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atry, as if all the idolaters had died. Why were the sufferings of Jesus on the cross substituted, instead of inflicting the curse of the law on man? It was because that, in the estimation of the moral Governor of the universe, these sufferings of his Son would answer the same "end of the law,” as would have been secured by the destruction of the transgressors themselves.
The death of Christ secures this end. It magnifies the law, and makes it honorable in the sight of the universe, as holy, just, and good, both in its commands and in its threatenings. It is a demonstration of God's justice, as it shews that he would not exercise even his mercy, without an expedient to honor his justice, though at the cost of the sufferings of his illustrious Son.
It is a testimony to the evil of sin-that it is regarded by God as an evil, that it has actually inflicted evils on many, and is likely to inflict more; that it tends to misery, infamy, and death. It demonstrates the impossibility of escaping the law; for if God spared not his own Son as the substitute, “how can we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?”
Thus the death of Christ tends to deter men from breaking the law, and answers the ends of punishment.
The sufferings of Christ not only secure the same ends of government as the death of ihe sinner, but they answer them more fully and abundantly. They better express the benevolence of the character of God; they better shew the evil of sin; they supply better motives for holiness; and they bring a greater accession of happiness to the universe, for they not only prevent miseries that might have come, but they suspend those which were really due. The sufferings of a Personage of such grandeur and worth, are calculated to make on the universe deeper impressions of the rectitude of God's government, and of God's displeasure against sin, than a literal infliction of the penalty on sinful and degraded creatures. Yea, they answer other and higher ends than the prevention of sin. The sufferings of millions of sinners could never have been made a ground and medium for exercising mercy; could never bring any sinner that was under the penalty into repentance; and never could save other sinners. The sufferings of Christ can do these things, and do them gloriously. Thus did the blood of Christ speak BETTER gs than the blood of Abel.
There are two stupendous facts in the administration of moral government which
prove that the death of Christ answers all these ends. The first is, that though God declares sin to be an infinite wrong to him, yet he never asks
any sinner to make an atonement for his sin, The reason of this is, that he has set forth his own Son as the propitiation for this. The second is, that God will not treat any man as a sinner, if he will believe that the death of his Son was a propitiation for sin. The reason is, that in Christ he is reconciling the world unto himself without imputing their transgressions unto them.
V. The death of Christ provides that pardon shall be dispensed to the offenders in such a manner, as shall fully sustain the interests of moral government.
Pardon is proclaimed through an atonement which by its very provision supposes that the honor and authority of the law, are not weakened. If God had had no regard for the honor of his law and government, he would not have provided an equivalent. He was just, independently of the atonement, but he provided an atonement that he might be just in justifying sinsul men.
The sinner is forgiven on his repentance, which reflects a disgrace and reproach upon sin. God, indeed, has always the disposition and the power to forgive, independently of the state and feelings of the sinner, but the sinner's discharge from his liableness to the penalty of the law is not passed, as a judicial act, until he repents of his transgression. As God has given an expression of his abhorrence of sin in proclaiming pardon, so has he ordained, for the ends of government, that the sinner also should give an expression of his abhorrence of it. This the sinner does by his repentance. When one comes forth from the ranks of the revolters, and re
turns to his allegiance, it is as far as his influence and example go, a reflection both on the revolt, and on the revolters. A repenting sinner blames both himself and others for rebellion against God, and thus promotes the interest of the divine government.
Forgiveness is offered freely and sincerely to all the offenders, which preserves the divine government from the charge either of capricious partiality, or of arbitrary severity. God calls upon all men every where to repent, and this is an intimation to all men every where, that there is for them forgiveness with God. He exhibits his pardons as in every way suitable and adequate to the case of the greatest offender, for he is plenteous in mercy and able to save to the uttermost.
He publicly promises free pardon to every penitent sinner, and sincerely offers it to every sinner, with a solemn declaration, that “him that cometh he will in no wise cast out.' Hence no offender can despise the government for partiality, or blame it for undeserved severity.
The pardon of the gospel comes from sovereign grace and unmerited favor, and this excludes all boasting, claim, and presumption. Notwithstanding the reconcileableness of God, and notwithstanding the atonement of Christ, yet no sinner can claim pardon. Some persons, indeed, have represented pardon as due from God to the elect; and have said, that it would be unjust in God not to pardon them. There is nothing in the holy scriptures, there is nothing in the nature of grace itself, to support such a bold and impious sentiment. Try it yourself. Did you ever feel in prayer that you could claim the blessings you asked? Does a happy soul feel so on his entrance to heaven? Does Gabriel feel that he has a claim even to his own crown? No: it is all of sovereign grace.
The offender accepts the pardon by believing it, that is, by faith. The whole of this arrangement excludes presumption and self-gratulation. The reprieve is not the prisoner's own, until he accept it; he accepts it merely by believing it. Would any prisoner think that he deserved the reprieve because he believed it? Would he demand his pardon as a claimant, or would he beg it as a suppliant? Would he presume on the king's favor and live in rebellion? No, the king has freely, of his own prerogative forgiven him, but it is in a way, “that he might be feared” and served.
The dispensation of pardon still perpetuates and continues man in a state of probation, and this checks all inclinations to licentiousness. God pardons, not that he might be trifled with, but that he might be feared. Man when pardoned is not taken out of a state of
probation and trial. He is still accountable to law, he is still liable to break that law, he is taught to pray daily for pardon, he is chastened and afflicted for his sin, and he will have to appear at the reckoning of the judgment day. By such an arrangement the honors of the divine government are safe.
The exhibition of pardon has in itself a tendency to affect the heart, and to restore a rebel to his allegiance. There is forgiveness with God, not that he might be dreaded, but that he might be esteemed, revered, and served. There is no tendency in the dispensation of wrath to make the sinner relent and return; it hardens more and more. Sinners who have been beaten with many stripes become harder and harder. Satan, Cain, and Judas, are now harder, than when the storm began to fall on them. It is mercy that conquers the heart, and wins the rebel from his revolt. It is restores man to his allegiance, that God may be served. Wherever this is prominent in the ministry of the gospel, thither do guilty criminals flock, as doves to their windows. After all, it is not mercy to rebellion, but mercy to rebels; therefore, there is nothing in forgiveness to connive at revolt, gh it smile on the sinner.
A limited Atonement inconsistent with the principles
of Moral Government.
By a limited atonement, I understand, an atonement that consists in suffering the limited amount of punishment due in law to a certain number of offenders, the benefits of which are limited to that number, and to that number only. Such an atonement is at variance with the declared principles of divine moral government. It is at variance with the accountableness of sinners to the law, in their present state of probation; and it is inconsistent with the principles of justice on which the divine government is administered.
A limited atonement is established on the principle that the penalty threatened by the law must, of indispensable necessity, be executed, executed literally and fully, or otherwise the justice of the divine government would be weakened and dishonored. It supposes further, that if the punishment of the law be not executed on the offender, it must be executed on the substitute. Then it proceeds to argue,-some offenders are through grace delivered from the punishment, therefore their punishment must have been inflicted on their substitute. And again,-some sinners will forever suffer the punishment of the law in hell, but it would be unjust to inflict the punishment again upon them, if Christ, as a substitute, endured it for them; and therefore the punishment of these sinners was never sustained by Jesus Christ in his atonement.
Sometimes the necessity of the sufferings of Christ as an atonement, is made to arise from the inexorableness of vindictive justice; and then, vindictive justice is represented as impossible to be satisfied and appeased, except by the awful intensity of the sufferings of the Mediator. Nothing less would propitiate it. Our ears and our hearts have been pained a thousand times, by