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are selfish motives, arising from interest and ambition. And, surely, the professed champions of selfisbness cannot be disgusted with the charge of a little selfishness, since they assume the thing charged by avowing the principle. Their selfish mo. tives I shall hereafter notice.
If the term inability be at all applicable to a man when nothing impedes him but disinclination, the singer's inability must be pronounced wholly of the moral kind. This can be shown, to a degree of certainty approaching as near to mathematical demonstration as any proposition of an abstract and moral nature. It was far from the design of these numbers to enter into the details of argument; and it shall suffice to say, that the sinner can do his whole duty, because that duty is easy, and adapted to the powers and faculties of all rational minds. If it be easy to believe what is made clearly evident, and to love that which is infinitely beautiful, the sinner's duty is easy. The sinner can do his duty because that duty is prescribed by an infinitely wise and good being, who knows how to adapt his requirements to the capacities of his creatures, and wbose wisdom and goodness are manifested by that adaptation. That nothing prevents him from conforming to all divine requirements but want of will to do it, is evident from the whole word of God, in which his nonconformity is invariably placed on that footing alone, and is in no place ascribed to any other cause. The continual exhortations and commands of God show us how God himself estimates the sinner's ability; and the duty to perforin, and the ability to perform it, are the exact measures of each other; in short, obligation and ability correspond, and run parallel with each other, and cease together. All just notions of the nature and powers of a moral agent, set this point in the clearest light; and when I hear a man begin to talk about a moral agency to do wrong, but not to do right, I feel myself much in the predicament of St. Anthony when lecturing the fishes: and did I not know that a moral agent might be very ignorant, 1 sbould almost be tempted to deny that exalted rank to such superlative ignorance.
To believe in absurdities, and things evidently false, and to practise supposed impossibilities, requires, indeed, a monstrous stretch of faith, and an incredible degree of power; perbaps these strenuous advocates of man's natural, or, if you please, physical inability, get that idea from the peculiar complexion of their scheme. I am willing, for one, to do them the justice to confess that I labour under a true natural inability to believe in their doctrines, or practice, agreeably to their faith.
My present object is, without descending to elaborate argument, to convey, in as few words as possible, what I understand to be the scripture doctrine of the atonement of Christ.
As the death of Christ is generally allowed to be a propitiatory sacrifice, if those who are concerned to understand the doctrine of the atonement would consider attentively in what way, or on what principle, the death of Christ made propitiation for sin, I think there could be but one opinion concerning the atonement. But utterly overlooking this grand point, and resorting to metaphors and comparisons which have but few points of resemblance to the great subject in question, embarrassment, confusion, and error have found their way into one of the plainest doctrines of the Bible.
The advocates of what may be called particular atonement amuse and edify themselves by continually resorting to certain expressions and passages of scripture, such as that Christ died for his people, laid down his life for the sheep, &c. never considering that they have no right to monopolize these expressions as supporting their scheme. , If Christ tasted death for every man, he certainly did so for his people. If he were a propitiation for the sins of the whole world, he certainly was for the sins of bis elect. If he laid down his life for all mankind, he surely did so for his sheep.
The metaphor of debt and credit has done infinite mischief in this business. They consider the elect as owing a debt to justice, which Christ has paid ; and bis payment is of course passed to their credit; so that they then have a legal right to demand pardon and justification; and this demand is sometimes made in their prayers and religious exercises, in a manner so bold and daring, as to shock the humble and penitent Christian. Yet, after all, they appear never to have considered how it is that the death of Christ makes propitiation for sin, or pays the debt they so much talk of; and, if so, they are profoundly ignorant of the nature of the atonement. But if they do not understand its nature, how can they judge correctly of its extent ?
The curse of the law of God is bis displeasure, expressed in the punishment of transgression. But why is the law of God penal !--What end is to be answered by the punishment of the transgressor? It is not because God takes delight in the misery of his creatures, for its own sake. It is not to repair the breach of the law, for that is impossible : what is done cannot be undone. It is not to reclaim the offender, for it does not do it. It is, in one word, to show God's hatred of sin, and, in the same degree, his love of holiness. This is indeed the object of penally under human governments : it is to show the displeasure of the supreme authority at transgression.
The penalty of the divine law is the only mean of showing to intelligent creatures God's hatred of sin. If the obedient and disobedient fared equally, well under God's government, there could be no distinction made between sin and holiness. When a sioner is punished, all rational creatures, who see it, perceive how the Almighty Ruler regards transgression, and they will fear to transgress: at the same time, they see how God honours his own law, by the terrible manifestation of his displeasure ; and they will be led to honour the same.
When Christ endured the curse of the law, the same discovery was made of God's hatred of transgression--the same, of his regard for his owo law : though, perhaps, in a still more striking form than when sinners are punished for their own sins. Christ, therefore, made propitiation for sin, hy his death, by completely answering thereby the great end of penalty, or the death of the sioner.
This I understand to be the nature of the atonement or propitiation of Christ; and it differs essentially from all notions of debt and credit, in the following particulars :
1. The two cases are entirely different in their general nature, ka, in strictuese, the one is criminal, the other civil : the for..er involving the principles of a purely retributive justice, the latter a justice that is strictly commutative: there being no resemblance between the pardon of a criminal and the release of a debtor.
2. The two cases are different in all their forms and circumstances The satisfaction to justice is a general principle; the payment of a debt a partial and local act.
3 As a criminal process always originates from, and is in favour of, the public or state, the satisfaction it demands is also a public satisfaction; except where private and particular injury is sustained, which justice will also remedy by private and particular satisfaction: but a civil action of debt, for instance, is always in favour of one or more individuals, or individual bodies, and recovers a satisfaction to an individual, &c.
4. A propitiatory satisfaction does never, from its own nature, give the criminal a legal right to demand his discharge; since it neither obliterates his crime, nor, in any degree, lessens bir guilt; and though it vests that right in the propitiator, it imposes op him po obligation to exercise it, unless he has bound bimself so to do by promise. Whereas, the payment of a debt is but the answer of a private demand, which demand it cance ls, and in return empowers the debtor to demand his discharge.
I have pointed out some, but not all, of the differences between the payment of a debt and a propitiatory satisfaction. And I believe any man will find himself puzzled to point out one exact feature of resemblance between them,
If I night use the terms of law, an action from the whole universe lies against every sinner: the essential rights of all beings demand his punishment, for transgressing the law of God. The Son of God undertakes to make propitiation for sin , to magnify the law, and make it honourable, and yet show mercy to the sinper. But here the objection comes forward with an importunate question : " For whom did Christ undertake to make satisfaction? For whom did he make propitiation ?" This question shows that the guerist has fixed in his mind the payment of a debt,
which we have shown bears but a faint and remote resemblance to the subject in hand. But tbis question admits not only of one, but of various satisfactory answers.
1. The nature of Christ's propitiation for sin shows it to be an unlimited general principle. In sustaining the curse of the law, he showed in the greatest possible degree God's hatred of sin, and in the same degree magnified the law, and made it honourable. We are not to understand that the propitiation, or satisfaction, of justice must vary, and be greater or less according to the number to be saved. Yet this is clearly implied in the payment of a debt, and is certainly the idea of those who hold to particular atonement. They seem to imagine that all the sins of the elect, forming a certain amount, are estimated, and propitiation made for them. In this lies their error. They ought to know that God has not shown bis hatred of sins by the death of Christ, either by number or amount, but, on the contrary, that he has shown an infinite abhorrence of all sin, and an infinitely bigh regard for the honour of his law. They cannot but perceive that as much as this would have been necessary to propitiate justice, had there been but one sinner to save, and certainly no more is possible were all men to be saved.
According to their own principles, before considered, if one sin were sufficient to involve not only one man, but a whole race of creatures in infinite guilt and endless perdition, they must allow that, after Adam's first sin, be alone could not have been saved, but by the whole propitiation which Christ has made. And, at any rate, it must be admitted, that had there been but one man, and bad he committed but one sin, we have no means of perceiving how he could have obtained pardon aud salvation, but through a full and complete propitiation for sin.
We cannot, therefore, infer that Christ made propitiation for the elect only, from any limitation or deficiency in the atone. ment. The vicarious sufferings of Christ were, in all respects, the same as they would have been had he intended to die for the whole world :-the same bis humiliation-bis sufferings—bis condescension--his death
2. I think I have heard gentlemen who beld to a particular