Page images

connected with an indescribable something, called glory; which glory he is every moment liable to lose, and of which he is so jealous, that he must make the most savage exhibitions of his power to maintain it. What motives he offers for love and veneration, in this character, is left to the wisdom of others to discover. The character thus given him, implies want and anxiety, always allied to imperfection.

That this representation of his character never can induce a filial affection, is evident from the fact that it presents no feature of loveliness, by which rational beings can be attracted. We can love nothing which does not present some features of goodness. But goodness is recognized only by acts which demonstrate its existence. Goodness is that attribute which promotes the happiness of those who are within the scope of its power. It can never be confined to self; and we may with as much propriety say a rock or a tree is good, as to represent the creator of the universe as good or beneficent, unless the disposition to diffuse happiness be manifested in appropriate acts of kindness.


The scriptures, however, give him a very different character. He is there represented as our common Parent-the Father of the spirits of all flesh. This brings us into a moral relationship, and evidences a paternal providence, and constant watchfulness over He is said to open his bounties for the sustenance and satisfaction of all his creatures, and our senses testify to the fact that he sends rain and sunshine on the just and the unjust, producing fruitful seasons, and filling our hearts with joy and gladness. How near these descriptions agree with that torpid apathy imputed to him by the system under examination, every one can judge, whose moral sense has not been benumbed by the stoical theory of which we are now speaking.

Judging then by what we learn in the book of nature, and its confirmation in the volume of inspiration, the lineaments in the features of his character, as thus unfolded, claim our warmest affections. We are thus taught to "love him because he first loved us." A motive is thus afforded for the exercise of gratitude, and gratitude is rational devotion. But in which of the icy features with which the doctrines of men have invested him, shall we look for one ray of light to warm the hearts of his creatures? Where shall we look for one expression proving that he careth for us? It does not appear-it exists not. All is cold as the icebergs of the arctic pole, and dark as the vaults of death. No motives are exhibited for the exercise of the affections, and without motive men never act.

But we have not yet done with the premises, nor exposed its most prominent absurdities. The system supposes that the highest exhibition of honour to the law of God, was manifested in the sufferings of Christ. Men are supposed to have incurred the penalty of endless misery, a penalty which can never be inflicted, and therefore a palpable contradiction in terms. Το say that God can inflict, or man suffer, endless punishment, is to limit the suffering, by bringing it to a close. A proposition which is a most palpable absurdity, growing out of others which made it requisite as one falsehood makes many more necessary, to hide the original among a number of its fellows. True, indeed, the system does not aver that Jesus suffered exactly the penalty; for a few hours' suffering will hardly be termed endless, especially as no one believes he is now suffering. But the theory in question, supposes the being who suffered infinite, in some sense, and therefore term it an infinite atonement. Being met, however, by common sense, the sticklers for this sysfem aver, that though Deity could not properly be

said to suffer, yet the complex nature, the divine and the human, added such dignity to the sufferings, that the humanity which suffered, being raised to a state of immortality, by the infinite portion of Jesus, the suffering, though finite, has an infinite effect, and exhibits the glory of God, in the punishment of the human, and therefore finite nature of the sufferer. But after all these sufferings and exhibitions, and all the representations of cruelty inflicted on one of these two natures belonging to one person, by the other nature which took it into company, nothing seems to be accomplished for man's benefit. The sinning children of God, are still left to welter in torments while God exists, saving only, that this very singular act has given God power to save as many as shall be called by his irresistible grace, from the just demerits of their crimes. How much is thus gained by or for men, admitting all this display was solely for the selfish glory of God, let those judge, who have examined the system with a common share of observation.

We have now looked at this plan of atonement, and seen that it has no foundation in the scriptures— that it is altogether inadequate to its pretended effect --and that it tends to harden the heart, by an exhibition of folly and cruelty, worthy of no authority save heathen fable, and the mystery of fanatics.

[ocr errors]


Third plan of atonement examined, and found wanting. Dishonourable to God, and injurious to man.

This plan, as regards the law, the penalty, and person making the atonement, agrees with the former, but differs in its object. Original sin, so called, is supposed to be washed away, so that not one of Adam's race,

will on that account, be finally and interminably miserable. It also supposes, that man, by this means, possesses a moral power to oppose the natural desires of his nature, and conform to the requirement of holiness. That Christ died also for our actual sins, of which we may receive a benefit by repentance and faith, and that now a possibility exists of the salvation of all men, on the performance of certain conditions, not very specifically defined, among which is the reception of Christ as he is offered to us.

This plan also includes the idea, that men can, and that many do, reject the use of the spirit afforded them by these means, in consequence of which they are totally lost. And it further maintains, that no certainty of salvation is given to any one, nor does it lay God under any obligation to save a single soul, in any way. So very consistent a foundation, we shall probably find well fitted for supporting the superstructure which has been built upon it.

That we may commence the work of examination understandingly, it may be well to staté distinctly certain ideas which seem essential to all these several systems. We have noticed them in part, and shall now speak of them more fully. The God, or Godhead, is supposed to consist of three persons, all and each really God, or very God, of very God, or three distinct persons, in one essence; but nevertheless, so triangularly divided and subdivided, that either one, or all three, is or are, one only God, in three persons, for ever. But yet, that a distinction subsists sufficient to make a legal contract. In this contract, the Son being second in the trinity, agreed, under certain stipulations, to honour the law of his Father, by enduring enough of his wrath to wash out the original taint of the first transgression, on certain conditions to be performed by man, not yet fully made public. But setting aside all this confusion, let us inquire-If the Father be God,

the Son be God, the Holy Ghost be God, and each infinite, and truly Almighty, we have three infinite Gods, two in the relationship of Father and Son, and the third "proceeding from the Father and the Son," yet the Son begotten by the power of the Holy Ghost, the third person in this incomprehensible, triad of infinities. But leaving all this sublimated nonsense, let us inquire into the remainder of this wonderful contrivance. The Son, to fulfil his part of the contract, has to take human nature into company, thus composing a complex person, being "God and man in two distinct natures, and one person for ever." Very well. Now if each of the trinity be God, and God and man compose but one person, then man, or human nature, is a component portion of a triune, or three-one Jehovah. If then the finite part of Christ only suffered, the Son did not fulfil the contract, for he agreed to suffer. If he suffered, then infinity can suffer, and become imperfect. Some endeavour to maintain this, and hence we read in Watts, "the great Jehovah dies;" and another requests us to behold a dying God," while a third speaks of Christ as receiving new and immortal life !"




If the reader carefully examines all the stupid absurdities in the commencement of this stupendous plan of atonement, he will not be disappointed in believing that the result of the system will be equally ridiculous. He must see, that even admitting men were destined to suffer endlessly for the sin of Adam, and the death of Christ has merely washed away this stain, little, if any thing is gained, even in appearance. Man is still liable to suffer all the terrible consequences of transgression-his nature is not changed he is still subject to vanity, and his boasted state of a second probation is no better than the first, which resulted so wofully. The death of Christ has not made salvation certain to any one. A possibility is all which is promised in the

« PreviousContinue »