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to what it was owing that we could not be satisfied with the just government of the king, and afterwards could not comply with the invitations of mercy it was because we were under the dominion of a disaffected spirit; a spirit which, wicked as it is in itself, it would be more wicked to justify. Our counsel is, therefore, the same as that of his majesty's messengers, with whom we now take our stand. Let us lay aside this cavilling humour, repent, and sue for mercy in the way prescribed, ere mercy be hid from our eyes!'
The reader, in applying this supposed case to the mediation of Christ, will do me the justice to remember, that I do not pretend to have perfectly represented it. Probably there is no similitude fully adequate to the purpose. The distinction between the Father and the Son, is not the same as that which subsists between a father and a son among men: the latter are two separate beings; but to assert this of the former, would be inconsistent with the divine unity. Nor can any thing be found analogous to the doctrine of divine influence, by which the redemption of Christ is caried into effect. And with respect to the innocent voluntarily suffering for the guilty, in a few extraordinary instances this principle may be adopted; but the management and application of it generally require more wisdom and more power than mortals possess. We may by the help of a machine, collect a few sparks of the electrical fluid, and produce an effect somewhat resembling that of lightning but we cannot cause it to blaze like the Almighty, nor thunder with a voice like Him.
Imperfect, however, as the foregoing similitude may appear in some respects, it is sufficient to show the fallacy of Mr. Paine's reasoning. "The doctrine of Redemption," says this writer, "has for its basis an idea of pecuniary justice, and not that of moral justice. If I owe a person money, and cannot pay him, and he threatens to put me in prison, another person can take the debt upon himself, and pay it for me: but if I have committed a crime, every circumstance of the case is changed. Moral justice cannot take the innocent for the guilty, even if the innocent would offer itself. To suppose justice to do this, is to destroy the principle of its existence, which is the thing itself. It is then no longer jusVOL. III. 20
tice; but is indiscriminate revenge. This objection, which is the same for substance as has been frequently urged by Socinians as well as Deists, is founded in misrepresentation. It is not true that redemption has for its basis the idea of pecuniary justice, and and not that of moral justice. That sin is called a debt, and the death of Christ a price, a ransom, &c. is true; but it is no unusual thing for moral obligations and deliverances, to be expressed in language borrowed from pecuniary transactions. The obligations of a son to a father, are commonly expressed by such terms as owing and paying: he owes a debt of obedience, and in yielding it he pays a debt of gratitude. The same may be said of an obligation to punishment. A murderer owes his life to the justice of his country; and when he suffers, he is said to pay the awful debt. So also if a great character by suffering death, could deliver his country, such deliverance would be spoken of as obtained by the price of blood. No one mistakes these things by understanding them of pecuniary transactions. In such connexions, every one perceives that the terms are used not literally, but metaphorically; and it is thus that they are to be understood with reference to the death of Christ. As sin is not a pecuniary, but a moral debt; so the atonement for it is not a pecuniary, but a moral ransom.
There is doubtless a sufficient analogy between pecuniary and moral proceedings, to justify the use of such language, both in scripture and in common life; and it is easy to perceive the advantages which which arise from it; as besides conveying much important truth, it renders it peculiarly impressive to the mind. But it is not always safe to reason from the former to the latter; much less is it just to affirm, that the latter has for its basis every principle which pertains to the former. The deliverance effected by the prince, in the case before stated, might, with propriety, be called a redemption; and the recollection of it, under this idea, would be very impressive to the minds of those who were delivered. They would scarcely be able to see or think of their Commander in Chief, even though it might be years after the event, without being reminded of the price at which their pardon was obtained, and drop
* Age of Reason, Part I. p. 20.
ping a tear of ingenuous grief over their unworthy conduct on this account. Yet it would not be just to say, that this redemption had for its basis an idea of pecuniary justice, and not that of moral justice. It was moral justice which in this case was satisfied: not, however, in its ordinary form, but as exercised on an extraordinary occasion; not the letter, but the spirit of it.
The scripture doctrine of atonement being conveyed in language borrowed from pecuniary transactions, is not only improved by unbelivers into an argument against the truth of the gospel, but has been the occasion of many errors among the professors of Christianity. Socinus, on this ground, attempts to explain away the necessity of a satisfaction. "God," says he, "is our Creditor. Our sins are debts which we have contracted with him; but every one may yield up his right, and more especially God, who is the supreme Lord of all, and extolled in the scriptures for his liberality and goodness. Hence, then, it is evident that God can pardon sins without any satisfaction received."* Others, who profess to embrace the doctrine of satisfaction, have on the same ground, perverted and abused it; objecting to the propriety of humble and continued applications for mercy, and presuming to claim the forgiveness of their sins, past, present, and to come, as their legal right, and what it would be unjust in the Supreme Reing, having received complete satisfaction, to withhold.
To the reasoning of Socinus, Dr. Owen judiciously replies, by distinguishing between right, as it respects debts, and as it respects government. The former, he allows, may be given up without a satisfaction, but not the latter. "Our sins," he adds, are called debts, not properly, but metaphorically." This answer equally applies to those who pervert the doctrine, as well as those who deny it for though in matters of debt and credit a full satisfaction from a surety excludes the idea of free pardon on the part of the creditor, and admits of a claim on the part of the debtor, yet it is otherwise in relation to crimes. In the interposition of the prince, as stated above, an honourable expedient was adopted, by
* Treatise of Jesus Christ the Saviour, Part III. Chap. I.
means of which the sovereign was satisfied, and the exercise of mercy rendered consistent with just authority: but there was no less grace in the act of forgiveness, than if it had been without a satisfaction. However well pleased the king might be with the conduct of his son, the freeness of pardon was not at all diminished by it; nor must the criminals come before him as claimants, but as supplicants, imploring mercy in the mediator's name.
Such are the leading ideas which the scriptures give us of redemption by Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul especially teaches this doctrine with great precision: Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Chirist Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time, his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.* From this passage we may remark, First: That the grace of God, as taught in the scriptures, is not that kind of liberality which Socinians and Deists ascribe to him, which sets aside the necessity of a satisfaction. Free grace, according to Paul, requires a propitiation, even the shedding of the Saviour's blood, a medium through which it may be honourably communicated. Secondly: Redemption by Jesus Christ was accomplished, not by a satisfaction that should preclude the exercise of grace in forgiveness, but in which, the displeasure of God against sin being manifested, mercy to the sinner might be exercised without any suspicion of his having relinquished his regards for righteousness. In setting forth Jesus Christ to be a propitiation, he declared his righteousness for the remission of sins. Thirdly: the righteousness of God was not only declared when Christ was made a propitiatory sacrifice; but continues to be manifested in the acceptance of believers through his name. He appears as just while acting the part of a justifier towards every one that believeth in Jesus. Fourthly: That which is here applied to the blessings of forgiveness and acceptance with God, is applicable to all other spiritual
Rom. iii. 24-26.
blessings: all, according to the scriptures, are freely communicated through the same distinguished medium. See Ephes. i.*
The Christian reader, it is presumed, may, from hence, obtain a clear view of the ends answered by the death of Christ, a subject which has occupied much attention among divines. Some have asserted, that Christ by his satisfaction accomplished this only, "That God now, consistently with the honour of his justice, may pardon (returning) sinners if he willeth so to do." This is, doubtless, true, as far as it goes; but it makes no provision for the return of the sinner. This scheme, therefore, leaves the sinner to perish in impenitence and unbelief, and the Saviour without any security of seeing of the travail of his soul. For how can a sinner return without the power of the Holy Spirit? And the Holy Spirit, equally with every other spiritual blessing, is given in consideration of the death of Christ. Others, to remedy this defect, have considered the death of Christ as purchasing repentance and faith, as well as all other spiritual blessings, on behalf of the elect. The writer of these pages acknowledges he never could perceive that any clear or determinate idea, was conveyed by the term, purchase, in this connexion; nor does it appear to him to be applicable to the subject, unless it be in an improper or figurative sense. He has no doubt of the atonement of Christ being a perfect satisfaction to divine justice; nor of his being worthy of all that was conferred upon him, and upon us for his sake; nor of that which to us is sovereign mercy being to him an exercise of remunerative justice: but he wishes it to be considered, Whether the moral Governor of the world was laid under such a kind of obligation to show mercy to sinners as a creditor is under to discharge a debtor, on having received full satisfaction at the hands of a surety? If he be, the writer is unable to perceive how there can be any room for free forgiveness on the part of God; or how it can be said that justice and grace harmonize in a sinner's salvation. Nothing is farther from his intention than to depreciate the merit of his Lord and Saviour: but he considers merit as of two kinds; either on account of a benefit conferred, which on the footing of justice requires an equal return, or of something done or suffered which is worthy of being rewarded, by a Being distinguished by his love of righteousness. In the first sense, it cannot, as he supposes, be exercised towards an infinite and perfect Being. The goodness of Christ himself, in this way, extendeth not to him. It is in the last sense that the scriptures appear to him to represent the merit of the Redeemer. That he "who was in the form of God, should take upon him the form of a servant, and be made in the likeness of men, and bumble himself, and become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross," was so glorious an undertaking, and so acceptable to the Father, that on this account he "set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power, and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to