Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

upon himself voluntarily. The divine justice would be in opposition to our doctrine, did we affirm that Jesus Christ took on himself the load of human guilt, to encourage men in the practice of sin; but we say that he acted thus in the view of sanctifying thein, by procuring their pardon. The divine justice would be in opposition to our doctrine did we affirm, that Jesus Christ, in assuming the load of our guilt, sunk under the weight of it, so that the universe, for the sake of a few guilty wretches, was deprived of the most distinguished being that could possibly exist; but we say that Jesus Christ, in dying for us, came off victorious over death and the grave. The divine justice, therefore, presents nothing inconsistent with the doctrine of the satisfaction.

But we go much farther, and affirm, that the idea of divine justice leads directly to the doctrine. The atonement corresponds to the demands of justice. We shall not here presume to determine the quèstion, Whether it is possible for God, consistently with his perfections, to pardon sin without exacting a satisfaction. Whatever advantage we might have over those who deny our thesis, we shall not press it on the present occasion. But, in any case, they must be disposed to make this concession, that if the wisdom of God has devised the means of ohtaining a signal satisfaction to justice, in unison with the most illustrious display of goodness; if he can give to the universe an unequivocal proof of his abhorrence of sin, in the very act of pardoning the sinner; if there be a method to keep offenders in awe,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

even while mercy is extended to them, it must undoubtedly be more proper to employ such a method than to omit it. This is the second step we advance toward our conclusion. Our second argument we carry thus far, and no farther.

3. Our third consideration is taken from the suggestions of conscience, and from the practice of all nations. Look at the most polished, and at the most barbarous tribes of the human race; at nations the most idolatrous, and at those which have discovered the purest ideas on the subject of religion. Consult authors of the remotest antiquity, and authors the most recent; transport yourself to the ancient Egyptians, to the Phenicians, to the Gauls, to the Carthaginians, and you will find that, in all ages, and in every part of the globe, men have expressed a belief that the Deity expected sacrifices should be offered up to him; nay, not only sacrifices, but such as had, as far as it was possible, something like a proportion to his greatness. Hence those magnificent temples ; hence those hecatombs; hence those human victims; hence that blood which streamed on the altars, and so many other rites of religious worship, the existence of which no one is disposed to call in question. What consequence do we deduce from this position? The truth of the doctrine of the atonement? No: we do not carry our inference so far. We only conclude, that there is no room to run down the Christian religion, if it instructs us that God demanded satisfaction to his justice, by an expiatory sacrifice, before he could give an unrestrained course to

his goodness. This third argument we carry thus far, and no farther.

4. A fourth reflection binges on the correspondence of our belief, respecting this particular, with that of every age of the Christian church, in uninterrupted succession, from Jesus Christ down to our own times.

All the ages of the Christian world have, as we do, spoken of this sacrifice. But we must not enlarge.

Whoever wishes for complete information on this particular, will find a very accurate collection of the testimonies of the fathers, at the end of the treatise on the satisfaction, composed by the celebrated Grotius. The doctrine of the atonement, therefore, is not a doctrine of yesterday, but has been transmitted from age to age, from Jesus Christ down to our own times. This argument we carry thus far, and no farther.

Here then we have a class of arguments which, after all, we would have you to consider only as so many presumptions in favour of the doctrine of the atonement. But surely we are warranted to proceed thus far, at least, in concluding: a doctrine in which human reason finds nothing contradictory; a doctrine which presents nothing repugnant to the divine attributes, nay to which the divine attributes directly lead us; a doctrine perfectly conformable to the suggestions of conscience, and to the practice of mankind in every age, and of every nation ; a doctrine received in the Christian church, from the beginning till now; a doctrine which, in all its parts, presents nothing but what is entirely worthy of God, when we examine it at the tribunal of our own understanding : such a doctrine contains nothing to excite our resentment, nothing that we ought not to be disposed to admit, if we find it clearly laid down in the Scriptures.

Now, my brethren, we have only to open the Bible in order to find express testimonies to this purpose; and not only do we meet with an infinite number of passages in which the doctrine is clearly taught, but a multitude of classes of such passages.

1. In the first class, we must rank all those passages which declare that Jesus Christ died for us. It would be no easy matter to enumerate them; “I delivered unto you first of all,” says St. Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthians, xv, 3. “ that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures. Christ also hath once suffered for sins,” says St. Peter, in his first epistle general, iii. 18. “the just for the unjust, that he inight bring us to God.”

2. In a second class must be ranked those passages which represent Jesus Christ as suffering the punishment which we had deserved. The fifty-third chapter of the prophet Isaiah turns entirely on this subject : and the apostles hold the self same language. They say expressly that Christ was made to be sin for us, who knew no sin, 2 Cor. v. 21, that he was made a curse for us, Gal. iii. 13. that he bare our sins in his own body on the tree, 1 Pet. ii. 24.

3. In a third class must be ranked all those passages in which our salvation is represented as being the fruit of Christ's death. The persons, whose opinions we are combating, maintain themselves on

a ground which we established in a former branch of this discourse, namely, that the death of Jesus Christ was a demonstration of the truth of his doctrine. They say that this is the reason for which our salvation is considered as the effect of that death. But if we are saved by the death of Jesus Christ, merely because it has sealed a doctrine which leads to salvation, how comes it then, that our salvation is no where ascribed to the other parts of his ministry, which contributed, no less than his death, to the confirmation of his doctrine ? Were not the miracles of Jesus Christ, for example, proofs equally authentic as his death was, of the truth of his doctrine ? Whence comes it, that our salvation is no where ascribed to them? This is the very thing we are maintaining. The resurrection, the ascension, the miracles were absolutely necessary to give us assurance, that the wrath of God was appeased; but Christ's death alone was capable of producing that effect. You will more sensibly feel the force of this argument, if


attend to the connection which our text has with what follows in the 17th verse, " Wherefore in all things it behoved hiin to be made like unto his brethren; that he might be a merciful and faithful high-priest .

.... to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.”

If we are saved by the death of Jesus Christ, merely because that event sealed the truth of his doctrine, wherefore should it have been necessary

for him to assume our flesh? Had he descended from heaven in the effulgence of his glory; had he appeared upon Mount Zion, such as he was upon VOL, VI,


« AnteriorContinuar »