Sayfadaki görseller
PDF
ePub

a

nature of a satisfaction. To answer the same ends as a penalty, the atonement must be somewhat like it.

All rational intelligences are capable of hope and fear, of praise and blame, and consequently, of pleasure and pain. An aversion to blame and pain is inherent in every moral agent; and so is the desire of praise and pleasure. It is to these affections that the whole administration of moral government addresses itself. Without them moral government cannot exist; as its promises and threatenings would be mere nullities. The threatenings of the law cannot be safely suspended by any expedient or atonement, unless the atonement be calculated to impress our hopes and fears as powerfully as the original penalty itself. This, according to our habits of conception, is most effectually done by the exhibition of sufferings; as by addressing itself forcibly to our aversion from pain, it is adapted to deter us from offending. As offenders were to be delivered from sufferings, it was arranged by infinite wisdom, that they should be delivered through the sufferings of another, in order to impress them with a sense of the evil of their transgression, of the benevolence of the divine government, and of their obligation to the Mediator. Sufferings were, therefore, introduced into the atonement, because they supplied the greatest number of motives to deter from sin, afforded the greatest amount of reasons for returning to allegiance, gave the soundest grounds of assurance of a cordial reception and pardon, and laid the most numerous and pressing bonds of obligations on the offenders.

One of the ends of the divine government in annexing a penal sanction to the law, was to deter us from sin, by addressing our hopes and fears; and, therefore, it threatened sufferings to the sinner. If the atonement that justifies the suspension of the threatening, answers this end of the government more effectually than the original penalty, then, the atonement is of a greater value to the government than the penalty itself. The history of salvation shews that the atonement is of greater value than the original penalty, because it contains in its arrangement a greater number of motives to deter from sin, and to attach the subjects to the government. It is invested with this kind of value by the introduction of amazing sufferings. I say, this kind of value; because I do not consider this value essential to the atonement as it works upwards towards the divine perfections, but I consider it as auxiliary to the atonement, as it works downwards, towards the feelings of the sinner.

The great sufferings of the Son of God were not intended, nor were they calculated to affect the character of a single attribute in God; but they are intended, and eminently adapted to affect the disposition and the character of the sinner. Hence arose the necessity and suitableness of perfecting the atonement by sufferings. The sufferings of one so illustrious in rank and worth, of one so full of love to the offender, of one so much abhorring sin, of one so much honoring the law—and such sufferings—are more adapted to deter men from sin, than the tidings, or even the sight of the sufferings and torments of all the fallen beings of the universe.

CHAPTER III.

ON THE ATONEMENT IN ITS RELATION TO THE PER.

FECTIONS OF GOD.

SECTION 1.

The whole character of God concerned in the

Atonement.

The divine perfections are those properties, attributes, and dispositions of the divine nature which form the character of God, and are made manifest in his works, and in his conduct towards the universe. We ascertain the properties and qualities of a king's mind by the institutions and laws established and promulgated in his government. Should any event transpire in the kingdom which might appear incompatible with this declared and well known character, every subject would be concerned to know, how far the king himself was concerned in that event, and by what measures he could vindicate and maintain his character notwithstanding such an event.

Let us suppose a case. In the history of the empire it is recorded that vast many of the inhabitants of one of the provinces revolted, and that the king immediately condemned them to perpetual bonds and punishme Sometime afterwards, the inhabitants of another province renounced their allegiance to his throne; but, instead of being like the others summarily punished, a flag of truce is sent to their province, and a message of reconciliation addressed to the rebellious offenders. When such a measure would become known, it would involve the character of the king in great mystery, if not in contradiction. The revolters who had been summarily punished would say, “The king has changed his mind. There is no such wrong, after all, in the revolt; the king has thought better of it, and we have been harshly and cruelly treated.” The subjects that continued in their loyalty would say, “This is mysterious. Here is the same law broken as in the former revolt in the other province, yet the same punishment does not follow. Perhaps the king sees now that such a law required too much, and that the infliction of its penalty is too severe. Peradventure, probably, the penalty shall never again be executed in any case. The indulged offenders would say, "This very message implies that the king himself sees that we had some grounds for our rebellion, that it was unwise to make such a strict law for us, and that the punishment is greater than our insurrection deserves. And as this message comes altogether unsought, we may

sure, that the king has determined never to inflict such a severe and disproportionate punishment again."

In such circumstances the character of the king would appear, even to some of his friends, as clouded, if not eclipsed. It is true, it would become the subjects to consider that they might not know all the state of the case, that they do not know all the arcana imperië of the administration. And their confidence in the king should not be weakened when they hear that he has appointed a day when he will fully and amply vindicate his character and government. More especially would we expect their confidence in the king to be strengthened when it was proclaimed to them from the throne, that he was about to introduce speedily into his administration a measure that would effectually maintain, vindicate, and explain, his whole character as connected with the events that had puzzled them.

Such a measure would shew that the king was concerned for his

now be

character among his subjects, and that he wished the validity of such a measure to be tried, more by its bearings on the royal character, than by its influence on the respited offenders.

Such an expedient, we have seen, was introduced by Zaleucus into the government of the Locrians. And such a measure has, we think, been introduced by God into the adıninistration of his moral government; and this measure is the atonement of his own Son.

The intrusion of sin into the universe, and the discrepancy in the divine administration towards fallen angels and fallen men, were calculated to obscure the character of God. His justice appeared fickle and capricious; his forbearance and clemency seemed unaccountable and unreasonable. Therefore the atonement was introduced, “to declare his RIGHTEOUSNESS for the remission of sins that are past, through the FORBEARANCE of God—that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.'

Hence the atonement is a measure inseparably connected with the whole of the divine character, and involves the honor of every attribute in God. It is a safe ground for the public exercise or display of every divine perfection, and it is an honorable medium for expressing the glory of every attribute. As the relation of the atonement to the divine perfections has been, we think, much misunderstood and misrepresented, our examination of such an aspect of it should be careful, serious, candid, and scriptural.

SECTION II.

Wrong views of the relation between the Atonement

and the Divine Perfections.

In the holy scriptures the atonement is never represented as calling into exercise any divine perfection which it does not suppose to be in exercise before.

By exercise I do not mean expression. Probably

« ÖncekiDevam »