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therefore he might accept of the smallest instance of obedience and suffering, as sufficient to compensate for it, because he has deemed it so; and therefore they distinguish between giving satisfaction to God and to his justice. God, say they, may accept of, or be satisfied with the smallest price, instead of that which is most valuable; whereas nothing can, properly speaking, be said to satisfy justice, but that which has in it a value in proportion to what is purchased thereby. As to the former branch of this distinction, we deny that God can accept of any thing as a price of redemption, but what has a tendency to secure the glory of his perfections, and that, nothing less than an infinite price, can do, and therefore the distinction is vain, and nothing to their purpose; or, if they suppose that God can be satisfied with what justice does not conclude sufficient, then it is blasphemous, and derogatory to the divine perfections. Therefore we can allow of no satisfaction, but what tends to set forth the glory, and fulfil the demands of divine justice ; (a) accordingly, we are to consider, that the satisfaction which was demanded by the justice of God, for the expiation of sin, must contain in it two things; namely,
(a) “The scripture insists on full stonement, and yet every where holds up the deliverance of sinners as an act of pure grace. This is a gordian knot in divi. nity. Let us not by violence cut it asunder, but attempt fairly to untie it.
Before we proceed, it may not be improper to observe, that the greatest dif. ficulty with which this part of the subject is embarrassed, appears to have originated in the want of an accurate definition of justice and grace. Theologians have said much about these, yet few have defined them with sufficient accuracy to render them intelligible, or make them appear consistent. I shall therefore,
First, explain the meaning of the word grace.
Secondly, the meaning of the word justice. Thirilly, apply these explanations to this part of the subject, with a view to solve the difficulty with which it is embarrassed.
First. What are we to understand by the word grace?
We are to understand by it the exercise of favour, and consequently the ben stowment of good where evil is deserved, and may in justice be inflicted. Where there is no exposure to evil, there is no room for the exercise of grace. He who is not guilty is not a subject of pardon. He who does not deserve punishment cannot be said to be freed from it by an act of favour. Grace therefore always implies, that the subject of it is unworthy, and would have no reason to complain, if all the evil to which he is exposed were inflicted on him. Grace will appear great according to the view which the sinner has of his own ill desert, and the consciousness he possesses of the punishment or evil from which he is delivered. Grace and justice are opposite in their nature. Grace gives; justice demands. Their provinces are entirely separate. Though they are united, yet they are not blended in man's salvation. llence that remarkable passage in Rom. xi. 6; "If by grace, then it is no more of works, otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace, otherwise work is no more work."
Secondly. What are we to understand by the word justice? It assumes three denominations ;--commutative, distributive, and public.
1. Commutative justice respects property only. “ It consists in an equal eschange of benefits," or in restoring to every man his own.
2. Distributive justice respects the moral character of men. It respects them as accountable creatures, obedient or disobedient. It consists in ascertaining their virtue and sin, and in bestowing just rewards, or inflicting just punish. ments. 3. Public or general justice, respects what is fit or right, as to the character.
See Doddridge's Lectures, p. 190; and also Dr. Edwards' third sermon, preached at New Haven, 1735.
of God, and the good of the universe. In this sense, justice comprises all moral goodness, and properly means the righteousness or rectitude of God, by which all his actions are guided, with a supreme regard to the greatest good. Justice, considered in this view, forbids that any thing should take place in the great plan of God, which would tarnish his glory, or subvert the authority of his law.
Thirdly. Let us now apply these explanations to the solution of the difficulty under consideration.
1. Did Christ satisfy commutative justice? Certainly not. Commutative justice had no concern in his sufferings. Men had taken no property from God, and consequently were under no obligation to restore any. But do not the scriptures represent Christ as giving himself a ransom, and as buying his people with a price? They do. They also represent men, while under the influence of sin, as prisoners, slaves, captives. These expressions are all figurative, borrowed from sensible to express moral or spiritual things, and therefore are not to be exportar. ed as if literally true. If we say that Christ hath redeemed us, that he has bought us, that he has paid the debt and discharged as~if we have any consistent meaning, it must be this: That in consequence of what Christ has done, we are de. livered from sin, in as great a consistency with justice, as a debtor is delivered from his obligation, or the demands of law, when his debt is paid. That is, God extends pardon in such a way, through Christ, that he does not injure the authority of his law, but supports it as effectually as if he inflicted punishment.
2. Did Christ satisfy distributive justice? Certainly not. Distributive justice respects personal character only. It condemns men because they are sinners, and rewards them because they are righteous. Their good or ill desert are the only ground on which distributive or moral justice respects them. But good and iil desert are personal. They imply consciousness of praise or blame, and cannot be transferred or altered so as to render the subjects of them more or less worthy. What Christ did, therefore, did not take ill desert from men, nor did it place them in such a situation that God would act unjustly to punish them according to their deeds. If a man has sinned, it will always remain a truth that he has sinned, and that according to distributive justice he deserves punishment. In this sense justice admits the condemnation of Paul as much as it does of Judas. The salvation of the former is secured, and his condemnation rendered impossible by another consideration.
3: Did Christ satisfy public justice? Undoubtedly he did. This is evident from what has already been advanced respecting the necessity of atonement, in order to a consistent exercise of mercy. Christ's sufferings rendered it right and fit, with respect to God's character and the good of the universe, to forgive sin. The atonement made by Christ presented the law, the nature of sin, and the displeasure of God against it, in such a light, that no injury would accrue to the moral system, no imputation would be against the rigtiteousness of the great Legislator, though he should forgive the sinner, and instate him in eternal felicity. Perfect justice therefore is done to the universe, though all transgressors be not punished according to their personal demerit. The death of Christ therefore is to be considered as a great, important, and public transaction, respecting God and the whole system of rational beings. Public justice requires, that neither any of these be injured, nor the character and government of the great Legislator dis. respected, by the pardon of any. In these respects public justice is perfectly sa.
isfied by the death of Christ. This is evident from the following passages of scripture. Rom. iii. 21; “But now the righteousness (rectitude or justice) of God is manifested without the law, being witnessed by the law.” Before the introduction of these words, the apostle had demonstrated, that the whole world, Jews and Gentiles, were all under sin and condemnation. “Now,” says he, “we know that whatsoever things the law saith, it saith to them that are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world become guilty be. VOL. II.
1. It must be of infinite value, otherwise it would not be sufficient to compensate for the injuries offered to the divine name by sin, which is objectively infinite, and therefore deserves a
fore God.” All, if treated according to distributive justice, must be found guilty and condemne “ Therefore,” says Paul, “ by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified.” How, then, it might be inquired, can any be justified, and yet God not give up his law, but appear perfectly righteous and just? The answer follows. “ By the righteousness of God, which is manifested without the law, bemg witnessed by the law.” Rom. iii. 21. That is, the righteousness or justice of God, with respect to himself and the universe, is clearly manifested, though he do not execute the law, as to distributive justice, on transgressors, but pardon and save them. This is so far from being contrary to the law, that it is witnessed by the law. For the sufferings of Christ demonstrate, that God no more gives up the penalty of the law, than if he should inflict it on the original transgressor. The righteousness or justice manifested in this way is through Christ; “ whom,” says Paul, “ God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood.” For
end? " To declare his righteousness for the remission of sins.” “ To de clare at this time his righteousness (for this purpose) that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus,” Rom. iii. 25, 26. Hence it is said, “ Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth," Rom. x. 4. That is, the end of the law is as fully answered in the salvation of men by Christ, as it would have been if they had never transgressed, but had obtained life by perfect obedience. It is said, “ If we confess our sins, he is just to forgive us our sins," 1 John i. 9. He is just to himself, to his law, to the universe. God styles himself “ a just God, and a Saviour." Is. xlv. 21. Hence justice and mercy harmonize in man's salvation.
From the preceding statement of the nature of grace and justice, it appears,
First, That atonement, and consequently the pardon of sin, have no respect to commutative justice.
Secondly, That the sufferings of Christ did not satisfy distributive justice, since that respects personal character only; and therefore, with respect to distributive justice, salvation is an act of perfect grace.
Thirdly, That Christ's sufferings satisfied public justice; and therefore, with respect to public justice, salvation is an act of perfect justice.
Thus the seeming inconsistency between full atonement for sin, and pure grace in salvation, vanishes and disappears. The system of redemption rises into view like a magnificent edifice, displaying the greatest order, proportion and beauty."
Dr. Maxcy. “ To reconcile grace with justice in the salvation of the sinner, is the Gordian “knot, which divines generally have been unable to untie. Upon the principle “ of an indefinite atonement, the difficulty vanishes. It all the sins of a certain « individual have been atoned for by the Redeemer, free grace will not appear in “his pardon; because justice would, in that case, require bis salvation. But jus. “ tice is threefold, commutative, distributive, and public. Commutative justice has “ do concern in this case. Public justice is satisfied by the atonement, because " the governor of the universe displays his displeasure at sin in general in the < sufferings of Christ. The exercise of distributive justice is entirely set aside, “and herein is grace exhibited, the sinner is pardoned at the expence of distri“ butive justice.”
“ Although we have stated this argument with all the precision of which we are capable, we must observe, that notwithstanding the show of minute discussion which it makes, its whole force consists in its obscurity, and the confusion of ideas which it produces. The indistinctness of vision which it causes, is the only reason for any man's offering his hand to those who, by proposing it, promise to be his guide to the temple of truth.
We object to this division of a divine attribute--we object to the use which is made of it-we object to the argument, because it multiplies, instead of solving
punishment proportioned to it, and consequently the price demanded to satisfy for it, must be of equal value. The justice of God would cast the utmost contempt on any thing that falls
difficulties-and it takes for granted, what does not exist, a difficulty in reconciling justice with grace.
We object to this division of a divine attribute. It is not correct, even as it applies to man. We are perfectly aware that the Schoolmen, following the steps of heathen philosophers, adopted this division. Suarez builds upon it the doctrine of merit, in order to supply the traffic of indulgencies with works of supererogation. But, however variously divine justice muy be exercised about its several objects, we have no reason to believe, that there are three different attributes of justice, or even that the principle in man, which induces him to act honestly in commercial transactions, and to give to every man bis due, is any way different from the principle which influences a good magistrate to conduct with equity his public administration. It is one principle exercised upon various objects. The Scriptures, which uniformly ascrine righteousness to Jehovah, and afford instances of its exercise in thrice ihree various ways, never intimate that there are three distinct attributes of divine justice.t
We object to the use that is made of this division. There is no reason for excluding commutative justice any more than distributive, as distinct from public justice, from having any reference to the case of the sinner's pardon. We can readily conceive of a civil ruler, having, independently of his official duties, certain private and personal duties to discharge towards those, who, in such case, are upon terms of equality with bimself. But no equality exists between the crea ture and Creator. The pardon of sin most assuredly approaches as near to the forgiveness of a debt as the remission of a personal offence, which has no reference to the divine authority. Sin is a want of conformity unto, or a transgression of the LAW. Besides, the Scriptures frequently represent Jehovah condescending to act towards men upon the footing of a previously existing contract or covenant, but never upon the footing of private relation, setting aside his authority. He nath taught us to pray, “ Forgive us our debts;" but never to say, “ pardon private offences which are no transgression of thy law.” We cannot even conceive of the exercise of distributive justice by the Lord, separate from his authority as our king, our lawgiver, and our judge. We cannot conceive, that it is matter of indifference whether God does or does not exercise distributive justice towards his creatures ; and much less can we admit that even, for the sake of mercy, he is ever guilty of one act of distributive injustice. We, therefore, object to the use which is made of this threefold division of the attribute of justice. And we also,
Object to the whole argument which it involves, because it multiplies instead of solving difficulties around the doctrine of the sinner's justification.
It requires us to believe that God has violated, or set aside the demands of distributive justice in the salvation of his chosen—that the sufferings of our Redeemer were the punishment, not of transgressions wbich are, in fact, committed, but of sin in the abstract-and that public justice requires only an exhibition of the divine displeasure at sin.
Sin, in the abstract, is only a word. Like an algebraical character, it reprea sents all the transgressions of individual persons. These particular sins are realities; but sin in general, or in the abstract, is only the sign, the word, which we employ in reasoning. It is not for the sign, but the thing that Jesus suffered
See Owen on Jus. chap. ii. † “ Were this the proper place, it would be easy to show, by a criticism on the best writers upon this subject, that their definitions of commutative, distributive, and public justice, interfere, and are otherwise essentially incorrect." 1 Shorter Catechism.
Did we deem it eligible to introduce metaplıysics into this discussion, we could more effec, tually expose the idea of punishing a noneutily- sin in the abstract.” We are no conceptual ists; and the controversy between the Nominalists and Realists is now at an eid, li prevailed long enough. It agitated the European universities, interested thrones, and shed much precious blood. No philosopher will now defend the opinions of the Realists. Abstract terbare have no counterpart in nature. Stew. Phil. Mind. ch. iv. 82, & 3,"
short hereof: thus the prophet represents one, as making a very large overture, which one would think sufficient, if a finite price were so, when he speaks, in a beautiful climax, or gradation, of coming before the Lord with burnt-offerings, and these well
The word sin, too, represents the transgressions of angels. If the Redeemer suf. fered for sin in general, he made atonement for devils, although he took not on him the nature of angels. And if public justice demanded no more than the display of Jehovah's batred of sin, then Christ is dead in vain, for such display is made in the everlasting punishments of Hell. But justice demanded more. It'de. manded the punishment of the sinner; and could not be satisfied with any thing short of this, unless Messiah should so unite himself to sinners, not only by assuming their nature, but by becoming in law their representative, as to bear all the sins of all the persons for whom his sufferings were intended to atone. We ob. ject also to this argument in defence of indefinite atonement,
Because it takes for granted, what does not exist, that if all the demands of divine justice are satisfied to the full by the atonement, then grace is excluded from our pardon. This is not the case. Justice is indeed satisfied. It does not oppose, but demand the salvation of all for whom Christ died. Here is no difficulty-no Gordian knot. Grace reigns through righteousness. We refer our readers to what is said on this subject, page 377, and conclude our examination of this argument in the words of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster. “ Al“ though Christ, by bis obedience and death, did make a proper, real, and full s satisfaction to God's justice in the behalf of them that are justified; yet, inas“ much as God accepteth the satisfaction from a surety, which he might have “ demanded of them, and did provide this surety, his own only son, imputing his "righteousness to them, and requiring nothing of them for their justification, but faith, which also is his gift, their justification is to them of free grace."
CHRISTIAN'S MAGAZINE, VOL. III. Atonement imports reconciliation, a being at one. The Hebrew signifies to cover. The Greek word denotes a commutation, as of enmity for friendship. But we use atonement for ransom, or price, and we never pray for it. Redemption imports a deliverance. To say that the ransom was paid indefinitely, that is, not more for one than another, is plainly contrary to his views, who spoke of those who were given to him, and of his laying down his life for his sheep. His sacrifice was real, and its object could not be sin in general, a mere abstract term; a sacrifice of which Satan might avail himself, as well as man. If the atonement, and redemption be indefinite, so were the decrees or purposes, the suretyship of Christ, the foreknowledge of God, and the promotion of the glory of God in the work.
On the other hand, to represent these transactions, so stri ly as matters of debt, and credit, as that the quantum of price was exactly commensurate to the guilt of the saved, and neither more nor less, is not warranted by the word of God. This is to impute the cause of damnation to Christ's not having died for those who perish; and not to their guilt. Both these conclusions are erroneous. Christ died for all men, and every man, not in the sense of the universalists, not in the same sense as he died for his sheep; but that his sacrifice is sufficient for all; and God the Father, whose mercy can reach no fallen creature, but in Christ, has aathorized the offer of covenant mercy to all ; and desires the destruction of none. Thus men perish only by their sins. The Sacrifice of Christ is of infinite value, for he is a Divine person; and the sins of all men can be no more than infinite.
The truth seems to be, that the sacrifice is infinite ; that the offer is to be general; that man perishes by his own fault only; and all this is according to the eternal purposes of God. Nevertheless the salvation of the saints was certain ; the price particularly paid with a view to them; who are eventually effectually called, justified, sanctified, and brought to glory.