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UNITED SECESSION MAGAZINE.
SCRAPS FROM MY NOTE-BOOK.-No. I.
AN EXPOSITION OF THE REFERENCE OF THE ATONEMENT.
Η χρησoτης και η φιλανθρωπια επεφανη του σωτηρος ημων θεου. Παυλος
The Design.-It is not our intention to expound the doctrine of the christian atonement generally. We confine our observations to the exposition of its reference, especially to man, and to the statement of some reasons for the range of its efficient application. To prevent, as far as possible, the misapprehension of our meaning, we shall premise a few first principles assumed in the discussion, and explain terms.
First Principles.-Without daring to dogmatise on the nature of that mysterious Being, of the operation of whose Eternal Mind the universe is the effect, we deem it safe to hold, as first principles,—that all his attributes are commensurate; that benevolence, as the most active moral power, is the moving principle of his purpose ; and that wisdom, purity, and truth, guard and define the range of its manifestation. We hold, as undoubted maxims, that he has definitely pre-arranged the whole plan of his operations; that that plan, whether viewed in the idea, or realized in the effect, is the spontaneous suggestion of the benignity of his nature ; that its ultimate intention, or final cause, is the revelation of himself; and that the revelation of himself involves the communication and preservation of as large an amount of life and bappiness as is consistent with perfect intelligence. We assume as first principles, too, that the revelation of himself is progressive and accumulative; that whatever department of his purpose you select as the subject of investigation, his character is as fully developed there as the circumstances of the case would admit; and that, in his purpose, contemplated as a whole, it is as largely exhibited as it is competent it should. Farther, we take it for granted, that he has adopted three grand methods for the revelation of himself, and the diffusion of happiness: first, creation, or nature; second, providence, or the govern
NO. I. VOL. XI.- JANUARY 1843.
ment of the creature; and, third, the atonement-system, or the administration of grace. And, in fine, that the atonement, like every work of God, has its origin in his benignity; is arranged on principles of wisdom and righteousness commensurate with the kindness that suggested it; and contemplates as its end the exhibition of the divine character and the felicity of the creature.
Definitions.—We employ the term atonement, as the name of the personal work of Christ in his sacerdotal character, from his assumption of human nature to his death on the cross inclusive. It may be defined a perfect vindication of the insulted divine character and government in reference to man. By the reference of the atonement, we mean the relation it bears to the persons and objects it contemplates or influences, The persons to whom it refers are God, man, and angels ; and the objects are the divine character and government, and the human and angelic state, character, and destiny. The reference of the atonement we hold to be universal. By its universality, we mean that it bears a relation, either more immediate or remote, in a greater or less degree, to all the moral and intelligent beings in the universe ; and influences either more immediately or remotely, in a greater or less degree, their state, character, and destiny. It bears a direct reference to God. It is his device, and is an ineffable revelation and vindication of his glory. The Father, or more properly, universal divinity, is its author ; the Son, in the capacity of Mediator, is the agent of its accomplishment; and the Holy Spirit is the worker out of its practical results. It is the reconciliation or pacification of God towards man. other words, the atonement, the suggestion of his own benevolence, and the device of his own wisdom,-has so gloriously displayed the honour of his paternal majesty, that he can, and does, keep in abeyance the execution of his high indignation at rebellion on the most flagrant transgressors of his law; and can, and does, in entire harnjony with all his perfections, yea, in transcendant commendation of them, confer the richest privileges, and the most exalted station a creature can receive, on every man who gives him credit for his kindness. Hence, the nature and extent of its reference to his character are obvious. It honours the whole divine character, especially its intellectual and moral attributes. It gives a splendid illustration of its intrinsic excellence; and to the view of all right-minded intelligences, surrounds it with a halo of purity and loveliness, with which it erewhile did not seem to be invested. It carries an immediate and universal reference to his government of man. It is a vindication of it all—a satisfactory proof of the equity and beneficence of its claims on human obedience, and of the propriety and necessity of its sanctions. It clearly teaches the paramount value of its principles, the wisdom of its constitution, and its exact adaptation to the nature and circumstances of the buman family. It furnishes a demonstration of the righteousness and benignity of that arrangement under which man was originally placed, and of the wisdom and kindness of the legal dispensation of which the descendants of Abraham were peculiarly the subjects. The atonement has a direct reference to man as a transgressor of divine law, and exposed to its sanctions. To him its reference is twofold, universal and special. The one is its relation of a common remedy, the other is the