Sidor som bilder

sudden transition from the high transcendental conception of the believer's present relation to God to "the blood of Christ,” is startling even to those who habitually think of His Death as the great crisis in the history of the human race. But if St. John wished to speak, not merely of the sanctification of those who “ walk in the light,” but also of the remission of the sins into which they may be still betrayed, the transition is explained. Even for those who have "fellowship” with God the expiatory power of the Death of Christ continues necessary, for they are not yet beyond the reach of temptation or the possibility of sin.'

There are two other passages which are inconsistent with the theory that we receive the remission of sins through Christ only indirectly, and because He delivers us from the power of sin. “I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake.”2 This clearly implies that there is some objective ground in Christ for the forgiveness of sin. The Divine forgiveness is not the simple and immediate response of Infinite Mercy to human penitence,

I “That the forgiveness of sin was present to the Apostle's mind when he spake of the cleansing efficacy of the blood of Christ, is evident from what he goes on to say—that “if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness;' as well as from what he adds a few verses thereafter, that "if any man sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the propitiation for our sins,' &c.-CRAWFORD: The Doctrine of Holy Scripture respecting the Atonement (first edition), page 50. CREMER (BiblicoTheological Lexicon of New Testament Greek. Edinburgh. T. & T. Clark. 1872) has a very excellent article on vabapiśw.

2 1 John ii. 12.



nor is the sole function of Christ so to reveal God as to awaken faith in the Divine love, sorrow for sin, and a desire for restoration to holiness and to the blessedness of the Divine presence. When these moral and spiritual effects have been produced by Christ's appeal to the conscience and the heart, when sin is confessed, and the troubled soul clings to the mercy of God for salvation, its “sins are forgiven ... for His naine's sake."

The same idea of a direct relation between the Lord Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of sin is contained in an earlier passage in the same chapter: "My little children, these things write I unto you that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an Advocate (Trapákantov) with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous" : An Advocate with the Father ! One whom we may call to our help, who will come forward as our Representative and Patron, to plead our cause !" These are not the words of a morbid and gloomy fanatic, to whom the infinitely merciful Father seems a revengeful assertor of personal rights, a stern and unrelenting and terrible Divinity, whose pity and compassion are inaccessible to the tears and prayers of those who have offended Him, and whose blind wrath must be placated first by the blood and then by the intercession of a Mediator. Nor are they the words of a

1 i John ii. 1.

2 « παράκλητος, .. he who has been, or may be called to help (Helper); in Dem. 343, 10, of a legal adviser : a pleader, an advocate ; one who comes forward in favour of and as the representative of another. Diog. . . Thus Christ also, in 1 John ii. 1, is termed our Substitute, Intercessor, Advocate."--CREMER : Biblico-Theological Lexicon.


mechanical and unimaginative theologian, to whom the rigid forms under which human tribunals administer an imperfect justice are an adequate representation of the order of the Divine government, and who therefore could conceive of no relaxation or remission of the sentence pronounced on an offender, apart from a legal argument addressed to the Judge, demonstrating that the honour of the Law had been sufficiently vindicated, and the claims of Justice satisfied. They are the words of the most Christian of the Christian Apostles, of the one Apostle who had most completely escaped from the spirit of Judaism, which, it is alleged, had represented God as agitated by the most violent and turbulent of human passions. Nor in escaping from Judaism had he become a Roman, with hard and severe conceptions of law, which he transferred to his theology. Whatever new elements or forms of thought are found in his epistle, beyond those which bear witness to the exceptional intimacy of his communion with his Master, have some kinship to speculations in which the most imaginative philosophy of Asia was blended with the loftiest and most spiritual philosophy of Greece. It is St. John,—the very Apostle of Love, it is St. John who in one brief sentence—"God is love has translated into human language all that human language can express of what the Eternal Word revealed of God in a life of transcendent beauty and beneficence; it is St. John who, in the presence of Infinite Love, gives courage and hope to the penitent by saying, “ We


have an Advocate with the Father." Let these wordis mean what they will, they are plainly intended to train the soul to a faith in Christ of precisely that kind which the theory of expiation vindicates, but which the “moral theory" of the Atonement excludes. Christ,

" in some sense, appeals to God for us, and not merely to us for God. He is the life of our holiness, but there is also some power or virtue in Him which, if it is to be known and described by its effects, must be spoken of as a reason or ground on which God forgives us our sins.

What this power or virtue is, St. John describes in dithe next sentence : “ He is the Propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."

It has been contended that while the pagan meaning of this word is undoubted, and that while it was constantly used by pagan writers to mark the supposed effect of sacrifices, in propitiating the gods to whom they were offered, the Jewish translators of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek use the word in a widely different sense, and that while the New Testament writers used the accepted sacrificial word they did not use it in the accepted meaning.

“That meaning," says Dr. Young, “as accepted by the pagan world, was throughout an utter falsity. They were no gods to whom the pagan sacrifices were offered; the anger which it was sought to appease by means of these sacrifices was all unreal, and the appeasing effect was mere delusion. But the Apostles of Christianity had something real and true and great to announce in the room of the falsities and fancies of paganism. There was a real God, a real hatred of sin, but at the same time a real and

Ii John ii. 2.

infinite love of the human soul. There was also a real propitiation, but immeasurably far away from that which the bewildered pagan mind had pictured."

“A real Propitiation, but immeasurably far away from that which the bewildered pagan mind had pictured.” Granted. In what then did it consist ?

“ Instead of the fiction of an incensed Jupiter or Pluto, there was seen on earth the image of the brightness of the God of love. Christ came not to appease anger, for it was owing solely to the unprompted and unbounded mercy of the Father that He ever lived, and that at last He died on a cross, but to be the wondrous medium of reconciling and restoring human hearts to Him from whom they had revolted. Incarnate love—bleeding, dying loveis the power whereby God is recovering the world to Himself.” 2

This is as true as it is forcible and eloquent; but is this a description of a "real Propitiation”? The idea of Propitiation, whether among Pagans or Jews, is precisely inverted. Neither Pagans nor Jews ever spoke of

Propitiation for sins " when they intended to speak of that which changed the disposition of the sinner. The pagan sense of the term is admitted : “to offer a propitiation," was to appease by sacrifice or prayer the anger of imaginary gods. The Jewish sense of the term is equally definite. Not a solitary instance can be alleged in which to propitiate, or any of its derivatives, when used in relation to the restoration of kindly relations between man and man, denotes that by which a change is produced in the disposition of a person who has committed an offence; it always refers to that which changes the disposition of the person who has been offended; and when used in relation to offences I DR. YOUNG: The Life and Light of Men, pp. 322, 323.

2 Ibid. pp. 323, 324.


« FöregåendeFortsätt »