« AnteriorContinuar »
possessed of all divine attributes ; and that he condescended to unite himself with a mortal man ; and in this state submitted to be reviled, and loaded with insults, and persecuted even unto death; and we have an exhibition, at which the universe may justly stand amazed. It is needless to object, that it was only the human nature of the complex person, which suffered pain and death. It was so. But what could the infinite and impassible God do more? He became personally united to an abused, suffering mortal, and thus bore a load of indignity heaped upon himself. The human mind can conceive of no exhibition calculated to produce a deeper impression. Of course, this appears to be the most efficacious atonement, the best substitute for the execution of the law, which it was possible for infinite wisdom to devise.
2. According to the view we have taken of the nature and design of the atonement, the justification of believers is not a justification founded on the principles of law and distributive justice. It is an absolute pardon, an act of mere grace ; and of grace on the part of God the Father, as well as on that of God the Son. For the operation of Christ's sacrifice, it appears, was not on the regular course of distributive justice in regard to individual transgressors. Its influence was on the public feeling respecting the character of God. And it only enabled God, with honour to himself and safety to his kingdom, to gratify the desires of his heart by the pardon of repenting sinners. Justification, therefore, is a real departure from the regular course of justice; and such a departure from it, as leaves the claims of the law on the persons justified, forever unsatisfied. This is a legitimate inference from the principles which have
been advanced. And it is confirmed by the following considerations.
If the atonement causes transgressors to be justified on the principles of law and distributive justice, either it must change the principles of the law itself, or it must divest the transgressor of guilt and ill desert, or it must legally and fully satisfy the demands of the violated law upon him.—But the first is impossible. The law of God is founded on the eternal and immutable principles of distributive justice. It renders to every man according to his deserts. Till the distinction between right and wrong shall cease to exist, or the Omniscient cease to discern it and regard it; the principles of the divine law must remain unaltered. The atonement then did not change the law.—Neither did it divest the transgressor of his guilt and ill desert. It could neither recall the deeds he had committed, nor change their moral character, nor separate from him the guilt of them. It therefore could not make the transgressor to become really innocent. Nor did it “ cover over” his sins, or conceal them and cause them to be overlooked and forgotten. For, the pardoned sinner not only remains, in fact, the same guilty creature he was before ; but he is viewed and treated by his Maker, as personally guilty; and he must feel himself to be so, and ingenuously confess and mourn over his transgressions, in order to obtain forgiveness; and if received to mercy, he must forever adore and praise the abounding grace of God in his salvation. The atonement then, did not divest the transgressor of his guilt or ill desert.
Neither did it satisfy the demands of the violated law
upon him. For, what were the demands of the violated law ? Not, that some transferable good should be surrendered and paid over to God or to the law, as being forfeited by the transgressor. The law did not ordain, that, in case we sinned, certain privileges or valuable possessions held by us, should be forfeited into the hands of another or to the public, who might sue for them and recover them. Had this been the case, the Mediator might, perhaps, have been able to pay the forfeiture, or something equivalent to it; and thus have virtually satisfied the law. But the law ordained no such thing. When transgressed, it requires no payment, no transfer of any thing whatever, to another. What then does it demand ? That the sinner himself suffer the punishment, which it denounces. The violated law holds him personally guilty, and it requires that due punishment fall on his head, and on his only. For the law of God, as already observed, is founded on the principles of distributive justice, which renders to every one according to his deserts. It therefore, carefully discriminates between the innocent and the guilty; and it never suffers the distinction to be overlooked or forgotten. When once a creature becomes a transgressor of its commands or prohibitions, it never is satisfied, and never can be, with any thing short of the full execution of the threatened penalty on the transgressor himself.-And the same is true of criminal law in human governments. No judge can admit an innocent per-, son to suffer an infamous or capital punishment, in place of the person found guilty. If a few rare instances of such a procedure can be gleaned from ancient history, they must be ascribed to the ignorance of the times : for
neither distributive justice nor the sound maxims of criminal law will vindicate them. Thus Zaleucus, the Locrian lawgiver, is said to have made a law that every adulterer should suffer the loss of both his eyes. Afterwards, his own son being found guilty, the story is, that the father caused one of his own eyes to be plucked out, and then one of his son's eyes. This was an expedient, which might serve very well to shew how much he revered the law, and his fear of lessening its authority. But it was not an execution of the law. The father's loss of an eye was not what the law demanded, nor any part of it. As a judge, Zaleucus could not legally decree it; nor would distributive justice tolerate it. A true description of this transaction would be, that the penalty of the law was in part remitted, through the clemency of the lawgiver, who voluntarily submitted himself to a great calamity, with the hope that it would cause the law to be respected, as much as the full execution of it.* And thus also the bloody sacrifice of the Mediator, was not what the law of God demanded, or could accept, as a legal satisfaction for our sins. All that it could do, was, to display the feelings of God in regard to his law; and to secure, by the impression it made, the public objects which would be gained by an execution of the law. It did not cancel any of the clains of the law on us. And hence, after the atonement was made, God was under no legal obligations to exempt any man from punishment. If he had never
* See Valerius Maximus, Exemp. Mem. L. vi. C. V. p. 557. ed. Thysiä, 1655, whose reflection is; Ita debitum supplicii modum legi reddidit, æquitatis admirabili temperamento, se inter misericordem patrem et justum legislatorem partitus.'
pardoned a single transgressor, neither the law nor distributive justice would have been contravened. And if he pardons at all, it is mere grace. Or to state it otherwise, the atonement was not of such a nature as to require God to pardon us, but it enables him to do it with credit to himself and safety to his kingdom.*
3. From this view of the atonement, it appears that there is no foundation for those controversies which have been raised, respecting the extent of the atonement. It has been debated whether Christ made atonement for the elect only, or for all men: and, whether his sacrifice procures for believers forgiveness merely, or all the other blessings likewise that are conferred upon them. These controversies arise from the supposition, that the atonement draws after it, by necessary consequence, the salvation or at least the pardon of all that believe. And they have given no little trouble to those who hold the doctrine of vicarious satisfaction, whether by the imputation of guilt or the transfer of punishment. On such a supposition, these controversies are of vast moment; and cannot be avoided. For, if the Redeemer made legal and proper satisfaction for the sins of any; it is a fair inquiry, and unavoidable too, for whose sins did he make satisfaction ? And the answer must be, for the sins of all, or for the sins of a part only. So, if the atonement was, necessarily and inseparably, connected with the bestowment of blessings on believers ; how far does this connexion extend ? Does it reach to all the blessings which God now confers, or only to some part of them ? But, if the views given in this discourse be correct, we may say to the disputants on both sides
* See the reference and note, which form Appendix C,