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ployed for the sole purpose of illustration, have been understood and explained literally. Sin has been represented as a real debt, and the atonement as a real payment of that debt ; and the unhappy result is, that darkness of the densest kind has been made to envelop the whole subject. There are individuals who imagine that Christ rescues his people from the claims of Divine justice in precisely the same way in which a generous friend delivers a debtor from captivity, by advancing the necessary sum on his behalf. Now I would not affirm that it is impossible for such persons to be saved by an humble hope in the mercy of God, through Jesus Christ; but I can have no hesitation in expressing the opinion, that they do not understand the atonement. A pecuniary satisfaction, and a moral satisfaction, differ essentially in their nature, and proceed on radically different principles. Perhaps no man has set this difference in a clearer light than the late Mr. Fuller, whose words I quote:—"I apprehend,” says this excellent writer, " that very important mistakes have arisen from considering the interposition of Christ under the notion of paying a debt. The blood of Christ is, indeed, the price of our redemption, or that for the sake of which we are delivered from the curse of the law; but this metaphorical language, as well as that of head and members, may be carried too far, and may lead us into many errors.

In cases of debt and credit among men, when a surety undertakes to represent the debtor, from the moment his undertaking is accepted, the debtor is free, and may obtain his liberty, not as a matter of favour, at least on the part of the creditor, but of strict justice.” “But who in his sober senses will imagine this to be analogous to the redemption of sinners by Jesus Christ? Sin is a debt only in a metaphorical sense; properly speaking, it is a crime, and satisfaction for it requires to be made, not on pecuniary, but on moral principles. If Philemon had accepted of that part of Paul's offer which respected property, and had placed so much of it to his account as he considered Onesimus to have owed him, he could not have been said to have remitted his debt, nor would Onesimus have had to thank him for remitting it. But it is supposed of Onesimus, that he might not only



be in debt to his master, but have wronged him. Perhaps he had embezzled his goods, corrupted his children, or injured his character. Now for Philemon to accept that part of the offer were very different from the other. In the one case, he would have accepted of a pecuniary representative ; in the other, of a moral one; i. e., of a mediator. The satisfaction, in the one case, would annihilate the very idea of remission; but not in the other. Whatever satisfaction Paul might give to Philemon respecting the wound inflicted upon his character and honour, as the head of a family, it would not supersede the necessity of pardon being sought by the offender, and freely bestowed by the offended.

“ The reason of this difference is easily perceived. Debts are transferable, but crimes are not. A third person may cancel the one, but he can only obliterate the effects of the other; the desert of the criminal remains. The debtor is accountable to his creditor as a private individual, who has power to accept of a surety; or, if he please, to remit the whole without any satisfaction. In the one case, he would be just; in the other, merciful; but no place is afforded by either of them for the combination of justice and mercy in the same proceeding. The criminal, on the other hand, is amenable to the magistrate, or to the head of a family, as a public person; and who, especially if the offence be capital, cannot remit the punishment without invading law and justice ; nor, in the ordinary discharge of his office, admit of a third person to stand in his place. In extraordinary cases, however, extraordinary expedients are resorted to. A satisfaction may be made to law and justice, as to the spirit of them, while the letter is dispensed with. The well-known story of Zaleuchus, the Grecian lawgiver, who consented to lose one of his own eyes, to save one of his son's eyes—who, by transgressing the law, had subjected himself to the loss of both-is an example. Here, as far as it went, justice and mercy were combined in the same act; and had the satisfaction been much fuller than it was so full that the authority of the law, instead of being weakened, should have been abundantly magnified and honoured, still it had been perfectly consistent with free forgiveness. Finally, in



the case of the debtor, satisfaction being once accepted, justice requires his complete discharge; but, in that of the criminal, where satisfaction is made to the wounded honour of the law, and the authority of the lawgiver, justice, though it admits of his discharge, yet no otherwise requires it, than as it may have been matter of promise to the substitute."*

The preceding statements prove that a broad line of distinction exists between a moral and a pecuniary satisfaction. They exhibit very clearly the nature of the latter kind of satisfaction; and show that the satisfaction of Christ cannot have been of this description. The amount of the statements may be thus shortly given. A pecuniary representative cannot be refused-a pecuniary satisfaction is made to an individual in his private character—it precludes the possibility of forgiveness—and, consequently, gives the individual represented a right to demand his discharge. What sober-minded man, to adopt Mr. Fuller's language, will venture to say that any of these notions accord with the Scripture representations of the substitution and satisfaction of Christ? The passing remark of Fuller, that, if sin were literally a debt, it might have been remitted by God without any satisfaction, is especially worthy of attention. Such a representation of sin does most certainly destroy the necessity of atonement altogether! For what is there to forbid the most honourable and upright judge in the world to remit any personal debts which an individual may have contracted with him? In no degree would his character, as a lover of integrity and moral virtue in general, be compromised thereby ; because a man may always forego his own private rights if he chooses so to do: or, if he be restrained on the ground that his family and friends would suffer were he to forego them, he ceases to act as an individual. The rights which he struggles to retain are no longer his own personal rights. He acts as a public character; and his conduct is governed by the principles which regulate moral government in general.

I do not think, however, that Mr. Fuller has very distinctly explained the nature of a moral satisfaction. It is implied,

* Fuller's Works, vol. iv. pp. 101–4.


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perhaps, in the statements he gives us; but the language he employs fails to convey any distinct conceptions to the mind of the reader. What is meant, for instance, by satisfying law and justice as to the spirit of them, while the letter is dispensed with? In our current phraseology are doubtless to be found such expressions as, “ satisfying Divine justice,” satisfying the demands of the law;" but this is metaphorical language. The law is personified; it stands for the lawgiver; for satisfaction is rendered not to the law, but to the giver of the law; and to satisfy the law, is to satisfy the lawgiver. Now, if Mr. Fuller's statements be tried by this test, their indefiniteness will instantly become apparent; "a satisfaction may be made to the lawgiver, as to the spirit of law and justice, while the letter is dispensed with.”

There is one sense which may be attached to the expression, “ to satisfy the law,” (though even in this sense the expression is figurative,) to which I would particularly advert, before I proceed to explain the nature of the satisfaction of Christ; as it will afford, perhaps, the best opportunity of exposing one of the most common mistakes which exist, in reference to the atonement of our Lord. To satisfy the law is to fulfil the law, either in reference to its precepts or its penalty. The law may be said (figuratively) to be satisfied, when its commands are obeyed, or its penalty is endured. Had the whole human race walked in their integrity ; or, having fallen from it, had they, without exception, suffered the vengeance of eternal fire, the law would, in either case, in the sense explained above, have been satisfied, Now, as the whole of the human family has become guilty before God—as a part of that family will ultimately be saved, and so not endure, in their own persons, the penalty of the law, we have been in the habit of saying (and very justly, when the language is explained in harmony with subsequent statements) that the law was satisfied in their case by the endurance of this penalty by their substitute. And from hence has resulted a view of the nature of the atonement-or of that satisfaction to God for sin—to which I am about to direct the particular attention of the reader. It is, perhaps, not radically different from the notion of satisfaction



to which reference has been already made; yet it is so far modified as to justify, and even require, a separate consideration. “ The elect”—for whom exclusively Christ is supposed to have died—“had exposed themselves to a certain amount of punishment; this precise amount, this exact number of stripes, was inflicted upon Christ;” and, of course, satisfaction for sin essentially consisted in the endurance, by the substitute, of the precise amount of punishment which must otherwise have been laid upon the transgressors themselves.

I do not wonder at the prevalence of this opinion among the thoughtless and the vulgar. It is just the kind of idea which is likely to present itself to an ignorant and a contracted mind. But I do greatly marvel to find it taking its place in better company-lifting up its deformed head where its presence could not have been anticipated. It involves in it a radical mistake as to the nature of the atonement, and to the manner in which the sufferings of our Lord operated to permit the escape, and the final salvation of the guilty. But the objections against this view of the nature of satisfaction for sin must be more fully unfolded in the next Lecture.

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