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ITS NATURE CONTINUED.
THE objections against the notion that 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 elect, are as follows:
First, that it renders the deliverance of the elect from punishment a matter of justice to them. They may claim it as a right. It is, in this point of view, as if the atonement were the payment of a pecuniary debt, and is not less incompatible with the notion that grace is exercised in the pardon of sin. There may, indeed, consistently with this opinion, have been grace in the acceptance, and in the provision of a substitute; but, surely, if that substitute endured the precise amount of punishment which the strong arm of the law would have otherwise laid upon those whom he represented, there can be no grace in remitting it afterwards to them. How can it be thought that a double infliction of punishment, for the same offence, can exist under the righteous government of God!
Secondly, the sentiment opposed renders the high and glorious character of the Redeemer of no avail in the great work of atonement, since it grounds the efficacy of the atonement, not on the dignity of the sufferer, sustaining the moral power of the law, by the lustre which his obedience and passion have thrown both upon the equity of its requirements, and the justice of its curse; but on the alleged fact, that the precise amount of punishment which we must have sustained, was
MORAL SATISFACTION; MISTAKES, &C.
endured by our surety. And, if this were the principle of the atonement-the manner in which it operated to obtain forgiveness-it is most manifest that any other being could as easily, and certainly, have atoned for sin, as the Redeemer himself, if he could have sustained an equal amount of suffering. Now, since it was only the human nature of our Lord that suffered-Deity being as incapable of suffering as of sin—who can doubt the power of Jehovah to have sustained human nature, apart from Deity, as it exists in one of the ordinary descendants of Adam, under a burden of suffering equal to that which was laid upon the Saviour? I reject the sentiment, therefore, because it necessarily implies that any man might have redeemed his brother.
Thirdly, the sentiment opposed is at direct variance with the declaration that Christ was a propitiation for the sins of the whole world. It necesarily limits the sufficiency of the atonement to the elect. It forbids the supposition that it possesses power to secure the salvation of all men, even though all men should repent and believe the gospel; and thus it erects a barrier against their salvation, distinct from their indisposition to go to the Saviour. These consequences, which flow naturally and necessarily from the sentiment opposed, would of themselves determine me at once to reject it. In dealing with the consciences of sinners, it is of infinite importance to be enabled to assure them that the atonement, on which we invite them to rest their hopes for eternity, is sufficient to sustain those hopes; yea, to sustain the confidence of the whole human family, if every member of that family could be induced to repose his confidence upon it. But, according to the sentiment opposed, the efficiency of the atonement must of necessity be the exact measure of its sufficiency. It is utterly impossible that the one can extend in the slightest degree beyond the other. To hold the opinion, that Christ saves his people by bearing the precise number of stripes which they must have endured, and to maintain, in connexion with it, the unlimited sufficiency of the atonement, is pre-eminently absurd. There could be, in that case, no value in the atonement to the non-elect. It is, on this opinion,
inadequate in itself to save them. Nothing could render their salvation possible, and justify the Divine Being in presenting the invitations of the gospel to them, but a second sacrifice of himself by the Son of God. To attempt to parry this objection by alleging that the non-elect are ignorant that no provision is made for their salvation, is to resort, in my opinion, to a subterfuge which even a man of integrity, and, a fortiori, the ever-blessed God, must needs abhor.
Fourthly, the sentiment opposed involves in it a most manifest absurdity, and, indeed, a physical impossibility. It grounds the efficiency or value of the atonement on the alleged fact, that the same punishment was sustained by the substitute which must have been endured by those whom he represented. Now what was that punishment? Without committing myself upon a point, the proof of which is not necessary to the object I have in view, viz., that future punishment grows out of character and state; few, I apprehend, will deny that, at least, among its ingredients will be found remorse and despair. God will punish the finally impenitent by sustaining the powers of memory and conscience; and placing them in circumstances where their unholy principles shall produce in perfection and exuberance their native fruit; and this fruit will be their food, and their torment. Now it would be to add blasphemy to absurdity to affirm, that this part of the punishment of sin was sustained by the 'Holy Lamb of God. Certain consequences of sin are transferable, but not remorse. No righteous power in the universe can kindle this flame in the bosom of innocence. It is impossible that the Saviour can have been
Should it be alleged that punishment, the same in amount, though not in kind, was sustained by Christ, I would reply, First, that the admission of any change in the kind of punishment is an abandonment of the principle on which, as they suppose, the atonement proceeded. That principle is, that the law merely changed the person on whom it poured out its curse-that it smote the substitute instead of the sinner, but smote him as it would have done the sinner. If it smite him differently, whether that difference be one of degree,
OF MORAL SATISFACTION.
or of kind, there is more than a change of person; and the atonement, if it be efficacious, must proceed on a different principle from that which is advocated by my opponents-on the principle to be afterwards illustrated, viz., that the sufferings of Christ sustained the power and efficacy of the moral government of God, while he passes by trangression for his own name's sake. I would reply, Secondly, that the supposition of the same amount of punishment having been endured by Christ, involves in it a physical impossibility. The degree of suffering from which the atonement of Christ delivers his people, is infinite—for they must have suffered for ever. If, then, the principle of the atonement were that which I am now opposing, i. e., if Christ saves his people by sustaining the exact amount of suffering which they must have endured, nothing can be more manifest than that the amount of suffering sustained by him must have been infinite-infinite in degree, because it was not so in duration. But, as it was the human nature of our Lord exclusively that suffered, his suffering cannot have been infinite in degree, since even Deity itself cannot sustain a created nature under an infinite load of suffering; in other words, God cannot deify a creature. It is sufficient to say that Christ endured that measure of suffering which was necessary to preserve the efficiency of moral government, even while pardon is bestowed upon the guilty.
Here, then, we seem to be involved in a difficulty. Pardon has been bestowed upon transgressors;--it could not have been granted unless a satisfaction had been made to God for their sin they did not make that satisfaction by suffering the penalty of the law; and their substitute did not make it, as we have seen, by enduring the precise amount of punishment— the same in kind and degree-which would have been to them the penal consequence of their sin. How then did Christ satisfy the law for them? What is meant by satisfying Divine justice—or, which is the same thing, satisfying a just and holy God? What is the precise nature of that satisfaction which was rendered to him, as it has been stated, by the perfect obedience unto death of our Lord Jesus Christ? To these questions, or rather to this one question, which has been put in different
SATISFACTION FOR SIN.
forms to attract towards it more of deliberate attention, I fear we have been too much accustomed to rest satisfied with dark and indefinite replies. I am quite free to confess that, within the whole compass of my theological reading, I have not met with any thing which throws all the light upon it which I humbly think it is capable of receiving. The statements of Staper, an admirable compendium of which is given by a beloved brother, whose praise is in all the churches,* approach the most nearly to what would seem to be needed. Still the definition of satisfaction which is laid down in that work is too much generalized to prove of great practical benefit ; and, with deference to our honoured friend, Dr. Smith, I would suggest that the phrase, "a compensation for the injury perpetrated" against a moral governor, does not much less need explanation than the term satisfaction itself. The questions still recur, "What is a compensation to a being in his public character, (for compensation to a private individual involves no difficulty,) or how is it to be made?" On this important subject, then, I solicit the kind and candid attention of the reader to the following remarks.
To make satisfaction for sin is, then, I would suggest, to do that which shall preserve to the moral government of God that powerful control over its subjects which the entrance of sin endangered, and which its unconditional forgiveness would have entirely destroyed. In explanation of this statement, let it be observed, that the government which God exercises over rational, and, therefore, accountable creatures, is moral in its nature; it is the government of motives, addressed to the understanding, the conscience, and the heart. The law which he has given to us constitutes one of the main instruments of this government. It addresses itself to two of the most powerful principles of our nature;-to our hopes, by promising an illustrious reward if we render obedience ;to our fears, by threatening to inflict a signal punishment if we venture upon rebellion. The tendency of this law to prevent disobedience is its moral power; and that power must
* Vide Dr. P. Smith on the Sacrifice of Christ, p. 287-8.