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ATONEMENT AND FORGIVENESS.
which my salvation is effected. I pretend not to dive into the secrets of the Almighty. I submit to his wisdom, and I will not reject his grace, because his mode of vouchsafing it is not within my comprehension.” And, after an attempt to illustrate the subject by stating that we might put a similar inquiry in reference to the manner in which the supplications of one man avail on behalf of others, he adds, “ The fact is, the want of discoverable connexion has nothing to do with either. Neither the sacrifice, nor the intercession, has, as far as we can comprehend, any efficacy. whatever. All that we know, or can know, of the one or of the other, is, that it has been appointed as the means by which God has determined to act with respect to men.” (Pp. 24, 25.)
Further occasions for remark upon the statements of Dr. Magee will occur. In the mean time I cannot but express the fullest concurrence in the judgment expressed by Dr. P. Smith, “that some passages in Dr. Magee's work indicate a material difference from those views which I think it my duty to maintain upon the real value of the Redeemer's sacrificeits relation to the moral attributes and government of God its connexion with the Divine nature of Christ—its efficiency -and its application.” (Vide Note 15th, 1st Edition.)
No doubt can be entertained that it is dangerous to attempt to be wise above what is written; yet, with attention to this maxim, we should blend the practical recollection, that it is as much a duty to aim at reaching the height of revelation, as to refrain from every effort to rise above it. Now I cannot think that the Scriptures are silent on this point; and to me, I confess, it appears not a little singular that a writer who entertains those views of the nature of the atonement which have been presented in the foregoing pages, and which seem to be held by Dr. Magee, should be able to veil from himself the connexion which exists between the sacrifice of Christ, and the forgiveness of sin. Did not the atonement of the Saviour exhibit the righteousness of God--the rectitude of his lawthe impossibility of transgressing it with impunity? Did it not thus render it possible for the moral Governor to pardon sin, without endangering the safety of his government? And,
PENITENCE CANNOT REMOVE
Further, the same reason which renders it necessary that legal enactments should exist—that they should be accompanied by penal sanctions, enforces also the execution of these sanctions. Without this execution, they would be utterly inefficacious. From them, as we have seen, the law derives, partly at least, the moral power which it exerts over the conduct of men—the fear of punishment constituting one of the motives to obedience. But, if the threatened punishment were not inflicted, the sanction would inspire no fear, and the law would accordingly lose its efficiency. “ If the threatening," says Edwards, “had no connexion with execution, it would be wholly void, and would be as no threatening; and so far as there is not a connexion with execution, whether that be in a greater or lesser degree, so far and in such a degree is it void, and so far approaches to the nature of no threatening, as much as if that degree of unconnexion was expressed in the threatening." (P. 507.)
Besides, the issuing of threatenings, by which the legislative and authoritative part of moral government is rendered complete, implicates the character of the moral Governor. The efficiency of any law depends, in a great degree, upon the conceptions that are formed of him from whom it emanates-of the sincerity and degree of his hatred of the conduct which it condemns, and of the inflexibility of his determination not to allow it to pass unpunished. Now, if actions condemned by the Divine law were, even in a few instances, permitted to pass unnoticed, how would it be possible to prevent the adoption of the opinion by the subjects of his government, that the hatred which the Deity bears to sin, is not so deep and unconquerable as we might have inferred from the language of the law ?—and that transgression would not necessarily be followed by punishment? The prevalence of this opinion would expose to the danger of universal transgression. The immunity enjoyed by some would be expected in his own case by every individual, and all would go astray.
The truth, as well as the holiness, of God is implicated by the issuing of the sanctions of the law. “ The wages of sin, " says the moral Governor, “is death;” that is, leads to death,
THE OBSTACLES TO PARDON.
and shall be followed by it. “ Cursed is every one who continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them." Unless, then, vengeance be taken upon the workers of iniquity, or an expedient be devised by which satisfaction in some other mode shall be rendered to Divine justice, how can the truth of God be preserved ? It is necessary to make the preceding distinction, because we, who maintain the doctrine of the atonement, must in fairness admit that the precise threatening of the law is not executed. That threatening is directed against the transgressor, immediately and exclusively. It is, “ The soul that sinneth shall die;" not he, or a substitute in his place. It allots also a certain measure of punishment to be inflicted upon him. According, however, to those views of the nature of the atonement which have been exhibited in the preceding pages, it is not the transgressor, but a substitute, who actually suffers; and that substitute does not sustain the precise amount of punishment which must have been endured by the transgressor himself. It is, however, perfectly manifest, either that the law must take its course—or that it must be honoured, and its moral efficiency sustained, by the death of a substitute-or that the truth of the moral Governor must be abandoned as wholly incapable of proof; in that case it would cease to be of any practical use in the moral system. If the law says, "the soul that sinneth shall die,” and it shall prove to be the case that neither did he die, nor a substitute for him, who could rescue the lawgiver from the charge of falsehood? And, if the truth of the moral Governor be brought into suspicion, what can sustain the efficiency of his law ?
It is, as we have seen, the fear of punishment, in connexion with the hope of reward—a fear and a hope inspired by the law-to which it owes all its efficiency. In the case of any law, this fear cannot exist without confidence in the truth of the lawgiver; since his threatenings, which are the direct instruments of producing it, would be mere idle words, possessed of no moral power whatever, were they regarded as proceeding from a being who might possibly curse where he had said he would bless, or bless where he had said he would curse.
PENITENCE CANNOT REMOVE THE OBSTACLES,
Let us apply these more general remarks to the actual posture of affairs between God and man, that we may perceive more clearly the truth of the position we undertook to defend, viz., that, as far as we are able to judge, there existed a moral necessity for the sufferings and death of Christ, in order to the forgiveness of sin. Those legislative enactments, which constitute a perfect measure of our duty to God and to each other-enactments guarded by penal sanctions, the non-execution of which would deprive the Divine government of all influence and efficiency-have been violated by every subject of that government. “ All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” The Lord looked down from heaven, to see if there were any that did understand and seek after God; and he found that all had gone out of the way, that there was none that did good, no, not one." Thus the whole family of man had become guilty before God; i. e., in other words, they were legally exposed to that punishment which must, as we have seen, be inflicted, or the Divine government will be overthrown; his law losing the character of law-becoming a mere code of advice, with which individuals may or may not comply, as they are disposed, but being destitute of power to bind the consciences of any.
Such were the obstacles to the pardon of sin. Now what tendency, it may be asked, could repentance possess, however sincere and profound, to remove them? How could the moral efficiency of the law have been sustained—the moral perfections of Jehovah exhibited and vindicated-by repentance merely? The language of the threatening is not, " the soul that sinneth, and remains impenitent, shall die;" but, “the soul that sinneth shall die." If, then, the transgressor had been pardoned on his repentance, what would there have been to teach the important moral lesson, that the sinner cannot escape with impunity? And unless general confidence be felt that there can be no impunity to the transgressor, what is there to prevent the inroads of rebellion ? Few things can be more manifest to me, than that the certainty of obtaining pardon on repentance would have totally destroyed the authority of the law, and opened the flood-gates to every thing that is
AND IS NO PROVISION FOR REPENTANCE.
degraded and abominable ; for as no rule can possibly be laid down in reference to the degree of repentance that was necessary, men would have contented themselves with a few heartless professions of penitence when the king of terrors made his appearance; and thus, having wallowed in sensuality during their lives, would have gone at length into the presence of their Judge with a lie in their right hand ; and, for that lie, would have expected the reward of eternal life!
The position, then, of our opponents, that there is a necessary connexion between repentance and forgiveness is a false position. It is
Secondly,—a useless position. There is no provision made, in the system of Unitarianism and Deism, to secure the repentance of the transgressor. That all men have sinned, will scarcely be denied by the Deist-certainly not by the Unitarian. Now, if they were able to prove that sincere repentance would certainly restore them to the favour of God, and place them in all respects in the position in which they had stood previously to their transgression, of what avail would it be, if, in point of fact, the sinner, left to himself, would never repent ?-would, on the contrary, proceed with headlong fury along the path on which he had entered, until he sank into eternal misery? And yet, if any confidence is to be placed in the testimony of the sacred writers, the supposition I have made would certainly be realized. “ As well may the Ethiopian change his skin, and the leopard his spots, as they who have been accustomed to do evil, learn to do well." The heart of stone, and such is the heart of the sinner, will never break of itself. Why should the Saviour have been exalted to give repentance, if repentance had been a selforiginated principle of the human mind? Why should the great promise of the new covenant have been, “A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you," if sinners had been morally able to form and create their hearts anew ? Does not the volume of Divine revelation uniformly ascribe “ a broken heart," and "a contrite spirit," to Divine and sovereign influence ? Except a man be born of water, and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." " The