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disputed by any who believe in divine revelation: neither shall we call in question the propriety or necessity of the death and sufferings of Christ; for being not "slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken," we cannot say that Christ ought not "to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory!"* But the only question now to be considered is, In what manner is an application made to our salvation, of his sufferings, so as to produce such an effect? Or in other words, How does our salvation stand connected with the sufferings of Christ? Or, What bearing or relation has his death and suf ferings with our salvation, so that it may be with propriety said, that “with his stripes we are healed ?"
The question being thus fully and fairly stated, an answer will now be attempted in a plain, short and concise, though as explicit a manner as our limits will admit.
Perhaps it may not be improper just to premise, that while the writer of this article makes no pretensions to infallibility, it is but just to remark, that all the light he has been able to obtain by any thing that he has read on this subject, has only convinced him that the Christian world, generally speaking, are very much in the dark respecting it. And though he is very far from supposing that he shall be able to give a full and satisfactory answer to the question proposed, yet as what he has thought proper to suggest may lead to further enquiry, he humbly solicits the serious and candid attention of the reader to the following remarks. For a subject of so much importance certainly merits our attention, and even if there have been heretofore no mistake respecting it, an investigation may not be improper, for it will only serve to confirm us more fully in the truth.
It is an idea among Christians that has gained almost universal consent, that "Sin, with respect to its object, is an infinite evil." S "Sin, therefore, DESERVES an infinite, that is an everlasting punishment." This idea has led many people to suppose that Deity is so incensed against his creature man by reason of sin, that "all mankind are under his wrath and curse, and made liable to the pains of hell forever." "God," however, "having out of his mere good pleasure from all eternity elected some to everlasting life," appeared in the second person of the Godhead, "who being the eternal Son of God became man," and so continuing to be God and man in two distinct natures," he executed the office of a Priest in his once offering up him+Smith's Letters to Belsham, p.30.
*St Luke, xxiv. 25, 26
self asacrifice,to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God."
From the above statement it will be clearly seen, that in the view of this principle, which has been considered as the fundamental doctrine of Christianity, the chief object of the death and sufferings of Christ was "to satisfy divine justice"; or in other words, to appease omnipotent wrath! or placate the implacable Deity!!
Having united in this general principle, christians have here split, and taking different roads, according to their different views of the character of God, or their different modes of reasoning from the scriptures on this subject, have been at perpetual variance.
Some have contended that the sufferings and death of Christ, or the atonement, which has been considered the same thing, was designed only to answer the requirements of the divine law, and open a door whereby God could be just, and yet the justifier of him that believeth, or in other words, be just in the salvation of sinners; whereas, had it not been for the death of Christ, his justice would have sentenced all to endless misery! But yet such ones contend, that the sacrifice was not designed for one any more than another, nor for a part any more than for the whole, for it required an infinite sacrifice "to satisfy divine justice," in order to saye but one sinner, and it required no more to save the whole. "He, that is Christ, rendered to the authority of the holy law, those honors which Deity, only in union with human nature, could render." Those of this sen timent further argue, that, having obtained all that the law required, that is, "divine justice being fully satisfied" by the death of Christ, God will save those, and those only, whom it was his eternal purpose to save; and it is his eternal purpose to save the elect-while he does the non-elect no injustice; for both elect and non-elect deserve eternal punishment!§
Westminster Assembly's Shorter Catechism
It is not suggested, however, that the writers of this statement represent the Deity as being implacable, in so many words, but on the other hand "infinitely placable;" but it is left to the candid reader to judge, if there be some sinners concerning whom the justice of God will never be satisfied, whether he is not implacable; and if justice be satisfied it can require no more.
Smith's Letters, p 33
SWhat is said about penitence and impenitence, makes no difference in this argument, as it is the goodness of God that leads men to repen. tance; and the sentiment alluded to above, warmly advocates the doctrine of particular election, and the doctrine of the special influences of the spirit of God in regeneration." Adams' View of ReligionsSee Hopkinsians, p. 134.
Others have supposed, "That Jesus Christ, by his death and suffering, made an atonement for the sins of the elect only, and has absolutely purchased grace, holiness, and all spiritual blessings for his people ;" that is, for the elect; "that he did not die for all, and all for whom he died will certainly be saved."*
Others have supposed, "That Jesus Christ by his death and sufferings, made an atonement for the sins of all mankind in general, and of every individual in particular; that, however, none but those who believe in him can be a partaker of their di vine benefit. That is, the death of Christ put all men in a capacity of being justified, upon condition of their faith, repentance, and sincere obedience to the laws of the new covenantthat those, however, who are united to Christ by faith, may fall from their faith, and forfeit finally their state of grace."+
Others have suppose d, that Christ by his death and sufferings "made complète satisfaction for the sins of the electthat by God's laying our iniquities upon Christ, he became as completely sinful as we, and we as completely righteous as Christ-that the new covenant is not made properly with us, but with Christ for us; and this covenant is all of promise, having no conditions for us to perform; for faith, repentance, and obedience are not conditions on our part, but Christ's; and he repented, believed and obeyed for us-and to inflict punishment once upon the surety, and again upon the believer, is contrary to the justice of God, as well as derogatory to the satisfaction of Christ."‡
Not materially differing from the last mentioned sect, only in the extent of the satisfaction, are those who have been represented, and perhaps justly, as holding, "That Christ as Mediator, was so united to mankind, that his actions were theirs, his obedience and sufferings theirs; and consequently, he has as fully restored the whole human race to the divine favor, as if all had obeyed and suffered in their own persons.' For "Christ obeyed the law and underwent the penalty," and "his condition and state are ours."§
But notwithstanding the difference in the several systems of faith above mentioned, not only respecting the death and sufferings of Christ, but in many other respects, yet they all seem to have agreed in this one particular, that is, that the death and sufferings of Christ were inflicted as the penalty, or substituted as the penalty of the divine law; and therefore his death was
*Ibid- -see Calvinists, p 86, 87. †Ibid-sec Arminians, p 44, 45, 46. Ibid--see Antinomians, p 46. SIbid--see Universalists, p 293
necessary to restore mankind to the divine favor, or "to satisfy divine justice"; which presupposes a time when man was not in the favor of God, or when divine justice was dissatisfied!
The objection against this idea lays in the immutability of God. See Mal. iii. 6. "For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." If God be un changeable, the idea that he has become any more propitious, any more merciful, possessing any more love or clemency to wards man, in consequence of the death and sufferings of Christ, (or from any other cause) or that mankind, or any part of them, are any more in the favor of God now, or ever will be, than what they eternally have been, ever since they were created in his own image, is wholly unfounded. How would it have been possible for God to have "commended" his love towards us by the death of Christ, if his death were necessary to produce or procure the love of God to sinners? And if God loved sinners to that degree that he did not withhold his own Son, "but delivered him up for us all," it may be asked with propriety, how much better will God love those sinners after they shall have become saints? And if God have no love to sinners until after they are regenerated and born again, and if regeneration be produced by the "special influences of the Spirit of God, and if there be some that never will be thus regenerated, how was the death of Christ a "commendation" of the love of God to them? "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins." If we cannot conceive of any greater love than that which was manifested in the gift of the Son of God, then certainly his death was not necessary to "purchase grace, holiness, and all spiritual blessings for his people," or in other words, to "restore" man to the " divine favor," because man was already in the grace or favor of God, (which is the same thing) and the gift of God in his son Jesus Christ, is in evidence of favor. And as we have no scripture evidence that divine justice was ever dissatisfied, nor can we conceive how justice could be satisfied by the sufferings of innocence, as a penalty which was due only to the guilty, and as the holy scriptures do not impute sin to Christ, or any where consider him in the character of a sinner, so we cannot see how the sufferings of Christ could "satisfy divine justice."
But perhaps the reader begins to grow impatient for a posiive answer to the question. Then observe, The gift of God
*Rom. VIII. 32
†1 John, iv, 10
in Christ Jesus, and the persevering works of his ministry, even to the laying down of his life, were necessary to COMMEND THE LOVE OF GOD TO SINNERS; and the sufferings and death of Christ were conséquent upon his being sent "in the likeness of sinful flesh,”* and his coming into a sinful world. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends:" But God commendeth his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly,”‡am.
Having given this answer, it will now be incumbent on us to shew how it may be said that Christ suffered the just for the unjust, or died for us, the ungodly, unless he suffered a penalty justly due to us for our transgressions. And, to be sure, if there be no way in which one person may be said to suffer for another, unless he suffer in the character of a criminal, or as a surety, or in some sense or other suffer a punishment which is justly due to the person for whom he suffers, we may meet with some difficulty in explaining this subject; but if it may be said of a man with propriety, that he suffers for another, og for others, although he does not suffer in the character or in the sense above mentioned, then we shall meet with no difficul ty in reconciling all the scripture testimony upon this subject with the answer above given; that is, that all the sufferings, and even the death of Christ, in the light of suffering, was consequent upon his coming into a sinful world; and it pleased the Father to send him into the world to commend, or manifest his love to the human race. "For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son, &c."
*Rom. vIII, 3 St John, xv. 13
It will require but little attention to discover that one man may with propriety be said to suffer for others, although to gain some glorious object, he voluntarily put himself into the place of suffering. This is always the case when one man freely offers himself, or engages in a service, in the behalf of others, that occasions him painful labors, or brings on himself the envy and reproach of an ungrateful public. As, for an example: Did not the ILLUSTRIOUS WASHINGTGN, the political saviour of his country, voluntarily suffer, and expose himself to every hazard and danger for America? And will any body pretend that he suffered as a criminal, or that he suffered a penalty justly due to others? No! Although he was “num#Rom. v. 8, 6 §St John,