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price, as Paul affirms, we must have been bought from some person whose slaves we were, who also demanded what price he pleased, that he might dismiss from his power those whom he held. But it was the devil that held us; for to him we had been given over for our sins. Wherefore he demanded the blood of Christ for our redemption.' He also says, ' it is requisite, for some secret and incomprehensible reasons in nature, that the voluntary death of a righteous man should disarm the power of evil demons, who do mischief by means of plagues, dearths, tempests, Sic. Is it not probable, therefore, that Christ died to break the power of the great demon, the prince of the other demons, who has in his power the souls of all the men that ever lived in the world?'" Ambrose, in the following century, expressed the same opinion. 'We were pledged,' says he,7 'to a bad creditor, for sin. Christ came, and offered his blood for us.' He also says, 'the flesh of Christ was given for the salvation of the body, and his blood for the salvation of the soul.' The celebrated Austin, in the commencement of the fifth century, expressed this sentiment still more fully. 'What,' says he, ' is the power of that blood, in which, if we believe, we shall be saved; and what is the meaning of being reconciled by the death of his Son? Was God, the Father, so angry with us that he could not be pacified without the death of his Son? By the justice of God the race of man was delivered to the devil; the sin of the first man being transferred to all his posterity, the debt of their first parents binding them; not that God did it, or ordered it, but he permitted them to be so delivered. But the devil was not to be overcome by the power, but by the justice of God; and it pleased God, that, in order to deliver man from the power of the devil, the devil should be overcome, not by power, but by justice. What then is the justice by which the devil is conquered? What but the righteousness of Jesus Christ? And how is he conqueror? because, though there was nothing in him worthy of death, he (that is the devil) killed him. Was not then the devil to have been fairly conquered, though Christ had acted by power, and not by righteousness? But he postponed what he could do, in order to do what ought to be done. Wherefore it was necessary for him to be both God and man; man, that he might be capable of being killed; and God,
• Contra Celsum, p. 25. » Grotii Opera, vol. ir. p. 344.
to show that it was voluntary in him. What could show more power than to rise again, with the very flesh in which he had been killed? He, therefore, conquered the devil twice, first by righteousness, and then by power.'8 He also says, 'the blood of Christ is given as a price; and yet the devil, having received it, is not enriched, but bound by it, that we might be delivered from his bonds.'9
On the supposition that the doctrine of atonement, as it is now understood, was believed by the apostles and primitive Christians, it is extremely difficult to account for the opinions of these distinguished fathers. But, on the other hand, as the heathens universally believed in the efficacy of sacrifices, both to disarm the power and appease the wrath of malignant deities, and to procure the favor of such as were considered more benignant; and as, at this period, much of the Platonic philosophy, and many of the heathen principles of theology had become incorporated with Christianity, it is natural to suppose that such opinions would be adopted by those who considered the death of Christ a proper sacrifice. From this period we see the doctrine of atonement gradually progressing, until it was perfected, in its present form, at the time of the reformation, in the sixteenth century.
To the above it may be objected, that, in the law of Moses sacrifices were positively enjoined; and that some of those sacrifices were for the express purpose of making atonement for the sins of the children of Israel: if, therefore, God required the sacrifice of animals, as the means of obtaining legal justification, and of procuring temporal favors, we may rationally suppose he would require a higher sacrifice, even that of the Lord Jesus Christ, to atone for the sins of the world, procure spiritual blessings and salvation, and to obtain justification unto life eternal. It may be further contended, that the Jewish sacrifices were typical of the sacrifice of Christ; and that it is more rational to suppose the foundation of the Christian doctrine of atonement was laid in the law of Moses, than to consider it of heathen origin, and unfounded on divine authority. In reply, we would observe, it has already been shown that sacrifices, considered in the light of expiations and atonements for sin, have been of universal prevalence in all ages of the world. The descendants of Jacob were born, and lived till the time of Moses, in a land where sacrifices, of a great variety of kinds, were offered to a multitude of idols, and imaginary deities; and we find that before their departure from Egypt, it was a custom with them to offer sacrifices to the 'God of Israel.' Sacrifices, then, being of universal prevalence before the giving of the law, and the children of Israel being strongly inclined to offer them, not only to the God of their fathers, but to the idol gods of the Gentiles, we may consider the law of Moses, not as requiring any thing new of its subjects, in this respect; nor yet, as demanding sacrifices because God wanted them to make him propitious, nor because he delighted in them; but, to draw away his chosen people from idolatry, and to cause them, at the same time, to cherish a lively sense of their obligation and accountability to the living and true God. This conclusion is abundantly supported by the language of Scripture: 'Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves of a year old? will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.'10 'To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord: I am full of ihe burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he-goats.' u 'I spake not unto your fathers, nor^commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt-offerings or sacrifices; but this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people.' 1S Of the same import are many other passages, which we need not transcribe; and from them the inference appears plain, that God, instead of requiring sacrifices, rather permitted them, as the means of preserving the people from idolatry. With regard to these sacrifices being typical of the death of Christ, as an atonement for sin, we shall simply observe, that no inspired writer represents them in this light; and the fact that the first of those who believed the death of Jesus to have been a proper sacrifice, were
9 De Trinitate, lib. xiii. cap. xi. Opera, vol. iii. p. 414. • Ibid. p. 417. N. B. For these quotations from the fathers, see ' Priestley's Corruptions,' vol. i. pp. 137—141. Boston. 179T.
such as had imbibed many heathen sentiments, and considered this sacrifice made to the devil, forbids the supposition that the apostles and primitive Christians considered his death typified by the Jewish sacrifices under the law.
II. Ignorance or misapprehension of the divine Character, the foundation of the doctrine.
Of the heathen, with whom the doctrines of 'expiation, vicarious commutations,' and 'substituted satisfactions' originated, it must be said they were entirely ignorant of the divine character. They might have correctly understood the various characters ascribed to the different divinities they worshipped, and to whom they offered their sacrifices; but of the character of the true God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and even of his existence, they were totally ignorant. While engaged in the worship of
'God's partial, changeful, passionate, unjust,
their devotional exercises would naturally partake of the character ascribed to the objects of their worship. Knowing the effects produced in themselves and their fellow-men by the gratification of revengeful feelings, they would naturally suppose the same course would produce similar effects upon their gods; and it is no matter of surprise, that, for the purpose of appeasing the wrath of their malevolent deities, they should resort to bloody sacrifices, and even to the sacrifice of human victims. But, had they known there was ' one God and Father of all,' who was infinitely good, kind and compassionate to all his dependent creatures, and that he was unchangeable in his goodness, and in all his purposes, we have every reason to suppose their worship, and indeed their whole conduct would have been far different. Ignorance, therefore, of the being and perfections of the living and true God, pleads in their behalf, and furnishes some excuse for the cruelty of their religion.
Christians, however, are far differently situated. Professing to believe in a God who is omnipotent, omniscient, omni-< present, the creator of the world, and all that is in it; favored with the light of a revelation which proclaims him infinite in wisdom and goodness; which declares that he is love, and that with him ' is no variableness, neither shadow of turning,' they cannot, like the heathen, plead entire ignorance of the divine character, as an excuse for the indulgence of those cruel and dishonorable sentiments embraced in the popular doctrine of atonement. We are, consequently, under the necessity of believing that this doctrine rests with them, on a gross misapprehension of the true character of God; and the following considerations will, we think, sufficiently establish the fact.
1. The doctrine denies the perfect and impartial justice cf God. Justice, in our heavenly Father, is that unerring and eternal principle of right by which he rewards and punishes every man according to his deserts; or, it may be considered his constant and immutable will to dispense to every one that which best corresponds with his moral condition. Few truths are more plainly declared in the Scriptures, than that God will assuredly reward the righteous, and punish the guilty, without any exceptions; and, in fact, we can have no definite ideas of divine justice. detached from this principle. So deeply impressed on the mind of the wise king of Israel, was this principle, that he says 'he that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord.'13 It is contended that all mankind are sinners, not only by practice, but by nature; and that the justice of God, were it executed against them, would consign all, without exceptions, to interminable and remediless woe. Now, if the justice of God dispenses to every one according to his moral condition, if he will ' by no means clear the guilty,' and if the moral condition of all be such as to render the infliction of endless punishment necessary to satisfy the demands of justice,—then it is obvious, unless all receive this punishment, these demands must remain unsatisfied; and justice itself become a mere shadow, and not that eternal reality, that fixed and immutable principle which it is proper to ascribe to God. But here, it is contended, the doctrine of atonement presents a remedy, by supposing Christ to have become a proper substitute for the sinner; that he has borne the guilt, and sustained the punishment due to mankind for their sins; and, consequently, that justice has been satisfied, and man delivered from its stern demands. To this we reply, guilt is personal, the consequence of personal transgression, and cannot be transferred to the innocent. How else can we account for the fact, that, whenever we transgress the law of God, we feel guilty and self-con
1• Proverbs xvii. 15.