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imputing to the advocates of vicarious suffering, any disposition to rob God of his glory; but it appears to me, that their theory must greatly eclipse that glory even in respect to their own minds. Who has eyes sufficiently penetrating to look through such “blackness of darkness," as is implied in vicarious punishment, and clearly discern, behind this cloud, the love of a heavenly Father!
The Doctrine and Duty of Forgiveness.
- Forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin,” is an important trait of Jehovah's character, as he revealed it to Moses, when he caused his glory to pass before this favored prophet. But the duty of men in respect to forgiving one another, was much less clearly taught by Moses, than it was by the Messiah. In the New Testament, the forgiving love of God is made an example for our iinitation ; and our compliance with this duty is made a condition of our obtaining forgiveness. Thus our Savior taught his disciples to pray,—"Our Father-forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” At the close of the form of prayer, Christ enforced the duty of forgiveness, by the most solemn considerations :-“ For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive your trespasses. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
Not only are we required to pray that God would forgive us, as we forgive others; but, we are required to forgive as God forgives, and as Christ forgives.
“ Be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven you,”—or as God, through Christ, or in Christ, hath forgiven you. Eph. iv. 32.
“If any man have a quarrel against any, even as Christ hath forgiven you, so also do ye.” Col. iii. 13.
We are required to forgive as God forgives; if, then, it be a truth that God “never grants absolute pardons," never forgives but on the ground of vicarious suffering; is it not a clear case, that we are required to forgive only on such ground? If it be the glory of God to forgive only on this principle, must it not be our glory to imitate this example ? But what good man ever did or ever can imitate this supposed example of God? Savages and other wicked men have avenged wrongs on the innocent, and then made peace with the guilty ; but what good man could bear the thought of inflicting evil on the innocent, that he might forgive as God forgives? Or who ever thought of inquiring, whether he had inflicted a vicarious punishment, or made a display of avenging justice, prior to forgiving the offence of a brother, that he might properly pray,—"Forgive, as we forgive ?”
What wise and benevolent parent would not shudder at the thought of teaching his children never to forgive wrongs till they had avenged them by inflicting evil on the innocent? What good parent could set before his children an example of forgiveness on this principle? Yet how many
parents, and even ministers, can teach children that such is God's mode of forgiveness !
There is surely an alarming error some where in regard to this momentous subject,--the duty of forgiveness; and this error should be carefully sought out and corrected. I think that on due inquiry, the doctrine of substituted suffering, as a principle of divine forgiveness, will either be discarded, or that Christians will feel bound to reduce the principle to practice in their mode of forgiving one anoth
Let no one imagine, that this is an uninteresting subject, or one that may be trifled with; for we must forgive, as God forgives, or fail of being forgiven.
On God's Forgiving for Christ's Sake.
In the preceding chapter, on quoting the words of Paul as given in the common version,—“forgiving one another, as God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven you,”—1 gave what is supposed to be a more correct translation, as “God through Christ,” or “in Christ,” hath forgiven you. This, however, I did not because I perceived any incorrectness in the idea that God forgives for Christ's sake. Some, however, conceive that this form of speech seemis to imply a reluctance on the part of God to forgive the penitent. To me, it suggests no such idea ; but simply this, a disposition on the part of God to honor the Mediator, in his manner of bestowing pardon on those for whose benefit the Son had laid down his life. The same idea is, if I mistake not, expressed by John. Referring to Christ, he says, “I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake.” 1 John ü. 12. To
forgive for Christ's sake," seems to me the same as to “ forgive for his name's sake." I may now inquire, whether the sentiment be at all derogatory to the freeness of the divine
mercy. That God is disposed to honor his Son, it is presumed, no Christian will deny. As the blessings of the new covenant are bestowed through him as the Mediator,—as we are instructed to ask favors in his name, and in his name to give thanks, it appears perfectly congruous, that God should have respect to the honor of the Son in conferring pardon. And, I may ask, is it not analogous to other dispensations of divine mercy ?
God bestows favors in answer to prayer ; but who regards this as inconsistent with free mercy ? He not only bestows favors on the supplicant, but on others in honor of his supplication. Still nothing is perceived incompatible with the most perfect readiness to do good, even to the evil and unthankful.
Moses was the mediator of the old covenant, and God heard his prayers, and bestowed favors in answer to them on a wicked and gainsaying people. Various instances of this kind were rehearsed by Moses to the Israelites, in the ninth chapter of Deuteronomy. Had there been ten righteous men in Sodom, God would have spared the city " for ten's sake.”
That it is according to God's usual method of governing the world, to show favor to the wicked, from respect.to eminently good people who dwell among them, seems
to be implied in the following passages : To Jeremiah, God said, “Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, my mind could not be towards this people.” Jer.
In the days of Ezekiel, when threatening to bring evil on the land, the Lord repeatedly said, — " Though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness.” Ezek. xiv. 14-20. In cases of such extreme wickedness and provocation, two or three such eminent men were not sufficient to avert impending evils by their prayers. Yet the language of Jehovah on these occasions seems to imply, that in ordinary cases such men might prevail ;—that on their account, or in answer to their supplications, judgments might be averted or suspended.
At the grave of Lazarus, Jesus said to his Father,—"I knew that thou hearest me always;" and a little before his crucifixion he uttered the prayer recorded in the seventeenth chapter of John's Gospel, in which he prayed not only for his Apostles, but for all who should become believers in him through their preaching. Why then may we not suppose, that the prayer he then offered, and his prayers as our intercessor in heaven, have had influence in procuring benefits for men in past ages, and in the present age,—and that they will continue to have influence in all ages, even to the end of time?
During a remarkable tempest, when neither sun nor stars for many days appeared, and all hope of being saved “had been taken away," an angel stood by Paul, and said, “Fear not, Paul, thou must be brought before Cesar; and lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.” Acts xxvii. 24. Thus was Paul honored by God, and all the crew saved for his sake.