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pardoned, in a manner consistent with the honours of Divine government; yet so astonishing and surpassing human expectation is the plan of redemption we are now contemplating, that many, who notwithstanding profess themselves Christians, object against it; and that, unfortunately, in a very dogmatical and assuming tone. Thus, Faustus Socinus :-“ If not once only, 66 but often, it should be written in the Sacred Scrip. 66 tures, that Christ made satisfaction to God for sins, “ I would not, therefore, believe it.” And again, “Any, 66 even the greatest force is to be used with words, “ rather than take them in this the obvious sense.” (e) Sentiments like these, though they seem much more compatible with Deism than with any principles that can be incorporated with the belief that the Scriptures are of Divine authority, are avowed by many of the professors of " Rational Religion” (as it is often arrogantly called) in the present day. Yet I conceive the difficulties hanging about the subject, and which occasion the adoption of such strong language, may be removed with tolerable facility.
It is asserted, for instance, in the first place, that if the doctrine of atonement for sin be true, then, “ since “it was only obscurely declared by our Lord, he can“ not be said to have taught his own religion.” This argument, I think I have already shown in the present letter, cannot very fairly be urged on the present occasion, since the language of our Lord is too unequivocal to be easily misunderstood: yet, as similar reasoning is advanced against other branches of Christian doctrine, it at least deserves a specific reply. Let it be
(e) Socinus on the Satisfaction, and in his 2d Epistle to Balcerimicius.
observed, then, first, that, as both Macknight and Magee have correctly stated it, “ the object of our 56 Saviour's life was to supply the subject, not to pro“ mulgate the doctrines of the Gospel :" next, that an infidel might, upon the principles here adverted to, deny. Christ's Messiahship, and the doctrine of the resurrection; and might ask, Why did not Christ, on his first advent, openly declare that he was the Messiah ? Why did not he fully develope the doctrine which Dr. Priestley says it was "s the sole object of his mission to 66 ascertain and exemplify, namely, that of a resurrecsi tion and a future state ?” Let it be remarked farther, that if Christ had publicly and plainly preached the doctrine of the atonement of his death to all who heard him, he must of course have predicted openly that he should die as a sacrifice; and this might have provoked the malicious Jews either to kill him before his hour was come, to prevent his teaching, and pretend that they only fulfilled his own prophecy; or to lay hold of him, and keep him a prisoner without killing him, for the purpose of falsifying the prophecies of his death, and making void his doctrine of atonement. (f)
(f) My ingenious opponent, Mr. Fullagar, who selects and criticises my least important arguments, and then exults as though he had refuted the whole (forgetting that it is one thing to break a single palisade on a detached outwork of a fortress, and another to destroy the fortress itself ), asks, “What is this, Sir, but saying that Jesus was afraid to reveal an “ important doctrine, &c.". Why, Sir, it is this; it is saying that he abstained from “ casting his pearls before swine" at a time when he knew they would trample them under foot; or it is amplifying his own language in Matt. xxvi. 53, 54. Two pages farther on this gentleman says, “ There is no proof that the death of our Lord was a sacrifice,
· Let it be observed again, that many passages in the writings of the evangelists prove decisively that it was not the design of our Lord in his life-time, and indeed s not expedient,” to publish the grace of the Gospel so fully and clearly as it was afterwards to be revealed to and by his apostles. But shortly before his death he said unto them, “ I have still many things to say unto “you; but ye cannot bear them now. However, 6 when he cometh, even the Spirit of truth, he will 6 guide you into all truth : for he will not speak of “ himself: but whatsoever he shall hear he will speak; “ and he will show you things to come. He will 6 glorify me: for he will receive of mine, and will “ declare it unto you.” (g) Here, then, the question is simply, Was this prediction accomplished, or was it not? And the only answer a consistent believer in the New Testament can give, is, that it was fulfilled in the forty days' communication our Lord had with his disciples after his resurrection, when he spake to them “ of “ things pertaining to the kingdom of God,” (h) and in the gift of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Either, these truths “ pertaining to the kingdom of God”
“ using that term in reference to an act of devotion.” Here, I would ask, in return, what man of common understanding ever so employed the term in this connexion ? Did not the whole pamphlet contain too much of such playing with the subject, my respect for its author would have induced me to give it more than this cursory notice; especially as I most fervently wish he may enjoy and communicate all possible good, and should therefore rejoice to see him devoting the leisure and the talents with which God has blessed him, to a far nobler and holier cause (at least in the judgment of prophets, apostles, and martyrs) than that which he has espoused. , (g) John, xvi. 13, 14.
(h) Acts, i. 3.
were revealed for the benefit of the church in all ages, or they were not? If they were not, why were they revealed at all? If they were, where are they to be found except in the writings of the apostles ? And if the writings of the apostles contain them, is it not the most stupendous folly or arrogance to deny, in the positive tone of many Socinians, that those writings are of the same divine veracity, authority, and efficacy, as the rest of Scripture; or that He who dictated them taught his own religion ?
A second objection, frequently advanced with great vehemence and confidence, and to which I have already adverted in note (p) of this letter, is, that "it does not 6 agree with the moral perfections of God to punish sin “ in a surety; that it is unjust and inequitable to ap“ point such a way of salvation as would require an “ innocent creature to suffer that the offender may be 6 spared.” Indeed! Then how was it that Abel, who slew the innocent “ firstlings of his flock,” thus “ offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than 66 Cain,” who 6 brought of the fruit of the ground an “ offering unto the Lord,” (i) and by so doing avoided the injustice of shedding innocent blood ? This objection, as you must at once perceive, by aiming at too much, accomplishes nothing; for it applies just as forcibly against sacrifices of every kind, as against that of the Redeemer; and should, therefore, come from a professed unbeliever, and not from one who bows to “ the law and the testimony.” Now, taking the question for a moment upon its broadest ground, it is a notorious
(1) Gen. iv. 3, 4. Heb. xi. 4. VOL. II.
and incontrovertible fact, that sacrifices have almost universally prevailed in all ages and in all countries, as well the most civilized as the most barbarous. Reasoning from this fact, we say, either sacrifices had some foundation in true religion, which led the whole world to practise them for four thousand years, and the heathen part of the world to practise them till the present time; or else the principle of reason so much boasted of for its efficacy and energy, which suffered men to pursue this train of idiotism and inhumanity for six thousand years, is a very defective and insufficient guide. One of these positions is indisputable. If the latter be admitted, then Revelation was absolutely necessary, to reform and instruct the world : if the former, then, sacrifices were of Divine institution. The adversaries of Revelation may take their choice of these alternatives. (k)
(k) “ It has been made a question (says the late Mr. Jones, of Nay66 land) by those who question every thing, whether sacrifices were of 6. Divine Institution. But sacrifices are descriptive; and as the thing 66 described is the redemption of man by the shedding of the blood of - Christ, which never could be known but by revelation; the supposi" tion that sacrifice could be of human invention is an absurdity. It is " as if we were to imagine that words could be invented by those who “had no knowledge of things; or that signs could be brought into use <without any prior idea of the things signified. The knowledge of a “ redeemer was first given to man; and the observation of sacrifice was - the expression of that knowledge by a significant act. All mankind
were derived from those to whom this knowledge was first given ; " and therefore all nations of the world, in all times of the world, did " in some form or other retain the observation of sacrifice, for the putting “ away of sin.” Lectures on the Hebrews.
For some instructive remarks on the distinction between the fact and the doctrine of the atonement, see the Rev. R. Hall, on the Essential Difference between Christian Baptism and the Baptism of John, p. 40,41, &c.