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obviously be proportioned to the confidence which the subjects of the government repose on its promises and threatenings. If the former are viewed with distrust, they will not excite to obedience; if the latter are considered doubtful in regard to their execution, they will not deter from rebellion. Now consider for a moment what was the posture of affairs after rebellion had actually broken out under the Divine government. The transgressors had exposed themselves to the vengeance of the law; and the Legislator was put upon his trial, so to speak, whether the awful threatenings denounced by him against rebellion were mere idle, harmless threats or not. If, in these circumstances, the rebels had been permitted to remain unpunished, what would have been the consequence? Is it not manifest that the law would have lost its moral power; and, the instrument of the Divine government becoming utterly impotent, that anarchy would have ensued in every part of his dominions? It was, therefore, imperative upon the moral Governor to demand satisfaction; i. e., (for such appears to me to be the precise idea which we should attach to the term,) to require that to be done which should preserve to his law all the power to preserve order and tranquillity in his government which had been originally possessed by it. This object might have been secured, or satisfaction might have been obtained, by the infliction of the threatened punishment upon his rebel subjects. To have resorted to this measure would, however, have involved the utter destruction of the offenders themselves, and preserved the authority and moral power of the Divine government, merely that a bloody sceptre might be wielded over myriads of intelligent beings, crushed by the rod of the Divine indignation. To have preserved the authority of the law at this dreadful expense, would have brought no glory to the Divine Being, unless no other method of sustaining its influence could have been devised. An expedient was, therefore, sought and resorted to— the expedient revealed in the gospel. The Second Person of the adorable Trinity, in harmony with his own volition, having authority to lay down his life, was substituted in the place of the guilty, and by his perfect obedience unto death, made
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 arc em
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 In cases of debt and credit among many errors. 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
SATISFACTION FOR SIN
satisfaction for their sins; i. e., he preserved to the law and government of God, that moral power to prevent the inroads of rebellion which the entrance of sin had enfeebled, and threatened finally to destroy. This all-important result, viz., the preservation of the efficacy of the system of moral government of God, in connexion with the non-execution of the threatenings denounced against the transgressor, is secured by the surpassing honour which the obedience and death of Christ reflected upon the Divine law; and the powerful and decided proof it exhibited, that sin could never be permitted to pass unpunished. Who does not hear a voice from Calvary, "If they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?" It is true, doubtless, that it was only the human nature of our Lord that suffered; yet, in consequence of the ineffable and mysterious union of that nature with the Divine, it is impossible to look upon his sufferings in the same light with those of a mere man. Their moral influence upon the subjects of the Divine government is prodigiously greater than if they had been endured by Paul, or even Gabriel himself. When we recollect that he who died for us was a being in whom "dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,"-that the law was honoured in its precepts by the obedience, and in its penalty by the death, of a being so exalted and glorious as the Son of God, it is utterly impossible to escape the conclusion, that the law must be perfectly holy, just, and good ;that the violation of its precepts must be pregnant with incalculable guilt, and cannot fail to be followed by the most tremendous consequences. It is thus that the atonement of Christ removes the anger of God, and reconciles the world to him. It effects no change in the state of his feelings in his private character; it does not abate his personal disapprobation either of sin, or of sinners; but it reconciles Him to us, or, in the language of Scripture, it reconciles us to Him, in his public character. It removes the necessary opposition of his government to us. It renders it competent to him to remit the punishment due to our sins, and even to raise us, for the sake of his Son, to distinguished honour and happiness, without destroying or impairing the moral power of his law—
the instrument by which the government of the world is carried on. Yea, more than all this it accomplishes. It reflects more honour upon the law than could have been seen encircling it, if man had continued obedient; or, if man had suffered its penalty, becoming disobedient; i. e., it has made a full and perfect satisfaction for sin.
The general conclusion, then, at which we have arrived, and which appears to me so important in its bearings upon the subject, is, that justice, in the case of a moral governor is satisfied, or, more correctly, that the moral governor is satisfied, when, as the consequence of transgression, an amount of suffering is endured which will restore to the violated and paralyzed law its original power to prevent the inroads of rebellion. It may not be impossible, perhaps, though I do not regard it as necessary, to pursue this subject a little further; and to ascertain the principles which regulate this amount, both in the case of the transgressor, and in that of a substitute. I submit with much diffidence the following remarks to the candid consideration of the reader.
That justice is satisfied—or that the efficiency of the law is preserved when a measure of suffering is laid upon the transgressor proportioned to his desert, is a position the truth of which will be admitted by all. Yet the statement is indefinite, and must remain so, till we know the amount of this desert; or, rather, till we ascertain the measure by which its amount is decided. That measure, then, it is further stated, is the law of God. The transgressor deserves to endure the precise amount of punishment which the Divine law attaches to his crime. This statement, also, will be admitted. Yet there is another question to which it does not appear to me that, sufficient attention has been given; it is the following: "What is it that guides the Great Eternal in the decisions which he pronounces? By what rule does he walk, in attaching the amount of punishment to transgression of which we are now speaking?" This is not a matter of accident; the sanctions of the law are not arbitrary. When the moral governor declares, in his law, that the transgressor shall suffer a certain amount of punishment--which is to us the measure of his