Imágenes de páginas

the effect produced. The propitiation was intended for an exhibition, or, it was an exhibition, of the righteousness of God. That which is employed solely as the means of exhibiting sounething else which we wish to display, cannot be the very thing displayed. To bear the meaning contended for, the text should read: Whom God hath set forth as a propitiation, that is, hath caused to become his righteousness.

Again; some contend that dexaloouvn should here be rendered benignity, kindness or compassion. And the word dixalos, translated just, in the next verse, they would have signify merciful, gracious, compassionate.*-That a very few passages are to be found, in which the sense would be preserved, and perhaps be expressed more definitely, by rendering these Greek words in this manner, I will admit. It is no uncommon thing for words of a general import, as these are, to be used occasionally instead of more limited terms. But this occasional usage of words in an improper and peculiar sense, does 'not prevent them from having what may be called their ordinary and their appropriate meaning; that is, a meaning which is always to be given them, when no reasons appear to forbid it. Precisely such is the case before us. These Greek words, ordinarily and appropriately, express the same ideas as our English words righteousness and righteous; and no philological reason forbids their having this meaning here. Those who contend for rendering them compassion and compassionate, offer no reasons drawn from the connexion, the

* See Hammond, Rosenmüller and Koppe, in loc. and Schleusneri Lex: N. T. Evdecţis, no. 1. and Aixalos, no. 4.


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


course of thought, or parallel passages. They merely adduce proof that there are a few passages, in which the words seem to have these peculiar meanings ; and then add, that they would give a sense more agreeable to them, if so rendered here. Such arguments need no confutation.-But I have other reasons for rejecting this interpretation. Is it reasonable to suppose the Son of God became incarnate, and suffered and died on the cross, merely to evince that God is a being of compassion ?- Was there no other way, in which our heavenly father could convince us that he is kind and gracious ? Besides, of what use could it be, for him to demonstrate this attribute in such a way, when he was about to give us proof much more unequivocal by the actual offer of pardon for all our sins and everlasting blessedness? There could certainly be no atoning efficacy in the exhibition of this attribute. It could remove no obstacle to mercy, nor lay any proper foundation for the offer of pardon to the penitent. Yet the text supposes the display of the attribute intended by the Apostle, actually to remove some obstacles; and to enable God to be at the same time what that attribute implies, and the justifier of believers. For he made a display of that attribute, (ELS το ειναι αυτον) in order that he might be, both δικαιος and the justifier of men.* _And this is implied also in the

* Overlooking the force of ELS TO ELVAL avtov, and supposing the text not to point our attention to that in the mediation of Christ which constitutes its value and efficiency, but merely to state the general facts, that salvation is to us altogether gratuitous, and that it comes to us through the atonement of Christ; some believers in the efficiency of the atonement, have reasoned thus : as it was the mercy of God which led him to seek our salvation, and as salvation is to us a free gift, it accords


word propitiation. God set forth his Son to be a propitiatory offering for the manifestation of this attribute, so that he could afterwards justify believers. Now is a propitiatory offering, one which is presented to God, to prove him already inclined to mercy, or to make him so ? Is it the token and pledge of forgiveness, or the cause and ground of it? If, with some modern writers, we could believe that the atonement made by Jesus Christ, is, not the meritorious ground of justification, but merely a tragic scene, intended to affect us and bring us to repentance, and if we could discover the necessity and the propriety of so strange a procedure; then, indeed, we might suppose God to have set forth his Son as a kind of propitiatory offering to men;—and for the purpose of she wing his compassion for them. One insuperable difficulty, however, would yet remain; which is, that it was to enable God to have mercy on believers, not on others, that an atonement was necessary. But suppose all these difficulties to be surmounted, there is still another objection of a more philological character, arising from the copulative conjunction in the expression, 6 just and the justifier," dixalov xai DLXALOUVTA. Justification, it must be admitted, is of grace. Now by retaining the common translation of dixolos, we have this lucid

with the scope of the passage to render dexoloovvn benignity.

-The answer is, that salvation by Jesus Christ does not originate from simple mercy on the part of God; but from mercy combined with a proper regard to the interests of the universe.—It is therefore not mere mercy, but righteousness, or what is called general justice, that is displayed in this scheme of salvation. And as the display of this at tribute is that which gives to the atonement its value or efficacy; it is subversive of the whole meaning of the passage to render the word δικαιοσυνη benignity.

meaning of the clause, that he might be just, and at the same time, be merciful. But, translate Sexalos merciful, and what will be the sense ?—that he might be merciful, and at the same time be merciful! And this senseless tautology, will be rendered still more insufferable if we suppose dexaloouin, likewise, to signify compassion.

Having now shewn, I would hope satisfactorily, the import of the principal words of the text, I would call your attention to the general scope and connexion of the whole. You will recollect that this epistle was written within thirty years of the crucifixion; and that through all the preceding ages, God had shewn kindness towards such as trusted in his mercy. During four thousand years, he had, in the face of all his intelligent creatures, suspended the execution of justice. Numerous penitent sinners he had received to his bosom, and elevated to mansions above ; while, during this long period, no atonement had been made, and no satisfactory ground appeared, to justify a procedure so contrary to the principles of distributive justice and to his own solemn declarations in the law. At length the Saviour had appeared, the atonement was made,--and light now beamed on the hitherto mysterious conduct of the righteous God.-Of this Saviour the text says: Him hath God set forth, as a propitiatory sacrifice, through faith in his blood, for an exhibition of his own righteousness, in regard to the remission of sins committed in the past ages, through the merciful forbearance of God. This propitiatory sacrifice was, I say, intended for an exhibition, in this age of the world, of his own righteousness ; so that he might be, and might now be seen to be, a righteous

moral governor, and at the same time be the justifier of all that believe in Jesus Christ.*

I will now turn from a discussion of the text, to a discussion of the subject itself.—Why was an atonement necessary? What were the objects to be accomplished by it? And how did the mediation of Christ effect these objects ? These are the principal questions to be answered. I shall, however, begin with another :what are the reasons which either induce or require God to inflict any punishment whatever on transgressors ? To this I answer :

. In the first place, there is a real difference between right actions and wrong ones, between virtue and vice, or sin and holiness. The former are lovely, and meritorious; the latter are unlovely, and of ill-desert. Every being who has a conscience, feels that there is this difference. No man holds all actions to be equally praiseworthy: and no being, whose moral sensibility is acute, can fail to make a broad distinction, in point of merit, between that person who performs all his duties to himself, to his fellow creatures and to his God, and the person who is destitute of every virtue, and abandoned to every species of vice and crime. Now this distinction,



* Instead of giving a list of the numerous commentators and others who construe this text substantially in the manner here exhibited, I will refer only to such of them as confirm or illustrate their interpretation by important remarks. Grotius, Defensio Fidei Cath. in Opp. tom. III. p. 303. G. C. Storr, Opuscula Academ. Vol. II. p. 190, and Ueber den Zweck des Todes Jesu, subjoined to his Brief an die Hebräer, S. 553 ff. Döderlein, Instit. Theol. Christ. II. p. 448. Veysie's Bampton Lectures, p. 218 f. Nares, Remarks on the Version of N.T. pp. 154—162. Magee, on Aton. and Sacr. pp. 127, 261–263. Connect. Ev. Mag. for 1805, vol. VII. p. 161 f, Burge, Essay on Aton. pp. 29, 30,

« AnteriorContinuar »