Imatges de pàgina


nifested the most sincere contrition for his fault; and the most earnest desire to return to the way of obedience; or for the imputed transgression of some distant ancestor. Were I compelled to think thus of the Being in whose hands my present and everlasting destiny were placed, I would indeed throw myself prostrate before the throne of his power; I would endeavour if haply I might yet move his pity by pouring out the agony of my soul under his condemning sentence; I would inflict on myself every species of bodily mortification for the chance that he might be induced to accept the extremity of my present misery, as a commutation for the pains of hell for ever :-but to call upon him as my Father who is in heaven, what would this be but the bitterness of a spirit that mocked its own wretchedness, or the insolent irony with which a slave revenges himself on the author of his oppression, or a libel on his memory who first taught me what are the tenderness and longsuffering of a parent's heart? What strange confusion of ideas does this system produce, when it represents sin as a want of conformity unto, or transgression of, any law of God given as a rule to the reasonable creatures*; and yet speaks of sin, as conveyed by the order of

* Larger Catechism, Quest. 24. 26.

generation from Adam to his posterity, and therefore as existing in the new-born infant, utterly incapable of comprehending, and consequently of violating, a rule given to "the reasonable creatures!" How does it tend to confuse our ideas and to weaken the sensibility of conscience, by making men conceive of sin in the confessions of the closet and the sanctuary, as something entirely different from the intemperance, profaneness and malevolence of the conduct, and cherishing a habit of hyperbolical self-accusation in which the heart and the tongue are at variance! By holding out justification as consisting in receiving and resting upon the righteousness of Christ, without which it avails nothing, however a man grieve for and hate his sins, so as to turn from them all to God, purposing and endeavouring to walk with him in all the ways of his commandments*, it absolves those who act under a belief of it, from all care to awaken their own minds to sorrow and self-abasement for their transgressions. By declaring works done by the unregenerate (that is all those who have not been enabled by the spirit to apply Christ's sacrifice to themselves) to be sinful and incapable of pleasing God, though they be things which God commands, * Confession of Faith, xv. 3.

and of good use to themselves and others*, it introduces an arbitrary distinction into the quality of actions, to which our natural feelings of morality are repugnant, and allows the will and motive of the agent no share in determining the merit of his deed. Taken with all its consequences, to which it must be confessed that few have courage to advance, the doctrines which I have now stated appear to me more dishonourable to God than all the inventions by which the heathens obliterated the unity and spirituality of the divine nature, more bewildering to our principles of morals than the widest aberrations of gentile philosophy in search of the chief good and the standard of virtue.

I know it will be replied, that facts disprove the charge which I have brought against the doctrines of Calvinism, and that the pulpit services and practical writings of its professors are full of exhortations to good works, I admit that this reply is to a certain extent just; the formulary of belief, the words of which I have repeatedly quoted, declares, that good works are the evidences of a true and lively faith; but most feebly infers their necessity and enforces their obligation. Why, might any one reply, on whom the necessity of good works is urged, am I bound to prac * Confession of Faith, xvii. 7.

tise them, when my salvation is assured without them? They are, you say, the signs and evidences of justification. But to whom are they an evidence and a sign? Not surely to God, who can need no such information respecting his own decrees: not to myself, for if I have the witness of the spirit nothing can increase my faith, and if I have it not my works are worthless: not to my fellow creatures, who may judge indeed whether my actions be "such as God commands and of good use to myself and others," but cannot penetrate into my mind to see whether it be regenerate or not. The stress which may be laid on good works by those who adopt this system, is an involuntary homage to the language of Scripture, to the common sense of mankind, to the authority of those moral principles which are implanted in the heart of man, of prior origin and more durable influence than the decrees of episcopal councils or presbyterian assemblies. He who implanted these principles within us, has endowed them with an imperishable nature and an irresistible vigour :-you may heap on them a load of human inventions, and think them for ever buried beneath the pile; but their reviving growth soon heaves the incumbent mass from its basis, and piercing through every joint and crevice crumbles it into ruin.

There is, however, a milder form of the doctrines of satisfaction and atonement, which certainly is not so hostile to godliness as that which we have just been contemplating—a form avowedly adopted by some who have signalized themselves by the defence of orthodoxy, and probably embraced by many more, not so much from any force of scriptural proof, as from that strong repulsion which the enlightened mind and the feeling heart experience against the high and rigid notions of Calvinism. According to a celebrated modern expounder of the doctrines of atonement and sacrifice, the sacrifice of Christ was never deemed by any one, who did not wish to calumniate the doctrine, as having made God placable, but as the means appointed by Divine Wisdom for the bestowment of forgiveness. The sacrifice of Christ in Scripture implies solely this, a sacrifice wisely and graciously appointed by God, the moral governor of the world, to expiate the guilt of sin in such a manner as to avert the punishment of it from the offender; and the whole is a striking sensible representation of a punishment which the sinner was conscious that he deserved from God's justice, and a public declaration of God's holy displeasure against sin*. The pe


Magee's Discourses on Atonement and Sacrifice, 3d ed, i. 22, 36.

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