« PreviousContinue »
sins. (Col. 1:14.) Who gave himself a ransom for all. (1 Tim. 2:6.) Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many. (Heb. 9:28.) Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold;-but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. (1 Peter, 1:18,19.) He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. And sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 2:2; and 4:10.) They sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood." (Rev. 5:9.) These texts and many more of similar import, clearly shew that Christ was offered as a sacrifice for sin; and that in consequence of his propitiatory offering, transgressors may receive forgiveness. If these passages do not convey this idea, it appears to be impossible to find language, which will convey it.
From this view of the subject, it appears that Jesus Christ has made an atonement for sin, and that this is the ground, on which forgiveness is offered to transgressors, on certain merciful conditions. There is a manifest distinction between the meritorious, or procuring cause of pardon, and the terms, on which it may be received. Because the law is magnified and made honorable by the sufferings and obedience of Christ, it does not follow that the law is made void; and that it has no further claims upon mankind. Because there is a propitiation made for the sins of the whole world, it does not follow that all have a claim to exemption from punishment; or that all will be forgiven. It must be remembered that faith and repentance, on the part of the transgressor, are exercises of mind and heart, which are indispensable in order to receive the mercy of pardon. The atonement, on the part of Christ, and faith and repentance, on the part of the transgressor, are set forth in the Scriptures to be absolutely necessary to salvation.
When one only is mentioned in connexion with forgiveness, the other is not excluded, but implied, or understood.
The atonement originated in divine mercy. God was angry with the wicked, as sinners. But as the workmanship of his hand, as intelligent creatures, capable of serving, honoring, and enjoying him for ever, he loved them. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us. We love him because he first loved us." The Father was not moved, by the sacrifice of his Son, to shew mercy. But in the exereise of his mercy, he adopted this as an expedient, by which he could consistently offer pardon to his rebellious subjects. The Father and Son were of one mind on this subject. The Father was willing to give up his Son to be a sacrifice for sin; and the Son was equally willing to become a sacrifice, so that salvation might be offered to sinners.
If we cannot discover any natural connexion between the suffering and obedience of one, and the forgiveness and reward of another, our want of discernment forms no argument against the reality, or wisdom of this plan. Many things occur in the natural and moral world, for which we cannot account; and whose connexion we cannot discover. In civil government, rulers often suffer in consequence of the vices of their subjects; and subjects often receive great blessings in consequence of the wise administration of their rulers. In families, the prudent conduct of parents proves to be a great blessing to their children; and the vicious practices of children bring great sufferings upon parents. A similar connexion runs through the various grades of society. In many instances, great natural evils, which were intended as such by their authors, have resulted in the most beneficial effects. If this method is found in the constitution of nature, under the administration of the divine Sovereign, why should not the same principles be admitted when they are found in the scheme of redemption?
The greatness of the atonement, as it has been exhibited, is no evidence that it was not appointed and adopted by the divine Sovereign, as an expedient for the salvation of this sinful world. If it appear to any to be disproportionate to the effects, which are designed to be produced by it, it arises from ignorance of the worth of the soul, and of its bearing upon the moral government of God. The human soul, though of limited powers, possesses an extensive capacity. It is capable of continual progression in knowledge and enjoyment. There is no doubt that there will be a point in eternity, when it will be equal in its faculties to the most exalted angel, who now ministers before God's throne; and that it will be then in a state of progressive improvement.
If it were an object unworthy of the Son of God, to humble himself, to provide salvation for such an individual, then bring to view the first human pair with the whole line of their posterity, diverging into thousands of branches, extending to thousands of generations, and spreading over the breadth of the whole earth. View this extensive province, not merely once replenished with inhabitants, but peopled thousands of times, and removed in succession to another world, to receive their everlasting destination. View this multitude, which no man can number, and say, is not their salvation an object of immense magnitude? Is it not an object worthy of God to accomplish? If it were not inconsistent with the dignity of the divine Being, to form and support such a species of beings as mankind, it cannot be inconsistent with his dignity to make provision for their reformation, for their for giveness, and for their future blessedness. Besides, the atonement of Christ in connexion with the economy of redemption, is made known to the angelic host; and probably it is disclosed to other systems of intelligences amidst the immensity of creation; and it may serve as a link in the chain of divine government to connect and support its various parts.
When we take into consideration the constituent parts of the atonement, its effect upon the moral condition of man, and upon divine government, it appears that no created being was adequate to this work.
It is presumable that the first offerings and sacrifices were instituted by divine authority. In a history so concise as that of Moses, there can be only a sketch of the most prominent events. But many truths may be discovered by induction. Cain and Abel brought their respective offerings unto the Lord. It is not improbable that sacrifices were made before this time. But these were recorded because they were accompanied with peculiar and important cirWhat could have induced these brothers, if they were not required, to make these offerC ings to the Lord? If they presented them as gifts to the great Proprietor of all, to avert his displeasure, or render him propitious, analogy fails to give it support. They then held their property in common; and, of course, they did not know by experience what effect gifts would produce upon their fellow beings; and consequently they would find it difficult to infer what effects they would produce in relation to the Creator.
The circumstance, that Abel was accepted in his th offering, is an evidence that this rite was of divine institution. It can hardly be supposed that fallen creatures were left to invent for themselves a method of worship, or of sacrifice; and it is equally improbable that they should invent a method, which would be pleasing to the Lord. "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain." He had faith in the divine promise: "the Seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head." Through his sacrifice of beasts he looked forward to the sacrifice of the promised Seed. As Abel discerned this connexion between the sacrifice and the divine promise, there is no reasonable doubt that this sacrifice was instituted by divine authority. Further, the use of flesh was not given to man till after the flood. It is
not probable, therefore, that Abel would have dared to take away the life of animals, even for sacrifice, if he had not been commanded by God. The sacrifice of animals was a sin offering; and when Abel made this offering to the Lord, he was conscious of his guilt; he had confidence in the divine promise and faith in that blood, which cleanseth from all sin. If the law respecting sacrifices was not given in a formal manner till a long period after the apostasy, it, by no means follows that they were not of divine institution during that interval. The decalogue was not communicated in a formal manner till the time of Moses. But there is no reasonable doubt that every one of the ten commands had been made known before; and were as binding as they were afterward.
It is not probable that reason invented the expedient of sacrifice for sin. Some have traced it to this origin, and others have contended that the doctrine is very unreasonable. There appears to be no moral connexion between the sin of one and the suffering of another; nor between the suffering of one and the forgiveness of another. If this be true, how have sacrifices generally obtained in every age through the world, where revelation has not been enjoyed? There is no reasonable doubt that sacrifices have been perpetuated by tradition. The nations, which descended from Noah, were acquainted with the sacrifices which God had instituted. When the revelations of the divine will were deposited among one nation, the Jews, other nations still retained a knowledge of sacrifices; and this knowledge was handed down from one generation to another. In addition to this, many heathen nations were acquainted with the Jews, and with their religion. From them they might keep in remembrance the institution of sacrifices, but with great corruptions. It appears much more reasonable that heathen sacrifices grew out of Jewish, or patriarchal, than that these were engraffed by the divine hand upon their's.