crifices, so precious in itself, that, in the language of Scripture, God “smelled a savour of rest."

Perhaps our ideas are not always distinct, when we speak of the death of Christ as a satisfaction for sin. That word, indeed, is used to signify any thing with which the person having a claim is contented, whether he receive the whole that he claims, or only a part of it, or something instead of it. In law, it strictly signifies a payment which may or may not be admitted, according to the pleasure of him to whom it is due ; and it takes place when not the very thing is done which he had a right to demand, but something which he is pleased to accept as an equivalent. In the present case, what the law demanded was the death of the transgressors themselves; it was, therefore, a relaxation of the law, to admit another to die for them; and, on this account, the death of Christ was properly a satisfaction to justice; something with which it was content, although not the very thing which it originally required. It is on this ground that sinners were not ipso facto set free from guilt and condemnation, but continue under them till they believe. The reason is, that they did not themselves undergo the penalty, but another underwent it in their room ; and the Lawgiver had a right to settle the terms of their actual deliver

We need not, therefore, puzzle ourselves with inquiring how much Christ suffered ; for, besides that this is a question which we are not competent to decide, it is enough to know, that he suffered all that was necessary to demonstrate the Divine abhorrence of sin, to maintain the authority of the law, and to exclude the impenitent from the hope of impunity.

The same effect is ascribed to the death of Christ, as to the ancient sacrifices, and both are said to have averted the anger of God, and procured his good will and favour to man. Upon offering the appointed sacrifice, an Israelite was exempted from the penalty incurred by transgression, and was permitted to retain his place in the congregation, and to enjoy his political and ecclesiastical privileges. This expression is frequently subjoined to the precept respecting offerings to be made on particular occasions : “ The priest shall make atonement for his sin, and it shall be forgiven him."'* This is the prayer to be presented on the occasion of offering a heiser when a person had been slain, and the murderer could not be discovered :-“ Be merciful, O Lord, unto thy people Israel, whom thou hast redeemed, and lay not innocent blood unto thy people of Israel's charge. And the blood shall be forgiven them.”+ If, then, the death of Christ has accomplished the design of sacrifices, we may justly conclude, that it was a sacrifice in the true and proper sense. The blessings which we enjoy by it are, pardon, peace, and the favour of God. “ He was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ : by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”I “We have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins,

' according to the riches of his grace.”'S “ Be it known unto you, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins : and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses."|| There were some sins for which that law provided no sacrifice, and the transgressor died without mercy: the superior excellence of this sacrifice appears from its unbounded efficacy, there being no sin, however aggravated, which will be not remitted to him who believes. In a word, Christ is said to have made peace by the blood of his

• Lev. iv. 26, 31, 35. vi. 7. xii. 8, &c.

$ Ephes. i. 7.

| Deut. xxi. 8. # Rom. iv, 25. v. 1, 2.

| Acts. xii. 38, 39.

cross, to have redeemed us to God with his blood, to have redeemed us from the curse, to have delivered us from the wrath to come, to have made us kings and priests unto God, even our Father. It is plain, from these and many other passages which it is unnecessary to quote, that the removal of guilt, the repeal of the condemnatory sentence, and the hope of eternal life, are attributed to his death as the procuring cause.

The design of sacrifices was to appease the anger of the Deity ; Jews and Gentiles agreed in this idea. Jesus Christ is called a “merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people, * To inconotus tas áreagtias tou Accu--literally, to propitiate the sins of the people ; but the expression is evidently elliptical, and is put for us to assursus Beco rige tæv åpagtuer, to propitiate God for the sins of the people. The design of his death was to make God propitious to men, to avert his anger, and to procure his favour. This is what we mean by making atonement for sin. Such an atonement as consists in the destruction of sin by repentance, and the acquisition of habits of holiness, (and this is the only atonement which Socinus would admit), could not be expressed by incorozi, or its derivative inespess. It is well known that in zopos signifies an atonement, something done or suffered to reconcile an offended person ; and it is repeatedly applied to our Saviour, obviously for the purpose of informing us what was the design and the effect of his death. “ He is—incopos—the propitiation for our sins.”+ “ Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be miscouar-a propitiation for our sins.”[ Paul makes use of a different word, but of the same derivation," Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiationincotnger. It is the word employed by the Seventy, to express the covering of the ark of the covenant, which was called the mercy-seat; and they have joined with it the word επιθεμα. “Ιλαστηριον επιθεμα, is the propitiatory covering. Hence, some read the passage, “ Whom God hath set forth a mercy-seat.” • Christ, say the Unitarians, is what the mercy-seat was under the former dispensation. In him God shows himself merciful. Here he takes his stand, and declares his gracious purposes.' Their meaning is, that Christ is the messenger of Divine mercy, the medium of Divine communication; and thus they get rid of the idea of atonement. Grotius supposes in stugun to be a noun, and says, that all words of this termination import an efficient power, and are improperly understood as merely declarative, and, consequently, that insotegic here signifies, that Christ has made God propitious. Others, regarding it as an adjective, think that a noun is understood, either ingen or fouez, and that the meaning is, God hath set him forth as a propitiatory sacrifice; inastugeas the adjective signifying having the force or power to propitiate or expiate. And, that this is the true sense of the word, is plain from two considerations : First, The Apostle calls him incotngeon, “a propitiation through faith in his blood,” intimating, that it was the effusion of his blood which propitiated, as under the law it was the blood of the devoted animal which made an atonement. Secondly, Something more than a declaration of merey must be intended, because the design of setting him forth as a propitiation was, “ 10 declare the justice of God in the remission of sin, that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.”. We can understand how Divine justice was displayed, if Christ died for sin, or suffered the punishment of it; but there is nothing like justice in a simple declaration of mercy.

The atoning nature of the death of Christ is signified, when its effect is said to be “our reconciliation to God,” and is expressed by the verbs xITUALITEV and αποκαταλασσων, and by the noun καταλλαγή.

[ocr errors]

6. When we were enemies

• Heb. i. 17. f 1 John ii. 2.

| Exod. xxv, 17.

Ib. iv. 10.

Rom. iii. 25. 1 Rom. iii. 26.

* We

*Pinnaeg mulimwe were reconciled to God by the death of his Son." * joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have receivedu *Utanncgauthe reconciliation.+ It is objected, that it is no where said that God was reconciled to us, but that we are reconciled to him ; and such a reconciliation does not signify the averting of his anger against us, but the laying aside our enmity against him. We


ask those who advance the objection, whether they believe that God was not offended at the sins of men? If they say that he was not, they give the lie to innumerable passages, in which his abhorrence of sin, and his determination to punish the sinner, aré declared ; and they virtually maintain, that holiness and justice are not perfections of his nature. If they admit that sin is displeasing to him, and vengeance is proclaimed against the sinner, they must also admit, that not only we are reconciled to God, but he is reconciled to us; that having been once angry, he is now pacified. Whether they will allow that this change was effected by the death of Christ or not, they can neither deny that it does take place, and is owing to some cause, nor object to the idea itself with appearance

of reason. He who once threatened to punish another, but has since pardoned him, and now treats him with kindness, has certainly been reconciled to him. If his sentiments towards him were always the same, his appearances of displeasure were a dramatic show, inconsistent with sincerity. The argument that God is not said, in express terms, to have been reconciled to us, is of no weight, while his reconciliation is implied in other phrases; as that he hath made peace by the blood of his cross, and reconciled those who were once alienated, and enemies in their mind by wicked works, and that Christ is a propitiation for sin, or has made God propitious to us, with whom, on account of sin, he was formerly displeased. The objectors have been misled by not attending to the true import of netara:1508564 and Sera LTTEC64, which is also used in the New Testament. Such words are employed in the classics to signify, the removing of the anger of the gods, and bear the same sense in the sacred writings.They signify, to return to a state of peace with a person whom we had offended, to pacify him and render him friendly. Thus, when our Lord says in the Gospel of Matthew, if “thy brother hath aught against thee," has some ground of offence, “ go and denndgebot uden peu ocu~be reconciled to thy brother,"I nothing can be plainer, than that the offender is not exhorted to lay aside his enmity to his brother, although this is understood; and that the purpose of going to the offended person is, to reconcile him by confession and reparation, to appease his anger, and persuade him to be at peace with the offender. Here then the phrase, be reconciled to another, signifies to reconcile the other to us; and why should not the word have the same meaning, when it is used in reference to God? We are reconciled to him, as we are reconciled to our injured brother; something is done which disposes him to receive us into favour. Now, the cause of the reconciliation which the Seripture assigns is, the death of Christ, and, consequently, his death was a propitiatory sacrifice. The Apostle explains our being saved from wrath, by “our receiving the reconciliation.”'S To receive the reconciliation is to obtain the remission of our sins; but to receive our conversion, which is the sense of Socinians, is a form of speech altogether unprecedented. The two reconciliations of God to sinners and of sinners to God, are mentioned in the fifth chapter of the second Epistle to the Corinthians. Of the first the apostle says, “ God was in Christ, réconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them."|| Thus, reconciliation consisted in forgiving them, that is, in ceasing to be angry with them, and receiving them into favour; and how it was effected we learn in general from the mention of Christ as a

* Rom. v, 10.

† Ib. v. 11.

• Matt. v. 24.

$ Rom. v. 9, 11.

] 2 Cor, v. 19

[ocr errors]

person by whom the world was reconciled, and in particular from the words subjoined for explanation. “ For he made him to be sin,” or “a sin-offering

a for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."* This reconciliation was evidently on the part of God, who, by the mediation of Christ, opened the way for the exercise of his mercy in pardoning the guilty. It cannot mean our personal reconciliation to God, or our conversion, for this follows as a consequence of the former. On the ground of God's reconciliation to us, we are exhorted to be reconciled to him, and the great motive or encouragement is his previous reconciliation. “He hath committed unto us the ministry of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you, in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled unto God.”+ Since God has given Christ to be a propitiation for sin, and has sent us to proclaim the joyful tidings, do you accept the offer of peace, and enter into covenant with him.' We are reconciled to God when we are justified by faith.

It is false to affirm, that God is never said to be reconciled to us; and, consequently, this argument against the propitiatory nature of the death of Christ falls to the ground. It is equally false to affirm, that God was reconciled before he sent his Son into the world, and that therefore Christ did not die to reconcile him. We acknowledge that it was because he loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son. But this love was merely a benevolent purpose to deliver us by proper means, and proceeded no farther than to provide those means. He had not actually forgiven us, but was willing to forgive us, if a sufficient atonement was made. He appointed Christ to die for transgressors, that he might receive them into favour in perfect consistency with his threatenings against sin, and the righteousness of his administration. He was content-nay he willed—that the grounds of his displeasure against us should be removed; but, till they were removed, he was not actually reconciled; and hence our pardon and restoration are not represented as the immediate effects of his original purpose to save us, but are ascribed to the vicarious sufferings of the Saviour. “The chastisement of our peace,” or by which our peace was procured, “ was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.” God was reconciled when that was done, which made justice cease to demand our punishment.

The general ground on which we maintain the doctrine of atonement is, the necessity arising from the nature and the revealed will of God, that the transgressors of the law should be subjected to the penalty. We think that the transgressors can be allowed to escape only by a gracious dispensation, admitting a surety to suffer in their room. We cannot see how the honour of the Divine character and government could be otherwise maintained. Believing that avenging justice is essential to God, we conclude that free pardon, or pardon upon the simple condition of repentance, was impossible. But, although abstract reasoning from the Divine perfections may be auxiliary to our belief of any particular doctrine, the proper foundation of faith is the express testimony of Scripture ; and I have therefore endeavoured to lay before you a part of the evidence which it supplies on this most important subject. The argument drawn from the justice of God in support of this doctrine, was considered when I endeavoured to illustrate his perfections.

I shall close this discussion, by calling your attention to the objections which are advanced against this doctrine.

First, It is objected, that the doctrine of the atonement is repugnant to all our notions of justice ; for, what is more manifestly unjust, than that the innocent should suffer for the guilty ? But the assumed maxim, that it is con

[ocr errors]

• 2 Cor. v, 21.

+ % Cor, v. 19, 20.

trary to justice that a person should suffer except for his own sins, is too sweeping, and is not agreeable to the common sentiments of mankind. It is acknowledged that, in certain cases, one man may put himself in the place of another, and bear the consequences of such substitution. We have an example in cases of suretiship, when the surety is compelled to do what the principal has failed to perform. There are even instances in the matter of life and death, of one man engaging to save the life of another by the sacrifice of his own. Here, however, suretiship is extended beyond its due limits, because no man has power to give away his own life, and therefore no government has a right to accept it. But the principle of substitution is recognised and acted upon among men, and cannot consistently be condemned, when adopted as a part of the Divine administration. We cannot reasonably find fault with God for doing what is done by ourselves, is sanctioned by our laws, and is acknowledged by all to be fair and equitable. There are several considerations which show that, in the present case, it was perfectly justifiable. Christ possessed the necessary qualification of freedom from the obligation upon all other men to suffer death ; if he had had sins of his own, for which to make satisfaction, he could not have been admitted as a substitute. He was master of his own life as Lord of all, could make a free gift of it, had power to lay it down, and power to take it again. No man could take it from him ; he gave it freely, and the law says Volenti nulla fit injuria; he is not injured, when that is done to him, to which he has given his deliberate and cordial consent. God, who might have demanded the death of the guilty themselves, being the supreme Lawgiver, was pleased so far to relax the law, as to allow another to die for them. We see that all things concur to make this transaction accordant with justice. Christ might give his life for us; he gave it freely, and his Father accepted it. God certainly knew what was proper to be done, what became his character, what would most effectually uphold the authority and honour of his government; and what man or angel will presume to arraign the dispensation? In truth, the proper question is, whether the Scriptures teach that Christ was a propitiatory sacrifice; and, if they do, objections to the justice of the proceeding are vain and impious, because it is past all doubt, that whatever God does is right.

In the second place, it is objected, that this doctrine represents God as furious and revengeful, delighting in the miseries of his creatures, and contented only with torments and blood. He would not be appeased, and permit sinners to. escape, till his Son offered the dreadful sacrifice of himself. This is an unfair, irreverent, and malignant representation of a holy and awful truth of revealed religion. The Scriptures do indeed ascribe wrath, jealousy, and revenge to God, by anthropopathy, or the figurative attribution of human sentiments and feelings, and even of human members, to him; but every person is aware, that the design of such forms of speech would be perverted, and great dishonour would be done to him by supposing that there is any thing in his nature analogous to the commotions and infirmities of ours. Far be it from us to conceive so unworthily of Him who is all-perfect. Such terms are employed solely to assist us in forming an idea of the contrariety of sin to his nature and will, of the strong disapprobation with which he regards it, and of his fixed determination to render the recompense of their deeds to the transgressors of his law. He has no pleasure in the misery of his creatures, abstractly considered, as he has assured us with an oath; he is naturally good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works. But having given a righteous law to man, he will maintain his authority, by executing the penalty upon those who violate it: being the Ruler of the world, he will not permit the disobedient and rebellious to escape with impunity. When we affirm, that avenging justice is essential to God, we do not mean to represent him as

« VorigeDoorgaan »