« PreviousContinue »
reasonable mind that it is a doctrine
of truth. In prosecuting this design, he begins with stating its intimate and inseparable connexion with the Christian system, and then endeavours to disencumber it of extraneous matter, confining it to the three following propositions: first, that the death of Christ was an expiatory sacrifice; secondly, that God, out of regard to it, may in perfect consistency with his moral government, pardon sin; and, thirdly, that it is in consideration of this expiatory sacrifice that he actually does pardon sin. Mr. Jerram thus avoids all dispute about the term "satisfaction as implying a full equivalent to Divine Justice for the demerit of sin, and maintains that whether the notion of satisfaction be or be not true, it does not affect the scriptural doctrine of the atonement. The subject is of so much importance, that before we proceed, we must allow Mr. Jerram to state his own views, and the grounds on which he places the doctrine.
"I lay the more stress upon this point, because the enemies of this doctrine direct their principal efforts against the particular notions which some Christians attach to the specific quantum of merit in the atoning sacrifice: and when they have, as they think, invalidated these, they imagine they have demolished the doctrine of the Atonement, as held in common by orthodox Christians. They contrive, in this way, to shift the doctrine from its scriptural foundation, and place it on the peculiar notions of some classes of Christians. The true state of the controversy is this. The adversaries of the doctrine assert, that nothing is wanted to make way for the pardon of sin, on the repentance of the offender, but the mere mercy of God: that the death of Jesus Christ is not an atoning and expiatory sacrifice, and has nothing to do with that pardon and that God confers this blessing through Christ, as he does other ordinary favours. It is on this point that we are at issue; for we maintain, on the contrary, that God has thought fit to require, as a condition or consideration, in order to his pardoning sin, something distinct from the repentance of the offender; and that this is, the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is an atoning and expiatory sacrifice. I may believe more than this respecting the merit of Christ's death. I may maintain,
as I do, with our church, that it is 'a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, for the sins of the whole world.' I may go further, which I do not, and express my belief that this death is an exact equivalent, in point of suffering, for the penalty of man's transgression: I that there was, to the most minute numemay refine even upon this, and contend rical calculation, an equality between the sufferings of Christ and the punishment due to every sin, of every individual who shall be ultimately saved by Jesus Christ: and that if more or fewer than this num
ber had been intended to be saved, a proportionably greater or less degree of suffering must have been endured: but no part of this is common ground, on which the orthodox Christian contends with the opponents of the doctrine of the atonement: it is peculiar to Christians among themselves, and the whole may be affirmed or denied, without in the least affecting the grand question, as resting on scriptural authority.
"I cannot dismiss this subject, without lamenting the evil which has resulted from carrying points of doctrine beyond the clear and plain statements of the Holy Scriptures. There is constant tendency in our nature to be wise above what is written ;' and to push arguments, and to authorized by any fair construction of the draw inferences, which are altogether unword of God. The result has been pernicious, not only in the strife and debate which have so often afflicted the church of Christ, but in giving the greatest advantage to its common enemies. They have associated these extravagant notions with Christianity itself; and gloried in their victory over their feeble opponents, as though they had gained a triumph over truth itself. This has in no case, perhaps, been more remarkable, and more to be regretted, than in the attacks which have been made on the doctrine of the atonement. Many of its advocates have exceeded all the limits which the Scriptures and sober criticism prescribe; and have spoken so incautiously of the Supreme Being in his character of Judge and Moral Governor, with the view of establishing the necessity of an exact equivalent, even to the minutest calculation, being given to his violated laws, as apparently to divest him of love and mercy; and to transform him into a being not only of inflexible justice, but of inexorable wrath, without feeling the least relentings of compassion towards the returning prodigal. These representations have been insidiously identified with the doctrine of the atonement, and exhibited as belonging to its very essence and when its adversaries have established the doctrine of the Divine goodness and compassion, (a doctrine which no one calls in question,) they seem to think that they have given a fatal blow to the doctrine of the atonement, and
that little else remains than to enjoy the honours of a triumph. But when this doctrine is placed on its plain scriptural ground, and stripped of the ill-judged appendages with which some of its injudicious friends had incumbered it, it remains untouched by such arguments, and will retain its place till truth itself meets with a victorious adversary." pp. 5-11.
After perusing this clear and well-arranged passage, we feel called upon to consider how far we agree with our respected author in his general view of the subject. We can have no question as to his first general position, that God has thought fit to require (using the word require as an inference from the fact that it was appointed, and therefore was required,) as a condition or consideration in order to his pardoning sin, the death of Christ, and not merely the repent ance of the offender, as an atoning and propitiatory sacrifice. Yet even in this preliminary proposition-so difficult is it to speak rightly of Scripture mysteries, otherwise than in direct Scripture words-we might urge that require may be too strong a word, as appoint may be too weak a one; "it behoved Christ to suffer;"-and that both condition and consideration remind us too much of the character of human contracts to be fully applicable to the eternal purposes of the incomprehensible Creator. These, however, are the defects of man's understanding and man's language; and if we must define the matter, and lay it down as a proposition, we know not that we could greatly improve upon our author. But whatever of definition may be required in a didactic treatise, it is some consolation that in practical divinity it may be very safely avoided, confining ourselves chiefly to the Scripture fact, that thus and thus it was; rather than arguing on human grounds, that thus of necessity it must be.
Agreeing, then, with Mr. Jerram in the general doctrine, we also agree with him in his disclaimer of the speculative subtleties built upon CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 339.
it; such as the precise adjustment of penal suffering for sin in the manner of a human equivalent. We must not thus far press our imperfect analogies; and indeed there is something, to say the least, painful and incongruous in supposing the Almighty Father thus calculating, as it were, the exact demerit of each sin, and laying the aggregate of punishment with specific minuteness on the adorable Sacrifice. The transaction takes quite another complexion in the Divine word.
The only point left then is as to the term "satisfaction." As Mr. Jerram has no scruple in using this term himself, he is not chargeable with being defective in his view of the doctrine implied by it. He is willing, however, to decline the use of this particular term in his argument, and to fall back upon the less defined position. We doubt whether he practically gains any thing by this concession. Those who object to the term "satisfaction," will scarcely less object to Mr. Jerram's more general definition. The precise word, we admit, is not to be found in the Scriptures; but the doctrine is: and as the term is naturalized in theology, and, we may add as churchmen, adopted by our own church, we should be unwilling to relinquish it, even in arguing with an opponent. We would not, indeed, contend for a term, not essential because not scriptural; we would not unchristianize a believer in the doctrine of the Trinity, because he did not use the particular word Trinity: but, in popular estimation, words are things; and when we acknowledge in our services, and believe it to be a scriptural truth, that Christ made upon the cross, by the oblation of himself, "a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world," we think it a doubtful courtesy to yield the term even where the idea is retained, but still more should we refuse to relinquish the term, if either in truth or appearᏃ
ance, the doctrine itself should seem disparaged. Mr. Jerram is willing to accept less, for the sake of gaining more: but happily in our view his book proves more than he verbally asks; for if he can persuade the Socinian by his arguments to admit that the Scripture sanctions the doctrine of "an atoning and expiatory sacrifice," whether as "a condition or consideration," he will not be far from admitting, he can not but admit, that the Divine justice was thus "satisfied." Satisfaction does not imply an equivalent; it rather implies "magnifying the law and making it honourable." In human affairs, where no equivalent is offered for the most disparaging conduct except a mere apology, the offended person often says, and with sincerity, "I am satisfied." With how much higher propriety may the term be used in reference to the subjects under discussion.
Having thus stated the doctrine, our author next considers the objections against it. It might be thought that the more natural way would have been to proceed to the proof of the doctrine, and then to answer objections. Mr. Jerram's reasons for the method he has adopted seem to be, that, the doctrine having been clearly stated, the objections to it are the next in order; and these having been weighed and answered, the proof comes with additional force, and it certainly is most for the benefit of the reader that the last thing on his mind, should not be the controversy, but the cumulative evidence for a truth which he had already seen, was impugned without just reason.
The objections are arranged under four classes; namely, the alleged silence of the New Testament on the doctrine, in certain parts where it ought to be found; its alleged inconsistency with the Divine attributes; its alleged contrariety to express passages of Scripture; and the alleged untenable assumption of the piacular and vicarious nature of sacrifice.
In reference to the first of these objections, it is replied, that it would prove nothing if true, as every thing was not meant to be found every where, and one part of inspiration is as authoritative as another; but that it is not true, since both in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, the alleged negative portions, the doctrine is both implied and expressed; a fact clearly substantiated by evidence. The second objection, that an atonement is unnecessary and contrary to the Divine attributes, involves our author in a long and elaborate chapter; a chapter on which we did not venture, as we never do on à priori arguments in matters of revelation, without trembling. The plain fact of the atonement we understand, we receive, we rejoice in; it is so, for so it is written; but when, even in an honest desire to defend truth and refute objections, we begin to define what may, or may not, comport with the attributes of the Most High, we are ever in danger of darkening counsel with words without knowledge. One man, by his à-priori views of the Divine attributes, confirms himself in his Arminianism, and another in his Calvinism; one argues that love leads to such and such conclusions, and another that justice leads to the opposite. The Universalist and the Socinian especially affect this àpriori ground; and when we see the orthodox meeting them upon it, it is not without some fears that they may be foiled in using man's weapons, while they are invulnerable in the panoply of revealed truth. Are we then to grant the Socinian his à-priori conclusions? Far, very far from it: we think them quite unfounded; and more thanks, therefore, to those defenders of truth who, like our respected author, prove them to be so. If any reader, not content with the simple Scripture fact that thus and thus is the doctrine, has speculated upon the questions, How can it be? how bears it upon the character and
attributes of God? we think we can confidently promise him much satisfaction in reading the chapter before The theme abstractedly is always perilous; but Mr. Jerram's discussion of it is safe, and to our minds quite convincing: though if any person should still say he is unconvinced, the doctrine itself suffers nothing, for we have a full right to retire back from man's argument to God's authority; for be the doc trine to our feeble intellect likely or not, it is not the less scriptural. Still it is not unimportant for the refutation of an opposer, and for the satisfaction of an inquiring mind, to shew that Scripture mysteries, though not discoverable by reason are not opposed to reason; and that what God has taught us in his word as actual fact, is consistent with what we may infer from it by legitimate inference. The following is Mr. Jerram's mode of argument in this chapter. You object, that "satisfaction, or atonement for sin," implies that the Infinite Being can receive injury or compensation; neither of which is possible. But, replies the author, though God is impassive, yet, as a moral Governor, he may in his office, if we may so speak, receive injury and demand atonement: besides which the objection confounds good and evil, and makes virtue and vice matters of indifference; nay, would lead to the conclusion that God must not interfere, should all his creation rise in hostility to his laws, because his own happiness would still be uninjured, and his glory unimpaired. To a second objection, that the doctrine is opposed to the goodness of God,
who needed no extraneous inducement to be merciful, Mr. Jerram shews that the doctrine does not imply that God wanted an inducement, but just the contrary. His love was the fountain of the atonement. (See for example, Rom. v. 7-9; 1 John iv. 9, 10; 2 Cor. i. 3; 2 Thess. ii. 16; Heb. xiii. 20.) Mr. Jerram also shews that the sentiment of love may exist, where there
is no suitable vehicle for its exhi bition; and such was the case in the instance of fallen, guilty, impenitent man, till an atonement was made. Besides, who can dare to define what is or is not compatible with the love of God to man? And here, let the Socinian, if he can, burst through the irrefragable argument from analogy, in the sorrows of infancy, the innocent suffering with the guilty in public calamities, the tower of Siloam, slavery, tyranny, the partial diffusion of religion and liberty, and a thousand similar mysteries. Let the objector reconcile these with the abstract idea of the Divine benevolence; and we shall be at no loss to reconcile also the atonement with it. Neither the one nor the other proves that God is not infinitely merciful; but only that man cannot with his finite powers affirm in what way the Divine goodness will in any given case be exercised. And, besides all this, we live under a moral government; so that, as Mr. Jerram observes,
Though it may not be necessary that an atonement should be made for the purpose of inducing the Supreme Governor to exercise mercy towards offenders, it may, notwithstanding, be indispensably requisite in order for his displaying that mercy, consistently with the moral government which he has established among men. Mercy must be exercised, therefore, in such a way as to leave all the motives for obedience unimpaired and untouched. The individual must never have it to say,
I have been pardoned at the expense of the whole system of government which God had previously ordained in the world, and so as entirely to supersede the sanctions of, and therefore to annihilate, future happiness and misery, as offering motives p. 38. either to hope or fear.""
The argument from analogy, alluded to above, may be applied to the objection, that Jesus Christ could not have been a vicarious sacrifice, because the justice of God. would not allow punishment to fall upon the innocent. Yet does not the son often suffer for the conduct of the father? do not the Jews to this hour suffer for those who said, nearly two thousand years ago,
"His blood be upon us, and our children?" This difficulty rests as heavily upon the Socinian scheme, as the alleged difficulty of vicarious sacrifices upon the orthodox. But the analogies, it is replied, are not analogous; we admit, not altogether so, though sufficient for the conclusion; but even the difference strengthens that conclusion, as Mr. Jerram has shewn in the following striking, and, we think, original argument.
"We will, however, admit that the analogy between the innocent bearing the guilt of others, in the course of Divine providence, does not hold in every point with Jesus Christ suffering the Just for the unjust.' Christ was innocent to an extent that can be asserted of no merely human being; nor was he connected with us by the customary ties which unite man with man. But these differences strengthen our case, and make it still more evident that the sins of others were imputed to him; and that it is consonant with justice that they should be so. Taking the fact that the most innocent and holy of beings was also the greatest
to cherish towards our merciful Creator. Nothing can be more contrary to truth and Scripture, than to convey an impression-we write with solemnity-as if God were a tyrant, who could not be appeased but by blood; for though the Scriptures teach, that "without the shedding of blood there is no remission;" yet they expressly impute this very blood-shedding, this vicarious atonement, as we have already seen, to the love of God, and not to any less gracious attribute.
But we must pass on to the third class of objections; namely, those derived from the alleged contrariety of the doctrine to express passages of Scripture itself. This objection, if well founded, would be fatal; but we know of no such passage. The whole Jewish economy was of a vicarious complexion; its sacrifices were typical; and, taking the Epistle to the Hebrews (an Epistle much impugned by the Socinians) as our clue to the Mosaic ritual, we can readily reconcile to the doctrine of an atonement those passages which, as to the letter, speak of the mercies of God to man without distinct reference to it. The following discriminating remarks of our author would, of themselves, take in all these passages.
of sufferers-that the immaculate Saviour was emphatically the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,'-and that these sufferings were inflicted by the hand of God, and that it pleased the Father to bruise him,' we ask, in what way are these facts to be accounted for? Here we have innocence suffering, and that by God's appointment: shall we say that this was unjust? Those who assert this, charge injustice upon God: those who deny it, acknowledge that innocence may "It may be safely admitted, that projustly suffer. But all suffering is penal-mises of pardon are made, where no direct it is the wages of sin-and the conclusion is unavoidable, that, in the case of Christ's sufferings, the sins of others must have been imputed." pp. 51, 52.
In the course of this valuable chapter, our author justly reproves the morbid fastidiousness of the Socinian, who objects to the employment even of scriptural expressions in describing the anger of God, and his displeasure against sin; such as his being "a consuming fire;" but at the same time, we cannot but think caution necessary to those who hold the orthodox doctrine, to beware of harsh and exaggerated expressions; expressions not warranted by holy writ, nor consistent with those affectionate, yet reverential feelings, which we ought ever
allusion is found to the doctrine in question. When there is a well-understood principle of action, which has been clearly established, which lies at the foundation of an entire system, and which has again and again been referred to, there is no need to make mention of that principle on every occasion when it is acted upon it would be taken for granted, as a previously established proposition in mathematics, in future reasonings and deductions and this is precisely the case in the subject before us. Christ is represented as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.' The sacrifices of the patriarchal dispensation-of Abel, of Noah, of Abraham, and of Job, all had regard to the expiatory sacrifice of Christ. The doctrine of the atonement is the basis of the Mosaic dispensation; all the ceremonial defilements of the Jews which were typical of moral transgressions, were cleansed by sacrifices of atonement; and the blood of bulls and of goats, as will