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The Death of Jesus Christ. What was its design and end ; the object to be effected by it, the benefit to be secured? All Christians will unite in saying, the salvation of mankind, But, then, all Christians will not mean the same thing, though they use the same words. They have different interpretations of the word salvation, and different accounts of the manner in which the salvation is obtained. By salvation, some Christians understand a deliverance from the perversity, the corruption, the guilt, of sin ; while other Christians understand a deliverance from the pains, the penalties, the punishment, of sin. Some Christians believe that Jesus Christ suffered and died for our benefit, and that by his instructions and example, his life, and death, and resurrection, he has furnished directions, inducements, helps, whereby all can be saved; while other Christians believe that Jesus Christ suffered and died in our stead, and that by means of his sufferings and death he saves mankind from that endless doom, to which, as sinners, they were justly liable. Some Christians believe that Jesus Christ died to establish the truths of his Gospel, and to bring life and immortality to
light by his resurrection from the dead; while other Christians believe that he died to satisfy divine justice and make atonement for the sins of men.
As my limits will not allow me to examine into all the views entertained by Christians as to the design and end of the death of Christ, I must, necessarily, select some one interpretation and limit my considerations to that. Even then, I cản only touch on the more prominent parts, to furnish hints and suggestions, rather than give a full exposition. As Unitarians, we are generally regarded as rejecting the doctrine of Atonement. The true, Scripture doctrine, we receive, and gladly, as being full of strength and hope. But the interpretation which some put upon it, and even what has been called “the popular doctrine of the Atonement;" we do reject. It is well, then, for our own satisfaction, and also out of a proper respect to the opinions of those Christians from whom we differ, occasionally to review the arguments, which have induced us to reject their interpretations of the doctrine, and cleave to our own as more scriptural, intelligible, sanctifying and saving.
What is this doctrine of Atonement, which we thus reject? It has been called one of the doctrines of the Reformation, and a belief in it insisted on as essential to salvation. I will state it. And, to prevent any mistake on my part, I will give the very words of those who sincerely and earnestly have believed or do still believe in it - beginning at the Reformation and coming down to the present day. Luther says, “ All the Prophets did foresee . in spirit, that Christ should become the greatest transgressor, murderer, thief, rebel and blasphemer that ever was, or could be, in the world. For he being made a
every word do still belown to the
sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, is not now an innocent person, but a sinner. Whatsoever sins, I, thou, we, all have done, or shall do hereafter, they are Chtist's own sins, as verily as if he himself had done them.” Cal. vin says, “We understand from these circumstances — of his trial — that he sustained the character of a malefactor, – that in his soul he suffered the torments of a damned and forsaken man, – that the burden of damnation from which we were delivered was laid upon Christ; and that there is no other satisfaction, by which God, being displeased, may be made favorable and appeased.” The Church of England, among its thirty-nine articles, has these — "The offering of Christ once made, is the perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual ; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone. We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by faith ; and not for our own works or deservings." The Kirk of Scotland, in its Confession of Faith, declares “ Christ by his obedience did fully discharge the debt of all who are thus justified, and did make a proper, real, and full.satisfaction to his Father's justice in our behalf.” In the constitution of the Presbyterian Church in this country, we find “ that the Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself, which he, through the eternal spirit, once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of the Father, and purchased not only reconcilia. tion, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven for all those whom the father hath given unto him. And that those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth, not for any thing wrought in them or
VOL. XV. NO. 168. .
done by them, but for Christ's sake alone, by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them.” President Edwards remarks, “ Salvation is an absolute debt to the believer from God, for Christ has satisfied justice fully for his sin ; so that it is but a thing that may be challenged, that God should now release the believer from punishment. The believer may demand eternal life because it has been merited by Christ.” Dr. Woods, of Andover, in his letters to Unitarians, maintains that “ God has provided a perfect righteousness as the foun. dation of hope, and has taught that the salvation of sinners depends wholly on Christ crucified, and that no works of righteousness which they have done, and no accomplishments or dispositions which they possess, must ever be named in his presence; for God has sent his son to be a propitiation, and has told us that we must rely upon his atoning blood, as the sole ground of forgiveness." Professor Stuart, in his discourses on the Atonement, talks of the great expiatory offering made by Christ, and contends that “ Christ suffered as our substitute — or that his sufferings and death were an expiatory offering, on account of which our sins are pardoned and we are restored to divine favor." A belief in this doctrine is, also, a leading article with some Universalists — especially such as are inclined to Calvinistic principles, or adopt the views of Murray, who has been called the father of American Universalism. This doctrine is not, as some suppose, held exclusively by Trinitarians. Scott in his “Force of Truth,” insists, that “it is a contradiction to believe in the real and consequently infinite satisfaction to divine justice made by the death of Christ, without believing him to be very God of very God.” As a reply to