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our need of him-light to discover our own utter helplessness, and the adequacy of his righteousness to justify his people; whilst connected with this very light, we shall possess a gracious inclination to practise the things that are
THE DOCTRINE OF THE ATONEMENT.
It is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.
LEV. XVII. 11.
Some remarks by the celebrated author of “ The Corner Stone” have particularly struck our attention, in the perusal of that popular work; and without holding ourselves responsible for the correctness of all the theological opinions of that original writer, we may nevertheless, perhaps, be permitted to admire the beauty and the justness of some of his delineations of the character of the Deity, considered as a moral governor. In the first chapter of that work, one of these characteristics is represented to us, as 66 Determined decision in the execution of law.” “ This,” says the author, “is a trait, which shows itself as conspicuously in all nature around us, , as it does in the declarations of the bible; but one which, unfortunately, is not very popular in this world. Efficiency in government is popular or unpopular, according to the character of the individual who judges of it.”....“ It is curious to observe,” he continues, "how men's estimates of the same conduct vary according to the way in which they are themselves to be affected by it; for nothing is more admired and applauded among men, than efficiency in the execution of law, in all cases where they are themselves safe from its penalties. There have been great disputes in respect to the bounds which ought to be assigned to political governments, or, in other words, the degree of power which the magistrate ought to possess; but within these bounds, in the exercise of this power, every body admires and praises firmness, energy, and inflexible decision. Nobody objects except the criminal, who has to suffer for the safety of the rest. He always protests against it.” And now reasoning from analogy, are we not to proclaim that the government of God is just, and must at all hazards be sustained! Is there mercy with God? There will also be the display of that mercy. Is there justice with God? There will also be the exhibition and the goings forth of his justice; and never may we hope to obtain an experience of the one attribute at the expence of the other. The scriptures throughout are taken up with the subject of the necesity of an atonement for sin, such necessity existing of course in connexion with the admitted sinfulness of man. It is not to be supposed that the Deity will forgive the sinner, unless such forgiveness can be extended, unclogged by the compromise of any of his perfections. If mercy reigns triumphant, it is not till justice has been satisfied, and the power of the cross displayed as the doctrine of salvation. But how few there are who think sufficiently of the necessity of an atonement for sin. Even amongst many in the professing world, the
conceptions entertained respecting this vital doctrine of our religion are entirely vague. There is a natural repug. nance which we feel even to think on the subject. And then there is a too ready disposition which we cherish of overlooking the fact that God is a perfect Being in every one of his aspects, to dwell on what we ignorantly call the more amiable traits of his character; as if by subtracting his equity from his benevolence, did not at once and directly divest the Almighty of his claim to be “the rock,” every one of whose works is becoming “the just God and the Saviour.” How just and how striking are the remarks on this point, of the author referred to above.
66 That God is love, is one part of the delineation of his character; and that God is a consuming fire, is equally distinct, and it comes from equally high authority. There is, however, a common understanding among men, that they will read and appreciate the former, while the latter is almost wholly passed by. In fact there is among many persons, and even among Christians, a feeling that God must be considered and represented as a father only, not as a magistrate; children must be taught to love him, not to fear him; and those terrible denunciations which frown in every page of the bible are kept out of view. thought by many that there is a kind of harshness and inhumanity in representing God as he is, a God of terrible majesty, and in holding up distinctly and clearly to view the awful retributions he threatens, with a design to deter men by fear from breaking his laws. But Jesus Christ thought not so. "Fear Him,' says he, who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Yea, I say unto you, fear Him. He never shrank from bringing fully to view the undying worm,—the ceaseless torment,--the inextinguish
It is even
able fire. We are too benevolent, say some, to believe such things, or to teach such things. Benevolent ! yes they are more benevolent than the Saviour. He had love enough for men to tell them plainly the truth ; but these, it seems, have more.” Now the author, according to his own testimony, is not speaking here exclusively of those, “ who openly deny the declarations of the bible on this subject, but equally so of a large portion of the professing Christian church, 6 who never tremble themselves, or teach their children to tremble at the wrath to come.' We ask, what does it amount to, but a denial of the crime of sin-an overlooking the absolute necessity of punishment, either in the sinner dying at a moral distance from God, or in his substitute, by whom the guilt of sin is expiated, and the offender forgiven. The text assumes the position we have attempted to lay down in these remarks, as if justice had written and exposed it to the view of angels and of men, that before the law of God can be maintained in every element of its purity and rectitude, in connexion with the pardon of the sinner, something must be found as an atonement for your souls. Let us here more particularly enquire into
I. The necessity of an atonement for sin.
II. The nature of that atonement presented to our faith under the Christian dispensation.
I. The necessity of an atonement for sin.
The Hebrew word translated atonement is COPHER, and one which is very frequently made use of in the Old Testament. Its primary meaning is to cover, or substantively a covering. If applied to sin, it intimates, to cover that sin, or atone, or render satisfaction for it. 66 Blessed is the man,” in this sense, “whose sin is covered.” If