Page images
PDF
EPUB

ment.

pecuniary transactions. In such connections every one perceives that the terms are used not literally, but metaphorically; and it is thus that they are to be understood with reference to the death of Christ. As sin is not a pecuniary, but a moral debt; so the atonement for it is not a pecuniary, but a moral ransom.

There is doubtless a sufficient analogy between pecuniary and moral proceedings to justify the use of such language, both in scripture and common life: and it is easy to perceive the advantage which arises from it; as besides conveying much important instruction, it renders it peculiarly impressive to the mind."*

Mr. Paine says, "moral justice cannot take the innocent for the guilty, even if the innocent would offer itself. To suppose justice to do this, is to destroy the principle of its existence, which is the thing itself. It is then no longer justice : but is indiscriminate revenge.” The Treatise before us holds the same senti

“It is scripture, reason, and good law, says the author, never to condemn the innocent, in order to exculpate the delinquent.” (p. 71.) This is true in a limited sense as it relates to men; because they have not an absolute right to lay down, or to take life. Besides, were the virtuous and good universally to die for the wicked, the loss to society by their death, would be greater than the gain from the lives of the others. To prevent this loss to society, and to give security to the lives of his creatures, God has reserved to himself the right to dispose of life. But can we in this case argue from the dependent condition of nian to the independent condition of the Deity, and say because he has not given to man the right to give, or to take life when he pleases, that therefore he does not possess this right himself ? Has he not told us, that he will visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them who hate him?” And do we not frequently see those who, in the sense of the objection, are innocent, involved in the punishment of the guilty—swallowed up of earthquakes, and devoured by the sword? With such objectors I have nothing to do: he that reproveth God, let him answer it.

“If a dignified individual, by enduring some temporary severity from an offended nation, could appease their displeasure, and thereby save his country from the destroying sword, who would not admire his disinterested conduct? And if the offended from motives of humanity, were contented with expressing their displeasure by transferring the effect of it from a whole nation to an individual who thus stepped forward on their behalf, would their conduct be censured as indiscriminate revenge? The truth is, the atonement of Christ affords a display of justice on too large a scale, and on too humiliating a principle, to approve itself 10 a contracted, selfish, and haughty mind.

* Fuller's Gospel its own Witness, p. p. 175, 176

* If the idea of the innocent suffering in the room of the guilty were in all cases inadmissible, and utterly repugnant to the human understanding, how came the use of expiatory sacrifices to prevail as it has, in every age and nation? The sacrifices of the Gentiles it is true were full of superstition, and widely different, as might, be expected, from those which were regulated by the Scriptures; but the general principle is the same: All agree in the idea of the displeasure of Deity being appeasable by an innocent victim being sacrificed in the place of the guilty. The objections which are now made to the sacrifice of Christ, equally apply to all expiatory sacrifices; the offering up of which, had not the former superseded them, would have continued to this day."*

That which rendered it lawful and proper in the highest degree for Christ to offer himself a sacrifice instead of sinners, was his absolute supremacy and independency, which place hiur: far above the condition of his creatures, and exempt him from those rules which prescribe and limit their duty. Has he not a right to do what he will with his own ? Is thine eye evil because he is good ? When we hear him saying, No man taketh my life from me: I lay it down of myself: I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again : And when we hear the apostle say, He, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God: we, 1 say, cannot doubt but he had the highest justice on his side to warrant his doing thus.

Further to invalidate the doctrine of atonement, the Treatise does not allow hin the attributes of supremacy and independency, nor even those of innocency and common virtue. For it affirms, “that the Mediator is a created, dependent being;” (p. 108,) and as though that did not sufficiently degrade him, we are told that his temptation in the wilderness was not from the devil, but from his own passions and appetites. It ascribes to him “human pride, and natural ambition, such as gave rise to the victories of Alexander.” (p. 46.)

From what has been said of the nature of sin, and the personage of Christ, we are naturally led to look for a distorted account of the doctrine of atonement. The doctrine of atonement and that of the divinity of Christ, stand or fall together. If we give up the divinity of Christ we cannot support the atonement; for if we should allow that sin is a finite evil, yet none but an infinite Being could make an atonement for it. How could a fallen, guilty creature, atone for his own sin, or give a ransom for his brother ? Can he perform more than is his duty, 'or give to the Almighty any thing that is not his already? He certainly cannot. And if he should cease from sin and walk in all obedience for the future, that would not atone for the transgression that is past. For a

* Fuller's Gospel its own Witness, p. p. 182, 183.

לל

66

person to cease running in debt, will not discharge the debt already contracted.

The author of the Treatise takes a singular method to introduce his doctrine of atonement. " Atonement,” says he," signifies reconciliation, or satisfaction, which is the same. It is a being unreconciled to truth and justice which needs reconciliation; and it is a dissatisfied being which needs satisfaction;" and then adds, “ Is God the unreconciled or dissatisfied party, or is it man?”. (p. 98.) And having said much to show that God is not, and never was dissatisfied with sinners, he comes to inform us what the atonement is, and how it was made. Atonement or reconciliation,” we are told, “ is a renewal of love. It is by the force and power of the law of love, in Christ, that the soul is delivered from the government of the law of sin; the process of this deliverance is the work of atonement or reconciliation.” (p. 115.) How this deliverance is effected by the "force and power of the law of love," we are left to conjecture; this same writer has told us in another place, (p. 23) that the “law of divine love is that infinite law of perfection, which is higher than our capacities extend in a finite state. The law given to Israel, literally speaking, was only a shadow of the spirit of love." We will not contend against the improbability that the “shadow of the law of love," should have sufficient “force and power” to renew the hard, corrupt heart of the sinner; but we cannot forbear to notice that according to this the death of Christ had nothing to do in making the atonement. Never was there a more fatal mistake. Never were the scriptures more fatally perverted. Atonement is proper ly the satisfying of divine justice; and was made by the death of Christ when he offered himself a sacrifice without spot unto God. All those passages which assert that he was " made a curse for us”-that she bore our sins”-that "the chastisement of our peace was upon him”-that "he died the just for the unjust”that "he hath redeemed us by lis blood,” &c. are proofs in point.

The atonement was not made to render God merciful to us, but to satisfy the claims which his justice had against us as transgressors, and open the way by which he might extend mercy to us consistently with his character as Lawgiver and Judge.

When God created man he gave him a law with this penalty annexed, " in the day thou transgressest thou shalt surely die; and however mercifully di: osed he might be towards him after his transgression, it is evident he could show him no favour till the penalty of the law was inflicted, either on the transgressor himself, or on his substitute. Till then both the veracity and justice of God were against showing him any favour. And were ihere not an atonement provided for our actual sins, the same vould be the case now and at all times. If mankind are under any law to God, there must, in the very nature of things, be a penalty for the breach of that law. To suppose otherwise would be to suppose that God has given laws like the rules of children's play, which we may break with impunity. But if we incur the penalty of the law by transgression, that penalty must be executed either on us or on our substitute. If on us, then no favour is shown us; but if on our substitute, the way is opened, and mercy may be extended to us. And this shows us the nature of atonement, and to whom satisfaction is made. It is suffering for us, or in our stead; and thereby giving exercise to that mercy and grace which otherwise would have been prevented by the unsatisfied demands of the law upon us.

There are, as we conceive, insuperable difficulties in the way of an exercise of mercy towards sinners without an atonement. What would be the state of a commonwealth in which there were no penal law's, but every transgression immediately pardoned ? Could government be maintained by laws without penalties? We know that it could not. Neither could the government of God. Laws without penalties would be weak, contemptible things which every one might break or keep with equal safety. And if they annex penalties the penalties must be executed either on the offenders themselves, or on their substitute; otherwise truth and justice are prostrated. To pardon sin without satisfaction to law and justice would be to make light of it, and to treat ihe greatest crimes as we now do the unavoidable weaknesses and errors of human nature. It would rather invite, than restrain transgression. It would loosen the bonds of society, induce a state of anarchy, and overthrow all government. In such a state of things no security could be enjoyed, and there could be no adequate display made of the justice, truth, mercy, or holiness of God. The character of God is so connected with his government that if this suffers, that suffers with it.

Never, therefore, was there a more false or a more dangerous sentiment advanced than that of the Treatise upon atonement, which teaches that “God was never dissatisfied with any of his creatures.'

." And it is difficult to conceive how a person who has the least faith in the word of God, could adopt a sentiment which is contradicted in every page of holy writ.--Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things writien in the book of the law to do them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.

Hence it appears that the doctrine of atonement is a fundamental doctrine. It is the meritorious cause of all our blessings, and the medium through which they all flow. We obtain righteousness and peace on this ground, and on no other. To deny this is to close the door of mercy against ourselves. It is to cut ourselves off from the favour of God, and seal our own everlasting doom.

· The Treatise before us contains an objection to the doctrine of atonement as maintained in this discourse. It is this: “It would wear the appearance of hypocrisy to pretend to pardon sin," if an atonement has been made for it. This is not only the objection of this writer, but also of all Socinians and Deists. They seem to suppose that atonement and pardon reciprocally exclude each other.

It is admitted that in matters of debt and credit, a full satisfaction from a surety excludes the idea of pardon on the part of the creditor, and admits a claim on the part of the debtor, yet it is otherwise in relation to crimes. In the interposition of Christ, an honourable expedient was adopted, by means of which God was satisfied, and the exercise of mercy rendered consistent with justice and good-government: and there is no less grace in the act of forgiveness, than if it were inade without a satisfaction. However well pleased God might be with the sacrifice of bis Son, the freeness of pardon is not at all diminished by it; nor must criminals come before him as claimants, but as suppliants, imploring mercy in the Mediator's name. It would be different if sinners themselves had procured the atonement, and had borne the expense of it. But as God provided the substitute for man whereby atonement is made, it was an act of undeserved mercy : and surely by such an act of mercy he has not made himself a debtor to sinners, nor furnished them with an unconditional ground of claim. As he was under no obligation to provide an atonement, but was perfectly free to provide it or not; so when he had provided it, he was perfectly free to say whether sinners should enjoy it absolutely or conditionally : and if conditionally, what those conditions should be. Therefore atonement does not exclude pardon.

“St. Paul teaches this doctrine with great precision. Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness; that he might be just, and the justifier of him who believeth in Jesus. From this passage we may remark, First, that the grace of God, as taught in the scriptures, is not that kind of liberality which Socinians and Deists, ascribe to him, which sets aside the necessity of satisfaction. . Free grace, according to Paul, requires a propitiation, even the shedding of the Saviour's blood, as a medium, through which it may be honourably communicated. Secondly: Redemption by Christ was accomplished, not by a satisfaction that should preclude the exercise of grace in forgiveness, but in which the displeasure of God against sin being manifested, mercy to the sinner might be exercised without any suspicion of his having relinquished his regards for righteousness. In setting forth Jesus

« PreviousContinue »