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THE EXPIATORY SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST.
The Ertent of the Atonement, in its Relation to God and
the Universe. By Thomas W. JENKYN, D. D., Presi. dent of Coward College, London. Second American, from the third revised London edition. Boston. Gould,
Kendall & Lincoln. 1846. 266 pp. 12mo. The Sufferings of Christ. By a LAYMAN.
Second Edition, revised and enlarged. New York. Harpers. pp 372. 12mo. 1846.
The atoning death of Christ is the great vital fact in Christianity. It centres in itself all that is of importance to iis in the revelation of God to man, in the scheme of redemption, and in all God's purposes of mercy towards his sinful creatures. Whatever, therefore, shall awaken attention to this stupendous transaction, throw any light on its nature and design, or even fix the eye of the church and the world more intently upon it-to ascertain its deep import-cannot fail to interest the true Christian. It is in this light that we have hailed with satisfaction the appearance of one of the works, whose title stands at the head of this article—"The Sufferings of Christ, by a Layman"-and marked the interest it has a wakened. Though we may not be prepared to endorse fully all the sentiments the author advances, still less all the reasoning by which his conclusions are supported, yet we believe bis work has attained the object we have suggested. It has awakened an interest in the minds of many to inquire what was the nature, and what the design of the sufferings endured by Christ as a sacrifice for our sins. In examining these two treatises, it is at once apparent, that the one is the work of a theologian, the other of a lawyer. They every where bear marks of the different kinds of mental training which their authors have received. The one analyzes his subject, inquires into the nature of an
atonement, the ends it was designed to accomplish, the measures necessary to secure its efficiency; and then proceeds to show how these ends were answered in the sufferings and death of Christ. The other announces at the outset, the proposition he intends to establish, and then proceeds to make out his case. And in doing this, he sometimes presses into his service considerations and texts of Scripture which evidently come short of proving his proposition. And some of the positions he assumes are, to say the least, doubtful, if not altogether untenable. Yet we rise from the examination of it, with the conviction resting upon our minds that it has a groundwork of truth. Our anthors adopt opposite theories of the atonement—"a Layman" taking the commercial, Jenkyn exclusively the moral, view. The one assuines that there was a ransom price to be paid in sufferings for man's redemption-a penalty to be endured—a satisfaction to divine justice to be rendered, such as nothing short of the infinite agonies of the incarnate Son of God could make. The other assumes that the only design of the atonement was to produce a moral impression on the minds of God's intelligent creatures, favorable to virtue and adverse to sin: that whatever would do this would answer all the ends of divine justice and satisfy its claims, whether there was any actually suffering or not. At this point, our two authors are directly at issue. Says "a Layman,”
“All the redeemed of every nation, clime and age, were destined to the relentless grasp of an undying death. They owed it an amount that human arithmetic has no powers to compute. Payment to the uttermost farthing in the sufferings of the transgressors—sufferings as ceaseless as the flow of eternity—was to be exacted. Then appeared as their Redeemer the second person of the glorious Trinity, clothed in the weeds of humanity. He came not to cancel or to mitigate their debts without rendering what the eternal Father would deem a full equivalent; for that would be to make infinite justice weakly break its sword. His mediatorial mission had for its end the substitution of his sufferings for theirs. For their spiritual death was interposed what the Bible calls his death. His sufferings had the same awful name which would have attached to their sufferings. Nothing short of this infinite sacrifice could have satisfied the high and inflexible requisitions of infinite justice. The redeeming equivalent was death for death: the death of the God, for the undying death of the redeemed.
The redeeming death was not physical death, but an equivalent for the undying death to which the redeemed themselves stood exposed. What composed the cup of suffering, in Scripture denominated death, of which eternal Son, clothed flesh, tasted for every
man, we know not distinctly, except, that it was filled to the very brim with the wrath of Almighty God against sin. The human son of the virgin could no more, at least within the brief space of mortal life, have drunk this cup than he could have quaffed an ocean of liquid fire. But the second person of the Trinity, in the omnipotence of his might and the infinitude of his pitying grace, drained it, as the substitute of sinners, to its very dregs. It was a real, not a fictitious draining of the cup of divine wrath by the redeeming Son."
This passage contains the parent thought from which his whole theory springs. It implies the actual substitution of the sufferings of Christ for the sufferings of the redeemed. Whether our author would say, as some have done, that Christ suffered as much as all the redeemed would have suffered to all eternity, he does not inform us. This, however, is not necessary, on the supposition that he endured the full penalty of all their sins. For by this expiation, sin was arrested in its course, which otherwise, in each of the redeemed would have gone on accumulating guilt, and thus ever demanding fresh punishment forever. The guilt for which atonement must be made in the case of each one, is inconceivably less than it would have been, had they not been redeemed. Hence, the suffering required to expiate it, even in the commercial view, is inconceivably less than they would have endured. Yet it is evident that if a full equivalent is to be rendered in sufferings for the sins of all the redeemed, no finite being could in a limited space pay the mighty debt. It must have been Deity incarnate, that endured those agonies which atoned for human guilt.
Jenkyn, on the other hand, defines an atonement to be "an expedient substituted in the place of the literal infiction of the threatened penalty, so as to supply to the govcroment just and good grounds for dispensing favors to an offender.” Again, " The atonement in the death of Christ is not a literal enduring of the identical penalty due to the sinner, but it is a provision or an expedient introduced instead of the literal infliction of the penalty: it is the substitution of another course of sufferings, which will answer the same purposes in the divine administrations as the literal execution of the penalty on the offender himself." And he clearly intimates that could any expedient be devised that would answer this end, even without any suffering, divine justice would be satisfied.
Again he says, " As the infliction of pain is not indis
pensably necessary to the design of punishment, neither is it necessary to the design of an atonement." Again, “The substitution of Christ is a measure introduced by God as the public organ of moral government on public grounds and for public ends; and consequently it did not need the infliction of the literal punishment on the substitute.” God then in this is acting from motives wholly without himself. No intrinsic attributes of his character are concerned in it. And if he can appear just-appear to abhor sin and to be determined to punish it,—no satisfaction to justice is required, in order to his dispensing pardon to the guilty; a fictitious atonement, in which no sufferings are endured, if the deception is never discovered, will be of equal avail with a real expiatory offering for sin. From this point, there is but a step in reasoning, and that not a very unnatural one, to that early heresy in the church, that the incarnation, sufferings and death of the Son of God were only apparent-a splendid farce enacted in the sight of an intelligent universe, designed to move upon the hearts of men; yet no real sacrifice for sin was ever made. Not that the author carries out his reasoning to this extent. On the contrary, he distinctly avows the belief that the sufferings of Christ were real, and that they were infinite; in what sense, we shall see from the following language : “My hand trembles lest I should write a single word or syllable that would convey a low idea of the greatness of Christ's sufferings. The sufferings of Christ were indeed infinite, not simply in intensity of agony, but as they were the sufferings of a person of infinite dignity and worth. Probably the sufferings of some martyrs may have exceeded his, as far as the mere infliction of pain is concerned.”'
Whether this last sentence is calculated to convey that "low idea,” we leave it for our readers to judge. We would however suggest the inquiry, whether his view has not actually drawn him far away towards the heresy to which we have alluded.
The whole theory seems to us radically defective. It is based on the assumption that all suffering for sin is disciplinary and not penal-designed to correct, not to punish-having in faci no connection with the demerit of sin, in the sight of heaven. Here two questions present themselves. First, is punishment for sin merely corrective, or
is it penal ? Is there anything in sin itself, as it stands related to the character of God, that renders it deserving of punishment? Is it abhorrent to the divine nature ? it intrinsically hateful and loathsome? Is there, in a word, any such thing as the desert of sin, and a just penalty measured by the depth of its guilt? And does the infinite justice of God demand the execution of this penalty and give to the connection between sin and its deserved punishment the force of a law, or is it dependent on mere expediency or caprice? For if punishment for sin is merely corrective, there is nothing imperative or certain in the order of sequence between them. They may follow each other, or they may not. Punishment may be dispensed with whenever any other measures of reform are found equally effective, or ceases entirely when amendment becomes hopeless. Then there are two points where it will cease to be inflicted—where the sinner becomes purified from sin, and where he becomes incorrigibly wicked. There are two ways to happiness, that of virtue, and that of confirmed iniquity. We are thus led to the error of Universalism by a new process of reasoning. For as the path of virtue and that of confirmed vice, both end in that moral state where punishment is either unnecessary, or unavailing as a means of correction, both must end equally in bliss. And we may expect to find both in heaven, side by side, basking equally in the smiles of the divine favor. A hypothesis which leads to results so absurd, which so utterly confounds all moral distinctions and obliterates the live of demarcation between vice and virtue, cannot be correct. Sin is intrinsically odious to God; and would, if there were no other being in the universe but God and the sinner, call forth his righteous displeasure. Divine justice and sin are in irreconcilable hostility. It is a conflict not of circumstances and relations, but of principles, and the war is eternal. It can never cease, till either sin is destroyed, or divine justice becomes a nullity. And the feeling of abhorrence of sin and determination to pupish it expressed in the transactions of Calvary is real, in the divine mind, and that because it is sin and deserving of punishment, and not simply on account of its bearing on the government of God and the stability of his throne.
Secondly, did Christ in the work of atonement assume that relation to sin, whereby its demerit and just penalty