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THE CONSISTENCY OF THE Christian DOCTRINE, PARTICULARLY THAT OF SALVATION THROUGH A MEDIATOR, WITH SOBER REASON.
Ir there be a God who created us; if we have all sinned against him; and if there be reason to believe that he will call us to account for our conduct; all which principles are admitted by Mr. Paine; a gloomy prospect must needs present itself, sufficient indeed to render man "the slave of terror." It is not in the power of this writer, nor of any man living who rejects the Bible, to assure us that pardon will have any place in the divine government; and, however light he may make of the scripture doctrine of hell, He that calls men to account for their deeds, will be at no loss how or where to punish them. But, allowing that God is disposed to show mercy to the guilty, the question is, Whether his doing so by or without a mediator, be most consistent with what we know of fitness or propriety?
That pardon is bestowed through a mediator in a vast variety of instances among men, cannot be denied; and that it is proper it should be so, must be evident to every thinking mind. All who are acquainted with the common affairs of life, must be aware of the necessity of such proceedings, and the good effects of them upon society.†
It is far less humbling for an offender to be pardoned at his own request, than through the interposition of a third person: for, in the one case, he may be led to think that it was his virtue and pen
*Age of Reason, Part I. p. 1. Part II. p. 100.
+ See President Edwards' Remarks on Important Theological Controversies, Chap. VI.
itence which influenced the decision; whereas, in the other, he is compelled to feel his own unworthiness; and this may be one reason why the mediation of Christ is so offensive. It is no wonder, indeed, that those who deny humility to be a virtue,* should be disgusted with a doctrine; the professed object of which is to abase the pride of man.
As forgiveness without a mediator is less humbling to the offender, so it provides less for the honour of the offended, than a contrary proceeding. Many a compassionate heart has longed to go forth, like David toward Absalom; but, from a just sense of wounded authority, could not tell how to effect it; and has greatly desired that some common friend would interpose, to save his honour. He has wished to remit the sentence; but has felt the want of a mediator, at the instance of whom he might give effect to his desires; and exercise mercy without seeming to be regardless of justice. An offender who should object to a mediator, would be justly considered as hardened in impenitence, and regardless of the honour of the offended: and it is difficult to say what other construction can be put upon the objections of sinners to the mediation of Christ.
Again: to exercise pardon without a mediator, would be fixing no such stigma upon the evil of the offence, as is done by a contrary mode of proceeding. Every man feels that those faults which may be overlooked on a mere acknowledgment, are not of a very heinous nature; they are such as arise from inadvertence, rather than from ill design; and include little more than an error of the judgment. On the other hand, every man feels that the calling in of a third person is making much of the offence, treating it as a serious affair, a breach that is not to be lightly passed over. This may be another reason why the mediation of Christ is so offensive to the adversaries of the gospel. It is no wonder that men who are continnally speaking of moral evil under the palliating name of error, frailty, imperfection, and the like, should spurn at a doctrine, the implication of which condemns it to everlasting infamy.t
* Volney's Law of Nature, p. 49.
+ Rom. viii. 3.
Finally: to bestow pardon without a mediator would be treating the offence as private, or passing over it as a matter unknown, an affair which does not affect the well-being of society, and which therefore requires no public manifestation of displeasure against it. Many a notorious offender would, doubtless, wish matters to be thus conducted, and from an aversion to public exposure, would feel strong objections to the formal interposition of a third person. Whether this may not be another reason of dislike to the mediation of Christ, I shall not decide; but of this I am fully satisfied, that the want of a proper sense of the great evil of sin, as it affects the moral government of the universe, is a reason why its adversaries see no necessity for it, nor fitness in it. They prove, by all their writings, that they have no delight in the moral excellency of the divine nature, no just sense of the glory of moral government, and no proper views of the pernicious and wide-extended influence of sin upon the moral system: is it any wonder, therefore, that they should be unconcerned about the plague being stayed by a sacrifice? Such views are too enlarged for their selfish and contracted minds. The only object of their care, even in their most serious moments, is to escape punishment: for the honor of God, and the real good of creation, they discover no concern.
The amount is this: If it be indeed improper for a guilty creature to lie low before his Creator; if it be unfit that any regard should be paid to the honour of his character; if the offence committed against him be of so small account that it is unncessary for him to express any displeasure against it; and if it have been so private and insulated in its operations, as in no way to affect the well-being of the moral system; the doctrine of forgiveness through a mediator, is unreasonable. But if the contrary be true; if it be proper for a guilty creature to lie in the dust before his offended Creator, if the honour of the divine character deserve the first and highest regard; if moral evil be the greatest of all evils, and require, even where it is forgiven, a strong expression of divine displeasure against it; and if its pernicious influence be such that, if suffered to operate according to its native tendency, it would dethrone the Almighty, and desolate the universe, the doctrine in question must accord with the plainest dictates of reason.
The sense of mankind, with regard to the necessity of a mediator, may be illustrated by the following similitude. Let us suppose a division of the army of one of the wisest and best of kings, through the evil counsel of a foreign enemy, to have been disaffected to his government; and that, without any provocation on his part, they traitorously conspired against his crown and life. The attempt failed; and the offenders were seized, disarmed, tried by the laws of their country, and condemned to die. A respite however was granted them, during bis majesty's pleasure. At this solemn period, while every part of the army and of the empire was expecting the fatal order for execution, the king was employed in meditating mercy. But how could mercy be shown? "To make light of a conspiracy,' said he to his friends, would loosen the bands of good government: other divisions of the army might be tempted to follow their example; and the nation at large be in danger of imputing it to tameness, fear, or some unworthy motive.'
Every one felt, in this case, the necessity of a mediator, and agreed as to the general line of conduct proper for him to pursue. 'He must not attempt,' say they, 'to compromise the difference by dividing the blame: that would make things worse. He must justify the king, and condemn the outrage committed against him; he must offer, if possible, some honorable expedient, by means of which the bestowment of pardon shall not relax, but strengthen just authority; he must convince the conspirators of their crime, and introduce them in the character of supplicants; and mercy must be shown them out of respect to him, or for his sake.'
But who could be found to mediate in such a cause? This was an important question. A work of this kind, it was allowed on all hands, required singular qualifications. He must be perfectly. clear of any participation in the offence,' said one, ' or inclination to favour it; for to pardon conspirators at the intercession of one who is friendly to their cause, would not only be making light of their crime, but giving a sanction to it.
'He must,' said another, be one who on account of his character and services stands high in the esteem of the king and of the public: for to mediate in such a cause, is to become, in a sort, responsible for the issue. A mediator, in effect, pledges his honour
that no evil will result to the state from the granting of his request. But if a mean opinion be entertained of him, no trust can be placed in him, and, consequently, no good impression would be made by his mediation on the public mind.
"I conceive it is necessary,' said a third, that the weight of the mediation should bear a proportion to the magnitude of the crime, and to the value of the favour requested; and that for this end it is proper he should be a person of great dignity. For his majesty to pardon a company of conspirators at the intercession of one of their former comrades, or of any other obscure character, even though he might be a worthy man, would convey a very diminutive idea of the evil of the offence.'
A fourth remarked, that he must possess a tender compassion towards the unhappy offenders, or he would not cordially interest himself on their behalf.'
Finally It was suggested by a fifth, that for the greater fitness of the proceeding, it would be proper that some relation or connexion should subsist between the parties. We feel the propriety,' said he, of forgiving an offence at the intercession of a father, or a brother; or, if it be committed by a soldier, of his commanding officer. Without some kind of previous relation or connexion, a mediation would have the appearance of an arbitrary and formal process, and prove but little interesting to the hearts of the community.'
Such were the reasonings of the king's friends; but where to find the character in whom these qualifications were united, and what particular expedient could be devised, by means of which, instead of relaxing, pardon should strengthen just authority, were subjects too difficult for them to resolve.
Meanwhile, the king and his son, whom he greatly loved, and whom he had appointed generalissimo of all his forces, had retired from the campany, and were conversing about the matter which attracted the general attention.
'My son' said the benevolent sovereign, what can be done in behalf of these unhappy men? To order them for execution violates every feeling of my heart: yet to pardon them is dangerous. The army, and even the empire, would be under a strong