|« Prev||Chapter II. Atonement, Propitiation, and…||Next »|
ATONEMENT, PROPITIATION, AND EXPIATION.
IN the previous chapter, a careful investigation was made of the use or purpose of the ancient sacrifices and rites of blood, and the endeavor was, to find by what means, or in what sense, Christ is called a sacrifice, and is represented as accomplishing so much by his blood. In this investigation I passed over certain much disputed points in the institution and the Christian doctrine of sacrifice, that, in settling first the more positive questions of practical use and meaning, we might not be distracted, or confused, by multiplicities too numerous to allow the distinct settlement of any thing. We come now to the much debated and difficult questions that range under the words atonement, expiation, propitiation. These are words pertaining secondarily to sacrifice, or to the effects of sacrifice, and are commonly set in such prominence, as to be words of principal figure, not only in the doctrine, but also in the preaching of the cross. Our investigation therefore of sacrifices and the Christian sacrifice will not be complete, or satisfactory, till these ruling words and ideas are ventilated by a careful discussion.483
As regards the words themselves, it may be well to note, in the first place, that the English word atonement is entirely an Old Testament word, not Two ruling conceptions. Atonement and Propitiation. occurring at all in the translation of the New, except in a single instance;100100Romans v, 11. where it is given as the translation of a word that is twice translated reconciliation, in the previous verse, and in every other place in the New Testament is translated reconciliation. And yet the deviation in this particular instance is less remarkable, because the English word atonement, at the time when the Scriptures were translated, meant to reconcile, that is, to at-one. And it is in this sense of making reconcilement, putting-at-one, that the word is so often used in the Old Testament. There, however, it is not so much the literal translation or transfer of the Hebrew word in its own type, as a new, though very good and proper construction, put in its place. The Hebrew word is cover, the very same root from which our English word cover is derived. Thus where we read so often, “he shall make atonement for you,” “scape-goat to make atonement,” and the like, it means the same thing as to make sin-cover, that is, reconciliation; the conception being, that sin is thereby covered up, hidden from sight or memory. Exactly the same thing is meant, when, using a different figure, it is said to be purged, cleansed, taken away. When the transgressor is said to be atoned or reconciled, the being covered is taken subjectively in the same way; as if something had come upon him to 484change his unclean state, and make him ceremonially, or, it may be, spiritually, pure.
But the subject thus atoned is not only covered or cleansed in himself, but he is figured as being put in a new relation with God, and God with him; and it is as if God were somehow changed towards him—newly inclined, mitigated, propitiated or made propitious. It resulted accordingly, that the Hebrew word to cover was very frequently translated in the Greek Septuagint, by a word that signifies to propitiate or make propitiation. And the same word occurs, in six instances in the New Testament, and under three grammatic forms; where it is translated, three times, “propitiation;” once, “to make reconciliation;” once, “be merciful;” and once, “mercy-seat;” the three latter examples having, of course, their fair equivalents, in the phrases, “make propitiation,” “be propitious,” and “seat of propitiation.”
We have then, two ruling conceptions of sacrifice, connected with, or resulting from, the figure of a sin Both conceptions miscolored by expiation. cover; one representing the effect in us, and the other an effect in God as related to us—reconciliation [at-one-ment,] and propitiation. I shall recur to them again, at the close of the chapter, to settle more exactly their relative import, when applied to the Christian sacrifice. Meantime, another very weighty matter demands our careful attention; viz., the question of expiation.
Both these terms, atonement and propitiation, are turned from their true meaning, in our common uses, by the false idea of expiation associated with them, or 485entered theologically into them. To atone is no more to reconcile, that is to restore and make clean, but it is made to mean the answering for sin, making amends for it, by offering expiatory pains to obtain the discharge of it. Propitiation is made in the same way, to signify the placation of God, by a contribution of pains and expiatory sufferings. We can not therefore recover the two words, atonement and propitiation, to their true meaning, without going into a deliberate and careful investigation of the false element by which they are corrupted.
The word expiation does not once occur in the Scripture. The idea is classical, not scriptural at all, but the word has been sliding into use by the Expiation not a word of the Scriptures but of the classics. christian disciples and teachers, and getting itself accepted interchangeably for such as belong to the Scripture, till it has come to be even a considerable test of orthodoxy. I do not object to it, however, because of its origin, but because of its incurable falsity. A new word applied to christian subjects is not, of course, to be condemned, because it is new. Neither is a pagan word to be always cast out. But a word both new and pagan, made staple as in application to an old, divinely ordered, staple institution of Scripture, like that of sacrifice, must be admitted, I think, to wear a suspicious look. It should certainly have been carefully questioned, before it was baptized, into the faith, as I very much fear it was not.486
But the baptism is passed and we have the word upon us. The only matter left us for inquiry therefore, relates to ideas themselves, and I propose, that I may cover the whole ground of the subject, three questions,—
I. What is expiation?
II. Is it credible as a fact under the divine government?
III. Is there any such thing as expiation supposed in the Scripture sacrifices?
I. What is expiation? It does not, I answer, simply signify the fact that God is propitiated, but it brings in the pagan, or Latin idea (for it is a Expiation is an evil given to buy the release of an evil. Latin word,) that the sacrifice offered softens God, or assuages the anger of God, as being an evil, or pain, contributed to his offended feeling. That Christ has fulfilled a mission of sacrifice, and become a reconciling power on human character, has been abundantly shown. And this change thus wrought in men, we shall also see, is the condition of a different relationship on the part of God. But an expiatory sacrifice proposes a settlement with God on a different footing; viz., that God is to be propitiated, or gained over to a new relationship, by very different means. The distinctive idea of expiation is that God is to have an evil given him by consent, for an evil due by retribution. It throws in before God or the gods some deprecatory evil, in the expectation that the wrath may be softened or averted by it. The power of the expiation depends not on the 487sentiments, or repentances, or pious intentions connected with it, but entirely on the voluntary damage incurred in it. According to the Latin idea, “Diis violatia expiatio debetur”—when the gods are wronged, expiation is their due—and the understanding is that, when the wrong doers fall to punishing themselves in great losses, it mitigates the wrath of the gods and turns them to the side of favor.
Now it is in this particular idea of expiation, the giving an evil to the gods, to obtain a release for other evils apprehended or actually felt, that A pagan corruption of the Jewish cultus. the sacrifices of all the heathen nations were radically distinguished from the Jewish or Scripture sacrifices. And the pagan religions were corruptions plainly enough, in this view, of the original, ante-Mosaic, ante-Jewish cultus—superstitions of degenerate brood, such as guilt, and fear, and the spurious motherhood of ignorance, have it for their law to propagate. As repentance settles into penance under this regimen of superstition, so the sacrifices settled into expiations under the same. And the process only went a little farther, when they fell, as they did the pagan world over, into the practice of human sacrifices; for since the gods were to be gained by expiatory evils, the greater the evil the more sure the favor; and therefore they sometimes offered their captives, sometimes their sons and daughters, sometimes their kings’ sons, and sometimes even their kings and queens themselves; believing that in no other manner could they sufficiently placate their envious and bloody deities. 488Expiation figured in this manner, not as a merely casual and occasional part of religion, but as being very nearly the same thing as religion itself. For as even Tacitus could say, that “the gods interfere in human concerns, but to punish,” what could they think of doing, in religion, but to expiate? The classic and all pagan sentiments of worship, being thus corrupted by the false element or infusion of expiation, the later Jewish commentators and Christian theologians finally took up the conception, laying claim to it as a worthy and genuine property in all sacrifices, whether those of the law, or even the great sacrifice of the gospel itself. And now there is nothing more devoutly asserted, or more reverently believed, than our essential need of an expiatory sacrifice, and the fact that such a sacrifice is made for our salvation, in the cross of Jesus Christ.
It is a matter of justice I gladly admit, and, for the honor of the gospel, I should even like to make the Expiation not so defined, yet so understood. concession broader still, that the advocates of Christian expiation do not define it in the terms I have given. They do not seem to have drawn their thoughts to any point close enough to yield a definition, but only understand, in general, that when they speak of expiation, they mean a bloody sacrifice. And yet they do mean, if we take their whole mental content, something more; viz., just what I have described. How we commonly use the term in other matters than religion, may be seen, for example, when we say of a murderer who has been executed, that he has expiated his crime; or of any 489one who has done a dishonorable deed, that the shame in which he lives, is the bitter expiation of his fault. We always show, in such modes of speaking, that the matter of the expiation is conceived to be an evil, a pain, a loss. And our religious impressions are cast in the same mold. We never speak of good deeds, or sentiments, or sacrifices of love, as expiations. Nothing is expiatory that does not turn upon the fact of damage, or pain, or self-punishment. Neither is there any difficulty in discovering, from the manner in which theologians speak of expiation, that they think of God as having some evil, or pain, or naked suffering offered him for sin, and that, on account of such offering, he may release the evil, or pain, or suffering his unsatisfied wrath would otherwise exact. Thus, taking the mildest form of superstition, it will be maintained that God’s wrath is to be averted by sacrifice; that is by something given to wrath, that is wrath’s proper food; which can of course be nothing but some kind of pain, or evil. Sometimes the expiation will be conceived under moral conditions, as a transaction before God’s justice; the assumption being that, as God is just, he must, of course, lay upon wrong doing exactly the evil or pain it deserves, and can only release it by having other pain given him in direct substitution. Sometimes it will be conceived that God is maintaining a good law for the world, which he can do only by annexing evils, in a way of penalty, that fully express his abhorrence of sin, and that such evils can be released only by giving him others, in which he may express the same abhorrence. 490But in all these varieties we have plainly enough the common element of expiation; viz., an evil given for sin, which is to avail as being an evil. It is not conceived, as in the Scripture sacrifice, that the sinning man is to come bringing the choicest, most beautiful lamb of his flock, that, in offering it, he may express, and in expressing feel, something which God wants him to feel, and for his own benefit show; but the pagan idea prevails; the sacrifice it is claimed, must be an expiation—some evil brought, that is to work on God by deprecation, or self-punishment, or painful loss. Nor does the moral absurdity of putting any such heathenish construction on the Scripture sacrifices deter at all from doing it. Still, as there is sin, there must be expiation, and that is made, not by offering up a child, or a magistrate, but by the property loss of a sheep—felt as a great evil, or pain, by the soul! A kind of expiation more fit to kindle God’s wrath than to soften it; for the more it is felt as an evil the meaner and more heartless the sacrifice.
Having distinguished in this manner, what an expiation is, we proceed to inquire—
II. Whether expiations for sins, taken as defined, are admissible under the divine government?
And here I do not undertake to say that nothing can be asserted under the word, which is worthy of respect and acceptance. Thus if a sinner of mankind, oppressed with a sense of inward ill-desert and shame, should seek out voluntarily some mode of expense, or pains taking, 491in which, considered as a punishment of himself, he might prove and express, and, by expression, exercise a clean repentance before God, and, doing Possible good sense of expiation. this, should call it making expiation for his sin, God might properly enough accept his unenlightened sacrifice; not however because of the evil brought him in it, but because the guilty sufferer came thus, trying honestly to trample his sins and put God in the right concerning them. Such uses of the word are admissible, but in the sense of expiation above defined, the sense which belongs to it whenever we speak of expiatory sacrifice, where giving God an evil not deserved, we expect Him to be placated in regard to an evil deserved,—in such a sense expiation has no character that makes it approvable by intelligence, or endurable by a true sentiment of God’s worth and justice.
If it is a mere feeling in God which is to be placated by an expiatory sacrifice, then we have to ask, is God such a being that, having a good mortgage title to pain or suffering as against an offender, he will never let go the title till he gets the pain-if not from him, then from some other? Such a conception of God is simply shocking.101101Not even Dr. Magee, when asserting expiation, will allow that God is made placable by it, insisting that He simply appoints it “as the means by which to bestow forgiveness.” And when it is urged that the expiation can have no use “but to appease a Being who otherwise would not forgive us,” he takes shelter under his ignorance, from a conclusion so revolting, and answers—“I know not, nor does it concern me to know, in what manner the sacrifice of Christ is connected with the forgiveness of sins.”—(Vol. 1, p. 19.) When however the crisis of the argument, at this point, is gone by, he recovers from his ignorance and is able to assert very positively that the justice of God is satisfied by the sacrifice of expiation.492
But the title to pain, as against offenders, it will be said is simply what is demanded of them by justice, Not demanded by justice or consistent with it. and what he, as the eternal guardian of justice, is as truly bound to inflict, as they to suffer. God therefore has no option, he can not release the foredoomed evils, or pains, save as they are substituted by compensative evils. But suppose it to be so, and that God, as ruler of the world, is bound to do by every man just as he deserves. What means this inflexible adherence to the point of 4esert, when, by the supposition, he is going to accept, in expiation, an evil not deserved? He is going, in fact, to overturn all relations of desert, by taking pains not deserved, to release pains that are. Is this justice? or is it the most complete and solemn abnegation possible of justice? To get a pain out of somebody, is not justice; nothing answers to that name, but the inexorable, undivertible, straight-aimed process of execution against the person of the wrong doer himself.
So of punishment, regarded as the penalty ordained for the enforcement of law, necessary to be enforced for the honor and due authority of law. Doubtless if something better can be done, in given circumstances, than to literally execute the penalty, something that will keep the law on foot, clothe it with still higher authority, and make the dread of its penalty felt as being 493even more imminent than before, a qualification of vindicatory justice so prepared will do no harm. But to remit a punishment or pain deserved, in consideration of a similar punishment or pain not deserved, accepted by an innocent party, so far from being any due support of law, is the worst possible mockery of it. It belongs to the very idea of punishment, that it fall on the transgressor himself, not on any other, even though he be willing to receive it. The law reads “do this or thou shalt die,” not “do this or somebody shall die.” A fine, or a debt, may be paid by any body; but a punishment sticks immovably to the wrong doer, and no commutation, expiation, or transfer of places can remove it.
In the story of Zaleucus often referred to as an illustration, nothing is shown but a very sorry fraud practiced on the law. The father finding his Story of Zaleucus. son guilty of a crime, whose prescribed penalty in the law is that the malefactor shall have his eyes put out, contrives to get off his son with the loss of one eye, by consenting, in a most fond paternity, to lose one of his own eyes, in substitution for the other. But the law did not require, for its penalty, the loss of two eyes; it required the putting out of the two eyes of the transgressor; that is that he be reduced to blindness for the rest of his life. After all, this old historic myth, so often celebrated as an example of rigid and impartial justice, is only an example of bad law, or of a very tenderly parental sophistry enacted for the evasion of law.
Much better and more solidly true to law is Cromwell’s 494answer in the case of George Fox. The facts are given by Fox himself in his Journal.102102Fox’s Journal, Glasgow edition, p. 262. He was lying Cromwell and George Fox. in prison, at the time, in a basement pit, inexpressibly filthy, called Doomsdale. And he says: “While I was in prison in Lancaster, a friend went to Oliver Cromwell and offered himself, body for body, to lie in Doomsdale in my stead, if he would take him and let me have liberty. Which thing so struck him that he said to his great men and council, ‘which of you would do as much for me, if I were in the same condition?’ And though he did not accept of the friend’s offer, but said he could not do it, for that it was contrary to law, yet the truth thereby came mightily over him.”
It might also be urged that, if expiation were a more feasible and better element than it is, not derogatory Trinity rightly held, excludes expiation. to the character of God, not incompatible with first principles of justice, not a way of compensating law that takes away its most essential, highest moral attribute as law; viz., the unalterable personality of its distributions—if, in all these respects, it were a morally admissible and even wholesome conception, still there is a difficulty in it, as far as the sacrifice of Christ is concerned, which is insurmountable. If the gist of that sacrifice consists in the fact, that Christ in atoning, or expiating sin by his death, offers the simple endurance of so much evil or pain, we can not but ask who is Christ, in all that gives significance to his life, but the incarnate Word of God’s 495eternity? Take whatsoever view of Christ’s person we may, no one can imagine that his sacrifice was simply a man’s sacrifice, a transaction of his merely human nature. Besides the pain he suffered, that of his agony, that of his cross, was in all but the smallest, scarcely appreciable part, a moral pain, the pain of his moral sensibility,—his love, his purity, his compassionate feeling, that which it was a great part of his errand to reveal, that which not to have suffered, under such conditions, would have been a virtual disproof of his greatness and divinity. So far, at least, his pains are pains of his divine nature. Does then God’s right hand offer pains to his left, and so make expiation for the sins of the world? How many Gods have we? Not any more truly three, or less simply one, because we hold the faith of a trinity. Expiation appears to suppose that we have at least two, one placating the other, and he again accepting the expiation of sins in the sufferings of the first. Faithfully holding that our God is one, expiation loses opportunity. There is no place for it; no such transaction can be had for the want of parties, and the matter is incredible as being simply impossible.
Holding now these very sufficient objections to the matter of expiation, or expiatory sacrifice, we should not expect to find it recognized in the Scriptures. Passing then to the question that remains, we inquire:
III. Is there any such thing as expiation contained, or supposed to be wrought in the Scripture sacrifices?
The common assumption is that the sin offerings of 496the Old Testament and the offering of Christ in the New are all expiatory, and in that fact have their value, contrary to all such impressions.
I am able, after a most thorough and complete examination of the Scriptures to affirm with confidence, No trace of expiation in the Scriptures. that they exhibit no trace of expiation. I had supposed that the impression so generally prevalent must be well grounded, but my suspicions were awakened by observing one or two points where the impression failed, and was tempted thus to push the inquiry to its limit. That such an opinion has been so long and generally held of the Scripture sacrifices, I can only account for, in the manner already suggested; viz., that there is a natural tendency in all worthy ideas of religion to lapse into such as are unworthy—repentance, for example, into doing penance—that the sacrifices could easily be corrupted in this manner, and, in fact, were by all the pagan religions; and then that there was imported back into the constructions of holy Scripture, a notion of expiation, as pertaining to sacrifice, under the plausible but unsuspected sanction of classic uses and associations. Nothing could be more natural and it appears to be actually true. Indeed it is a common thing, even now, to illustrate the manner and supposed necessity of expiation for sin, by citations from Hesiod, Homer and other classic writers.
It is impossible, of course, in a discussion of this nature, to go over a complete review of the whole series of Scripture instances and uses, but the argument will 497be tolerably well conceived under heads of classification such as follow.
1. That Nothing made of the victim’s pains. nothing was made of the victim’s death, or pain of dying, in the ancient sacrifices, was sufficiently shown in the last previous chapter.
2. Expiations are always conspicuous in their meaning. No man could even raise a doubt of the expiatory object of the pagan sacrifices; no such Expiations ought to be palpable, and are not. doubt was ever entertained. In this view, if the scripture sacrifices do not show an expiatory meaning on their face and declare themselves unmistakably in that character, if it is a matter of rational doubt or debate, such doubt is a clear presumptive evidence that their object is somehow different.
3. The original of the word atone, or make atonement, In the Hebrew scripture, carries no such idea of expiation. It simply speaks of covering, or The atonements not expiations. making cover for sin, and is sufficiently answered by any thing which removes it, hides it from the sight, brings into a state of reconciliation, where the impeachment of it is gone. Accordingly it is sometimes translated to reconcile or make reconciliation;103103Lev. viii, 15; 2 Chron. xxix, 24; Ezek. xlv, 20; Dan. ix, 24. sometimes to pardon;1041042 Chron. xxx, 18; Jer. xviii, 23. sometimes to purify, cleanse, purge.105105Ex. xxix, 36,-xxx, 10; Numb. xxxv, 33; 1 Sam. iii, 14; Ezek. xliii, 20-26; Isa. vi, 7. It is also true that this word is sometimes translated, in the Septuagint, by the same Greek word, 498or a word of the same root, as that which is translated propitiation in the New Testament; and it is also true that this Greek word is often translated into Latin and English, by the word expiation. But to draw an argument from this, for the fact of expiation in the Hebrew sacrifices, is to go upon a long circuit of travel, and get nothing that amounts to evidence at the end. For the classic tongues would certainly be apt to associate expiation with sacrifice, and the Septuagint would not be likely to avoid that mistake. Every thing turns here, manifestly, on the meaning of the original- Hebrew word; and as the root or symbol of this word means simply to cover, we can see for ourselves that, while it might be applied as a figure, to denote a covering by expiation, it can certainly as well and as naturally be applied to any thing which hides or takes away transgression.
4. Atonements are accordingly said to be made, where the very idea of expiation is excluded; and Atonements that exclude expiation. sometimes where there is, in fact, no sacrifice at all. Thus atonements were made for the sanctifying of the altar; that is, for sanctifying it in men’s feeling; for as it was necessary to the liturgic power of the sacrifice on the sentiment of the worshipers, that the blood of their offering should be made to be a sacred thing, so it was necessary that the altar itself should be invested with a real and felt sanctity. Thus we read,106106Exodus xxix, 37. “Seven days shalt thou make an atonement for the altar, and sanctify it, 499and it shall be an altar most holy.” To give an example where expiation is excluded because there is no sacrifice, Moses, when the people had sinned so grievously, in the matter of the golden calf, said,107107Exodus xxxii, 30. “Now I will go ap unto the Lord, peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin.” He went up accordingly and made intercession for them, in words of supplication, without any sacrifice at all and this was his atonement. Plainly enough there is no expiation in these cases. In the first there is none, because there is no sin upon the altar to be expiated, and in the second because there is no sacrifice. The atoning spoken of is a purifying, or a making reconciliation, without a possibility of expiation.
5. It is a great point that expiations, or expiatory sacrifices, are certainly not offered where we should expect them to be, if they are offered at all. Expiations not offered where we should expect them. Thus in the case just referred to of the sin of the golden calf, where the sottish convictions of the people have been roused, and their fears raised into a panic by the terrible judgment of God upon them, Moses himself speaks of the “atonement” they need for their sin; but instead of a great and solemn sacrifice of expiation, where, if ever, it was to be expected, he undertakes their case for them himself, in his own personal intercession before God. So again, in the great mutiny of the people that followed the judgment of Korah, where a deadly plague is falling upon them for their sin, Moses orders 500no sacrifice of expiation, but he says to Aaron108108Numbers xvi, 46. “Take a censer and put fire therein from off the altar, and put on incense, and go quickly into the congregation, and make atonement for them; for there is wrath gone out from the Lord.” The plague is stayed; not by expiation certainly; for it is never supposed that there is any such thing as expiation by incense. And yet this was a case for expiation, if any such ever existed. We have another case like it, in the great reformation of Josiah,1091092 Chronicles, xxxiv. where the sacred book is found in the temple, and the king and people, on a public reading of the book, are put in such dread of the wrath of God about to overtake them, in the curses of the book denounced upon their sin, that a grand convocation of Israel is called to avert the impending judgments. Now again is the time for a great sacrifice of expiation; and yet there is no sacrifice made, or prepared; but the king, seeing no better and surer way of deliverance, takes his position before the assembled multitudes, and requires them all to join him in a solemn covenant to forsake their evil ways, and walk in all the statutes of the book. So again, when Ezra is overtaken with great concern for the nation, on account of the general intermarriage of priests and people with idolatrous women, he betakes himself to fasting, confessing, weeping, and casting himself down before the house of God; the people also weep sore with him; but no sacrifice of expiation is offered, and no other way of averting God’s anger is thought of, than a general and total forsaking of the 501sin; which every transgressor is required to do without equivocation or delay.110110Ezra x, 1-15. Now in all such cases, and they are many, we look for expiation and do not find it, and what is quite as remarkable, there is no case to be found where God’s anger, in a day of guilt and fear, is placated, or even attempted to be, by a clearly expiatory sacrifice. It was not so among the pagan nations, and it could not be so here, if expiation were any recognized part of the national religion.
6. The requirement of the heart, as a condition necessary to acceptance in the sacrifices, is a very strong presumptive evidence that no idea of expiation The requirement of the heart, against expiation. belonged to sacrifice. At first, nothing appears to be said of the spirit in which the offering is to be made, though it is not to be supposed that it was ever accepted, in any but a merely ritual and ceremonial sense, unless coupled unconsciously, or implicitly, with a true feeling of repentance. As already observed, there was at first, almost no capacity of receiving truths and being exercised in states, by reflection. Spiritual impressions and results of character were to be operated for a time transactionally only, under liturgical forms of sacrifice. And a beginning made in this way, connected with a continued drill under miraculous Providences, was to operate a course of development, and prepare a more reflective capacity. By and by this will so far be accomplished, that the prophets and other teachers of the people will begin to put them in a consideration of their sentiments, 502and the amendment of their lives, in their sacrifices. This will bring on frequent rebukes of hypocrisy in them; and contrasts between mere heartless offerings and a genuine holiness of life, that relatively sink the importance of sacrifice, and sometimes appear to almost sink it out of sight, as a thing of little account. Indeed we are made to feel, before the prophetic era is closed up, that sacrifice is getting to be well nigh outgrown, or superseded, by a more reflective way of exercise, that is moderated and guided by truth.
Now that any such religious progress could have been accomplished under a training of expiatory sacrifice appears to be quite impossible. The giving of evils to God to obtain the release of evils, is a practice so nearly akin to superstition, so barren of all right sentiment, so little likely to stimulate habits of personal conviction, that we rather look for a lapse into fetichism under it. Such a kind of sacrifice requires nothing obviously but the placation of God by a contribution of the necessary evils, and they may as well be contributed in one feeling as another. Enough that they are forthcoming, no matter in what feeling, if only the due penance be made.. Under a plan of sacrifice contrived to work on the sentiments of the worshipers, and quicken germs of holy feeling in them, a different result might be effected,—never under sacrifices of expiation.
To bear out these strictures, and show that they are verified by facts, I will refer to only a few of the many scripture citations that might be offered. Thus, taking 503one example from the historic books, we find that Saul, an overgrown child of superstition, offers a sacrifice on two several occasions in his own way, disregarding God’s appointed way and even his special command,—in the first instance, because, in going to battle, he wants to “make supplication to the Lord;”1111111 Samuel xiii, 12. and in the second, because, having gained a victory, he wants te honor God in a grand ovation of sacrifice—whereupon Samuel meets him in sharp rebuke, saying,1121121 Samuel xv, 10-22. “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold (this appears to be an already accepted proverb,) to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”
The same sentiment is reiterated many times by David,113113As in Psalms xl, 1, and li. testifying his readiness to yield God what is better than all sacrifice, an obedient heart. In the Psalm first -mentioned, he uses, out of his own personal feeling, just the language that is afterwards applied to Christ,114114Hebrews x, 6-9. “Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire, mine ears hast thou opened; burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Then said I, lo, I come; in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O God, yea, thy law is within my breast.” As if it were every thing, even at the stage of development then reached, to have God’s law in the heart; sacrifices practically nothing—“The sacrifices of God a broken spirit.” Isaiah holds the same sentiment in a strain of 504indignant rebuke,115115Isaiah i, 10-18.—“To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me saith the Lord? I am full of the burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts. Bring no more vain oblations. Wash you, and make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes.” And for them who will receive such counsel, he adds the promise of a lustral effect or cleansing that mere expiations do not even think of—“Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, though they be red like crimson they shall be as wool.” Jeremiah and Amos make the same remonstrance.116116Jeremiah vii, 21-23; Amos v, 21-24. Micah turns the point of his rebuke directly down upon expiation itself; alluding to the manner in which the heathens offer their children, and suggesting a parallel between the superstitions of his own people in their heartless ostentations and penances of sacrifice, and the expiations of the false gods.117117Micah vi, 6-8. “Wherewith shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath showed thee, man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God.”
When the Prophets, who are the preachers of 505the old religion, are found speaking of its rites in this way, two things are evident; first, that the rites are very much outgrown by the moral and spiritual ideas developed; and secondly, that no such growth in reflective capacity has been accomplished, under any stimulus received from the placation of God by expiatory sacrifices.
7. The uses of blood in sacrifice have no such connection with an expiatory office, as appears to be supposed in the common modes of speaking Uses of blood not expiatory. concerning it. Something we say, must bleed, sin must draw blood before it can be forgiven—“without shedding of blood there is no remission.” The blood is spoken of, and the bloody rites, and the bloody sweat, and the cross dripping blood, as if some dreadful inquest were gone forth against the world, and nothing could sate the divine anger but to see blood flow for a ransom. Now all such impressions are un.. historic and exactly contrary to the scripture ideas of blood; they carry, in fact, a strong scent of superstition. There is no vindictive figure in the scripture uses of blood. It is not death, but life, that is in it. Hedged about by walls of prohibition, as regards all common uses, it is made to be a holy element to men’s feeling, that when it is applied, in the offering, it may seem to purify and quicken every thing it touches. As the blood is the life, so it is to be life-giving; a symbol of God’s inward purifying and regenerating baptism in the remission of sins. The associations of blood are to have no such appalling, fateful hue as expiation supposes, 506or as they might get from battle-fields, and scaffolds, and the stains of midnight murder; it is not to be the blood that cries to God from the ground, but the blood that speaketh better things than that of Abel—peace, forgiveness, holiness, and life. And in just this view it is, that blood becomes a type of so great significance, in the higher uses of the Christly sacrifice itself-it is used, in this manner, not because it signifies expiation, but because God’s promise, and forgiving, purifying love are in it as an element of life.
8. It is a fact worthy of distinct attention, that the passover sacrifice has certainly nothing of expiation in it. The passover not expiatory. This is the sacrifice that Christ is celebrating when he institutes his supper, and the blessing of the bread and wine in this first observance of the supper is probably the closing scene of the passover observance itself. Here it is that Christ, taking the cup, says,—“This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed, for many, for the remission of sins.” And again, when it is mentioned at the crucifixion, as another point of correspondence, “that it might be fulfilled, a bone of him shall not be broken,” the reference made is to the passover lamb.118118Exodus xii, 46. And what is a more practical evidence of the close affiliation of the passover and the work of Christ, the passing by of the destroying angel, wherever the door-posts are found sprinkled with the blood of the lamb, is a good and expressive type, or symbol, of the deliverance of souls by the blood of Christ. And yet there is clearly no 507thought of expiation for sin in the passover rite. It is given simply as a pledge of favor and deliverance to the people, and is continued afterwards not as an expiatory, but as a commemorative and partly festive rite. “Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, and in the seventh day, [the passover] shall be a feast unto the Lord. And thou shalt shew thy son, in that day, saying—This is done because of that which the Lord did unto me, when I came forth out of Egypt.”119119Exodus xiii, 7-8. Finding thus no reference whatever, in the rite, to an. expiation of sin, how much shall we expect to find in the grand passover grace of Christ himself, taken as a continuance of it, and represented by the Christian supper taken from it?
9. Observe in, this connection how these rites of blood, or bloody sacrifice, are connected habitually with all the most joyous and grandest religious The festivities of sacrifices against expiation. festivities. All the pomps, jubilees, historic commemorations, public reformations, national deliverances, are celebrated in rivers of blood, and lift their joy, by the smoke of burnt offerings, coupled with processions of music and shouts of praise. In this way, the sacrifices get invested with associations that make the phrase “sacrifices of joy” synonymous with sacrifice itself. Thus David celebrates the preparation made for the building of the temple, in the sacrifice of a thousand bullocks, and a thousand rams, and a thousand lambs, and the people eat and drink “before the Lord on that day, with joy and gladness.”1201201 Chronicles xxix, 21-22. Solomon again celebrates the dedication 508of the temple, in a grand festivity of sacrifice, continued for a whole week, in which twenty thousand oxen and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep are offered.1211212 Chron. vii, 5. Hezekiah’s feast of reformation and his passover that followed,1221222 Chron. xxix and xxx. are celebrated in the same profusion of blood, and sacrifice, and joy. In all which it is sufficiently evident, that burnt offerings and rites of blood are not associated, whether in the passover institution or elsewhere, with notions of penal sanction for sin, or contributed as expiations to avert God’s anger on account of it.
10. It is important, as a final consideration, to notice that, where the rite of sacrifice bears a look of expiation, and the instances are taken as facts of expiation, a closer examination shows, in every case, that the impression is not supported by the transaction. The The sacrifice of Job. sacrifice of Job for his sons may be taken as an example. As they are feasting, and as it would seem roistering in excess from day to day, he is afflicted with concern for them, and goes before God with his daily offering on their account, saying” It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.”123123Job i, 5. But this, at most, is a supplicatory, not an expiatory offering; for he is even hoping, it will be observed, that so great sin may not have been committed; and the mere contingency of sin is certainly no fit occasion for expiation. As we just now saw, in the case of Saul, sacrifice was even commonly considered to be a way of prayer.509
Besides this sacrifice of Job, I find no other historic instance or example, where there is even so much as a semblance of the expiatory character. But there is a complete day’s-work of sacrifice circumstantially prescribed, a great day of atonement, sometimes called The great called day of expiation without expiation. “the great day of expiation,” sometimes the day, where the remembrance of sins, once a year, is religiously observed, and where, as it is commonly believed, expiation is the simple and sole office of the observance. Here, if any where, the fact of an expiatory sacrifice will be found. I shall therefore conclude my investigation of this very important question, by a careful review of the solemnities of the day referred to, as they are detailed in the record of its institution.
It is a day specially devoted, we shall see, to the guilty and bad state of sin end the sublime need it creates of a reconciliation with God. The intention plainly is to make it the most serious and impressive day of the year; a day of strong conviction and, if possible, of hearty repentance and true turning unto God. A whole chapter and a long one,124124Leviticus xvi. is occupied with a specification of the observances. But we shall be struck, in the review of them, not with any discovery of an expiatory element, but with the fact, that every thing is ordered with such a manifestly artistic study and skill, to beget, in minds too crude for the reflective modes of exercise, a whole set of impressions answering to those of the christian doctrine of salvation; the holiness of God, 510the uncleanness and deep guilt of sin, and the faith of God’s forgiving mercy. The whole day, from sunset to sunset, as Jahn describes it, is to be a day of strict fasting. All the common works of life are to cease, and the people are to have it as a day in which to “afflict their souls.” Not that, by such self-affliction, an expiatory penance or pain is to be suffered for sin. The same expression is familiarly used by us in reference to fasting, with no thought certainly of expiation. It simply means that, with and by help of it, we may settle our mind into a just impression of the unworthiness and guiltiness of our sin, and feel it as we ought in the sorrow of a true repentance. We do not afflict ourselves that God may be placated by our pains, but we choke down the appetites, we put the body under by a violent downward thrust, and proclaim a truce to the strivings of gain, that, in stillness and before God, we may receive a just impression of our ill-desert as sinners.
Having the day fenced about in this manner, and devoted to such purposes, all the rites of the day are contrived to give it effect. A kind of fundamental conception which lies back of all and colors every thing in the feeling, is that there is a universal, overspreading uncleanness to be removed,—“because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins.” It is as if every thing handled, touched, breathed upon, or even looked upon by them, had taken some defilement from them; “the holy sanctuary,” “the tabernacle of the congregation,” 511“the altar,” “the priests,” and “all the people of the congregation;” all which are accordingly to be atoned, or purified, in turn. And the rites of the day are all so ordered as to produce the profoundest impression possible of the separateness, or holiness of God; also to encourage the faith of his acceptance, and of the actual remission; that is, of the removal or cleansing of, the sin.
The high priest forbidden, on pain of death to enter the holy of holies, the sacred recess of the temple where God dwells, on any other day of the year, is this day to go in and be accepted there for himself and the people. This he is to do, putting the people back even from the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may not come too nigh, while their sin is upon them. He is to be anointed and sanctified for this, with a particular ointment, not to be made or used for any other purpose on pain of death.h.125125Exodus xxx, 30-33. And the incense he is to offer is made by a divine recipe, and is to be kept sacred in the same manner, for this particular use.126126Exodus xxx, 34-38. And the blood he is to sprinkle on the mercy-seat, and the altar, and the tabernacle of the congregation, is made sacred, as was just now observed, by a fixed separation, under the same penalty, from all common uses; because it has in it the sacred mystery of life. The offerings too, the bullock that is offered for the priest, and the goat that is offered for the people, are permitted, in no part, to be eaten, as in the ordinary and more festive celebrations but are to be carried outside of the camp, or city, and 512there to be wholly burned; because they are supposed to bear the taint of the sin upon them. And to make the impression more complete, that the sin is taken away, the men who carry out the offerings to burn them, come back, as unclean, publicly washing them selves for their cleansing. And, to make the removing of the sin more impressive, it is dramatically represented, by the introduction of another goat beside the one that is offered, on the head of which the priest is to confess and representatively place all the sins of the people, and which is to be driven out alive, bearing “on him all their iniquities, into a land not inhabited.” And then, as the man who drove out the goat, having such uncleanness upon him, must be supposed to have suffered defilement in consequence, he is to return and wash himself, in token of his cleansing.
And the conclusion of all is, not that certain penalties for sin are satisfied, or removed by expiation, but that the sin itself is covered, or taken away. “For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord.”
I do not, of course, affirm that every worshiper concerned in the rites of the day is ipso facto justified, born of God. In all such rites of the altar, two results are concerned, going along, or designed to go, together, but under very different conditions. First there is to be a ceremonial cleansing, which is wrought absolutely, every person concerned being made ceremonially clean. And secondly, there is or is designed to 513be, a moral and spiritual cleansing, wrought implicitly, or transactionally; every thing as regards exercise and impression being adjusted to favor, and make it the privilege of the worshiper, if only he, on his part, will offer his heart to it. If he takes the sense of his uncleanness with a true feeling, if he is so cast down by it that he wants to comfort himself in seeing all most sacred things offered for his sin; if he truly believes that God, in the holy of holies, receives him, and that what the scape-goat signifies is a confidence truly given him; then he is more than ceremonially clean; the seeds of a better life are quickened in his heart. And this is what the promise signifies; it speaks of a privilege given, not of a fact accomplished,—“that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord.”
There is then I conclude, for that is the result to which we are brought by this very careful inquiry, no such thing as expiation in the sacrifices Result, how honorable to the Hebrew Scriptures. of the Old Testament religion. And I hardly need say how great a satisfaction it is, and what strength it contributes to the evidences of this ancient, or ante-christian dispensation of God, to find that it is clear of a notion so abhorrent to all right feeling, and so essentially dishonorable to God. And the discovery is the more satisfactory, that it puts so wide a gulf of distance between this ancient, divine institute, and the crudities of barbarism and superstition that infest the sacrifices of all the contemporary and even subsequently developed religions of paganism; proving, at once, the immense superiority 514it has to all such growths of superstition, and establishing, as it were by incontrovertible evidence, its essentially divine origin.
It is scarcely necessary, after this extended exposition of the Old Testament sacrifices, to show, by a distinct No expiation, of course, in the sacrifice of Christ. argument, that there is no such thing as expiation, in the proper and defined sense of the term, in the sacrifice of Christ. Only two or three passages occur to me in the New Testament, that even appear to allow such a construction, without a look of violence. Thus when Caiaphas127127John xi, 50. “thought it expedient that one should die for the people,” and so “prophesied” verbally, without inspiration, I think it likely that he was contriving how the murder of Christ, in the pious pretext of an expiation for the people, was altogether expedient; and probably enough too, he believed in expiations; but it does not follow that he would be a reliable teacher of Christian doctrine. The conception of Paul128128Galatians iii, 13. that “Christ is made a curse for us,” is cited often as a text for expiation. But the meaning is exhausted, when he is conceived to simply come into the corporate state of evil, and bear it with us—faithful unto death for our recovery. The text most commonly cited as a conclusive and indubitable assertion of expiation, is that which was just now referred to—“for without shedding of blood there is no remission.”129129Heb. ix, 22. As if the word blood” were to be taken with all our uncircumcised associations of murder and death and terror upon it, not as a life 515giving and restoring word; and as if the word “remission” were to have our lightest, most superficial, merely human meaning of a letting go; when we know that, in order to really mean any thing in religion, it must signify an executed remission, an inward, spiritual release or cleansing. Suppose then that our great apostle had said, what to him signifies exactly the same thing, “for without the life-renewing blood there is no cleansing for sin.” It is difficult to speak with due patience of this unhappy text, so long compelled to grind in the mill of expiation; turning out, always, in the slow rotation of centuries, this creak of harsh announcement, that God must have some bloody satisfaction, else he can not let transgression go!
Sometimes it is imagined, that there is a peculiar and most sacred impression of God and his law made upon us, by the assertion of expiation, or penal The supposed effects of expiation remain without expiation. satisfaction; as for example, in this text. There stands, it is said, the inexorable, awe-inspiring fidelity of God, and the conscience-piercing word that tells of the immovable necessity by which he is holden, wakens an impression of too great power and benefit to be willingly lost. A theologic friend, whose opinions I much respect, can not break loose from the dogma of expiation, or penal satisfaction, though it confessedly infringes somewhat on his rational convictions and even his moral sentiments, because he imagines, in the impression just referred to, that it must have some transcendental virtue, which, without knowing exactly whence 516it comes, or how it works, proves it to be from God, Now there certainly is an impression of great value made upon us by this same text, and it is the deeper, both for the conscience and the heart, when it is taken with no moral offense of expiation, or penal satisfaction, included. And yet the reference of it to God’s inexorable fidelity, and the sense of an immovable necessity by which he is holden, is here made good as before. Here stands, fast by God’s throne, the everlasting must, commanding even righteousness to suffer, that justifying grace may have its way. For there comes out here, in grand, appalling mystery, the immovable necessity and everlasting fact, that goodness in all moral natures has a doom of bleeding on it, allowing it to conquer only as it bleeds. We can not even contrive a way for it to be, in this or any other universe, without having pains to suffer and deaths to undergo. Why, the simple thought of ascending into good, puts us, forthwith, in a condition of great cost, and if we should come off without the shedding of blood, that will at least be a good type of what we are required to suffer. Our hatred of sin is a pain, our struggle with it painful every way. Pity is itself a pain, beneficence for pity’s sake a state of war. If we give ourselves to truth, truth is unpopular, and we may have to die for it. Good in no shape, whether of love or mercy, can press upon evil, without being maligned, or conspired against; and it is well if the evil is not exasperated, even up to the point of phrensy and bloody violence, Good laws and liberties cost blood. Slavery is vanquished 517and wild rebellion crushed, only by what years of suffering, and how many blood-sodden fields of conflict, The inexorable law is upon us—“And without shed. ding of blood there is no remission.” All good conquers by a cross, and without a cross it is nothing. Ascending hence to God, we go not above this doom, this inexorable law, but simply go up to the point where it culminates, and whence it begins. The eternal righteousness of God has in it this inherent doom of war. It must suffer, it must bleed, and only so can reign. The cross is in it, even before the foundation of the world. We have, in our theodicy, all manner of ingenious showings, but the short account of God’s great way and work is, that goodness and right must propagate goodness and right; and must therefore create souls capable of goodness and right; which also, being capable of badness and wrong, will infallibly propagate badness and wrong. And this is evil—evil to be mastered, cleansed, forgiven. Evil therefore lowers over the eternal possibilities of God, and God is linked, in that manner, by a prior, unalterable necessity to conflict and suffering; so that if the good that is in him will get into men’s bosoms, it must bleed into them. “Ought not Christ to suffer” “For it became him, [it was even a fixed necessity upon him,] for whom are all things, and by whom. are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” And so returns upon us, still again, the same great text of expiation—“and without shedding of blood there is no remission”518—returns with a face wholly turned away from expiation, and yet with no abatement of the power. What, in fact, can be more impressive, than the inherently tragic fidelity of good—that which, at the summit of omnipotence, will not swerve from being confronted with evil, and suffering for it, and bleeding to cleanse it?
We are brought on thus, finally, to the conclusion, that expiation is no Christian idea, and is not contained in the Christian Scriptures. Excluding Atonement resumed and shown to be at-one-ment. it then, as a false third meaning given to the Hebrew word cover, we return to the two others, assigned for it in our English translation, atonement and propitiation, and resume the discussion of these, at the point where we left them, in the beginning of the chapter.
To atone, or make atonement then, is to remove transgression itself, or reconcile the transgressor. It fulfills, in a figure, the original physical sense of the word to cover; as when, for example, the ark was covered with pitch. It is such a working on the bad mind of sin as at-ones it, reconciles it to God, covers up and hides forever the wrong of transgression, assures and justifies the transgressor. In one word, constantly applied to it in the atonements of the old ritual, it makes clean. The effect is wholly subjective, being a change wrought in all the principles of life and characters and dispositions of the soul.
A passage from the Epistle to the Romans130130Rom. v, 10. is sometimes 519cited in support of a different conclusion—“For, if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more being reconciled shall we be saved by his life.” This reconciliation denotes simply a change of condition, it is said, not of character; a being brought upon the new footing of pardon; for it is something accomplished “when we were enemies.” The reconciliation therefore signifies the placation of God, and not our restoration to God. What then remains, following the same style of argument, under the conditions of time, but to infer that our salvation by Christ is to be accomplished wholly by his life; that is, by his second life, after the resurrection? Whereas, if we can take a more dignified way of construction, we shall understand the apostle to be only raising an argument of degrees, for the confidence of our complete salvation—For if when we were yet enemies God undertook our reconciliation by the death of his Son, much more, being now reconciled, will he stand by us, since he lives again to finish the salvation begun.
Atonement then, as applied to Christ, is just what is figured so carefully in the atonement of the ancient sacrifice. For as every thing about the temple was reconsecrated and made clean, by the sacred things offered in the sacrifice—the sacred incense burned before the mercy-seat, and the sacred blood sprinkled on whatever had taken the defilement of our sin—so the sprinkling of the far more sacred blood of Jesus, dying as the Lamb of God, in the volunteer obedience of his vicarious sacrifice, reconsecrates the law broken by our sin, dishonored 520and defiled by our defilement, and by its life-touch in our feeling and faith, purges our consciousness from dead works, to serve the living God. And as the old sacrifice made a remembrance of sins every year, and opened a way, once a year, into the holy of holies, so Christ, by an offering once for all, has made a reconciliation that is perfect and complete; so that we may all, as being now made priests unto God and ourselves, enter at all times and with boldness, into the holiest, by the blood of Jesus. That altar blood, or sprinkling, purified the patterns of the heavenly things; this other, holier sprinkling, the heavenly things themselves; viz., God’s throne, law, and truth—every thing defiled by our transgressions—and also our transgressions themselves.
The true Christian idea of propitiation is not far hence. The pagan color of the word is taken off; Propitiation and prevailing prayer. there is no such thought as that God is placated or satisfied, by the expiatory pains offered him. It supposes, first, a subjective atoning, or reconciliation in us; and then, as a farther result, that God is objectively propitiated, or set in a new relation of welcome and peace. Before he could not embrace us, even in his love. His love was the love of compassion; now it is the love of complacency and permitted friendship. This objective propitiation of God answers exactly to another objective conception, commonly held without any thought of correspondence. Thus we have a way of saying, as regards successful prayer, that it prevails with God. Is it then our meaning 521that it turns God’s mind, makes him better, more favorable, more inclined to bestow the things we seek? Probably enough many persons think so, and it is much better that they should, than to conclude, with many others, that it accomplishes nothing; obtaining no gifts that would not have been given as certainly without any prayer at all. But the true conception is this—that God has instituted an economy of prayer to work on Christian souls and brotherhoods and churches, encouraging them to come and make suit to him, for the blessings they need. This draws them nearer to him than before, chastens their spirit, kindles their holy desires and aspirations, unites them to aims of mercy like his own, brings them into a more complete faith, bands them together, two, or three, or many, in a more living fellowship of heart; and so, having gotten them, by this economy, into a state more configured to himself—which is the very object for which he orders the world—he is now able to grant, or dispense, things which before he could not, and he is prevailed with. Is he then better than before? is he induced to alter his plans? No, by no means. But he has now new subjects, or subjects in a new relationship, and if he were now to carry on all the courses of events, just as if the prayers were not, he would even violate a first principle of nature, that every event shall have its own consequences. Prayers are events like all others, and what forbids that, having their consequences, the consequences should be answers?
God then is propitiated by a change of relationship, that permits him to greet the souls whom Christ has 522reconciled, in cordial welcome, as he otherwise could not —just as he is prevailed with in prayers, that are Objective propitiation supposes subjective faith. new conditions prepared for new blessings. And that this is the true conception is most effectually shown by the standard text itself, in that particular clause which was reserved to this point of the argument131131Rom. iii, 28.—“Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood.” The apostle does not say, it will be observed—“propitiation through his blood”—as the scheme of expiation requires, but “propitiation through faith in his blood.” No propitiation therefore reaches the mark, that does not, on its way, reconcile, or bring into faith, the subject for whom it is made. There is no God-welcome prepared, which does not open the guilty heart to welcome God.
The apostle, in this manner, takes away from the Greek word he uses, which it must be confessed is commonly used by the pagan writers in a way that implies expiation, any possibility of such a meaning; for they have never a thought of any such thing as an expiation through faith; and, what is more, expiation itself excludes the supposition, that any kind of moral condition is necessary in the subject for whom it is offered; the very idea being, that it avails, as being a contribution of evils to obtain the release of evils; not as having now a state of faith prepared, as a new receptivity for good. I know not how often this language of the apostle is, quoted, as if it asserted a propitiation 523that is accomplished before faith, and wholly apart from faith; a placation of God that has respect to no human conditions whatever—precisely that which he carefully and even formally excludes.
Atonement then is a change wrought in us, a change by which we are reconciled to God. Propitiation is an objective conception, by which that change, taking place in us, is spoken of as occurring representatively in God. Just as guilty minds, thrown off from God, glass their feeling representatively in God, imagining that God is thrown off from them; or just as we say that the sun rises, instead of saying, what would be so very awkward to us, and yet is the real truth, that we ourselves rise to the sun. The necessity and uses of this objective language will be considered more at large, in the remaining chapter, and therefore need not be insisted on here, as in reference to the single word propitiation.524
|« Prev||Chapter II. Atonement, Propitiation, and…||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version