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specting the conditions on which the gospel proffers its favors. “The sinner must be humbled and penitent." But the next proposition in the Creed seems to give a different account. As the words are commonly used, pardon and justification mutually imply each other, if they are not the same thing; yet aside from the “personal requisites” for pardon, we are told, “That the righteousness of Christ is the only ground of the sinner's justification.” Can both propositions be true ? Can “repentance, faith, and holiness," be "requisites,” to justification, if “the righteousness of Christ is the only ground” on which the favor is conferred ?
When I reflect on former experience, I am led to suspect, that there is now in the minds of many a confusion of ideas relating to the two propositions; and that this confusion has led many to concede that they “know not in what manner the sacrifice of Christ is connected with forgiveness.” As education and habit have taught them to say,—“That the righteousness of Christ is the only ground of the sinner's justification,” they, of course, overlook or set aside reconciliation or repentance, considered as the connecting link between the sacrifice and pardon, or acceptance with God.
That there is a mistake in supposing “ that the righteousness of Christ is the only ground of the sinner's justification,” will perhaps be evident to all who will duly consider how often this idea would need to be expressed or understood in the Bible, to make the sense complete, if this doctrine were true. I shall exhibit a few examples which may stand as the representatives, perhaps, of as many hundreds.
“Repent ye, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out;” for “ the righteousness of Christ is the only ground of the sinner's justification.”
“He that humbleth himself, shall be exalted,” for 6 the righteousness of Christ is the only ground of the sinner's justification."
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy,” for “ the righteousness of Christ is the only ground of the sinner's justification.”
“ To do good, and communicate forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased,” for “ the righteousness of Christ is the only ground of the sinner's justification."
“Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful in a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord,” for God " accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ.”
Who can say, that the additional cláuse in these passages is not necessary to complete the sense, or to prevent mistake, if the doctrine in question is true ? And yet, how absurd do the passages appear with such an addition to the inspired text! Will not posterity find it to be a fact, that, in the business of creed-making, more falsehood than truth has been wrought up into supposed essential articles of faith? And will they not account for the fact, on the ground, that party spirit has too commonly been the fire in which such articles have been forged ?
The revelations of divine mercy have been made to men as sinners. As sinners they needed a covenant, or method of pardon, on conditions with which it would be possible for them to comply. Such conditions God has gra
ciously revealed, and has promised the aids of his spirit to those who are willing to turn from the paths of sin, to the path of obedience. A compliance with these conditions, is as properly the ground of pardon to sinners, as perfect obedience is the ground of justification to those who never sinned.
The various forms in which the conditions of favor are expressed, are of similar import, in regard to the temper of heart required. If faith or believing is mentioned as a condition, it is a faith which works by love, purifies the heart, and reforms the life, which is intended; or, as Mr. Baxter says of faith, " It is Christianity in consent.” The same may be said of other forms in which the conditions are expressed. “The sinner must be humbled and penitent,” may imply all that is required. Where God perceives this temper, he perceives that to which his promise of favor is made; and, in my opinion, God has no occasion to look through a glass of vicarious punishment to be pleased with contrite and obedient affections. Like the holy inhabitants of heaven, he rejoices when one sinner repents. The more clearly we perceive that God is love, the less we shall probably see, or suspect, of a vindictive policy in the atoning sacrifice.
Most cordially can I bid Professor Stuart “God speed,” in all his attempts to show, that the gospel does not proffer its favors “ unconditionally," and that a “humbled and penitent” heart, is the condition of pardon. For I cannot doubt, that more close inquiry on this subject will convince him, that this principle, when properly understood, must undermine and set aside the doctrine of substituted suffering, and prove to the world, that truth is attainable by approximation,
Peace among Men.
The views which men habitually entertain of God may be supposed to have an influence on their own characters, analogous to that which a father has in forming the character of his children. It was not without reason that Plato “ feared, lest the youth might be corrupted by those fables, which represented the gods as vicious.” For it is to be expected, that men will feel at liberty to indulge such feelings and dispositions as they are taught to ascribe to their Maker, or the objects of their worship.
As the language of the New Testament naturally leads us to regard the death of the Messiah, as an event, in · which God made a remarkable display of his disposition and feelings towards mankind, the views which we habitually cherish of the nature of that sacrifice, must naturally have much influence in forming our views of the moral character of Jehovah.
That “peace on earth” was one important object of the Savior's mission and sacrifice, will hardly be doubted by any intelligent believer in the Gospel. It is, then, reasonable to suppose, that there was something in that sacrifice, which, rightly viewed, is adapted to promote 6 peace on earth, and good will among men,”_some manifestation of the feelings of God towards his sinful children, which, if duly cultivated and imitated by them, would give peace to the world. Still, whether the atoning sacrifice will have its intended effect, or be perverted to
opposite purposes, will depend much on the views which Christians entertain of its nature and purposes. That one view of it may be better adapted than another to excite and cherish in men the spirit of forbearance, benignity, forgiveness, and peace, all who duly reflect will admit; and that view of it which has the more of this tendency, is probably the more correct. Firmly believing, that just views of this affecting sacrifice will be found efficacious means for reconciling men to one another, it will be my aim impartially to inquire, What are the views which are adapted to a result so sublime, so animating, and glorious ? I shall begin with the more prevalent theory of the atonement.
For a long period of time, it has been supposed, that the sufferings of Christ were a substitute for the punishment due to sinners, and the effects of divine anger. This hypothesis has probably been popular in all the countries of Christendom. But what have been its effects in relation to peace. Has it had the effect to render Christians meek, forbearing, and pacific, like their Lord ? Has it subdued the passions of men, and excluded from among Christians violence, persecution, and war? Should any one assert that such have been its effects, would not the history of Christendom, for more than a thousand years, contradict the assertion, in characters of blood ? Would not the same history assure us, that neither Pagans, Jews, nor Mahometans,have been more addicted to war than Christians ? that their views of the atonement have been so far from restraining them from violence and bloodshed, that in thousands of instances, they have encouraged men to engage in the work of mutual slaughter, in the hope, that the blood of Christ would cancel their murderous deeds ? that the