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There is no other path which can be taken, unless it can be fairly shewn that the interpretation which has been given to the language cited above, is not agreeable to the usage of speech among the Jews; an undertaking which, I am well persuaded, is desperate; and one which no critic, no philologist, can ever accomplish, until the whole history of Jewish ideas in respect to these subjects during former ages, is blotted out from the records of the world. I repeat it then, for I do most solemnly believe it, that we must either receive the doctrine of substitution and expiatory offering by the death of Christ, or virtually lay aside the authority of the Scriptures, and lean upon our own philosophy.
III. I come now, according to the plan of my discourse, to consider some of the objections made against the doctrine of the atonement
I do not feel it to be important, here, to dwell upon them at length. There is only one method in which any legitimate objections can be made, by those who admit the authority of revelation. This is, to shew that the language of Scripture, according to Jewish idiom, does not mean what I have construed it as meaning. But this mode of objecting, the speculators and sceptics who have rejected the doctrine of substitution, have been very careful to avoid. Their refuge is philosophy. They raise doubts about equivalency; they must see, as philosophers, the why and the how in respect to this mysterious transaction. Whatever pertains to this part of the subject, however, I have sufficiently dwelt upon already. I shall therefore only glance here, at some of the most popular methods employed to oppose the doctrine of substitution, or to explain it away.
Obj. 1. An atonement for sin is unnecessary. God can forgive it as well without an atonement as with one; and the doctrine, if true, divests the Supreme Being of the attribute of mercy. If the full debt is paid, where is there any room for mercy in forgiving it?
But who is to decide the point, whether God can forgive sin without an atonement? The natural possibility of it, I admit; that is, I admit that as sovereign of the universe, and possessing omnipotence, he might pardon sin, (if he had judged it best to do so,) without the intervention of a suffering substitute. But this is no real part of our question. What has he judged best, is the only proper inquiry; and how can this be answered? Only, as we have already seen, by revelation. But that revelation tells us, it is " the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world;" that " there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved, nor is there salvation in any other," Acts iv. 12; that" there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all," 1 Tim. ii. 5, 6; and that " all have sinned and come short of the glory of God," and consequently, must be "gratuitously justified through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ, whom God hath set forth as a propitiatory sacrifice." Rom. in. 23—25.
This point then is put at rest by the Bible. And when those who doubt, admonish us that it would be unbecoming in respect to the Supreme Being, and derogatory to his character, to suppose that the sufferings of Christ, an innocent victim, were deemed by him to be necessary or acceptable; I answer simply with Paul: "For it Became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in order to bring many sons to glory, to make perfect the Captain of their salvation through sufferings." Heb. u. 10.
When they further allege, also, that the attribute of mercy is virtually denied to the Supreme Being, by the supposition of an atonement, they can say this only on the ground, that an exact and literal equivalent for the penal part of the divine law, both as to the kind and quantity of suffering, has been demanded of the substitute ; a doctrine incapable, as we have seen, of being supported; and to meet the difficulties of which, I certainly will not incur any responsibility. The simple scriptural statement of substitution, is not liable to this objection.
Obj. 2. The motives to strenuous effort in order to live a virtuous and holy life, are greatlyweakened by the doctrine in question.
This objection is as old at least as the time of Paul; and is met by him in such a manner as to save us, at the present time, from the necessity of any effort to make an adequate reply. After representing the death of Christ (Rom. ch. in.) as the only foundation of the sinner's hope; he meets this very objection, which he knew would be made by those who doubted his doctrine, in these words: "Do we then make void the law, through faith?" i. e. do we diminish the force of moral precept or obligation, by preaching the doctrine of gratuitous pardon through atoning blood? To which he answers at once; "God forbid: rather we establish the law;" i. e. we enforce its obligations by higher motives' than before existed. After illustrating, by various instances, the fact that such a method of justifying sinners is presented to view in the Jewish Scriptures, he resumes the consideration of the objection. He represents the objector as suggesting: "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid," he answers again, "how shall we who are dead to sin, any longer continue to practise it?" Rom. vi. 1,2. He then goes on to shew, (which is indeed a most conclusive and irrefragable answer to the whole objection,) that Christianity, from its very nature, implies of necessity the mortification of all our sinful passions and appetites; it is itself, in its very essence, a principle directly hostile to them; and therefore never can indulge or foster them.
All the difficulty of objectors here, arises from overlooking the whole of this grand point Atoning blood, extensive and gratuitous as the favours are which it proffers, never proffered one unconditionally. The sinner must be humbled, and penitent, who is sprinkled with it. The grace of God, which has appeared to all men through a Saviour's death, inculcates on them, without exception, the absolute necessity of denying all ungodliness and worldly
lusts. It urges this, as the New Testament most amply shews, by excitements to virtue of a higher nature, and by penalties for offences more awful, than any system of law could offer or impose.
Obj. 3. There is no need of laying so much stress upon the death of Christ, or of regarding him as our substitute in any sense. He may very properly be called our Saviour and Redeemer, inasmuch as by his instructions, he has taught us the way in which we may acceptably obey God.
That to give instruction was a part of Christ's errand on earth, as our Redeemer, I cheerfully admit. But that this was the great work, which marked him exclusively as the Saviour of sinners, it is quite impossible to prove. What! Have we not other instructors, such too as were inspired, as well as he? Did he write the New Testament? Did he, who taught about three years, who was never out of Palestine and made but few disciples, teach as much and labour with as much success as Paul, who preached about thirty years, and traversedthe world to proclaim the messages of salvation? If the simple fact of giving instruction, of making disciples, of successfully inculcating the truth, makes a Redeemer, then who has the best title to that appellation; Paul, or (I speak it with reverenee) Jesus of Nazareth? and to whom should the songs of the redeemed in heaven be directed? Have we not, too^ on such ground as this, just as many redeemers as we have, or have had, religious teachers?
Obj. 4 The death of Christ was a seal or confirmation of the truth, by which we are enlightened and saved. It is unnecessary to consider what the