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him with every thing necessary for this life, and also for that which we are told is to come.
We may here remark, that how far soever this may be removed above human means or human power, there does not seem to be any thing unreasonable in it, or unbecoming the great and manifestly benevolent Being who is the author of our nature. It is true, indeed, that we neither know nor read of any such provision as this made for the inferior creatures by which we are surrounded; but then they do not seem to be at all calculated to form any estimate of such a good. If they cannot reason and feel as we do on privations, hopes, fears, sufferings, and the like, it is because they have not faculties given them either to appreciate the remedy or to lament its loss. This is probable; but the truth is, we know nothing, or next to nothing, on the subject. In our case, then (and this is all which concerns us), the provision, if there be such, is not only good, but it is that which every reasonable being cannot be too anxious to make his own; and, for which, when acquired, he cannot be too thankful. Sinner as he confessedly is, nothing short of the mercy of the Deity can propose his pardon : transgressor as he is, grace alone can rescue him from the penalty of a righteous law, and enable him to entertain a reasonable hope of acceptance. We may here conclude, then, that whatever may be said on this subject, the end proposed is so far from being unreasonable, that it should rather seem unreasonable a benevolent and wise Creator should not have made provision for it; and if it can be shewn, that there can be no doubt of his having made this provision, it will follow that we are bound to accept it with all thankfulness.
The conditions generally proposed in our Scriptures are, in the next place, an entire belief and a hearty compliance with all its requirements. One particular point, and this is made very prominent, is a belief in the mission of a person termed in some places "the Anointed or Christ,” in others “the Son of God,” and in others “ the Saviour,” &c. in all which however, there can be no doubt the same person is meant. This person, we are told, is worthy of all honour; that he is our Redeemer, that is, that he did, by one great act of suffering, redeem us from the penalty due to our transgressions; that he also left us an example of life, no less than many excellent discourses, calculated to instruct us in our several duties ; and further, that he promised an extraordinary help or assistance should be given to those who would comply with the requirements of his divine law.
Now, whatever may be said of these doctrines, or of the grounds on which they are proposed, one thing is perfectly clear; namely, that the object aimed at in every case is the good of man: so far all is plain, and certainly not unreasonable, because it is in perfect unison with the general dealings of God with his creatures. As to the extraordinary assistance promised in the last, the very frail and peccable nature of man points it out as absolutely necessary, when we know that a life more conformable with the moral law, as revealed in our Scriptures, is actually called for. That it is above the power of man to afford such assistance, the very terms used are sufficient to shew; but that it is unreasonable such should be promised, and even given, if the Deity have indeed any concern in this matter, is what no one can for a moment suppose, much less attempt
With reference to the Redeemer's suffering for others, all we shall now say is: If this was undertaken, as it is stated to be, from a pure and unmerited regard to man, it was indeed an act worthy of the most exalted nature an instance such as has never been equalled on earth, and is never likely to be: and if this was intended, as we are told it was, to make known the more than parental love of God to his creatures, we shall have an additional reason for believing, that He is not only merciful and good, but merciful and good in a degree far exceeding our ordinary notions and experience.
ON THE REASONABLENESS OF THE DOCTRINE OF THE ATONEMENT,
A GRAVE question, however, may be, and is frequently, mooted here ; namely, Why did a merciful Deity lay the sins of many upon a righteous and sinless being? I can only say, It does not appear to be stated, that God did forcibly lay the sins of the world upon our sinless Redeemer; but
only that he took upon himself the chastisement due to us. This I deem an important distinction as to the statements made, although it may not be in my power to give a full explanation as to every particular connected with them. From the manner, however, in which this doctrine is generally stated, we may, I think, come to the conclusion, that although there are some things exceeding our knowledge, there are none repugnant to our reason, and certainly none opposed to the decisions of science.
In the first place, then, we are taught, that our Redeemer took this office, together with its sufferings, upon himself, out of pure mercy, and in order to secure our pardon. This, I think, may be termed kind, merciful, and good; but not unreasonable. Any man of wealth among ourselves may, from the impulse of kindness or philanthropy, take upon himself to discharge the debts contracted by another; and this he may do, without incurring the charge of being unreasonable. And, indeed, unless some such acts of grace as this occasionally took place, we might justly conclude, that there really exists nothing like virtue in the world. The principle, therefore, is good: and it is one that is not only frequently acted upon among us, but is held up as worthy of all acceptation.
It may be asked, in the next place, Is it reasonable that the sacrifice of a sinless being can be accepted under any circumstance? I answer, if any such atoning sacrifice be offered at all, it must necessarily be that of a sinless being. In the case above adduced, the man of wealth alone is the man who can discharge the debts of another. If he be himself a debtor, it will be both unreasonable and absurd to expect such sacrifice from him : because this will be to expect that which it is not in his power to afford. So in the case of the Redeemer: were he himself a sinner, he might suffer for his own sins, and this is all he could possibly do; no punishment received by him in such a case could administer the least advantage to any other person, because the sacrifice thus made must be inadequate to the end proposed. That it must be a sinless person, therefore, who must redeem others, if they are to be redeemed at all, there can be no doubt; and so far we have nothing repugnant to reason in this doctrine, but perfectly consonant with it; and the only question that can remain on this head must be, Whether life ought at all to be sacrificed in such a case ? But, in order to enter fully into this consideration, the end proposed to be attained ought first to be estimated; for if this end be not such as to warrant so great a sacrifice, then will its tender be unreasonable; and, on the other hand, if be, it will follow, that even to sacrifice life will be both reasonable and right.
Now the end proposed is, the eternal salvation of all men, high and low, rich and poor, bond and free ; and the question is, Is it unreasonable, that one human life shall be sacrificed for the purpose of attaining an end such as this? The question now is, not whether any other means of salvation may or may not have been devised; nor whether one more or less suitable to the dictates of human reason may not have been had recourse to. It certainly was in the power of Omnipotence to devise other means; but whether even He could have devised such as would have insured universal acceptance, without at the same time forcibly controlling the human will, might be questionable. Our question is this, and this only, Whether that proposed is or is not reasonable? In answer to the question, then, Whether it is reasonable that one human life should be sacrificed for the salvation of the souls of all? I would say, if it appear that no other means can be resorted to (and this appears to be the case here), then a moment's doubt cannot possibly be entertained on the subject. So far from being reasonable, it would be madness to hesitate; especially when we are assured, that the loss of human life, in this case, did not also involve the loss of the soul. Sacrifices such as this have been made times innumerable, for purposes of infinitely less value, and where the probability of insuring the end proposed was far from convincing. The reasonableness, and indeed the wisdom, shewn on these occasions, has been appealed to by the majority in every age and country, and is still held up, in the example of our patriots, as matter for the admiration and imitation of all succeeding times. Let it not be supposed, however, that the propriety or goodness of this or that example is contended for in every case, but only that such sacrifices are reasonable, when there are also good grounds for believing that some good end shall thus be secured.
Such, then, our Scripture manifestly proposes; and this is the only question now before us: it will be for us to inquire, in another place, whether Scripture itself ought to be regarded in such cases. It is not unreasonable, then, that a sinless, or, in other words, an acceptable Being, be sacrificed, if it is certainly known that the eternal salvation of all men can thereby be attained. The only question, perhaps, that now can be put, must be something like the following: Is it agreeable to human reason, that the Deity should require such a sacrifice to be made ? which, to say the best of it, is an impious and daring question. But as it is sometimes proposed, we will undertake to shew that it is not unreasonable he should.
We will suppose, then, in the first place (what all will allow to be the fact), that God's law, even as it may be read in the book of nature, is by the majority daily and hourly transgressed. Now, how ought this to be met on the part of the Deity ? Justice requires that he should condemn all at least who do so. What that condemnation would be, we need not now inquire, but may take for granted that it is something not desirable, which is the very lowest ground we can take. This, then, is the course which justice must undoubtedly take. But, suppose the Deity is also merciful : and this we have a right to suppose. In this case, then, what can be done? He may, I suppose, like any man of wealth, remit the debt in every case; or he may allow of such payment as may be within the power of some one or of all to make. But to remit the debt, in every case indiscriminately, would be effectually to thwart the end of the moral law; and, for all to pay it, would be to require an impossibility, and entirely to annihilate every idea of mercy and of redemption. Our only resource, therefore, must be some solvent person, who may be both able and willing to discharge the mighty debt in question; and thus to place the debtor in a situation of pardon and of acceptance with God. Among men, however, no such being can be found 1; because we are told, “all have sinned ;” and, if this be the case, men as such, must be considered as in a state of entire bankruptcy, with regard to this question. Still, there may be one found among a higher order of beings both able and willing to place himself in a situation, such as to meet the