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WAS RENDERED TO GOD AS MORAL GOVERNOR.
posed, indeed, that there could be no need to consume, on this part of the subject, a single moment of time; for since sin for which the death of Christ was an atonement—is the transgression of the law, and since a law necessarily supposes a lawgiver, few things can be more manifest than that satisfaction for sin must have been rendered to God in his public character, or as the moral Governor of the world. The conduct of our opponents has, however, rendered it necessary to direct the particular attention of the reader to the point we are about to consider. Who, that has merely glanced into the productions of Unitarian writers, has not observed how they have attempted to excite prejudice against the doctrine of the atonement, not by arguing against it, or not merely by arguing against it, but by misrepresenting its nature? Who is unaware of their efforts to fix upon the God of the Calvinists, as they sneeringly call him, the charge of insensibility, of sternness, and inflexibility,—and of their disingenuous and most unfair attempts to place, in the light of disadvantageous contrast, the conduct of Jehovah in requiring an atonement, and refusing to be satisfied without it, with the conduct of a meek, and benevolent, and placable man, whose anger never outlives the acknowledgments of the offender, and sometimes even expires before they are made? At no very distant period, one of their main writers was disingenuous enough to affirm, after our reiterated explanations, that the doctrine of atonement “ distorts the character of God, and represents the Father of mercies as a being whom it is impossible to love."
Now I maintain, that the very existence of this charge results from the forgetfulness or the denial of the important fact, that satisfaction for sin was required by God, and rendered to him, not in the relation which a private individual sustains to his friends and neighbours, but in that in which a moral Governor stands to his subjects, who must support the credit and authority of the law, and who could not possibly do either, were he to suffer it to be broken with impunity. For when was almost every epithet of abuse lavished against an earthly judge, for not suffering (what he is forbidden by his office to do) the manifestly guilty to escape? When was such
MISREPRESENTATION OF UNITARIANS.
a judge stigmatized, even by an Unitarian, as a stern, inflexible, implacable being—a being whom it is impossible to love, --because he officially pronounces an individual a transgressor, after he has been clearly proved to be such, and passes upon him the sentence which the law attaches to his crime? We may confidently reply, Never. To act in this manner is so obviously virtue in a judge, that no doubt has ever been entertained, or can be entertained, on the subject. A judge must be inflexible. It is his highest honour to be so. To exercise mercy—if by that word be meant the extension of pardon to a transgressor, on the ground of his penitence and promises of amendment–is beyond his province. He cannot do it without injustice ; for equity in a judge is the unbending application of the general principles and decisions of the law to the particular case in hand. A righteous decision is the law speaking by the mouth of the judge ; and the law does not more award pardon to the guilty, than punishment to the innocent.
It is only by dexterously drawing a veil over the relation which God sustains to man as moral Governor-by diverting general attention from the important distinction which exists between the private and the public character of God, that our opponents can hope to succeed in their attempts to prove that the doctrine of atonement throws a stigma upon the Divine Being. This is accordingly done by them. They talk of the great Parent of mankind-the universal Father, &c.; but in connexion with their statements, in reference to the atonement at least, they do not represent him as their present ruler, and their future judge. They exhibit him to the view of their readers as if he sustained the relation to them which a private individual bears to those who reside in his vicinity; and then, because no private member of civil society is bound to seek satisfaction for an injury which affects him exclusively, even when the transgressor is not penitent, and a fortiori when he is so ; because, as I am not unwilling to add, it then becomes his duty to forgive him, and to refuse forgiveness would blemish his character,--they argue that the doctrine of atonement, which practically declares that Jehovah does not, and cannot
IT SUPPOSES GOD TO BE DISPLEASED.
do this, represents him as a monster whom the world should join to despise and abhor.
It is, then, in the relation which God bears to men as their moral Governor and Judge--a relation necessarily sustained by him—that he requires and receives satisfaction for sin.
Let it be further observed, that atonement is not only rendered to God as a public character, but as displeased, in that character, with the conduct of men. The requisition of atonement so obviously implies, indeed, that ground of offence had been given by that conduct, and had been actually taken by the moral Governor, that I should not have introduced the statement, but for the opportunity which it affords to explain the precise nature of that displeasure against sin which we thus attribute to God. This explanation is rendered necessary by the prevalence of mistakes in reference to the subject, and by the obscurity which hangs over the conceptions of many, who are otherwise evangelical in their views in regard to the great subject of the atonement itself.
Bearing in mind the general statements already made, we shall be preserved from the error, that the Divine displeasure against sin is akin to that excitement and perturbation of mind, by which we are frequently agitated when treated with manifest injustice or cruelty. There will be no need to guard the intelligent reader against the obvious and gross mistake, of concluding that any state of the Eternal Mind, must exactly resemble a certain state of a created mind, because it bears the same name. He will instantly perceive that there must be a difference of some kind, though it may not be an easy matter to state precisely wherein that difference consists,-a difference corresponding with that which exists between the nature of God, and the nature of man.
“The anger of God,” says one of the most justly popular writers and preachers of the present day, “is not a passion, but a principle.” “It is the opposition and aversion of his nature,” we are again told, “to every kind and degree of moral evil.” Both of these statements are true, in one sense, yet they do not shed so much light over the subject as it is desirable to possess, if it can be obtained. Let it then be
THE NATURE OF THAT DISPLEASURE.
most carefully recollected, that by the anger of God we mean the displeasure which in his public character he bears, and must manifest, against sin. It is, in short, the necessity which is imposed upon him, by the relation in which he stands to men as their moral Governor, to inflict upon the disobedient the sentence of his law; a sentence which exbibits the personal hatred with which, as an infinitely holy Being, he must regard sin ;—for doubtless thereis an irreconcilable aversion in the Divine nature to every species and degree of moral evil, and to such a nature the unholy tempers and the abandoned conduct of the wicked must be unspeakably abominable :but when we speak of the anger which sinners aroused against themselves by transgression, and which was removed by the atonement of Christ, we do not refer to this necessary aversion of the Divine nature to sin; though this important distinction is greatly too much overlooked. For, in the first place, had there existed no obstacle to the salvation of men, but what we have ventured to call Jehovah's personal hatred of sin, it is not easy to see what need there would have been of an atonement. That power which rendered Adam a perfect man, in a moral point of view, could have easily converted a world of sinners into a world of saints, and then the anger to which we now refer must have sunk of itself. And, secondly, the atonement, producing directly no moral change upon the characters of men, cannot have destroyed the necessary aversion of the Divine nature to sin and sinners; and hence we are assured, that “God is angry with the wicked every day." Yet peace was made by the blood of the cross. God was reconciled to the world by the death of his Son; reconciled even to those whose hearts are enmity against him ; for the intelligence of this reconciliation is, by Divine appointment, to be proclaimed to mankind, that it may win back again their alienated affections, and convert a world of rebels into a world of friends. “God was in Christ,” says the apostle, “reconciling the world unto himself,"__"and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation;" “we pray the world,” (therefore,)“ be ye reconciled to God.”
* 2 Cor. v. 19, 20.
THE SATISFACTION IT RENDERED MORAL,
The anger of God, then, which was actually removed by the death of his Son, was neither that effervescence of feeling which, in the case of man, has appropriated to itself the name; nor that disapprobation with which the holy mind of God must have contemplated a race of rebellious and depraved beings,-a disapprobation which could only have been removed by a radical change of character in those beings : but it was the impediment-an impediment which nothing else could have taken away,-presented by his office as moral Governor, to the bestowment of pardon upon them. In other words, it was that judicial and absolute necessity, under which he had been previonsly placed, to inflict the punishment of the law upon all who had broken it, while he might feel the tenderest commiseration for the fate of the transgressors themselves.
Secondly, we proceed to notice the nature of that satisfaction which was rendered to God as the moral Governor of the world. As we proceed, it will be found that the various parts of this great subject illustrate each other. The statements concerning the necessity of the atonement, for instance, partially explain its nature; an exhibition of its nature proves, on the other hand, its necessity. In like manner, the nature of that satisfaction which it is now proposed to investigate, must have received some elucidation from the account just given of the displeasure, on the part of God, which rendered the satisfaction necessary. The correctness of this statement will more fully appear in the course of the following remarks.
The previous definition of the atonement exhibits it in the light of a moral satisfaction. It was stated to be a satisfaction for sin, rendered to God as the moral Governor of the world. Now a moral satisfaction is one entirely sui generis. We must be especially cautious not to identify it in our conceptions with a pecuniary satisfaction. The common and popular phraseology on this subject exposes us to the danger of doing this. Sin is frequently described as a debt, and the atonement as the payment of this debt; and, if we were careful to recollect that these are symbolical or figurative terms, we should not be misled by the phraseology. But the misfortune is, that words which are really figurative, and which are em