Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

it, where he treats it as a problem that had been consciously present to his mind. I refer to the latter half of the fifth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, in which we have the famous parallel and contrast between the two Adams--the two representatives of the human race whose acts have determined the religious histories of all severally descended from them. The human race is there conceived of as a moral unity that possesses a collective life of its own. Humanity is not an aggregate of atoms; it rather resembles a tree whose leaves are distinct, while, at the same time, they partake of the common life and the qualities of the stem with which they are organically connected. Without ceasing to be personally responsible, we are so related to the race as a whole that its sin lives in us, and involves us in consequences that are not the result of our individual actions. Not through the personal sin of each, but through the sin of one man, has death come into the world. All were included in that one; and in idea, or potentially, sinned and died in his act. “The judgment of all men was by one man to condemnation,"l and through the organic unity of the race, sin, thus originating, worked itself out in the actual sinning and dying of all the individual members of mankind. But Adam in this respect was a Type of the Man to come, i.e. of Christ.2 In Him humanity came to possess a Second Adam, or Representative, who summed up in Himself and realised perfectly its capacities for the higher life; and in His actings He became the proper organ of the race. In His holy and sinless Person humanity was born again, as it were, abandoned its revolt against God, and returned to its proper allegiance to Him, overcame evil and lived the perfect life well pleasing to God. Christ thus begins a new period in the moral history of mankind, imparting a new element to our collective being; and for that relation 1 Rom. v. 16.

? Rom. v. 14.

of “all” to Adam, which makes them, through their organic connection with him, partakers of his sin and death, there is substituted now a new relation of “all” to Christ, the Second Adam, that makes them partakers of His righteousness and life, a relation which in its ideal truth holds of mankind as a whole, and becomes a reality in those who connect themselves with Him by their personal faith, and with the new Humanity of which He is the Head.

Now our attention is specially called to the fact that it is in virtue of His death that our Second Adam has power to bring mankind into that new relation to God which is realised in His Person; and, further, that His death possesses this efficacy because of its moral value, because it was a supreme act of obedience to the will of God,—“as by one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall the many be made righteous.” 1 As the disobedience of the first Adam brought condemnation on all, a countervailing obedience on the part of Christ secures the removal of condemnation, and establishes mankind in a relation of life and reconciliation to God. It is as a sublime act of obedience to the Divine will that the death of Christ is declared to be the ground or cause of the new footing on which we stand with God.?

i Rom. v. 19. When he speaks of the “obedience of Christ” and the “one righteous act,Pekalápa (ver. 18) Paul refers doubtless to the Death of Christ, in which His obedience to the Will of God was consummated. But it would be wrong to separate the Death from the Life of Christ, and this is not intended. For inasmuch as His whole Life was animated by the Spirit of obedience, and involved subinission to elements of suffering and sorrow of the same nature with those that fell to Him in an aggravated form at the close, it was most truly a Sacrifice as well as His Death, and possessed the same worth in relation to the forgiveness of sins that belongs to His obedience on the Cross. In reference to Christ's obedience, “which reached its highest expression and purest form in His death,” Ritschl says it is “the concrete representation of the Will of God in a man" (Die Altkath. Kirche, p. 91).

? See Note C on the additional light on this subject furnished by 2 Cor. v. 21.

The further question may be asked, why was Christ's obedience to death necessary to this result? It may be doubted whether Paul has given us a definite answer to this question, or one at least that we can identify with any of the later theories of theology that profess to answer it. It does not seem to have occurred to him that there was needed an answer to the question why the Second Adam had to render an obedience to the Will of God, carried to the extent of dying, in order that communion between God and man might be restored. The necessity for this seemed to him axiomatic. Conceiving of God as not only loving and gracious, but as holy, and in His very nature opposed to sin, it seemed to him a self-evident condition of forgiveness that the death which expressed the Divine judgment upon its evil, should be borne in a spirit of obedience to the Divine Will, and that God's holiness should be thereby manifested in the very event that revealed His love. And the wonderfulness of God's grace was beheld in that arrangement under which humanity, in the Person of its one perfect Member, in whom the moral life of the race was concentrated, rendered that obedience, and was thus in Him restored, in a way consistent with holiness, to the favour and fellowship of God.?

See Note D on Rom. iii. 23-26, where the Death of Christ is represented as manifesting the Righteousness of God.

2 Paul's view of the death of Christ in relation to Atonement and Forgiveness rests on the position that death in the world is the consequence and penalty of sin, a judicial infliction by God. But, it may be objected, was not death in the world before sin ? Is it not simply a law of physical nature, destitute of moral significance ? Christianity is not committed to the position that sin first introduced death into the world. Great Christian teachers (e.g. Augustine, Athanasius, Theodore of Mopsuestia) have held that, as being animal, man is by nature mortal. But the higher spiritual nature in man, we may conjecture, would, had his powers been developed in a normal way, have prevented the actual inroad of death. By withdrawing the higher nature from communion with God, sin deprived the physical of those spiritual forces that would have rendered it immortal, so that death followed ; and, following in consequence of this withdrawal, it may justly be regarded as the penalty of

And Paul has carried with him the convictions of believers in all ages. Men have felt that there must be Holiness as well as Grace in the Divine Provision by which a new relation was to be established between God and sinners; and they have based their confidence in forgiveness on the death of Christ because they believed that it made this provision, and revealed His condemnation of sin as well as His love for sinners and His desire to reconcile them to Himself. Theology, formulating the convictions of faith on this subject, has adopted now one mould of doctrine now another. Since the revival of Pauline doctrine at the Reformation, it has been customary to speak of the death of Christ as a vicarious punishment inflicted upon Him, instead of upon us, by the Father, in order to satisfy His justice in remitting our sins. Theologians have magnified the significance of His death as a Divine infliction by representing it as designed to take the place of the death that would otherwise have been visited by God on sinners themselves. But the difficulty about this explanation, in its only intelligible form, is that the intended effect has not followed; for men, believers and non-believers alike, do in point of fact die still, and Christ's death has not exhausted God's judgment upon sin, has not relieved any from death as the punishment of it in their own persons. Others, with what appears to me to be a truer insight into the necessities of the case, have emphasised the spirit in which Christ submitted to death as containing in it

sin. In this light it is viewed by the moral consciousness of humanity. If all this is disputed, and death is held to be a natural event and nothing more, it is of importance to observe that the value of the death of Christ to faith remains. It was due, indeed, not to nature but to the violence of men, submitted to in patient love, and its significance will then lie in its being the supreme revelation both of human sin and of Divine love. But the specific Pauline interpretation must then be given up.

On the alternative, whether Christ suffered spiritual death, see Note E.

elements of moral value in which we are to find its real efficacy to expiate sin. For if God is glorified not by a simple endurance of the punishment of sin, but by a submission to it that recognises the righteousness of its infliction, then Christ has truly met our case if He has borne our death in the spirit in which we ought to bear it, if He has, by His holy sorrow for the sins of His brethren, His confession of it and willing submission to its penalty, by His meek acceptance of all its consequences, rendered to God in our name that obedience to His will which we had no power in ourselves to render. Later writers dwell especially on such elements as these in Christ's obedience as what constituted His offering of Himself well pleasing to God and fitted in the nature of things to expiate or atone for sin. And doubtless much light has been shed on the mystery of the Cross by theologians of this class, who, by placing the emphasis on Christ's dealing with sin in His Passion and Death as our Representative, have emphasised the Mind and Spirit in which He bore the burden of our sins—a Mind and Spirit such as only a sinless Being, one with us in His subjection to all evil consequent on our sin, one also with God in His holy love for man, could manifest.?

1 Among older theologians who have brought out this aspect of the death of Christ may be mentioned the Puritan, John Owen. I have given extracts from his work on the Holy Spirit to this effect in Note F.

2 Of writers to whom we are specially indebted in this connection may be mentioned J. M‘Leod Campbell, in his well-known work on the “Nature of Atonement”; Gess (Christi Person u. Werk, iii. pp. 64-145); and T. Häring, in his Das Bleibende im Glauben an Christus, and his recent Zur Versöhnungslehre, 1893. Häring insists that forgiveness cannot be received unless in us there be present the consciousness of guilt, and that a Divine provision to communicate forgiveness will be of a sort to awaken at the same time the sense of demerit. In this way he works round to what is very much the position of Mr. Campbell. “We may regard Christ's deed” (in dying for men), he says, “in so far as it is the one sufficient foundation of our consciousness of guilt, as the sorrowful recognition of the guilt of humanity, its great

« AnteriorContinuar »