ePub 版

the 'old, so far from being intended to abrogate the decrees of that Great Being who is from everlasting to everlasting, as planned from the beginning by that very Being, as included in the writings of those holy men, whom he had inspired, the types and figures under which it was couched being drawn aside at the exact time and in the very manner which the divine wisdom had appointed. In this view the law comprehended the elements of the Gospel; Christianity was but the development of Judaism; Christ, instead of setting aside Moses and the prophets, sanctioned and fulfilled them; and both formed but one scheme of providence, which had for its object the ultimate deliverance of the human race from sin and death. Jehovah in this light is the father and friend of all mankind, so loving the world that he gave his only begotten son to seek and to save them that were lost. Thus the impious charge, urged by the deceivers, that he is evil and malignant, falls to the ground. It was the same antichristian principles that Christ and his other Apostles had in view, when they represent the things contained in the Gospel as proclaimed by the Deity. Thus the kingdom is said to have been prepared for the righteous from the foundation of the world. Matt. xxv. 34. Christ was glorified with the Father, and even slain before the world was. John xvii. 5. Moreover, he was delivered up by the predetermined counsel and foreknowledge of God. Acts ii. 23. Even the conversion of Paul was the effect of a previous choice. Acts ix. 15. And all good men are preordained for happiness. But mark the monstrous perversion of these and similar passages. Calvin and his followers, overlooking the reference which they bear to the antichristian system, have erected upon them the doctrines of election, predestination, and reprobation, doctrines which dishonour the character of God; swell a favoured few with spiritual pride and presumption, tend to plunge the many in gloom and desperation, and at the same time set the Gospel, delightful and rational as it is, in direct opposition to the dictates of reason and the genuine feelings of the human heart!

III. There is no subject which unfortunately has so widely divided the Christian world as the death of Christ, nor any in which the words of the Apostle have been so unjustly wrested from their true signification. The declaration is frequent in the apostolic writings, that Christ died for our sins, or that he suffered for us. Now in what sense are we to understand such words as these ? The orthodox divines maintain, that he thus died or suffered, in order to satisfy the justice of heaven for our sins; that having thus satisfied the wrath of God, the death of Jesus is an atonement, propitiation, or price paid to the Almighty, for the redemption of mankind. On the contrary, the opponents of this doctrine say, that Christ died for us, because he died to furnish us with motives to forsake our sins ;-and that this is the true acceptation of the words, is demonstrable from the following reasons:

1. Our Lord himself, when his words are properly weighed, will appear to state that the object of his death was to induce men to forsake their sins : he took the cup and gave thanks, saying, Drink ye all of it, it is my blood of the new covenant which is shed for

many, els cupeo w djagtiw, for the dismission of sins." Matt. xxvi. 26.: that is, Christ shed his blood, or, in other words, he laid down his life, in order to supply all men, Gentiles as well as Jews, with an adequate motive to dismiss their sins; that, being purified from their iniquities by repentance and reformation, they might be received into favour with God. This was a matter of high importance for our Lord explicitly to state.

The Jews, priding in their privileges as descendants of Abraham, thought they might continue in the indul

66 And

gence of their favourite vices; and the Gnostics' maintained that, as the privileged disciples of Christ, they were under no obligation to forsake their sins. In opposition to these opinions, our Lord inculcates that it was the indispensable duty of all men, whatever might be their rank or nation, to become virtuous and holy ; that the direct object of his death was to produce repentance and amendment in his followers, and not to offer an apology or compensation for such immoral habits as they deemed too dear or too obstinate to be abandoned.

2. Whenever Paul notices the death of Christ, he has reference to the sentiments of the impostors; and their sentiments supply an unerring standard by which to ascertain the meaning of the Apostle. These sentiments were, that Christ did not die for the sins of men, the object of his appearing in the world being to destroy the works of the Creator, who is cruel and arbitrary, and to rescue mankind from subjection to his laws; so that all who followed them might gratify their propensities without fear or compunction. This blasphemy Paul sets aside in the beginning of his epistle to the Galatians : “ Grace be unto you, and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father. To whom be glory for ever, Amen. I wonder that ye are so soon removed from him, who called you in the grace of God unto another gospel, which is not another gospel, but the artifice of men who wish to throw you into confusion, and to subvert the Gospel of Christ.” Paul must have intended to assert what the deceivers denied ; namely, that Christ gave himself for our sins, not to atone for them to infinite justice, but to deliver us from the evil which is in the world; and this he did, not against the will of God, but in conformity to it, as the will of a father who takes

affectionate interest in the recovery of his children. “The doctrine is to be depended upon and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief." 1 Tim. i. 15. In a few verses before, he notices the false teachers : these denied that Christ came into the world for this end.

3. The impostors, while they pretended to preach Christ, refused to acknowledge him as their Lord or Master; by which they meant to deny all obligation on their part to follow his example or obey bis precepts. In opposition to this doctrine, Paul tells the converts, 1 Cor. vi. 7., that they were bought with a price ;" which means that Christ laid down his life for them, and by this means he made them as it were his own: and thus having become his, they were bound to obey and imitate him, no less than slaves were to obey the will of a master who had purchased them.

4.“ Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the holy spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, wbich he (Jesus) hath secured around with his blood.” Acts xxviii. 28. The Apostle immediately adds, “ I know this, that after niy departure grievous wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock.” The Gnostics denied that Christ had a real body, and consequently denied that he really died. The phrase “ with his blood” is the same as 6 with his death.” But Paul preferred the former, to show that the body of Jesus, like that of other men, consisted of real flesh and blood*. The phrase “he secured the church of God with his blood, or by his death, carries an allusion to a fold well fenced on every side

* Homer furnishes many remarkable instances, which display the true genius of Heathenism in this respect. When Pandarus saw Diomedes raging with superior power, he was doubtful, whether he was a man with real flesh and blood, or a God in the appearance of man, and therefore without flesh and blood. When, however, he shot him, and found him to be a man, he exclaimed argsxss &iua croiva, 1 have fetched real blood : compare verses 177 and 208 of Iliad 5.


against wolves or other beasts of prey, who sought to break into it. The wolves here meant were the antichristian teachers; and the fence, which guarded the flock, was the simple humanity and death of its faithful shepherd; for these they wished to substitute in the person of Christ a God, in a human form, but incorporeal and impassive. Paul, they said, did not preach this doctrine, because Christ had not fully communicated to him the mysteries of his gospel : and to this charge the Apostle alludes when saying, that he declared to them the whole counsel of God. 27.

5. The death of Christ, though not a supernatural event, is the corner stone on which the church of Christ is erected. It was necessary that our Lord should voluntarily surrender himself to his enemies, to evince the sincerity of his own conviction in the doctrine which he proclaimed to the world; it was necessary that he should have died in the most public manner, or his resurrection, however true, could not be proved or, even known. Without the resurrection of Christ we should have no hope in Christ of surviving the tomb; and without the crucifixion of Christ, we should have no evidence of his resurrection ; and the glorious edifice of the Christian faith, erected by him, and now placed on a solid basis, would fall to the ground. Of this the antichristian teachers were fully sensible: and they used every artifice to undermine the death of our Saviour ; and to this circumstance it is owing, that the Apostles assert it so frequently, and lay so much stress upon it. The advocates of the atonement, however, overlooking this consideration, have laid hold of the strong terms used by the sacred writers, and wrested them to the support of a tenet which the impostors would have been glad to establish, in order to vilify the God and Father of mankind.

6. This reasoning supposes that, however necessary the cross of Christ was in the Christian scheme, it is his

« 上一頁繼續 »