creatures, simply on their repentance. Nothing requires to be done by Christ to procure pardon; he has only to reveal or make it known. His priestly office is obliterated, or merged into the prophetical. His work is to instruct mankind by doctrine and by example; and the sole value of his sufferings and death springs from their tendency to confirm his doctrinal testimony. To this system they ingeniously accommodate all the language of scripture regarding the gospel remedy. When it is said, Christ 'died for us,' the meaning is, that he died for our benefit. He is called 'Mediator,' only because he came from God to make known the divine mercy to men. He 'saves from sin' by the influence of his precepts and example, in leading men to the practice of holiness. His 'blood cleanseth from all sin,' because it was shed in confirmation of that doctrine which is the strongest incentive to virtue. "We have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins,' in as much as we are led, by the consideration of his death, to that repentance which is sure to obtain forgiveness under the merciful constitution of the divine government. Respecting this system, it is only necessary, at present, to request our readers to consider how ill it accords with the views given in scripture of the exceeding malignity of sin; how inconsistent it is with other features of the divine character; how much at variance with the letter and