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the Spirit of God. The death of Christ was then a recent event; it was the great topic of conversation and inquiry; and it was distinctly brought to view in the first sermon of Peter on that occasion, and in the subsequent sermons recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. The preachers were very careful to show that Jesus was the Christ, and that bis death and resurrection accorded with the ancient predictions respecting the Messiah, and were therefore proofs that Jesus was the person whose coming had been foretold by Moses and other prophets. Had these preachers supposed also that the sufferings of Jesus were a substitute for their own future punishment,—the future punishment of all who should believe on him, and that this was the only ground on which God could pardon any sinner; is it possible that they should have omitted to say a single word on this doctrine, in all their sermons which were put on record ?
The first sermon of Peter had a powerful effect. The hearers were “pricked in their hearts,”—filled with concern, and exclaimed, -"Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Peter answered, -" Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized ; and the same day there were added unto them about 3000 souls.” We have, therefore, strong evidence that such views of the atonement as have long been prevalent, were not entertained by the Apostles, and were not necessary to the most salutary effects in preaching the gospel.
We have in the Acts, sketches of a number of Paul's sermons, as well as of Peter's; and it appears that Paul was as silent as Peter, respecting the doctrine of substituted sufferings. I do not find that either of them, or any other inspired teacher, ever taught that Christ suffered the penalty due to our sins, or an equivalent for that penalty. That the Apostles had no such views of the subject, may be further evident from other facts.
More, it is supposed, than twenty-five years after the crucifixion, while on a visit to Jerusalem, Paul was advised by James and the elders to comply with the law relating to the Nazarites, and to “ be at charges” with some men who were then under the 6 vow.” James and the elders said to him,—“Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are who believe, and they are all zealous of the law. And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews who are among the gentiles to forsake Moses, saying, that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. What is it therefore ? the rnultitude must needs come together, for they will hear that thou art come. Do, therefore, this that we say to thee : We have four men which have a vow on them; them take and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads, and all may know that those things whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself walkest orderly and keepest the law.” Acts xxi. 20–24.
The vow here spoken of, is supposed to be the vow of the Nazarite. The law respecting this vow is recorded in the sixth chapter of the book of Numbers. Various ceremonies were to be performed, and various offerings were required, one of which was the sin-offering. With the advice of James and the elders, Paul readily complied.
Let it then be asked, Do not these facts afford reason to believe, that a great mistake has prevailed respecting sinofferings or sacrificial atonements; and a similar mistake in regard to the atonement by Jesus Christ ? Had James and the elders regarded the sin-offering as a substitute for penal sufferings, and had they regarded the atonement of Christ as a substitute for the future sufferings of sinners, would they have advised Paul to comply with the law of the Nazarite? Or had Paul viewed the atonement in that light, could he have submitted to their advice? In that view of the atonement by Jesus Christ, would not the sinoffering by Paul have been setting at nought the blood of the covenant ?
But if the sacrificial atonements, or sin-offerings, were instituted tokens or symbols of Divine mercy, designed to reconcile men unto God, Paul's presenting a sin-offering on that occasion would imply no disrespect to the greater sacrifice made by the Son of God, any more than offering a contrite confession of sin, or a prayer for pardoning mercy
Besides, what James and the elders said of the 66 many thousands of Jews,” who believed “that they were all zealous of the law,” is still further proof that the Apostles had never taught these believers to regard the sufferings of their Lord as a substitute for the penal sufferings of sinners. As long as they were zealous of their ceremonial law, and had it in their power, they doubtless continued their sacrificial atonements; and these were probably continued till the destruction of Jesusalem.
The Apostles, as well as their Lord, spoke of the future judgment; and like their Master, they taught that “every man shall be rewarded according to his works, whether they be good or bad.” In speaking on this momentous subject, they did not, that I have observed, say a single word which has even the appearance of the doctrine of substituted sufferings, or imputed righteousness, as the ground of pardon and acceptance.
The manner in which the Apostles spoke of the crucifixion is also to be noticed. If the prevalent views of the atonement are correct, the mere sufferings of the cross must have been as nothing, or no more than a drop to the ocean, compared with the infinity of sufferings which Christ endured as our substitute. Yet the supposed superadded sufferings occasioned by the justice and anger of God, are not, I think, so much as alluded to by the Apostles. In two instances, they have indeed mentioned that he bore our sins, or the sins of many. But I think it has been shown, that this phraseology does not imply punishment, or Divine anger. Besides, it was in his own body on the tree,” that he is said to have borne our sins. This implies no more than sufferings by crucifixion.
Paul tells us of his preaching Christ crucified, and of his determination not to know any thing among the Corinthians,
save Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Had he known that Christ endured for us a species of sufferings infinitely more intense and horrible than those of crucifixion, would he have omitted to mention them? In speaking of Christ to the Philippians he tells us, that “ being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
Why did he say, “even the death of the cross,” if this were but the shadow of the evils he endured ? Why did he not say, in the bold, emphatic language of modern writers, that Christ suffered for us, “the wrath
of God,”_" equivalent to all the horrors and miseries of hell,”—“as great as the endless sufferings of all mankind?” If such were the facts, and such the ground and the only ground on which the penitent can be pardoned, the conduct of the Apostles in uniformly omitting to state it, is to me perfectly inexplicable.
Christ and his Apostles must have had some weighty reason for neglecting to state, explain, and urge the doctrine of vicarious punishment, as the only ground of pardon ; and I can think of no reason which appears to me so probable as this,—that they had no belief in such a doctrine. But on the supposition that other reasons may be given for this neglect, still I should think their example in this particular, worthy to be imitated by uninspired
Pre-requisites to Pardon not Substitutes for Punishment.
To seek and to save that which was lost was the great purpose of our Savior's mission. In executing this purpose, he exposed himself to suffering, and sacrificed bis life. Hence the pardon and salvation of sinners are often ascribed to his sufferings, his blood, or his death. But such facts are no proof that his sufferings were a substitute for the punishment due to us; for our pardon and salvation are, in a similar manner, ascribed to various other causes or means, which no one can reasonably imagine to have