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    PART FIRST: AN ATONEMENT CONSISTENT WITH REASON

    CHAPTER I. COMPARISON OF NATURE AND MORALITY

    The psalmist well says: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork.” Psalm 19:7. The works of the material creation are wonderful. When we look at the countless globes in the heavens, and consider the inconceivable distances which separate them, and consider that they move in exact and harmonious order, compared with which the working of the most perfect machinery that man ever made is rough and jarring, we may somewhat appreciate the words of the psalmist; and we cannot wonder that Dr. Young said: “The undevout astronomer is mad.” Every well-executed work of design speaks the praise of the designer. And wherever we see arrangement, order, harmony, especially in mechanism, in movements, we know that there is a designer. We cannot be persuaded that any successful piece of machinery is an accident; we cannot by any effort bring our minds to believe that the works of a watch, or anything similar to them, came by chance, or happened so. They need no voice to speak to us to assure us that they had their origin in power and intelligence, or in mind. So said David of the material heavens: “There is no speech nor language; without these their voice is heard.” Or as Addison beautifully expressed it:—AERS 9.1

    “What though no real voice nor sound, Amid their radiant orbs be found; In reason’s ear they all rejoice, And utter forth a glorious voice, Forever singing as they shine—The hand that made us is divine!”AERS 10.1

    But, while the works of nature may arouse us to devotional feelings, they cannot guide our devotions. They but give evidence of the existence of an almighty Designer, but they cannot reveal him to us. Man himself is “fearfully and wonderfully made;” and he may stand in awe at the thought of his Maker; he may feel a sense of responsibility and of accountability to his Creator; but if left to the voice of nature alone, the highest shrine at which he will bow will be that of “The Unknown God.” He may even recognize the voice of conscience within him reproving him of the wrongs which he is conscious that he commits; but nature does not reveal to him the manner of service which would be pleasing to his Creator and Preserver, nor the means of freeing him from the guilt and consequences of his wrongs.AERS 10.2

    The psalmist, no doubt, had this train of thought passing through his mind, for, after ascribing to the creation all that it can do to incite us to devotion, he abruptly turned his subject, saying:AERS 10.3

    “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandments of the Lord are pure, enlightening the eyes.” Man is highly exalted as to his capacities; there are wonderful possibilities in his being. Yet left altogether to himself he is helpless, especially in the understanding of morals. And this is not at all surprising; for no one is expected to understand the will of a governor, or the laws of the Government under which he lives, unless they are revealed to him. The psalmist, as quoted in this paragraph, ascribes to the law of the Lord an office which it is not possible for creation or nature to fill. The commandments of the Lord impart instruction, important and necessary instruction, which we cannot learn by observation, nor by the study of the material universe. No proof ought to be required on this point. The most powerful telescope or microscope can never reveal a single moral duty, or point out a remedy for a single moral wrong.AERS 11.1

    Now we attach no blame to nature because it does not perform the office of a written revelation. No such purpose was embraced in its design. We do not learn the laws of our Government by walking through the fields, by studying her dimensions and natural advantages, nor by noting her public improvements. When we have learned all that we can possibly learn from nature, we find beyond that an absolute necessity for direct revelation.AERS 11.2

    Opposers of the Bible are often met who declare that the doctrines of Christianity are contrary to reason; contrary to the conclusions legitimately drawn from our study of nature, of the deepest researches of science. Especially has the doctrine of the Atonement been made the subject of strong opposition, some affirming that it is immoral in its tendency, and is based on principles which are not in conformity with justice. But we think the whole objection is founded on misapprehension; and the object of this present argument is to show that reason is not opposed to the idea of atonement, but rather leads to it; that a coincidence of strict justice and mercy demands it; and that it vindicates the majesty of law, and therefore honors the Government. It is also our object to show that a written revelation is but the supply of an acknowledged want; that the gift of such a revelation is but a conformity to the plainest, simplest principles of government, principles which are universally recognized. And, therefore, consistency requires that such a revelation, when given, should be universally received and accepted.AERS 12.1

    The present is a mixed state, of good and evil. It is not our purpose now to inquire why it is so; we are viewing it as we find it—as it is; not as we might wish it were. And confined in our views to the present state, and to observation alone, or merely to reason without a written revelation, it is impossible to vindicate the justice of the controlling power, whether that power be called God or nature. Virtue is often trampled in the dust, and ignominiously perishes in its representatives. Vice is exalted on high, triumphs over justice and right, and its very grave is decorated with flowers, and honored with a monument. In the operations of nature, there is no discrimination manifested, and without discrimination there can be no conformity to justice. True, we see many exhibitions of benevolence, but we see also many things which cannot be reconciled with it. The righteous and the wicked, the just and the unjust, the innocent and the guilty, the aged and the little child, alike share the bounties of Providence, and together fall by the pestilence, or sink beneath some sweeping destruction. These facts have troubled the minds of philosophers, and caused the short-sighted philanthropist to be faint of heart. Many, reflecting on these things, and judging in the light of their own unassisted reason, have doubted that the world was ruled in wisdom and justice, and even denied the existence of a supreme, intelligent Being.AERS 12.2

    It seems singular that they who discard the idea of an intelligent Cause, of a personal supreme Being, generally invest nature with the attributes of such a Being, and ascribe to it all the wisdom of design and the merit of virtue. They talk of the laws of nature, of their beauty, their harmony, their excellency, as if nature were the sole guide of correct action, and the proper arbiter of destinies. They lavish encomiums on her operations as if she never tortured an innocent person nor permitted the guilty to escape.AERS 13.1

    As before remarked, we find no fault with nature; but we do find fault with the unreasonable position assumed by her devotees. The laws of nature answer well their purposes. But this class of philosophers endeavors to make them answer a purpose for which they never were designed, and which they cannot fulfill. And we think that by correct reasoning it will be easy to show that their ideas are mere fallacies.AERS 14.1

    We would raise the inquiry, When they who deny the work of a supreme, personal Creator, speak of “the laws of nature,” what do they mean by the expression? It cannot mean the laws made by nature, as we speak of the laws of man, or of the laws of God; for nature never made any laws. Nature never knew enough to make a law. She could not deliberate; she could not plan; she did not have a knowledge of the future, whereby she could judge what was suitable, and devise means adapted to the end. Or, if she made the laws, she must have existed before she made them. How, then, were her operations regulated before laws existed? Is there a man living who will claim this for nature? Not one.AERS 14.2

    We have been thus particular in our queries on this point because we wish to notice another phase of this subject. It has been said by some that they do not deny the existence of the God of the Bible—of a personal, supreme Being; but yet they believe in the eternity of matter; that there never was done such a work as that of creating, in the sense of causing things to exist.AERS 14.3

    And that matter, or nature itself, being eternal, the laws of nature must be eternal also, because they inhere in matter. Thus, they say, you cannot imagine that matter could exist and gravitation not exist. And so of all the laws of matter. But, we reply, this leads to the same result which we have been examining. If the laws inhere in matter, they are essential to the very existence of matter; and it follows that, to suspend or reverse these laws would be to suspend the existence of matter, that is, to destroy it. In this view a miracle is an impossibility. Thus: Matter is not dependent on any power in the universe for its existence. But its existing laws are necessary to its existence. Therefore the laws of matter, or of nature, are beyond and independent of any power in the universe.AERS 15.1

    Against this theory we have objections to bring. It is not a part of our present purpose to argue against it from the Bible, as we shall try first to establish principles, natural and legal, outside of Bible proof. It is possible to present an argument which must be conclusive to believers of the Bible, besides the direct declarations of that book in favor of the existence of miracles, such as causing iron to swim upon the water, raising the dead, etc. But we waive this, and affirm that, in admitting the existence of God, these have not changed the issue before examined. This theory is open to all the difficulties which we find in the hypothetical theory of nature making her own laws. We have, then, harmony of movement without intelligence; mechanism without a mechanic; a design without a designer; a result in marvelous wisdom without plan or deliberation. To avoid the unscientific fact of a miracle, they have presented before us the greatest miracle which could be imagined! And David was mistaken when he said “the heavens declare the glory of God;” for if nature, and its laws, and its harmonies, and its almost infinitely varied operations attendant upon them, existed from eternity, and not by the creative power and act of God, then we ask, with an earnest desire for information, What did God ever do? What can He do? Why does He exist? And would not nature and its laws “move and have their being,” as they did from eternity, if God did not exist? Other theories are projected to prove that God does not exist. This is complaisant—it is accommodating; it does not deny His existence; its object is only to prove that he is not needed! that everything existed by chance; it acts by chance; and the interference of an all-wise, supreme, personal God, could only destroy the harmony of the work! Great is the philosophy of the nineteenth century, and modest and reverent as it is great!AERS 15.2

    We think there is but one reasonable and allowable construction that can be put upon the phrase, namely: They are the laws which the Supreme Being made for the government of nature. The Infinite Creator, He who made nature, subjected her to the operations of those laws, under which she is held in control. And, of course, those laws are within the power and under the direction of their Maker. That which we term a miracle is but a temporary suspension of, or change in, the operations of those laws. And this can require no greater exercise of power on the part of the Almighty than to set, and to keep, these laws in operation.AERS 16.1

    It is truly strange that men, of ability and intelligence in other respects, will deny that there are any but natural laws, or laws of nature. They ignore the distinction between natural and moral laws. But when judged in such a light the laws of nature are found to be imperfect and incomplete. In what respect? In this, that they present no standard of right, and are therefore no sufficient guides for human action. We cannot shape our conduct after such a model with reference to the rights of our fellow-men. As lovers of the most expansive benevolence, we may strive to imitate nature when she spreads abroad her bounties: her precious fruits and golden grain. But again she withholds these, and famine is the dire result. Shall we imitate nature in the desolations of the whirlwind, the earthquake, and the pestilence? Shall we indiscriminately spread ruin and destruction around us, involving alike the innocent and the guilty, the gray-headed and the prattling child? All answer, No. But each hand that is raised to check such a mad career practically acknowledges that nature, which is so blindly worshiped by many, presents to us no example worthy of our imitation.AERS 17.1

    Thus in fact the laws of nature do not and cannot satisfy the aspirations of man; no one can accept them as a standard of action, no matter what his theory may be, because they are destitute of the element of morality. We cannot trace a single moral element in their frame-work or their execution. He who studies them intelligently must be convinced that they are designed solely for a natural system,—not at all for a moral system. And this being so, it follows that they have no penalties, but only consequences. On this point many well-meaning men err, who recognize the distinction of moral and natural law; they speak of the penalties of the laws of nature, when no such penalties exist. The violations of natural laws are attended with consequences, uniform in operation, so that in nature we see an unbroken series of causes and effects, the results being the same whether issuing upon a responsible or an irresponsible object, regarding no distinctions of moral good or evil.AERS 17.2

    That the laws of nature have no penalties must be apparent to all if we consider the fact that they are never accepted as, or considered, a judicial system. In executing penalties there must be a consideration of the just desert of the crimes committed. But there is no such consideration, there is no discrimination whatever in the case of a consequence of the violation of natural law. In this respect the operations of natural law are as blind and unreasoning as nature itself. There is implanted in man a sense of justice, or convictions of right, to which he finds no counterpart in the operations of nature. These convictions are entirely on a moral basis. This sense of justice is erected in the human mind as a tribunal, a judgment seat, whereat we determine the nature and desert of actions. And mark this truth: before this tribunal we always arraign the actions of intelligent agents, but never the operations of natural law. And in this, what is true of one is true of all; and it shows that all, whatever their theories may be, do in fact and in practice make a proper distinction between moral and natural laws. This should be well and carefully considered.AERS 18.1

    The prime distinction between moral and natural laws is this: the first has respect to intention—the other has not. Fire will burn us, and water will drown us, whether we fall into them accidentally or rush into them madly. The little child, who is yet unconscious of any intention of good or ill, suffers as certainly and as keenly on putting its hand into the fire, as the man of mature mind who presumptuously does the same thing. And should the man willfully and maliciously set fire to his neighbor’s house, and the child, playfully and without intention of wrong, do the same thing, all would blame the one and not the other. And were a judge, in the administration of law, to visit the same penalty upon the man and the child, because the actions and results were the same, all would detest such a perversion of justice. Thus we not only find men acting upon the difference between moral and natural laws, but we find them also with great unanimity judging of the actions of moral agents according to their intentions.AERS 19.1

    But the operations of natural law cannot thus be judged, and its consequences, often miscalled penalties, have no regard whatever for the claims of justice. As before said, the child is burned in the fire as certainly as the man; the good suffer under a violation of nature’s laws as severely as the most hardened and brutal. The idea cannot be too strongly impressed upon the mind that, confined in our reasoning to the present state, to observation without a written revelation, justice cannot be attained unto nor vindicated. A moral system is necessary, and the idea of probation must be accepted, in order to meet the requirements of justice.AERS 19.2

    Another point should be noticed. When the demands of a moral law and a natural law conflict, as they often do in this mixed state of good and evil, men always give preference to the former, unless their sensibilities are blunted. And they are often false to the theories which they have adopted to be true to this fact. We sometimes meet with men who deny these distinctions; who assert that there are no laws aside from the laws of nature; yet they act in harmony with the propositions herein set forth. Should one refuse to attempt to rescue his fellow-man from impending destruction by fire, and plead in extenuation that it would have involved the violation of law, as he must have been somewhat burned in the effort, they would, as readily as others, abhor his selfishness. Here they recognize the distinction claimed, and place the moral duty of assisting our neighbor above conformity to natural law.AERS 20.1

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