« AnteriorContinuar »
justice must be satisfied”—“imputation of sin to Christ as our substitute". “ he stood in our law-place, room and stead”-“ vicarious sacrifice"_“ satisfaction for sin"_" Jesus paid the sinner's debt, by enduring the punishment due to his transgressions”—“he sustained the dreadful weight of the sins of the church, and bore the wrath of God;" and others of like import, which are employed as the sterling coin of orthodoxy; for they are not only very proper, but absolutely necessary to a correct and explicit statement of the point in question. But inasmuch as those expressions are not to be found in the Bible, I have very good evidence that neither Christ nor his Apostles taught the doctrine which they are designed to explain. Is it reasonable to suppose, that a doctrine of such vital importance as this is held to be, should be left to be elucidated by a verbal nomenclature not to be found in the Scriptures ? It
needful to use these terms and phrases amongst those who believe in such a notion, to convey their ideas of it one to another; but if it is to be found in the Scriptures, it is found there in language aptly suited to express it in the clearest manner possible. The word of God must be the best vehicle for its own truths; and it is reasonable to think that it furnishes us with the best terms and expressions by which to understand its own doctrines. If, not, who
possesses a patent from heaven to supply what is defective, or to improve what is imperfect?
I am too well acquainted with orthodoxy not
to be aware that the different passages of scripture in which pardon and salvation are spoken of as through the sufferings and death of Christ, are often brought forward in support of this hypothesis ; and I am aware also, that, according to orthodox infallibility, they must have the meaning which its interpretations put upon themthat they can signify nothing different from what is conveyed in the above phraseology. But since I have done reading the Bible through the medium of human opinion and a mystical theology, I am fully persuaded that a different sense may and can be attached to these texts. If I could find a passage of scripture which expressly told me, that “ Jesus died a substitute for sinners, and satisfied divine justice for their sins," I should be justified in construing every such text above alluded to according to such declaration. The question might very properly be asked of any doctrine supposed to be a scriptural one, What is it called in the Scriptures ? Thus of the doctrines of the resurrection and eternal life, an answer would be a verbatim echo of the question, because these doctrines are obvious points of revelation, and afford us appropriate words by which to name them. But let it be asked what the doctrine of the Trinity_what the doctrine of Satisfaction for Sin, is called,-can a reply be made from the Bible by reverberating the same language? It might be said, the latter is called Redemption or Justification. But if it be contended that these words have the same meaning,
then I ask, why will they not always best answer the purpose in expressing it? If the ideas conveyed by the orthodox phraseology and those communicated by the language of the Bible are the same, then, insomuch as infinite wisdom exceeds human sagacity, and the infallible dictates of inspiration transcend the mere conceptions of finite capacities, so must the words of the sacred volume be preferable to the most reputed modes of expression established by the authority of men. If the Apostle Paul believed in this doctrine, he certainly must have preached it; for he declared he had “ not shunned to declare all the counsel of God:” yet he says, (1 Cor. ii. 13,) that the things God had revealed to him and other apostles by the spirit, they spake "not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth." But why did not Paul find man's wisdom so serviceable on this subject as modern Christians do? If I go to hear an orthodox preacher on this point, perhaps for one word of Pauls, or from the New Testament in explanation of his text, I am treated with ten from the vocabulary of creeds and systems of human invention; and probably for a whole hour, instead of a series of scriptural declarations in confirmation of argument, I may hear nothing but the changes rung on the “ sounding brass and tinkling cymbals” of a traditionary dialect. What, then, is the conclusion to be drawn from this, but that while the Bible is ostensibly acknowledged as the rule of faith, it is in effect distrust
ed as insufficient, without a copious admixture of heterogeneous phraseology to render it intelligible? This is the natural consequence of adopting a creed which derives its proofs from human sources, and not from the Scriptures; and this is the exact state of the case with regard to the doctrine now disputed. This, however, is rather a negative, yet a convincing, argument. I might add, that not only it cannot be expressed in the language of scripture, but there are hundreds of scriptures to be produced which directly contradict it.* In fact, every passage which affirms
* In examining a disputed point, in which the true sig. nification of particular words used in our Bible is of consequence, it is my general practice, for the satisfaction of my own mind, to ascertain, by consulting Lexicons, the sense of the original; not that I make any pretensions to the qualifications of a critical philologist; for I generally trust in these respects to the Lexicographer I apply to, and am governed for the most part by his remarks and decisions. This course I resorted to in finding out the meaning of the Hebrew word so frequently translated in the English Old Testament atonement. In doing this I had no better means than Parkhurst, who, among the orthodox, I believe, is reckoned of first-rate authority. According to him, therefore, the word is derived from a root which signifies to cover or overspread. He enumerates ten different applications of the term, and remarks in the eighth, that “though it is frequently rendered to atone, expiate, or appease, yet in all those instances the attentive reader can scarcely help observing that the radical idea of covering is preserved.” This same Hebrew word also, as a noun feminine, is employed to express what, in our translation, is called a
mercy-seat,” and which in the New Testament is expressa ed by “propitiation.” In agreement with this signification
the sinner is forgiven through the mercy of God, or even simply pardoned, is an absolute denial of the notion. But these will be alluded to under the different heads of argument which follow.
Secondly, I renounce this doctrine because the ground on which its necessity is pleaded is unwarrantably assumed, false in principle, and repugnant to the true and scriptural character of God. It is maintained, that the law of God being violated, he could not shew mercy to sinners without the strictest and most inexorable regard to the rights of his justice: which amounts to the same thing as asserting, that he could not shew mercy at all. For the very disposition of mercy towards the offender naturally supposes the claims of justice to be so far relinquished; and
we find the word, in reference to forgiveness of sin, used in different parts of scripture: hence it is said, Psalm xxxii. 1, (and quoted Rom. iv. 7,) “Blessed is he whose sin is covered.” (See Psalm lxv. 4, lxxviii. 38, lxxxv. 2.) So far, then, from the word translated atonement meaning satisfaction for sin, we see it must have a contrary sense: for if my sins are covered by being pardoned, they certainly cannot be transferred from me to another who bears them as my substitute. To cover a thing denotes that thing to be under what covers it; but if my sins are imputed to another who is supposed to render a satisfaction to justice by bearing the punishment due to them, they of course are not to be found on me, and therefore I need no covering for them. When, therefore, the orthodox charge the Unitarians with “denying the atonement,” it is in point of fact (as far, however, as I am one) a calumny; for, in the true sense, they can have no objection, in the least, to the word. It is true they deny the meaning which they affix to it.