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1. That it is generally taken for granted, by those who maintain either side of the question, that the saving effects of Christ's death do not redound to all men, or that Christ did
maining arguments adduced by the deist on the present subject. And there is none to which it more forcibly applies than to that by which he endeavours to prove the notion of a Mediator to be inconsistent with the divine immutability. It is either, be afirms, agreeable to the will of God to grant salvation on repen. tance, and then he will grant it without a Mediator: or it is not agreeable to his will, and then a Mediator can be of no avail, unless we admit the mutability of the divine decrees.
But the objector is not, perhaps, aware how far this reasoning will extend. Let us try it in the case of prayer. All such things as are agreeable to the will of God must be accomplished, whether we pray or not; and therefore our prayers are useless, unless they be supposed to have a power of alterng his will. And indeed, with equal conclusiveness it might be proved that repentance itself must be unnecessary. For if it be fit that our sins should be forgiven. God will forgive us without repentance: and if it be unfit, repentance can be of no avail.
The error in all these conclusions is the same. It consists in mustaking a conditional for an absolute decree; and in supposing God to ordain an end unalterably, without any concern as to the intermediate steps, whereby that end is to be accomplished. Whereas the manner is sometimes as necessary as the uct proposed : so that if not done in that particular way, it would not have been done at all. Of this observation, abundant illustration may be derived, as well from natural as from revealed religion. “ Thus we know from natural religion, that it is agreeable to the will of God, that the distresses of mankind should be relieved: and yet we see the destitute, from a wise constitution of Providence, left to the precarious benevolence of their fellow-men; and if not relieved by them, they are not relieved at all. In like manner, in Revelation, in the case of Naaman the Syrian, we find that God was willing he should be healed of his leprosy; but yet he was not willing that it should be done, except in one par. ticular manner. Abana and Pharpar were as famous as any of the rivers of Israel. Could he not wash in them, and be clean? Certainly he might, if the design of God had been no more than to heal him. Or it might have been done with. out any washing at all. But the healing was not the only design of God, nor the most important. The manner of the cure was of more consequence in the moral design of God, than the cure itself: the effect being produced, for the sake of manifesting to the whole kingdom of Syria, the great power of the God of Israel, by which the cure was performed.” And in like manner, though God willed that the penitent sinner shonld receive forgiveness; we may see good reason why, agreeably to his usual proceeding, he might will it to be granted in one particullar manner only, through the intervention of a Mediator.
Although in the present stage of the subject, in which we are concerned with the objections of the Deist, the argument should be confined to the deductions of natural reason ; yet I have added this instance from Revelatior, because, strange to say, some who assume the name of Christians, and profess not altogether to discard the written word of Revelation, adopt the very principle which we have just examined. For what are the doctrines of that description of Christians, in the sister kingrlom, * who glory in having brought down the high things of God to the level of man's understanding? That Christ was a person sent into the world to promulgate the will of God: to communicate new lights on the snbject of religious duties: by his life to set an example of perfect obedience : by his death to manifest his sincerity: and by his resurrection to convince us of the great truth which he had been commissioned to teach, our rising again to future life. This, say they, is the sum and substance of Christianity. It furnishes a purer morality, and a more ve enforcement: its morality more pure, as built on juster notions of the divine nature: and its enforcement more operative, as found. ed on a certainty of a state of retribution. And is then Christianity nothing but
• England. VOL. II.
not die, in this respect, for all the world, since to assert this would be to argue that all men shall be saved, which every one supposes contrary to the whole tenor of scripture.
a new and more formal promulgation of ihe religion of nature? is the dea h of Christ but an attestation of his truth? And are we, after all, left to our own me. rit for acceptance: and obliged to trust for our salvation to the perfection of our obedience? Then ndeed, has the great Author of our religion i vain submitted to the agonies of the cross; if after having given to mankind a law, which leaves them less excusable in their transgressions, he has left them to be judged by the rigour of that law, and to stand or fall by iheir own personal deserts.
It is said, indeed, that as by this new dispensation, the certainty of pardon on repentance has been made krown, mankind has been informed of all that is es. sential in the doctrine of mediation. But granting that no more was intended to be conveyed, than the sufficiency of repentance: yet it remains to be considered in what way that repentance was likely to be brought about. Was the bare de. claration that God would forgive the repentant sinner, sufficient to ensure his amendiment? Or was it not rather calculated to render him easy under guilt, from the facility of reconciliation? What was there to alarm, to rouse the sinner from the apathy of habitual transgression? What was there to make that impression which the nature of God's moral government demands ? Shall we say that the grateful sense of divine mercy would be sufficient; and that the generous feelings of our nature, awakened by the supreme goodness, would have secured our obedience? that is, shall we say, that the love of virtue and of right would have maintained man in his allegiance? And have we not then had abundant experience of what man can do, when left to his own exertions, to be cured of such vain and idle fancies? What is the history of man, from the creation to the time of Chrisi, but a continued trial of his natural strength ? And what has been the moral of that bistory, but that man is strong, only as he feels himself weak ? strong, only as he feels that his nature is corrupt, and from a consciousness of that corruption, is led to place his whole reliance upon God? What is the description which the apostle of the Gentiles has left us, of the state of the world, at the coming of our Saviour !--being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, curetousness, maliciousness ; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, ma. lignity; whisperers, buckbiter a, haters of God, ilespiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without uniderstanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmercifulwho, knowing the judgment of God, that they which cominit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Here were the fruits of that natural goodness of the human heart, which is the favorite theme and fundamental principle with that class of Christians, with whom we are at present concerned. And have we not then had full experiment of our natural powers? And shall we yet have the madness to fly back to our own sufficiency, and our own merits, and to turn away from that gracious support, which is offered to us through the mediation of Christ ? No: lost as men were, at the time Christ appeared, to all sense of true religion: lost as they must be to it, at all times, when left to a proud confidence in their own sufficiency: nothing short of a strong and salutary terror could awaken them to virtue.' Without some striking expression of God's abhorrence of sin, which might work powerfully on the imagination and the heart, what could prove a sufficient counteraction to the violent impulse of natural passions? what, to the entailed depravation, which the history of man, no less than the voice of Revelation, pronounces to have infected the whole human race? Besides, without a full and adequate sense of guilt, the very notion of forgiveness, as it relates to us, is unintelligible. We can have no idea of forgiveness, unless conscious of something to be forgiven. Ignorant of our forgiveness, we remain
ignorant of that goodness which confers it. And thus, without some proof of God's hatred for sin, we remain unacquainted with the greatness of his love.
The simple promulgation then, of forgiveness on repentance, could not answer the purpose. Merely to knaw the condition, could avail nothing. An inducemers
2. It is allowed, by those who deny the extent of Christ's death to all men, as to what concerns their salvation, that it may truly be said, that there are some blessings redounding
of sufficient force to ensure its fulfilment was essential. The system of sufficiency had been fully tried, to satisfy mankind of its folly. It was now time to introduce a new system, the system of humility. And for this purpose, what expe. dient could have been devised more suitable than that which has been wopted ? the sacrifice of the Son of God for the sins of men : proclaiming to the world, by the greatness of the ransom, the immensity of the guilt: and thence, at the same time evincing, in the most fearful ina mer, God's utter abhorrence of sin, in requiring such expiation; and the infinity of his love, in appointing it.
To this expedient for man's salvation, though it be the clear and express language of Scripture, I have as yet sought no support from the authority of Scripture itself, Having hitherto had to contend with the deist, who denies ali Reve. lation; and the pretended Christian, who rationalizing away its substance, finds it a mere moral system, and can discover in it no trace of a Redeemer : to urge the declarations of Scripture, as to the particular nature of redemption, would be to no purpose. Its authority disclaimed by the one, and evaded by the other, each becoines unassailable on any ground, but that which he has chosen for himself, the ground of general reason.
But, we come now to consider the objections of a class of Christians who, as they profess to derive their arguments from the language and meaning of Scripture, will enable us to try the subject of our discussion by the only true standard, the word of Revelation. And indeed, it were most sincerely to be wished, that the doctrines or Scripture were at all times collected purely from the Scripture itself: and that preconceived notions and arbitrary theories were not first to be formed, and then the Scripture pressed into the service of each fanciful, dogma. If God has vouchsafed a Revelation, has he not thereby imposed a duty of submitting our understandings to its perfect wisdoin? Shall weak, short. sighted man presume to say, “If I find the discoveries of Revelation correspond to my notions of what is right and fit, I will admit them: but if they do not, I am sure they cannot be the genuine sense of Scripture: and I am sure of it, on this principle, that the wisdom of God cannot disagree with itself?” That is, to express it truly, that the wisdom of God cannot but agree with what this judge of the actions of the Almighty deems it wise for him to do. The language of Scripture must then, by every possible refinement, be made to surrender its fair and natural meaning, to this predetermination of its necessary import. But the word of revelation being thus pared down to the puny dimensions of human reason, how differs the Christian from the deist? The only difference is this: that whilst the one denies that God hath given us a Revelation; the other, compelled by evidence to receive it, endeavours to render it of no effect. But in both there is the same self-sufficiency, the same pride of understanding that would erect itself on the ground of human reason, and that disdains to accept the divine fa. vour on any conditions but its own. In both, in short, the very characteristic of a Christian spirit is wanting-Humility. For in what consists the entire of Christianity, but in this; that feeling an utter incapacity to work out our own salvation, we submit our whole-selves, our hearts, and our understandings, to the divine disposal; and relying on God's gracious assistance, ensured to our honest endeavours to obtain it, through the Mediation of Christ Jesus, we looks up to him, and to him alone, for safety? Nay, what is the very notion of religion, but this humble reliance upon God? Take this away, and we become a race of independent beings, claiming as a debt the reward of our good works; a sort of contracting party with the Almighty, contributing nought to his glory, but anxious to maintain our own independence, and our own rights. And is it not to subdue this rebellious spirit, which is necessarily at war with virtue and with God, that Christianity has been introduced ? Does not every page of revelation, peremptorily pronounce this; and yet shall we exercise this spirit
, even upon christianity itself? Assuredly if yre do ; if, on the contrary, our pride of andere to the whole world, and more especially to those who sit under the sound of the gospel, as the consequence of Christ's death; inasmuch as it is owing hereunto, that the day of God's
standing, and self-sufficiency of reason, are not made to prostrate themselves before the awfully mysterious truths of revelation; if we do not bring down the rebellious spirit of our nature, to confess that the wisdom of man is but foolishness with God; we may bear the name of Christians, but we want the essence of Christianity.
These observations, though they apply in their full extent, only to those who reduce Christianity to a system purely rational; yet are, in a certain degree applicable to the description of Christians, whose notion of redemption we now come to cons.der. For what but a preconceived theory, to which Scripture had been compelled to yield its obvious and genuine signification, could ever have lerl to the opinion, that in the death of Christ there was no expiation for sin ; that the word sacrifice has been used by the writers of the New Testament merely in a figurative sense ; and that the whole doctrine of the redemption amounts but to this, that God, willing to pardon repentant sinners, and at the same time willing to do it, only in that way, which would best promote the cause of virtue, appointed that Jesus Christ should come into the world ; and that he, having taught the pure doctrines of the gospel; having passed a life of exemplary virtue; having endured many sufferings, and finally death itself, to prove his truth, and pertect bis obedience; and having risen again, to manifest the certainty of a future state; has not only, by his exaniple proposed to mankind a pattern for imitation : but has, by the merits of his obedience, obtained, through his intercession, as a reward, a kingdom or government over the world, whereby he is enabled to bestow pardon and final happiness, upon all who will accept them on the terms of sincere repentance." That is, in other words, we receive salvation through a Mediator: the mediation conducted through intercession; and that intercession successful in recompense of the meritorious obedience of our Redeemer.
Here, indeed, we find the notion of redemption admitted: but in setting up, for this purpose, the doctrine of pure intercession, in opposition to that of atonement, we shall perhaps discover, when properly examined, some small tincture of that mode of reasoning, which, as we have seen, has led the modern Socinian to contend against the idea of redemption at large; and the deist, against that of revelation itself.
For the preseni, let us confine our attention to the odjections which the patrons of this new system bring against the principle of atonement, as set forth in the doctrines of that church to which we more immediately belong. As for those which are founded in views of general reason, a little reflection will convince us, that there is not any, which can be alleged against the latter, that may not be urged with equal force, against the foriner: not a single difficulty with which it is attempted to encumber the one, that does not equally embarrass the other. This having been evinced, we shall then see how little reason there was for relinquishing the plain and natural meaning of scripture, and for opening the door to a latitude of interpretarion, n which, it is but too much the fashion to in. dulge at the present day, and which if persevered in, must render the word of God a nullity.
The first, and most important of the objections we have now to consider, is that which represents the doctrine of atonement, as founded on the dirine im. placubility-jnasmuch as it supposes, that to appease the rigid justice of God, it was requisite that punishment should be inflicted; and ibat consequently the sinner could not by any means have been released, had not Christ suffered in his stead. Were this a faithful statemeni of the doctrine of atonement, there had indeed been just ground for the objection. But that this is not the fair representation of candid truth, let the objector feel, by the application of the same inode of reasoning, to the system which he uphoids. b it was necessary to the forgiveness of man, that Christ should suffer; and through the merits of his obepatience in lengthened out, and the preaching of the gospel continued to those who are favoured with it; and that this is attended, in many, with restraining grace, and some instances
dience, and as the fruit of his intercession, obtain the power of granting that forgiveness; does it not follow, that had not Christ thus suffered and interceded, we could not have been forgiven? And has he not then, as it were, taken us out of the hands of a severe and strict judge ; and is it not to him alone that we owe our pardon? Here the argument is exactly parallel, and the objection of implacability equally applies. Now what is the answer? “That although it is through the merits and ntercession of Christ that we are forgiven; yet these were not the procuring cause, but the means, by which God originally disposed to forgive, thought it right to bestow his pardon." Let then the word intercession be changed for sacrifice, and see whether the answer be not equally conclusive.
The sacrifice of Christ was never deemed by any who did not wish to calum. niate the doctrine of atonement, to have made God placable, but merely viewed as the means appointed by divine wisdom, by which to bestow forgiveness. And agreeably to this, do ve not find this sacr.fice every where spoken of, as ordained by God himself?-God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life--and herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the firopia tration for our sins-and again we are told, that we are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish, and without spot--who verily wus foreordained before the foundution of the zoorld and again, that Christ is the Lumb slain from the foundation of the world. Since then, the notion of the efficiency of the sacrifice of Christ, contained in the doctrine of atonement, stands precisely on the same foundation with that of pure intercession-merely as the means whereby God has thought fit to grant his favour and gracious aid to repentant sinners, and to fulfil that merciful intention, which he had at all times entertained towards his fallen creatures: and since by the same sort of representation, the charge of implacability in the Divine Being, is as applicable to the one scheme as to the other; that is, since it is a calumny most foully cast upon both: we may estimate with what candour this has been made by those who hold the one doctrine the fundamental ground of their objections against the other. For, on the ground of the expression of God's unbounded love to his creatures every where through Scripture, and of his several declarations that he forgave them freely, it is, that they principally contend, that the notion of expiation by the sacrifice of Christ cannot be the genuine doctrine of the New Testament.
But still it is demanded, " in what way can the death of Christ, considered 29 a sacrifice of expiation, be conceived to operate to the remission of sins, unless by the appeasing a Being, who otherwise would not have forgiven us?”—To this the answer of the Christian is, “I know not, nor does it concern me to know in what manner the sacrifice of Christ is connected with the forgiveness of sins : it is enough, that this is declared by God to be the medium through which my salvation is effected. I pretend not to dive into the counsels of the Almighty. I submit to his wisdom: and I will not reject his grace, because his mode of vouchsafing it is not within my comprehension." But now let us try the doctrine of pure intercession by this same objection. It has been asked, how can the sufferings of one Being be conceived to have any connexion with the forgiveness of another. Let us likewise inquire, how the meritorious obedience of one Being, can be conceived to have any connexion with the pardon of the transgressions of another: or whether the prayers of a righteous Being in behalf of a wicked person, can be imagined to have more weight in obtaining forgiveness for the transgressor, than the same supplication, seconded by the offering up of life itself, to procure that forgiveness ? The fact is, the want of discoverable connexion has nothing to do with either. Neither the sacrifice nor the intercession has, as far as we can comprehend, any efficacy whatever. All that we know, or can know of the one or of the other is, that it has been appointed as the means, by which God has determined to act with respect to man. So that to obiect to the one, because