Imatges de pÓgina
[ocr errors]

sin is the occasion of the offering, and that for which it was offered, would be an insult on his understanding.

2. The Jewish lawgiver plainly says, “The life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar, to make an atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul," Lev. xvii, 11. Now, in the preceding appointment of a sin-offering, it is particularly required that “the blood, in which is the life of the flesh,” shall be sprinkled before the Lord, and put on the horns of the altar within the tabernacle,--that all the rest of the blood shall be poured out at the foot of the altar of burnt-offering, and that thus an atonement shall be made, that the sin may be forgiven.

All this the Socinians will grant if they may be permit. ted to put their own construction on the word atonement, What that construction is Mr. G. will now inform us. “ The word translated atone (he says) signifies to cover, hide, conceal some blemish.” (Vol. ii, p. 143.) Very true: and its application may be seen at once in those words: “ Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered :" by which is described the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth right. eousness without works,” Rom. iv, 6, 7. An atonement is, therefore, that which, as it were, hideth the sin from Him who is “ of purer eyes than to behold iniquity.” This is its ideal meaning. He proceeds : “ With the meaning of reconciliation, the English word atonement perfectly accords. It is derived from the two words, at, one, with the termination ment, atonement. It signifies to bring toge. ther to terms of amity two persons that were before alien. ated from each other. This is precisely the meaning of to reconcile. In this reconciliation the change is never said to be in God, but always in man.” (Vol. ii, p. 146.) We cannot, on this occasion, do justice to the subject without remarking : (1.) That Mr. G. has made a transition from the ideal meaning of the original word to that of the English, and thus has relinquished the former: and (2.) That he has made pretty free with the meaning of words, when, proceeding by gradations, he assumes that the word atonement, as used in the Old Testament, per. fectly accords with the word reconciliation. It is true they are sometimes, by a figure, as cause and effect, sub.

[ocr errors]


stituted for each other. Atonement is the mean; recon. ciliation the end effected by that mean. What is the na. ture of that reconciliation which is the effect of atone. ment, we will now inquire.

We are are aware that, in contradicting Mr. G.'s state. ment, it would sound rather harsh to say roundly, The change was in God. We acknowledge the immutability of the nature and perfections of God; but dare not attri. bute to him the immutability of a stone.

Without any change in what he is, God can undoubtedly change in what he does. He can at one time be angry with us, and at another time turn away his anger. That, as a secular governor, he did thus change when atonement was made, we prove

thus : (i.) It was not because God had offended the men, but because the men had offended God, that the sin-offering was to be offered. And because God was offended, God was to be conciliated.

(2.) It was not God who presented the sin-offering to the congregation : but the congregation who presented it to God. The offering was therefore made, not to “ bring the men to terms of amity :" but to “ bring” God “ to terms of amity :" or, to speak with more propriety, it was the condition on which God proposed to be propitious to them.

(3.) In the case of peace-offerings. which were tokens of an existing, mutual friendship, the offerer was allowed to eat a part of the offering, in the presence of the Lord. See Lev. vii, 11-19. But “no sin-offering, whereof any of the blood was brought into the tabernacle of the con. gregation, to reconcile withal in the holy place, shall be eaten : it shall be burned in the fire," Lev. vi, 30. A clear proof that God in the holy place was to be conci. liated by it; and not the men, who were not permitted to participate it.

(4.) When the congregation had sinned, God permitted them not to enjoy "the privileges of his peculiar people ;" whereas when the sin-offering had been presented, he did permit them. In other words : the forgiveness was not on the part of the congregation, but God (as their secu. lar governor) forgave their sin. He shall make an atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them.”

To this application of the word atonement, Mr. G.

[ocr errors]

has, however, several objections which demand our at. tention.

(1.) The first to which we shall attend are those which are taken from the persons or things for which atonement is said to be made.

He thinks that atonement can only imply “a consecra. tion or dedication to God,” because atonement is said to have been made “ at the consecration of Aaron, and his sons to the priest's office; at the dedication of the Levites to their ministry; at the first act of worship in which the people of Israel joined under the new high priest ; at solemn festivals; and as a voluntary donation.” (Vol. ii, p. 141.) He has quite forgotten that the Jews were not so "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners,” but that the “ high priest needed daily to offer up

sacri. fice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's,” Heb. vii, 26, 27. Let him prove that they had no sin to expi. ate, and then he may infer that these atonements were not for their sins. As to the “voluntary donation,” Job offered burnt-offerings for his sons, because, said he, “ It may be that my sons have sinned,” Job i, 5. And why might not God allow a conscientious Jew, for a similar reason, to make a voluntary offering as an atonement ? It is not clear, however, that the passage to which Mr. G. alludes, Lev. i, 3, does speak of a voluntary atonement. The word is “13875, leretsono, to gain himself acceptance before the Lord. In this way all the versions appear to have understood the original words; and the connection in which they stand obviously requires this meaning.” (Dr. A. Clarke in loc.)

But “ a great part of the atonements had no reference to character whatever, but were appointed for things inani. mate, as altars, tabernacles," &c. (Vol. ii, p. 143.) This is some proof that an atonement was not made to con. ciliate that for which it was made. How could an altar or a tabernacle be conciliated? The truth is, that, in atoning for the altar and the tabernacle, the atonement was made for the people who were to present themselves before the door of the latter, and their offerings on the former. Thus it was ordained that the high priest « shall make atone. ment for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in


all their sins : and so shall he do for the tabernaele of the congregation that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness,” Lev. xvi, 16.

(2.) The second class of objections are taken from the nature of the sins for which atonement was made. “ The term atonement is used in reference to bodily diseases and infirmities, the commission of sins of ignorance, and only in two cases are sacrificial atonements appointed to be made for wilful violations of the moral law.” (Vol. ii, pp. 141, 142.)

That is, in plain terms, the legal atonements were not made for transgressions of the universal law of righteousness, but for transgressions of some of the ceremonial and civil laws, which God had given to them as their chief magistrate. The impurities contracted by certain “dis. eases and infirmities,” and the “sins of ignorance,” were transgressions of the ceremonial law. The former were considered as attendants on some sin, and were in fact the consequences of the fallen state of human nature. The latter were sins committed in the misapplication of the sacred things through avoidable ignorance. The “ wilful violations” for which atonements were appointed, were cases of " dishonest dealing,” and “ the treatment of slaves,” which were breaches of the civil law. They all referred to the Jewish polity, and the atonement was made to restore the men to the privileges of that polity, which by these transgressions they forfeited. It was an atonement suited to the nature of the sin, of the evils to be averted, and of the benefits to be recovered. But still it was an atonement for sin. In the case of dishonest dealing, the dishonest person was obliged, first, to make an atonement to the man whom he had injured, by restoring the property embezzled, and one-fifth part more; and then to make also an atonement to the legislator, whose laws he had wilfully violated.

(3.) The third class of objections are taken from the effect of the atonement to be made. 6 The atonement only referred to religious privileges." (Vol. ii, p. 143.)

Mr. G. might have said civil and religious privileges ; for the civil and ritual law were blended together. There is some truth in this. The sins for which atonement was made, were such as excluded the sinner from the congre. gation of Israel, and, if not atoned when known, procured à sentence of anathema. This sentence was revoked when the proper atonement was made, and the person pre. viously deemed “ guilty” was now " forgiven," and was admitted to the peculiar privileges which he had forfeited. But still the atonement is always called an atonement for his sin.

(4.) The fourth class of objections are taken from those passages which declare that sacrifices could not supply the place of repentance, reformation, and obedience. “ Thou desirest not sacrifice ;” “ thou delightest not in burnt-offerings ;" “ the sacrifice of God is a broken spi. rit,” &c., &c. (Vol. ii, p. 147.)

The question is not, would the Jewish sacrifices stand instead of morality and piety, or of repentance and reformation ? but were they appointed for the ceremonial expiation of certain sins, of a penitent sinner, against the Jewish law? We have found that they were.

3. In order, however, that the sin-offering by which atonement was made, might be effectual to procure the forgiveness of the sin for which it was offered, the sinner must confess his sin, and acknowledge the sacrifice as his own, and that he offered it as an atonement for his sin. The confession of his sin is sometimes mentioned. “ He shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing; and he shall bring his trespass-offering unto the Lord,” Lev. v, 5. (See Num. v, 7.) This is also particularly enjoined on the great day of atonement, and the meaning of it is distinctly stated. “And Aaron (as the representative of all the people) shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat,” Lev. xvi, 21. In the passage more immediately under con. sideration, as well as in the institution of sin-offerings in general, the offerers were required either personally, or by their representatives, to bring" the victim “ before the tabernacle of the congregation,” and to “ lay their hands upon

its head before the Lord.” By this act they designated it as their offering to make atonement for their sin; and their sin was consequently forgiven.

As this economy was intended to adumbrate the dis.

« AnteriorContinua »