Imatges de pàgina

posing such to be the state of feeling among us, is not this fact a proof, that very incorrect views of the atonement are generally entertained? The fig-tree will as soon bear olive-berries, as such feelings will result from correct views of the atoning sacrifice.

It will not, I think, be denied by any intelligent Christian, who has candor enough to reflect impartially, that the view I have given of the sacrifice, is far more adapted than the popular one, to bring war and persecution into disrepute. This circumstance cannot be of small value in the comparative estimate of the two theories. But, if I mistake not, there are other advantages on the same side, while there is nothing on the other to balance against them.

1. Regarding the atoning sacrifice as a display of God's love to sinners, has no tendency to impress the idea that the Father was less compassionate and more vindictive in his feelings towards sinners, than the Son; but that the common theory has this tendency will, I believe, not be denied or doubted by any conscientious Christian, who was educated under its influence. I well recollect the impressions made on my own mind when a child ; nor can I doubt that similar impressions have been made on the minds of millions of others. Can it be otherwise than injurious to impress the minds of the young with this dreadful idea, that such was the character of God, such his anger towards us, that no sinner could ever have been saved, had it not been for the wonderful compassion of the Son, who interposed in our behalf, consenting to suffer the full displays of avenging justice, that God's anger might be turned away from us, and pardon granted to the penitent? When a child is thus taught, is it possible for him

to entertain so high an opinion of the Father as of the Son ? And can a theory be true, which tends so much to sink the moral character of Jehovah in the view of his intelligent offspring ? "Much that has been written on the subject of the atonement seems to me of this tendency, though not so designed by the writers.

2. If I am not deceived, the theory of the atonement which I have supposed to be true, contains no idea which seems to contradict the acknowledged principles of justice and benevolence. But can this be said of the prevalent theory? Our ideas of justice and benevolence are chiefly derived from the Bible ; and Christians of all denominations, and many Deists, freely admit, that the moral sentiments inculcated by the gospel are of the purest kind. But from my own experience I am led to suppose, that the advocates of vicarious punishment must at times be shocked with the idea, that according to the common sense of enlightened men, it is a perversion of justice to punish the innocent that the guilty may escape ; and yet, that this is the principle on which it is generally supposed that Christ suffered for us. I freely admit, that we should not hastily reject a doctrine because it involves some idea which is to us perplexing ; but when a theory seems flagrantly to contradict one of the first principles of moral justice, we may and we ought impartially to inquire, whether in fact that doctrine, or that view of a doctrine, is authorized by the gospel.

3. It seems to be desirable, that we should have some satisfactory ideas respecting the way in which the atoning sacrifice has its saving influence. Yet some of the most eminent advocates for vicarious punishment, or substituted sufferings, have freely acknowledged, that they did not un

derstand how the atonement has its influence on salvation, or how it is connected with forgiveness. On the theory proposed in the preceding pages, I have endeavored to show, not only that the sacrifice is connected with forgiveness, but what is the connecting link, and how the connexion is formed. What I have written on that point, may not prove satisfactory to others; but no part of the inquiry has resulted in more satisfaction to my own mind.

When a conscientious writer is about to publish such views of an important doctrine as are very different from those which have been generally entertained, he cannot be indifferent in regard to their moral tendency. He will seriously consider what influence they must naturally have, should they be cordially adopted. This inquiry I have endeavored to make in regard to the views I have given of the atoning sacrifice. Nor have I been uninindful of the fact, that this may probably be my last publication; and that very possibly I may be summoned to my final account, before the contents of these pages shall appear in print. On the most solemn and impartial inquiry, I can say with truth, that I have found both consolation and encouragement from the belief, that no danger can possibly result to any soul from a cordial and practical adoption of the views I have given of the great sacrifice. God may have had purposes to answer by that event, which I have not discovered. If it be so, I think the undiscovered purposes cannot be so different from those which have been stated, as to change the character of the sacrifice. As to danger, it is my firm belief, that there can be no more danger in embracing the views which have been urged, than in obedience to the following precepts :-“ Love your enemies, that ye may be the children of your Father who

is in heaven." "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” For in my view these precepts perfectly accord with the spirit of every moral truth which was expressed in the sacrifice. The more therefore we imbibe this spirit, the more we shall bear the moral image both of the Father and the Son. On such views of the sacrifice, we may meditate by day and by night, and from year to year, without the least danger of finding any thing in them to exite or to cherish a resentful spirit, or a disposition to avenge a wrong prior to forgiving it. On the contrary, the more we reflect on the forgiving love displayed on that occasion, the more likely we shall be to feel the importance of possessing the spirit of Christ. If we possess this forgiving love, we are assured that God will forgive us. Hence, we shall have nothing to fear from his avenging justice, but much to hope from the ocean of his mercy. “He who spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things.” And who or what can ever separate us from love like this, if in obedience to its dictates we become reconciled unto God! On this ground, I may adopt the language of Paul:-“ For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ our Lord."

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Illustration from Historical Facts. Eoward III., invader of France, besieged Calais nearly a year, and reduced the inhabitants to a state of starvation and despair. Seeing no other way of relief, they proposed to capitulate,- probably hoping for honorable terms. The king, however, would grant them only “ personal safety," and not even this, except on the condition, that they should deliver up to him six of their principal men to be executed. This barbarous proposition subjected the people to deep distress ; for they were famishing for the want of bread, and yet they could not endure the thought of obtaining relief, by delivering up to certain death, six respected friends, who had shared with them the hardships and dangers of the siege. While they were in this perplexed situation, Eustace St. Pierre magnanimously stepped forward and offered himself as one of the victims for the vicarious sacrifice. Animated by his example, five others soon offered themselves to complete the required number. To them were committed the keys of the city ; barefooted, and with ropes about their necks, they went forth and delivered the keys to the conqueror. But so far was he from being melted by this patriotic act, that he ordered the heroes to be “immediately led to execution.”

The king's son, the Prince of Wales, and the English nobles who were present, entreated the king not to sacrifice men who had thus offered their own lives for the salvation of others. But he was deaf to their entreaties. Philippa, the queen, who was on the ground, being informed of the circumstances, came forward, and addressing the king, “ implored him, for Christ's sake, to desist from an act which would be an eternal blemish on his

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