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ground on which they are pardoned and saved: And, consequently, no other righteousness than their own is, in any sense, the ground of acceptance in the sight of God. If, moreover, the moral law, that perfect rule of divine government, will admit penitents to favour, without any atonement; it will hardly be believed that the disposition, in the governor of the world, which such a law, so constructed, and so understood, will naturally exhibit; can ever admit of his inflicting eternal torments on any of his creatures. For, if the offence of the sinner be no greater, in the view of God, than may be overlooked merely upon the consideration of his repentance, and, not only wholly overlooked, but the transgressor be treated with every mark of friendship and favor: Who will believe that there is displeasure enough existing in the divine mind, ever to inflict eternal torments? For God to make such a distinction between one who confessedly spends this short life chiefly in sin, and one who spends it wholly so; and that, too, when the crimes of the former, as the case may be, and many times in fact is, greatly exceed those of the latter; naturally surpasseth all belief.
Therefore, he that renounceth the doctrine of Atonement, to be consistent with himself, must, also, renounce those of the Divinity of Christ, and the eternity of punishment. And, when these three grand points are given up, there is nothing left, in the system of revealed truth, materially to distin
guish it from mere natural religion: And a crucifred Christ will no longer appear to be the power of God and the wisdom of God.
For this reason it is that the doctrine of Atonement has ever been a rock of offence to the enemies of divine Revelation. Because it stands in this connection, and so evidently implies, both the Divinity of Christ, and the eternity of punishment; many have labored, with their whole strength, to subvert it. But, if this falls, it falls like a strong man ; pulling down with it, the very pillars of Christianity.
These considerations, it is hoped, will be a sufficient apology for an attempt to vindicate this great doctrine, and set it in its true and scriptural light. Of the success with which the design is executed, in the following pages; the candid, intelligent reader must judge. I can only say that a desire to support an hypothesis has not, that I am sensible, glossed any of those passages of Scripture, which I have had occasion to consider, in the discussion of the subject. I pretend not, however, to be free from those prepossessions which are common to sinful men.
But the following treatise, imperfect as it is, with all due deference, is humbly offered to public view; in hope that it may be the occasion of throwing some small degree of light on so important a subject. No caution, it is readily seen, is necessary to be given to any one, against receiving any thing that
is contained in it, upon the mere authority of the writer. If what of truth may be contained in the following examination of the Scripture Doctrine of Atonement, may gain admission into the minds and hearts of such as shall be at the trouble of perusing it; this will be the utmost that can reasonably be asked, or desired by the Author.
Stockbridge, 14th April, 1785.
Observations respecting God's chief end in the creation of the world.
ONE principal difficulty in understanding this great and fundamental doctrine, probably consists in our ignorance of the necessity of it. So long as we discern no necessity of an atonement for sin, in order to forgiveness, the nature and import of it will be unintelligible. And the reason why an atonement for sin is necessary, will not be seen, without some just and general view of the great end for which God originally gave birth to Creation.
THOUGH unassisted reason might be very unequal to the determination of so important a question, divine revelation hath abundantly supplied the defect; in forming our sentiments on a question of such moment, it becomes us to be especially careful that we do not pervert nor go aside from the instructions of the word of God. Taking Revelation for our guide, we need not be afraid to enquire into things which are above the reach of mere natural reason. And, by these unerring oracles we are unquestionably authorised to conclude, that a display, or manifestation, of his own
true and infinitely holy character, was the chief and ultimate end which God had in view, in creation.*
FOR God to manifest his own proper character is, invariably, to manifest something that is excellent. Wherever we discover the divine character, we see something that is excellent. To say, therefore, that a manifestation of his own true and holy character was God's chief and ultimate end in creation, is no more than saying, in the language of scripture, that he made all things for his pleasure, for his glory, or for his great name's sake. It is the pleasure, and the glory of God, to make some external exhibition of his own inherent perfection; and, to discover to his creatures his own proper character, which is, in itself, infinitely excellent. God evidently designed to exhibit an external image, or portraiture of his own infinite mind, in which its beauties and excellences might be seen by his creatures. But the excellences of MIND, we are all sensible, can be discerned by others, only in the external expressions of its capacity and disposition, or temper. So that we have no where to learn the divine character, but in his works, taken in connexion with his word.
As we all agree that God is most eminently good, it is evident that the real disposition of his infinite mind doth not appear, excepting in works of goodness, and where some good is actually done. His true character, therefore, cannot otherwise be manifested than in doing good. Consequently, a manifestation of the proper character of God, will necessarily comprehend all the good, all the created felicity, which he ever had it in design to bring about; and, which will ever be accomplished.
*For a particular enumeration of passages of Scripture in proof of this point, see the late President Edwards on Goo's last end in the creation of the world.