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of the Holy Spirit, or those miraculous powers which were bestowed upon the apostles, completed the evidence, and then men began to believe in great numbers, repented, reformed, “that they might not perish but have everlasting life.” Thus, according to our text, God was in or through Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing to them their trespasses, and thus was committed to the apostles the ministry of reconciliation; and they went every where, beseeching men in Christ's stead "be ye reconciled to God.” And what was in fact their preaching? Hear Peter in one of his first discourses after the ascension. “Repent and be converted that your sins may be blotted out. Unto you first God having raised up his son Jesus, sent him to bless you”—how—not by pacifying the wrath of God, or suffering the penalty of sin, but "by turning away every one from his iniquities.” What is the only condition upon which their sins should be blotted out? “Repent and be converted,” or turned from your sins.
Such appears to us to be the plain, historic statement of the ministry, the sufferings, the death and resurrection of Jesus. These seem to us to be the real effects, which his death and the circumstances attending it actually had in the world and upon mankind. And we can have no doubt that these things were so arranged by infinite wisdom, in order to produce these effects. His death was a part of the great scheme of his mission to reconcile man to God. As it is simply and beautifully expressed by Paul. “Our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” This agrees, , as we conceive, with our views of the atonement; that it consists in reconciling man to God, and not in reconciling God to man; not in suffering the punishment due to men's sins, but in turning them away from their sins, and making them proper subjects of the mercy of God; not in purchasing God's mercy, for that was infinite, free, and boundless before, or removing any impediment in him to its exercise, but in removing the only impediment, the impenitence of man.
Now let us consider the opposite doctrine.“Christ,” say the Articles of the Church of England, “very God and very man; who truly suffered, was crucified, dead and buried, to reconcile his Father to us.” “The offering of Christ once made, is that perfect redemption, propitiation and satisfaction for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual.” The Westminster Confession says, “The Lord Jesus Christ by his perfect obedience, and sacrifice of himself, hath fully satisfied the justice of his Father, and purchased, not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in heaven for all those whom the Father hath given him.”
It is argued in support of this doctrine of atonement, that God is infinitely just, and his infinite justice requires a full penalty of every sin before it is forgiven. We answer then, if the debt is fully
paid by another, it is not forgiven, so far as God is concerned. It is discharged. There is no forgiveness at all. If God has never forgiven a sin without exacting the full penalty, then he has never exercised an act of mercy in his administration of the universe. Can an usurer ever be said to forgive a debt, when he always compels either the debtor, or some one else to pay the whole sum?
We reply moreover, that we know God is merciful, for he has declared it in his holy word from the foundation of the world. Hear his declaration to Moses. “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin.” Shall not we believe God's declaration concerning himself? Shall we believe that his mercy endureth forever, or shall we believe that this was uttered with some mental reservation, that he is merciful only when his mercy is purchased with a full equivalent of suffering? Mercy in its very nature is a relaxation of strict justice, is a remission of its exact awards. He who says God is just, in that sense of tenaciously exacting all, denies his mercy, a still more precious attribute of the Divine perfections. Besides, he denies the Scriptures, for they uniformly assert that God is merciful. But it is no imputation on his justice to say that he is merciful. Injustice is punishing the innocent, or punishing the guilty more than they deserve, or withholding a proper or a promised reward from the righteous or the merito
rious. It would be unjust to exact the full amount of the penalty from the surety, and then cast the debtor into prison till he should pay over the whole
amount himself. It would be unjust to exact, acaccording to the creed, “a full satisfaction for all the sins of all mankind” from Christ, and then exact it again from them, by all the pains inflicted on sin in this world, and the world to come.
In the next place, it is urged that an infinite sacrifice was necessary for the honour of God's law; that forgiveness without a substitute would weaken its authority. But men must be careful that in honouring God's law, they do not dishonour him. To make this supposition, is to suppose that man was made for the law, and not the law made for man.
This would suppose that the Divine government were like weak human governments, established merely to keep people in order, and not to consult their everlasting happiness. The honour of such a government would be like the laws of Draco, written in blood, decreeing one and the same punishment, death, to the smallest and greatest offences. A government without mercy is what is called on earth, the government of a tyrant. Such an administration as that, while it honoured the law would dishonour God. The government of God is strictly parental. Oh! how different it is from that stern, fierce and inexorable one, which this supposition would make it! “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him, for he knoweth our frame, and remem
bereth that we are dust." Oh! how different would such a God be from that Heavenly Father we have shown us by Christ in the parable of the prodigal son! There our Heavenly Father, under the character of the parent of the returning profli. gate, sees the sinner, while he is yet a great way off, and he “had compassion,” spontaneous, not purchased, “and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” This was intended by Christ to shadow forth the Divine conduct towards sinners. But according to the hypothesis we are opposing, it is not according to the truth. To have been true to the fact, he should have made the father, before he would pardon and receive his son, have insisted that the other brother should first undergo all the punishment which the prodigal had deserved. . On the contrary, you perceive, that he asks nothing more than true penitence and sincere reformation.
In the next place, this dogma of an infinite satisfaction is supported by the following argument. Every sin is an infinite evil, because it is committed against an infinite Being. It therefore, requires an infinite satisfaction. Christ was the only Person, who could make this satisfaction, because he is God and man in one Person. But this argument is lame in two respects. In the first place, if every sin of a finite Being is infinite because committed against an infinite Being; on just as sound reason is the atonement infinite, because it is made to an infinite Being. If the act derive an infinite nature from the Being to whom it is