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of those of whom such language was used, had not become truly reconciled unto God. Hence, though the sin of the world has not even yet been taken was a propriety in the manner in which John called on the Jews, to "behold the Lamb of God!” for the Messiah was then before him, and had come to establish his purifying religion, and thus to redeem men from their iniquities. The benefits of the Mosaic religion were in a great degree limited to the posterity of Jacob; but the Messiah came to establish a religion, that was to bless all the nations of the earth. Hence, John called on his hearers, to “ behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world.” Accordingly, after the resurrection of Jesus, he commissioned his Apostles to go “into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."
So far as the gospel has had its genuine influence on the hearts of men, it has turned them every one from bis iniquities; and, in this way, they are saved from future punishment. But nothing that Christ has done or suffered, has abated, in the least, the necessity of repentance and personal holiness, in respect to pardon and salvation. The object of his mission was to “save his people from their sins,”_not to save them in their sins.
Though it has been a prevalent opinion, that men are naturally too proud to be dependent on the merits of another for their salvation, or to be willing to accept salvation as purchased by the blood of Christ, yet, 1 verily believe, that it is much more common for men to be too proud to "work out their own salvation,” according to the plain requirements of the gospel. Indeed, I suspect, that it is a much more common thing for impenitent men to hope that they shall be saved, in some mysterious way, on
account of what Christ has done or suffered for them, than on account of any thing they ever did or ever mean to do for themselves. How common it has been to teach men to rely solely on what Christ has done and suffered for them; while “ the grace of God, that bringeth salvation," speaks another language, “teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, looking for that blessed hope, and glorious appearing of the great God, and our Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works," Titus ii. 11-14.
Probable Causes of Error relating to the Atonement.
“ SURELY he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted." Isa. liii. 4.
The latter part of this verse is supposed to have been a prediction of the opinions and feelings of the unbelieving Jews relating to the sufferings of their Messiah. He had borne their griefs, and had manifested the most perfect benevolence among them; yet, in their estimation, he was an impostor, and as such "was stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted,” Christians, in later times, have supposed, that he was indeed “stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted;" not however for his own sins, but for the sins of others. On each hypothesis, there was a display of God's anger in the sufferings of the Messiah. Having fully expressed my dissent from this opinion, I shall briefly suggest a few things, which may help to account for the supposed error. This will be done, on a principle more candid than that of imputing the error to wickedness of heart, in all those who have been so unfortunate as to embrace it.
1. In the fiftieth Psalm, God said to the wicked, “Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself.” These words are, perhaps, more extensively applicable to mankind, than has been generally supposed; particularly to those whose minds have not been illuminated by revelation. It may not be strictly true, that they have thought that God was " altogether such an one ” as themselves; yet, probably, they have formed their ideas of God's moral character from what each found in himself, or discerned in his fellow-men. In regard to those who have been destitute of the benefits of revelation, it is difficult to conceive on what other ground they would be more likely to form their ideas of the feelings and disposition of God; and, as to the early written revelations which were made to individuals, these, by transmission from one generation to another, would be very likely to become corrupted by association with opinions and conjectures, that had been otherwise derived or formed. Hence, the greater part of the barbarous tribes of men would be likely to conceive of God, if not “altogether,” yet in many respects, like themselves; excepting, that they would be likely
to ascribe to hiin a greater share of knowledge and power than they found in themselves, or saw in each other.
2. The influence of education and tradition is known to have very great effect on the minds of men. The opinions of ancestors are often received for truths, with such veneration, as precludes doubt or inquiry respecting their correctness. Frequently, too, gross errors of tradition become associated with doctrines, which are not only true, but very important; and these traditionary views may often occasion the words of revelation to be misunderstood.
3. Long before the coming of the Messiah, the gentile nations had been in the habit of offering sacrifices to appease or to propitiate their imaginary gods : and human sacrifices were perhaps deemed the most efficacious. Such were, probably, the customs and the views of the heathen ancestors of all the present nations of Christendom, when the gospel was first introduced among them; and as the gospel made known the fact to them, that the Messiah had suffered as a sacrifice, it would be very natural for these heathen-taught ancestors to suppose, that the sacrifice was made to appease the anger of the God of Israel, and to render him propitious. When, therefore, they avowed themselves Christians, many of them might still retain their former views of sacrifices, and associate them with that of the Lamb of God.
4 From the reproofs of the prophets and of the Mes. siah himself, it is very certain, that the Jews had greatly perverted the Mosaic institutions; and it is not improbable that many of them had imbibed the heathen notions of sacrifices, so far as to regard them as means for appeasing God's anger, or as substitutes for punishment, and, per
haps too, as substitutes for obedience. sions of the gospel atonement have unquestionably been made by thousands who have borne the Christian name.
5. Revenge, or retaliation of wrongs, was probably a general and popular principle among men, when the Messiah made his appearance in the world. To revenge a wrong was deemed rather a duty than a crime. People thus educated would readily impute vindictive feelings to their gods, and deem it an honor to them to make a display of anger an essential ingredient in an atoning sacrifice.
6. To overcome evil with evil, was the general policy of mankind. This entered into the various forms of
government, political, military, ecclesiastical, and even parental ; also into the intercourse of individuals, families, and nations. When a wrong or supposed wrong was done, it was deemed laudable for the injured party to assume a stern, menacing, and hostile attitude, and to maintain it till what was deemed satisfaction was obtained, by retaliating the wrong, or effecting some humiliating concession on the part of the offender. For the party injured to be first or forward in making pacific overtures, or to be at great expense to reconcile the offender, and thus avoid a rupture, was a thing probably little known among heathen nations, and might have been deemed improper and mean-spirited by the multitude, especially if the injured party had it in his power to revenge the wrong he had received. Such, it is believed, was the general and the popular policy, though some philosophers might recommend a different course.
7. When Christians were freed from pagan persecution, and exalted to power by the policy of Constantine,