Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

sufficient for the sinners conversion or which disposes him at one time to accomplish, at another to delay the sinners conversion, though sought for years with earnestness and the poor sinner every moment in danger by sudden death of eternal perdition. That this notion makes the divine spirit just or unjust, partial or impartial, a kind or a cruel master, is no objection to the doctrine. The apostle establishes the fact beyond moral doubt. The strong sinner at such a meeting was humbled, his obdurate and stubborn heart was made to bow. For years before God in his ordinary way called, but the sinner refused, hardened his heart, and stiffened his neck against God, as described in Psalm xcv, 8, Jeremiah xvii, 23. 2 Chronicles xxxvi, 13.-But now Gods spirit was given extraordinarily; now came the day of God's power, and the work of conversion was miraculously done. Conviction irresistably seized hold upon the sinner. Filled with distress and anguish he falls in the assembly. Thick darkness overspreads his mind His feelings are indiscribable. The minister and pious men pray over him, but in vain. His darkness continues. Has no comfort, for he sees the wrath of God hanging over him and is unable to believe. His friends and sinners around him wonder what all this means, but as it is the mysterious work of conversion leave him in the hands of his praying guides, and finally after days and often weeks of darkness and religious bewilderment, he is now extraordinarily enlightened by the spirit. Sees or fancies he sees God and the Saviour speaking to him—the army of Saints round about him. Has now completely mastered sin, cast off its chains, gained the victory over Satan and the corruption of his own heart, has struggled through and now on a sudden is filled with joy as great and indescribable, as were his darkness and distress.

Thus the mysterious work of conversion to God is done. The good pious class of the congregation, who profess to have passed in the same way from darkness to light, and hold the same doctrine of extraordinary influence as the only way and standard of conversion, now sing and pray and rejoice together with the new convert. Speak enihusiastically and triumphantly of the great work of grace, and out-pouring of the spirit; set the individual down as thus born to the full and perfect stature of a man in Christ Jesus, whilst other professors, though for years they hoped they were leading their lives hid in christ with God, but not thus blessed with extraordinary influence by the spirit in their conversion, must view themselves as only formal professors, must be looked upon as such by others, must not venture a sermise about the reality of such dealings of the Most High, and such wonderful working of his spirit; must not question the reality and scriptural character of such conversion, lest thereby they should seem to speak and strive against God and his spirit, and do an injury to religion, as well as give rise to the complaint of their spiritual brethren that they are persecuted for righteousness sake. Hence the conclusion is that of Gamaliel of old, but in a very different case, and under very diffcrent circumstances, let them alone, for if this counsel, or this

work be of men it will come to nought: but if it be of God, ye cannot or rather we would not overthrow it, lest haply ye be found even to fight against God”—whilst the irreligious depart now' fixed in the conviction that this wonderful work of grace belongs wholly to God, feel now free from responsibility as far as their efforts are concerned, and have a reason given them for doing what they lang desired, that of giving over the work of religion wholly to God and those whom his spirit has converted.

L. E, R.

THE ATONEMENT.

(Concluded.)

Bet, although this doctrine is so clearly revealed in the holy $criptures, and confirmed by the undoubted testimony of sacred history; it has experienced the fate of every other fundamental truth of the gospel. It has met with the strenuous opposition of those, who, under the pretence of correcting what they are pleased to term the errors and abuses of an orthodox interpretation of the scriptures, have assailed the first principles of christianity, and indirectly weakened the authority of the word of God. By them, this doctrine has been converted into a subject of dispute in the church-involved in imaginary difficulties, and found liable to many specious objections.

The first of these objections which we shall notice, is, “that God, who is the almighty governor of the universe, and has all things under his immediate control, might have absolved the human race from the punishment of their disobedience, without requ:ring so precious a sacrifice; or if an expiation for the sins of mankind, was absolutely necessary, some man or angel might have suffered the penalty of the law; which would have been far more consistent with reason, than a divine person innocently suffering for the satisfaction of divine justice.”

In answer to this objection, I observe, in the first place, that it proceeds from a wrong idea of the chief point to be determined in this controversy. The question is not, what God might have done, but what he did do. It is not for our limited understanding, to assume the right of dictating to infinite wisdom, the measures which it ought to pursue in carrying its purposes into effect. It is sufficient for us to know, that God hath executed a purpose, in the manner which he has revealed to us, without inquiring whether he might have accomplished it in a different way. Our imperfect knowledge, therefore, will not permit us to determine the question, whether God could have executed his purpose of human redemption, in a manner different from that, which he has been pleased to adopt. We ought to be satisfied with the evidence contained in his word, that he as accomplished this gracious design-and that he has accomplished it in the most perfect manner that could have been devised.

But supposing the objection to be proper, and that, in discussing this subject, we were permitted to set bounds to infinite wisdom, and question the correctness of its proceedings,-! then assert, that God could not have absolved the human race from the punishment of their disobedience, in the manner the objection supposes, without violating several of his essential attributes. And here it must be observed, that God is not only the almighty governor of the universe, who has all things under his immediate control; but he is also a wise legislator and judge, who has enacted laws for the prevention of crimes, and threatened to punish every infraction of such Laws as an abuse of his authority. Now, when man was first created, he became subject to a law, which he was forbidden to transgress, upon the penalty of cternal death. Man, however, regardless of the restrictions, which, for wise and benevolent purposes, the justice of God had imposed upon liim, did violate that law, and subject himself to the punishment it inflicted. Under these circumstances, God, as a wise legislator, who had instituted a law with a view to prevent the commission of crime, and as ; a righteous judge, who had pledged himself to enforce obedience to that law, was bound to execute the sentence of eternal death upon our sinful and apostate race. And under these circumstances, he could not have passed a general act of indemnity, absolving the whole human race from the punishment of their disobedience, without a direct violation of his wisdom, truth and justice: Of his wisdom, because, whenever men are permitted to transgress the laws with impunity, they are encouraged in their wickedness, which invariably leads to consequences, such as wisdom cannot approve: Of his truth, because he had solemnly declared his determination to punish the offender: Of his justice, because the transgressor was guilty, and had nothing to allege even to palliate, much less, to justify, the offence he committed. Therefore, to declare his abhorrence of sin, and deter men from the future commission of crime-to vindicate the honor of his name, and preserve the authority of his laws, it was necessary that God should either punish the offender, or accept of a vicarious sacrifice And that sacrifice was rendered by Jesus Christ, his son, be. cause there was no created object, either in heaven or on earth, which was capable of rendering a sacrifice sufficient to expiate the guilt of sinners-release them from the condemnation of the law, and restore them to the divine favor. Had man suffered the penalty of the law, he could only have suffered what was due to himself - he could have saved not even himself, much less, procured the salvation of others. Had even an angel of God, who had committed no offence, and was under no obligations of obedience to the law, attempted to save sinners, by suffering the punishment due to their offences—his 'innocent sufferings could not have been of sufficient value, to purchase the salvation of a lost and ruined world. No, to extricate the human race from the misery into which they have plunged themselves—to regain the distinguished blessings, which, through, their disobedience, they had forfeited, it was not only necessary that the requirements of the law should be rendered —that its penalties should be inflicted—and that the sentence of death should be executed; but “death must be deprived of its sting -the grave must be robbed of its victory—and life and immortality brought to light.” The sacrifice, therefore, which was sulticient for the accomplishment of all these purposes, must be a being that infinitely surpasses all created objects—it must be Jesus Christ, the perfect man and the immortal God.

Nor is there any thing contained in the idea of such a sacrifice, which is inconsistent with reason. It is not inconsistent with reason, that the Son of God should innocently suffer for the satisfaction of divine justice. When two parties are opposed to each other, it is not unreasonable that a person belonging to one of them, which is desirous of a reconciliation, should interpose his authority and influence, to remove the causes of difference. If the person assuming the character of mediator, divests himself of his immediate interests, and leaves it with the party by whom he has been authorised to enter into an arrangement of existing difficulties ; there can be nothing in his peculiar circumstances, which ought to prevent him from accomplishing his purpose Thus, the Son of God, desirous of reconciling us, both to himself, and his father, intercedes in our behalf-assumes our nature-and, in that human nature, which, as mediator between God and man, he has thus assumed, renders a sacrifice, which is satisfactory to the divine righteousness, and reconciles the world to himself. And in this, I can discover no contradiction. I have been taught to believe, that in the person of Jesus Christ, there was an union of two natures a human and a divine; but I have also learned to view them, as separate and distinct : and in ascribing an operation to either one, or the other, I am always careful, lest I confound them. When Jesus Christ suffered on the cross, I conceive that he suffered as man, and not as God; and that his sufferings as man, constituted a sacrifice which, as God, he accepted; and in this, I believe, there , is nothing inconsistent.

The next objection which we shall consider, is :-"Since the just tice of punishment must, in all cases, arise from the offences char-, ged to the delinquent; how could the punishment due to our offences, be transferred to Jesus Christ, who had committed no offence, and consequently deserved no punishment ?”

All that is necessary to refute this objection, is, simply, to shew the difference between a personal and a representative capacity; or, to speak more intelligibly, between a person when viewed in himself, or when considered as representing the character of another. To punish an innocent person for an offence which he never committed, and was contrary to his own will and inclination imputed to him, would be manifestly unjust. But when such person freely offers himself to undergo the punishment of an offence, which, although he never committed, was, by his own voluntary consent, transferred to him, the case is altogether different, and the law, no longer regarding his personal, but representative character, may justry inflict upon him the punishment due to the offences, which ,

he had consented to expiate. Now, this was precisely the case with our Saviour, when he was punished for our offences. He was innocent. He had never committed the lent transgression of law; and when viewed in himself, we are ready to admit, was undeserving of punishment. But he became our representative. He írecly ofiered himself as a sacrifice for our sins. He conscnted to be come our substitute. He voluntarily subjected himself to the cursc of the law. He willingly submitted to the punishment of our sins ; and in the representative capacity, in which he consented to be made sin, and to become a curse for us, he was punished for our offences. In this, certainly, there is nothing so very strange; for in thus punishing the Lord Jesus Christ for our offences. God did nothing more than what was perfectly consistent with the general practice of mankind. The law of nations justifies the innocent sufferings of hostages, who, in the course of military operations, are frequently put to death, not for a fault which they themselves committed, but for an offence committed by their friends, and which was even without their consont imputed unto them. In our legal proceedings, it is certainly nothing very uncommon, for one person to become responsible for another; and, in case the obligation is not discharged by the original contractor, his representative, which stands pledged for the performance of the contract, is always required to render satisfaction. This popular objection, therefore, which is so often and confidently repeated, entirely vanishes.

The third and last objection which we shall notice, is :-"The sufferings of Christ were merely temporal—the punishment due to our offences, was eternal death. Christ, therefore, could not hare suffered the punishment due to our offences, because he did not suffer eternal death."

The first part of this objection is readily granted; it is admitted, that Christ's sufferings and death were only temporal. But for this, I believe I shall be able to shew several good and sufficient reasons. Christ did not suffer eternal death, because in the nature of the thing, it was impossible that he should. He was conceived of the Holy Ghost. He was born perfetly pure, and uncontaminated by sin. He was subject to no hereditary vices and corruptions. He had never imbibed the wicked principles of our sinful and depraved nature. In all his earthly adversities, sufferings and persecutions, he was perfectly innocent, holy and righteous. It was impossible, therefore, that after his death, he should suffer a punishment, which can only be inflicted by a consciousness of former wickedness. The reproaches of a guilty conscience could not have tormented his spirit. And in this, the punishment of a future state chiefly consists. This is what constitutes eternal death'; and such a death, the holy and innocent Lamb of God, who had committed no offence, and was guilty of no crime, was utterly incapable of suffering.

Christ did not suffer etenal death, because it was not necessary. It was not necessary, that he should suffer eternal death for impenitent sinners; because, had even such a sacrifice been rendered, they could have derived no benefit froon it. They would still have

« AnteriorContinuar »