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revealed in the Bible; others are plainly inferable from what the Bible does reveal; and others still are plainly inferable from the very nature of the case:
1. God's great and disinterested love to sinners themselves was a prime reason for the Atonement.
John 3:16. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
2. His great love to the universe at large must have been another reason, inasmuch as it was impossible that the Atonement should not exert an amazing influence over moral beings, in whatever world they might exist, and the fact of atonement should be known.
3. Another reason for substituting the sufferings of Christ in the place of the eternal damnation of sinners is, that an infinite amount of suffering might be prevented. The relation of Christ to the universe rendered his sufferings so infinitely valuable and influential as an expression of God's abhorrence of sin on the one hand, and great love to his subjects on the other, that an infinitely less amount of suffering in him than must have been inflicted on sinners, would be equally, and no doubt vastly more influential in supporting the government of God, than the execution of the law upon them would have been. Be it borne in mind that Christ was the lawgiver, and his suffering in behalf of sinners is to be regarded as the lawgiver and executive magistrate suffering in the behalf and stead of a rebellious province of his empire. As a governmental expedient it is easy to see the great value of such a substitute; that on the one hand it fully evinced the determination of the ruler not to yield the authority of his law, and on the other to evince his great and disinterested love for his rebellious subjects.
4. By this substitution, an immense good might be gained, the eternal happiness of all that can be reclaimed from sin, together with all the augmented happiness of those who have never sinned that must result from this glorious revelation of God.
5. Another reason for preferring the Atonement to the punishment of sinners, must have been, that sin had afforded an opportunity for the highest manifestation of virtue in God: the manifestation of forbearance, mercy, self-denial, and suffering for enemies that were within his own power, and for those from whom he could expect no equivalent in return.
It is impossible to conceive of a higher order of virtues
than are exhibited in the Atonement of Christ.
It was vastly desirable that God should take advantage of such an opportunity to exhibit his true character, and shew to the universe what was in his heart. The strength and stability of any government of moral law must depend upon the estimation in which the sovereign is held by his subjects. It was therefore indispensable that God should improve the opportunity which sin had afforded, to manifest and make known his true character and thus secure the highest confidence of his subjects.
6. Another reason for preferring Atonement was God's desire to lay open his heart to the inspection and imitation of moral beings.
7. Another reason is, because God is love, and prefers mercy when it can be safely exercised. The Bible represents him as delighting in mercy, and affirms that "judgment is his strange work."
Because he so much prefers mercy to judgment as to be willing to suffer as the sinner's substitute, to afford himself the opportunity to exercise pardon on principles that are consistent with a due administration of justice.
8. In the Atonement God consulted his own happiness and his own glory. To deny himself for the salvation of sinners was a part of his own infinite happiness, always intended by him, and therefore always enjoyed. This was not selfishness in him as his own well-being is of infinitely greater value than that of all the universe besides, he ought so to regard and treat it because of its supreme and intrinsic value.
9. In making the Atonement, God complied with the laws of his own intelligence and did just that, all things considered, in the highest degree promotive of the universal good.
10. The Atonement would present to creatures the highest possible motives to virtue. Example is the highest moral influence that can be exerted. If God or any other being would make others benevolent he must manifest benevolence himself. If the benevolence manifested in the Atonement does not subdue the selfishness of sinners their case is hopeless.
11. It would beget among creatures the highest kind and degree of happiness, by leading them to contemplate and imitate his love.
12. The circumstances of his government rendered an Atonement necessary; as the execution of law was not, as a matter of fact, a sufficient preventive of sin. The annihi
lation of the wicked would not answer the purposes of government. A full revelation of mercy blended with such an exhibition of justice, was called for by the circumstances of
13. To confirm holy beings. Nothing could be more highly calculated to establish and confirm the confidence, love, and obedience of holy beings than this disinterested manifestation of love to sinners and rebels.
14. To confound his enemies. How could any thing be more directly calculated to silence all cavils and to shut every mouth, and forever close up all opposing lips, than such an exhibition of love and willingness to make sacrifices for sinners?
15. A just and necessary regard to his own reputation made him prefer Atonement to the punishment of sinners.
A desire to sustain his own reputation, as the only moral power that could support his own moral government, must have been a leading reason for the Atonement.
The Atonement was preferred as the best and perhaps only way to inspire an affectionate confidence in him.
It must have been the most agreeable to God, and the most beneficial to the universe.
16. Atonement would afford him an opportunity always to gratify his love in his kindness to sinners in using means for their salvation, in forgiving and saving them when they repent, without the danger of its being inferred in the universe that he had not a sufficient abhorrence for their sin.
17. Another reason for the Atonement was to counteract the influence of the Devil, whose whole influence is exerted in this world for the promotion of selfishness.
18. To make the final punishment of the wicked more impressive in the light of the infinite love manifest in the Atone
19. The Atonement is the highest testimony that God can bear against selfishness. It is the testimony of his own example.
20. The Atonement is a higher expression of his regard for the public interest than the execution of law. It is therefore a fuller satisfaction to public justice.
21. The Atonement so reveals all the attributes of God as to complete the whole circle of motives needed to influence the minds of moral beings.
22. By dying in human nature, Christ exhibited his heart to both worlds.
23. The fact that the execution of the law of God on rebel angels had not and could not arrest the progress of rebellion in the universe, proves that something more needed to be done, in support of the authority of law, than would be done in the execution of its penalty upon rebels. While the execution of law may have a strong tendency to prevent the beginning of rebellion among loyal subjects and to restrain rebels themselves; yet penal inflictions, do not as a matter of fact, subdue the heart, under any government, whether human or divine.
As a matter of fact, the law, was only exasperating rebels, without confirming holy beings. Paul affirmed that the action of the law upon his own mind, while in impenitence, was, to beget in him all manner of concupisence. One grand reason for giving the law was, to develop the nature of sin, and to show that the carnal mind is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. The law was, therefore, given that the offence might abound, that thereby it might be demonstrated, that without an Atonement there could be no salvation for rebels under the government of God.
24. The nature, degree, and execution of the penalty of the law, made the holiness and justice of God so prominent, as to absorb too much of public attention to be safe. Those features of his character were so fully revealed, by the execution of his law upon the rebel angels, that to have pursued the same course with the inhabitants of this world, without the offer of mercy, might have had, and doubtless would have had an injurious influence upon the universe, by creating more of fear than of love to God and his government.
Hence, a fuller revelation of the love and compassion of God was necessary, to guard against the influence of slavish fear.
FOURTH. His taking human nature, and obeying unto death, under such circumstances, constituted a good reason for our being treated as righteous.
1. It is a common practice in human governments, and one that is founded in the nature and laws of mind, to reward distinguished public service by conferring favors on the children of those who have rendered this service, and treating them as if they had rendered it themselves. This is both benevolent and wise. Its governmental importance, its wisdom and excellent influence have been most abundantly attested in the experience of nations.
2. As a governmental transaction, this same principle prevails, and for the same reason, under the government of God.
All that are Christ's children and belong to him, are received for his sake, treated with favor, and the rewards of the righteous are bestowed upon them for his sake. And the yublic service which he has rendered the universe by laying down his life for the support of the divine government, has rendered it eminently wise that all who are united to him by faith should be treated as righteous for his sake.