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professes himself to be the guardian and avenger of his laws; and hence possesses the claims not only of a creditor which he might assert, or remit at pleasure, but also the right of government, and punishment which is naturally indispensable. We must, however, in the punishment itself distinguish accurately between the enforcing of the penalty, and the manner and circumstances under which it is enforced as they are things widely different. Punishment may be viewed generally; and in this respect the right of Heaven to inflict it is natural; .and its claims indispensable, for they are founded in the divine justice. If there be such an attribute as justice, and who will dispute it, belonging to God, then sin must have its due, which is punishment. But as to the manner and circumstances of the punishment, the case is altogether different. They are not essential to that attribute. They are to be arranged according to his will and pleasure. It may seem fit to the goodness of God that there should be, in relation to time, a delay of punishment-in relation to degree, a mitigation of it, and in relation to per sons, a substition. For although the person sinning deserves punishment and might be punished with the strictest justice, yet such punishment is not necessarily, indispensable. Por reasons of great importance, there may be a transfer of the punishment to a surety. In this sense it is said by divines that sin is of necessity punished impersonally, but every sinner is not therefore of necessity to be punished personally. Through the singular mercy of God some may be exempted from punishment, by the substitution of a surety in their stead.
But that we may conceive it possible for God to do this, he must be considered not as an inferior judge appointed by law. An officer of that character, cannot remit any thing of the rigor of the law by transfering the punishment, from the actual offender, to another person. God must be viewed in his true character, as a supreme judge who giveth account of none of his matters, who will satisfy his justice by the punishment of sin, and who, through his infinite wisdom, and unspeakable mercy, determines to do this in such a way
as shall relax somewhat of the extreme rigour of punishment, by admitting a substitute, and letting the sinner go free. Hence we discover to whom the atonement is to be made, whether to the devil, (as Socinus with a sneer, asks) or to God, as sovereign judge? For as the devil is no more than the servant of God, the keeper of the prison, who has no power over sinners, unless by the just judgment of God, the atonement is not to be made to this executor of the divine vengeance, but to the Supreme Ruler, who primarily, and principally holds them in durance. We may add, that it is a gratuitous and false supposition, that in the suffering of punishment, there must be some person to whom the punishment shall be rendered, as in a pecuniary debt. It is sufficient that there is a judge, who may exact it in order to support the majesty of the state, and maintain the order of the empire.
4. The person who makes the atonement is here to be considered. As sin is to be viewed in the threefold light of debt, enmity, and crime; and God in the threefold light of creditor, party offended, and judge; so Christ must put on a threefold relation corresponding to all these. He must sustain the character of a surety, for the payment of the debt. He must be a mediator, a peace-maker, to take away the enmity of the parties, and reconcile us to God. He must be a priest and victim, to substitute himself in our room, and make atonement, by enduring the penal sanction of the law. That such an atonement may be made, two things are requisite. 1. That the same nature which sins shall make res. titution. 2. That the consideration given must possess infinite value, in order to the removal of the infinite demerit of sin. In Christ, two natures were necessary for the making of an atonement-a human nature which might suffer, and a divine nature which might give the requisite value to his sufferings.
Finally, We must demonstrate how it is possible, in consistency with justice, to substitute an innocent person, as Christ was, in our room, and shew what things are necessary to render such a substitution just; because, at first view, it appears not only to be unusual, but also unjust.
Though a substitution, which is common in a pecuniary debt, rarely occurs in penal transactions, nay, is sometimes prohibited, as was the case among the Romans, because no one is master of his own life, and because the commonwealth would suffer loss in such cases, yet it was not unknown among the heathen. We have an example of it in Damon and Pithias. They were intimate friends. One of them voluntarily entered himself bail to Dionisius in a capital cause. Curtius, Codrus, and Brutus, devoted themselves for their country. The right of punishing hostages, when princes fail in their promises, has been recognized by all nations. Hence hostages are called artid ugos, substitutes. To this Paul alludes, when he says, (Rom. v. 7.)“ For a good man some would even dare to die.” The holy scriptures often give it support, not only from the imputation of sin, by which one bears the punishment due to another, but from the public use of sacrifices, in which the victim was substituted in the place of the sinner, and suffered death in his stead. Hence the imposition of hands, and the confession of sins over the head of the victims.
But that such a substitution may be made without the slightest appearance of injustice, various conditions are requisite in the substitute or surety, all which are found in Christ: 1. A common nature, that sin
be punished in the same nature which is guilty, (Heb. ii. 14.) 2. The con. sent of the will, that he should voluntarily take the burden upon himself, (Heb. x. 9.) “ Lo I come to do thy will.” 3. Power and right over his own life, so that, of his own right, he may resolve respecting his own life or death. (John X. 18.) “ No one taketh away my life, but I lay it down of myself, for I have power to lay it down, and take it up again.” 4. The power of bearing the punishment due to us, and of freeing both himself and us from the power of death; because, if he himself could be holden of death, he could free no one from its dominion. That Christ possesses this power no one doubts. 5. Holiness and immaculate purity, that, being polluted by no sia, he might not have to offer sacrifice for himself but for us only. (Heb. vii. 26, 27, 28.)
Under these conditions it was not unjust for Christ to substitute himself in our room, while he is righteous and we unrighteous. By this act no injury is done to any one. Not to Christ, for he voluntarily took the punishment upon himself, and had power to decide concerning his own life and death, and also power to raise himself from the dead. Not to God the judge, for he willed and commanded it; nor to his natural justice, for the bail satisfied this by suffering the punishment which it demanded. Not to the empire of the universe, by depriving an innocent person of life, as Christ, freed from death, lives for evermore; nor by the life of the surviving sinner injuring the kingdom of God, for he is converted and made holy by Christ. Not to the divine law, for its honour has been maintained by the perfect fulfilment of all its demands, through the righteousness of the Mediator; and by our legal and mystical union, he becomes one with us, and we one with him. Hence he may justly take upon him our “ griefs and sorrows," and impart to us his righteousness and blessings. So there is no abrogation of the law, no derogation from its majesty, no diminution of its claims; as what we owed is transferred to the account of Christ, to be paid by him.
These preliminary remarks we have thought necessary, in order to the lucid discussion of the question concerning the necessity of the atonement. We now proceed to enquire whether it was necessary that Christ should satisfy for us, as well absolutely, in relation to the divine justice, as hypothetically, on the ground of a divine decree:- Whether it was absolutely necessary in order to our salvation, that an atonement should be made, God not having the power to pardon our sins without a satisfaction, or whether it was only rendered necessary by the divine decree? The Socinians indeed admit no kind of necessity. Some of the old divines, and some members of the Reformed church, contend for a hypothetical necessity only. They think it sufficient for the refutation of the heretic. But we, with the great body of the orthodox, contend for both. We do not urge a necessity simply natural; such as that of fire to burn,
which is involuntary, and admits of no modification in its exercise. It is a moral and rational necessity for which we plead; one which flows from the holiness and justice of God, and cannot be exercised any other way than freely and voluntarily, and which admits of various modifications, provided there is no infringement of the natural rights of Deity.
That there is such a necessity is evinced by many arguments. 1. The vindictive justice of God. That such an attribute is natural and essential to God, has been proved at large elsewhere. This avenging justice belongs to God as a judge, and is essentially connected with that character which he sustains, and with which he can no more dispense, than he can cease to be a judge, or deny himself; though, at the same time, he exercises it freely. It does not consist in the exercise of a gratuitous power, like mercy, which, whether it be exercised or not, injustice is done to no one. It is that attribute by which Deity gives to every one his due, and from the display of which, when proper objects are presented, God can no more abstain, than he can do what is unjust. This justice is the constant will of punishing sinners, which in Deity, cannot be inefficient, as his majesty is supreme, and his power infinite. And hence the infliction of punishment upon the transgressor or his surety is inevitable. A regard to the liberty of God, which he exercises in positive acts, forms no objection to this; nor does his mercy; which, though it may free the singer from punishment, does not demand that sin shall not be punished.
2. The nature of sin, which is a moral evil and essentially opposed to holiness, forms another argument. The connection between it and physical evil is natural and necessary. As physical evil, or penal evil cannot exist without moral evil, either personal or imputed, so there cannot be moral evil without producing natural evil. Moral and physical good, or holiness and happiness are united together by the divine wisdom, as well as by the goodness and justice of God, so that a good man must be happy, for goodness is a part of the divine image. The wicked must be miserable,