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and strength of the prepossessions in favor of the popular hypothesis, and the consequent importance of a varied and thorough examination of the subject. I shall be more solicitous to leave “no stone unturned," the turning of which may be necessary to the removal of false impressions relating to the government and the character of God, than to acquire reputation for the conciseness of my statements and illustrations.
The Ransom paid for Sinners.
“Even as the Son of Man came to give his life a ransom for many.” Matt. xx. 28.
himself a ransom for all." 1 Tim. ii. 6. As the word ransom, in its primary sense, meant the price paid for the redemption of a slavé,—and as it is said, that Christ came to give his life a ransom for has been inferred with wonderful confidence, that his sufferings were a substitute or equivalent for the miseries due to the wicked.
I have no occasion to deny that the word originally meant what has been asserted ; but as a ransom primarily meant the price given for the freedom of a slave, any means by which liberty was procured would soon. be. called a ransom. Then as a further variation from the original meaning, the word would be applied to any means by which deliverance was effected from any species of thraldom, oppression, or calamity. By a little reflection it may be found that the word is used with all this latitude of
meaning, in common discourse and modern writings, and also in the Bible.
The words ransomed, redeemed, purchased, bought, are of similar import, when used in reference to procuring freedom for a slave; and they are all metaphorically used to denote deliverance, or the means of deliverance, from any evil, whether natural or moral; or the means of procuring any privileges, temporal or spiritual.
The Rev. Legh Richmond, of England, in his Missionary Sermon, furnishes an exampie directly to the purpose. In urging the Protestants of that country to liberal exertions for sending the gospel to the heathen, he brought to view what a "host of martyrs ” had formerly done and suffered to furnish them with the gospel in its purity. He then said to his audience—“Show that you value the blessings which the first Protestants purchased for you with their very lives."
In the same metaphorical sense, the Israelites, in the Old Testament, are called a "purchased congregation," " the ransomed of the Lord.” So in the New Testament, Christians are represented as a “purchased inheritance" -a purchased or "peculiar people”-a people whom the Lord " purchased with his blood."
In a Result of an Ecclesiastical Council held at Groton, in speaking of the rights of the New England churches, the Council say—“rights repeatedly bought with blood." This doubtless refers to the blood shed in the wars of our country. With equal propriety they might have said, rights purchased with blood-or ransomed with blood. Such language has been much used by our countrymen in reference to the privileges supposed to be procured by the revolutionary war. In all countries, similar language
may have been common, and probably was so in the time of the Apostles. There is, therefore, no occasion to suppose that they departed from the customary use of language in speaking of sinners as bought, ransomed, purchased, or redeemed by the blood of Christ-meaning that he sacrificed his life for the good of mankind, and that God meant and overruled his sufferings for our deliverance from sin and misery. One thing, however, is to be carefully observed : Christ did not lose his life in attempts to destroy others. His glory did not consist in fighting with carnal weapons till he fell in battle; but in the display of a meek and forgiving temper towards insulting and cruel foesseeking their good with his dying breath!
It may now be further remarked, that when the word ransom is used in its primary sense, it always implies a party to whom the price is paid, as well as a redeemer. Those, therefore, who insist on the primary sense when the word is used in reference to Christ, should be prepared to tell us to whom the ransomn was paid. Sinners are represented as being in servitude to Satan and also to sin ; but it is hoped that no Christian of this
pretend that it was to either of these that Christ paid a ransom for sinners. Will it then hielp the matter, to say, that the ransom was paid to God? Not unless we are prepared to impute to God the character of the slave-holder, by whom sinners had been kept in bondage. Dr. Murdock has informed us in the Appendix to his Discouse, that there. was a time when eminent ministers of the church maintained that the ransom was paid to the devil, *
** Thus Justin, Irenæus, Clemens Alex , Tertullian, Origen, Basil, &c. who maintained that the ransom was paid to the devil. Indeed this was the general opinion in the earlier ages. But Gregory Naz., Augustine,
but afterwards the opinion prevailed that it was paid to God. Each of these hypotheses appears to me absurd, if nothing worse; and both may be avoided by only supposing that the Apostles used such language in its common and figurative sense, to express the means by which men have been delivered from existing or impending evils—or by which they obtained important privileges.
The Israelites were once in bondage to Pharaoh, and were ransomed by Jehovah. Now what ransom did God give for the redemption of this multitude of slaves ? At what price were they "purchased” or “ bonght." The fact is, God
gave Pharaoh and many of his people as a ransom for the Israelites. “I gave Egypt for thy ransom,” said God to his chosen people. Isaiah xliii. 3. In this sense of the word any means by which deliverance from evil is effected, may be called a ransom. By great sufferings brought on Egypt, God ransomed Israel from slavery. In these sufferings there was indeed a display of divine displeasure : but they were not a substitute for the punishment due to the Israelites. Hence the word, as used in reference to our Lord, affords no proof that his sufferings were a substitute for the punishment due to those for
Athanasius, and Ambrose, held that the ransom was paid to God: a sentiment which was generally held by the schoolmen.” App. p. 41.
It is not easy to decide which of these hypotheses is the more absurd, or the more pernicious. The latter, however, might lead to the idea that the atonement was designed to appease the anger of God : and when the progress of light rendered this idea shocking to reflecting men, a modification would naturally be sought. This might be supposed to be found in the hypothesis, that the justice of God stood in the way of pardon, and rendered substituted suffering necessary. But whether this obviates more difficulties than it involves, is a question not easy to decide,
whose benefit he laid down his life. It proves no more than that the sufferings of Christ were by God made a means for our redemption.
Solomon says—" The wicked shall be a ransom for the righteous.” Prov. xxi. 18. Did he mean that the sufferings of the wicked were to be a substitute for such sufferings as God might justly inflict on his penitent children? This will hardly be pretended. It may
be true that the word ransom originally meant what may be called a substitute for the service of a slave. But neither the service nor the substitute was of the nature of punishment or penal suffering. May I not then say, that there is no sense of the word ransom, which can justify the hypothesis that the sufferings of Christ were a substitute for punishment ? In this, as well as several other cases, I think it will have been found, that a meaning has been given to words, when used in relation to Christ, which cannot be justified by the use of the same words in any other case in which they occur in the Bible,
Thoughts on Rom. iii. 24, 25, 26.
“ Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ; whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood; to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are
ast, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time, his righteousness, that he might be just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus."