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ALL the letters, which I receive from you, I read with pleasure; especially as they give me reason to think, that you still retain those religious sentiments, which appeared to direct your conduct, while you dwelt under my roof. The question proposed in your last is important, and deserves an answer; viz. "How shall a young man pursue the business of his secular calling with success, and without interference with religious duties?" The general answer is, Let your secular business become a part of religion. Or, in the words of the wise man, "Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts shall be established." "In all your ways acknowledge God, and he will direct your paths." If you commit your works to God, they must be such as he approves and requires; not such as he has warned you to avoid. The man, who engages in an evil design, or adopts unlawful means to effect an innocent design, shows that there is no fear of God in his heart; and for him to commit his works to
God is the height of abomination; the extreme of impiety.
"Trust in the Lord and do good." Do that which is right, and leave the issue to his disposal. In matters of prudence, to judge what is expedient, you must look to the probable consequences. But in matters of moral obligation, repair directly to the word of God, prove what is acceptable in his sight, follow this invariably, and commit the consequences to him. There are many cases, in which you may be in doubt what to do. Here the tendency and issue of things must be taken into consideration, before you form your resolution. But cases of this kind are not the most important, They are such only as concern the present life. They are prudential rather than moral. In cases, which essentially relate to your duty and salvation, God has given you explicit instructions; and by these you must be governed. When you know what God requires, you are not to hesitate and debate, but to apply yourself to it immediately; for whatever may be, or seem to be its first consequences, you may trust the divine goodness and faithfulness, that its result will be happy. When Abraham was called to go forth from his native land," he obeyed, not knowing whither he went." He knew the call was from God, and he put himself under God's direc tion, and confided in his care. When Christ called men to follow him, he made them no promises of worldly accommodations; but directed them to trust themselves without anxiety in the hands of Providence.
Perform all your works with a sense of your dependence on God, and accountableness to him, and with humble prayer, that he would assist and accept you in them. Set him always before you, as a God who loves righteousness and hates wickedness, and who will bring into judgment every work and every secret thing, whether it be good or evil. Form your resolutions, encounter your trials, engage in your works, with a full reliance on his support. And by daily communion with him seek his direction in your doubts, his defence in your dangers, and his smiles on your labours.
Your times are in God's hands. He orders them with wisdom. The reward of righteousness is sure; but God will take his own time to bestow it. Your humble prayers will be answered; but perhaps not in the time and manner, which you expected. Your persevering conflicts with corruption and temptation will prevail; but you cannot promise yourself immediate victory and discharge. Be faithful to the death, and you will receive a crown of life."
The scripture directs, that "whatever you do," whether in the secular or religious life, "you do it heartily as unto the Lord." You comply with this direction, when you act under the habitual influence of those motives, which God has proposed to you. These motives are of different importance; and a mind rightly tempered and disposed, will feel their relative weight and be influenced by them accordingly. The highest and purest principle of moral action is the love of God, or the love of virtue and Vol. III. No. 3.
holiness. In the conformity of the heart to the character of God consists that sincerity, which is an essential quality of gospel obedience. But this principle, in the present imperfect state of human nature, and ainidst the temptations of this dangerous world, is not strong enough to triumph over all difficulties, and produce a uniform obedience. In aid to it God has therefore proposed various external mo. lives. The greatest of these are the rewards and punishments of the future world. These may have an awakening effect on unholy minds. And where they do not operate to real repentance, they may restrain from many gross sins, and excite to some useful works. They have a powerful influence on good men to make them watchful against all temptations to sin, and diligent and active in the duties of the Christian life. The scripture applies them to holy, as well as to guilty character It was a commendation of the virtue of Moses, that " he had respect to the recompense of reward." The godly are admonished to "fear him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell." All those motives to virtue, which are taken from the future world, are of a virtuous tendency, and directly operate to aid and strengthen virtuous principles. ous principles. The scripture
often calls in temporal motives to the assistance of virtue. But these must always be subordinate to the motives taken from the other world. In their proper
place they are useful. If they become supreme, they are fatal. There are worldly advantages resulting from a religious life; andit
is just to allow them their weight. But if we value our temporal more than our eternal interests, we invert that order, which is God's supreme law. The things of the world have their value, and we may estimate them according to their value. All beyond this is unreasonable and immoral; proceeds from corruption of mind, and tends to corrupt it still more.
The works which
we do under the governing influence of wordly affections, are devoted to the world; not committed to God. And the friend-. ship of the world is enmity to God.'
You will soon hear more from me on this subject. In the mean time believe me to be your affectionate parent,
ON THE DOCTRINE OF THE ATONEMENT.
In a Series of Letters to a Friend. Continued from Vol. II: page 565.
Answer. The confounding of the desert of sin with its guilt, i. e. with the obligation to punishment connected with sin by the law, seems to be the capital mistake, which has embarrassed numbers in their reasonings on this subject. This was a main objection of the Polonian Brethren, which has lately been adopted and urged by some who do not adopt their general system.
They who maintain that Christ bore the guilt and punishment of sin are, as far from imagining that our sin and desert of punishment were transfused into him, as the objectors. They constantly explain their meaning to be, that the guilt of sin is not its criminality or desert of punishment, but the penal debt, or obligation connected with it. And they think it a great injury that their doctrine should be charged with an absurdity so gross and blasphemous, which they have always rejected with abhorrence. The imputation of sin and guilt to our Sponsor, according to our doctrine and to the
Objections to the Scripture Doctrine of scriptures, is the transferring of the Atonement considered.
THOUGH the doctrine of Christ's atonement seems to be so well supported by the scriptures; yet there are numbers of professed Christians, who think it liable to such objections, that they do not receive it, as an article of their faith.
It is objected, that the guilt of sin is its criminality or desert of punishment, which is inseparable from the sin and the sinner; and so cannot possibly be transferred to a righteous person, so as to render him guilty, or deserving of punishment.
our obligation to suffer the deserved punishment of our sins to Christ, on his voluntarily consenting to take it upon himself, and bear it in our stead. That this is impossible has never been shown.
On the contrary, the penal obligation of the guilty may be, and has been transferred to an innocent person, consenting to take it on himself. Suppose a man's wife, or child, or friend, should for some crime be condemned to pay a fine. And suppose the relation or friend of the criminal should offer to pay the fine for him, and the offer should
be accepted by the proper authority; this would be a transferring of the punishment from the criminal to the innocent. That cases, not unlike this, have occurred, will not be disputed. If the guilt of sin could not be taken off from a sinner, and he be freed from the imputation of it, we should be in a hopeless state. For God will in no wise clear the guilty.
But it is further urged, that it would be contrary to truth and justice to impute sin, and inflict punishment on Christ, in whom is no sin, supposing that this were not naturally impossible.
To this I answer: Since the scriptures so expressly and repeatedly assert, and with such variety of expression, that the Lord hath laid our iniquities on Christ, that he hath borne them, was wounded, bruised, and died for them, was made a curse, or bore the curse of the law in our stead, to deliver us from the curse; is it not too bold to say that this is contrary to justice and truth?
Besides, the case which has just been proposed, shows that it is not only possible, but also consistent with justice, in the common sense of mankind, for an innocent person to bear the punishment of the guilty, if he be willing to take the penal obligation on himself, and if the ends, for which the punishment was necessary, are answered by it. Now we assert, that Christ was willing to take upon himself the guilt, and to bear the punishment of our sins; and by doing so the ends, for which the punishment of our sins was necessary, were fully attained; and God, the Supreme Judge, ap
proved and authorized the transferring of our penal obligation to our Sponsor, and inflicted on him the punishment our sins deserved. And shall we say that
this is unjust ?
But it may be farther pleaded; "admitting that it may be just for an innocent man to pay the fine imposed on the guilty, and so bear the punishment of their crimes; yet it would not be just that he be held bound to suffer the punishment of capital crimes, "to be hanged for a murder, committed by his wife or child."
Ans. Though it should be granted to be unlawful and unjust for men to inflict capital punishment on those, who are personally innocent; yet the supreme Judge of the world, who has the most absolute property in all things, has a right to do that, which it is not fit that ignorant worms should do. We are not at our own disposal, but are the creatures of God, and have no right to give away or dispose of our own lives, or to take away the lives of any but in such ways, as are prescribed by God. And he neither requires, nor allows, that the innocent suffer capital punishment for crimes, to which they have not been accessary. It would also be an injury to society, if the life of a criminal who ought to die, were ransomed by the death of an innocent and useful citizen.
But Christ had power over his own life to lay it down, and to take it again. He was also authorised by God, and sent into the world, to give his life a ransom for those, who were lost, to bear their sins, and to die for them, the just for the unjust. To this he willingly consented, that he
might expiate the sins of the world, knowing that God would hereby be exceedingly glorified, the happiness of the universe greatly advanced, and that he would rise from the curse of the law, to which he subjected himself, to the right hand of the throne of God, there to reign for ever King of saints; and that, by bearing our sins, and suffering death, he would abolish sin and death in his redeemed; and that, in seeing the fruits of the travail of his soul he would be satisfied, and rejoice forever.
There is indeed an astonishing display of the grace, and condescension of Christ, in his bearing the guilt and punishment of our sins in our stead. But that this
amazing transaction would inply any thing unjust never has been proved. Paul says that God set forth Christ to be a propitiation, or, to declare his righteous ness in the forgiveness of sins, that he might be just in justifying the ungodly.
To reconcile the sufferings of Christ with the justice of God, it is not enough to say that they were voluntary. His sufferings were penal. He died for our sins, He was willing that our sins, our penal debt, should be laid upon him as our Sponsor; and the supreme Judge approved and ratified the substitution. Christ was willing to take the burden of our guilt on himself, and God laid this burden upon him. As there was no sin in him, it was the guilt, which he took on himself, which rendered him liable to the curse. The crime was ours; the punishment Christ took on himself. This, I think, is the only way in which the suffer.
ings of Christ can be reconciled with the justice of God.
We have then a ready answer to the question, which some urge upon us. "Were our sins so
transferred to Christ as to become really his sins? Did he suffer, as a guilty person?" The imputation of our sins did not render him in any degree culpable or blameable. It is impossible, that he should be to blame for our faults, which he did not commit, and to which he was not accessary. But our penal debt was really transferred to him, and he was really bound as our Sponsor, to make satisfaction to the law and justice of God.
It is further objected, "if Christ has borne the guilt and punishment of our sins, and satisfied the requirement of the law in our stead, then the imputation of his satisfaction to the redeemed, their acquittance from guilt, and justification, would be but an act of justice, and not of grace. For it is but just, that the debtor be free from the obligation, which his sponsor has sat isfied for him.
The consideration of this objection would carry us something beyond the subject of our present discussion. But, as the doctrine of our justification through the redemption of Christ is of great importance, and has the closest connexion with the doctrine of the atonement, I will state my thoughts upon it briefly, so far as seems needful for answering this objection.
The scriptures teach that both the grace and justice of God are exercised and displayed in the justification of a sinner. Grace reigns through righteousness,