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finally, the immediate effect was, the removal, putting away or averting of an existing evil.
It was not until the plague was removed, that the anger of God is said to have been turned away. There is therefore reason to believe, that the misery induced by sin, is the only real divine wrath to be removed. For we cannot suppose the Deity capable of positive anger; and even if we could, we cannot suppose its removal either by an atoning sacrifice, or anything else, without admitting a change in God. But it is impossible that God should change; the act of atoning the children of Israel in this instance, was therefore the putting of an end to their particular transgression — blotting it out, and averting, or removing the evils which it produced. Exod. xxxii. 30.
5. To cleanse, sanctify, purify,— to set apart for sacred purposes. This is by far the most common use of the word, and also the most important. Under this head, we feel compelled to place all those passages which relate to the great annual atonement. It is the great yearly sacrifice in which we are more particularly interested. For the services and rites were not only of the most solemn and impressive nature, but they were performed with an immediate view, to the subsisting relation between a sinful people and their God. The proper and legitimate objects, as well as the true nature of atonement, must be derived from passages which relate to the yearly legal sacrifices.
Num. viii. 19. 'And I have given the Levites to
make an atonement for (to atone) the children of Israel, that, there be no plague,' fee. The whole chapter is devoted to the specifications of an order for setting apart and cleansing the Levites, to an explanation of the reasons and objects of their selection, and the duties which they were to perform. It will be seen by the connexions, that it was not the duty of the Levites to offer sacrifices, except through the person of the priest, and that they themselves are the atoning sacrifice here named. The whole tribe was offered before God, to atone the other tribes. Preparatory to this solemn dedication to God, certain rites were performed, by which they are said to have been atoned, verse 12 and 21, in the latter of which, it is expressly said, that ' Aaron made an atonement for (atoned) them, to cleanse them.'
The Levites were adopted instead of all the first-born of Israel, who were considered as devoted to God, from the time of the institution of the passover when the first-born of the Egyptians were slain. There is something extremely preposterous, in considering this whole tribe as dedicated to God for the purpose of propitiating, or placating him towards the rest of the nation. And it is believed, no man will contend for such a meaning of the passage. The meaning will be perfectly plain, when it is recollected, that the dedication of the first-born had the same import, as the offering of first-fruits — the sanctification of the whole class, or collective body, of which the thing offered was the representative. The atoning of the children of Israel, therefore, by the Levites, was for their sanctification — an act by which they were set apart to the service of God.
Ezek. xlv. 20. 'So shall ye reconcile (atone) the house.' It seems impossible, that this passage should be misunderstood. A house — the sanctuary of Israel, could not require an act of reconciliation; nor could the Deity need to be propitiated towards its unconscious materials. But it was necessary, according to the requirements of the law, that certain rites, of a purifying nature, should be performed. And they were performed, for the purpose of setting apart, or consecrating inanimate things to sacred uses. When thus applied, it is frequently said that it was 'to cleanse' them, Exod. xxix. 36,37; Lev. xvi. 16—18; Num. vi. 11. 'And make an atonement for (atone) him,' &c. This passage relates to the services and rites consequent upon the defilement of a Nazarite by the dead, during his separation. The avowed object (ver. 9,) is the cleansing of the defiled person. For the same meaning, see Exod. xxix. 33, where the word is applied to the consecration, sanctification, or cleansing of Aaron and his sons. Also, Lev. xvi. 6— 11.
The most full and particular account of the great yearly atonement under the Mosaic dispensation, the persons and things for which it was made, and the objects to be obtained by its observation, is found in the 16th chapter of Leviticus. The particular verses which relate to the offering of the sacrifices, and which have not been already considered, are 30 — 33, which we quote entire. 'For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for (atone) you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord. It shall be a Sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute forever. And the priest whom he shall anoint, and whom he shall consecrate to minister in the priest's office in his father's stead, shall make the atonement, and shall put on the linen clothes, even the holy garments. And he shall make an atonement for (atone) the holy sanctuary, and he shall make an atonement for (atone) the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the altar; and he shall make an atonement for (atone) the priests, and for all the people of the congregation.'
From this passage, it must be plain, that whatever is meant by atonement, the same services were performed both for men and for inanimate things. The identical word, with the same obvious import, in the same connexion — in the very same sentence, is applied to the tabernacle, the holy sanctuary, and the altar — to the priests and to all the congregation. The conclusion is almost forced upon us, that the atonement was made with precisely the same view in reference to these dissimilar things; that if it was intended, to propitiate or appease the Deity in one case, it was designed to effect the same purpose in every instance there named.
But we are not left to infer the object; it is unequivocally expressed. We have already seen, that in atoning inanimate things, the very things named in the preceding quotation, the object was to cleanse them. That object is distinctly avowed, in relation to the persons specified above, in the following terms. Ver. 30. 'For on that day, shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord.'
Such is the clear and explicit evidence, of the nature and objects of the annual sacrifice of atonement, among the Hebrews; which, if it be considered as typical of the sacrifice of Christ, gives no countenance to the common doctrine of atonement; but on the contrary, while it was designed for the ceremonial cleansing of all Israel, beautifully typifies the moral purity, and reconciliation secured to the christian by the power of the gospel.
In conclusion, — From the humble means brought to the examination of this subject, we feel authorized to say, that there does not appear to be a single passage in the Old Testament, which, when fairly construed, goes to prove, that atonement was intended for the reconciliation, propitiation, or placation of God; that there is not one passage, where the word occurs, from which it is safe to infer that the atonement was made to God; that there is not one, which says, that the atonement was made by the sacrifice offered. It is always the priest, or offerer, that makes the atonement. And finally, that wherever the word occurs, it always relates to the condition of men, and the things used by men — is intended to describe and affect these and these only, anil not the Deity. We do not mean to be understood, that there may not be passages which have another import; but if there are such, we have not been able to find them.
If the foregoing view of the Old Testament doctrine of atonement, be correct, the Hebrews are exonerated from the charge of having been inconsistent enough, to suppose that the true God could be influenced by the principles ascribed to the pagan deities. Their rites, unsophisticated by the classic meaning of the terms in which they are described, maintain throughout, the integrity of their law, and the dignity and immutability of the true God. Let it be the object of the Christian, living under a better dispensation, and in a more enlightened age, to attain as clear perceptions of the divine character as were enjoyed by the Israelites; and let him labor to divest his creed of the pollutions with which paganism has defaced the doctrine of the gospel.
s. R. s.
The Doctrine of Original Sin, its late Modifications, and final Abandonment by Orthodox Divines.
Everybody knows it was an essential point in the orthodoxy of the last generation, that all mankind, 'since the fall,' are born sinners, totally depraved as to their moral nature. It is doubtless known also to most of our readers, that there seem to have been of late some material innovations introduced by our popular divines, in regard to this famous tenet. Their habitual language on the subject has become very indistinct and wavering, not to say contradictory, instead of being full and explicit, as formerly; and when charged, as they frequently are, with the absurdity of the old doctrine, they seldom
stand the shock with their wonted inflexibleness, but generally evade it, by denying the sentiment, or by retreating from all tangible ground into the obscurest regions of metaphysics. It may gratify a reasonable curiosity, to learn what occasions all this change of manner, what internal revolutions are taking place under these outward symptoms. Indeed, as members of the christian community, we owe it both to ourselves and others to know what hypotheses prevail among our fellow christians, or what are likely to be extensively received by them as fundamental principles in religion, that we may act with reference to the existing state of society, and especially that we may guard against living errors, instead of having our attention diverted to those that are obsolete. In the present article we shall attempt to point out the ground that seems about to be taken with regard to the particular point which we have mentioned. But as the old doctrine of original sin still affects the public mind to a considerable degree, and is even retained unaltered in some parts of our country, it is proper, first, to go back and state it as it was formerly received, and then trace its successive modifications down to the present day. Another motive, however, for preferring this method, is, that by following out the history of these changes, we shall see exemplified, in alight as instructive as it is amusing, the pertinacity with which the church adheres to the most glaring absurdities when they are once established; the reluctance with which the plainest decisions of common sense are, inch by inch, yielded to ; the fondness with which names are retained long after the substance has been rejected ; and, finally, the gradual but sure victory of truth over error, whatever forms it may assume to elude detection.
The boasted ' doctrine of the Reformation' on this point, was that all the posterity of Adam derive from him, by ordinary generation, a nature totally sinful, without the modern distinction between moral and natural faculties. Their entire nature is wholly depraved ; and this corrupt state in which they are brought into being, constitutes their guilt, and makes them, from the very beginning of their existence, worthy of eternal damnation. It is the root of all their actual sins in afterlife,— the germ, of which all their actual transgressions are but the developments. And then, in addition to the guilt of this original wicked nature, each individual has the guilt of Adam's fall imputed to him. Such is the condition in which mankind