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THE

CHRISTIAN PIONEER.

No. 182.

OCTOBER, 1841.

Vol. XV.

THE OBJECTS OF THE MISSION, THE DEATH, AND

THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST, CONSIDERED; In which the received notions concerning Atonement, Supernatural

Conversion, gc, are shown to be foreign from their design and the effects they actually produced. The mystical tenets to which the epithet “orthodox” is so generally attached, and which have obtained so mighty an influence over the human mind, in general make their appeal to particular passages of Scripture, usually with little or no regard to the context or the occasions on which they were delivered, and without recourse

for their interpretation to the facts of the Scripture. These passages are, for the most part, originally obscure to the English reader, from the peculiarities of the Hebrew idiom, and from the allusions they contain to the Mosaic ceremonial, and to the customs and manners of the people in the ages in which they were penned; and their obscurity may, without exaggeration, be said to be increased an hundredfold by these attempts to render them the foundations of tenets subversive of the plain dictates of reason, the most perspicuous statements, and the general scope and tenor of the Sacred Writings. This last, indeed, is not in general perceived by the advocates of these tenets, however they may occasionally admit the former, or even adopt it as a part of the system, in consequence, as I conceive, of their being so uniformly brought forward in the pulpit, and in publications devoted to their support, as the sum and substance of revealed truth. It seems generally to be concluded, that the Scriptures everywhere imply, if they do not directly express, doctrines and sentiments to the same effect as those which from infancy upwards, bave formed the avowed essentials of religious instruction, the belief of which constitutes the source, and the only source, of future salvation. These are adopted as the great axioms of the mind, which it never ventures to call in question; and all attempts to overthrow them, or to inculcate more rational and liberal principles, are rejected as unworthy of a moment's attention.

To no one tenet do these remarks apply, perhaps, with so much force, as to the “ orthodox” doctrine of Atonement, which, derived from the use of the term in the Levitical law, the expressions and phrases concerning which had become familiarly associated with Jewish ideas and language at the time of Christ, is supposed to be constantly kept in view, in the sacrificial allusions which are of frequent occurrence in the New Testament. Now, there appears to be no effectual method of combating with this strong prepossession, but by exhibiting, in a just point of view, the absurdity of the mode of interpreting Scripture, on which it has been adopted; and, at the same time, by setting forth the genuine and proper mode of arriving at the true meaning and scope of the Scriptures, in common with all other writings. Let not a few detached passages, broken out of their connectionand, from the differences of time, language, and circumstances, necessarily obscure to the English reader-be made the foundations of tenets which, if brought to the test of reason, appear plainly at variance with the great leading facts and principles of the Scriptures; but let those facts and principles form the lights to our understandings, the groundwork of our faith, and the guides for the interpretation of occasional obscurities, necessarily arising from the causes above assigned, and from others attendant upon the haste, brevity, and localities common to epistolary writings.

Christ, it is admitted by all Christians, died for or on behalf of a portion or the whole of the human race. Into the extent of the benefit conferred through his death, or the numbers it embraces, we are not now inquiring; but into the nature of the benefit it is designed to confer, and the mode in which it operates. Now, this question is, I think, to be determined chiefly by the known and mani. fest facts of the case, and by plain declarations expressly stating its design; and not by giving a literal interpretation to certain figurative expressions taken from the Jewish ceremonial, or to incidental allusions to them, when the main drift and aim of the writer, and the scope of his discourse, is evidently directed to another purpose, and one which is in clear accordance with the Saviour's history, and with the office and duties of his Apostles. The miracles recorded in the Gospels, and in the book of Acts, as they form the foundations of our faith in Jesus as the Christ, so they afford the direct proofs and illustrations of the blessings which he promised. The miracles of a Divine Messenger, are the credentials of his mission, and the nature of those miracles show its peculiar character. The miracles of Moses were directed to the maintenance of the doctrine of the one true God, the Creator and absolute Disposer of the universe, in opposition to the gross idolatries which were then almost universally prevalent. In effecting this object, a feeble, oppressed race, the descendants of his most eminent worshippers, were to be delivered from their potent oppressors, who were living in ignorance of God- to be preserved by miracle during forty years—to be thoroughly imbued with all necessary knowledge respecting himself and his government, and disciplined to his obedienceand to be made the instruments of driving from the most central situation of the then habitable world, or of utterly destroying seven nations, “greater and mightier than themselves,” who were abandoned to the worst forms of idolatry,—and establish bis worship and service, as extending to every branch of conduct, in its stead. The miracles which were wrought were respectively adapted to the accomplishment of these several objects, and, at the same time, of manifesting his absolute power over the system of nature, over the productions of the earth, over the food and the lives of mankind, over the events of battle, over the systems of religious worship, and all the good and evil that appertain to the present existence. These purposes they effected to a considerable extent, and gave constant manifestations of his supremacy to the Israelites, and the surrounding nations, for many ages. But it was in a great measure reserved for the Christian revelation, and the dispensation which it introduced, to « abolish death," and spread abroad the knowledge of a future eternal life, rendering it the instrument of bringing many, without regard to national, or ceremonial, or any other distinctions, save those of the mind and heart, to a spirit of willing, filial obedience.

The miracles of Christianity were, accordingly, directed to this last great object. They exemplify the saving nature of the mission of Jesus, or his authority to deliver us from the greatest of evils to which we are subjectedthose of sin and mortality. According to the constant representations of the Scriptures, these evils are inseparably connected, so that no complete deliverance from the one can be obtained without a corresponding deliverance from the other. His own mind was so gloriously enlightened with divine knowledge, his spirit was so thoroughly imbued with its influences, that no trace of sin, hardly of moral frailty, can be discerned throughout the varied, the many difficult and trying scenes, in which he appears from the commencement to the termination of his ministry. All is purity, piety, benevolence: pursuing the same general design, he lays down injunctions of a far more comprehensive, elevated, and refined character, than had been delivered “ to the men of old time;" injunctions calculated to raise men, by their more immediate influence, to a meetness for a spiritual and immortal existence. His miracles were of a corresponding description, indicative of a power to deliver from all those physical evils appertaining to this erring, mortal state. They were not, however, absolute deliverances from those evils, the persons on whom they were wrought not being in a moral state adapting them for the reception of so great a benefit, so glorious a transformation; but consisting in the temporary removal of all those maladies which are attendant on mortality, and which bring death in their career, and in the occasional temporary removal of death itself, they manifest the benign and saving nature of the authority with which he was endowed, and furnished the opening to his great promise of life everlasting to the faithful.

A life everlasting-a spiritual existence exempt from all the evils, physical and moral, that flesh is heir to-is of a nature so elevated, so far above the conceptions of earth-born mortals, that it is only as the mind gradually advances, by a long course of civilization and culture, that it becomes capable of being supremely influenced by the expectation of so wonderful a transition in the nature and circumstances of human beings. And this consideration seems to furnish the true reason why the Christian revelation was reserved to an advanced period of society. Advancing civilization, a growing acquaintance, from one generation to another, with the objects of this life, and a power of applying knowledge to practice in arts and sciences, and in the mutual intercourses of mankind as they become dispersed and settled through every locality upon the face of the globe, is a very distinguishing peculiarity of the human race, and appears to form a necessary introduction to those far more enlarged and elevated views and pursuits which appertain to a future existence. Christianity is evidently founded on these opening capabilities of the human mind; not, indeed, on meretricious refinements-on a sort of knowledge or brilliancy of parts and attainments, which tend rather to promote pride and conceit, than to advance the social and moral powers, and the general capacity of usefulness—but to forward the growth of these last attainments most effectually. Our Saviour had, as it were, to search out minds of this description,-minds docile for the reception of the most sublime and ameliorating wisdom, and which had already acquired some knowledge and foretaste of that eternal life wbich was the great subject of his promise. The Jews were distinguished from the heathens, by their intimate acquaintance with the Hebrew records, and the moral and prophetic writings of the Old Testament, which, the nearer they approach toward the Christian era, disclose more and more of the approaching blessings of the Messiah's reign; and, as they advance, nearly remove the veil which separates this mortal from the future immortal existence. Hence the reason of his confining his attention, during his personal ministry, to that nation, and performing among them such miracles as afforded the most direct indications of his authority as the Saviour, endowed with an absolute power of delivering from the evils of mortality.

It is evident that these saving miracles, in connection with the doctrine of Jesus, produced upon the minds of his disciples the conviction that he was commissioned to impart the blessing of eternal life. Peter, on two occa

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