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To proceed with the explanation proposed under the present head; when I say, Christ in his sufferings was our Substitute, or, by them he made an Expiatory Offering for us, I mean that God Did ApPoint AND ACCEPT THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST INSTEAD OF THE PUNISHMENT DUE TO US AS SINNERS AGAINST HIS LAW;
and that in consequence of this appointment and of these sufferings, he does forgive our sins and receive us to his favour.
A substitute is something put in lieu of another thing, and accepted instead of it An offering is something presented to God. An offering which is acceptable to him, is one made by his appointment. An expiatory offering, under the Jewish law, was a slain beast, presented to God by his appointment, and by a person who had been guilty of some offence and incurred a penalty; in consequence of which presentation, the penalty for his offence, threatened by the law of Moses, was remitted, or the offender was pardoned. To say then that Christ made an expiatory offering for us, according to my apprehension of the meaning of scriptural language, implies that his sufferings and death were, by divine appointment, accepted instead of the punishment due to us as sinners, and that God, in consequence of the offering made by Christ, pardons our offences and restores us to his favour. This also is just what I mean, when I say that Christ in his sufferings and death was our substitute.
I do not feel at all disposed to find any fault with other language, which Christians may choose to employ, in order to designate the idea that I have now expressed, provided they define the sense in which they employ it, and do not leave it open to misconstruction. So doing they may say, "Christ made satisfaction for our sins;" or, "his death was a full equivalent for the demands of the law;" or, "our punishment—our guilt—was transferred to him;" for certainly our text employs phraseology equally strong, and of the same nature with this. I may also say, "Christ made atonement—Christ atoned—for our sins; his sufferings were vicarious —were in lieu of ours; he bore the punishment due to us." I may use other and different expressions of the same nature, to designate my ideas relative to the subject before us; but whatever phraseology of this kind I might employ, or whatever I may employ in this discourse, my meaning would and will be one and the same, viz. Christ was our Expiatory Offering, our Substitute, in the sense already explained.
So far as I am able to understand the language which Christians in general, who receive the doctrine of the atonement, have employed in respect to this subject, it is designed to convey the idea that I have just conveyed. I am aware that one may occasionally meet with expressions in some writers, relative to the sufferings of Christ, that seem to imply something more than what I have expressed, or something different from it. But most divines, who have clearly explained themselves, appear to me substantially to agree with the view which I have given of substitution or expiatory offering. If this be the fact, is it not idle to waste time and pains, in contending about certain modes of expression, which some may choose to employ, but which others think it better to avoid because they are liable to misconstruction; when, after all, there is a substantial agreement in regard to the idea to be designated? In reality, can such contention amount to any thing more than a strife about words? A strife unworthy of sober and earnest inquirers after truth; and one which never can serve any purpose, but to alienate from each other and divide those, who love the Saviour, and trust for acceptance with God solely in his atoning blood.
To pursue still farther the explanation of the leading terms employed to designate the doctrine which I am to establish; a substitute may be, and where it is voluntarily accepted on the part of him to whom any debt or reparation is due, must be, an equivalent of some kind or other, a satisfaction in some sense, for such debt or penalty due. But it may be equivalent or satisfactory, without being the same either in kind or quantity as that in the place of which it comes. For plainly an equivalent is of two sorts. The first has respect to kind and quantity, and requires equality or sameness in regard to both. The second is where the substitute answers the same end, as that would have done in the place of which it is put, or a higher end of the same nature. The first species of substitution or equivalency belongs to various transactions of business among men; such as borrowing and lending, exchange of various species of property, and other things of the like nature. Equivalency of the second kind has respect to transactions of a civil or penal nature, and to the intercourse of rational beings with each other, as subjects of social or other laws. For example, banishment is often substituted by civil governments instead of inflicting the penalty of death; fines, instead of imprisonment or other corporeal punishment So among men in their daily intercourse, confession of a fault, joined with a request of forgiveness, is accepted as a satisfaction for an injury done, or an insult offered; and is regarded as an equivalency for it In all cases of this nature, which are exceedingly numerous and diversified, both in regard to the intercourse of men with each other, and in respect to civil rulers and their subjects, the equivalent or satisfaction is not the same in kind or quantity as that for which it is substituted. Indeed, in all transactions which have respect to a penalty for any injury done, or any violation of law, where substitution is admitted with regard to the offender, the first kind of equivalency, or that which consists in the same quality and quantity, is out of the question. 'The letter of a penal law demands that the offender himself, and no other, should suffer. But the object of the penalty—the ultimate and highest object of attaching it to the law—may be attained, perhaps, in some other way, and by substitution; even in a more effectual manner, than by a literal infliction of the punishment threatened. On the supposition that it can be, then if a substitute be admitted instead of literally inflicting the penalty, satisfaction may be truly said to be made, or an equivalent rendered, according to the common usage and understanding of all men, in respect to subjects of this nature. Indeed the term equivalent has come, by usage, most commonly to imply that the substitute does differ in some respects from that for which it is substituted.
If Christ died then as a substitute for sinners, it is not at all necessary to suppose, that his sufferings were the same in quality and quantity, as would have been endured by those in whose room he suffered, in case the penalty of the law had been executed upon them. In fact such a supposition is replete with difficulties of a kind not easily to be removed. The worm that never dies —the cup of wrath without mixture which is drunk by sinners in the world of wo—we have strong reasons for believing, is the sting of a guilty conscience—self condemnation and reproach for having violated the just and holy laws of God. This sting the holy and spotless Saviour never felt; this was an agony to which his bosom of perfect purity must have been a stranger. However high then his sufferings mounted, they could not have been the same in kind, as those of the wicked in the world of misery.
Nor can we well conceive how they could have been the same in quantity, as they deserved whom he redeems. He suffered but a few hours; or, if you include his whole period of humiliation, but a few years. In his divine nature, considered as the immutable God, we cannot conceive of his having suffered; and indeed the Scriptures always represent him as having assumed the human na