صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني


of accomplishment in the end, that, 'unto Shiloh shall the gathering of the people be. The time shall come, and it may not be far distant, when the name of Christ shall be as extensively blessed as it has been blasphemed—when men shall be blessed in him, and all nations shall call him blessed.' To this glorious result, among other means that may be employed, the adaptation of the gospel to the condition, the comprehension, the wants, and the demands of the people, will, no doubt, greatly contribute. Meanwhile, let not our prayers be wanting to hasten on the blessed consummation; and let us heartily join in the supplication of the psalmist—Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee!'




Independent. I hope that, after calmly considering the matter, you are now prepared somewhat to modify the charges brought against Dr Wardlaw, at our last conversation.

Original Seceder. I am solemnly convinced of the truth of all the statements then made; and could not conscientiously fall from them even to the slightest extent.

United Presbyterian. The Dr is an excellent man, and a most accomplished divine. He is an ornament to the church of Christ, and to the nation of Scotland; and though I do not concur in all his sentiments, I must candidly say, that, in my opinion, it is now too late to begin to speak of him as you did. The public, be assured, will not bear it.

Orig. Sec. Since we formerly met, I have read again the greater part of his two early volumes on the Socinian controversy. They are, indeed, admirable productions, and approach very nearly to perfect specimens of the class of works to which they belong. I highly appreciate the excellences of Dr Wardlaw; but, though he were an angel, it would be wrong to respect his errors: and you must permit me to say, that so long as it is not too late to adopt unscriptural tenets, it will never be too late to oppose them. As to the public, I do not know how they can help bearing whatever it may be the duty of an honest man to tell them.

United Pres. I am glad to hear the high eulogium you have now pronounced on Dr Wardlaw's works, on the Socinian controversy. The manner in which you first spoke of him, as compared with our great theologians, seemed to me depreciatory; and it struck me at the time, though I did not say it, that you would have shown as much both of good sense and of humility, if you had not ventured to characterise the genius of so great a man.

Orig. Sec. Humility and good sense are two qualities that are as excellent as they are rare; but humility does not make criticism unlawful; neither does good sense demand that we should be blind to the defects of distinguished writers, and render homage to these as if they were a new species of excellence. A man of five feet and a half, notwithstanding his diminutive stature, may take, most accurately, the height of Mount Blanc; and there is no presumption even in a schoolboy saying that the Grampian hills are not so high as the Andes or the Himalaya mountains. There has been an amazing degree of drivelling imbecility, and stone-blind partiality, and abject cowardice, in the criticisms of the religious press in recent times, indicating either a deplorable decline in judicial capacity, or an extensive prevalence of something still more to be deplored. A critic ought to be an upright and righteous judge, and not to be a sycophantish flatterer of any man; and, viewed in this light, I am prepared to stand by the estimate of this distinguished writer formerly given, though it assign him not so high a place as has been done by his eulogists.

Indep. It will be better to leave this and proceed again to the merits of the case. You have hitherto acted as an assailant: I should like if you would now give us a brief statement of your own scheme of opinions about the atonement, that we may see how it looks when brought to the test.

Orig. Sec. I shall do so with the greatest pleasure ; but I would submit it to your decision, whether it will not be better, first, to finish our review of all the opinions on the opposite side.

Indep. Perhaps it may be the better way. Do you, therefore, take the lead, and begin at the point where our last discussion was terminated somewhat hastily.

Orig. Sec. We were, then, considering Dr Wardlaw's opinions respecting the nature of the atonement; but in order somewhat to vary the subject, we may begin, by comparing our opinions about the necessity of the atonement; and we can thus approach again to the question in regard to that of its nature, and settle any remaining points of difference. The determination of the question, What was it that rendered the atonement necessary? seems to me conclusively to settle all the rest ; for the nature of the atonement must consist in satisfaction to that which rendered it necessary; and the extent of the atonement is just as great, and no greater than the extent to which that which rendered it necessary is found, in point of fact, to be removed. I suppose you agree in maintaining that the atonement was absolutely necessary.

Indep. Most unquestionably. Upon the supposition that God purposed to save men after the fall, this could only be done in the way of satisfaction rendered to his offended justice. : Orig. Sec. Here, then, we stand on common ground. Let us, therefore, with the calmness of philosophers, and the conscientious and patient candour of christian men, trace our opinions till we come to the point at which they diverge from one another. What was it, in your opinion, that rendered an atonement necessary?

Indep. It was rendered necessary by a variety of causes. God had said to man, “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.' Allowing that, before he uttered this threatening, God could

have pardoned sin without a satisfaction, after it was uttered, the punishment of sin was absolutely necessary. God's word was cominitted-his faithfulness was at stake. Not to do as he has said would have been to subject himself to the charge of mutability, and thereby bring dishonour on his character and contempt upon his government. But it is impossible for God to lie—it is impossible for God to change; and, therefore, on this ground, it is abundantly evident that when man sinned, God must of necessity punish his sin,

Orig. Sec. On this point I am entirely at one with you; and thus, tracing the matter backwards, we find that our opinions lie completely parallel during the first stage. Permit me to ask, Do you conceive that the necessity of punishing sin had its origin in the threatening of death ; or do you conceive that this threatening had its origin in a previous necessity to punish sin, inherent in the character and claims of God?

Indep. Though no such threatening had ever been made, there was a holy, and righteous, and benignant necessity, arising from the character and government of God,-to visit sin with condign punishment.

Orig. Sec. With this I entirely concur. Perhaps, however, it may be as well if you would state your views in regard to it a little more at length, that we may see the extent of our agreement, or should there be a variance, be enabled to reach the precise point of its commencement.

Indep. Having made all, I conceive that God has a supreme and inalienable right to govern all. With this view, he gave to man a law suited to his rational and immortal nature. That law was holy, and just, and good. To this law man was bound to yield obedience with all the faculties of his soul, and during the whole period of his existence. In case of disobedience to this law, one of two things must follow: either God must resign his authority over man, or vindicate that authority by punishing the sinner. To suppose that man, after having sinned, could be restored to the divine favour without satisfaction, is to suppose that the great God could overlook the distinction between virtue and vice, sin and holiness. If one sin could be passed over without punishment, any number of sins might be so; if in our world, then in every other world. In that case the divine law would cease to be a law; sin and holiness would be reduced to mere matters of taste and opinion; persons might obey if it suited their inclinations, but if they were otherwise inclined, they would run no risk, and incur no danger from disobedience. If this were the case, then, it is evident, the divine government would be at an end; the will of the creature, and not the will of the Creator, would be the practical law of the universe. From this, it appears evident that, in order to maintain God's authority over his creatures, it was necessary that he should demonstrate his abhorrence of sin, before he extended pardon to the sinner.

Orig. Sec. Your reasoning seems to me good, your terms unexceptionable, and your doctrine in no degree different from that of the orthodox school, Moreover, you made use of statements from

which all the old opinions respecting the atonement can be fairly demonstrated. We seem, therefore, to have come the whole of our second stage together.

Indep. Seem to have come together! Why should you unnecessarily make use of such cold and suspicious language?

Orig. Sec. It is not the dictate of my heart, I assure you; but I have learned the necessity of being cautious, from a frequent observation of the wiles of controversialists, and the inconsistencies of partizans. In regard to this very point, it is no uncommon thing to fall in with writers, who, in pleading for the necessity of the atonement, made use of as sound expressions as you have done, and yet when they come to explain themselves more minutely, and especially when they apply their reasonings to the nature of the atonement, they resile from their orthodox premises used against the Socinians, and in order to subvert Calvinism, proceed upon the supposition which they had seemingly denied, that the necessity of the atonement was dictated simply by a regard to the welfare of the universe.

Indep. Would you put the matter as simply as you can, that I may be able to perceive the distinction more clearly.

Orig. Sec. What in your opinion rendered it necessary in God to punish sin? Did this necessity arise from the opposition of God's own nature to sin, or was it merely an expedient to secure his dominion over his creatures ?

Indep. This is a very nice point. I think it more for curiosity than edification to ascend to such heights.

Orig. Sec. It is the fountain-head of divine truth on this question; and there would be no necessity of ascending so high, unless in practical meditation, were it not to prevent it from being polluted by the enemies of truth, who, with misdirected and mischievous industry and activity, have sought to contaminate the waters at their source.

Indep. Do you really think the point is one of great importance ? Provided we maintain the necessity of the atonement, can it make much difference whether we say it arose from the opposition of God's nature to sin, or from his wish to promote the welfare of the universe.

Orig. Sec. Ascend a high mountain, and as you go up you find all the streams running down in one direction ; but cross the summit, by a single footstep, and if you meet a stream there, it will flow in the opposite direction; so that though the origin of those on the one side be near to that of those on the other, their whole course is away from one another. This is the best image I can give of the difference in question. The idea that the necessity of the atonement was dictated merely by a regard to the welfare of the universe, places it on the creature side of the hill. The idea that the necessity springs from the holiness of the divine nature, places it on the Creator side of the hill. Out of the one side rise the various streams of Arminianism, Socinianism, Pelagianism, Morisonianism, with their tributary rills and branches, and flow onwards, so long as they are on the upper slopes of the bill, amid sunshine and fertility, but ultimately empty themselves, as all who have traced their course know, either into the dead sea of formalism, or into the frozen ocean of infidelity. On the other side of the

mountain, rises the great river of free and sovereign grace, and flows onwards within the banks of covenant faithfulness, bearing salvation to the sons of men, and reflecting the lustre of the divine perfections from the pure depths of its tranquil waters. Though the distinction may seemingly be nice, the difference between the two systems, pursued to its consequences, is as great as between two straight lines commencing near to one another, but extended, in opposite directions, to infinity.

Indep. Will you be kind enough to tell us which, in your estimation, is the right doctrine ?

Orig. Sec. In regard to that I have no doubt, being firmly convinced, that there was not only a necessity to punish sin, dictated by wisdom, in order to maintain God's supremacy over his sinful creatures ; there was a necessity arising from God's own nature. God's will is the only rule of action to his creatures, and God's nature is the only rule of action to himself. Now God is infinitely just and holy, and, consequently, his whole administration must be conducted on the principles of holiness and justice: being holy, he must necessarily express his aversion to the inherent evil of sin; and being a just and righteous governor, he must forbid it, and punish those who are guilty of it, because of the opposition of sin to his own nature.

Indep. I cannot, for my part, see much harm in adopting the opposite opinion.

Orig. Sec. I see in it the subversion of all religion and of all morality. Indep. You must be very far-sighted if you do.

. Orig. Sec. The matter seems to me perfectly obvious. It makes the consequences of actions, and not their nature, to be the reason why they are right or wrong, and thus it reduces all virtue to expediency. It makes the good of the creature the supreme rule of the Creator, and thus subordinates God to his creatures, which is subversive of all theology.

Indep. I should like you to state at length your opinion, with the reasons for it.

Orig. Sec. From the word of God and the light of nature, it appears to me to be perfectly evident that God, as a just and holy God, altogether irrespective and independent of the good of the universe, must demand satisfaction. It appears to be certain, that though there had been only one creature in existence, the character of God is such that he could not have pardoned his sin without a satisfaction. There is an impression upon the human mind, written by God's own finger, that sin in itself is wrong, and deserves to be punished, irrespective of its consequences. The apostle homologates this argument when he tells us, that by the light of nature the Gentiles knew the judgment of God, that those who commit such things are worthy of death.' And if he who fabricated the human bosom, implanted there the feeling that sin deserves punishment on its own account, the same principle must exist in his own nature in a degree infinitely greater. The same thing is evident from the general prevalence of sacrifices. These evidently had their origin in the belief

« السابقةمتابعة »