« AnteriorContinuar »
of the " subject of imputation,"—that "taken by Edwards, in his book on Original Sin." "We confess that we hailed it as a great acquisition, when we first became acquainted with Edwards's view." 1 Dr. Chalmers understood that view to be, "that the guilt, which rests upon us, is not the guilt of Adam's act of disobedience, but the guilt of our own proneness to disobey." 2 "It is the parallelism which the Scripture affirms between the imputation of Adam's sin and the imputation of Christ's righteousness, which has broken up this illusion, as I nowregard it to be."3 "On the authority of revelation, and in obedience to the analogy of the faith," he felt" inclined " to another view of the subject of imputation.4 It maybe a question in the minds of some, whether he rightly apprehended the teaching of the New England divine, in this instance. If Edwards (as not a few of his disciples maintain) taught that we share in Adam's guilt only as we, by our voluntary disobedience, are partakers in his sin, he seems to have followed "the analogy of the faith;" for the benefits of Christ's death become ours, only as we accept them by a voluntary act. Neither the guilt nor the pardon is forced upon men against their will. In the one case, there is a personal act of transgression; in the other case, there is a personal act of faith. By adopting the theory of " direct and proper imputation," Dr. Chalmers not only shot ahead of conscience and the analogy of the faith, but sided with a theory which he was compelled to forget in his remarks on the atonement as available to all mankind. It is while giving his views of the theory of imputation, that Dr. Chalmers speaks of a " sinful disposition" as the penalty due to a previous demerit.5 He does this in an attempt to "rationalize" the theory of the imputation of Adam's guilt to his posterity. By assuming that the "prior tendency to sin" is a punishment, he can logically infer the presence of guilt in the being thus punished. This, however, does not seem to be resting the whole matter on the authority of the Bible, as a thing for which reason can find 1 Insts. Theol. Vol. I. p. 455. "Ibid. p. 454. 8 Ibid. p. 456.
1 Ibid. p. 454. • Ibid. p. 457. no basis, and the justness of which conscience fails to see after it has been brought to light by revelation. He alleges that history sustains this theory by many analogous facts. One generation inherits the guilt of previous generations, and is " punished" for it. In these cases, also, it is assumed that the calamities referred to are strictly penal.1 But Dr. Chalmers does not seem, in this instance, to have been fully satisfied with his speculation; for he soon returns from the idea of a judicial infliction, and commits the whole subject to the Word of God, with unquestioning faith. He acknowledged that his view of "imputation" could not be safely presented in the pulpit. "It is fitted to set the conscience into a state of revolt and resistance against the truth as it is in Jesus." 2 He regarded it as an esoteric article in the creed of the church; as a dogma to be pressed upon the attention of such only as are far advanced in the Christian life.3 The preacher is directed to begin with actual sins. These may be so urged home as to make all men feel guilty before God. Thus they will be prepared to accept the theory of the imputation of their guilt to Christ, and of Christ's righteousness to them. But not until they are firmly established in such belief can they, with safety, be told that they are guilty of Adam's sin. To teach this theory openly is "the part of an over-zealous orthodoxy."4 It is by arraigning men on the charge of their personal transgressions, that they are led to implore the Divine mercy. Such was the course which Dr. Chalmers recommended to the preachers of the Gospel. Whatever the views of theologians respecting our connection with Adam may be, the doctrine of human guilt is valuable only so far as it is fitted to impress on the mindsof menthe conviction of their personal demerit. The theory of imputed guilt is forthe initiated only;—forthose who have schooled themselves to delight in that which is incomprehensible ; whose faith finds nothing hard enough for it; who, with Sir Thomas Brown, are disposed to complain of the Bible for containing so few mysteries; and by whom it 1 Insts. Theol. Vol. I. p. 461. * Ibid. p. 503.
is esteemed a kind of lofty distinction, to be able to believe impossibilities, because they are impossible. XIII. The Work of Clirist. From the " disease," Dr. Chalmers passes to its "remedy." This is found in what the Son of God has accomplished in his mediatorial office. The Greek word KaraWayrj, which is applied to the Redeemer's work, signifies an "atonement or reconciliation."1 The reconciliation, here spoken of, implies a change in each of the two parties concerned; to be complete, it must be mutual.2 It is a " Socinian artifice" to fasten "the work of reconciliation exclusively on man." An attempt is thus made to " get rid of the propitiation by which God is reconciled to the guilty.'" These statements need to be explained by a previous remark,4 to the effect that the reconciliation had its origin in the mind of the Father. It is as a moral governor, that God must be " propitiated." Although He is disposed to pardon His sinful creatures, yet, as an upholder of the law, He must be reconciled to them, in order to their actual forgiveness. The work of Christ renders God propitious, in no other sense than it satisfies the demands of the sinner's own conscience. The terms "reconciliation" and " atonement" [at-one-ment] express primarily the result of Christ's mediation. But the word atonement has acquired a secondary meaning, in which sense it expresses the nature of the mediatorial work.6 This is in accordance with rhetorical usage, by which the name of an effect is often transferred to its cause. It is " atonementmoney" (Exod. 30: 16.) rather than an atonement, \vrpov and not KaraXKar/tj, to which we refer in speaking of the work of Christ.6 The Son of man came Sovvai rijv ^nfy)jv avrov Xvrpov. This price (Xvrpov), paid for the release (\vrp(ocrt<;) of the guilty, is the essential thing in the redemptive work. "When it is said that Christ gave himself a propitiation for our sins, this tells me only that the effect of
His doing so was to make God propitious to us; or that He gave himself to purify us, this is still an effect, that of our deliverance from the guilt and pollution of sin. But when told that He gave himself a ransom, I learn more from that word singly, than I do from either of the other words singly. I learn that His life was the Price of our deliverance. The death, by which His life is given up, is characterized in itself, and not merely in its effects."1 But Dr. Chalmers does not rest his belief in the sacrifice of the Son of God, as a substitute for sinners, on the force of any word or words. It is true that he rejects all the light which might be supposed to come from d priori considerations. He thinks that no creature should " presume to imagine" how a merciful God will treat sinful beings. He denies that natural theology " smooths the way" to this doctrine. We are incompetent to form a " conjecture" concerning it, until we have found it; and its " adaptation" to the wants of the guilty is only an inference from actual "experience."3 Yet in viewing the doctrine, which he does wholly from the d posteriori ground, he relies not so much on particular terms and phrases, as on the obvious design of the writers. Different words, each having a distinct signification, are used in describing the propitiatory act. The context, however, shows that these various terms have reference to Christ's sacrificial death. "We are reconciled to God by the death of His Son." "We are justified by His blood."8 "Detach these (/caraXXayrj, ^vfila/ia, tXaaKea^ai., etc.) from the passages in which they occur, and an interminable controversy might be struck out of one meaning against another meaning, and where the combatants, with their respective instances, might both be in the right."4 But standing as they do, in connection with such statements as, that we are reconciled to God by the death of His Son, that Christ is our passover sacrificed for us, and that He purges us by His own blood, "the doctrine we are in quest of, as if written with a sunbeam, stands forth, patent and unequivocal, in the sight of all men."6
Dr. Chalmers viewed Christ's work for us as twofold. "He not only suffered for us, but served for us."1 His obedience was an essential part of His work, and not merely a qualification for it. "He is made unto us righteousness as well as redemption."1 His death did not secure any " positive favor." In consequence of it" the prisoner is dismissed simpliciter from the bar."* Christ did more for us than simply to atone. "By the doctrine of the atonement, I am told that He hath borne for sinners their punishment, so as to rescue them from hell; and by the doctrine of the imputed righteousness, I am told that He hath earned for sinners a right which entitles them to heaven."4 "These two services are not distinguishable in thought only." * They should be "looked to as separate objects of regard."8 "Salvation maybe made to lie in to particulars, our deliverance from hell, and our translation to heaven."7 We are advanced "to the midway state of innocence" by the death of Christ. It is by the imputation of His righteousness to us, that we are " advanced to a state of positive favor."8 The views of President Edwards are adduced, as favoring this distinction of "the negative and the positive in the matter of our justification."9 This definition of the work of Christ differs somewhat, at least in its language, from the view of many orthodox divines. While all agree in the statement that the Son of God obtains for us positive blessings, as truly as the forgiveness of sin, not a few prefer to regard the obedience of Christ as an indispensable qualification for His work, rather than an essential part of it. In this way the whole of salvation is made to depend upon the one great sacrifice on Calvary. We are drawn from everything else to the cross of Christ. This, though foolishness to the Greek, and to the Jew a stumbling block, is to every true believer the wisdom of God and the power of God. The division of the mediatorial work into two distinct parts "is more scholastic than scriptural."10 i Insts. Thcol. Vol. II. p. 46.
♦ Ibid. 6 Ibid.
• Ibid. p. 47.