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by some very excellent men on the Continent, whose attention has recently been turned to the truth. I refer to Dr. Malar and his associates, for whose characters and decision I entertain the very highest respect. In several of the tracts of that gentleman lately published in English, I regret to observe, that this is the main sentiment on which he insists in addressing men; and that their happiness and their hope are made to depend on its reception. I consider the mode of stating the Gospel, adopted in these tracts, very different indeed from that which the New Testament exhibits, and cannot but regard it as likely to operate most injuriously on the souls of men. It is the substitution of a fallible inference in the place of the infallible testimony of God; it inculcates as duty what is not enjoined in the Scriptures-confidence in ourselves as the children of God; and represents a want of this confidence, which it is often a blessing to be deprived of, as the same thing with doubting the divine testimony. If there has been an error on the side of caution, and diffidence, I conceive that error likely to be much less injurious than presumptuous and ignorant confidence, which such a method of addressing men is very likely to produce. But there is no necessity for our erring on the one side or the other, when the doctrine of Scripture is so very clear and intelligible.
Note [M]. page 59.
While I have employed the figurative phraseology of Scripture, in this passage, which treats of the death of Christ as the payment of a debt, I am aware of the objections to which it is exposed, and of the abuse to which it is liable. The writer from whom I have quoted in the preceding Note, states this matter with bis usual accuracy and discrimination. It is on this topic that the ultra-Calvinistic writers generally
make a most dangerous use of the figurative language of Scripture, and deduce inferences from it most contrary to the Scriptural representation of the nature and design of Christ's death. It is true the Bible speaks of sin as debt; but it can only be so in a figurative sense. To reason from this in support of a commercial method of computing the extent of our redemption, is as absurd, as from the scriptural idea of the believer's union with Christ to infer that a commutation of persons, or a transfer of character takes place.
“ I apprehend,” says Fuller, “ that many important inistakes have arisen from considering the interposition of Christ under the notion of paying a debt. The blood of Christ is indeed the price of our redemption, or that for the sake of which we are delivered from the curse of the law: but this metaphorical language, as well as that of head and members, may be carried too far, and may lead us into many errors. In cases of debt and credit among men, where a surety undertakes to represent the debtor, from the moment his undertaking is accepted, the debtor is free, and may claim his liberty, not as a matter of favour, at least on the part of the creditor, but of strict justice. Or should the undertaking be unknown to him for a time, yet as soon as he knows it, he may demand his dischargè, and, it may be, think himself hardly treated by being kept in bondage so long after his debt had been actually paid. But who in their sober senses will imagine this to be analogous to the redemption of sinners by Jesus Christ? Sin is a debt only in a metaphorical sense : properly speaking, it is a crime, and satisfaction for it requires to be made, not on pecuniary, but on moral principles. If Philemon had accepted of that part of Paul's offer which respected property, and had placed so much to his account as he considered Onesimus to have " owed” him, he could not have been said to have remitted his debt; nor would Onesimus have had to thank him for remitting it. But it is supposed of Onesimus
that he might not only be in debt to his master, but have
wronged” him. Perhaps he had embezzled his goods, corrupted his children, or injured his character. Now for Philemon to accept of that part of the offer, were very different from the other. In the one case he would have accepted of a pecuniary representative, in the other of a moral one ; that is, of a mediator. The satisfaction in the one case would annihilate the idea of remission; but not in the other. Whatever satisfaction Paul might give to Philemon respecting the wound inflicted upon his character and honour as the head of a family, it would not supersede the necessity of pardon being sought by the offender, and freely bestowed by the offended.
“The reason of this difference is easily perceived. Debts are transferrable; but crimes are not. A third person may cancel the one; but he can only obliterate the effects of the other; the desert of the criminal remains. The debtor is accountable to his creditor as a private individual, who has power to accept of a surety, or, if he please, to remit the whole without any satisfaction. In the one case he would be just; in the other merciful: but no place is afforded by either of them for the combination of justice and mercy in the same proceeding. The criminal, on the other hand, is amenable to the magistrate, or to the head of a family, as a public person, and who, especially if the offence be capital, cannot remit the punishment without invading law and justice, nor in the ordinary discharge of his office, admit of a third person to stand in his place. In extraordinary cases, however, extraordinary expedients are resorted to. A satisfaction may be made to law and justice, as to the spirit of them, while the letter is dispensed with. The wellknown story of Zaleucus, the Grecian lawgiver, who consented to lose one of his eyes to spare one of his son's eyes, who by transgressing the law had subjected himself to the loss of both, is an example. Here, as far as it went, justice and mercy
were combined in the same act: and had the satisfaction been much fuller than it was, so full that the authority of the law, instead of being weakened, should have been abundantly magnified and honoured, still it had been perfectly consistent with free forgiveness.
" Finally: In the case of the debtor, satisfaction being once accepted, justice requires his complete discharge : but in that of the criminal, where satisfaction is made to the wounded honour of the law, and the authority of the lawgiver, justice, though it admits of his discharge, yet no otherwise requires it than as it may have been matter of promise to the substitute.
“ I do not mean to say that cases of this sort afford a competent representation of redemption by Christ. That is a work which not only ranks with extraordinary interpositions, but which has no parallel : it is a work of God, which leaves all the petty concerns of mortals infinitely behind it. All that comparisons can do, is to give us some idea of the principle on which it proceeds.
“ If the following passage in our admired Milton were considered as the language of the law of innocence, it would be inaccurate
He with his whole posterity must die:
Abstractedly considered, this is true; but it is not expressive of what was the revealed law of innocence. The law made no such condition, or provision; nor was it indifferent to the lawgiver who should suffer, the sinner or another on his be
half. The language of the law to the transgressor was not thou shalt die or some one on thy behalf ; but simply thou shalt die: and had it literally taken its course, every child of man must have perished. The sufferings of Christ in our stead, therefore, are not a punishment inflicted in the ordinary course of distributive justice; but an extraordinary interposition of infinite wisdom and love : not contrary to, but rather above the law, deviating from the letter, but more than preserving the spirit of it.”— Fuller's Works, vol. iv. pp. 101–104.
It is a very common thing for persons holding the senti. ments objected to by Fuller, to endeavour to comfort those whom they address by asking them whether they think God will demand payment twice for the same offence; that Christ having suffered for our transgressions, it is impossible that we should be called to suffer again. The Scriptures do certainly teach the doctrine of substitution with great clearness; bat not in this manner. I am acquainted with no passage in which the apostles administer comfort on this principle. When the jailor was in an agony of distress, Paul did not say to him, Why should you be alarmed or cast down, Christ died for your offences, he has discharged your debt, and God cannot exact it at your hand. The apostle took very different ground; and yet not less calculated to comfort and relieve -—“ Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.”
The mode of expression referred to, is calcnlated to convey a false idea, viz. that the atonement of Christ is the procuring cause, instead of the medium, of divine forgiveness. If it be considered in the light of an equivalent, then the idea of grace on the part of the Father is altogether destroyed, and salvation is on his part resolved into an exercise of mere justice. This is surely neither the fact, nor the scriptural method of declaring the truth.
Much of the confusion of language which has been employed on this subject, might have been avoided by attending to the