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very safely challenge all the wisdom of human philosophy to prove that any such thing as mercy exists. I know not if this view of the matter be urged upon the attention of the church with sufficient frequency and prominence: but if it were, I can hardly think that so strange an objection to the atonement could ever have been conceived, as that which considers the atonement,—the only fact by which the very existence of mercy, and much more its infinite extent, can be proved,—as a drawback upon the fulness and freeness of that mercy.
IV. Objection has often been made to the doctrine of atonement, on the ground that it supposes the innocent to suffer for the guilty ; a thing which is regarded as inconsistent with reason, and with the goodness and justice of God.
The doctrine of atonement certainly involves the principle of substitution: whether that principle be liable to the objection alleged against it, is the thing to be considered. We have no wish to get rid of the difficulty by denying the fact ; but as little are we disposed to suffer the admitted fact to lie under the weight of aspersions which are thrown upon it unjustly. Let us see, then, how the matter stands as to this point.
1. It must be admitted by all, that, under the moral government of God, the innocent do sometimes suffer for the guilty.
It is not pretended that cases exactly similar to that we are considering are of frequent occurrence in the providence of God. The contrary, indeed, is frankly admitted. The substitution of Christ is allowed to be altogether extraordinary—to be without a parallel in the divine proceedings with regard to moral creatures.
14 Dods on the incarnation of the Eternal Word, p, 120,
Nothing like it, in all respects, has yet existed or is likely ever to exist again to the end of time. Yet cases sufficiently like to neutralise the objection in question are not of unfrequent occurrence.
The innocent do often suffer for the guilty, and that too without such exalted purposes being served by it as in the case of Christ. Poverty, and pain, and disgrace, and disease are not seldom entailed on children, in consequence of the criminal indiscretions of their parents. This is what cannot be denied. It is not the same thing as the substitution of Christ; the suffering is of the nature of calamity rather than of punishment. Yet it is the innocent suffering for the guilty ; and as this is the point on which the objection turns, we may call upon the objectors to explain this undeniable fact in divine providence, before we can admit their right to urge the principle of the fact against a doctrine of divine revelation. If the thing is unreasonable and unjust in the one case, it cannot be less so in the other. Will they have the hardihood to affirm, that such occurrences in providence as have been mentioned, imply injustice in the administration of the moral government of our world? If they will, we have nothing more to do with them ; we leave them to one from whom they will not find it so easy to escape. He that reproveth God, let him answer it.' But if they will not venture so far with regard to providence, we have just to tell them they have no right to make any such assertions in a matter of
pure revelation. The difficulty, if it be a difficulty, is one which they cannot be permitted to urge as an insuperable objection in one case, while in a parallel case they feel it to be no difficulty at all.
And that the idea of the innocent suffering for the guilty is not so repugnant to the natural reason of man as the objectors allege, seems confirmed by the universal prevalence of expiatory sacrifices. Whether the practice of offering such sacrifices be of divine origin or not—a question which will fall to be considered at another stage of our argument—its universal adoption cannot be denied. This, be it remarked, is not a little in our favour, as the practice in question proceeds distinctly on the principle of the innocent suffering for the guilty. Whether you suppose this practice to have originated with man, or whether, as we are persuaded was the case, the suggestion proceeded from God, the fact is alike to our purpose. If it originated with man, the idea of substitution which it essentially involves must be anything but repugnant to the human mind. Supposing it to have originated with God, its having been eagerly and universally embraced by man when suggested conducts us to the same conclusion.
2. But the very same objection presses, with all its force, against the doctrine of our opponents.
They admit that Jesus Christ suffered for the benefit of mankind. They admit, too, that at least as regards the alleged grounds of his sufferings he was innocent. Few of them, indeed, have ventured even to‘hinta doubt' with regard to his perfect immaculate purity; and none has gone the length to suppose he was the blasphemous usurper which his enemies alleged he was, as the ground of their inflictions upon him, Well, then, what is this but the innocent suffering for the guilty? In the one case he is supposed to suffer for our benefit; in the other, to suffer in our stead; in both he is understood to be innocent. The innocent, then, suffers for the guilty. There is, it is admitted, a distinction between what Socinians understand by Christ's suffering for our benefit and what the orthodox mean by his suffering in our stead; but the distinction is not of such a nature as to render suffering on the one supposition manifestly just, and on the other manifestly unjust. If it be just in the one case it is just in both: if it be unjust in one, it is so also in the other. Nay, inasmuch as suffering for our benefit, according to the sense of Socinians, is an end every way inferior to what the orthodox understand by suffering in our stead, if injustice is supposed to be involved in any degree in the latter supposition, in a much higher degree must it be involved in the former. The Socinian, then, by the objection in question stultifies himself. It is a twoedged weapon, which is capable of being turned with effect against his own cause. If it possess any weight, it falls with tenfold force on the system which he is pledged to support.
3. It is overlooked by the objectors, that, although Christ was personally innocent, he was viewed as legally guilty.
In himself he could put to the most impudent accuser the defiance— Which of you convinceth me of sin?' but as the surety and substitute of elect sinners, 'the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all—he made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin-he bare the sins of many." It was formerly explained, and we beg now to remind our readers of the explanation, that when Christ took the place of offending sinners, he not merely suffered their punishment but bore their guilt, that is to say, was regarded by the holy law of God as under obligation to suffer. Apart from this obligation, as was remarked, his sufferings would have been nothing more than calamities; there could have been nothing penal in them, nothing of the nature of punishment, nothing possessing the character of a legal satisfaction. In order to this he behoved to be brought under an obligation to suffer, and, as he had no personal guilt by which this could take place, it was effected by the imputation of the guilt of others. “The Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all. This alters the case entirely. Guilt, not in the sense of blameworthiness but of legal answerableness, was his." Innocent indeed he was in him
15 € As the term guilt is liable to misconstruction, I have declined retaining it; though it was used in a sense quite, I trust, unobjectionable. We commonly employ this term both in the sense of LEGAL ANSWER ABLENESS (reatus,) and of BLAMEWORTHINESS (culpa)......In divinity, as well as in other sciences, it is necessary to attach to some terms a technical definiteness of signification, much