« AnteriorContinuar »
THE DOCTRINE OF ATONEMENT.
HE doctrines which relate to the cha
racter and offices of our Lord and Sa
viour Jesus Chrift, are undoubtedly of very great importance in the system of christianity; and their connection with our religious conduct is so intimate, that it is impossible we should be right in the latter, if we err considerably with respect to the former. The acknowledgement of the divinity of Christ, for instance, calls for such affections and behaviour towards him, as they who look upon him as a mere man cannot maintain. Our practical regard must likewise be much affected by our belief or disbelief of the doctrine of atonement for sin by his death. If this docwine is without foundation in scripture, it
must be a high affront to the Divine Majesty, to place any hope of pardon on the cruel treatment, which a mere man like ourselves met with in the world : But if our Lord Jesus Christ made a sacrifice for sin by his death, and we are commanded to come unto God through such a mediator; then their condition is dangerous indeed, who despise that sacrifice, and reject that method of approaching God, which is appointed in the gospel for guilty
The doctrine of atonement has been treated with much contempt by some late writers, who have thought fit to speak (as one of them expresses it) “ with great indignation” against it; and to represent it, not only as contrary to the scriptures, but likewise as so absurd in itself, that it would render the Bible indefenfible, if it contained such a doctrine. I have examined, with some attention, the arguments on which this representation is founded ; and as they appear to me to be inconclusive, I have ventured to point out wherein I think them faulty, and to give a short defence of what I believe to be a fundamental doctrine of Christianity.
The doctrine of the Socinians respecting atonement is this, “ That God requires no ss consideration or condition of pardon, but “ the repentance of the offender; and that, consequently, the death of Christ was no
“ real facrifice for fin, but is called so in the
scriptures merely in a figurative sense, by way of allusion to the Jewish fin-offerings ;
as our praises and other good works are “ called sacrifices, because they are something
offered up to God.” On the contrary, the doctrine which I mean to defend is, " That • God has thought fit to require a considera* tion of pardon distinct from the repentance
of the finner; and that this consideration is • the death of Christ, which was a real facri
fice for fin, and stood related to the Jewish • sacrifices as the antitype to the type.'
I. It is evident, that the inspired writers do speak of the death of Christ as a sacrifice for fin. Christ appeared to put away fin by the sacrifice of himself. Heb. ix. 26. Chrift hath given himfelf for us, an offering and a facrifice to God. Eph. V. 2. Christ was once offered to bear the fins of many. Heb. ix. 28. He is the propitiation for our fins. 1 John, ii. 2. After he had offered one sacrifice for fin, be for ever sat down at the right band of God. Heb. x. 12. By one offering be bath perfected for ever them that are fantified. Ib. 14. &c. The question then is, Whether this language, which abounds in the New Testament, is proper, and to be understood literally; or merely figurative, and used by way of allusion to the Jewish sacrifices.
It is an allowed rule of interpreting the fcriptures, that every doctrine contained therein niust be understood in its most plain and obvious fense, considered in connection with its context, unless this sense is clearly absurd in itself, or contrary to other parts of scripture. Now it is felf-evidently right, that God should appoint such a way of extending mercy to penitent finners, as his infinite wisdom faw the fittest to display his hatred of fin, and to maintain the honour of his righteous laws, and just government of the universe. And no good reason can be given, why God, as governor of the world, might not appoint a sacrifice to be the means of forgiveness for transgressions against his general laws, as he did for offences against those particular laws, which he instituted as governor of one nation.
Let us then examine whether other parts of scripture require us to restrain the sacrifical language, used concerning our Lord, to a merely figurative sense, or whether we are led by them to understand it in its most proper and obvious fignification.
The most striking circumstance of the Jewish oeconomy was, the appointment of facrifice as the means of obtaining pardon for offences committed against that constitution, which the Jews were under as a peculiar people. Sacrifice was undoubtedly a consideration diftinct from the moral character of the of
fender, yet was the standing means of obtaining forgiveness, under the Mofaic dispensation, to those who conformed to the conditions required by the ceremonial law.
Now if this difpenfation was defigned to represent that of the gospel, then is pardon granted under the gospel also, to those who comply with the conditions required therein, by virtue of a confideration distinct from the moral character of the offender, in the same manner as it was under the law of Mofes.
That the Jewish propitiatory sacrifices were a neceffary consideration of forgiveness, and the means of obtaining it, appears both from their institution, and the view which is given of them by the inspired writer of the epiftle to the Hebrews. The words of the institution are plain to this purpose. And it mall be when any one shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess that be bath finned in that thing : And be shall bring bis trespass-offering unto the Lord for his fin which he bath finned'; and the priest shall make an atonement for him, for his fin which he bath hinned, and it shall be forgiven him. Lev. v. 5, 6, 10. compared with Lev. xvii. 11. which affures us that it was the blood which made the atonement, leaves no reason to doubt, that the sacrifice offered by the offender was the appointed means of obtaining forgiveness of his offence. The fame view of propitiatory facrifices is