« PoprzedniaDalej »
death is the foundation and spring of eternal life, to all that be, lieve on him ; when he preaches that the Lord of glory was crucitied; I Cor. ii. 8. that so the worst sort of sinners might be saved, and that he who knew no sin was made a sacrifice for our sins, that we might stand righteous in the sight of God through his rigl.teousness ; 2 Cor. v. 21. This was something that sounded so strange in the ears of the heathens, and the blind Jews too, that they multiplied reproaches upon the sermons and the preacher. And St. Paul thought it a considerable point gained, when he could assume such a degree of courage as to be able to say, I dare preach amongst the Gentiles, the Jews, the pharisees and the philosophers at Jerusalem, and at Rome, such a gospel as this is ; for I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. This is an argument which, in my opinion, carries much evidence with it, that the gospel of Christ is such a doctrine as I have before described. .
But here a considerable objection arises against this description of the gospel. How can the atonement for sin, by the death of Christ, be so considerable a part of the gospel, when Christ himself, the great prophet of his church, spoke so seldom and so very little of it, during the whole course of his ministry. Surely one would think so important a part of the christian doctrine should not have been neglected by Christ himself. *
Sect. III.- Answers to Objections. Though there be a very large and particular answer given to all the parts of this objection in those sermons; particularly, sermon the thirty-fifth, yet since it seems to carry some considerable force in it, I would mention some hints of reply in this place. Answer I. The great design of our Saviour, in his public appearance and ministry on earth, was to prove himself to wear the true characters of the Messiah, to deliver the Jews from many false expositions and glosses, which the scribes and pharisees of that day had given to several parts of scripture, to lead the world to a conviction of their sins, and thereby prepare them to receive the doctrine of salvation with inore zeal and desire ; whereas the salvation itself, and the manner whereby it was accomplished, was but briefly mentioned in somne few texts, and the rest was left to be explained by his apostles.
II. The doctrine of Christ's atonement for sin is, indeed, intimated in several places of his own ministrations, viz. Mat. xx. 29. The Son of man came not be ministered unto, but to minister, and give his life a ransom for many; John x. 15. I lay down my life for the sheep ; John vi. 51. The bread which I will gire is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. And
* Se a large and full answer to this objection in Atonement of Cbrisi." Vol. 1. page 403.
the Sermon on the
when he instituted the holy supper; Luke xxii. 19. He took bread and brake it, saying, this is my boily which is gite for you. And as in St. Matthew's gospel ; xxvi. 28. This cup is my blood of thie New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
III. This doctrine of atonement for sin by bis dcatlı, as a sacrifice, and the acceptance of it with God the Father, could not be so well preached in public, before those very facts were fulfilled, upon which this doctrine is founded ; for his death was the foundation of this atonement; his resurrection anil ascension to heaven, were the proofs of its being accepted with God: Now it miglit have appeared preposterous to our Saviour, who was divinely wise, to preach these doctrines freely in public to the molitude, before these events appeared in the world. And even to his own disciples he was not too free in the communication of tiem, because, as Jolin xvi. 12. He told them, lie had many things to teach them, but they could not bear thein yet. It miglit have been the means of raising some prejudices in the minds of his own disciples; whereas he reserved some of these things to be taught in those forty days, while he continued with them after his resurrection, and spake with them of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God; Aets i. 3.
And thence we may infer, that if we would learn the plainest and fullest account of the gospel of Christ, it is not enough for us to consult, merely, his public sermons, or the histories of his life, which are called the four gospels, but we must read carefully the writings of the apostles, after he went to heaven; in which they taught these doctrines more completely, which they had learned from the converse of Christ, after his resurrection, as well as by the pouring out of his own Spirit upon theny in great abundance, as he had promised.
. But there is another objection, which is borrowed from the Socinian writings, which it may be proper to give some reply to, viz. 6 That it does not agree to the moral perfections of God to panish sin in a surety ; nor does it become the great God, who is a being of infinite wisdom and goodness and equity, to appoint such a way of salvation of men,” as would necessitate an innocont creature to be exposed to so many sharp sufferings as Christ underwent, while the guilty sinner suffers nothing of all these terrors, but is delivered from the severest of them by the death of Christ. In answer to this,
1. I desire it may be considered, that this doctrine of the expiation and atonement for sin by Christ, is so plainly and efpressly revealed and declareci in the New Testament, by the apostles Paul, Peter, and Jolin, as has been already shewn', and is so frequently repeated in many forms of spcecli in the sacred writings, that it seens a very bold imagination to suppose, that that could not be agreeable to the moral perfections of God, or that
it could not become God to appoint that, which in so many repeated scriptures, is expressly asserted to be done by Jesus Christ, and by the appointment of the Father. Can it be ever imagined, that the great God did not know what would become every one of his perfections better than we little insects, just erept out of the earth, and returning thaither again, could teach him? Can it be ever thought, that the eternal mind did not kuow what was decent for a just and a wise God to do, better than we can conceive or suggest ?
I answer, in the second place, that some of the very expres. sions wherein this doctrine is represented in scripture, are such as seem to be desigued on purpose to obviate this very objection, particularly 2 Cor. v. 21. " God has made him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him, that is, he made him to be a sacrifice for sin for us, that vee might be delivered from the guilt of sin, and accepted as righteous in the siglat of God. Again, 1 Pet. ïï. 18. Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. Again, i Pet. ii. 21, 22. Christ suffered for us, who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth, who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree. Again, I Joho ji. 1, 2. Jesus Christ the righteous: lle is the propitiation for our sins. Thus you see all these texts declare expressly the innocence of Jesus Christ who suffered, and the iniquities of those for whom he suffered : It is evident enough, that a righteous person died for the guilty, and the guilty were saved.
III. Let it be yet further considered, that the man Christ Jesus, who had a natural will which was distinct from the supreme will of the godhead, gave up himself to those sufferings, and consented to it fully; Heb. X. 5, 10. In burnt-offerings and sacrifices of beasts thou hadst uo pleasure; but a lody hast thou prepared me: Then I said, lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He had a right given him by the Father to lay down his life, and a right to take it up again ; Johin s. 18. And be bad an additional exaltation promised him on this account; Heb. xii. 2. and actually bestowed on him for this service; Phil. ij. 9. Wherefore God kath highly eralted him; besides several other events in the divine scheme of God's government, for the glory of God, and the happiness of men. All which are sufficient to make the sufferings of Christ very consistent with the equity and justice of God, though the innocent creature suffered and the guilty was set free. So that I see no manner of inconsistency between this transaction, and any of God's moral perfections ; and therefore I can see nothing in it which was unbecoming for God to appoint, or for Christ to submit to.
To confirm this, let it be remembered, that it is expressly said, Heb. ii. 10. It became him for whom are all things, and by whom arë all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their Salvation perfect through sufferings, trahicar, which signifies to consecrate Jesus Christ to be high-priest by this blood of atonement, which Doctor Whitby proves at large in
his Comment on this Text. Nor is it at all strange, that those 1 who borrow from the Socipian* writers may raise such objections
against the atonement or satisfaction of Christ for sin : Since Socinus himself saith, “ should there be found some places of scripture, where it should be expressly written, that God was made man, or did assume human flesh; they should not presently be taken according as the words sound, since that is altogether repugnant to the divine Majesty.” So Socinus in his Disputations of Jesus Christ. And again : “ If not once only, but often it should be written in the sacred scriptures, that Christ made satisfaction to God for sins; I would not therefore believe, that the matter is so as you imagine.” So Socinus on the Satisfaction. And again : “ Åny, even the greatest force is to be used with words, rather than take them in the obvious sense.” So his Second Epistle to Balcerimicius.
* At the time when this essay was written, it was the common custom of Writers to denominate parties of men, by the name which belonged to one of the chief leaders of that party, as Doctor Whitby speaks of the Socioians, the Ariads, and others, in the same manner. This practice is not quite so customary now a-days, because the same errors are not always joined in the same person, and therefore it may be proper to describe opinions, errors or parties in general by such pames, but not particular persons. As for instance: The Socinians, in the last age, generally believed Christ to be a mere man, and denied his satisfaction or proper atonement for sio ; whereas in the present age, most followers of that party, believe Jesus Christ to be as glorious a person, as the Arians make him, viz. more ancient than any of the works of God, and his agent in creating the world, and at the same time they deny bis proper atonement for sin.
You see then a plain reason, why errors may bave the names of their leaders applied to them ; but it is not proper to give the same denomioation to all those particular persons who hold some of their errors, but who deny the others.
The Form of the Gospel.
An Enquiry, “ Whether it be a New Law, with Commands,
Threatenings and Conditions in it? And, whether the.
A Reconciling Discourse. Section I.—Is the Gospel a Conditional Promise ? THE general nature and substance of the gospel is agreed on all hands to be a discovery of divine grace to sinful man through a Blediator : But several parties of christians have raised endlesy doubts about the particular form of it, viz. whether it be a mere absolute promise, or a conditional covenant : Whether it contain in it commands and threatenings or no : Or whether it be a new law.
It is my opinion concerning many of the debates about our religion, that they may be sufliciently determined for the peace and practice of christians, by finding out the various use of words in common language, and especially the sense of them in the holy scriptures, and submitting our judgments and consciences to this sense of them, with a little reconciling explication. And this noisy controversy may, perhaps, come nearer to a decision, if we will but honestly consult the ways of speaking, that the scripture useth in solving these three following questions ;
But before I propose them, I would beg one favour of my readers, and that is, as they run over these pages, they would so far deny themselves of a common custom, as not to examine and judge of this little essay by any systems of orthodoxy in their closet, or in their head, but by the only system out of which I have drawn it, the holy bible ; for in the whole composure of this discourse, I have not cousulted one author besides ; and I would chuse to be read just in the same way in which I write, and to be judged by the same rule. I proceed now to name the three following questions :
Quest. I. Whether the gospel be an absolute or a conditional promise ? Answ. The gospel, in its most general sense, may be described as a declaration of the free mercy of God, for the salvation of fallen man by a Mediator. As man by his fall hath lost the image of God, and his favour ; salvation includ s the recovery of both these: It implies therefore repentance,