« PreviousContinue »
ation or reason which the law does not contemplate in the denunciation of its penalty against all offenders; and such new consideration justifies a different procedure in the divine administration. God
may say that sinners shall die, in view of the relation which they sustain to the divine government, merely as his creatures in rebellion against his authority, and yet pardon the sinner redeemed by Christ, in whose behalf Christ has offered himself a redemption price, without implying any mutability in God, or change in the moral principles of his government; since, in this case, the change is not in God, nor in the principles of his government, but in the sinner, or in the relation which he sustains to the divine administration. Again, God may see it just and wise to condemn to death, sinners unredeemed, or sinners rejecting offered grace through a redeemer, and at the same time see it consistent with justice and wisdom to save redeemed sinners through faith in Jesus Christ.
Before we dismiss this point, it may be well to bestow a few remarks on the argument sometimes offered in support of the notion of a pardon by the prerogative of God, drawn from the example of civil governments. It is said that civil governments pardon offenders with the approbation of the good and wise, and that if it be right for civil governments to pardon, it must be admitted that the divine government can pardon. To this we reply, that it must be admitted that the best human governments are imperfect; and it cannot be safe to rely upon deductions drawn from the doings of an imperfect government, in proof of what a perfect government will do. In order to show the absurdity of the argument, let it be noted :
1. That no human government vests in the hands of the executive the right of pardon, with the expectation that it will be universally exercised, so that no offender be punished; for, in such case, it would be more consistent to repeal the law, or not to enact penal laws, and thereby save the executive the trouble of granting pardons. But with respect to the divine government, it must be.contended that God will exercise the prerogative of pardon universally, or the argument will not answer the purpose for which it is intended. The argument then stands thus: civil governments, in some cases,
pardon offenders, therefore, the divine government will pardon all offenders. A universal conclusion is here drawn from a restricted proposition. By reversing the argument, it will prove just as much, yea more, on the opposite side of the question, thus : civil governments generally punish offenders by inflicting the penalty of the law; therefore, God will punish all offenders. This latter form of the argument possesses the greater force, just in proportion as the number of instances, in which civil governments inflict the penalty of the law, is greater than the number of instances in which they remit the penalty.
2. The right of pardon, in civil governments, is necessary in view of the liability of all human tribunals to err. The real facts in a case cannot always be brought to light before a human tribunal, while two judges or juries may come to different conclusions in view of the same facts. Under such circumstances, the executive should have the right of pardon that he may exercise it in doubtful cases; whereas, no such reason for its exercise can exist in the divine administration, for God sees all things just as they are.
3. If civil governments pardon offenders, whose guilt is notorious, it is not on the ground that justice or goodness to the offender requires that a pardon be granted to him ; for a pardon, granted on such ground, would be an admission that justice and goodness are violated in every case in which pardon is not granted. On what ground, then, is pardon extended to offenders whose guilt is manifest? We answer, on the ground that the enforcement of law, in that particular case, is not necessary to secure the purposes
government, or on the ground that in that particular case, the penalty of the law may be remitted without endangering the stability of governernment or the good order of community. But it may
be asked, if a pardon, on such ground, would not be as much a violation of moral justice, as we have supposed it to be for God to pardon by mere prerogative? We answer, by no means. A civil pardon is not an absolution of moral guilt, nor a final deliverance from any just punishment, but merely a suspension of punishment, referring the criminal to the law of God, by whom he shall be judged for the same offence, and from whom he will receive all the punishment he deserves; but should
God pardon offenders, it would be to exempt criminals from all judgment and punishment, for there is no higher tribunal to call them to an account. We think we have now established the following propositions:
1. Such is the nature of the divine law and its penalty, that no creature, having once incurred its penalty, can ever be delivered from it, except by a pardon from the law giver.
2. The law makes no provision for the remission of its own penalty.
3. God cannot, consistently with his own perfections, and the principles of his moral government, extend pardon to offenders by mere prerogative.
The irresistible conclusion which strikes us in view of these propositions is, that sinners must remain forever under the curse of the law, or be saved through mediation or atonement; which atonement, must be in some sense, regarded as a satisfaction to divine justice in their behalf. By whom then has this atonement been made? We answer, by Jesus Christ, by man, or by some other being: One of these propositions must be true; hence, if we can show two propositions out of the three to be false, the remaining one will most certainly be true.
Can man, then, make an atonement for his own sins ? This is impossible, in view of the following facts :
1. Man has nothing to present, as an atonement, or to render to divine justice as a redemption price, on which the law had not a previous claim. Were man capable of obeying the law, perfectly, from this time forward and forever, and should he do it, it would not atone for his past sins ; for all this the law claims without any reference to his past disobedience, and would have claimed, if he had never disobeyed. We have already seen that the law claims man's entire obedience, through the whole period of his existence; but if the sinner should, at any time, commence a course of obedience, and
pursue it forward, in view of his past disobedience, he could obey God, only during a part of his existence, and hence, must forever come short of answering the claims of the divine law.
2. We have shown in a preceding chapter, that man is a fallen and corrupt being by nature; he is, therefore, incapa
ble of any such obedience without first being redeemed and renewed by grace.
But it may be asked, is not repentance all the restitution that is required of sinners? We answer, repentance is no restitution, and cannot, in the least, be regarded in the light of an atonement. If repentance be regarded, as it is by those who deny the doctrine of atonement, as a mere reformation from open vice, it would appear a singular atonement indeed. It amounts to this, in principle: I have offended against a
w; now how shall I escape punishment ? I will satisfy the claims of the law by an atonement. But what shall I render as a satisfaction? If I can be excused I will leave off committing the offence. Such notions of atonement are too lax to deserve further notice. But should repentance be viewed as a work of the heart, under the exerc:se of a godly sorrow for sin, producing confession of sin and reformation in life, it will still come short of being an atonement, for the following reasons :
1. Repentance is a work or an exercise which cannot exist without the previous existence of sin, and can be exercised by none but sinners. Now, that which is dependant upon sin for its very existence, the necessity and existence of which is laid in sin, cannot be an atonement for sin. Again, as repentance is an exercise of the heart and soul, under a sense of guilt and exposure, producing a heartfelt sorrow for sin, it cannot constitute an atonement for sin ; for the law had a previous claim on the entire heart, requiring the exercise of all
powers, not in repentance, but in the more noble work of loving the Creator. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy might.” We have already noticed that in order to an atonement, something must be engaged on which the law had not a previous claim, which is not the case in the work of repentance.
2. Repentance is not only insufficient in itself, but, in view of the fallen state of man, it cannot be exercised without the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit, which supposes a state of grace previous to repentance ; hence, the atonement must be made before repentance can take place, and that which can exist only subsequently is an atonement, cannot be the a
tonement itself. We see then that man cannot make an atonement for sin, nor give a ransom for his own soul.
We ask, then, has some other being save Jesus Christ, made an atonement for sinful man. This question, we think, will be answered in the negative by all parties. The thing is impossible in itself, for the following reasons:
1. It would be absurd to suppose, that an atonement could be made in any other nature save that in which the offence was committed, and for which the atonement is offered.
2. If the difference in nature formed no objection to the mediation of a being from some distant orb, or some heavenly sphere, still, no being could be found capable of making an atonement. We have already seen that every created beinfg is under obligation to devote all his powers to God, for his own personal existence, and as no created being can possess any powers which he has not received from God, he can possess no power, on which God has not an entire claim; hence, no created being can do more than duty requires, and therefore can merit nothing to place to the account of others who may be deficient. Taking this view of the subject, we may search all worlds, heaven, earth, and hell, and we cannot find a ransom for our race, save in the person of Jesus Christ; the Word who was made flesh, who was ifested in the flesh.” Now, as we have shown that there can be no deliverance from the penalty of the law but by an atonement, and as we have also shown that an atonement can be made by no being save Jesus Christ, it follows that he, who died on the cross, was our atoning sacrifice, and that we are constrained to rely on the merits of his death, as the ground of our hope, or retire to the shades of despair as dark as the gloom of an endless death.
We see, from this, how falsely that system, which denies the doctrine of atonement, has been called a system of universal salvation! Never was there a greater misnomer! It involves principles which, if true, would damn the world, and yet it is called salvation !
II. The types and symbols of the Mosaic Ritual, which typify Jesus Christ, are of such a character as to point him out as a sacrifice for sin, and an expiation for the sinner's guilt. Let us consider some of the offerings for sin directed by the Levitical Law.
« God man