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§ 7. Objections.
The only legitimate method of controverting a doctrine which purports to be founded on the Scriptures is the exegetical. If its advocates undertake to show that it is taught in the Bible, its opponents are bound to prove that the Bible, understood agreeably to the recognized laws of interpretation, does not teach it. This method, comparatively speaking, is little relied upon, or resorted to by the adversaries of the Church doctrine concerning the satisfaction of Christ. Their main reliance is on objections of two classes: the one drawn from speculative or philosophical principles; the other from the sentiments or feelings. It is not uncommon for modern writers, especially among the German theologians, to begin the discussion of this subject by a review of the Scriptural statements in relation to it. This is often eminently satisfactory. It is 528admitted that Christ saves us as a priest by offering Himself a sacrifice for sin; that He is a priest and sin offering in the Old Testament sense of those terms; and that a priest is a mediator, a representative of the people, and an offerer of sacrifices. It is admitted that the sin offerings of the old dispensation were expiatory sacrifices, designed to satisfy the justice of God and to secure the restoration of his favour to the sinner. It is admitted that expiation was made by substitution and vicarious punishment, that the victim bore the sins of the offerer and died not only for his benefit, but in his place. It is further admitted that all this was designed to be typical of the priesthood and sacrifice of Christ, and that the New Testament teaches that these types were fulfilled in Him; that He was the only true priest, and his offering of Himself was the only available sacrifice for sin; that He bore the sins of men; made expiation for their guilt by taking their place, and sustaining the penalty of the law and time wrath of God in their stead; and that the effect of his satisfaction of justice is that God is in such a sense reconciled to man, that He can consistently pardon their sins, and bestow upon them all saving blessings. Having given this exhibition of what the Scriptures teach on the subject, they go on to state what the Fathers taught; how the doctrine was presented during the Middle Ages, and afterwards by the Reformers; how the Rationalists and Supernaturalists of the last generation dealt with it; and how the modern speculative theologians have philosophized about it; and end, generally, by giving in their adhesion to some one of these modern theories more or less modified. All the while there stand the Scriptural statements untouched and unrefuted. They are allowed to go for what they are worth; but they are not permitted to control the writers own convictions. This course is adopted by different men on different principles. Sometimes it is upon the distinct denial of the inspiration of the sacred writers. They are admitted to be honest end faithful. They may or may not have been the recipients of a supernatural revelation, but they were fallible men, subject to all the influences which determine the modes of thought and the expressions of the men of any given age or nation. The sacred writers were Jews, and accustomed to a religion which had priests and sacrifices. It was, therefore, natural that they should set forth under figures and in the use of terms, borrowed from their own institutions, the truths that Christ saved sinners, and that in the prosecution of that work He suffered and died. These truths may be retained, but the form in which they are presented in the Bible may be safely discarded.529
Others, and perhaps the majority of the most popular of this class of theologians, go further than this. They are willing that criticism and forced interpretations should make what havoc they please with the Bible. Any and every book may be rejected from the canon. Any and every doctrine may be interpreted out of the sacred pages; still the only Christianity they value is safe. Christianity is independent of any form of doctrine. It is a life, an inward, organic power, which remodels the soul; which life is Christianity, because it is assumed to have its origin in Christ.
Others again act on the principles of that form of rationalism which has received the name of Dogmatism. The doctrines and facts of the Bible are allowed to stand as true. They are allowed to be the proper modes of statement for popular instruction and impression. But it is assumed to be the office of the theologian to discover, present, and bring into harmony with his system, the philosophical truths which underlie these doctrinal statements of the Bible. And these philosophical truths are assumed to be the substance of the Scriptural doctrines, of which the doctrines themselves are the unessential and mutable forms. Thus the doctrine of the Trinity is admitted. The form in which it is presented in the Bible is regarded as its popular form, which it may be useful to retain for the people. But the real and important truth which it involves is, that original, unintelligent, unconscious Being (the Father) comes to conscious existence in the world (the Son), by an eternal process, and returns by an unceasing flow into the infinite (the Spirit). It is also admitted that God became flesh, but it was, as some say, in the whole race of man; mankind are the manifestation of God in the flesh; or, as others say, the Church is his body, that is, the form in which the incarnation is realized. Christ is acknowledged to be our saviour from sin, but it is by a purely subjective process. He introduces a new life power into humanity, which enters into conflict with the evil of our nature, and after a painful struggle overcomes it. This is called the application of philosophy to the explanation of Scriptural doctrines. It is patent, however, that this is not explanation, but substitution. It is the substitution of the human for the divine; of the thoughts of men, which are mere vapour, for the thoughts of God, which are eternal verities. It is giving a stone for bread, and a scorpion for an egg. It is, indeed, a very convenient method of getting rid of the teachings of the Bible, while professing to admit its authority. It is important, however, to notice the concession involved in these modes of proceeding. It is acknowledged that the Church doctrine 530of a true expiatory sacrifice for sin, of a real satisfaction of justice by means of the vicarious punishment of sin, is the doctrine of the Scriptures, as well of the Old Testament as of the New. This is all we contend for, and all we care for. If God teaches this, men may teach what they please.
Another class of objections to the Scriptural doctrine of satisfaction, which may be called philosophical, although not of the speculative kind, are those which are founded on certain assumed moral axioms. It is said to be self-evident that the innocent cannot be guilty; and if not guilty he cannot be punished, for punishment is the judicial infliction of evil on account of guilt. As the Church doctrine, while maintaining the perfect sinlessness of Christ, teaches that He bore the guilt of sin, and therefore was regarded and treated as a sinner, that doctrine assumes both an impossibility and an act of injustice. It assumes that God regards things as they are not. He regards the innocent as guilty. This is an impossibility. And if possible for Him to treat the innocent as guilty, it would be an act of gross injustice. On this class of objections it may be remarked, —
1. That they avail nothing against the plain declaration of the Scriptures. If the Bible teaches that the innocent may bear the guilt of the actual transgressor; that He may endure the penalty incurred in his place, then it is in vain to say that this cannot be done.
2. If it be said that these moral objections render it necessary to explain these representations of Scripture as figurative, or as anthropomorphic modes of expression, as when God is said to have eyes, to stand, or to walk, then the reply is that these representations are so didactic, are so repeated; and are so inwrought into the whole system of Scriptural doctrine, that they leave us no alternative but to receive them as the truths of God, or to reject tie Bible as his word.
3. Rejecting the Bible does not help the matter. We cannot reject the facts of providence. Where is the propriety of saying that the innocent cannot justly suffer for the guilty, when we see that they actually do thus suffer continually, and everywhere since the world began? There is no moral principle asserted in tie Bible, which is not carried out in providence. God says He will visit the iniquities of the fathers upon their children to the third and fourth generation of those that hate Him. And so He does, 531and ever has done. Are we so confident in ourselves as to deny that there is a just God who governs the world, rather than admit that the innocent may rightfully bear the iniquity of the guilty? In teaching the doctrine of legal substitution, of the transfer of guilt from the transgressor to the innocent, of the satisfaction of justice by vicarious punishment, the Bible asserts and assumes no moral principle which does not underlie all the providential dealings of God with individuals or with nations.
4. Men constantly deceive themselves by postulating as moral axioms what are nothing more than the forms in which their feelings or peculiar opinions find expression. To one man it is an axiom that a holy God cannot permit sin, or a benevolent God allow his creatures to be miserable; and he, therefore, infers either that there is no God, or that He cannot control the acts of free agents. To another it is self-evidently true that a free act cannot be certain, and therefore that there can be no foreordination, or foreknowledge, or prediction of the occurrence of such acts. To another, it is self-evident that a merciful God cannot permit any portion of his rational creatures to remain forever under the dominion of sin and suffering. There would be no end of controversy, and no security for any truth whatever, if the strong personal convictions of individual minds be allowed to determine what is, or what is not true, what the Bible may, and what it may not, be allowed to teach. It must be admitted, however, that there are moral intuitions, founded on the constitution of our nature, and constituting a primary revelation of the nature of God, which no external revelation can possibly contradict. The authority of these intuitive truths is assumed or fully recognized in the Bible itself. They have, however, their criteria. They cannot be enlarged or diminished. No man can add to, or detract from, their number. Those criteria are, (1.) They are all recognized in the Scriptures themselves. (2.) They are universally admitted as true by all rational minds. (3.) They cannot be denied. No effort of the will, and no sophistry of the understanding can destroy their authority over the reason and conscience.
5. It is very evident that the principle that “the innocent cannot justly be punished for the guilty,” cannot stand the application of the above-mentioned criteria. So far from being recognized in the Bible, it is contrary to its plainest declarations and facts. So far from being universally received among men as true, it has never been received at all as part of the common faith of mankind. The 532substitution of the innocent for the guilty, of victims for transgressors in sacrifice, of one for many; the idea of expiation by vicarious punishment, has been familiar to the human mind in all ages. It has been admitted not only as possible, but as rational, and recognized as indicating the only method by which sinful men can be reconciled to a just and holy God. It is not, therefore, to be admitted that it conflicts with any intuition of the reason or of the conscience; on the contrary it is congenial with both. It is no doubt frequently the case that opposition to this doctrine arises from a misapprehension of the terms in which it is expressed. By guilt many insist on meaning personal criminality and ill desert; and by punishment evil inflicted on the ground of such personal demerit. In these senses of the words the doctrine of satisfaction and vicarious punishment would indeed involve an impossibility. Moral character cannot be transferred. The Remonstrants were right in saying that man cannot be good with another’s goodness, any more than he can be white with another’s whiteness. And if punishment means evil inflicted on the ground of personal demerit, then it is a contradiction to say that the innocent can be punished. But if guilt expresses only the relation of sin to justice, and is the obligation under which the sinner is placed to satisfy its demands, then there is nothing in the nature of things, nothing in the moral nature of man, nothing in the nature of God as revealed either in his providence or in his word, which forbids the idea that this obligation may on adequate grounds be transferred from one to an other, or assumed by one in the place of others.
To the head of objections founded on assumed moral axioms belong those urged by a large class of modern, and especially of German theologians. These theologians have their peculiar views of the nature of God, of his relation to the world, and of anthropology in all its branches, which underlie and determine all their theological doctrines. It is denied that Schleiermacher founded a school; but it is certain that he introduced a method of theologizing, and advocated principles, which have determined the character of the theology of a large class of men, not only in Germany, but also in England and America: Twesten, Nitsch, Lücke, Olshausen, Ullmann, Lange, Liebner, and even Ebrard in Germany and Morell and Maurice in England, belong to this class of writers. In this country what is known as the “Mercersburg Theology” is the product of the same principles. Everything which distinguishes that theology from the theology of the Reformed Church, comes from the introduction of these new German speculative principles. 533No two of the writers above mentioned agree in all points. They differ, however, only in the length to which they carry their common principles in modifying or overthrowing the faith of the Church. Ebrard, one of the best, because one of the most moderate and least infected of the class, says in the preface to his “Dogmatik,” that he goes hand in hand with the old Reformed theology in all points, and that for that reason he is more true to the principles of his Church, as a church of progress. He professes to have carried that theology forward by a process of “organic development;” and this Professor Harbaugh of Mercersburg, in his late inaugural address, claims to have been the service, and still to be the office of the German Reformed Church in this country. It is true that the leading theologians of that Church, as was perhaps to be expected, have given themselves up to the guidance of the German mind. All they have done has been to incorporate the modern German philosophy with theology. Their advances, therefore, have no more worth than belongs to any other form of human speculation. They do not pretend to get their peculiar doctrines from the Bible; they only labour to make the Bible agree with their doctrines. But this is just as impossible as that the Scriptures should teach the principles of modern chemistry, astronomy, or geology. These philosophical principles had no existence in the minds of men when the Bible was written, and they have no authority now but what they get from their human authors. If they survive for a generation, it will be more than similar speculations have in general been able to accomplish.438438Indeed, already the philosophy of Schelling, Hegel, and Schleiermacher seems to be for the rising men of Germany as much a thing of the past, as that of the Hindus or the Cabala. The German mind has swung round from making spirit everything, to making it nothing. It is, however, lamentable to see how even good men allow themselves to explain away the most catholic, and plainly revealed doctrines of the Bible, in obedience to the dictates of the modern transcendental philosophy. What however we have here immediately in view is, the objections which this class of writers make to the Church form of the doctrine of satisfaction, in obedience to the assumed moral axiom above mentioned, namely, that the innocent cannot by God be regarded and treated as guilty, or the guilty regarded and treated as righteous. It is indeed true that God cannot but regard every person as he really is. His judgments are according to truth. But this is not inconsistent with his regarding Christ, although personally innocent, as having voluntarily assumed our place and undertaken to satisfy the demands of justice in our place; nor with his regarding the believer, although personally 534undeserving, as righteous, in the sense of being free from just exposure to condemnation, on the ground of the vicarious satisfaction of Christ. This is precisely what the Scriptures affirm to be true, and that which believers in all ages have made the ground of their hope toward God. This is almost the identical proposition affirmed by the Apostle, when he declares that on the ground of the propitiation of Christ, God “can justify the ungodly,” i.e., declare the unrighteous to be righteous; unrighteous personally, but righteous in that the demands of justice in regard to him are satisfied. This also is precisely what the writers referred to (not Ebrard who does not go so far as those with whom he is classed) deny. If God, say they, regards Christ as sinful, He must be really sinful; if He pronounces the believer righteous, he must be truly, personally, and subjectively righteous. As most of these writers admit the sinlessness of Christ, and yet maintain that only sinners can be treated as sinners, and only the personally righteous treated as righteous; and as they hold that imputation implies the real possession of the quality, act, or relation which is imputed, they are forced to teach that Christ in assuming our nature as guilty and fallen, ipso facto, assumed all the responsibilities of men, and was bound to answer to the justice of God for all the sins which hnmanity had committed. The doctrine of one class of these writers is, that the Logos in assuming our nature did not become an individual, but the universal man; He did not take to Himself “a true body and a reasonable soul,” but the whole of humanity, or humanity as an organic whole or law of life; the individual dying for the sins of other individuals, does not satisfy justice. When He was nailed to the cross, not an individual merely, but humanity itself, was crucified; and, therefore, his sufferings were the sufferings not of an individual man, but of that which underlies all human individualities, and consequently avails for all in whom humanity is individualized. As Christ becomes personally responsible for the guilt which attaches to the humanity which He assumed, so we become personally righteous and entitled, on the ground of what we are or become, to eternal life, because, by our union with Him, we partake of his humanity as well as of his divinity. His theanthropic nature is conveyed to us with all its merits, excellence, and glories, as the nature of Adam with its guilt, pollution, and weaknesses, has been transmitted to his posterity. It is in favour of this theory that the church doctrine of the substitution of Christ, the innocent for the guilty; of his bearing the guilt not of his own nature, but of sinners; of his suffering the penalty of the law in 535the place of those by whom it had been incurred, one individual of infinite dignity dying in the stead of the multitude of his people (the shepherd for his sheep), is discarded and trodden under foot. In reference to this theory, it is sufficient here to remark, —
1. That it is a mere speculative, or philosophical, anthropological theory. It has no more authority than the thousands of speculations which the teeming mind of man has produced. Schleiermacher says that man is the form in which the universal spirit comes to consciousness and individuality on this earth. These writers say that man is the form in which generic humanity is individualized. Every philosophy has its own anthropology. It is evidently most unreasonable and presumptuous to found the explanation of a great Scriptural doctrine, which the people are bound to understand and receive, and on which they are required to rest their hope of salvation, upon a theory as to the nature of man, which has no divine authority, and which not one man in a thousand, perhaps not one in hundreds of thousands, believes or ever has believed. The self-confidence and self-exaltation which such a course implies, can hardly be the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
2. The theory itself is unintelligible. The phrases “universal man,” and “the whole of humanity,” as here used, have no meaning. To say that “humanity itself was nailed to the cross,” conveys no rational idea. By a universal man might be meant a universal genius, or a man who represents all mankind as Adam did. But this is expressly repudiated. By “a universal man,” as distinguished from an individual man, is intended a man who includes the whole of humanity in himself. Though this might be said of Adam when he stood absolutely alone, before the creation of Eve, yet it cannot be said of any one of a multitude of men. A universal man would be a man who included in himself all human persons; an idea as monstrous as the modern doctrine of “the all-personality of God.”
In the language of the Church, to assume a nature is to assume a substance with its essential attributes and properties. Through all ages in the Church the words φύσις, οἰσία, substantia, and natura, have, in relation to this subject, been used interchangeably. When it is said that the Logos assumed our nature, it is meant that He took into personal union with Himself a substance or essence having the same essential properties which constitute us men. But He did not assume the whole of that substance or essence. He assumed the whole of humanity in the sense of assuming all the attributes of humanity. He took upon Him all that was necessary to constitute 536Him “very man” as He was from eternity “very God.” This, however, is not what these writers mean. They say He took upon Him the whole of humanity so as to be, not an individual, but the universal man. This is what some of the first of German minds have pronounced to be Unsinn, i.e., meaningless. Even if the idea of substance, although recognized by the Bible, the Church, and mankind, be discarded, and humanity, or human nature, be defined as a life, or organic force, or aggregate of certain forces, the case is not altered. A universal man would still be a man who had in himself to the exclusion of all others, the totality of that life or of those forces. There is no conceivable sense in which Christ had in Himself the whole of humanity, when millions of other men existed around Him. This whole theory, therefore, which is set up as antagonistic to the Church doctrine of satisfaction, rests on an unintelligible, or meaningless proposition. It is no new thing in the history of the human mind that even great men should deceive themselves with words, and take mystic phrases, or vague imaginings for definite ideas.
3. There is a moral or ethical impossibility, as well as a metaphysical one, involved in this theory. The doctrine is, that in assuming human nature Christ assumed the guilt attaching to the sins humanity had committed. He became responsible for those sins; and was bound to bear the penalty they had incurred. Nevertheless human nature as it existed in his person was guiltless and absolutely pure. This, to our apprehensions, is an impossibility. Guilt and sin can be predicated only of a person. This if not a self-evident, is, at least, a universally admitted truth. Only a person is a rational agent. It is only to persons that responsibility, guilt, or moral character can attach. Human nature apart from human persons cannot act, and therefore cannot contract guilt, or be responsible. Christ assumed a rational soul which had never existed as a person, and could not be responsible on the ground of its nature for the sins of other men. Unless guilt and sin be essential attributes or properties of human nature, Christ did not assume guilt by assuming that nature. If guilt and sin cannot be predicated of Christ’s person, they cannot by possibility be predicated of his human nature. The whole theory, therefore, which denies that Christ as a divine person clothed in a nature like our own, assumed the guilt of our sins by imputation of what did not belong to Him, and sustained the penalty which we had incurred, and makes that denial on the ground that the innocent cannot bear the sins of the guilty; that God could not regard Him as sin, unless He was in 537Himself sin, is founded on the moral impossibility that a nature, as distinguished from a person, can sin or be guilty.
When it is said that we derive a sinful nature from Adam, and that guilt as well as pollution attaches to the nature of fallen men, the doctrine is, that we, and all who derive that nature from Adam, are personally sinful and guilty. We are born, as the Apostle says, the children of wrath. It is not an impersonal nature which is guilty, for this would be a contradiction, but persons whose immanent, subjective state is opposed to the character and law of God. All this, however, is denied concerning Christ. These theologians admit that, as a person, He was without sin. But if without sin, He was without guilt. It was according to the Scriptures by the imputation to Him of sins not his own, that He bore our guilt, or assumed the responsibility of satisfying justice on our account. It is only by admitting that by being born of a woman, or becoming flesh, Christ placed Himself in the category of sinful men, and became personally a sinner, and guilty in the sight of God, as all other men are, that it can be maintained that the assumption of our nature in itself involved the assumption of guilt, or that He thereby became responsible for all the sins which men possessing that nature had committed.
4. It is another fatal objection to this scheme that it subverts the whole gospel plan of salvation. Instead of directing the soul to Christ, to his righteousness, and to his intercession; that is, to what is objective and out of itself, as the ground of its hope toward God, it turns the attention of the sinner in upon himself. The only righteousness he has on which to trust is within. He has a new nature, and because of that nature is and deserves to be, reconciled unto God and entitled to eternal life. It places Christ just as far from us as Adam is. As Adam is the source of a nature for which we are condemned, so Christ is the source of a nature for which we are justified and saved. The system, therefore, calls upon us to exchange a hope founded upon what Christ is and has done in our behalf, a hope which rests upon an infinitely meritorious righteousness out of ourselves, for a hope founded on the glimmer of divine life which we find within ourselves. We may call this new nature by what high-sounding names we please. We may call it theanthropic, divine-human, or divine, it makes no difference. Whatever it is called, it is something so weak and so imperfect that it cannot satisfy ourselves, much less the infinitely holy and just God. To call on men to trust for their acceptance before God on the ground of what they are made by this inward 538change, is to call upon them to build their eternal hopes upon a foundation which cannot sustain a straw. That this is the true view of the plan of salvation as proposed by these theologians, notwithstanding the lofty terms in which they speak of Christ as our Saviour, is plain from the parallel which they constantly refer to between our relation to Christ and our relation to Adam. This is an analogy which the Apostle insists upon, and which as presented by him is full of instruction and hope. Adam was the head and representative of his race. We stood our probation in him. His sin was putatively the sin of his posterity. It was the judicial ground of their condemnation. The penalty of that transgression was death, the loss of the life of God, as well as of his fellowship and favour. All mankind, therefore, represented by Adam in the first covenant came into the world in a state of condemnation and of spiritual death. He was a type of Christ, because Christ is the head and representative of his people. He fulfilled all righteousness in their behalf and in their stead. As Adam’s disobedience was the ground of the condemnation of all who were in him, so Christ’s obedience is the ground of the justification of all who are in Him; and as spiritual death was the penal, and therefore certain consequence of our condemnation for the sin of Adam, so spiritual and eternal life is the covenanted, and therefore the certain and inseparable consequence of our justification for the righteousness of Christ. But according to the modern speculative (or as it is called by Dorner,439439See his Geschichte der protestantischen Theologie, p. 769, and onward. He dates this regeneration from Schelling, Hegel, and Schleiermacher, especially, of course the last. “the regenerated”) theology, the parallel between Christ and Adam is very different. We are not condemned for Adam’s sin, as his sin, but only for that sin as it was ours, committed by us as partakers of the numerically same nature that sinned in him, and for the consequent corruption of our nature. The whole ground of our condemnation is subjective or inward. We are condemned for what we are. In like manner we are justified for what we become through Christ. He assumed numerically the same nature that had sinned. He sanctified it, elevated it, and raised it to the power of a divine life by its union with his divine person, and He communicates this new, theanthropic nature to his people, and on the ground of what they thus become they are reconciled and saved. It is a favourite and frequently occurring statement with these writers that Christ redeems us, not by what He does, but by what He is. His assumption of our nature was its redemption. Extreme spiritualism always ends in materialism. 539This whole theory has a materialistic aspect. Humanity as derived from Adam is conceived of as a polluted stream, into which a healing purifying element was introduced by Christ. From Him onward, it flows as a life-giving stream. What then becomes of those who lived before Christ? This is a question which these theologians are slow to answer. They agree, however, in saying that the condition of the patriarchs was deplorable; that their relation to Christ was essentially different from ours. There was no theanthropic life for them. That began with the incarnation, and the stream cannot flow backwards.
No one can read the theological works of the speculative school, without being satisfied that their design is not to set forth what the Scriptures teach. To this little or no attention is paid. Their object is to give a scientific interpretation of certain facts of Scripture (such as sin and redemption), in accordance with the principles of the current philosophy. These writers are as much out of the reach, and out of contact with the sympathies and religious life of the people, as men in a balloon are out of relation to those they leave behind. To the aeronauts indeed those on the earth appear very diminutive and grovelling; but they are none the less in their proper sphere and upon solid ground. All that the excursionists can hope for is a safe return to terra firma. And that is seldom accomplished without risk or loss.
The more popular objections to the doctrine of vicarious satisfaction have already been considered in the progress of the discussion. A certain amount of repetition may be pardoned for the sake of a brief and distinct statement of the several points. These objections were all urged by Socinus and his associates at the time of the Reformation. They are principally the following: —
There is no Vindicatory Justice in God.
1. There is no such attribute in God as vindicatory justice, and therefore there can be no satisfaction to justice required or rendered. This would be a fatal objection if the assumption which it involves were correct. But if it is intuitively true, that sin ought to be punished, then it is no less true that God will, and from the constitution of his nature must do, what ought to be done. All men, in despite of the sophistry of the understanding, and in despite of their moral degradation, know that it is the righteous judgment of God, that those who sin are worthy of death. They, therefore, 540know that without a satisfaction to justice, sin cannot be pardoned. If there be no sacrifice for sin, there is only a fearful looking for of judgment. This conviction lies undisturbed at the bottom of every human breast, and never fails, sooner or later, to reveal itself with irrepressible force on the reason and the conscience.
There can be no Antagonism in God.
2. To the same effect it is objected that there can be no antagonism in God. There cannot be one impulse to punish and another impulse not to punish . All God’s acts or manifestations of Himself toward his creatures, must be referred to one principle, and that principle is love. And, therefore, his plan of saving sinners can only be regarded as an exhibition of love, not of justice in any form. All that He can, as a God of love, require, is the return of his creatures to Himself, which is a return to holiness and happiness. It is true God is love. But it is no less true that love in God is not a weakness, impelling Him to do what ought not to be done. If sin ought to be punished, as conscience and the word of God declare, then there is nothing in God which impels Him to leave it unpunished. His whole nature is indeed harmonious, but it has the harmony of moral excellence, leading with absolute certainty to the judge of all the earth doing right; punishing or pardoning, just as moral excellence demands. The love of God has not prevented the final perdition of apostate angels; and it could not require the restoration of fallen men without an adequate atonement. The infinite, discriminating love of God to our race, is manifested in his giving his own Son to bear our sins and to redeem us from the curse of the law by sustaining the penalty in his own person. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation (ἱλασμός, propitiatio, expiatio. No man can get the saving import out of that word) for our sins.” (1 John iv. 10.)
The Transfer of Guilt or Righteousness Impossible.
3. It is objected that the transfer of guilt and righteousness involved in the Church doctrine of satisfaction is impossible. The transfer of guilt or righteousness, as states of consciousness or forms of moral character, is indeed impossible. But the transfer of guilt as responsibility to justice, and of righteousness as that which satisfies justice, is no more impossible than that one man should pay the debt of another. All that the Bible teaches on this subject is that Christ paid as a substitute, our debt to the justice 541of God. The handwriting (χειρόγραφον, the bond, Schuldbrief) Christ has cancelled, by nailing it to his cross. His complete satisfaction to the law, freed us as completely as the debtor is freed when his bond is legally cancelled.
Expiation a Heathenish Idea.
4. The idea of expiation, the innocent suffering for the guilty and God being thereby propitiated, is declared to be heathenish and revolting. No man has the right to make his taste or feelings the test of truth. That a doctrine is disagreeable, is no sufficient evidence of its untruth. There are a great many terribly unpleasant truths, to which we sinners have to submit. Besides, the idea of expiation is not revolting to the vast majority of minds, as is proved by its being incorporated in all religions of men, whether pagan, Jewish, or Christian. So far from being revolting, it is cherished and delighted in as the only hope of the guilty. So far from the innocent suffering for the guilty being a revolting spectacle, it is one of the sublimest exhibitions of self-sacrificing love. All heaven stands uncovered before the cross on which the Son of God, holy and harmless, bore the sins of men. And God forbid that redeemed sinners should regard the cross as an offence. God is not won to love by the death of his Son, but that death renders it consistent with moral excellence that his infinite love for sinful men should have unrestricted sway.
Satisfaction to Justice unnecessary.
5. It is objected that the doctrine of satisfaction to justice by means of vicarious punishment is unnecessary. All that is needed for the restoration of harmony in the universe can be effected by the power of love. The two great ends to be accomplished are a clue impression on rational minds of the evil of sin, and the reformation of sinners. Both these objects, it is contended, are secured without expiation or any penal suffering. According to some, the work of Christ operates æsthetically to accomplish the ends desired; according to others, it operates morally through the exhibition of love or by example, or by the confirmation of truth; and according to others, the operation is supernatural or mystical. But in any case his work was no satisfaction to justice or expiation for sin. It is enough to say in answer to all this, —
1. That such is not the doctrine of the Bible. The Scriptures teach that something more was necessary for the salvation of men than moral influences and impressions, or the revelation and confirmation 542of truth, something very different from mystical influence on the nature of man. What was necessary was precisely what was done. The Son of God assumed our nature, took the place of sinners, bore the curse of the law in their stead, and thereby rendered it possible that God should be just and yet the justifier of the ungodly. If such be the Scripture doctrine, all these schemes of redemption may be dismissed without consideration.
2. These schemes are not only unscriptural, but they are inoperative They do not meet the necessities of the case, as those necessities reveal themselves in the consciousness of men. They make no provision for the removal of guilt. But the sense of guilt is universal and ineradicable. It is not irrational. It is not founded on ignorance or misconception of our relation to God. The more the soul is enlightened, the more deep and painful is its sense of guilt. There are some philosophers who would persuade us that there is no such thing as sin; that the sense of moral pollution of which men complain, and under which the holiest men groan as under a body of death, is all a delusion, a state of mind produced by erroneous views of God and of his relation to his creatures. There are others, theologians as well as philosophers, who while admitting the reality of moral evil, and recognizing the validity of the testimony of consciousness as to our moral pollution, endeavour to persuade us that there is no such thing as guilt. Responsibility to justice, the desert of punishment, the moral necessity for the punishment of sin, they deny. The one class is just as obviously wrong as the other. Consciousness testifies just as clearly and just as universally to the guilt, as to the pollution. It craves as importunately deliverance from the one as from the other. A plan of salvation, therefore, which makes no provision for the removal of guilt, or satisfaction of justice, which admits no such thing as the vicarious punishment of sin, is as little suited to our necessities as though it made no provision for the reformation and sanctification of men.
3. A third remark on these humanly devised schemes of redemption is, that while they leave out the essential idea of expiation, or satisfaction to justice by vicarious punishment, without which salvation is impossible, and reconciliation with a just God inconceivable they contain no element of influence or power which does not belong in a higher degree to the Scriptural and Church doctrine. Whatever 543there is of power in a perfectly sinless life, of a life of self-sacrifice and devotion to the service of God and the good of man, is to be found in the Church doctrine. Whatever there is of power in the prolonged exhibition of a love which passes knowledge, is to be found there. Whatever there is of power in the truths which Christ taught, and which He sealed with his blood, truths either before entirely unknown, or only imperfectly apprehended, belongs of course to the doctrine which the Church universal has ever held. And whatever there is of reality in the doctrine of our mystical union, and of our participation of the nature of Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, belongs to the Scriptural doctrine, without the blurring and enfeebling effects of modern speculation. While, therefore, we should lose everything in renouncing the doctrine of expiation through the sacrificial death of Christ, we should gain nothing, by adopting these modern theories.
“If a man,” says Delitzsch, “keeps in view our desert of punishment, and allows the three saving doctrines of Scripture to stand in their integrity, namely, (1.) That God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, i.e., imputed our sins to Him. (2.) That Christ, although free from guilt, laden with our guilt, was made a curse for us, i.e., suffered the wrath of God due to us; or, as the Scripture also says, that God executed on his Son judgment against sin, He having taken upon Him flesh and blood and offered Himself as a sacrifice for us for the expiation of sin. (3.) That in like manner his righteousness is imputed to believers, so that we may stand before God, as He had submitted to the imputation of our sins in order to their expiation; if these premises remain unobliterated, then it is as clear as the sun that Christ suffered and died as our substitute, in order that we need not suffer what we deserved, and in order that we instead of dying should be partakers of the life secured by his vicarious death.”440440Commentar zum Briefe an die Hebräer, p. 728. “Behält man die Verdammnisswürdigkeit unserer Schuld recht im Auge und lässt man ohne Deuteln die drel grossen von der Schrift bezeugten Heilswahrheiten stehen: 1. dass Gott den der von keiner Sünde wüsste für uns zur Sünde gemacht d. i. ihm unsere Sünden imputirt hat; 2. dass Christus der Schuldlose, aber mit unserer Schuld Beladene für uns ein Fluch geworden d. i. den Blitz des Zorns, der uns treffen sollte, für uns erlitten, oder, wie die Schrift such sagt, dass Gott an seinem Sohne, der unser Fleisch und Blut angenommen und sich uns zum Sündopfer, zur Sündenühne begeben, das Gericht über die Sünde vollzogen; 3. dass uns nun im Glauben seine Gerechtigkeit ebenso zugerechnet wird, um vor Gott bestehen zu können, wie er sich hat unsere Sünden zurechnen lassen, um sie zu büssen —: so ist es auch, so lange diese Vordersätze ungeschmälert bleiben, sonnenklar, das er stellvertretend für uns gelitten und gestorben, damit wir nicht leiden müssten, was wir verwirkt, und damit wir statt zu sterben in seinem durch stellvertretenden Tod hindurch gewonnen Leben das Leben hatten.”544
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