« AnteriorContinuar »
These remarks may suffice to show, not only that Mr. Paine's assertion has no truth in it, but that all those professors of Christianity who have adopted his principle, have so far deviated from the doctrine of redemption as it is taught in the scriptures.
As to what Mr. Paine alleges, that the innocent suffering for the guilty, even though it be with his own consent, is contrary to every principle of moral justice, be affirms the same of God's visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children.* But this is a truth evident by universal experience. It is seen every day, in every part of the world. If Mr. Paine indulge in intemperance, and leave children behind him, they may feel the consequences of his * Age of Reason, Part I. p. 4. Note.
come and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church." Nor was this all: so well pleased was he with all that he did and suffered, as to reward it not only with honours conferred upon himself, but with blessings on sinners for his sake. Whatever is asked in his name, it is given us.
It is thus, as the writer apprehends, that A WAY WAS OPENED BY THE MEDIATION OF CHRIST, FOR THE FREE AND CONSISTENT EXERCISE OF MERCY IN ALL THE METHODS WHICH SOVEREIGN WISDOM SAW FIT TO ADOPT.
There are three kinds of blessings in particular, which God, out of regard to the death of his Son, bestows upon men: First, He sends forth the gospel of salvation, accompanied with a free and indefinite invitation to embrace it, and an assurance that whosoever complies with the invitation, (for which there is no ability wanting in any man who possesses an honest heart,) shall have everlasting life. This favour is bestowed oN SINNERS AS SINNERS. God giveth the true bread from heaven in this way to many who never receive it. He inviteth those to the gospel supper who refuse and make light of it.— John vi. 32-36. Matt. xxii. 4, 5, Secondly, He bestows his Holy Spirit to renew and sanctify the soul: gives a new heart and a right spirit, and takes away the heart of stone. Christ is exalted to give repentance. Acts v. 31. Unto us it is given in behalf of Christ, to believe in him. Phil. i. 29. We have obtained like precious faith through the righteousness of God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ. 2 Pet. i. 1. This favor is conferred on ELECT SINNERS. See Acts xiii. 48. Rom. viii. 28-30. Thirdly, Through the same medium is given the free pardon of all our sins, acceptance with God, power to become the sons of God, and the promise of everlasting life. Your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake. 1 John, ii. 12. God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. Ephes. iv. 32. We are accepted in the beloved. Ephes. i. 6. By means of his death we receive the promise of eternal inheritance. Heb. ix. 15. This kind of blessings is conferred on BELIEVING SINNERS.
misconduct when he is in the grave. The sins of the father may thus be visited upon the children to the third and fourth generation. It would, however, be their affliction only, and not their punishment. Yet such visitations are wisely ordered as a motive to sobriety. Nor is it between parents and children only that such a connexion exists, as that the happiness of one depends upon the conduct of others; a slight survey of society, in its various relations, must convince us that the same principle pervades creation. To call this injustice, is to fly in the face of the Creator. With such an objector I have nothing to do: He that reproveth God, let him answer it.
If the idea of the innocent suffering in the room of the guilty, were in all cases inadmissible, and utterly repugnant to the human understanding, how came the use of expiatory sacrifices to prevail as it has, in every age and nation? Whether the idea first proceeded from a divine command, as Christians generally believe, or whatever was its origin, it has approved itself to the minds of men, and not of the most uncultivated part of mankind only, but of the most learned and polite. The sacrifices of the Gentiles, it is true, were full of superstition, and widely different, as might be expected, from those which were regulated by the scriptures; but the general principle is the same: all agree in the idea of the displeasure of Deity being appeasable by an innocent victim being sacrificed in the place of the guilty. The idea of expiatory sacrifices, and of a mediation founded upon them, is beautifully expressed in the book of Job; a book not only of great antiquity, but which seems to have obtained the approbation of Mr. Paine, having, as he supposed, been written by a Gentile. And it was so, that, after the Lord had spoken these words unto Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath. Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt-offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you, for him will I accept; lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job. So Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the
Naamathite, went and did according as the Lord commanded them; the Lord also accepted Job.* The objections which are now made to the sacrifice of Christ, equally apply to all expiatory sacrifices; the offering up of which, had not the former superseded them, would have continued to this day.
If an innocent character offer to die in the room of a guilty fellow-creature, it is not ordinarily accepted, nor would it be proper that it should. For he may have no just right to dispose of his life; or if he have, he has no power to resume it: there may likewise be no such relation between the parties, as that the suffering of the one should express displeasure against the conduct of the other. Besides this, there may be no great and good end accomplished to society by such a substitution: the loss sustained by the death of the one, might be equal, if not superior, to the gain from the life of the other. If the evil to be endured might be survived; if the relation between the parties were such, that in the sufferings of the one, mankind would be impressed with the evil of the other; and if, by such a proceeding, great advantage would accrue to society, instead of being accounted inadmissible, it would be reckoned right, and wise, and good. If a dignified individual, by enduring some temporary severity from an offended nation, could appease their displeasure, and thereby save his country from the destroying sword, who would not admire his disinterested conduct? And if the offended from motives of humanity, were contented with expressing their displeasure, by transferring the effect of it from a whole nation to an individual who thus stepped forward on their behalf, Would their conduct be censured as "indiscriminate revenge?" The truth is, The atonement of Christ affords a display of Justice on too large a scale, and on too humbling a principle, to approve itself to a contracted, selfish, and haughty mind.
* Chap. xlii. 7-9.
THE CONSISTENCY OF THE SCRIPTURE DOCTRINE OF REDEMPTION WITH THE MODERN OPINION OF THE MAGNITUDE OF CREATION.
It is common for Deists to impute the progress of their principles to the prevalence of true philosophy. The world, they say, is more enlightened; and, a great number of discoveries are progressively making, which render the credibility of the scriptures more and more suspicious. It is now a commonly received opinion, for instance, among men of science, that this world is but a point in creation; that every planet is a world, and all the fixed stars so many suns in the centres of so many systems of worlds; and that, as every part of creation within our knowledge teems with life, and as God has made nothing in vain, it is highly probable that all these worlds are inhabited by intelligent beings, who are capable of knowing and adoring their Creator. But if this be true, how incredible is it that so great a portion of regard should be exercised by the Supreme Being towards man as the scriptures represent: how incredible, especially it must appear to a thinking mind, that Deity should become incarnate, should take human nature into the most intimate union with himself, and thereby raise it to such singular eminency in the scale of being; though, compared with the whole of creation, if we comprehend even the whole species, it be less than a nest of insects compared with the unnumbered millions of animated beings which inhabit the earth.
This objection, there is reason to think, has had a very considerable influence on the speculating part of mankind. Mr. Paine, in the first part of his Age of Reason, (pp. 40—47.) has laboured, VOL. III.
after his manner, to make the most of it, and thereby to disparage Christianity. "Though it is not a direct article of the Christian system," he says, "that this world which we inhabit is the whole of the habitable creation; yet it is so worked up therewith, from what is called the Mosaic account of the creation, the story of Eve and the apple, and the counterpart of that story-the death of the Son of God, that to believe otherwise, that is, to believe that God created a plurality of worlds, at least as numerous as what we call stars, renders the Christian system of faith at once little and ridiculous, and scatters it in the mind like feathers in the air. The two beliefs cannot be held together in the same mind; and he who thinks he believes both, has thought but little of either." (p. 40.)
Again: Having discoursed on the vast extent of creation, he asks, "But in the midst of these reflections, what are we to think of the Christian system of faith, that forms itself upon the idea of only one world, and that of no greater extent than twenty-five thousand miles?"-" From whence could arise the solitary and strange conceit, that the Almighty, who had millions of worlds equally dependant on his protection, should quit the care of all the rest, and come to die in our world, bucause they say one man and one woman had eaten an apple? And, on the other hand, Are we to suppose that every world in the boundless creation had an Eve, an apple, a serpent, and a Redeemer? In this case, the person who is irreverently called the Son of God, and sometimes God himself, would have nothing else to do, than to travel from world to world, in an endless succession of death, with scarcely a momentary interval of life." (p 46.)
To animadvert upon all the extravagant and offensive things even in so small a part of Mr. Paine's performance as the above quotation, would be an irksome task. A few remarks, however, may not be improper.
First: Though Mr. Paine is pleased to say in his usual style of naked assertion, that "the two beliefs cannot be held together; and that he who thinks he believes both, has thought but little of either;" yet he cannot be ignorant that many who have admitted the one, have at the same time held fast the other. Mr. Paine is certainly not over-loaded with modesty, when comparing his own