Alexander Campbell The Christian System: CS - 11-11 The Attributes of a Real Sin-Offering

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Alexander Campbell The Christian System: CS - 11-11 The Attributes of a Real Sin-Offering

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A single action or event often involves, in weal or woe, a family, a nation, an empire. Who can count the effects or bearings of the elevation or fall of a Cesar, a Hannibal, a Napoleon? A single victory, like that of Zama, or of Waterloo; a single revolution, like that of England, or America, sometimes involves the fortunes of a world. Neither actions nor events can be appreciated but through their bearings and tendencies upon every person and thing with which they come in contact. The relations, connections, and critical dependencies in which persons and actions stand are often so numerous and so various, that it is seldom, or perhaps, at all, in the power of man to calculate the consequences, or the value of one of a thousand of the more prominent actions of his life.

Who could have estimated, or who can estimate, the moral or the political bearings of the sale of Joseph to a band of Ishmaelites--of the exposure of Moses in a cradle of rushes on the Nile--of the anointing of David king of Israel--of the schism of the twelve tribes under Rehoboam--of the treachery of Judas, the martyrdom of Stephen, the conversion of Paul, the accession of Constantine the Great, the apostasy of Julian, the crusades against the Turks, the reformation of Luther, the revival of letters, or any of the great movements of the present day? How difficult, then, is it to estimate the rebellion of Satan, the fall of Adam, the death of Christ, in all their bearings upon the destinies of the universe!

Before a remedy for sin could either be devised or appreciated a knowledge of its bearings upon God and man, upon time and eternity, upon heaven and earth, is an indispensable prerequisite. But who possesses this knowledge, or what uninspired man can attain it? At best we know but in part; and, therefore, can but partially explain any thing. How difficult, then, to form a satisfactory view of sin and its remedy--of the fall of Adam and the death of Christ!

It would, however, greatly aid our conceptions of the death of Christ, and illustrate the nature and use of sin-offerings, could we obtain just and scriptural views of sin in its necessary consequences, or in its prominent bearings upon the universe. Indeed, some knowledge of these aspects of sin is essential to our perception and appreciation of the wisdom, justice, and grace of the Christian system. It is not enough that we entertain a few vague and indistinct notions of its tendencies, or of the attitudes in which it stands to God, ourselves, and our fellows: we must have clear and definite views of the relations in which God stands to us, and we to him and to one another, and how sin affects us all in these relations: for that it bears a peculiar aspect to each of us in all these relations will, we doubt not, be conceded without debate.

God stands in diverse relations to the intellectual and moral creation. He is our Father, our Lawgiver, and our King. Now his feelings as a father, and his character as a lawgiver and sovereign, are equally involved in the bearings and aspects of sin. The influence of sin upon ourselves is also various and multiform. It affects the heart the conscience, the whole soul and body of man. It alienates our affections, and even works hatred to our minds both towards God and man. As an ancient adage says, "We hate those we have injured;" and having offended God our Father, we are, for that very reason, filled with enmity against him. It also oppresses and pollutes the conscience with its guilt and dread, and enslaves the passions as well as works the destruction of the body. It also alienates man from man, weakens the authority and destroys the utility of the law; and, if not subdued, would ultimately subvert the throne and government of God. If not restrained and put down, it would fill the universe with anarchy and disorder--with universal misery and ruin.

To go no farther into details, it may, on the premises already before us, be observed:--1st. That every sin wounds the affection of our heavenly Father--2d. Insults and dishonors his law and authority in the estimation of his other subjects--3d. Alienates our hearts from him--4th. Oppresses our conscience with guilt and dread--5th. Severs us from society by its morbid selfishness and disregard for man--5th. Induces to new infractions and habitual violations of right--And, 7th. Subjects us to shame and contempt--our bodies to the dust, and our persons to everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord.

Not as the full tale, but rather as a specimen of the loss sustained, and of the mischief done, by our transgression, we have made these seven specifications. These only serve to show in how many aspects sin must be contemplated before we can form a just estimate of a suitable and sufficient sin offering or remedy.

Now, so far as we have been able to trace the tendencies and bearings of transgression in the above enumeration, we must find in the sin offering a remedy and an antidote which will fully meet all these aspects; otherwise it will be utterly valueless and unavailing in the eye of enlightened reason, as well as in the righteous judgment of God, to expiate sins, to put it away, and to prevent its recurrence.

Need, we demonstrate that man himself cannot furnish such a sin offering! Need we again propound Micah's question--"Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before him, with burnt offerings; with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of river of oil? Shall I give my first born for my transgression; the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul." Will repentance for the past, and future amendment place things as they were; raise the murdered dead; repair wasted fortunes, and recruit broken constitutions? Will tears, and groans, and agonies, honor a violated law, sustain a righteous government, vindicate the Divine character, and prevent future and further enormities? Have the ever done it? Can they ever do it? Surely, we shall be excused for not attempting to prove that we have neither a tear, nor a sigh, nor an agony, nor a lamb, nor a kid of our own creation, to offer to the Lord, even were such a sacrifice available to meet all the bearings of the case!

Every transgression, even the least, the eating of a forbidden apple, subjects the transgressor to destruction. One sin, of one man, has involved the whole race in death. The life of the transgressor is demanded in the very mildest accents of insulted justice. Hence, in the law of the typical sin offerings, we find it thus written: "The life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar, to make an atonement for your souls: FOR IT IS THE BLOOD THAT MAKETH AN ATONEMENT FOR THE SOUL."1 But such blood, such lives as the law required could not, Paul and Common Sense being judge, take away sin. They could only prefigure a life and a blood that could truly, and justly, and honorably expiate it. Thus, the death of Christ is forced upon our attention by the law, by the prophets, by the necessity of the case, enlightened Reason being in the chair, as the only real, true, and proper sin-atoning offering. It does, indeed, meet not only the above seven particulars, but all others which have occurred to the human mind; and thus secures the union and harmony of things on earth, and of things in heaven, in the inviolable bonds of an everlasting brotherhood.

1. "In bringing many sons to glory," it soothes and delights the wounded love of our kind and benignant heavenly Father—

2. "It magnifies and makes honorable" his violated law and insulted government—

3. It reconciles our hearts thoroughly and forever to God, as a proof and pledge incontrovertible of his wonderful and incomprehensible love to us—

4. It effectually relieves our conscience by "cleansing us from all sin," and produces within us a divine serenity, a peace and joy "unspeakable and full of glory"—

5. It also reconciles us to our fellows, and fills us with brotherly affection and universal benevolence, because it makes us all one in faith, in hope, in joy, as joint heirs of immortality and eternal life—

6. It is the most effectual guard against new infractions of the divine law, and superlatively deters from sin, by opening to us its diabolical nature and tremendous consequences; showing us in the person of God's only begotten and well beloved Son, when a sin offering, the impossibility of escape, from the just and retributive punishment of insulted and indignant Heaven--and

7. It is a ransom from death, a redemption from the grave, such a deliverance from the guilt, pollution, power, and punishment of sin, as greatly elevates the sons of God above all that they could have attained or enjoyed under the first constitution. It presents a new creation to our view;--new heavens, new earth, new bodies, new life, new joys, new glories. He that vanquished death by dying, who now sits upon the throne says, "Behold, I make all things new." "He has become the Author of an eternal salvation to all that obey him."

Let no one imagine that in this exemplification of the aspects in which sin and sin offerings must be contemplated before we can rationally judge of the necessity, the suitableness, and the sufficiency of the death of Christ, we have attempted to present a full view of these aspects. We are incompetent to the task. The life is too short, and our opportunities too limited, to learn all the bearings of transgression upon ourselves, the throne and government of God, and his other subjects. We only intend a specimen of the points to be met in a proper sin offering. These put it out of the reach of all human, of all angelic, of all created mediators, victims, or sacrifices to expiate sin. So far as we can comprehend this wonderful subject, we are more and more deeply penetrated with the conviction, that nothing inferior to the voluntary sacrifice of the Son of God, could put away sin; and make it both just, and merciful, and honorable, and safe, on the part of his God and Father, to forgive and save one of his rebel race. Nor would it then have been just, according to our conception, to have compelled him to bear our iniquities, or to suffer the just for the unjust; to inflict on an innocent person, the chastisement of our offences; but it was both just and kind on the part of our heavenly Father, to accept for us the voluntary surrender of his Son, as a willing sacrifice for our sins. "Thanks be to God, for his unspeakable gift!"

1 Levit. 17: 11.