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and needless fears of their perdition, but discouraging in all that patient, watchful, and persevering culture, - line upon line and precept upon precept, — by which alone the religious affections can be trained, and the religious character be built up. Thus, just so far as this doctrine is believed, it must ever have an unfavorable moral influence. In this respect, how can it be compared with that other doctrine, which affirms that our Father in heaven has surrounded every man with means by which he may work out his own salvation, and that this is secure only when it is made the long and faithful work of his life. This is the doctrine which is the commandment of God. Alas that it has been so often made of none effect by the traditions of man !
3. I adduce a third example, where the same wrong is done to God's truth, when I name the popular doctrine of the Atonement. According to this tradition, Christ hath made a perfect propitiation and satisfaction for all the sins of the world, hath reconciled the Father to us, and bath purchased an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven for all those who are chosen to be the sharers of this grace. I purposely keep clear of the various shades of belief which distinguish those who agree substantially in receiving this doctrine, because, for the purpose which I now have in view, it matters not whether we say that Christ died as a literal substitute in our place, or to appease the divine wrath, as the phrase is used, or to purchase our redemption by a price paid, or to make it safe and consistent to forgive. For the present, I care not which of these views may be taken as the true one to enter into the idea of a vicarious atonement. One consequence, it will be seen, is common to them all. Man is justified before God, by a transaction foreign to himself. The essential work of his salvation has been done for him. The substitute has been provided, the supposed wrath of God has been appeased, the price has been paid, the safe and consistent terms of forgiveness have been complied with ; and all this has been settled, and done up, and sealed, and made sure, ages before we were born. If we have been converted by the influences of the Spirit, we are safe when we accept of this basis and offer of salvation. Repentance and a holy life are not, through God's mercy, the cause of our acceptance, and all our works of righteousness are as worthless as filthy rags to procure forgiveness.
Now I do not forget that this doctrine has been believed by many who have been bright examples of Christian virtue and piety, and who perhaps. have felt that the point here before us was the peculiar, central, and vital truth of the gospel. We all know, however, that articles which have the greatest prominence in the creed do not necessarily exert the strongest influence over the mind and heart. Often they are stoutly defended as matters of belief, while they are seldom used as nourishers of the spiritual life, to awaken thought and kindle emotion. We will remember, likewise, that good men, believers in false and pernicious creeds, are subjected to a thousand other influences besides that of their creeds, such as the original peculiarities of mental and moral constitution, the force of early discipline, the spirit of the times in which they live, the books they read, the men they meet, the influences of nature, the observations and experiences of life;
so that to the growth of the excellence of character they possess, it may be that the creed they warmly defend may have contributed the least. We have no wish to account the number of good men to be small, nor to believe that they are found in one sect alone. We rejoice in every view which discloses to us our common nature growing good under a thousand varying influences, and we would do homage to virtue and piety wherever they exist. But we are still free to show that even good men have fallen into errors of opinion which have had a dark and evil influence, just so far as they have had any influence at all, and that their virtue and piety would have been freer, and purer, and higher, had they not taken for commandments of God the traditions of man.
And can we escape feeling this truth, when we look to this doctrine of a vicarious atonement ? Let men believe this doctrine in the very depths of their nature, and imbibe and act out fully its spirit, and are not its direct and obvious tendencies, to make of none effect some of the commandments of God ? Teaching that the work of our salvation has been wrought out for us by a transaction which took place ages ago, by a penalty endured, a price paid, or some conditions then supplied, is it not its natural effect to minister to an over-confident assurance on the part of its believers, as if their salvation was certainly safe, and they have nothing to do, and the Scriptures which enjoin a humble fear, and a perpetual striving to the very last, have hardly any meaning to them ? Has it not been for ages preached, that, once in Christ, the believer cannot fall away; the appropriation to him of the benefits of Christ's sufferings has been made, and his
merits are sufficient without any of the believer's works? Is it not almost the inevitable tendency of this doctrine to overthrow and destroy the necessity, majesty, and availing power of a moral and holy life? I know that it is preached, in the technical language of the system, that sanctification must follow justification ; but this statement itself shows that a man can be justified without a moral and holy life, and good works follow only as the appendage, and not through God's mercy, the availing cause. The inferior place assigned to a holy life is seen in another aspect of this doctrine. It teaches that this is not the dearest thing in God's sight. Humble penitence, virtuous resolutions, faithful and persevering energy of goodness, - all this is not of sufficient worth to induce God to regard with the least favor those of his children who are thus distinguished. His forgiveness and acceptance turn on something else, on the fact that the blood of the innocent was shed, a compact was made, a covenant sealed, a price paid, an exhibition held up to angels and to men ; something else is dearer, and more draws his favor than all the treasures of virtue and goodness in the soul. Can one assign this inferior and secondary place to a moral and holy life, without feeling its claims exert a secondary and inferior power? And then how does this tradition inevitably tend to make of none effect those commandments which require us to love God with all our heart ? Robbing him of some of the dearest traits of the paternal character, his compassion for erring children, his readiness to pity and forgive the returning prodigal, and representing him under the figure of a monarch demanding blood, satisfaction, payment, penalty, and suffering somewhere, how does it tend to chill all those filial'affections which should go up to the Infinite Father, and to make Jesus the more amiable, loving, and venerated being of the two! Nor is this all. Just so far as the influence of this doctrine is practically felt, must it not dispose the believer to think less of a tender mercy and a free forgiveness, and to think more of the stern exactions and penalties of law? Teach men to act on the principles of a vicarious atonement, and, from contemplating the supposed example of God in this respect, let them imitate that example in the family and in the state, and would not this doctrine turn man's heart against his fellow-man, as it turns it against his God, and set aside every one of those commandments which enjoin a free forgiveness, and make them of none effect ?
In point of moral efficacy, how can this doctrine be compared with that other view of the atonement, which gives us a Father that we can love, who looks upon moral goodness as the dearest thing on earth or in heaven, who sent his Son to awaken up and unfold the germs of a spiritual life in our hearts, whose readiness to pardon is portrayed to us in the image of the father who received the returning prodigal with open arms and the forgiving kiss, and with whom the atonement is complete when we are made at-one with him by our pure affections and a holy life ? This doctrine of the atonement is not repelled by the reason, gives no shock to the moral affections, is in harmony with all the great teachings of nature, supplies throughout quickening motives, elevating aims, encouraging hopes, and, by bringing its great stress to bear upon the works of life, seeks to make us purer and better men. In this docNO. 232.