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The most frightful idea on the subject of atonement, or any other subject, that ever entered the human heart, was broached some years ago in Edinburgh. It was this: That Jesus Christ did indeed die for all-both elect and non-elect. That he purchased them all from his heavenly Father; the elect, that he might confer upon them eternal life, the non-elect, that he might inflict on them everlasting wrath. That, in consequence of this purchase, he has the privilege of bestowing on the one, the everlasting consolations of heaven; and of inflicting on the other, the superior torments of what they called gospel wrath; in short, that the Son of God laid down his life, as much that he might damn one class of mankind, as that he might save the other. But I have never understood, that a party could be gotten to rally round so black a standard. The heart recoiled from giving both God and the Saviour such a character, that it could not behold them without terror and hatred.
I could name some other systems, corrupted by the same sophism; but as the worst of all surfeits, is a logical surfeit, I forbear. There are, however, some straggling, unsystematized ideas floating in society, which I may just hint at; such as the following: That we offer eternal life to all the hearers of the gospel, because we do not know who are elected. This is a very lank sophism; because since it is God, who knoweth all things, that makes the offer of life to all men, it follows, that either it ought to be complied with, or ought not and if complied with, the salvation of the applicant must be possible, nay certain. Again,
we have heard it said, that there is not a promise in the whole word of God, except to believers: which is as much as to say, that a man must believe, before there is any thing for him to believe; or, speaking in the technical phrase, the act of faith must exist before its object; or, talking with mathematicians, I must demonstrate a proposition before there can be any proposition to be demonstrated. But I forbear.
Let us now sum up our acquisitions. We have found, that by assuming the principle that Christ's righteousness is imputable to men, because he represented them in the covenant-and, combining it with truths of unquestionable authority, it nniversally led us astray; it made us, in one set of principles, universalists, in another, Arminians, in another, something else; in a word, there was not an error on the subject, into which it did not lead us; till we were obliged to give up atonement all together: Can this principle then be true? Can that condiment which mixed with every dish of every kind, converts them all into poison, be any thing but poison? Did ever truth in conjunction with truth generate error?
Now this very principle is assumed through the whole of Mr. M'C.'s scheme. Nay, it was the assumption of this principle that laid the necessity for his scheme. It mingles itself with the whole, and leavens the whole; it is the anima mundi of the system, from it all things proceed, and into it all things are finally resolved. I shall verify this by a quotation. PLEA, p. 28, 29. After proving, by several quotations, that the gospel offers peace, and pardon, and everlasting life, to every creature, he goes on to argue thus:
"Clearly then, if the commission embraces 'every
creature,' and is to be executed in this way, the proffer of the gospel must include all the virtues of the atonement, intercession, and every other official act of our Lord Jesus Christ, which enter into the ground work of salvation. Now let it be inquired how such a proclamation of the gospel of peace can possibly comport with the assumptions laid down in the individualizing scheme? Did our Lord Jesus Christ formally and from the first, include under his representation all those whom it is his pleasure shall be saved? Did he do it in such a way that the virtues of his office, while they must of necessity extend to them formally and legally speaking, cannot by possibility be extended to others, but upon the supposition, that as they were not represented, they must be pardoned without satisfaction, justified without righteousness, and saved without intercession ?—THEN, we say, that the proclamation of the gospel to characters of this description, would not merely amount to a piece of solemn mockery; it would be directly and unequivocally the proclamation of a lie; and the doctrine which authorizes it, is nothing less than blasphemy against Almighty God. What! men officially appointed to offer pardon and righteousness, and eternal life, in God's name, in Christ's stead,' when no pardon has been produced, that the law will permit to be applied to them! When no righteousness has been prepared, that by possibility of application might be made to cover them! When no intercessor could, consistently with his official engagement, undertake for them! And when they are left, to all intents and purposes, in the same relations, and in the same condition in law and in fact, as if no such thing as a Saviour had been appointed for the world! Who dare ascribe to God this worse that Punic faith?
Who that does ascribe it, dare presume to say that 'faithfulness shall be the girdle of his reins ?" "
Clearly then Mr. M'Chord does assume, as a principle, that the imputability of Christ's righteousness depends on his representative character-and that if mankind were not represented by Jesus Christ, this righteousness would not be capable of being imputed to them. And truly, if I believed the assumption, I could not get free from the conclusion. And then I must either give up the bible as a poor delusion; or hold it, without being able to see its consistency with any one moral attribute of the Deity. Mr. M'C. does not draw his conclusions too strong, he does not speak too loud; human language has not thunders loud enough to anathematise the idea, that Christ's righteousness is not imputable to every soul of man; that every soul of man, who hears the joyful sound, has not a right, nay, is not bound in duty, bound under everlasting penalties, to accept the proffered life-And that every soul who doth embrace the proffered life, shall enjoy it, so surely as it is true, that God, who cannot lie, hath said it. I therefore go on to demonstrate.
That the imputability of Christ's righteousness does not depend in any manner, nor in any degree, on his representative character.
But what! my reader will say, did you not tell me, at the beginning, that the imputability of Adam's guilt depended on his representative character? I did. And
did you not admit that the imputation of merit and demerit, in human societies, depended on the representation of those societies by their rulers? I did. And do you assert that the imputability of Christ's merit does not depend on his representative character? I do. I assert, that it does not at all depend on such representation. Will you not then involve yourself in a difficulty by assigning representation as the ground of imputation in the one case, and not in the other? But what if I should get into a difficulty, since I cannot avoid it? At least you had better remove the difficulty before you go farther. No, Sir, I am not fond of difficulties, and keep out of them as long as I can. And I shall tell you how I mean to manage this one. I shall try to demonstrate my doctrine; If I fail in my proof I shall never meet the difficulty-should I succeed in proving that this is the very truth, then I shall hold it in spite of ten thousand difficulties. And whenever I meet a difficulty which I cannot remove, or jump over, I shall plant my standard, and let the commander in chief call a better soldier to carry it farther.
I do not here urge the proof which has been offered, that the assumption of the truth of the principle in question, has always corrupted the faith of the gospel; and I should have spared myself the trouble of stating the subject with so much formality: but I thought it a fair occasion to pay an old debt, long due to old foes. We never have met without a battle; and we never shall meet without a battle. They have had their day, and I shall have mine; for the feud is sworn and deadly on both sides. I have showed to all, the very spot on which those who have hitherto corrupted the church's faith, have stumbled. It was by assuming that the im