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It supposes, moreover, a relaxation to take place of the law or moral government of God, such as a perfect constitution can never undergo. If sin is pardoned without an atonement, then the law, which requires perfect and perpetual obedience, and which denounces punishment on every deviation from its requirements, is clearly understood to have relaxed its rigour: its requisitions are supposed to have been modified and abridged in adaptation to what is called human frailty or infirmity. This is not only supposed in the theory of pardon, against which we are contending: it is openly avowed, and strenuously defended. But against such a relaxation of God's law, we have more than one thing to urge.
First of all, we say that it supposes the law to have been originally wrong, seeing it could either need or admit of a change; and this we cannot but regard as a direct impeachment, both of the wisdom and equity of the Legislator.
Secondly:-It supposes that man's indisposition to obey, (for his inability is wholly to be traced to want of will,) can nullify the obligation to obey,-a principle which, if admitted, would put an end to all legislation whatsoever, as the conclusion would be, that men were bound to obey, only so far as they chose.
Thirdly:-A law which does not require perfect obedience under pain of positive infliction, is absolutely no law at all; it is just a law which may be violated with impunity, the very propounding of which must be seen to be a burlesque on legislation.
Fourthly:-It is impossible to define the extent of relaxation requisite. No one has attempted to say to what extent the supposed relaxation has been carried. If the ability or inclination of the subject is to be the rule, the relaxation of the law must vary in every individual case of its application. And what is this but to throw every thing loose, and to annihilate all standard of moral obligation.
Fifthly :—The laws which govern the moral world are fixed and unalterable, nay, more so than those which regulate the material world. The importance of maintaining the latter steady and inviolable, is readily admitted, and strongly urged. Is it not at least of equal importance—we think it could easily be shown to be of greater—that those of the intellectual and moral world be permanent and inflexible ? Shall it be insisted upon that the laws which affect inanimate nature are to be considered incapable of a change, and yet maintained that those which connect the supreme moral Governor with his subjects, may fluctuate and vary indefinitely? The one supposes only a change in the divine procedure, and constitutes a miracle; the other supposes a change in the nature of God, and constitutes a grand moral contradiction.
In fine:-On the supposition in question, instead of the will of the creature being required to conform to the law of God, the law of God is required to conform to the will of the creature—which is not only a solecism in legislation, but a monstrous discrepancy in morals. We conclude, then, that, for all these reasons, the law of God cannot be relaxed: and if it
cannot be relaxed, an atonement must be necessary to the pardon of sin.
Indeed, any other supposition tends directly to subvert all the purposes of God's moral government at large. Sin is an offence against the moral government of God; it is rebellion against the divine majesty; it strikes at the root of that authority on which repose all the order and happiness of the universe. It denies his right to the respect which is due to him as the head of the universe, the love which he deserves on account of his infinite excellencies, and the obedience which he has commanded as the sovereign Lord and lawgiver. To pardon it without satisfaction, then, is to hold out such a view of the supreme lawgiver as cannot fail to encourage his moral creatures, both men and angels, to disobey; it is holding out a powerful temptation to revolt; it is letting his moral subjects of every
class distinctly understand that they may hoist the flag of rebellion and defiance without fear. Only conceive of the hideous consequences that must necessarily succeed from such a line of procedure, and you will acquiesce at once in the opinion that the purposes of God's moral government at large render an atonement necessary.
If sin is pardoned, it must be in a way by which the law is magnified and made honourable, and by one, too, whose business it is, not to destroy the law but to fulfill it. We are the more confirmed in this view of the matter, that the punish
ment of sin is necessary to prevent the repetition of it, and that to pardon it without satisfaction is equivalent to throwing down the barriers of morality, and setting open the flood gates of iniquity ; especially when we reflect how inadequately even the exhibition of the divine displeasure, which is made in the cross of Christ, restrains the growth of crime.
Such are our reasons for maintaining that the nature of the divine moral government renders atonement a necessary, indispensable provision to the pardon of sin. As sin is an infringement of the moral constitution supreme wisdom has appointed, it is calculated to introduce disturbance into the constituted moral order of the universe, and casts contempt on all the moral and legislative attributes of Deity, we hold it utterly impossible that the supreme moral Governor can connive at any one sin; for his doing so would inevitably lead to the subversion of the whole moral system of the universe. As empirics in medicine, contented with a few facts imperfectly understood and ill-combined, deride the extensive search and the cautious inductions of the enlightened physician; and as the vulgar, looking only at appearances as they seem to them, reject and often hold in high contempt the demonstrated facts of natural philosophy; so those who disbelieve the atonement of Christ and its correlate doctrines, seem to me to form their sentiments from a very superficial consideration, hasty and incomplete views, and an unwarrantable confidence in first appearances; overlookimg the great principles and general
laws of a comprehensive moral system. Above all, I fear that they overlook the nature and obligations of obedience to the will of God, the rational grounds on which those obligations rest, and the true reasons of the demerit of sin.'
III. The necessity of an atonement may be argued from the inefficacy of every other scheme to secure the pardon of sin.
Penitence and future amendment, or repentance and good works, as they are commonly called, are chiefly brought forward as all that is necessary for this purpose. If these can be shown to be sufficient, it follows, of course, that the atonement of Christ is unnecessary, and consequently that no such atonement has ever been made. God does nothing in vain; and it is a law in all his operations that the greatest good is effected at the least possible expense. If the pardon of iniquity could have been rendered consistent with the perfections of his nature and the interests of his moral government, by the mere sorrow and reformation of the sinner, it is not to be conceived that he would ever subject his only begotten Son to the pain of crucifixion, the misery of satanic assault, and the unutterable anguish of divine wrath. It is important, then, to ascertain whether these be sufficient for such a purpose.
That repentance is necessary to pardon, and in the case of adults inseparably connected with it, is not disputed. But that it is all that is necessary, or that
6 Smith on Sacrifice, p. 288.