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sins, and thereby releasing us from that punishment which God might justly inflict upon us. But we (universalists) do not so understand the atonement. It is generally taught that God receives the atonement. It is something received by man. What can it be? Atonement is reconciliation to God.” The above extracts, are calculated in some respects, to give a false view of the commonly received doctrine of atonement; yet they fully answer the purpose for which they are here intended, viz: to shew that universalists do not believe in the merits of Christ, as the ground of the sinner's hope ; that they reject in full the doctrine of atonement, as generally believed. In opposition to the views contained in these extracts, we maintain that Christ suffered and died in the place of sinners; in a manner to deliver them from the punishment due their sins, and that the merits of his death, as our atoning sacrifice, is the ground, and the only ground of our restoration to holiness and happiness. We will now proceed to the proof of our views on this subject.
1. The necessity of a vicarious atonement, may be urged in proof of the doctrine itself. That God does save sinners in some way, by restoring them to holiness and happiness, will not be denied, especially by universalists. It being admitted on all hands that God does save sinners, it follows that he saves them by, or without, atonement; hence, if it can be shown to be inconsistent with the principles of the divine administration to save transgressors without satisfaction on their part, which is out of their power to make for themselves, the fair inference will be that Christ, by his mediation, has made the necessary atonement for them; since no one will contend that there is any other mediator between God and men, save the man Christ Jesus, “who gave himself a ransom for all.” The main points to be considered in this argument, are, the nature and penalty of the divine law, the impossibility that any law should provide for the remission of its own penalty, and the absurdity of supposing that God can pardon transgression by mere prerogative without an atonement, consistently with the moral government which he has established over his creatures.
That we are under some law to our Creator, will not be denied by any. “If we deny the existence of a divine law
obligatory upon man,” says Mr. Watson, "we must deny that the world is under divine government; for government without rule or law is a solecism.” The law, by which we should be governed, is the will of our Creator. When God brings any rational being into existence, such being must be under obligat
to the hand that made him, and as every power is the work of the Creator, nothing short of the employment of the whole, in accordance with his will, can requite the claim of the divine author.
Taking this view, we see that no rational being can exist without law to God, which law commences with the commencement of our rational existence, and continues through the whole extent of our being—while life, and thought, and being, last. That God has made known his will to us in the scriptures, and that men have violated that will, universalists will not be willing openly to deny. We will then enquire into the nature and extent of the penalty of this violated law.
The penalty of God's law is death. Death was the penal sanction of the first precept given to man. Gen. iii. 17. “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”. Ezek. xviii. 20. “ The soul that sinneth it shall die.” Rom. vi. 23. “ The wages of sin is death.” Rom. viii. 6. “To be carnally minded is death.” James i. 15. “Sin when finished bringeth forth death." Now, death, whether natural or moral, must be in its own nature endless. What is death? It is the negation of life, the absence of that life to which it stands
opposed. If death is made to consist in moral depravity, it is the negation of that holiness, that conformity to the divine will and likeness, which constitutes moral or spiritual life. If death is made to consist in the dissolution of the body, it is the negation of those vital energies which constitute animal life. When a person dies morally or naturally, it is the principle or power of the opposite life that is overcome ; life becomes extinct and death reigns. Now when a person is dead, on this principle, self-resuscitation is utterly impossible, life has become extinct and nothing but death reigns and pervades the whole system; hence death left to the tendency of its own nature must hold on to its subjects with an eternal grasp, unless it be said that death can produce life, or that inertia can produce animation ; for as there is nothing but death
now pervading the once animated sphere of the fallen, the energies of life can move there no more forever, unless they can spring from death, or out of nothing rise.
It is certain then, so far as moral or spiritual death is concerned on which this argument is predicated, that persons once dead must remain dead forever, unless God, who said “ thou shalt die,” speak to the dead and say, thou shalt live, and thereby revoke the sentence of his righteous law. then that there is no way of being delivered from the penalty of the law but by a pardon ; for when the penalty of the law takes effect in the death of the sinner, as that death is in its own nature endless, holding the criminal under its dominion, any subsequent deliverance by the communication of life by God, from whom it must proceed, must be regarded in the light of a pardon, since, in such a case, the offender does not endure all that the sentence imports ; death being endless of itself. If then there is no salvation but by a pardon, we are led to enquire on what ground such pardon is to be looked for. There are but three grounds of pardon which, in view of this argument, can be taken with any appearance of plausibility ; viz. by some provision in the law, by the prerogative of God, or by an atonement. When the two former of these grounds shall be shewn untenable, the latter will ap
Does the law, then, make provision for the remission of its own penalty ? This question is answered by St. Paul, Gal. iii. 21, 22. “ If there had been a law given which could have given life, verily, righteousness should have been by the law, but the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise, by faith of Jesus Christ, might be given to them that believe. In this text, the Apostle asserts, in effect, that no law has been given which can give life, hence, the law, which inflicts death, can contain no provisions for the removal of death and the restoration of the dead to life ; for in such case the law would give life, which is the point the apostle denies. A law without any penal sanction would be of no force, and might be violated with impunity; and a law, making provision for delivering offenders from its penalty, would be the same, in effect, as a law without any penal sanction ; since, in such case no penalty would take effect; therefore, the idea
of a law making provision for delivering offenders from its own penal sanctions, is a solecism.
Is pardon, then, to be expected by the prerogative of God? We proceed, to the answer of this question, on the ground that God is immutable, just, wise, and good, which will not be denied by any, who believe in the God of the Bible. These perfections of the divine nature are so many objections to the theory which asserts the pardon of transgressors, by the mere prerogative of God without an atonement.
I. If God be immutable, what he does or sanctions at one time, he must do or sanction at all times, under circumstances involving the same moral principles. God having sanctioned the death of the sinner, by attaching death to his law as a penalty, to counteract .it by interposing a pardon would be to act differently at different times, under circumstances which involve the same moral principles, which would clearly imply mutability or change; unless something be urged as the ground of the pardon which renders the case of the offender a different one from what the law contemplates, as is the case, on the supposition that Christ has made an atonement. Taking this view, it must appear that for God to pardon merely by prerogative, not only implies his mutability, but also involves the divine administration in principles which contradict and oppose each other. It makes God say in his law, the soul that sinneth it shall die, and at the same time say, by an act of pardon, the sinner shall not die; both of which cannot be true.
2. Divine justice, on the above principles, must be violated, either in the penalty of death, or else, in the pardon which averts the penalty. The law claims the death of the transgressor; hence, if the law be just, justice claims the death of the offender; and justice as well as law says, the soul that sinneth it shall die. On the other hand, if justice does not claim the death of the offender, the law claims more than justice and must be unjust, and, consequently, God must be unjust; for he could not be just in giving an unjust law. Now as justice claims the death of the sinner, his deliverance by a pardon, founded on mere prerogative, would be a violation of justice; for justice cannot claim the death of a sinner and sanction his life at the same time, all in view of the same
moral principles. The conclusion is that if God pardons sinners by mere prerogative, he must have been unjust in sanctioning his law with the penalty of death, or else in the pardon which sets aside a just penalty. 3. If God is all-wise, he must have seen it proper
and for the good of the moral system that transgressors should die, or he would never have sanctioned his law with the penalty of death ; for God could not be wise in giving to his law a penalty, the execution of which would be improper and op posed to the best interests of his government. Now, if perfect wisdom saw that it would be proper and for the best interests of the moral system that offenders should die, the same perfeet wisdom cannot see that it is proper and for the best interests of the moral system that the same offenders should live: It is either proper and for the best interests of the divine government that sinners should die, or it is not; if it is proper and for the best, God would be unwise to pardon them; but if it be not proper and for the best, that sinners should die, God must have been unwise when he gave his law the sanction of death. The conclusion is, that if God pardon's offenders by mere prerogative, he must have acted unwisely when he sanctioned his law with the penalty of death, or he acts unwisely when he prevents the execution of such pen. alty by extending a pardon to the offender.
4. The same mode of reasoning may be employed in relation to the goodness of God, for it must appear obvious to all, that the same goodness which would pardon a sinner to save him from death, which is the penalty of the law, would have withheld such a sanction from the law; or to reverse the orer, that goodness which would sanction the law with the penalty of death, would not prevent its execution, but suffer the offender to die. But we forbear to pursue this subject, supposing enough has been said.
Should it be conjectured that the above reasoning stands opposed to our own views of pardon through the atoning merits of Jesus Christ, we answer, that a pardon upon consideration of an atonement, consisting in a substitute for the sinner's death, involves moral principles very different from a pardon by mere prerogative." When the doctrine of pardon is urged on the ground of atonement, it supposes a consider