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ON THE

EXTENT OF THE ATONEMENT.

CHAPTER I.

ON THE NATURE AND DESIGN OF THE ATONEMENT.

The atonement which the Lord Jesus Christ by his death gave to the divine government, is a subject of stupendous interest to every sinner. It concerns him personally: it is a matter of life and death to him. No man can be innocently indifferent to the doctrine of the gospel concerning the atonement; and by its dignity and authority, it deserves and demands the most serious consideration of every man who hears of it.

It is extremely difficult to make this subject plain to a careless inquirer, or to a captious disputant. Should this book be read by a convicted offender, whose eternal life depends on the answer to the question, “How shall a man be just with God?” I should regard the task of unfolding this doctrine as comparatively easy. On the contrary, should the offender think lightly of the evil of his offence, he will care proportionably little about the means of his acquittal.' It is always found true, that slight thoughts of the atonement of Christ, engender and foster slight thoughts of the evil of sin.

“WHAT IS AN ATONEMENT?” This is a question rarely if ever pondered, either by those who deny the atonement as an absurdity, or by those who wrest it for licentiousness. Yet a distinct and well-defined conception of the nature of an atonement is indispensably necessary to a successful inquiry into the design, the aspect, and the extent of the atonement. What, then is an atonement? An atonement is any provision introduced into the administration of a government, instead of the infliction of the punishment of an offender—any expedient that will justify a government in suspending the literal execution of the penalty threatened—any consideration that fills the place of punishment, and answers the purposes of government as effectually, as the infiction of the penalty on the offender himself would; and thus supplies to the government just, safe, and honorable grounds for offering and dispensing pardon to the offender.

This definition or description may be more concisely expressed thus; ATONEMENT is an expedient substituted in the place of the literal infliction of the threatened penalty, so as to supply to the government just and good grounds for dispensing favors to an offender.

Let this definition of atonement be fairly tried by the usage of the word in the administration of civil justice; and let it be compared with the sense of all the sages of holy scripture in which the word, or the doctrine of the atonement is introduced. It will not wrest one text of Scripture: it will not torture one doctrine of Christian theology.

In the administration of a government, an atonement means something that may justify the exercise of clemency and mercy, without relaxing the bands of just authority. The head of a commonwealth, or the supreme organ of government, is not a private person, but ublic officer. As a private person he may be inclined to do many things which the honor of his public office forbid him to do. Therefore, to reconcile the exercise of his personal disposition and of his public function, some expedient must be found, which will preserve the honor of his government in the exhibition of his clemency and favor. For want of such an expedient, a public organ of government must often withhold his favors. This principle is practically adopted every day in the discipline of children in a family, as well as in the civil administration of public justice.

I will endeavor to illustrate this definition of an atonement by two remarkable instances, one borrowed from the holy scriptures, and the other from profane history.

The first instance is that of Darius and Daniel, in Dan. vi. 14, 15, 16. King Darius had established a royal statute, and made a firm decree, and signed the writing, that whosoever should ask a petition of any god or man for thirty days, save of the king himself, should be cast into the den of lions. Daniel, one of the children of the captivity of Judah, was found to be the first offender. “Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him: and he labored till the going down of the sun to deliver him. Then these men assembled unto the king, and said unto the king, 'Know, O king, that the law of the Medes and the Persians is, That no decree or statute which the king establisheth may be changed.' Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the lions' den."

Here is an instance of an absolute sovereign setting his heart on the deliverance of an offender, and laboring to obtain it; and yet prevented from exercising his clemency, by a due sense of the honor of his government. Could not Darius at once have pardoned Daniel? Yes: Darius could as a private person forgive any private injury; but he could not as a public officer, privately forgive a public offence against the authority of his office. Could not Darius have repealed the law which he himself had made? Yes: but not with honor to the laws of the Medes and Persians. Such a repeal would have shewn egregious fickleness in him; and such a fickleness and uncertainty in the administration of his government might encourage any disaffection or treason among the presidents, princes, and satraps of the provinces. Could not Darius have banished or silenced all the abettors of the law, and enemies of Daniel? Yes: but such a deed would have told his folly, imbecility, and injustice, in every province of his empire: his folly, in enacting a law which he found it unreasonable to execute; imbecility, in want of due authority in his own council, and of due firmness to enforce his own edict; and his injustice, in protecting and favoring an offender at the expense of the loyal supporters of the throne.

What, then, is to be done? Cannot some means be found which will enable the king to keep the honor of his public character, and yet save Daniel? No: the king labored till the going down of the sun to deliver him. He pondered, and thought, and devised about a way to deliver him honorably, but failed. Consequently, the very personage who had set his heart to deliver him, with his own lips "commanded” that Daniel be brought forth, and thrown into the den of lions.

Why was this done? Not because the king had no mercy in him, but simply and only, because no expedient could be found which would at once preserve the honor of the government, and allow the exercise of clemency towards the offender. Daniel was cast into the lions' den merely because no atonement was found to vindicate and to “shew forth” the publie justice of the governor in his deliverance. Here, then, is an instance of mercy being withheld, merely from the want of an honorable ground or medium for express

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The other instance to which I alluded, is from profane history. In this instance also there was a strong disposition to save the offender, and yet there was a difficulty, almost insurmountable, in the way of his honorable acquittal.

His deliverance, however, was devised by a wise expedient introduced by the gover

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