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self to his master?the meaning they intend to express, plainly is that he should find a difficulty in reconciling his master to himself. Such, also, is the import of the phrase in the well-known passage, 'If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way ; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” This passage is most decisive. The person addressed is the offender; he has nothing against his brother, but his brother has something against him ; yet is he exhorted to go and be reconciled to his brother, that is, to go and reconcile his brother to himself. This is the only meaning which the passage can bear, consistently with the terms employed. On the same principle, when man is required to be reconciled to God, may we not be warranted to conclude that the phrase implies that God is to be reconciled to man? When the facts of the case are considered, this inference is the more confirmed. God is the offended party, man is the offender; the reconciliation is effected by the blood or death of Christ, which is frequently represented in other places as offered to God; and the effect produced is equivalent to the non-imputation of trespasses, which is certainly the prerogative of God alone. "God was, in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.”
How futile, thus, are all the attempts of Socinians
6 1 Sam. xxix. 4.
7 Matt. v. 23, 24.
8 2 Cor. v. 19.
to get rid of the scripture doctrine of God's being reconciled to men by Jesus Christ! The doctrine is plainly expressed in numerous parts of holy writ, and it is clearly implied even in those which are supposed to exclude it. Let them explain to us, therefore, on their theory, the texts of scripture in which language is used that seems to imply a change in God as well as in man. On the principle of atonement, these present no difficulty. Both sets of passages are easily interpreted, for God is supposed to be reconciled to man as well as man reconciled to God. On the Socinian hypothesis, however, which supposes that only man is reconciled to God, it is not easy to see how the one class of texts is to be understood at all. Betwixt the two, on the orthodox principle, there is no disagreement, but the most complete and delightful harmony; on the principle of its opponents, the inconsistency is glaring and palpable.
2. Still, it may be thought, this does not get rid of the difficulty; it merely shifts it from our own shoulders to those of the sacred penmen.
And are we to suppose, on the authority of scripture too, that the atonement does effect a change on the immutable God? Far be the thought. The doctrine is not chargeable with anything so blasphe
What we have affirmed is, that the texts in question seemingly imply a change in God. We have not said that they really imply such a thing. What, then, do they imply? To speak of a change in the nature, or attributes, or will of God, is blasphemous and absurd, as we have just now said. But it is neither blasphemous nor absurd to speak of a change in the mode of the divine administration. Now the anger, wrath, and displeasure of God, are not passions or affections of the divine nature resembling those which receive the same names in man. They are terms denoting the necessary opposition of the divine rectitude to such as have violated the holy law of the righteous Lord who loveth righteousness. They mark the relation into which iniquity brings such as are chargeable with it, to the Lawgiver and Judge of the universe. It is the language of government, not of passion. And what the atonement effects is, not a change in God the Lawgiver, but a change in the administration of his government; a change in the relation subsisting between his creatures and himself. Those whom he formerly treated in a way which is fitly represented to us by anger, indignation, and wrath, he, in consequence of what Christ has done, treats in a way which is fitly represented by love and complacency. But the change is not in God, it is in the creature, and in the relation in which the creature stands towards God. God does not love at one time what he hated at another. He does not, in respect of Christ's atonement, love what, irrespective of this atonement, he hated. No. He hates and loves the same things at all times. What does God hate? It is sin, and not the sinner; he cannot hate his creatures as such, but only as violators of his just and holy will. What does God love? Holiness, his moral image, which is reflected from men, not as mere creatures but as moral creatures, as new creatures; not as sinners, but as saints. The change thus appears to be not in God.
to be not in God. He is pleased and displeased with the same things at all times. He always hates sin—always loves holiness. The atonement does not make God love sin which he formerly hated, nor hate holiness which he formerly loved. The change which it effects is not in God who is the author of love, but in man who is the object of love. By means of Christ's death, man is brought out of a state of condemnation and depravity which God could not but regard with repugnance, into a state of reconciliation and purity which he cannot but look upon with complacency. The change, every one must perceive, is, in this case, not in God, but in man, or in the relation in which man stands to God. Whatever change the creature undergoes, God continues the same. The sun, the glorious fountain of light and beauty, is always the same in its nature and properties, although the earth may reflect its rays at one time and not at another. But it were every whit as reasonable to ascribe the different appearances which the earth assumes by day and by night, to a change in the solar luminary, rather than to its own relative position with regard to that luminary, as to ascribe the state of man, in consequence of Christ's atonement, to a change in God rather than in man himself. Thus do we dispose of the objection founded on the divine immutability.
III. It is further objected to the doctrine of atonement, that it is incompatible with the gracious nature of pardon.
The forgiveness of sin, say the objectors, is uniformly in scripture ascribed to grace. It is an act of free favour, of sovereign goodness. But, on the supposition of satisfaction being given for sin by Jesus Christ, the act can no longer be called an act of grace; it is an act of justice; and, instead of its being merciful in God to pardon sin, it would be unjust in him to withhold forgiveness. Such is the objection with which we have now to deal. It is more specious, certainly, than some others, and, consequently, a great favourite with the enemies of atonement. But the following observations may serve, it is hoped, to show its groundlessness.
1. The objection supposes justice and grace to be opposed to one another, .not only in their nature, but in their exercise, so that both cannot respect the same object.
This supposition has already been refuted, and we must beg our readers to revert to what was before advanced in proof of the perfect harmony of these perfections of the divine nature.' In addition, we may here observe, that the inspired writers appear to have had no idea of any incongruity between justice and grace in the pardon of sin. On the contrary, they represent both as connected with forgiveness. What one apostle ascribes to grace,
9 See page 22.