« PoprzedniaDalej »
these things are, we cannot comprehend, and should not attempt to explain, further than the oracles of God have done it. The doctrine is an article of faith; the modus is not. We do not say that one is three, or three one, which is a contradiction : but, as man consists of a material body, an animal life, and a rational soul, and is thus threefold in some sense, though strictly one individual ; so the Deity is One in essence, but in some mysterious manner is Triune. This allusion is not meant as an illustration of the manner in which the Deity is Three and yet One, for that. cannot be illustrated; but it shews that there is no contradiction in saying that the same Being may be threefold in one sense, and one in another. A trinity of persons, however, is not a trinity of Gods; and no Trinitarian ever allowed it to be so : nor does the doctrine weaken the belief in one God : rather it helps and directs the confidence of the believer in the Father's mercy, through the mediation of the Son, and by the sanctification of the Holy Spirit.
The Deity of Christ is another view of this mystery : and Mr. P.'s testimony to this doctrine, as certainly contained in scripture, is not unworthy attention ; though his representation of it is distorted and erroneous. Even Voltaire would scarcely honour with his hatred such professed Christians as denied it. Many other mysteries might be considered; but these alone need be mentioned in this place.
Mr. P.'s objections to redemption by the blood of Christ constitute a plain proof that no man can help seeing this doctrine in scripture, if he have not some previous bias on his mind against it.
Unless we understand the moral character of God, and the perfect holiness required by his righteous law, and are convinced of our own sinfulness and desert of wrath and condemnation ; and unless we allow that “ the world lieth in “ wickedness," and perceive the utter insufficiency of all that we or any other men can do to remedy the numberless evils which fill the earth; it is impossible we can receive, in a proper manner, the scriptural doctrine of redemption. But, when these things are clearly discerned, and a correspondent disposition of heart is produced, the whole appears to be the plan of infinite wisdom, to display the honour of the divine law, justice, and holiness, in shewing mercy to the vilest transgressors. The Lord, in this wonderful manner, most emphatically shews his hatred of sin, and his judgment of its desert, while he pardons and saves sinners : and thus he makes way for producing in our hearts deep humiliation, dread and hatred of sin, cheering hope of mercy, and lively love and gratitude, in entire harmony. At the same time, all intelligent beings in the universe, how many soever
there are or may hereafter be, will to eternal ages learn from this subject the whole character of God; and receive such instructions concerning his harmonious perfections, as must prove a vast accession to their felicity, and redound exceedingly to his glory. .
With these sublime thoughts before us, to what do Mr. P.'s objections amount? Would Satan's exhibiting himself on a cross in the shape of a serpent, as a punishment for tempting our first parents, have displayed the evil of our sins, the justice of God in condemning the wicked, and his mercy in saving believers ? Would it have answered one single end for which the scriptures inform us the Son of God was manifested:1 And in what respect does Satan finally triumph; when by the death of Christ his kingdom is subverted, his cause ruined, and his eternal shame and misery increased ? The whole of Mr. P.'s argument on this head implies the supposition that sin does not deserve punishment, that man is not a sinner, or that it is not proper God should regard the glory of his justice and holiness in shewing mercy.--The shocking charge of suicide brought against Christ, if he willingly died for our sins, would at least equally fall on every one who determined to die rather than deny the truth, betray a good cause, or desert his friends and country. The bounty of providence ought indeed to awaken our gratitude: yet ingratitude to God is the universal and inexcusable sin of man, while not deeply convinced of his unworthiness : and, when so convinced, it is
not likely that cheerful gratitude should be excited without the hope, or abound without the confidence, of forgiveness.
Did we think ourselves so good, as to be worthy that the Son of God should come and die for us, we should be justly chargeable with 'gloomy
pride ;' but all true believers are deeply convinced that they are unworthy of the least favour from the Almighty; and that they could not otherwise have needed such a redemption.
To suffer, though sinless and in the vigour of manhood, as a condemned person, numbered with malefactors, by an ignominious and torturing execution, in the manner marked as accursed in the Old Testament, was far more suited to the idea of an atoning sacrifice, than any kind of natural death could have been. The pain and shame of crucifixion, with the anguish of 'spirit expressed by Christ in the garden and on the cross, far better illustrated the wrath of God which he endured for us, and which we must otherwise have borne for ourselves to eternity, than the common circumstances of death could have done. Being perfectly holy, he was incapable of remorse, and the stings of conscience; with firm expectation of “ the joy set before him, he was not liable to despair; and his divine nature, giving infinite value to his 'temporary sufferings, rendered the eternal duration of suffering needless. In all other respects, it behoved him as our Surety to suffer all that our sins deserved, and not merely the punishment due to Adam's first transgression. But the whole extent, nature, and intenseness of the Redeemer's sufferings, as viewed by the true believer,
imply more awful effects of the divine wrath against the sins of men, as endured by him, than can here be properly enlarged upon.
If men have abused the doctrine of the cross, and deduced a corrupt theory of human merits from it, we should learn to distinguish truth from falsehood, and not reject both together. It is absurd to suppose that one sinner can merit for another; but not that a holy and glorious person should submit to do and suffer many things for sinners, whose nature he had assumed, in order that it might be honourable to God, for his sake and through his intercession, to shew mercy to them. Did no prince ever favour a subject, who was obnoxious to punishment, for the sake of some near relation who had performed great services, and interposed in his behalf?
Pecuniary redemption is indeed a scriptural il·lustration of the subject : but an illustration may
be pressed too far. No mere creature is master of his own life; and no man can be found who has not forfeited it by his own sins : otherwise he might as justly suffer pain and death, as reduce himself to poverty, by answering for another person ; provided he were perfectly free in undertaking such an engagement, and the ends of justice could be answered by it. Moral justice’ is ambiguous : but distributive justice may and does take the innocent for the guilty, whenever the bondsman is arrested for the debt of the principal ; and, though this does not extend to death, it can only be thence inferred that this is deemed inexpedient in human