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this it may be stated, that it was the faith of the old Polish Socinians “that Christ, by the divine will and purpose, suffered for our sins, and underwent a bloody death for an expiatory sacrifice.” They believed in such atonement by Jesus Christ, as also did Socinus himself, who wrote on the subject and gloried in the doctrine. I mention this, that it may be plainly seen, that the name Socinian, which is sometimes put upon modern Unitarians is not at all applicable. Surely, those who believed in the atonement as expiatory, and worshipped Christ, as did the Socinians, differed widely from Unitarians of the pres. ent day.
Such is this doctrine of Atonement - whose interpretation is, satisfaction made to the divine justice, for the sins of mankind, by the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ. Had this doctrine been charged upon Christianity by an enemy, I should have wondered at his boldness, and repelled the charge with a moral indignation. Had this doctrine been brought forward by some weak and ignorant believer in the Gospel, I should have pitied his weakness, and felt it to be my duty to enlighten his ignorance. But when I know that it is believed by the wise and good ; by men of learning and integrity; those whose sincerity I will not doubt, whose ability I will not question - I confess I am utterly astonished, I am wholly at a loss, I do not know what to say. Blessed be God! I am not called on to judge - neither do I judge my broher. We have all one master, even Christ, and to his own master each one standeth or falleth. But while I feel all respect for individual worth ; while I cherish a proper indulgence for weakness common to all, I trust I may be excused from respect or indulgence to the mis
takes themselves. In what I may have to say, then, I shall have no reference to the advocates, only the opinions ; not to the believer, but the doctrine. And of this doctrine, I must say, in the language of Bishop Hurd himself a believer and a defender — " it is a doctrine, at which Reason stands aghast, and Faith herself is half confounded !"
The history of this doctrine, in its first rise and subse. quent progress, is full of interest; but here it can only be briefly referred to. It required many years to bring it into the shape in which it has been at this time presented. There were several summaries of Christian doctrine made by the early Christians, but in none of these was placed this one. But without dwelling on the testimony of Christian writers for the three centuries after the birth of Christ, — which is as unfavorable to the modern hypothesis of the Trinity, as to the notion of a vicarious Atonement, - it may be said at once, that the latter doctrine was first brought into what may be called a regular shape in 1530, in the Confession of Faith presented to the Emperor Charles the Fifth, at Augsburgh. So that in this sense, it may be called a doctrine of the Reformation. Without following this doctrine through its various alterations and modifications, and assigning to it the earliest origin possible, I still set it down as a corruption of true Christianity. And I do not know that a corruption is any the better for being of long standing – or less to be dreaded because it is old. I think we should rather mourn that it has continued so long; especially when we remember, that, on a general principle, what has been many years growing, will be a long time in passing away. This doctrine, however, is on the decline. Marks of de
cay may be seen on it — for while many and many have rejected or are rejecting ; so, too, many of those who retain are explaining it in newer and more approved methods, thus making it an“ article of peace ;" or subscribe ing to it for “substance of doctrine."
This doctrine owes its origin and continuance to the same unhappy principle that has introduced but too many corruptions into Christianity - that is, wrong views of the character of God. Before the coming of Christ, men made their own gods, and they made them like themselves. Even in that single people where only the true God was known, he is represented as saying, “thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself.” Men have retained, since, but too much of the same disposition to fashion their God according to their own liking. The Pagan trembled before his god, and sought to win his favor or avert his anger. So he built his altar, and brought his sheaf, or slaughtered his victim ; and as the fame ascended and the cloud of incense rolled, he felt happy in the thought that he had secured the good will of his deity. He went to him, as among men the feeble go to the strong, with a gift in his hands — to conciliate, to propitiate, to buy protection and kindness. He went to his god as the slave to his master, the subject to his king, and kneeled, and sung his song of praise, and offered his present, believing in his heart that his god would smile, even as the master and the king would smile. And this is a plain and rational account of the institution or cust tom of sacrifice. Precisely in the same way can we account for the doctrine we are considering. Christians were not called on to bring their first fruits, to pour out their wine and oil, or shed the blood of bulls and goats
so the death of Christ was made a sacrifice. And since man, by his transgressions, was regarded as offending the only true God, the anger of that God was appeased and satisfaction made to his justice by the atonement of his well-beloved son. There is but too much melancholy evidence of the effect of heathenism over Christianity; and when it became the state religion of Rome's great empire, history tells us how sadly successful were the efforts to accommodate the Gospel to a pagan taste. The visiter at the great city, even in our day, plainly discovers the infusion and the influence, and tells a mournful tale of saints and festivals, which have changed the names, but kept the character, of heathen divinities and heathen revels. But alas ! the influence over the spirit and doctrines of the Gospel was more subtile and less perceived ; and many, who live at a distance from the showy ceremonies of a corrupted faith, are not aware that doctrines they cherish are unhealthy grafts, and not the natural branches of the tree of life.
From such an influence came the doctrine of Atonement. Not, indeed, in the form it now wears; it passed through many transformations — it crept before it few. Some of the early opinions with regard to this doctrine will sound strangely in modern ears, for, I fear I shall hardly be believed when I say, that the death of Christ was once regarded as the price of our redemption paid over to the being known by the name of Devil or Satan. Yet it was so understood beyond all contradiction. Ori. gen says, “if we are bought with a price, we must have been bought from some person whose slaves we were but it was the devil that held us. For to him we had been given over for our sins. Wherefore, he demanded the blood of Christ as the price of our redemption." Neither was this a solitary opinion, for a host of names might be mentioned who also maintained it. Afterwards, it is true, the opinion prevailed that the price was paid to God — though it was not admitted without great hesitation. “Was the price paid to the Father ?" says one writer; “but how, for we were not held by him, and how could the Father be delighted with the blood of his only begotten son, when he would not receive Isaac who was offered to him by Abraham."
Not only has there been great difference of opinion as to the person or party to whom was paid the price of human Redemption, but also difference of opinion as to the precise time or “scene of Christ's meritorious suffering." Some have found it in what is called Christ's agony in the garden; in which he is said to have endured the wrath of God, and to have suffered to a degree equal to the everlasting misery which was due to countless millions of mankind. Do we not read in the accounts given to us of this agony, “ there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him." From whom came this messenger of mercy to soothe and support ? Surely from God. Does this look like such a manifestation of divine displeasure as to justify the horrible declaration that Jesus then felt “ the severity of the divine vengeance ?" Others have supposed that it was on the cross that Christ endured the “penal suffering." They support this opinion by the exclamation of Jesus - My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me! As Christ, on the Trinitarian scheme, was God-man, or perfect God and perfect man, if God had forsaken Christ, then, as there is but one God, the divine part or nature of Christ had forsaken the human