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prior demands of the law-deranges the order and harmony of the divine perfections and nourishes the flattering, presump: tuous idea of impunity.
It would be easy to verify these general assertions, by an ample detail of scriptural reasonings; but it is our intention in this part of the inquiry merely to consider the total inefficacy of that ground of hope, respecting our restoration to the favour of God, to which the opponents of Atonement and Sacrifice direct us. It is pretended, that repentance, will satisfy the claims of justice, and cancel the enorimities of sin. To this, we reply in the eloquent and impressive language of Dr. Magee, that i actual experience of the course of nature directly contradicts the asa sertion; and that in the common occurrences of life, the man, who by intemperance and voluptuousness has injured his character, his fortune, and his health, does not find himself instantly restored to the full enjoyment of these blessings, on repenting of his past conduct, and determining on future amendment. Now if the attributes of the Deity demand that the punishment should not outlive the crime ; on what ground shall we justify this temporal dispensation? The difference in degree cannot effect the question in the least. It matters not whether the punishment be of long or of short duration ; whether in this world or the next. If the justice or goodness of God require that punishment should not be inflicted, when repentance has taken place, it must be a violation of those attributes to permit any punishment whatever the most slight or the most transient.
What reason have we to suppose that God's treatment of us in a future state will not be of the same nature as we find it in this; according to established rules, and in the way of natural consequence -Our experience of the present state of things, evinces that indemnity is not the conse. quence of repentance here : can the counter-experience be adduced, to shew that it will hereafter? The justice and goodness of God are not then necessarily concerned, in virtue of the sinner's repentance, to remove all evil consequent upon sin in the next life, or else the arrangement of events in this, has not been regulated by the dictates of justice and good. pess.
Now let us enquire, whether the conclusions of abstract reasoning will coincide with the deductions of experience. If obedience be at all times our duty, in what way can present repentance release us from the punish. ment of former transgressions? Can repentance annihilate what is past ? Or, can we do more, by present obcdience, than acquit ourselves of present obligation? Or, does the contrition we experience, added to the positive duties we discharge, constitute a surplusage of merit, which may be transferred to the reduction of our former demerit? And is the justification of the philosopher, who is too enlightened to be a Christian, to be built after all upon the absurdities of supererogation?, “We may as well affìrm,” şays a learned Divine, “ that our former obedience atones for our present sins, as that our present obedience makes amends for antecedent transgressions." And it is surely with a peculiar ill grace, that this sufficiency of repentance is urged by those who deny the possible efficacy of Christ's mediation ; since the ground on which they deny the latter, equally serves for the rejection of the former : the necessary connection between the merits of one being, and the acquittal of another, not being less conceivable, than that which is conceived to subsist between obedience at one time, and the forgiveness of disobedience at another.” Vol. I. Disc. I. pp. 5–8. · The inefficacy of repentance is capable of other illustrations, derived from the actual conduct and general convictions of mankind. The administration of just and equitable laws, in a well ordered government, is a striking emblem of that righteous retribution, which the supreme law-giver displays in all his judicial proceedings. What should we think of that judge who should dispense with the execution of the sentence of the law, after the clearest evidence of guilt had been ascertained, and in defiance of a plain and definite statute? We might at: tribute his decision to lenity; but it would be properly replied against such an exculpation, that justice to the criminal is mercy to the country. Nor would the exculpation be more valid, by uviting in our imagination the legislative and the jux dicial characters. It might be added, that the sovereign who made laws one day, and virtually repealed them the next, was incapable either of making laws, or of executing them, and was therefore unfit for the office he had assumed. It has been well remarked by Beccaria that “ clemency is a tacit disapprobation of the laws.” “Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?". In opposition to this remark, it is sometimes asserted, that God is the universal Parent of mankind; that we are to be considered as his offending children ; and as a kind and indula gent father would be satisfied with repentance, in case of transgression, “our father in heaven will forgive our trespasses," if we repent and amend. To this specious plea we answer, that no single relation of a creature towards his fellow crealures, can adequately illustrate that higher relation, which the divine being sustains; and on this account, a variety of allusions is employed in the scriptures, that, by combining these scattered representations, we may approach to some just and accurate ideas of his relative character. Yet if we could imagine a case of peculiar enormity to arise, under the mildest domestic government, in opposition to a well-known and explicit injunction, it would be perfectly consistent with the benevolence of the father, and secure the future exertion of his power, to de. mand such a reparation of the breach that had been made, as the sincerest penitence would be totally inadequate to afford, He might display mercy in restoring the offender to favour, and righteous severity in the method of that restoration. The proof of repentance might be essential to the obtaining of pa. ternal regard, though not the ground on wbich it was obtained. The medium of amicable intercourse might be itself the expedient of fatherly affection, and thus manifest at once his compassion to the offeriders, and his marked disapprobation of the of fence v flis) re, mii, to“,9,11,
:; ;. ini • The objection against the necessity of mediation, in any form whatever, bas been often and satisfactorily refuted, by referring to proofs of mediation, in the present government of the moral world. The profound and acute reasonings of Bishop Bytter have set this question at rest for ever. But there are some professing Christians, who admit the expediency of mediation, and consider the obedience of the saviour in that light, and yet reject altogether the proper idea of atonement, or sacrificial mediation. In the whole course of our theological inquiries, we never met with a more complete exposure of the system of what is called pure intercessions than in the dissertations of Dr. Magee. The subject is so important, and managed with such transcendent ability, that we shall furnish our readers with a copious'abstract of the intercessory' scheme, as developed and confuted in the learned disquisitions before us; and we enter on this analysis the more willingly, because if that scheme which approaches nearest to the scriptural doctrine, and most readily adapts itself to the phraseology of scripture, be proved to be at variance with it, then all those schemes wbich require the greatest skill in contortion to give them the least degree of approximation, must be decidedly unscriptural, and demand our immediate and unqualified rejection... 22. What but a preconceived theory, to which scripture had been compel. fed to yield its obvious and genuine signification, could ever have led to the opinion, that in the death of Christ, there was no expiution for sin; that the word sacrifice has been used by the writers of the New Testament, merely in a figurative sense; and that the whole doctrine of the redemption, amounts but to this—" that God, willing to pardon repentant 'sinters, and at the same time willing to do it, only in that way which would best promote the cause of virtue, appointed' that Jesus Christ should come into the world, and that he, having taught the pure doctrines of the Gospel; having passed a life of exemplary virtue ; having endured many sufferings, and finally death itself, to prove his truth, and perfect his obedi. ence; and having risen again, to manifest the certainty of a future state; has not only by his example, proposed to mankind, a pattern for imitation : but has by the merits of his obedience, obtained, through his intercession, as a reward, a kingdom or government over the world, whereby be is enabled to bestow pardon and final happiness, upon all who will accept them, on the terms of sincere repentance. That is, in other words, we receive salvation through a mediator; the mediation conducted through interces. sion; and that intercession successful in recompense of the meritorious obedience of the Redeemer.” Vol. I. Disc. I. pp. 21---22. - In one of the explanatory dissertations (No. xvi.) referred to, in the passage now quoted, Dr. Magee observes, that
6.The scheme of atonement, as it is here laid down, is that which baš been maintained in the letters of Ben Mordecai, by the very learned and
ingenious, though not.unerring, H, Taylor.* It is substantially the same, that has been adopted by other theologians, who, admitting a mediatorial scheme in the proper sense of the word, have thought right to found it upon the notion of a pure benevolence, in opposition to that of a retributive justice in the Deity. But I have selected the statement of it, given by this writer, as being the best digested, and most artfully fortified. It seems to avoid that part of the scheme of Dr. Taylor of Norwich, which favours the Socinian principles, : but as will appear on examination, it cannot be entirely extricated from them, being originally bụilt on an unsound foundation.” : p. 169,
The learned author then proceeds to a minute and critical examination of the scheme of Dr. Taylor, to which we shall advert in a future stage of our inquiries. We shall at presept turn back to the arguments in opposition to the other scheme, as set forth in the discourse."
“ Here indeed,” says Dr, M. “ we find the notion of Redemption admitted ; but in setting up for this purpose the doctrine of pure intercession in opposition to that of atonement, we shall perhaps discover, when properly examined, some small tincture of that mode of reasoning, which as we have seen, has led the modern Socinian to contend against the idea of redemption at large; and the Deist, against that of revelation itself, * For the present let us confine our attention to the objections, which the patrons of this new system, bring against the principle of atonement, às set forth in the doctrines of that church, to which we more immediately belong, As for those which are founded in views of general reagon, a little rellestion will convince us, that there is not any which can be alledged against the latter, that may not be urged with equal force against the formeria Dot a single difficulty, with which it is attempted to encumber the one, that does not cqually embarrass the other. This having been evinçed, we shall then see, how little reason there was, for relinquishing the plain and natural meaning of scripture ; and for opening the door to a latitude of interpretation, in which it is but too much the fashion to indulge at the present day, and which, if persevered in, must render the word of God, a nullity: itali * The first and most important of the objections, we have now to consider is that, which represents the doctrine of atonement, as founded on the divine implacability. But that this is not the fair representation of candid truth, let the objector feel, by the application of the same mode of reasoning, to the system he upholds. If it was necessary for the forgiveness of män, that Christ should suffer; and through the merits of his obedienge, and as the fruit of his intercession, obtain the power of grapting that forgiveness ; does it not follow that had not Christ thus suffered and interçeded, we could not have been forgiven? And has he got then, as it were, taken us out of the hands of a severe and strict judge; and is it novel to him alone that we owe our pardon? Here the argument is exactly paa rallel, and the objection of implacability equally applies. Now, what is - the answer? " That although it is through the merits and intercession of
* This work is entitled " The apology of Benjamin Ben Mordecai to his friend for embracing Christianity, in seven letters to Elisha Levi, merchant, of Amsterdam, &c. By Henry Taylor, A. M. Rector of Crawley, aud Vicar of Portsmouth-2 vols. The second edition was printed in 1784. The soi disant converted Jew defends with great dexterity, what would be called according to the customary graduation of time scale of heresy, high Arianism. Ed.
Christ, that we are forgiven; yet these were not the procuring cause, but the means, by which God, originally disposed to forgive, thought it right * to bestow pardon." Let then the word intercession, be changed for sacri. fice, and see, whether the answer be not equally conclusive.
• The sacrifice of Christ was never deemed by any, who did not wish to calumniate the doctrine of atonement, to have made God placable, but merely viewed as the means, appointed by divine wisdom, by which to be. stow forgiveness. And agreeably to this, do we not find this sacrifice every where spoken of, as ordained by God himself ? (John iii. 16. 1 John iv. 10. 1 Pet. i, 18, 19, 20. Rev. xiii. 8.) Since then the notion of the efficiency of the sacrifice of Christ, contained in the doctrine of atonement, stands precisely on the same foundation, with that of pure intercession_merely as the means, whereby God has thought fit to grant his favour, and gracious aid to repentant sinners, and to fulfil that merci. ful intention, which he had at all times, entertained towards his fallen
creatures ; and since by the same sort of representation, the charge of im. · placability in the Divine Being is as applicable to the one scheme, as to the other; we may estimate with what candour this has been made, by those who hold the one doctrine, the fundamental ground of their objections against the other.
But still it is demanded, in what way can the death of Christ, consi. dered as a sacrifice of expiation, be conceived to operate to the remission of sins, unless by the appeasing of a being, who otherwise would not have forgiven us ?" To this the answer of the Christian is, “ I know not, nor does it concern me to know, in what manner the sacrifice of Christ is con. nected with the forgiveness of sins; it is enough that this is declared by · God to be the medium, through which my salvation is effected. I pre
tend not to dive into the councils of the Almighty. I submit to his wisdom, and I will not reject his grace, because his mode of vouchoafing it, is not within my comprehension. But now let us try the doctrine of pure intercession by this same objection. It has been asked, how can the sufferings of one being, be conceived to have any connexion with the for. giveness of another? Let us likewise enquire, how the meritorious obedience of one being can be conceived to have any connection with the par, don of the transgressions of another : or whether the prayers of a righteous being in behalf of a wicked person, can be imagined to have more weight in obtaining forgiveness, than the same supplication, seconded by the of. · fering up of life itself, to procure that forgiveness? The fact is, the want of discoverable connexion has nothing to do with either. Neither the saerifice, nor the intercession, has, as far as we can comprehend, any efficacy whatever.* All that we know, or can know of the one, or of the
• The sentiments of Dr. Magee, on this point, exactly coincide with what Bishop Butler has asserted in the second part of his Analogy. Chap. V. How, and
in what particular way, the sacrifice of Christ had this efficacy, there are not want**ing persons, who have endeavoured to explain: but I do not find that the scrip• ture has explained it. We seem to be very much in the dark, concerning the man
wer, in which the ancients umlerstood atonemønt to be made, i.e. pardon to be