« ПретходнаНастави »
The following tract presents the substance of two discourses, published since the death of their lamented author. In throwing them into one, it has been found necessary to omit a few passages, and to transpose another. In other respects no alteration has been made.
THE DOCTRINE OF ATONEMENT.
The subject of the present publication, is the doctrine of the atonement, according to the usual acceptation of that term, to signify satisfaction made to God for the sins of men, by the sufferings and death of Christ.
We shall be very anxious, in what we offer on this subject, to avoid everything like misrepresentation ; we shall therefore refrain from employing the language of its advocates, when it may be supposed that they have spoken unadvisedly, and have not intended that we should understand in a strict and literal sense the expressions which they have used. In return, we hope that our readers will rather judge by what will be now laid before them, than by the hasty and unfounded accusations which are se frequently brought against us by those, who have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.
Observe, then, that Unitarians gratefully acknowledge, that the forgiveness of sins unto eternal life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ ; and through him
alone. They glory in the cross of Christ; they receive Christ as him who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption ; nay, they believe in an atonement by Christ, in the only sense in which that word is used in Scripture. It is not the atonement of the world by Jesus Christ that we are
used to controvert ; but we deny that that atonement mampur was effected by satisfaction. There is no such word as
satisfaction used in the whole New Testament ; and the word atonement is only to be met with in one place, in the New Testament, Rom. v. 11. " We also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have also received the atonement.' And in this place, if you consult the margin of the larger bibles, you will there find the word reconciliati in substituted for it. "By whom also we have received reconciliation." And the best expositors understand the passage in this sense.
But, observe, the word atonement, when properly understood, has the same meaning as reconciliation. It is made up of two English words, at and one, with the termination ment; now, to be at one, is the same thing as to be in concord, to be united, reconciled ; and at-onement, signifies the state or act of being reconciled or united ; and is the same as reconcilement or reconciliation. So that in any passage where the word reconcile is used, we might, not improperly, adopt the word atone, as conveying the same meaning. For example, we might translate the passage in 2 Cor. v. 18, 19, thus ; "All things are of God, who hath atoned us to himself, by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of atonement, to wit, that God was in Christ, atoning the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, and hath committed unto us the word of atonement : we pray you in Christ's stead be ye
atoned to God.” But then, this would not be any proof of the popular doctrine of atonement, for in this passage it is God who offers atonement to men ; and we are described as receiving the atonement; - expressions that are altogether improper, according to the ordinary view of the doctrine, since the atonement is ordinarily considered as made to God, received by God, and offered on the part of men. In short, there is no word corresponding either to satisfaction or atonement in that theological sense, in the whole New Testament. Now I think we ought always to be suspicious of a doctrine which cannot be expressed in scripture language.
The arguments brought forward to prove the doctrine of the satisfaction of Christ, are of two kinds, 1st, Reasonings drawn from the proceedings of men in cases that are thought to be similar ; and 2nd, Inferences from Scripture.
I. Let us, first, examine the grounds on which is argued the reasonableness of this doctrine.
I believe that no one in this day will attempt to establish the necessity of a satisfaction for the sins of men, upon the ground of the mere wrath and anger of God, as an offended party, so as that he could not be appeased till he had wreaked his vengeance on some one who stood in the place of, and suffered the punishment due to the offender. These are sentiments most unfit to be attributed to the Almighty ; especially as he cannot possibly receive injury at the hand of any. “If thou sinnest, [says Elihu to Job] what doest thou unto Him; if thou be righteous, what givest thou then, or what receiveth He at thine hand ? Thy wickedness
NO, LXXIV. 1*
may hurt a man as thou art, and thy righteousness may profit the son of man." Indeed, it is now, I suppose, universally acknowledged, that God, even the Father, is the spontaneous source and original fountain of salvation. “ The sacrifice of Christ," says a celebrated modern advocate of what are called orthodox views,
was never deemed by any who did not wish to caluniniate the doctrine of atonement, to have made God placable, but merely received as the means appointed by divine wisdom through which to bestow forgiveness." Hence, it appears that all those representations of the plan of our redemption which attribute a principle of wrath and vengeance to the Almighty, until changed unto love by the satisfaction and merits of Christ, are, by the confession of all parties, unfounded in truth and
It is also, I believe, universally admitted, that we cannot place the necessity for a satisfaction for the sins of men, upon the ground of the mere sovereignty of God, and his unquestionable right to do what he will with his creatures. In requiring punishment, he does not act the part of an arbitrary sovereign, who makes his will the law, and who forbids us to seek for a reason of his proceedings. God is a perfectly good being, and therefore cannot possibly take pleasure in the mere sufferings of his creatures. Reason shows the truth of what Scripture declares, that God “hath no pleasure at all in the death of him that dieth.” Punishment is in itself displeasing to him.
In what quality, then, must we consider God as acting, when he decrees the punishment of offenders ? — Certainly in the quality of a good and wise Governor, consulting for the public benefit, and intending the