Page images

We must thus advance step by step up to truth, and form, of those arguments united, a demonstration so much the more satisfactory, in proportion as we have granted to those who dispute it, all that they could in reason ask. On this principle, we divide our arguments into two classes. The first, we propose only as presumptions in favor of the doctrine of the satisfaction. To the second we ascribe the solidity and weight of demonstration. Of the first class are the following.

1. We allege human reason as a presumptive argument in support of the doctrine which we maintain. We do not mean to affirm, that human reason derives from the stores of her own illumina.' tion, the truth of this doctrine. So far from that, we confidently affirm, that this is one of the mysteries which are infinitely beyond the reach of human understanding. It is one of the things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, 1 Cor. ii. 9. But we say that this mystery presents nothing that shocks human reason, or that implies a shadow of contradiction. What do we believe? That God has united the human nature to the divine, in the person of Jesus Christ, in a manner somewhat resembling that in which he has united the body to the soul, in the person of man. We say that this composition, (pardon the expression) this composition of humanity and of deity, suffered in what was human of it; and that what was divine gave value to the sufferings of the man, somewhat after the manner in which we put respect on a human body, not as a material substance, but as united to an intelligent soul.

These are the terms in which we propose our mystery. And there is nothing in this which involves a contradiction. If we had said that the dis




vinity and humanity were confounded or common; if we had said that the deity, who is impassible, suffered; if we had said that Jesus Christ as God, made satisfaction to Jesus Christ as God, reason might have justly reclaimed ; but we say that Jesus Christ suffered as man ; we say that the two natures in his person were distinct; we say that Jesus Christ, suffering as man, made satisfaction to God, maintaining the rights of deity. This is the first step we advance in his career. Our first argument we carry thus far, and no farther.

2. Our second argument is taken from the divine justice. We say, that the idea which we have of the divine justice, presents nothing inconsistent with the doctrine we are endeavoring to establish, but, on the contrary, leads us directly to adopt it. The divine justice would be in opposition to our doctrine, did we affirm that the innocent Jesus suffered as an innocent person ; but we say that he suffered, as loaded with the guilt of the whole human race. The divine justice would be in opposition to our doctrine, did we affirm that Jesus Christ had the iniquity of us all laid upon him, whether he would or not; but we say that he took this heavy load upon him voluntarily. The divine justice would be in opposition to our doctrine, did we affirm that Jesus Christ took on himself the load of human guilt, to encourage men in the practice of sin ; but we say, that he acted thus, in the view of sanctifying them, by procuring their pardon. The divine justice would be in opposition to our doctrine, did we affirm that Jesus Christ, in assuming the load of our guilt, sunk under the weight of it, so that the universe, for the sake of a few guilty wretches, was deprived of the most distinguished being that could possibly exist ; but we say, that Jesus Christ, in dying for us, came off victorious

over death and the grave. The divine justice, therefore, presents nothing inconsistent with the doctrine of the satisfaction.

But we go much farther, and affirm, that the idea of divine justice leads directly to the doctrine. The atonement corresponds to the demands of justice. We shall not here presume to determine the question, Whether it is possible for God, consistently with his perfections, to pardon sin without exacting a satisfaction. Whatever advantage we might have over those who deny our thesis, we shall not press it on the present occasiun. But, in any case, they must be disposed to make this concession : That if the wisdom of God has devised the means of obtaining a signal satisfaction to justice, in unison with the most illustrious display of goodness; if he can give to the universe an equivocal proof of his abhorrence of sin, in the very act of pardoning the sinner ; if there be a method to keep offenders in awe, even while mercy is extended to them, it must undoubtedly be more proper to employ such a method than to omit it. This is the second step we advance toward our conclusion. Our second argument we carry thus far, and no farther.

3. Our third consideration is taken from the suggestions of conscience, and from the practice of all nations. Look at the most polished, and the must barbarous tribes of the human race; at nations the most idolatrous, and at those which have discovered the purest ideas on the subject of religion. Consult authors of the remotest antiquity, and authors the most recent : transport yourself to the ancient Egyptians, to the Phenicians, to the Gauls, to the Carthaginians, and you will find that, in all ages, and in every part of the globe, men have expressed a belief that the deity expected sacrifices should be offered up to him; nay, not only sacrifices, but

such as had, as far as it was possible, something like a proportion to his greatness. Hence those magnificent temples; hence those hecatombs; hence those human victims; hence that blood which streamed on the altars, and so many other rites of religious worship, the existence of which no one is disposed to call in question. What consequence do we deduce from this position ? The truth of the doctrine of the atonement ? No: we do not carry our inference so far. We only conclude, that there is no room to run down the Christian religion, if it instructs us that God demanded satisfaction to his justice, by an expiatory sacrifice, before he could give an unrestrained course to his goodness. The third argument we carry thus far, and no farther.

4. A fourth reflection hinges on the correspondence of our belief, respecting this particular, with that of every age of the Christian church, in uninterrupted succession, from Jesus Christ down to our own timés. All the ages of the Christian world have, as we do, spoken of this sacrifice. But we must not enlarge. Whoever wishes for complete information on this particular, will find a very accurate collection of the testimonies of the fathers, at the end of the treatise on the satisfaction, composed by the celebrated Grotius. The doctrine of the atonement, therefore, is not a doctrine of yesterday, but has been transmitted from age to age, from Jesus Christ down to our own times. This argument we carry thus far, and no farther.

Here then we have a class of arguments which, after all, we would have you to consider only as so many presumptions in favor of the doctrine of the atonement. But surely we are warranted to proceed thus far at least in concluding: a doctrine in which human reason finds nothing contradictory: a doctrine which presents nothing repugnant to the divine attributes; nay, to which the divine attributes directly lead us; a doctrine perfectly conformable to the suggestions of conscience, and to the practice of mankind in every age, and of every nation; a doctrine received in the Christian church from the beginning till now; a doctrine which, in all its parts, presents nothing but what is entirely worthy of God, when we examine it at the tribunal of our own understanding : such a doctrine contains nothing to excite our resentment, nothing that we ought not to be disposed to admit, if we find it clearly laid down in the scriptures,

Now, my brethren, we have only to open the Bible in order to find express testimonies to this purpose ; and not only do we meet with an infinite number of passages, in which the doctrine is clearly taught, but a multitude of classes of such passages.

1. In the first class, we must rank all those passages which declare that Jesus Christ died for us. It would be no easy matter to enumerate them: I delivered unto you first of all, says St. Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthians, xv. 3. that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures, Christ also hath once suffered for sins, says St. Peter, in his first epistle general, iii. 18. the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. 2. In the second class must be ranked those

passages which represent Jesus Christ as suffering the punishment which we had deserved. The fifty-third chapter of the prophet Isaiah turns entirely on this subject : and the apostles hold the self-same language. They say expressly that Christ was made to be sin for us, who knew no sin, 2 Cor. v. 21. that he was made a curse for us, Gal. iii. 13. that


« PreviousContinue »