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saved from untimely death by war! And as many, perhaps, saved from the guilt of imbruing their hands in the blood of their brethren! And how great will be the saving influence of that sacrifice, when it shall be duly understood throughout Christendom, that the example of Christ on the cross was designed to teach all his followers to be like-minded, to exercise the same forbearing and forgiving temper towards their enemies, that he did towards his ; that it is only by treading in his steps, that Christians can appear as Christians, or overcome evil with good.
But, alas ! how sad have been the effects of believing that the atonement was a display of God's avenging justice, and a substitute for the punishment due to sinners ! How many millions of men have been encouraged by this belief, to indulge a vindictive spirit, and under the symbol of the cross, as their standard, to rush like warhorses into the games of military violence and bloodshed ! No such consequences ever did, or ever can result from regarding the atonement as an exhibition of that forgiving love, which Christians should ever feel towards their enemies.
If we can perceive how a perfect example under sufferings may aid or dispose a person to cultivate the same mind in himself, that was in our Lord, or such a temper as will prepare him for the society of holy beings in heaven ; we may see how this view of the atoning sacrifice may have an important influence in regard to salvation. But how an atonement made by a display of avenging justice on an innocent substitute, can be connected with forgiveness and salvation, is, I suspect, a secret not revealed, and may, with propriety, be so acknowledged. For myself, I am free to own, that I can see nothing in
such a view of the sacrifice, at all adapted to reconcile the sinner to God, or to fit the soul for heaven.
Thus I have endeavored to show “ in what manner the sacrifice of Christ is connected with the forgiveness of sins; and that it is by its moral influence on the human mind, and not by an arbitrary decree, or an extrajudicial enactment of God.
Salvation by Jesus Christ a Redemption from Sin.
“Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world.” John i. 29.
“When he had by himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Heb. i. 3.
These and similar passages of Scripture, have a meaning, which it is of great importance to understand. How then does the Lamb of God take away the sins of the world? or in what sense is it true, that he has "purged our sins ? " As it has been a common belief, that Christ, in laying down his life, bore the punishment due to our sins ; so it has been supposed, that by taking away sins," and "purging our sins," the thing principally intended is, that he took away our punishment, by suffering the penalty due to us.
I readily grant, that so far as sin is taken away, the penalty is remitted. But under human governments, it is well known, that a punishment may be remitted, while there is no discernible change in the temper or character of the felon. Hence, in the minds of men generally, to take away punishment is a very different thing from taking away sin ; and as selfish, impenitent men care little about sin, if they can but escape punishment, I think it must naturally have an injurious tendency to represent to them, that Christ has borne their punishment; and that this is what is meant by taking away the sins of the world. It seems not to have been duly considered, how careful the inspired writers were of using language which would import that Christ took away our punishment in any other way than by taking away sin. As specimens of the manner in which those writers spoke on the subject, I have placed two passages at the head of this chapter ; and from a multitude of other passages, which might be quoted, I select the following:
6. Thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins.” Matth. i. 21.
“Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purisy unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” Titus ii. 14.
6 Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation, received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lainb without blemish and without spot.” 1 Pet. i. 18, 19. “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." 1 John i. 7.
“To give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins," was the purpose for which Christ was exalted to be a 66 Prince and a Savior.” Acts v. 31.
From these, and many other passages, it is clear, tha the primary object of Christ's mission and sacrifice, was to
redeem men from iniquity,—to effect in them repentance and reformation, and thus fit them for the service and the enjoyment of God. This accords with Peter's language to the Jews :-“Unto you first, God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” Acts iži. 26. It is, then, by turning men from their iniquities, that Christ saves them from punishment; not by enduring punishment as their substitute.
But how does the Savior effect his purpose of turning men from iniquity, or purging them from sin ? As sin is a moral disease, it is by moral means that the disease is healed ;-by the influence of the purifying religion which he came to establish,—by the efficacy of the truths which he taught,—the precepts which he enjoined,—the motives he has set before us,-by the love and concern which he expressed for us, in laying down his life, and by the example which he gave for our imitation. That divine truth has an influence to cleanse men from sin, and turn them to the Lord, was known under the Old Testament. The Psalmist asks,-“Wherewith shall a young man cleanse his way?” This question he thus answers :-"By taking heed thereto according to thy word.” Ps. cxix. 9. Christ observed to his disciples,—“Now ye are clean through the word that I have spoken unto you.” Peter thus speaks of the efficacy of divine truth, in connexion with the spirit :-“Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth, through the spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren-being born again-by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” 1 Pet. i. 22, 23.
As sin still abounds in the world, some may ask,—Why did John the Baptist, eighteen hundred years ago, call on
people to “Behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world,”—as though the thing spoken of was then about to be done ? and why did the writer to the Hebrews say," when he had purged our sins,”—as though the thing had been before that time accomplished ? Do not these forms of speech give reason to think, that taking away sin, meant taking away punishment, and that this was done at the crucifixion ?
Suppose the people of a certain city to be in a perishing state by the scarcity of food. The king sends his son with this message :- Your sovereign has bread enough and to spare ; his son will give you directions how you may obtain a ready and ample supply on the most reasonable terms !' This, surely, would be good news to a starving people ; and such a people, on being about to hear the news from the lips of the son, might be called on to "behold the messenger,
away the evil of famine; and after the message had been delivered, and the way of supply made known, any one, speaking of what the son had done, might properly speak as though the wants of the people had been supplied ;—and of the inhabitants, as a people who had been saved from famine, because relief had been proffered, and it depended on their disposition, whether they would receive it or not. Yet, notwithstanding all the saving kindness of the king and his son, the people would still perish if they should refuse the offered bread. In the language of prophecy, things are often spoken of as done, which are only purposed and foretold ; and, in the language of the New Testament, men are sometimes represented as in a pardoned, justified, or saved state, when they have been made acquainted with the gospel ; while, perhaps, many
who 6 taketh