Note on the Sacrifice of Christ

From the notes given by the prophet on Chapter 14 of the Book of the Law of the Lord

“For this is the one great sacrifice, which except ye eat of it, there is no life in you.” -Law of the Lord 14:2a

The most common doctrine among Trinitarians is, that Christ was God, from eternity to eternity, according to the theory of the Creed of Saint Athanasius, (ante pp. 51, 52,) and possessed all the attributes of the Godhead; that God, being infinite in all his attributes, his Law was infinite; and, therefore, the violation of it an infinite sin; that as man was finite, and therefore incapacitated to endure an infinite punishment, there was no way by which he could be redeemed from the stain of sin, and consequent everlasting destruction, but by a vicarious and infinite atonement; that Jesus Christ, being Almighty God, infinite in all his attributes, offered himself a sacrifice to appease the wrath of God; or, in the language of the creeds, “to reconcile his Father unto us;” that by his infinite sufferings, paying the debt which we by our sins had contracted, we might be released therefrom, come into the favour of God, and live forever.

This theory involves the dogma that justice and mercy are antagonist, and not collateral attributes, and that justice is so vindictive that it must have its demand, without reference to the reformation of the subjects of its exactions, or the amount of intellectual and physical happiness enjoyed in the creation of God. And it involves the further dogma, that the exactions of justice are so undiscriminating, that they are equally satisfied so the demand is paid, no matter who pays it; a dogma which, though not particularly obnoxious in the mere voluntary payment of money, presents a very different aspect, when it exhibits itself in inflicting pain on an innocent being, who, through excessive generosity, may volunteer to suffer as proxy for the guilty. Such dogmas could only have got footing among men in times of ignorance and barbarism. They, in fact, grew up among a people not half redeemed from Pagan superstition. But once thoroughly established as a part of the creed of Christendom, the mind is progressively hardened in them as it advances in the knowledge of such a system. Hence many very intelligent and just men, in later times, have given an unconsidered assent to this dogma, in comparatively enlighten ages.

The innate injustice of this dogma has had less influence in overthrowing it, for the want of anything on which to fall back; the true doctrine of the atonement and the mediatorial office having been quite lost among Christians. The idea of a sacerdotal sacrifice is not original, but derived from that of a natural sacrifice. A natural sacrifice is something given up, or yielded to be lost or destroyed; and is made, not willingly, but as the means of saving something else, or of avoiding some calamity. Sacerdotal sacrifices are voluntary offerings of things esteemed, in pursuance of some appointment or law, by the keeping of which, calamities are avoided, or blessings obtained; the assent of the heart being the very gist of the matter, of which the offering is the proper sign.

The offering of Christ was a natural sacrifice, and it was not necessary that he should be offered on an altar, nor by a Priest. The numerous volumes written on the fact of his being killed by the instigation of the Aaronic Priesthood, and at Jerusalem, the place consecrated for sacrifices, are nonsense; for he was not slain upon the altar, nor after the manner of slaying victims for sacrifice. The Priesthood are not authorized, and never were in any dispensation to offer human victims for sacrifices. Sacerdotal sacrifices are either eaten or burned, and he was neither. But this dogma is obnoxious to the further objection, that if the manhood only of Christ suffered death, then there was no infinite suffering, and therefore no infinite atonement; and if the Godhead died, immortality, and consequently infinity, are not attributes of God. If God died, he was mortal, and finite like ourselves. If he did not die, there was not an infinite sacrifice

All these mistakes and follies flow naturally from the error of imagining that God can do anything whatsoever that the mind of man can conceive, and is only restrained by his own attributes from doing many things which to good men seem most desirable and right, which he does not do. Believing that God can do anything whatsoever, and therefore that he can at any moment purify all men from all sin, and all corruption; and thus make them all holy, and all happy; most undisputedly a most holy work, and well worthy of God; they set about accounting for his not doing it, by saying that it would be contrary to his attribute of justice, which, when mercy pleads in behalf of miserable man, continually demands satisfaction for the debt of sin. Man, therefore, must have perished everlastingly, but that Jesus Christ, the infinite God, took upon himself this infinite debt, and expiated it by his infinite sufferings, in the death of the infinite.

The dogma is monstrous blasphemy. It makes God’s mercy so short that he will not forgive the penitent till they have paid the uttermost farthing, knowing they have nought wherewith to pay, and never can obtain it. It makes his justice so blind that it only demands a victim, and is as well satisfied with punishing the innocent as the guilty. It charges on God all the misery of the universe, which it alleges he can change to blessedness, by only willing it.

In opposition to this horrible dogma, the truth is, that God made man and all the creatures of his hand as good as it was possible to make them. If the creator was infinite, the material of which he made man and animals was finite; corruptible. He made the best possible work of the material. His goodness demanded of him to make all things the best possible, and forbade him to make anything which, on the whole, would not be blessed by its existence. It is necessary to be thoroughly impressed with this truth: that God cannot do all things; that some things are essentially and immutably impossible; impossible to omnipotence, as well as to worms of the dust; that almighty power extends only to doing such things as, in their nature, are possible.

For instance, almighty power cannot produce something from nothing; it cannot make two and two to be either more or less than four; it cannot make truth to be false, or falsehood to be true; it has no power over the past, but oblivion; over the future, but change; and it can produce no effect, but by the use of sufficient means. And in the selection of means, there are many things possible, which, nevertheless, can only be accomplished through numerous processes, which, in their accomplishment, necessarily occupy long periods of time.

As the earth and all things therein were created of corruptible matter, the creation necessarily partook in some degree of the nature and of the defects of the material. The successive acts of creation seem to have developed improved results in every step of progress; not by any improvement in the skill of the creator, for, so far as we can judge, the most stupendous acts of creation were in the beginning; but, by the improvement of the material, by each change for the final consummation. Each thing made was good, because on the whole its being was beneficial, especially each living thing was good, because its existence was a blessing to it. But the last, best, the finishing work of creation, was the making of man, in the image and likeness of God. Though we know he was of the dust, for he returns to it, yet that dust must have undergone numerous and great changes, to bring it from mere dust to be a living man. What time these changes occupied, we cannot know, for we know not the creative process.

To man was given dominion over the earth, and all created things therein. Had it been possible to bestow divine perfections on one thus placed to rule as Lord over the creation of God, and who, because made in the likeness of God, was feared and obeyed as God by all the rest of creation, the infinite goodness of God would have dictated that he be so created. The injunction in the gospel, “be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48) is conclusive evidence that in the mind of God this is a desirable and necessary attainment, and if desirable during the eternity to come, equally so in the times past. If we really believe that God is infinitely good, we are compelled to believe that the only reason man was not so made, was because it was impossible.

It being impossible of any existing material to make man perfect as God is perfect, and yet possible to so make him that his existence would on the whole be beneficial, and so that through a long series of changes he could ultimately attain to that, it was consistent with the goodness of God to make him as man was created, relatively good, but not altogether perfect. And as the world would be better by his dominion over beasts than without it, notwithstanding his imperfections, it was also consistent with his goodness to give man the dominion over them. We are equally compelled, both by our faith in the divine goodness, and by all our knowledge of the works of God, to believe that the means devised for the improvement and final perfection of man, is the best adapted to accomplish that end; and that by the use of that means as large a portion of the human race will be made “perfect as God in heaven is perfect” as it is possible to bring to that condition.

As God, like man, can only produce results by the use of sufficient, means, no amount of suffering in his creatures becomes a reproach upon divine goodness, unless that suffering is allowed by him wantonly, or is so great as to make the existence of those who suffer, a curse, rather than a blessing. Wisdom, knowledge, prudence, are in some degree the result of experience. Inspiration and revelation may act a large part in producing them, but they can no more be brought into being without experience, than a child can be born without a mother. Experience is the mother of them all. But whatever other attributes man was created with, he could not be with experience. That every being must have for himself. None can derive it from another.

Had the conduct of man been subject to such a control that he could only choose, and do the right, his time of life would have given no experience. Unless he was capable of choosing or refusing either the good or the evil, he could no more learn by experience than could a machine. He could have no wisdom. He could only act the wisdom of the maker, as does the clock. Therefore, the very condition of things through which sin entered the world, and death by sin, was necessary, in the progress of the work, of making man perfect as God is perfect. Not that sin itself was necessary, but peccability, or the liability to sin.

Sin, having entered the world, the benevolence of God demanded that an effort be made to save the sinner; and justice did not demand that he should be immediately destroyed; or that he should be destroyed at all, if he could be separated from sin; and thus made a blessing, rather than a curse. The fall of man principally introduced hereditary corruption of the flesh, which could only result in the death of the body. This hereditary corruption, and consequent death, is not to be regarded as a punishment inflicted by God on all men for the sin of one, but as the mere natural consequence of the corruption which Adam, by eating improper food, produced in his flesh; which corruption of flesh his posterity inherited from him, with its consequent death.

Had it been in the power of God, by a mere and immediate effort of the will to remove that corruption, his goodness could not have failed to do it. But this being impossible in the nature of things, the divine goodness has, in its wisdom, devised a practical mode of finally accomplishing that result, and something more than that, for such as by obedience to the Law, seek everlasting life.

In bringing about this result, the corruption of man’s flesh, constantly exciting evil passions, is at war with those features in the character of man which approach nearest to the divine character. And God’s mercy cannot save and render happy, those who will not exercise a proper government over their passions and propensities. It is proper to know, therefore, that if any are lost in the end, it is because they prefer corruption. That the difficulty in the present and perpetual salvation of all men, from all sin, and their early delivery and perpetual redemption from all misery, is in their own unwillingness to live according to the true laws of life, and not in any unwillingness of God to forgive and save them. This unwillingness to live according to the law of life, is not peculiar to Adam. Every violation of the law of life in eating, drinking, or other carnal indulgence, is a new fall, like in kind to that of Adam, though possibly less in degree: and like that, it not only brings an earlier and more aggravated death on the sinner, but it entails it on his posterity also. The reason men, in their sins, are not saved, is, not that God is unmerciful, but that their salvation is impossible. What the wicked ask as salvation, is the worst damnation. God is better to them than their prayers.

Those who are anxious to obtain delivery from pain and disease, without reforming in their character and conduct, are seeking to themselves the worst of calamities, an eternity of ill, in the unrestrained indulgence of a corrupt heart; against which God guarded Adam, by casting him out of the garden, and placing cherubs to guard the way, lest he should eat of the tree of life, and live forever in his corruptions(Gen. 3:24); a calamity greater than everlasting death. As death was the ultimate and inevitable consequence of sin, the life for which man was created could only be attained through a resurrection of the body. But had the power of accomplishing that resurrection been conferred on sinful man, in his anxiety to live, and to give life to all who were dear to him, he would have conferred the boon on those he loved, though they were yet in their corruptions; and in that way secured an eternity of ill, which he had not yet learned to sufficiently abhor.

There can be no such thing as a conformity of man to the character of God; which is the true idea of salvation; till with a high order of wisdom and intelligence, and a power of choosing between good and evil, man continually prefers the good, and abhors the evil; preferring good to evil, not from the fear of the punishment which evil deeds entail, but on account of the innate loveliness of undefiled goodness; of pure, unalloyed holiness. To be a safe depositor of the keys of the resurrection, or the power of raising up these mortal bodies, and sealing them to everlasting life, one must not only love every good thing with an unalterable affection, and hate every evil thing with unchanging abhorrence, but he must have such divine wisdom, such a patient forbearance, and so much control over the sympathies of the heart, that he will never turn aside to raise up any one, even his own child, to that state of being, only such as are prepared for continuing ever in a state of perfect holiness, without any compulsion exercised over them, but from the mere love of righteousness.

Such a one was the Lord Jesus Christ. Down to the age of thirty years, in the retirement of a peasant’s life, he never stepped aside from the path of rectitude, to do a single evil deed. Not one even of the least of all the Commandments or precepts of God did he ever transgress, nor did an evil thought enter his heart. Conscious that he was the lawful heir to the throne of David, and that the whole house of Israel were his inheritance; never did he turn aside from the present duties of the humble position in which he was born, to disturb the peace, and peril the safety of his brethren, even in claiming his own. Made of the seed of Abraham. (Gal. 3:16, Heb. 2:16,) of the tribe of Judah (Heb. 7:14), and of the house and lineage of David (Rom. 1:3, 2 Tim. 2:8) according to the flesh, tempted and tried in all things as we are (Heb. 4:15), and partaking with us of the common infirmities of human nature, he was holy, harmless, and without sin. (Heb. 4:15, 7:26-28). It was fit that such a one should receive the keys of the resurrection and of life everlasting (John 11:25-26,) and be exalted on high with divine power; for he had maintained the divine characteristics through all the trials of his mortal existence; and having ever “loved righteousness and hated iniquity” (Heb. 1:8-9, Ps 45:6-7), he was exalted by his Father and his God to be our God, and the Father of the world to come (Isa. 9:6).

Jesus Christ, having committed no sin, deserved to suffer no evil that was avoidable. Taking upon himself the Priesthood to which God called him, and working a faithful ministry with the sole view to the salvation of mankind, without regard to any suffering he might bring upon himself, he suffered bitter persecution, and a cruel death, all which he might have avoided, without sin against God or man, by doing less for the salvation of others. It was thus that he became a natural sacrifice for the sins of men. But having loved righteousness and hated iniquity, through the severest temptations, and never swerved one moment, God raised him to an incorruptible, and immortal life, and gave him the power to raise up all others; a power which, as he had already resisted every temptation, he could not be moved to abuse. Thus was established that incorruptible dominion of man over the creation of God, which the divine goodness had sought from the beginning, by the most direct means to establish.

He was not demanded of God as a victim to divine vengeance, but offered himself as the victim of man’s malevolence. And having walked in the way of life everlasting, through death and the resurrection, he was capable of leading others the same road. Thus, by the appointment of God, and the requisite intelligence, he was possessed of the keys of the resurrection, and life everlasting. He is a propitiation for the sins of all men, in this, that whereas all, both by inheritance were doomed to death, and by actual guilt had aggravated that doom, he brings the actual resurrection of the body to all (1 Cor. 15:22), and puts it in their power by obedience to a law which he makes known, to lay hold on everlasting life.

By means of this law the way of life is ever so guarded that none can lay hold on immortality, except those who have, through the experience of temptation, a settled and unconquerable hatred of sin, and an unchangeable love of righteousness, so that the keeping of the Law of God, instead of being a restraint on them, is their chief desire and greatest pleasure. No other can enter into life. It is because Jesus Christ was a mortal man, subject to the same infirmities as other men, and tempted in all things like his brethren, that there was merit in his giving his life for the salvation of others. Had he been God Almighty, coequal and coeternal with the Father, of one Godhead with him, and thus had power as God, to lay down and take up his life, death to him, at most, would have been no more than is a few moments sleep to mortal man, entered upon without terrour or dread; and the sufferings of his lowly life would have been only apparent, for God cannot suffer.

To a man it was an act of the profoundest faith in God to trust undoubtingly that, though dead, God would raise him up the third day, and of boundless benevolence to offer his life to save his persecutors. Thus Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham, mortal, but sinless, offered himself a natural, but not a sacerdotal sacrifice, for the sins of men; that he might be the Saviour of all men, especially of those that believe; of all, from inherited death; and of those who believe and obey the gospel, in the likeness of God, and the life everlasting; not because God was angry and demanded a victim, but because no other means could bring man into a condition to participate of true happiness. Among the means appointed to draw men unto righteousness, inspire them with the same divine benevolence, and with due gratitude to him, was a partaking of this sacrifice, as a sacerdotal offering. Hence, he said to his disciples, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you” (John 6:53); and when the Eucharistic bread and wine are to be ate and drank, they are first consecrated the flesh and blood of Christ, and offered up, and then a feast made upon them, as a feast upon a sacrifice. Such is the actual sacrifice for the sins of men, made once; of which the Eucharistic offering, made ever, is a lively symbol.

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