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" earth, he brings it about, that no punishment can reach
us; and by the same power he will accomplish our entire and perpetual freedom from death, which is the wages of "sin, and its principal and peculiar punishment. But this *method of rescuing us from the punishment of our sins is
very different from that which implies a satisfaction for $them. -Nothing can be more repugnarit to each oth
er than the freedom of pardon and satisfaction. Indeed, no man of judgment and piety ought to entertain the idea “of satisfaction for sin; since it plainly does very much "derogate from the power and authority, or the goodness "and mercy of God.”
He farther observes, that though John the baptist when he ascribes to Christ the taking away of sin, calls him a lamb, and that mode of expression alluded to the expiatory sacrifices in the Law, yet he apprehends that in this the baptist alluded to his whole character, as in several methods Christ takes away the sins of the world. In support of this he alledges, that in the expiatory sacrifices of the Law, those which were expressly offered for sin, no lamb was sacrificed.
Grotius, having written a treatise in defence of the doctrine of satisfaction, against Socinus, gave occasion to a most excellent answer by Crellius, in defence of the Socinian doctrine on this subject; and to this, Grotius did not think proper to make any reply.
In England, this doctrine of atonement seems to have got as firm possession of the minds of men, as that of the divinity of Christ. It is the doctrine of the established churches of England and Scotland, and is retained, at least in some qualified sense, even by many who do not hold the divinity of Christ, at least those who are styled Arians. For, that a Socinian should hold this doctrine, in any sense, is hardly possible. We are not, however, to expect a sudden and effectual reformation in this or in any other capital article of the corruption of ehristianity.
To establish this article, was a work as we have seen, of long time, and therefore we must be content if the overthrow of it be gradyal also. Great buildings do not often fall at once, but some apartments will still be thought habitable, after the rest are seen to be in ruins. It is the same with great systems of doctrine, the parts of which have long gone together. The force of evidence obliges us at first la
abandon some one part of them only, and we do not immediately see that, in consequence of this we ought to abandon others, and at length the whole. And indeed, could this have been seen from the beginning, it would have been with much more difficulty that we should have been prevailed upon to abandon any part. The very proposal might have staggered us; and any doubt with respect to the whole, might have been followed by universal scepticism. It hath pleased divine providence, therefore, to open the minds of men by easy degrees, and the detection of one falsehood prepares us for the detection of another, till, before we are aware of it, we find no trace left of the immense, and seemingly well compacted system. Thus by degrees we can reconcile ourselves to abandon all the parts, when we could never have thought of giving up the whole.
There are many who can by no means think that God has, in a proper sense, accepted of the death of Christ in lieu of that of all men (having no idea of the possibility of transferring guilt, and consequently of transferring pun. ishment) who yet think that the death of Christ serves to show the divine displeasure at sin, in such a manner, as that it would not have been expedient 10 pardon any sin without it; and they think that the sacrifices under the Law had a real reference to the death of Christ in the scheme of the gospel; while others think the death of Christ was necessary to the pardon of sin, and our restoration to eternal life, in some method of which we have no clear knowl. edge, being only obscurely intimated in the scriptures, and therefore could not be intended to produce its effect by any operation on our minds.
In time, however, I make no doubt, but that an attention to what seems now to be ascertained with respect to the moral character and government of God, viz. that he is a being purely good, that in him, justice, is only a modification of benevolence, that he simply wishes the happiness of all his creatures, and that virtue is a necessary means of that happiness; that he is incapable of introducing any unnecessary evil, and that his displeasure at sin is sufficiently shown by the methods which he takes to promote the reformation of sinners, and by the punishment of those who continue unreformed : these, I say, together with other considerations, suggested in the argumentative part of this division of my work, will in time eradicate whatever yet re. mains of the doctrine of atonement; a doctrine which has no foundation in reason, or in the scriptures, and is indeed a modern thing
In fact, the only hold it has on the minds of many protestants, is by means of such a literal interpretation of single texts of scripture, as gives the doctrine of transubstantiation a like hold on the minds of papists. Besides, it must, I am persuaded, lead many persons to think rationally on this subject, and especially to abandon all middle opinions with respect to it, to observe, as they must do if they give due attention to the language of scripture, that those particular texts on which they are disposed to lay so much stress, give no countenance to any middle doctrine. For they must either be interpreted literally, according to the plain and obvious sense of the words, which will enforce the belief of proper vicarious punishments, or they must be interpreted figuratively; and then they will not obligens to believe the doctrine of atonement in any sense, or that Christ died a sacrifice in any other manner, than as any person might be said to be a sacrifice to the cause in which he dies.
It is now, certainly, time to lay less stress on the interpretation of particular texts, and to allow more weight to general considerations, derived from the whole tenor of scripture, and the dictates of reason; and if there should be found any difficulty in accommodating the one to the other (and I think there is even less of this than might have been expected) the former, and not the latter, should remain unaccounted for. Time may clear up obscurities in partico ular texts, by discovering various readings, by the clearer knowledge of ancient customs and opinions, &c. But arguments drawn from such considerations as those of the moral government of God, the nature of things, and the general plan of revelation, will not be put off to a future time. The whole compass and force of them is within our present reach; and if the mind be unbiassed, they must, I think, determine our assent.
It is.certainly, a great satisfaction to entertain such an idea of the author of the universe, and of his moral government, as is consonant to the dictates of reason and the tenor of revelation in general, and also to leave as little obscurity in the principles of it as is possible; that the articles of our creed on this great subject may be few, clear, and simple. Now it is certainly the doctrine of reason, as well as of the Old Testament, that God is. merciful to the peni: tent, and that nothing is requisite to make men, in all situations, the objects of his favor, but such moral conduct as he has made them capable of. This is a simple and a pleasing view of God and his moral government, and the consideration of it cannot but have the best effect on the temper of our minds and conduct in life. The general tenor of the New Testament is likewise plainly agreeable to this view of things, and none of the facts recorded in it require to be illustrated by any other principles. In this, then, let us acquiesce, not doubting but that, though per... haps not at present, we shall in time be able, without any effort or straining, to explain all particular expressions in the apostolical epistles, &c. in a manner perfectly consis. tent with the general strain of their own writings, and the rest of the scriptures.
CORRUPTIONS OF CHRISTIANITY.
THE. HISTORY OF OPINIONS CONCERNING GRACE, ORIGINAL SIN,
Next to the opinions concerning the person of Christ
, none have agitated the minds of men more, or produced more serious consequences, than those relating to the doctrines of grace, original sin, and predestination, which have so many connections, that I think it proper to treat of them all together.
That it must be naturally in the power of man to do the will of God must be taken for granted, if we suppose
the moral government of God to be at all an equitable one. He that made man, certainly knew what he was capable of, and would never command him to do what he had not enabled him to perform; so as to propose to him a reward which he knew he could never attain, and a punishment which he knew he had no power of avoiding. If it be worth our while to inquire at all into the government under which we live, we must begin with assuming these first principles. For, otherwise, we have nothing to do but to await whatever he who made us hath pleased to determine concerning us, nothing that we can do in the case being able to alter it.
Supposing, therefore, that God did not mean to tantalize his creatures, in the most cruel and insulting manner, every