« IndietroContinua »
sent to be the Savior of the world - to be the reconciler, and restorer, of the whole human race; that is, to effect the removal of what excluded the Gentiles from the Church of God. Paul says, “ For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” Here the life of Christ is made even more efficacious than his death. Our reconciliation is also said to be effected by the Gospel; so that whatever is effected by the death of Christ, the same is effected by the Gospel which was confirmed by his death. It is, too, worthy of notice, that the same blood and cross of Christ are said to have put an end to the enmity between the Jews and Gentiles, and thus to have effected a reconciliation between them. And certainly there could not have been an atonement in such a case.
We can thus gather the real meaning of this word atonement or reconciliation, and how it is brought about by the coming of Christ. His kingdom, the reign of truth, and peace, and holiness, and righteousness, is thus extended and established in the world. The darkness of sin and superstition dispelled ; men converted from the error of their ways, and brought, in heart and practice, to trust and obey the one true and living God. In this consists Gospel reconciliation. “God having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ ; as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's stead, Be ye reconciled to God.”
Such is this doctrine of Atonement. And such is the character of the terms, expressions, passages, on which it is founded. This consideration and examination might easily be further extended. I am well aware that much more might be said; and profitably said; for unhappily, error, long established and widely spread, demands for its confutation, not a sermon but a volume. Still, I hope enough has been given, to prove that there is both Scripture and argument on the side of those, who feel themselves compelled to reject this doctrine of Atonement as not belonging to the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I would repeat it, on the Trinitarian scheme I do not see how any Atonement has been, or could be, offered. This scheme teaches “One God in three persons.” Whatever is done by God, then, must be done by the whole ; not the Father alone, nor the Son alone, nor the Spirit alone. The anger of God must be the anger of the three persons; and the satisfaction to that anger must be made by the Three to the Three. If Christ made the Atonement, then God made it. To whom did he make it to himself? Can there be “divided and opposite sentiments” in the mind of God? These are difficult questions, but I am not called on to answer them.
The errors which stand out prominently in all statements made of this doctrine of Atonement, by those who receive and support it, and which infect all their reasonings and explanations, are these — wrong views of what is called God's sovereignty, and the true objects of the divine government - giving a literal interpretation to that which is metaphorical, and regarding figures, not as impressive illustrations, but accurate definitions of truth - considering the death of Christ separate from his life and character -- viewing Christ as the representative of man, and suffering the pains and penalties to which he is thought to have been liable, instead of being the representative of God, and sent by him to enlighten, purify and save mankind.
There are some kindred interpretations of this doctrine which differ from the views already considered, chiefly in the extent that they give to the efficacy of the Atonement. Some allowing that to all men, which others confine to the elect. But just so far as these retain the false principle of “substitution," requiring an innocent person to suffer that the guilty may go free, so far are they opposed to the true character of God, and the real design of the Gospel. It matters little what phraseology may be employed, whether the death of Christ be viewed in the light of a “ satisfaction," or only as a display of God's “ hatred of sin.” The error may be less open, but it is still error.
I have hardly left myself space or time for stating, at the length I intended, the real design of the death of Christ. Unitarians have been strangely and sadly misunderstood on this point.' They have been represented as believing that Jesus died only as a martyr and witness to the truth of his Gospel; and as relying on their own merits as the sole ground of acceptance with God. Statements as incorrect as they could well be. Their chosen reliance is on the mercy of God, the free, unpurchased, unlimited mercy of God; and not on what they conscientiously believe to be an unscriptural doctrine. And if they do not speak of the character, life, sufferings and death of Christ, in terms the most affectionate, grateful and exalted, then I do not know the meaning of language. They do not regard the sufferings and death of Christ VOL. XV.-No. 168.
as a punishment, simply for this reason, that the sufferings of an innocent being never can be punishment. When any one suffers in doing his duty or in rendering kindness to others, he cannot be said to be punished. Suffering may be inflicted on a righteous man, and he may consent to endure it for another's good. But who can call this punishment, unless we make benevolence a crime. Authority punishes for the fault ; law punishes for the transgression. But Jesus, the righteous, the beneficent, the undefiled, who shall so misname his labors and his agony as to call them punishment! No; Jesus Christ did indeed suffer, but for reasons stated in the Scriptures. “Though he were a son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” “For in that he himself suffered, being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.” “For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto, glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through suffering." " Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.” “Thus it behoved Christ to suffer, that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations.". May such ever be the preaching of the Gospel teacher. Let the holy connection of repentance and remission of sins never be lost sight of — since, to communicate this truth, and to give this encouragement, Christ both lived, and died, and rose again. . . .
The death of Christ was necessary for the fulfilment of the great design of his divine mission; and an essential part of the Gospel scheme which offers pardon and salvation unto men. All Christians agree as to the importance of this solemn event, however widely they may differ on the question - how the death of Christ is a means of salvation. Still, all who read the Gospel record, and reflect upon the circumstances in which our Savior was placed, and the character of the Jews in his time, must be satis. fied that such death was unavoidable. There have been only four ways stated in which Jesus could have escaped death. “By falling in with the wishes of the Jews, and becoming their temporal Messiah — by gradually instilling into the minds of his countrymen just views, and withholding unwelcome truths — by hiding himself in a retired or secret place — by employing his miraculous powers to effect his escape.” Every one of these is plainly in. consistent with the known character of Jesus, and the great purposes of his mission. No. His death was un. avoidable, and it was perfectly voluntary. Herein was one of the most holy and beautiful manifestations of Christ. For, though he knew from the beginning what would be his sufferings and death, not a word did he withhold, not a step.did he turn aside from his path, to escape the treachery, the judgment seat, the cross. Suppose a preacher of simple, rational Christianity, had appeared in Spain in the dark days when the Inquisition was in full, uncontrolled power; how long a period would have elapsed before he would have been immured in a dungeon or burnt at the stake? Were the Jewish priests less malicious and persecuting than those of a later day?..