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which I cannot describe. The declaration is so clearly contradicted by the history of God's providence towards our first parents, and by the character he has given of himself in the Old Testament, as well as in the New, that I could not but wonder that the passage had found a place in the Christian Observer. I then resolved that, should my life and health be spared, I would endeavor to obtain more clear and satisfactory views of the atonement than I at that time possessed. The more I examined, the more I became convinced, that the atoning sacrifice was intimately connected with the Christian principles of peace, which had then for a long time occupied my attention ;and that it was in the strictest sense of the words a PACIFIC MEASURE, a RECONCILING SACRIFICE-made from love to enemies, and on the gospel principle of overcoming evil with good. It has been with me a principal object in writing, to evince that in this sacrifice there was a display of love-not of wrath. If on this point I have failed, I have labored in vain. But if in this particular I have been successful, I cannot but indulge a hope that what I have written will be an occasion of relief and comfort to many reflecting Christians. For inany, I am persuaded, like myself, have been perplexed with the awful idea, that the sufferings of the Son of God were occasioned by displays of God's anger or avenging justice against him as our substitute ; and that this was the only way in which divine benevolence could be exercised in the pardon of penitent sinners.
In this work I wish to be regarded not as the advocate nor as the opponent of any denomination of Christians, but as the friend of truth and the friend of peace. Indeed I know not that my present views on this subject accord with those of any sect, or any individual Christian. Still I have a hope that many things in the work will be found accordant with the feelings of many good men in every denomination.
Viewing the atoning sacrifice as a strong expression of God's forgiving love, and of his desire to reconcile sinners to himself and to one another, I have deemed it a solemn
duty in writing on the subject, to forbear the indulgence of any feelings or passions towards any class of my fellow men, which are inconsistent with that divine principle on which I believe the Messiah laid down his life. Whether I have conformed to the obligations which result from the benevolent nature of my subject, my readers will judge for themselves. Wishing to avoid as much as possible the appearance of controversy, as well as its usual spirit ; when I began to write with a view to publication, Í thought I should avoid naming any sect or any writer, except the inspired writers; but I was induced to relinquish this plan through a fear that I might be accused of misrepresenting the opinions from which I dissented, unless I should quote from respectable authors and give their
But I think I may say with truth, that I have named no writer with a view to injure his reputation. I may here add, that I have too much evidence of my liability to err, to make my present opinions a test by which to judge the hearts of my fellow Christians. In respect to the interpretations that I have given of the numerous texts which have demanded my attention, I can hardly hope that I have made no mistake. It is sufficient for me to say, that I have sought their true meaning, and have given that which appeared to me to be the meaning of the inspired writers. I may in some instances have misapprehended the meaning of a text, and yet the theory I have attempted to establish may be correct. The candid will not censure by wholesale. I have only to request of my Christian brethren, that they would consider the importance, the solemnity, and the affecting nature of the subject, and the liability of all men to err; and then exercise toward me that candor and impartiality, which each of them would reasonably desire in an exchange of circumstances.
A DISPLAY OF LOVE-NOT OF WRATH.
An Appeal to the Benevolent Heart.
In the gospel, God is revealed to us as our Father. The relation of father and son is well known to men of every land ; and it was doubtless for the purpose of exciting in our minds reverence and filial affection that the gospel was sent to us as a message of love from a kind Father to disobedient children. For
For a similar purpose the Messiah taught his disciples thus to address their prayers to God—“Our Father who art in heaven.” To cause the truth to sink deep into the minds of his hearers, respecting the fatherly concern of God for his children, and his readiness to hear and answer their requests, our Saviour thus reasoned.--" If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone ? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent ? or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion ? If ye then, being eril, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him !"*
* Luke xi. 11, 12: Matt. vii, 11.
To represent the tender feelings of God towards the disobedient, his readiness to pardon the penitent, and his joy on seeing any one of them return from his evil ways, our Lord uttered the parable of the prodigal son. Here I may ask, what benevolent parent ever attentively read or heard this parable, without being touched and melted, by the compassion and tender solicitude of the father of this prodigal-his readiness to go out to meet the returning son while he was yet a great way off-the affection with which he received and embraced the penitent child —his disposition to overlook all his past disobedience and profligacy—and the various forms in which the father expressed his joy and his forgiving love on beholding evidence of contrition in his long-lost son? What a privilege do we all possess in having such a Father for our God!
We see then that our Divine Instructer made use of the known feelings of an earthly parent towards his children, to represent to us the greater love of our heavenly Father towards us all. May I not then be justified in appealing to the hearts of benevolent parents to convince them that some of the most prevalent views of the atoning sacrifice are possibly and probably incorrect, dishonorable to God, and injurious to those who possess them? Christian who knows by experience the feelings of a tender father, the following appeal is made. Would
you not deem it a reproach, should it be currently reported, that you are of such a disposition, that if a child has once disobeyed your commands, he can no longer “behold in his father a friend?” And that you never forgive even a penitent child without first making a terrible display of your anger on an innocent son, as a substitute for the guilty ?
Suppose again that this report originated with your friends, that they circulated it in the belief that such conduct on your part was great evidence of your wisdom and rectitude, and that such a disposition in you was the glory of your character ; would you not, nevertheless, be grieved that such an opinion had acquired belief? Would you not say that your friends had certainly formed mistaken views in regard to your feelings and your conduct towards your children ? that although you had known them to transgress, and had been much grieved when they had gone astray, yet your loving kindness had never been withdrawn from them, and that they could still behold in their father a friend ? that you never had done such a thing as to inflict evil on an innocent son, as a substitute for the guilty, and that the thought of so doing was enough to fill your mind with horror?
I will go one step further. Suppose that of the many friends who had believed the unfavorable report, one, if not more, had become fully convinced, not only that the report was a misrepresentation of facts, but really injurious to your reputation ; would you not deem it incumbent on him, as your friend, to endeavor to convince his brethren? And should he plead that he could not do so without exposing himself to suspicion and reproach-that many would be likely to say, that while he professes to be your friend he is at heart your enemy; would this in your opinion be a sufficient excuse? If these questions should receive such ånswers from your conscience as I think they will, I may proceed with my appeal.
Is there then no danger that your views of the atonement are incorrect, while they impute to God a moral character which you would deem reproachful if imputed