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for that purpose; as Isaiah saith, &c.” Here the father plainly maintains the doctrine of the atonement. When he asserts that expiation is not now made by the offering of victims, such as were sacrificed under the Jewish economy, and that the object of Christ's death and sufferings was to make expiation, he must necessarily include the atonement, which is embraced in expiation. He elsewhere * clearly asserts that the curse due to sinners was laid
Christ. “ If therefore,” says he, “God the father of the families of the universe, appointed his son to take upon himself the curse of the whole human family, knowing that crucified and dead, he would raise him up, &c.” The curse is used in this place, by a common figure of speech for the effects of the curse. The expression," whole human family,” which this, and other fathers use when treating of the atonement, is explained by themselves in other places to mean, that“ Christ died sufficiently for all men, and efficiently, for the elect.” This still is an obscure mode of stating their views relative to the extent of the atonement. I understand them to mean; that had God destined the death of Christ for the salvation of every individual of the human family, its value was adequate to such an extensive object; but that however valuable the atonement of Christ may be, yet the elect only will be saved by it, as God has limited its efficiency to them.
It appears, from Justin's introducing these remarks in favour of the atonement, into a work professedly written against the Jews, that this degraded and apostate people were the great enemies of the atonement, at that time.
Justin Martyr, flourished about the middle of the second century; less than one hundred years after the days of the apostles. He was at first a Pagan philosopher. In the celebrated Stoic, Peripatetic, Pythagorean, and Platonic schools of philosophy, he sought with ardour, for satisfactory views of the divine character. He was disappointed. In the christian religion he found that light which he desired, embraced the faith of the gospel, and became one of its ablest advo
cates; united himself to the church, and was one of its brightest ornaments. The doctrine of the atonement, which many professors of christianity consider as offering indignity to the divine character, was no obstacle to Justin's embracing the gospel. He was a man distinguished for his ardent piety, and possessed a considerable share of the most valuable learning of that age. As he lived so near the days of the apostles, and as he was not in his own time charged by any christian with having erroneous views of the atonement, it must be admitted, even by its enemies, that there is the greatest probability of his holding, on this subject, the doctrines taught by the apostles, and generally embraced in the church.
At the instigation of Crescens, a cynic philosopher, he was persecuted to the death, and has been hence called the martyr. *
Tertullian, a native of Carthage, who lived in the latter part of the second century, in a book which he wrote against the Jews, maintains the doctrine of the atonement. He says that“ Christ, was lead as a lamb to the slaughter, was dumb as a sheep before its shearers, that he might become a sacri. fice for all nations.”+ Tertullian was a man of warm, and vigorous imagination, and in many instances permitted his imagination to lead his judgment aside from the path of truth. The doctrine of the atonement, however, was one of too sacred a nature for even the imagination of Tertullian to meddle with. This remark may also be made with respect to Origen, who, in the beginning of the third century, distinguished himself not only by his great learning, research, and zeal in diffusing among the nations a knowledge of the religion of Jesus, but also by his corrupting many of its doctrines, and mixing with them extravagant fancies, borrowed from the Platonic philosophy. He was principal of the Alexandrian school: and on a journey to Achaia, was ordained a presbyter by the bishops of Cesarea and Jerusalem. His opinions were condemned in two councils,
* Mosheim's ecclesiastical history, v. i. f Lib. adversus Judios, c. 13.
and in the latter, he was degraded from his office. Yet with all his great fondness for innovation, he never presumed to deny, or even new-model the received doctrine of the church, relative to the atonement. On the contrary, he clearly and expressly maintains the doctrine of Christ's having been offered up as an atoning sacrifice. “If,” says he, * “ sin had not entered into the world, there would have been no need for the Son of God to become a lamb; nor would it have been necessary that he should become flesh in order to his being crucified, but he would have remained what he was from the beginning, God the Word. However, as sin has entered into the world, of necessity there must be a propitiation for sin; a propitiation cannot be made without a victim: hence there must be provided a victim for sin.” In his comment upon Matthew, chapter 16, he says: “ Man indeed can give nothing in exchange for his soul, but God can, even the precious blood of his Son; for we are not bought with corruptible things, such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of an immaculate lamb."
Had it been the received doctrine of the church in the age of Origen, that men are to be saved by the merit of their own good works, and that Christ did not die to make a propitiation for our sins, but only to set an example of holiness and patience; the doctrine taught in these passages would have been esteemed heresy. Demetrius, bishop of Alexandria, was a violent enemy of Origen; called councils, and had him condemned. Would Demetrius have failed to charge Origen with holding heretical opinions relative to the atonement, if he had departed from the faith of the church in a point of such importance? Certainly not. As we hear nothing of a charge of heresy relative to the atonement, brought against this father, notwithstanding the great interest, and violent dissentions, which he and his peculiar tenets excited in the church, we may warrantably conclude, that the doctrines which he taught on that subject, were the doctrines of the church in that age. This conclusion is at
* Homil. iv. in Numer.
least fair with respect to the church in Egypt. We have still farther evidence, that the doctrine of the atonement was embraced by the African churches. It is distinctly taught by Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, who was for a part of his life contemporary with Origen. Cyprian was a profound and elegant scholar, his eloquence was flowing and persuasive, and his piety ardent and exalted. This great and good man was crowned with martyrdom in the year 258.*
“Christ,” says this father, “bore us all, and it is he who bore our sins.”+ In his work on the passion of Christ, addressing himself to our Redeemer, he passionately exclaims, “ Pilate declared that in thee, there was no cause of death. Caiaphas, as he was high priest that year, prophesied that thy death should satisfy for the sins of a people unfriendly to thee.” Again he says, “no remedy could be found for our original death unless in the death of Christ, nor was it possible to reconcile to God condemned exiles, by any offering, unless by the glorious sacrifice of the blood of Christ." Thus it appears as far as we have the means of ascertain. ing, at this distant period, that, except by a few Judaizing teachers, the doctrine of the divine atonement was not called in question, during three hundred years from the birth of Christ. The primitive christians rejoiced in the consolation which this truth is calculated to impart, to all who are sensible of their weakness, and who in good earnest seek for salvation.
From Africa, let us direct our view to Judea, the fountain of gospel truth, both in old and new testament times. There we find the doctors of the church, teaching the same doctrine of the atonement, which we found were taught in other regions. Eusebius Pamphilus, bishop of Cesarea, the justly celebrated ecclesiastical historian, gives, without any equivocation his suffrage in favour of this scriptural doctrine of atonement. When speaking of the way in which sinners are restored to the divine favour, he says: “ the
Mosheim, vol. i. † Epis. 63. ad. Cecil parag. 9. lib. x. * De Demonstra. Evangel. c. i.
lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world was made a curse for us. God made him to be sin for us, although he knew no sin; he was constituted a Saviour, through being substituted in the room of us all, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” He says again, “ Not only does the lamb of God effect these things, but he is also made the author of the pardon of our sins, by suffering in our stead, that punishment which he had not deserved, but which we had inerited by the multitude of our sins. Christ suffered death in our room, and took upon himself the pains, distresses, and ignominy which were due to us, and, transfering from us to himself the curse, which was suspended over us, he was made a curse for us.
Such are the opinions of Eusebius on this subject. They were doubtless embraced in his day, by the greater part, probably by all christians in Judea. This learned and great man lived in the time of Constantine the great, and was a special favorite with that prince. Ancient christian writers, bear the most ample testimony in his favour. They speak of him as a great and good man, and pious bishop. Indeed, he needs not their eulogies to convince posterity of his worth. His own works, which have come down to our times, especially the work from which the above quotations are made, and his church history, hold up a portrait of his character, the features of which, no competent, and unprejudiced judge can mistake. It has, indeed, become fashionable, in our times, even among those who call themselves christians, to depreciate not only the character of Eusebius, but of the whole christian church in his time. That happy time which the spirit of prophecy designates as half an hour of rest and peace in the church, which all commentators admit was the time of Constantine, is fixed upon by some, as a time of the most boundless depravity. One would have expected to find all true christians, unite in blessing God for the events which then took place. Then it was that the glorious gospel of God vanquished the Roman empire, and, in some respects, broke in pieces the great image spoken of in Daniel, and filled the whole earth. Then princes upon their