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ON THE ATONEMENT.
friends; which, by having a too literal in
terpretation given to it, goes far to strip BY THE Rev. John SPENCE, M.A.
the atonement entirely of its moral character, Rector of East Keal, Lincolnshire.
and to exhibit it as a kind of commutative I.
transaction a transaction of bargain and It is a favourite and constantly repeated ob- sale, wherein a stipulated payment is to be jection of the opponents of atonement, that made by one party for an equivalent good its supporters, they assert, so represent and to be received from another. Since then, unfold it, as to involve the palpable absurdity every effect has its adequate cause, the quesof Deity appeasing Deity; or of one Being, tion necessarily suggests itself, whence arises for a valuable consideration agreed upon, in- this incautious oversight of not strictly adducing another Being to exercise mercy, to hering, both in writing and in public preachwhich he was previously averse. This trite ing, to " sound speech, that cannot be conobjection, though not a little imposing in demned" (Tit. ii. 8), and to which "the desound, is in itself but " the spider's web,” niers of the Lord that bought them" can make " the staff of a broken reed," when its no appeal for buttressing up their soul-destrength is duly tested by Scripture. Since, stroying error, or, as the apostle pointedly however, it is but another phrase for the characterises it, their “ damnable heresy. direct rejection of the Saviour himself, -- This oversight seems to arise partly from and as it is calculated, by its startling plau- adopting indistinct, or misapprehending, ideas sibility, to make converts of ignorant and of the fundamental principles and beneficial half-awakened minds, and to throw the ho- ends of moral government, and of the public nest inquirer on the waves of doubt and per- character and the executive office of a moral plexity, - it is by no means undeserving of governor; and partly from giving to figuraa close examination and a scriptural reply. tive language a too literal and positive meanThis is the more necessary in the present ing. The former of these particulars will day of an insidious and wide-spreading dif- come fully under consideration in another fusion of infidel principles on the one hand, essay: on the latter particular, a few brief and a lax, fashionable, theoretic Christianity explanatory remarks will not be irrelevant, on the other ; because those who urge this in advancing to the main object of the preobjection against the atonement, unhesitatingly affirm that it is clearly deducible from It is a fact, well known to every reader of the common-sense meaning of the terms the Bible, that large portions of its hallowed which its advocates constantly use in their pages are written in highly figurative lanexplanation and defence of it. Now, in fair- guage; and this language, from its being ness of argument, it cannot be denied that, the representative of the external objects of in earnestly contending for this fundamental sense, or of the things " that are made," article of our faith, injudicious language is with which we are more or less familiarly sometimes adopted even by its warmest conversant, is exactly adapted to illustrate VOL, YII, -NO, CLXXXII.
(London: Robson, Levey, and Franklyn, 46 St. Martin's Lane.)
spiritual subjects, and to impart to our cir- by an act of supreme prerogative and royal cumscribed minds the only clear knowledge clemency? We can discover none." To reof divine truth of which we are at present turn a convincing and satisfactory answer to capable. But it should be constantly re- those who propose this question, would be an membered, that figurative language, and in attempt just as fruitless as it would be enddeed all human language, from its very in- less ; for they deny, at the threshold of the adequate nature, is, and can only be, the argument, the Divine inspiration of those language of analogy and illustration, when very Scriptures which alone can furnish the “ the invisible things”— that is, the essence, answer demanded. For such "wise men and attributes, and acts of the incomprehen- after the flesh,” such enlightened disciples sible triune Jehovah—are the subject of ex- of what they are pleased to call " rational planation. If, then, in unfolding the mys- Christianity," these pages are not written. terious doctrine of the cross, figurative lan- The man, however learned, who, by becomguage is inadvertently strained beyond its ing the dupe of his own bewildering sceptilimited intention and appropriate bearing- cism, has, like another Hume or a Gibbon, if it be made to convey to the hearer or to reasoned himself into the belief that his own the reader a literal and positive, instead of understanding is the measure of all truth and simply an illustrative and approximating all Divine testimony, cannot be said to have meaning, --- much confusion of ideas, and a a right judgment in any truth, or in any teswide misapprehension of the true nature and timony."A deceived heart hath turned him design of atonement, must be the result; and aside." "He wants no prophet to teach him, the Socinian will not fail to seize on such no priest to atone for him, no king to conincautiousness of expression, and make his duct him : he needs neither a Christ to reconfident appeal to it, for substantiating his deem, nor a Spirit to sanctify him." rejection of propitiatory sacrifice altogether. The specific object of the present and folWhen-to mention an instance of such incau- lowing essay is to explain and vindicate the tiousness-it is said, cither in preaching or in doctrine impugned, for the benefit and consowriting, that the sufferings of Christ on the lation of the humble believer, and that he may cross were not only vicarious and propitia- be " strengthened and confirmed," " rooted tory, which is a glorious truth, but were also and built
up in Christ, and established in the the identical sufferings or punishment due to faith.” For the attainment, then, of this imthe sins of transgressors, the assertion is ex- portant end, let him remember, in his daily tremely unguarded, and totally indefensible ; reading of the Scriptures with prayer, that for it is quite clear, independent of other the sufferings of " the holy and the just One” considerations, that such a scheme of atone- are a revealed fact, based on the clearest and ment would make pardon and salvation not strongest testimony; and that those suffera matter of unmerited mercy, but a matter of ings, endured by Him who was lioly, harmclaimed right - an act of strict distributive less, undefiled, and separate from sinners," justice on the part of Him who forgives. are, and must be, strictly vicarious ; for on Hence “ those,” says Bishop Horsley," who any other scheme of interpretation his death speak of the wrath of God as appeased by is an inexplicable puzzle, and all the preChrist's sufferings, speak, it must be con- figurative sacrifices, by the blood of animal fessed, a figurative language. The Scrip- victims, under the patriarchal and Levitical tures speak figuratively when they ascribe dispensations, are totally devoid of any intelwrath to God. The Divine nature is un- ligible meaning, or of any assignable end. susceptible of the perturbations of passion ; On this revealed fact, this revelation of eterand when it is said that God is angry, it is a nal love in the gift of an atoning Saviour, all figure which conveys this useful warning to the believer's hope of pardon and sanctificamankind, that God will be determined by his tion, of immortality and glory, is built. wisdom, and by his providential care of crea- This fact, then, so replete with the sweetest tion, to deal with the wicked as a prince in comfort, is not to be expunged from the anger deals with his rebellious subjects." inspired volume by a parade of sophistical Apart, however, from these passing remarks arguments, fine-spun criticisms, speculative on the momentous subject under considera-cavils, and neological interpretations, which tion, the vital question which the rejectors of are not only subversive of the established “ the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ" usage and received meaning of language, but ask, and ask too in a tone of much irreve- are also equally subversive of the moral enirent levity and self-complacent confidence, pire of God over all intelligent and responsible is this : “ Whence arose the necessity of beings, whom he has formed. Such a toratonement for the pardon of sin ? or, in other tured, legerdemain handling of texts as the words, what moral impediment hindered the Socinian adopts, clearly annihilates the essenoffended party from pardoning the offending tial relations which must ever subsist between
the Creator and the creature ; between the of research, and his vigour and amplitude of rightful claims of the moral Governor and comprehension in other matters, the Bible, the required allegiance of the governed. the sole depository of this essential article Voluntarily to withhold this allegiance is of the Christian faith, is to him an awfully guilt; and the Lawgiver has solemnly af- sealed book. Of its quickening, sanctifying firmed, that " he will in no wise clear the doctrines he knows nothing spiritually, feels guilty." His holy nature and immutable nothing experimentally and practically. Unperfections forbid the supposition that he conscious of his fallen state, as a polluted, will do so. “ He is of purer eyes than to guilty, condemned sinner, he is not penetrated behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity." with the conviction of his perishing need of As " the God of truth," he cannot contradict grace, mercy, and peace, from God the and undeify himself, on purpose to save the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ." rebellious and the guilty, who contemptuously Hence his religion is devoid of all inward, refuse their acquiescence in his revealed regenerating power, and personal enjoyment; method of " justifying the ungodly." Hence it is a shadow without the substance, a breaththe wilful rejection of Christ," who is the less body destitute of an animating soul. propitiation for the sins of the whole world,” The economy of pardoning grace, through must terminate in the sinner's sure and irre. faith in the all- sufficient sacrifice of an mediable ruin. There is, and can be, no atoning Saviour, is to him a subject of way of escape for him from the wrath to aversion and contempt. It only puzzles his come;
for “ there is salvation in no other." deified reason and mortifies his sceptical His unbelief cannot make the faith or veracity pride; and not " receiving the kingdom of of God of none effect; no, says Paul, “ let heaven as a little child," in the simplicity of God be true, but every man a liar.” The faith, he can neither understand its nature, sinner, therefore, must either bow to the nor enter therein. When, therefore, the adsceptre of Christ's grace, or be dashed in vocates of " rational Christianity," or rather pieces with the iron rod of his power. And of irrational scepticism, have been taught, as here, how deeply affecting is the thought, persecuting Saul of Tarsus was taught, not when we look to an exchange of worlds, to by the force of human disputation, however an eternal state of being, that the incarna- acute and vigorous, but by an unction of the tion, sufferings, and death, of Jesus Christ, Holy One, to cease their impotent and awfully are a subject which absorbs the contempla- perilous, because awfully impious, attempt tion of angelic minds, and which they have to scale, as it were, the battlements of hea. studied with feelings of glowing wonder and ven; to dethrone the blessed and only Potendelight from its first announcement to the tate of eternity; to despoil his Godhead of present moment; and that fallen, apostate its essential glory; and to break in pieces man, for whose especial benefit this rich pro- the sceptre of his mediatorial government vision of pardoning mercy was designedly and power ;—when they have been taught, in made, should disbelieve its truth, reject its the spirit of humility and self-diffidence, to
“ count it an unholy thing," make their finite and fallible understandand aim at reducing to the standard of his ings bow to the declared authority of Him own feeble apprehension its sublime mystery who wills " that all men should honour the and ineffable grandeur ;- this painful fact is Son, even as they honour the Father ;"—when indeed “a lamentation, and shall be for a they have been taught to distinguish what, lamentation !" Such conduct not only in- as being a profound mystery, transcends volves a denial of the necessity of a Saviour, human reason, but does not contradict it; but it also involves a charge of folly against what is proposed as purely an object of faith, God himself in sending a Saviour. It is but not an object of comprehension ; - in therefore none other than the creature's short, when they have got the doctrine of waging war with the Creator, “stretching the cross, not merely entertained in their the hand against him, and running upon the heads as a cold, barren, speculative thethick bosses of his buckler ;" and nothing ological dogma, but its sanctifying efficacy but the omnipotent transforming grace of his lodged in their hearts as an implanted prinHoly Spirit can eradicate such pride from ciple of light, and life, and personal holiness; the heart, and cure the mind of such daring --when they have thus felt its transforming imbecility and madness, though dignified by influence penetrate, and pervade, and vivify the advocates of scepticism with the name of all the powers of their souls, and renew them superior wisdom and discernment. Without in the spirit of their minds, their wills, their this divine teaching, the doctrine of atone- judginents, their dispositions, and affections ; ment, the preaching of Christ crucified, is, and then, and not till then, all their objections ever will be, foolishness to the self-satisfied to the vicarious sufferings and obedience of a rationalist; and, whatever may be his depth Divine Surety will entirely vanish ; and they
will happily find that this rejected doctrine coine near us; we heard of them, but we saw them will, from its exact adaptation to their guilt
not; we still breathed a pure air. We heard of our
fellow-mortals dying at home: one is gone, but after and moral impotency, delightfully interpret
a long illness; another is gone, and gone suddenly, and harmonise itself; will become the power but it was an accident;- there is no pestilence in of God to their salvation; and will unfold to England. their admiring gratitude and joy the glory, the tidings to another, many a cheek turned pale, and
" The cholera is in England !” and as one repeated and wisdom, and goodness of Him who
many a lip quivered ; and then we listened to the planned such a scheme of boundless mercy account of its progress from place to place; and the for saving the guilty and polluted, the help- Jists of cases and the lists of deaths in the paper less and the lost.
became interesting. “It is in such a place," one said
to another, " and a dear friend lives not many miles Should, however, the inquiring mind of the
from thence.” It is in London, and there is daily and humble believer, who desires to be wise up hourly communication between that city and our own; to what is written, though not above it, and and the infection may be speedily brought. Are we who daily searches the Scriptures with prayer,
ready? Can we part one with another, knowing that
He remains who is more than father, and mother, and that he may "grow in the knowledge of the
husband, or brotlier and sister can be to us? Then truth as it is in Jesus," and be ready always there was time for thought: every friend, every near to give an answer to “s
every man that asketh and dear relative of whom we might almost have said, him a reason of the hope that is in him ;" — Our lives are bound together; of whom we might should such an one ask, “ Whence arose the
almost have thought, as the brother of Benjamin said
of him, “The lad cannot leave his father; for if he necessity of a vicarious sufferer in our be
should leave his father, his father would die;"—every half ?" the question admits of a very satis- friend most dear shall pass in review before us ;-we factory answer, and is to be considered in a will think of every one individually, "Could we part
with that one ?" twofold point of view. This will form the
“As thy day is, so shall thy strength
be.” “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." subject of another essay.
O, claim the promises; rely upon them, and go on from day to day.
“ We shall realise it more," we said one to another, THE CHOLERA.*
“when we hear of any one we had ever
known having died in it;" and, after long warning, When my reader walked with me in our church
we were told that, in a distant place, such a one had yard, I said that we might meet again there, and that
died. Did we remember him? Yes, it was many I could point to the grave of those who died in the
years ago a friend brought him here: he was very cholera; and now I fulfil this promise. I often in
young, and had just obtained a scholarship at Oxford; tended, while the cholera was prevailing, that if I he was ordained a minister in the church : as for bim, should live to see it removed, I would recall who had
he was like a green olive-tree in the house of his God. been the victims, and make a little record of such
We knew no more of him: he was taken ill, and his circumstances as had come under my own obscrvation.
case pronounced a case of most malignant cholera ; at It has been remarked that " all things are less
five in the morning he died, and at four in the afterdreadful than they seem." Those who have only read
noon he was laid in his narrow bed. Now we can and heard of the cholera, can scarcely think they
realise it. The same afternoon we had heard this should kneel at the bed-side of the dying sufferer,
account, came a man from one of the cottages on the and almost forget that the cholera is infectious. Oh,
steep leading down to the river. “H--s is dead, who that is a Christian will not bind to his heart that
and must be buried to-morrow, for he has died of promise, “ As thy day is, so shall thy strength be ?"
cholera." Now, then, it has reached our own parish: There is a corner in our churchyard that till lately
but we had warning and respite---a month passed was seldom used : it had one grave, liowever, the
away before another victim followed. grave of that poor deluded man, of whom I told you,
I will not detain you with particulars of all the whose poor sister came from a distant place, and
deaths ; they amounted to about twenty. How mer. having had the grave and the coffin opened, gazed in
cifully indeed have we been dealt with! in the adjoinagony on her brother. That corner of the churchyard
ing city we have heard of no such ravages as in some was seldom used, because the ground was accounted
other places; but we have heard enough to make the damp, for it is very low: it is the south-west corner,
heart ache, and to fill the eye with tears. “ There and overhung by some willows planted in the adjoining
was not a Sunday," said a dear friend, " that we went field. In this spot are now mariy new-maile graves, and I would walk down there with you, and tell you
to our school, but some were missing;" and to me it
secmed, all that lovely weather, as we sat in our shady the histories of those who rest beneath. But we must
bower, or walked in our pleasant garden, the bells in look back a little. We remember when we knew but
Bristol were continually tolling. There was many a the name of the cholera; we heard of thousands in
thouglit for the dead, and many a prayer for the dying one distant nation, and tens of thousands in another,
there. cut down by some sudden, fearful pestilence. Was it
“ Where shall we go," I heard some one inquire, the plague, or a fever? No, it was a complaint vary.
“if the cholera comes to our city ?" and I thought the ing in its symptoms, new and mysterious.' We heard of these thousand and ten thousand deaths, something
only answer would be, "To heaven.” Could we go
there, we should be safe-could we breathe the air of as we should hear of the falling of thousands on a field of battle; or of the sinking of a stately vessel,
beaven, we should breathe air that never was insected, with its crew, and its captain, and its passengers,
and that never will be: but, my fellow-pilgrim, all the swept into eternity beneath the waves.
days of our appointed time will we wait, till our change awful : it should make us think of death, judyment,
“ The angel of the Lord tarrieth round about and eternity; it should make us ask, Is our peace
them that fear him, and delivereth them." Shall we
not be content to larry 100? to wait, and pray, and made with God, through Jlim "who being in the form of God, humbled himself?" But these events did not
suffer, and rejoice, as long as God pleases ? " Where
shall we go?" Stay where the providence of God has • From “ Things New and old.” By a District Visitor. fixed the bounds of our habitation; or go where the
pillar of cloud and fire leads us : go about our daily | Such, we trust, was the case with Mrs. B- I business; go to the sanctuary of God; go about doing love to remember my visits to her; she was a pattern good; go to the bed-side of ihe sick and dying, if our of a poor man's wife,--so industrious, so cleanly; and God has work for us to do there.
to her superiors (for I must use the word, though Twenty seemed indeed but a small number of vic- how inferior in many respects!) so humble, so thanktims in a parish the population of which is more than ful, so respectful: the little she could give to aid in six thousand ; and yet I could tell you victims of sending to heathen lands the Gospel, which I trust every age, and sex, and rank. One among the first she valued, how willingly was it given! There was a was a strong and hardy woman, who had braved the neat border of flowers before her door, and I admired toils of sixiy summers and winters. I can see her them the last time I saw her, for the sun was shining now, with her fat country hat, and her cloth jacket, most brightly on the marigold, and the red, transdoing the hardest work in her garden, disregarding parent leaves of the love-lies-blecding. I remember alike the wintry storm and the burning sun. Her she spoke with awe, and yet with calmness, on the grandchildren brought the infection from Bristol, and judgments of God that were abroad in the earth; and many of the family were ill; but they recovered, and cold me she had provided remedies to be at hand, the poor grandmother was the victim. Then there should either of her family be seized with the dreadwas poor M— Her name reminds me of a pleasant | ful pestilence. But when the pestilence came, the walk on a Sunday evening with my dear father; he earthly medicines failed; human physicians proved had heard in the course of the day that a person of physicians of no value; and on a bright sunny mornthat name was ill, and wished to see him; and in the ing, a few hours after her death, we watched her evening we set out to find her. But any one who suneral procession--a few sad mourners.
The next may know the indistinct directions many of our poor Sunday her family came to church for comfort, and neighbours give-how little they judge of distances ; came, I trust, not in vain. how numerous and intricate our lanes; and how fre- The story of poor HI-
is a sad one. She had quent the same name among the inhabitants,-will not lived but a week in the place where she died; and I wonder that, after long wanderings and repeated in- never heard her name, till I was told how ill she was quiries, we could not find the person we had set out in the cholera. I entered the large but desolateto see; but we went to one of the same name, and I looking kitchen, and paused at the foot of the stairs, sat and listened to the kind persuasive tones of my for a female voice was reading. I listened to many beloved companion. Mrs. M- was ill; but not verses of the Psalms: I think the beautiful prayers so ill as to have sent for bim to visit her: she had had that followed were selected from the Visitation of the a liver-complaint for years, and was weak and low. Sick; and I listened till I heard the words, “The "I did not know you were ill,” said her minister ; Lord bless thee, and keep thee; the Lord make his " and you did not send for me ; but we will hope that face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; God directed me here this evening.” And then, in a the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give few words, he told her lessons of wonder, that“ angels thee peace.” * Am I wanted ?" I thought, surprised desire to look into;" he spoke till one unaccustomed, and pleased to find any one whose voice I should not alas, to hear, or read, or think of the cares of her soul, have krown well, engaged in this labour of love. But was humbled to a quiet and serious attention; till hoping to administer some help for the temporal, if another thanked God for him more than he had ever not for the spiritual wants of the poor patient, I now done before ; and till his own voice faltered with intruded on her and her kind attendant: this I found emotion. Thank God, she heard of the way to hea- to be her sister, come from a place of service at a disven; and though I have nothing further pleasing to tance, to mourn with her and comfort her. The poor tell of her,-though, not long after, her husband and woman lay in extreme agony, but seemed attentive to she engaged in an employment suited to lead them all that was said to her, and thankful for instruction. farther than ever from the way of holiness, that of But I saw her no more while she was able to hear, keeping one of those numerous becr-houses which or speak, or notice any one: each day I saw her, are a pest to our land—and though she neglected the but each day only to mark the progress of incurable public worship of God,-yet who knows but in the disease. This was one of the cases in which, either short time of her dying agonies there may have been through the strength of constitution, or the power of a remembrance of that calm Sunday-evening visit; medicines, or, it may be, the healthfulness of the air and a lifting up of the heart for mercy through the in this place, the sufferer lingered day after day. I merits of that Saviour who was then evidently set continued to go, not knowing but that she might again forth crucified before her ? Sbe died; and the last be able to hear and understand; but it was in vain : offices were performed for her by Mrs. B-, one and the last visit surely never can be forgotten--never who was indeed valued and lamented. But I must shall I forget that poor woman's dying agonies, for not introduce her to you yet; there is another victim she was even then dying; half an hour afterwards she to be named first. • It is a melancholy account of was gone. poor Mrs. M-" I remember saying 10 the sex- How merciful is our heavenly Father in imparting toness, while the bell was tolling for her. “Yes, strength equal to the day; and yet how ofien are and there's another gone since,” was the answer; and those who really trust in him tempted to look in every house I entered during my walk that morn- forward, and heard to say, " I could not bear such a ing, I heard fresh accounts of the dreadful sufferings trial; I could not witness such a scene!" Oh, when I of poor H-s.
hear such assertions, I sometimes remember what I In some cases that I have known since, the suffer- have known them witness, and I can scarcely avoid ing appeared less than I had expected; and it was asking them, “Have ye suffered so many things in ditficult to think the patient, while able to lie quietly vain ?”. The strength suited to some particular emerand listen and reply to all that was said, really so gency is not imparted before the emergency comes ; extremely ill, and so very near death, as in some and day after day the mind, without being hardened, cases it proved. And oh! if there was variety in seems better accustomed to what it has to suffer. We the measure of bodily suffering, how great variety felt this when we watched the funerals from our was there in the character of those who suffered- windows : at first there were some anxious thoughts some, alas, taken away from means of grace they about him who had to commit the bodies to the grave; had despised, and opportunities of mercy they had and earnest, perhaps trembling prayers for a blessing neglected; and others taken from the evil to come, on the preventive he had been induced to take gathered, at whatever age, as corn fully ripe, and before he went to this solemn and perilous duty: he stored where blighting and tempest never come. came back again well, calm, and even cheerful ; and