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THE NOTION OF A LITERAL TRANSFER
could only arise from the circumstance, that those who uttered them, were under the mistake which Dr. Crisp labours to rectify; i. e., thinking sin did not cease to be theirs, even when under the fullest persuasion that the Lord would not impute it to them, but would graciously cover it by the righteousness of his Son.” (Vol. iv., p. 98.) We maintain,
Thirdly, that the notion is as irrational, and the supposed literal transfer of righteousness and guilt as impossible, as we have shown it to be unscriptural. I agree with Mr. Fuller, in thinking that “guilt and innocence,” or sin and righteousness," are transferable in their effects, but untransferable in themselves.” Surely a moment's reflection upon the nature of each, must convince every rational being that this is the case. For what is righteousness? Conformity to law, What was the righteousness of Christ? His own personal conformity to the Divine law;-the holy exercises of his mind, together with the unblameableness of his conduct. His perfect love to God and man, burning with unsullied purity in his bosom, and emanating from it in every word he uttered, and in every action he performed. Now, how can this righteousness of the Redeemer become ours otherwise than in its consequences ? How can the exercises and feelings of his mind literally become the exercises and feelings of our minds ? By the grace of his Spirit he can produce a resemblance between the habitual state and exercise of our minds, and of his own ; but still this is only conformity, not identity. The feelings of the Saviour are his own; his righteousness is his own : by no process whatever can the latter literally become ours. And what is sin ? Want of conformity to the Divine law. What is our sin? Our own want of conformity to that law; our unholy thoughts, and feelings, and actions. How can they become literally the thoughts, and feelings, and actions of Christ? And what is guilt? Strictly and literally considered, it is the desert of punishment. To be guilty, in the proper sense of the term, is not merely to be exposed to punishment, but to merit it. Guilt, in this sense, can only belong to the offender. It necessarily supposes actual and personal transgression ; and cannot, therefore, be trans
OF CHRIST'S RIGHTEOUSNESS EXAMINED.
ferred to the Saviour. “If," says Mr. Fuller, “ Jesus Christ became by imputation deserving of punishment, we by non-imputation cease to deserve it; and if our demerits be literally transferred to him, his merits must of course be the same to us; and then, instead of approaching God as guilty and unworthy, we might take consequence to ourselves before him, as not only guiltless, but meritorious beings. It is not denied that, in a looser sense, the word "guilt” may be taken to denote obligation, or legal obnoxiousness to punishment. In this sense of the term, guilt may, indeed, be transferred to Christ, and really was so. But this, correctly speaking, is the consequence of guilt, rather than the thing itself. A guilty man is one who deserves, and is consequently legally obnoxious to punishment. Exposure, or legal obnoxiousness to punishment, was transferred to Christ, but not desert of punishment; i. e., he bore the consequences of our guilt, but did not partake of the guilt itself: as we receive the consequences of his work, but did not perform the work ourselves.
THE GROUND OF JUSTIFICATION.
The second opinion on this great subject, to which the attention of the reader is directed, is that of those who conceive of the imputation of Christ's righteousness to believers as consisting, not indeed in the literal transfer of his righteousness to them, but in the legal counting of it to them, as a step distinct from, and previous to, their participating in the consequences of that righteousness. No one, it is alleged, can be treated as righteous, until he is considered righteous. The first step in the process is, therefore, to constitute him righteous, which is not done, it is admitted, by a literal transfer of Christ's righteousness to him, and so making it actually his own (which is allowed to be impossible,) but by reckoning it to him as if it were his own; and then, being thus rendered just in the eye of the law, the second step in the process is to treat him as a perfectly righteous man. This appears to have been the opinion of Calvin.
" What is it,” says he, “ to place our righteousness in the obedience of Christ, but to affirm that hereby only we are accounted righteous; because the obedience of Christ is imputed to us, as if it were our own ?” Such, also, was the opinion of Mr. Fuller, who has illustrated this particular notion of imputation more happily, perhaps, than any other writer. “It is not,” he tells us, “the actual transference of our sins to Christ, so as to constitute him really a sinner; nor the actual transference of his righteousness to us, so as to constitute us really innocent and praiseworthy; but the legal counting of our. sins to him, so as that he endured the consequences of them, and the legal counting of his righteousness to us, so as that we enjoy the blessings which are given in reward of it.” In this
IMPUTATION,MR. FULLER'S VIEWS.
sense Mr. Fuller thinks we are to explain the language of the apostle, “He hath made him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Cor. v. 21.) “There is,” he says, "an allusion in this passage to the sin-offering under the law, but not to its being made a sacrifice.
There were two things,” he adds, " belonging to this sin-offering: First, the imputation of the sins of the people, signified by the priest's laying his hand upon the head of the animal, and confessing over it their transgressions, and which is called putting them upon it; i. e., it was counted in the Divine administration, as if the animal had been the sinner, and the only sinner of the nation. Secondly, offering it in sacrifice, or killing it before the Lord for an atonement. Now the phrase 'made sin,' appears to refer to the first step in this process in order to the last. It is expressive of what was preparatory to Christ's suffering death, rather than to the thing itself; just as our being made righteous, expresses what was preparatory to God's bestowing upon us eternal life. But the word 'made,'" he adds, and let the reader observe this, " is not to be taken literally, for that would convey the idea of Christ's being really the subject of moral evil. It is expressive of a Divine constitution, by which the Redeemer, with his own consent, stood in the sinner's place, as though he had been himself the transgressor; just as the sin-offering under the law was in mercy to Israel reckoned, or accounted, to have the sins of the people put upon its head; with this difference, that was only a shadow, but this went really to take away sin.” (P. 88.)
On the same principles, Mr. Fuller proceeds to deny that it can be said with any propriety, with any decency even, that our blessed Lord was punished when he hung upon the cross. Punishment, he states, in substance at least, and very correctly supposes criminality, and the criminality of the person who sustains it. “If Paul," he adds, "had sustained the punishment due to Onesimus for having wronged his master, yet it would not have been real and proper punishment to him; but suffering only, as not being inflicted in displeasure against
TO IMPUTE SIN OR RIGHTEOUSNESS
him.” And, in applying these more general remarks to the atonement of Christ, he says, that "his sufferings, though they were a punishment, and he sustained it, were really and properly the punishment of our sins, and not his. . What he bore was punishment, i. e., it was the expression of the Divine displeasure against transgressors. So what we enjoy is reward; i. e., it is the expression of God's well-pleasedness in the obedience and death of his Son. But neither is the one a punishment to him ; nor the other, properly speaking, a reward to us." (P. 90.)
There can be no doubt, I imagine, that Mr. Fuller's views in reference to the nature of imputation, are not only more rational, but more entirely in accordance with the whole current of Divine revelation, than those of Dr. Crisp, and of the Ultra-Calvinistic school in general. There are many, however, and I confess myself one of them, who imagine that he has exhibited a distinction without a difference; or rather, that he has spoken of, and attempted to describe, two steps in the process, while there is in reality only one. I proceed, therefore, to unfold more fully, what has been more than once briefly glanced at, viz. :
The third opinion in reference to the nature of imputation, in relation to the Saviour's righteousness, viz., that it consists not in the actual transfer of that righteousness to believers; nor yet in the legal counting of it to them as a thing distinct from, and a step previous to, treating them as righteous; but that this latter identifies itself with the former,—the scriptural sense of the phrases, to count sin, or righteousness, to an individual (whether it be his own, or that of some one else) being to treat that individual as a sinful or a righteous man. To prevent mistake and misrepresentation, I request the reader especially to observe, that this latter view of the nature of imputation assumes, that the one perfect work of the Son of God, is the ground of justification, to the total exclusion of any and every other; though it denies that his righteousness actually passes over to the believer, or literally becomes his or, that it is legally counted to the believer, i. e., if by that phraseology be meant any thing distinct from, and previous