« PreviousContinue »
ceived. We ask in all candor, is their course honest, becoming men professing the holy principles of religion and integrity ? Why all this double-dealing, if their system is founded on impregnable truth? This course reflects suspicion on their theory, and on the integrity of their profession of it. Reader, scrutinize it closely, analyze its doctrines, and compare them conscientiously with the Bible, before you intrust your well-being to it, either in this or in the future world!
But what were the sufferings of Christ, their intenseness, object, efficacy, and design? What do the holy Scriptures teach in reference to the mission, sufferings and death of Christ? Were they indispensably necessary to effect the salvation from sin and from the penalty of the law, of any rational and accountable creature ? These questions answered will decide the correctness and scriptural nature of the faith of the orthodox, or of Universalism. They will turn the scale either one way or the other.
1. Universalism says, the sufferings of Christ were not peculiar; they were no more than those of mortal men, of the apostles and martyrs. But what says the Bible ? The prophet Isaiah says, “ Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief; when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed,” &c. Isa. liii. 10. “ For he hath made him to be sin for us who knew no sin,” &c. 2 Cor. v. 21. “Yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. Isa. liii. 4. The Savior cried out at his crucifixion, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me.” Matth. xxvii. 46. Now, though such sufferings can never be predicated of the apostles and martyrs, for they were favored with the helping presence of God, and their souls were not exceeding sorrowful, even unto death ; yet we do not imagine that the intense and heart-rending agony of Christ, just
to that extent it actually was, was absolutely necessary to expiate sin and render valid the atonement. Though Paul says, “ that the Captain of our salvation was made perfect through suffering;" yet it appears to us, that other considerations entered into the atonement indispensable to its perfection, besides the just proportion of suffering he actually endured. That suffering was requisite to demonstrate the folly, wickedness, and abhorrence of sin, is unquestionable ; and the suffering of Christ was peculiar, from the fact that he was personally faultless, yet he suffered for sin, and it was inflicted by divine justice so that God might have grounds to suspend the penalty of law and justify the unjust. He suffered not the full penalty of law incurred by guilty man, but enough to answer public justice and render it possible for God to show his righteousness in exercising pardon to all repenting offenders ; as Paul teaches, “ whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time, his righteousness, that he might be just, and the justifier of him who believeth in Jesus.” Rom. iii. 25, 26.
2. Universalism teaches that the doctrine of the vicarious sufferings of Christ " is all wrong, an outrage, absurd, and abomination in the sight of God.” But what does the Bible teach in reference to this point? By vicarious sufferings is meant, that Christ suffered in the place of the sinner, in his stead and to answer the demands of public justice. Christ was our substitute in a two-fold sense he gave his person in the place of the person of the sinner ; and he endured his sufferings in the place of the sufferings due to the sinner. It is true, the Savior did not endure the identical sufferings of the transgressor, but such as proved to be an acceptable substitute to the government of
God for those due to the sinner, and such as were adapted to declare the righteousness of God, defend his integrity and prevent the impression upon the mind of gazing intelligences, that he was reckless of truth, veracity, and his sacred · laws, while condescending to pardon guilty rebels and make them participants of the joys of his throne. Had Christ endured the identical sufferings of the transgressors, then the principles of the atonement would have been a virtual commercial transaction; the sufferings of Christ would have been the payment of a debt, a liquidation of all the obligations standing against the sinner, therefore he would be justly released from the penalty of the law and all deserved punishment—he would never again be liable to punishment. Whereas, the atonement only provides an opportunity of being released, a remedy and the privilege of securing a reprieve by faith in Christ. But if the sufferings of Christ were of such a character as affords sufficient grounds for God to exercise his pardoning clemency to repenting rebels, and still manifest an uncompromising abhorence at wrong and sin, shield his government from the imputations of imbecility, falsehood and injustice, and his character from cowardice, profligacy, and tampering with sin, then they were sufficient.
The apostle Paul plainly inculcates the doctrine, that, though the Savior did not endure the identical sufferings due to transgressors, yet that it was indispensable that he should suffer vicariously for the children of men. Gal. iii. 13. “ Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.'”
Inasmuch as the children of men violated the sanctions of the law, they incurred its penalty or curse—they were liable to its execration and punishment; but from the curse and punishment of the law, Christ redeemed and set them
free by subjecting himself to endure a curse. This passage settles the question, not only that the sufferings of Christ released us from the inflictions of the penalty of the law, but also that he died vicariously—that he became the subject of suffering for and in the place of sinful men. The text does not declare that he endured the identical sufferings due to transgressors; on the contrary, he became a curse, not of the law, but because he was doomed to expire on the cross, for “cursed is every one that hangeth on the tree.” The wicked were not doomed to hang on the tree, though they were subject to the curse and punishment of the law, from which they were set free, through Christ by faith in his name. The sufferings of Christ, though different from the doom of the wicked, yet being endured in their place and stead, were deemed sufficient to set forth the righteousness of God in forgiving sins and afforded honorable ground for him to justify the unjust and guilty, whenever they believed in Christ. In this way God. is · able to save from punishment and the guilt of sin; as Paul has said: “ there is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” If in Christ, the believer is saved from condemnation, therefore from guilt, for where guilt is, there condemnation must fasten its corroding grasp upon the heart. God looks upon the sinner, through Christ, as though he had never sinned and had always been innocent; because he “ does that which is lawful and right," and lives “not after the flesh but after the spirit," and all his sins and follies shall no more be accounted against him. Indeed, the repenting and believing soul is made free from the law of sin and death by the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus. It is true, it is an unchangeable fact, that he has been a sinner, but he is no more treated as such.
As a farther testimony that the doctrine of the vicarious sufferings of Christ is a Biblical doctrine, and not an
“abomination in the sight of God," we quote from Is. liii. 5, 6. “ But he was wounded for our transgressions ; he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him ; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” The Prophet foretold that Jesus Christ should suffer, “ and bear the sins of many.” He also taught the doctrine that he should suffer as a substitute for our sins and not his own, and that upon him the Lord should lay the iniquity of us all. The Savior gave his body as a sacrifice for the person of the sinner, and his sufferings were endured as an expiation for his transgressions. If this does not teach the atoning sacrifice and substitutionary sufferings of Christ, then language is inadequate to express the doctrine.
“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin ; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” 2 Cor. v. 21. The Lord Jesus was made a sinoffering for the children of men, that they might become partakers of the righteousness of God. For any one to say that the sufferings of Christ were not requisite to secure the mercy of God, and to atone for human foibles and sins, is to incur the guilt of charging the works and plans of God with hypocrisy; because the Scriptures.would seem to teach, that the sufferings of Christ were atoning in their nature, and requisite as a sin-offering to render the righteousness of God attainable by those who are sinful and depraved.
1 Peter ii. 224-24. “ Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again ; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him who judgeth righteously; who his own self bear our sin in his own body on the tree, that we