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In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his onlybegotten Son into the world, that we might live through him."
When atonement is thus exhibited as the effect and not the cause of God's love and mercy, the objection in question is completely neutralized; for so far from representing the Supreme Being in an unfavourable light, it stands forth as the most brilliant and overpowering manifestation of his lovingkindness and grace—the pure emanation of infinite, eternal, and unchangeable love. And all such views of the doctrine as are inconsistent with Jehovah's original disposition to be merciful, or which represent him as changed, by the Saviour's sacrifice, from wrath and fury to kindness and grace, are either the misconceptions of friends or the misrepresentations of enemies, which are to be viewed with unmingled disapprobation and regret.
2. But this is not all. The objection proceeds on a mistaken assumption.
It assumes that God is ready to pardon sin without satisfaction, that retributive justice is no part of his character, and that, consequently, forgiveness is the result of a mere arbitrary resolve of will, with which law and government have nothing to do. But we must take leave to remind the objector that God is just as well as merciful. Rectitude is as essential a feature of the divine Being as love. If the scriptures represent God in the light of a father in
1 Jołın iii. 16.
1 John iv. 9.
whom compassions flow,' they no less distinctly reveal him as a Lawgiver' who will by no means clear the guilty. These views of the divine character must never be opposed to one another, but considered as alike essential, co-existent, co-operative, and harmonious. It is quite a mistake to regard God as acting at one time according to the one, and at another time according to the other; at one time according to mercy, and at another according to justice. He acts agreeably to both at all times. The exercise of the one never supposes the suspension of the other. When he punishes the guilty, it is not at the expense of mercy; when he pardons the transgressor, it is not at the expense of justice. Mercy must, therefore, proceed on a principle which is agreeable to justice. While mercy inclines him to forgive, justice must receive satisfaction in order to forgiveness. Deny this, and you place in irreconcilable opposition two essential attributes of the divine nature. Admit this, and the objection under consideration falls to the ground; for the satisfaction which the doctrine of atonement supposes to be made by Christ is necessary, not indeed to awaken the feeling of mercy in the divine bosom, but to reconcile the merciful forgiveness of sin with the equitable demands of justice. If, then, justice or equity form any part of the character of God, if there be such a thing as a moral government in the universe over which God presides, that the pardon of sin should proceed on a principle which respects the claims of the divine character and government, can never represent the Supreme Being in an unfavourable light; unless it can be shown, that the proper display of one feature of his character involves the obliteration of another. The objection thus appears to proceed on a gross mistake regarding the nature of that connexion which subsists between the love of God and the satisfaction of Christ. A connexion there is, and a connexion, too, of cause and effect. But in the mind of the objectors these are made to exchange places; the cause is put for the effect, and the effect for the cause; the love of God is represented as the effect, and the satisfaction of Christ as its cause: whereas the fact is quite the reverse ; the love of God is the cause ; and the satisfaction of Christ the effect. And when viewed in this light, which is that of God's word, the objection loses all its force.
II. The doctrine of atonement has been thought inconsistent with the divine immutability.
God is unchangeable. In his nature, perfections, and will, he can undergo no alteration. This were to suppose him capable either of improvement or of deterioration, which suppositions alike involve a denial of his perfection. If he is capable of improvement, he was not before perfect. If he can undergo a deterioration, supposing him perfect before, he is perfect no longer. These suppositions are equally blasphemous and absurd ; and, consequently, inapplicable to Him who says, “I am the Lord, I change not.' Yet the atonement of Christ is supposed to effect such a change in the mind of God, that he is reconciled, on account of it, to those with whom he
was formerly displeased, and induced to love what he formerly hated.
This objection resolves itself into the former, and might be disposed of in the same way. Yet, as the form in which it is presented makes it to turn on the immutability rather than the amiableness of God, it requires a distinct consideration.
1. First of all, let it be remarked, that, if the orthodox employ language which seems to imply a change in God, this is nothing more than is done by the inspired writers themselves.
The phrase God's being reconciled may not, in so many exact terms, be found in the bible ; but, certainly, phrases of precisely equivalent import are to be found there in abundance. Is not his anger said to be turned away? 'In that day thou shalt
O Lord, I will praise thee : though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me." Is he not spoken of as keeping not his anger for ever?
'Go and proclaim these words towards the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord, and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger for ever.' taineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy." Nay, is he not represented as being pacified ? * That thou mayest remember and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I AM PACIFIED TO
• He re
2 Isaiah xii. I.
3 Jer. iii. 12. Micah vii. 18.
WARD THEE for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God.'' In these and similar passages, although the word 'reconcile' is not used, the idea of reconciliation is surely expressed. It is to no purpose, then, that the enemies of atonement cite those passages in which man is said to be reconciled to God, as if it were impossible, at the same time, that God should be reconciled to man. Man is indeed reconciled to God, and this reconciliation, too, is effected by Christ. When we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son. All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ. The orthodox believe that the atonement of Jesus has a bearing on man, a tendency to bring down the proud opposition of the human heart, and to slay the enmity of the carnal mind against God. But they believe, also, that it has a bearing on God, because the scriptures formerly quoted teach as much. And there is nothing in this incompatible with those other texts which suppose that it has a bearing on man. So far from there being anything inconsistent in admitting both ideas, it can even be shown, we think, that the latter supposes the former.
In scripture phraseology, when an offender is spoken of as being reconciled, it means his taking some steps to reconcile him whom he has offended. When the princes of the Philistines are wroth with David and say, “Wherewith should he reconcile him