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was directed to lie a certain number of days on his “ left side,” and to "lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it.” So," said the Lord to him, “ thou shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Israel." He was then directed to lie on his “ right side," and in like manner to bear the iwiquity of the house of Judah.” Ezek. iv. 4-6.
These also were symbolical acts, by which, probably, Ezekiel was to admonish the Israelites and Jews of impending calamities. The manner in which he bore their iniquities might well be regarded by them as a call to repentance. But nothing is perceived of substituted sufferings; nothing which even symbolically represented one as bearing the punishment due to another's offences.
Fourthly. Jehovah himself bore the iniquities of his chosen people :
“Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth; they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them." Isa. i. 14.
“ So that the Lord could no longer bear, because of the evil of your doings.” Jer. xliv. 22.
“ And about the time of forty years suffered he”-or bore he,-“ their manners in the wilderness.” Acts xiii. 18.
A learned English writer* has brought together twelve texts, which in the Hebrew language represent God as bearing or having borne the iniquities of his people ; but which, in the common version of the Bible, are translated as if to bear meant to pardon. Three of these will be exhibited.
In the prayer of Moses, Exodus xxxii. 32, we read in our version : " Yet now, if thou wilt, forgive their sin," that is, bear their sin.
* John Taylor of Norwich.
“The Lord is long-suffering and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity,”—bearing iniquity. Numb. xiv. 18.
“Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth”_beareth—" iniquity, and passeth by the transgressions of the remnant of his heritage.” Micah vii. 18.
There are other forms of speech used in the Bible, which express or imply God's bearing the sins of mankind. Long-suffering, if I mistake not, means long-bearing, or long-enduring ungrateful and disobedient conduct. The idea of God's bearing the iniquities of men, is strongly expressed, Amos ii. 13: “Behold, I am pressed under you, as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves.”
As a benevolent father bears the ungrateful conduct of a child, so God bears the sins of mankind. In this case, it may be presumed that no one will pretend that bearing sin, means bearing punishment, or substituted suffering. Yet God's bearing our iniquities may be for the same purpose that Christ bore them, that is, to melt our hearts with his kindness, and reconcile us to himself.
“Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" Rom. ii. 4.
Fifthly. There are instances in which children are said to have borne the iniquities of rebellious or wicked fathers. The second commandment contains the following words : “For I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.” Two cases are particularly mentioned in the Old Testament, in which the children bore the iniquities of their fathers. While the Israelites were in the wilderness, God thus addressed the fathers of that generation :-"But as for you,
your carcasses, they shall fall in the wilderness; and your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years and bear your whoredoms." Numb. xiv. 32, 33.
After a war with the Babylonians, Jeremiah, in his Lamentations, says :—“Our fathers have sinned and are not, and we have borne their iniquities.” Lam. v. 7.
In these cases the children bore the iniquities of their fathers, not as being punished for the sins of their fathers, but as suffering the evil consequences of their fathers' wickedness. As children are often brought into distressed and ruinous circumstances, by the ambition, avarice, revenge, or profligacy of their parents ; so it was with the children spoken of in these passages. But they were not punished as guilty of their fathers' sins, nor were their sufferings a substitute for the punishment due to their fathers. For the fathers fell by the displeasure of God, though the children bore their iniquities. In one of the cases, the carcasses of the fathers fell in the wilderness for their rebellion against the Lord. In the other, the fathers fell in a war with Nebuchadnezzar, in which they engaged, contrary to the advice and the warnings of a prophet of the Lord ; in which war, their country was ruined, themselves destroyed, and their children carried into a long captivity.
Sixthly. There is another sense in which some have supposed that children bear the iniquities of their fathers, and which sense is mentioned in the Bible. In the days of Ezekiel, this proverb seems to have been current :-“ The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge." By this, it seems they meant, that children were punished for the sins of their fathers. But God assured them that such was not the fact. On their part, the
case was thus stated :-"Why! does not the son bear the iniquity of the father ? "
In reply, God positively declared, -“ The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father ; neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son.
." Ezek. xviii. 19, 20.
It is very evident, that the son’s bearing the iniquity of the father is here used in a sense different from what it was by Jeremiah. For had the words been used in the same sense by both prophets, they would have directly contradicted each other. Thousands of children in every age bear the iniquities of their fathers in the sense in which the words are used by Jeremiah. But no child, it is believed, ever bore the sins of his father in the sense in which the words are used in Ezekiel. In other words, thousands suffer in consequence of the vile conduct of their fathers; but no one is punished for his father's transgressions.
Exclusive of the instances which relate to the Messiah, we have now before us a variety of cases in which one is said to bear the iniquities of another. Such language appears to have been used by the inspired writers in different senses on different occasions. But I have not been able to find a single instance in which the language is used in a sense analagous to that which has been given it when used in relation to Christ. The one which approaches the nearest to that sense, is the one which God positively disclaims, as having no place under his government. But even in this case, there are two points in which there is a want of analogy. For it can hardly be supposed, that the complainers in Ezekiel's time had any idea of substituted sufferings ; or that their sufferings would exempt their fathers from punishment ; and it is very certain that
these complainers never consented to suffer the punishment due to the sins of their fathers.
The idea of substituted suffering is essential to the prevalent theory respecting the atonement; and also essential to the hypothesis, that the anger or avenging justice of God was displayed in the sufferings of Christ. But of all the instances which have been brought to view, I think there is not one in which can be discovered the least appearance of substituted suffering; and this circumstance is, in my mind, strong proof, that the nature of Christ's sufferings has been greatly misunderstood; and that the prevalent hypothesis respecting them is incorrect and unwarranted by the Bible.
Had I found on careful inquiry, that the idea of substituted punishment, or penal suffering is always implied in one's bearing the sins of another, as the words are used in the Scriptures in respect to others, what would have been thought of my candor and my integrity, if I should still insist that such is not the meaning of the words when used in relation to the Messiah ? Every reader may answer this question for himself. He may then reverse the supposition, and inquire what should be thought of the candor of a writer who will still affirm that such must be the meaning of the words when used in reference to the Messiah, although they have no such meaning in any other case as used in the Bible ?
Should any one be disposed to make the inquiry, whether one's bearing the iniquity of another, ever means what has been supposed when the language is used in reference to the Messiah ; let him keep in view that the prevalent hypothesis implies three ideas : 1. That Christ suffered displays of divine anger or avenging justice :