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Naamathite, went and did according as the Lord commanded them; the Lord also accepted Job.* The objections which are now made to the sacrifice of Christ, equally apply to all expiatory sacrifices; the offering up of which, had not the former superseded them, would have continued to this day.
If an innocent character offer to die in the room of a guilty fellow-creature, it is not ordinarily accepted, nor would it be proper that it should. For he may have no just right to dispose of his life; or if he have, he has no power to resume it: there may likewise be no such relation between the parties, as that the suffering of the one should express displeasure against the conduct of the other. Besides this, there may be no great and good end accomplished to society by such a substitution: the loss sustained by the death of the one, might be equal, if not superior, to the gain from the life of the other. If the evil to be endured might be survived; if the relation between the parties were such, that in the sufferings of the one, mankind would be impressed with the evil of the other; and if, by such a proceeding, great advantage would accrue to society, instead of being accounted inadmissible, it would be reckoned right, and wise, and good. If a dignified individual, by enduring some temporary severity from an offended nation, could appease their displeasure, and thereby save his country from the destroying sword, who would not admire his disinterested conduct? And if the offended from motives of humanity, were contented with expressing their displeasure, by transferring the effect of it from a whole nation to an individual who thus stepped forward on their behalf, Would their conduct be censured as "indiscriminate revenge ?" The truth is, The atonement of Christ affords a display of Justice on too large a scale, and on too humbling a principle, to approve itself to a contracted, selfish, and haughty mind.
* Chap. xlii. 7-9.
THE CONSISTENCY OF THE SCRIPTURE DOCTRINE OF REDEMPTION WITH THE MODERN OPINION OF THE MAGNITUDE OF CREATION.
It is common for Deists to impute the progress of their principles to the prevalence of true philosophy. The world, they say, is more enlightened; and, a great number of discoveries are progressively making, which render the credibility of the scriptures more and more suspicious. It is now a commonly received opinion, for instance, among men of science, that this world is but a point in creation; that every planet is a world, and all the fixed stars so many suns in the centres of so many systems of worlds; and that, as every part of creation within our knowledge teems with life, and as God has made nothing in vain, it is highly probable that all these worlds are inhabited by intelligent beings, who are capable of knowing and adoring their Creator. But if this be true, how incredible is it that so great a portion of regard should be exercised by the Supreme Being towards man as the scriptures represent: how incredible, especially it must appear to a thinking mind, that Deity should become incarnate, should take human nature into the most intimate union with himself, and thereby raise it to such singular eminency in the scale of being; though, compared with the whole of creation, if we comprehend even the whole species, it be less than a nest of insects compared with the unnumbered millions of animated beings which inhabit the earth.
This objection, there is reason to think, has had a very considerable influence on the speculating part of mankind. Mr. Paine, in the first part of his Age of Reason, (pp. 40-47.) has laboured, VOL. III.
after his manner, to make the most of it, and thereby to disparage Christianity. "Though it is not a direct article of the Christian system," he says, "that this world which we inhabit is the whole of the habitable creation; yet it is so worked up therewith, from what is called the Mosaic account of the creation, the story of Eve and the apple, and the counterpart of that story-the death of the Son of God, that to believe otherwise, that is, to believe that God created a plurality of worlds, at least as numerous as what we call stars, renders the Christian system of faith at once little and ridiculous, and scatters it in the mind like feathers in the air. The two beliefs cannot be held together in the same mind; and he who thinks he believes both, has thought but little of either." (p. 40.)
Again: Having discoursed on the vast extent of creation, he asks, "But in the midst of these reflections, what are we to think of the Christian system of faith, that forms itself upon the idea of only one world, and that of no greater extent than twenty-five thousand miles ?"-" From whence could arise the solitary and strange conceit, that the Almighty, who had millions of worlds equally dependant on his protection, should quit the care of all the rest, and come to die in our world, bucause they say one man and one woman had eaten an apple? And, on the other hand, Are we to suppose that every world in the boundless creation had an Eve, an apple, a serpent, and a Redeemer? In this case, the person who is irreverently called the Son of God, and sometimes God himself, would have nothing else to do, than to travel from world to world, in an endless succession of death, with scarcely a momentary interval of life." (p 46.)
To animadvert upon all the extravagant and offensive things even in so small a part of Mr. Paine's performance as the above quotation, would be an irksome task. A few remarks, however, may not be improper.
First Though Mr. Paine is pleased to say in his usual style of naked assertion, that "the two beliefs cannot be held together; and that he who thinks he believes both, has thought but little of either;" yet he cannot be ignorant that many who have admitted the one, have at the same time held fast the other. Mr. Paine is certainly not over-loaded with modesty, when comparing his own
abilities and acquisitions with those of other men; but I am inclined to think, that, with all his assurance, he will not pretend that Bacou, or Boyle, or Newton, to mention no more, had thought but little of philosophy or Christianity. I imagine it would be within the compass of truth, were I to say, that they bestowed twenty times more thought upon these subjects than ever Mr. Paine did. His extreme ignorance of Christianity at least, is manifest, by the numerous gross blunders of which he has been detected.
Secondly Supposing the scripture account of the creation to be inconsistent with the ideas which modern philosophers entertain of its extent; yet it is not what Mr. Paine represents it. It certainly does not teach" that this world which we inhabit is the whole of the habitable creation." Mr. Paine will not deny that it exhibits a world of happiness, and a world of misery; though in the career of his extravagance, he seems to have overlooked it.
Thirdly If the two beliefs, as Mr. Paine calls them, cannot be consistently held together, we need not be at a loss to determine which to relinquish. All the reasoning in favour of a multiplicity of worlds, inhabited by intelligent beings, amounts to no more than a strong probability.
No man can properly be said to believe it: it is not a matter of faith, but of opinion. It is an opinion too that has taken place of other opinions, which, in their day, were admired by the philosophical part of mankind, as much as this is in ours. Mr. Paine seems to wish to have it thought, that the doctrine of a multiplicity of inhabited worlds, is a matter of demonstration: but the existence of a number of heavenly bodies, whose revolutions are under the direction of certain laws, and whose returns, therefore, are the objects of human calculation; does not prove that they are all inhabited by intelligent beings. I do not deny, that from other considerations, the thing may be highly probable; but it is no more than a probability. Now, before we give up a doctrine, which, if it were even to prove fallacious, has no dangerous consequences attending it; and which, if it should be found a truth, involves our eternal salvation, we should endeavour to have a more solid ground than mere opinion, on which to take our stand.
But I do not wish to avail myself of these observations, as I am under no apprehensions that the cause in which I engage requires them. ADMITTING THAT THE INTELLIGENT CREATION IS AS EXTENSIVE AS MODERN PHILOSOPHY SUPPOSES, THE CREDIBILITY OF REDEMPTION IS NOT THEREBY WEAKENED; BUT, ON THE CONTRARY, IN MANY RESPECTS, IS STRENGTHENED AND AGGRANDIZED. I shall offer a few observations on each of the branches of the above position.
The scripture doctrine of redemption, it is acknowledged, supposes that man, mean and little as he is in the scale of being, has occupied a peculiar portion of the divine regard. It requires to be noticed, however, that the enemies of revelation, in order it should seem to give the greater force to their objection, diminish the importance of man, as a creature of God, beyond what its friends can admit. Though Mr. Paine expresses his " hope of happiness beyond this life ;" and though some other deistical writers have admitted the immortality of the soul; yet this is more than others of them will allow. The hope of a future state, as we have seen, is objected to by many of them, as a selfish principle; and others of them have attempted to hold it up to ridicule. But the immortality of man is a doctrine which redemption supposes; and, if this be allowed, man is not so insignificant a being as they might wish to consider him. A being that possesses an immortal mind, a mind capable of increasing knowledge, and, consequently of increasing happiness or misery, in an endless duration, cannot be insignificant. It is no exaggeration to say, that the salvation of one soul, according to the scriptural account of things, is of inconceivably greater moment than the temporal salvation of a nation, or of all the nations in the world, for ten thousand ages. The eternal salvation, therefore, of a number of lost sinners, which no man can number, however it may be a matter of infinite condescension in the great Supreme to accomplish, is not an object for creatures, even the most exalted, to consider as of small account.
Having premised thus much, I shall proceed, in the first place, to offer a few observations in proof that THERE IS NOTHING IN THE