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Produced by Bryan Ness, Greg Bergquist and the Online
Scientific and Religious Journal.
|Vol. I.||OCTOBER, 1880.||No. 10.|
“The soul that sinneth it shall die,” and it “shall not die.”
The first quotation, “The soul that sinneth it shall die,” is often produced in support of the scholastic idea that the law of God was inexorable, that is absolute or unconditional, not to be moved or its penalty escaped by reformation or petition.
The language of the text is very definite, and, when viewed aside from its context as an inexorable law, it certainly follows that every sinning soul must pay its penalty. Neither can I see how it can be satisfied by punishing an innocent person in the room of the guilty, for the innocent one was not the “soul that sinned.” Yet this quality of law is claimed in order to make out the theory of a vicarious punishment endured by the Savior, that is, that He took the sinner’s “law place.” This idea was necessitated by the theory that we all sinned when Adam transgressed, and lost all ability to do anything for ourselves. So we must be redeemed by satisfaction to justice, rather than by mercy. This old Calvinistic system of error lays the penalty of the inexorable law upon Christ. But Calvinists are not alone in this theory of a “vicarious punishment,” in order to a vicarious atonement. Neither are they alone in the abuse of the phrase “the law,” for our Sabbatarian friends are constantly asserting that the law of God was, and is, simply the ten commandments given, they say, to Adam in Eden, and authoritatively published on Sinai. They assert that all the balance of the five books of Moses was his law, written by him, but the record justifies us in saying, that the ten precepts were not the tenth part of the words given to Moses upon Sinai; neither were they all the words that were written upon the tables of stone. The tables begin with the sixth verse of the fifth chapter of the book of Deuteronomy, in these words, “I am the Lord thy God which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage,” and end with the twenty-first verse. But as the sixth verse is fatal to the Sabbatarian theory it is clipped off along with the fifteenth verse, which is cut out of the middle of the matter written upon the tables, and both are gravely divorced from God and handed over to Moses. Both, however, are in perfect harmony with the second and third verses, which read thus: “The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day.” That the sixth and fifteenth verses were upon the tables of stone is evident from the reading of the twenty-second verse, which reads thus: “These words the Lord spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice. And He wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto you.”
Many persons who claim that the import of the term die, in the sentence “The soul that sinneth it shall die,” was experienced by the Savior upon the cross dying as a substitute in the law-place of sinners, overlook several things of first importance. First, infants were not included in the provisions of a vicarious punishment and atonement unless it can be shown that they sinned—were sinners. Second, no innocent person can justly suffer in the law-place of the guilty. In all such cases justice is dishonored and law violated, for just law limits its penalties to the guilty.
Our salvation “is not of the law,” but “by grace” or favor. Law had nothing to do with the death of Christ. He, “BY THE GRACE OF GOD, tasted death for every man.” “If it be of the law it is not of grace.” Again, the simple sentence, “The soul that sinneth it shall die,” never was the law of God in any age, but simply a fraction of the law. Did Christ ever sin? No! Then He never honored this law, or satisfied its penalty by dying; for if, as our friends say, the inexorable quality of the law will forever hold the guilty to its claims, it will forever keep the innocent from its penalty. But I aver that the inexorable quality that is claimed for the law of God never belonged to it. No, not even to the simple sentence, “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” The Lord authorizes us to supply the condition in every instance where it is not expressed, thus: “When I shall say unto the wicked, thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin and do that which is lawful and right; if the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity, he shall surely live, he shall not die.” So the prophet gives us the second quotation at the head of this article, “Shall not die.” It would be just as proper to make this last scrap of the law inexorable as its opposite. Such teachings do violence to the truth by overlooking the merciful provisions that are found in the laws of God, by holding inexorable law before us as a streak of justice clothed with black vengeance.
The gospel of Jesus Christ knows no law in connection with Christians, or any others, except, first, the laws of nature. Secondly, the laws of the state or government in which we reside. Third, the law of Christ. We are under law to Christ in common with all men, for the Father had put all things under Him. We were never under the law given to Adam. We were not in the garden of Eden. We believe with Paul that the first offense in the history of mankind was the “offense of one,” that it was “one that sinned,” that “by one man’s offense death reigned,” that it was “one man’s disobedience.” When men talk to me as an individual, and of my relations to law, sin and death, I wish them to recollect that I was never in the garden of Eden. So I claim an alibi. Adam sinned thousands of years before I, as a man, had my existence; and as it is true that, where there is no law there is no transgression, so it is equally true that, where the man is not, he does not transgress. I was not in the garden of Eden, so there I did not sin.
But we are told that the Father of mercies, by a decree of law, imputed Adam’s offense to all his children, and that he, by the vicarious punishment endured by the Savior, took Adam’s offense off from Adam’s children.
Admit it, and three things follow: First, we did not sin in fact when Adam sinned. Second, from Adam to Christ all the innocents upon earth were sinners by the arbitrary decree of Jehovah. Third, the Father put this decree-load of guilt upon an innocent one, and executed the real penalty upon him. How is this? Suppose a legislative body legislates a man a murderer because his great great grand-father killed a man, should it not also legislate him free from the penalty of murder and never in cruel injustice inflict it upon him or any other innocent one simply as a satisfaction to justice? Law ought to always place us where we are in fact, otherwise it is detestably unjust. Why should any sensible man attribute such dealings to the Father of Spirits? The fallacy of such teaching is seen in the fact that the penalty of the Adamic law was executed in the day of the transgression, and not nine hundred nor thousands of years afterwards. The phrase, “Dying thou shalt die” does not help the case, for the phrase “In the day” limits the penalty as respects the time of its fulfillment.
Adam lost citizen life in the Garden of Eden in the very day of his offense. The full penalty was executed when he was driven out. Physical death was an after result, growing out of the fact that Adam’s posterity was unborn when he was driven from his Eden home. The Lord did not say to Adam, in the day thou eatest thereof you shall die and not live again, if he had the way of redemption would have been forever closed against him. Adam’s first sons appear before us with a law of faith, embracing typical and sacrificial duties, through which they were brought into the way of life with reference to an ultimate arrival at the tree of life in the midst of the paradise of God.
This law of faith was given to Adam’s family outside of the Garden; and the law of Sinai was not given to Adam, nor to his immediate posterity, for in that case Cain would have been put to death for killing his brother Abel. It was given to Abraham’s family after the exodus from Egypt. It was a political law, because it pertained to a community.
Next in order follows the law of Christ. Beside these we know of no revealed law, excepting those of which we have spoken. So this vicarious punishment system of things, with all its consequences, rests upon a something that men call the inexorable law of God, which a man can not find in the annals of creation, providence or redemption. The prophet, in the language of our quotation, “The soul that sinneth it shall die,” is grappling with the system of things which we are endeavoring to overthrow. The children of Israel fell into the sentiments of our modern Calvinists, and claimed that “The fathers had eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth were set on edge.” By this proverb they understood that the son was to bear the iniquity of the father. The Lord rebuked them in the language of our topic, and more severely in the context. [See Ezekiel, eighteenth chapter.]
The Lord said to them, “Behold, all souls are mine. * * * The soul that sinneth it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son.”
The prophet also describes a righteous man, and then adds, “If he begets a son that is a robber, a shedder of blood, and that doth the like to any one of these things, and doth none of the duties of a righteous life, he shall surely die.” We would naturally conclude that this vile person would transmit moral depravity, if such was possible, but how can moral corruption be transmitted through physical generation? Let some of the wise crack this shell! If I was passing around through the little city of Kokomo to-morrow, and was talking upon this theme, I would hear some one accuse some poor soul of being a natural born thief, without the ability to refrain from it. There is neither morality nor immorality, vice nor virtue in an involuntary act. Are the rushings of the Wild Cat river moral or immoral? If a man could be a natural thief, and therefore could not help but steal, he would be no more a sinner in the sight of God, nor responsible, nor morally corrupt than the horse that breaks into your cornfield and fills himself.
In the saying, “If the wicked will turn,” etc., “he shall surely live, he shall not die,” we discover two important things: First, the death spoken of is not physical, for all die, regardless of character; second, it is not moral, for the poor fellow is already morally dead—dead in trespasses and in sin.
The term die being used in the divine law with reference to the government of God, and under such circumstances as already mentioned, must indicate simply the forfeiture of citizen life in the paradise of God, in the world to come, for it is said of the wicked, “They have no inheritance in the kingdom of God and of Christ.” But if Christ took their law-place, and was punished in their stead, satisfied justice, of course it was done, and then universal salvation, regardless of character, and upon simple legal merits, must obtain, because this theory rests upon the hypothesis that sinners could do nothing for themselves. But is it true that the atonement was completed upon the cross or by the death of Christ only? I answer, he was victim upon the cross and high priest by the power of an endless life. Priest by the word of the oath which was subsequent to the law. He was not a priest while he was a victim in death. In ancient times the victim was slain and its blood was taken into the holy place, then the high priest officiated in the holy place. But the priest never entered without blood. So Christ, by his own blood, entered into Heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us. But all this releases us not in the least from our own obligations to God and our humanity.
The Savior came to our earth to give us, first, his life, in order that we might make it our own; second, his divine mind concerning us and our expectations; third to ratify the same by his death; fourth to give us an assurance of a resurrection from the dead, and of a future judgment. For the first it is said “that he consecrated for us a new and living way through the veil, that is to say through his flesh, into the holiest.” For the second we have simply the gift of a second will. “He took away the first that he might establish the second, by the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Christ.” For the third it is said that “The New Testament was dedicated not without blood.” For the fourth it is said that “He hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained, whereof he hath given assurance unto all men in that he hath raised him from the dead.” So every one of us shall give an account of himself to God, and receive according to his own works and not the works of another.
One question, and only one, will be of interest to me in the judgment, and that is this, how have I lived? What are the deeds which were done in my body? The Lord once said of a wicked city: “Though Noah, Job and Daniel were in it they should save none but themselves by their righteousness.” But we are told that the righteousness of Christ was the only satisfaction; that he, dying in our law-place, paid the debt. Then I am released. Let the debt be what it may, I can’t be held to give satisfaction. But we were always anxious to know what we were released from. Was it physical death? No; we must die. Was it death in sin? No; there is no getting out of that without reformation and pardon. Vicarious punishment! What is it? What was it that Christ suffered in the sinners’ law-place? It could not be the everlasting punishment threatened in the Scriptures, for the Savior was only about three hours upon the cross. And if the Savior paid the debt, why is it that sinners are to pay it themselves unless they repent?
But there is still another grave objection to the theory. It is this, It declares that there is no forgiveness with God. He can’t forgive when Christ paid the debt. Can you forgive a debt that is paid? Is it possible for such a thing to take place? One writer has called this old theory “the Redeemer’s glory;” but if it be his glory it is the Father’s dishonor. Elder Stockell gives the theory the very imposing title, “The Redeemer’s Glory Unveiled.” But look at the following from page 157 of his work thus entitled: “In a strict and proper sense the infinite God doth not forgive sin; for it is readily granted by all who are sound in the faith that Jesus Christ hath given full satisfaction to divine justice for all sin, and hath fully paid the debt of his church. And if Christ hath satisfied the justice of God for all the sins of his people, how then can it justly, or with propriety of speech, be said that God pardoneth our sins and transgressions? Sure I am that debt can never be forgiven which is paid.”
Others, who are not so wise, or, it may be, so frank, refuse to allow the logical consequences of the doctrine of vicarious sufferings. This theory represents mercy as always stultified until Christ satisfied justice. Imagine the Savior upon the cross, innocent, suffering by sheer necessity of justice in the sinners’ law-place. Justice is standing off to the right and Mercy is a short distance to the left. Poor Mercy! She says, “I always felt stultified up to this hour, for Justice was always dissatisfied and frowning.” Justice responds, “True; but just now I am being satisfied. I have always asked for this. So from this time forward I shall be in a smiling mood. Now we can unite and let the guilty ones go free, for I have wreaked my vengeance upon the innocent one.”
Just now the poor skeptic with common sense says, “Hold! Does not the law say ‘It is the soul that sinneth that shall die?’ Did I not hear you say that you had wreaked your vengeance upon the innocent one?” Justice and mercy both draw a veil over their faces and respond through the advocates of this system of things, “Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness.” The poor skeptic of common sense retires muttering to himself something like this, “Well, if such is the mystery of godliness, I pray that I may never fall into her hands.”
Just now he is accosted by a preacher, who says to him, “Look there upon that Roman cross. Don’t you see that sinless one? He is spotless, pure and lovely. He never sinned, neither was guile found in His mouth, yet He was accounted guilty of all the sins of the whole human family, at least He suffered the full penalty enacted against all the sins of all the race, and satisfied justice.” Common-sense skeptic says: “Who required that? Who counted him guilty of the whole? Who?” The preacher responds, “God and His justice—yes, His justice.” Justice, you know, had to be satisfied, for God Himself could not forgive a man until the debt was paid. Do you see? Common-sense skeptic turns away disgusted, and as he walks off he is heard to say, “Farewell, to all of you!”
Who can blame men who never heard any thing better for being unbelievers? When Jehovah proclaimed His name, He said “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” This must be admitted by all intelligent Christians. Mercy was never stultified. There was in all the dispensations of God’s providence free and unstultified mercy. The infinite One was never unable to forgive sins; neither was He laid under the necessity of punishing the innocent in the room of the guilty. No, He never did it. His justice never required it, and it is too mean to ascribe it to Him. His laws in all the dispensations were conditional, contained merciful provisions. Now, let us “fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”
The great thought of pardon through the abundant goodness of God runs through all the ages, but substitution, in the sense of vicarious punishment, does not. It is not taught even in connection with dying animals, for the “blood of animals could not take away sins.” Again, the soul that sinneth it shall die, but animals were not sinning souls, so that scrap of revealed law could not be honored in the death of a goat.
There is nothing in the history of the ages to necessitate the idea that justice could not allow the free exercise of mercy towards the penitent sinner, or that God’s wrath must be appeased, or He made propitious by means of blood. He was propitious, and therefore ordered the use of blood for wise and benevolent purposes. The use of blood is related to His mercy as effect is to cause, and not as cause to effect. The mercy and goodness of God was always complete, full and unrestrained by all external causes, except the moral and virtuous qualities of their object. By the grace of God Jesus tasted death for every man. He did not go to the cross because law or justice required it, but because He loved the race. He came from heaven to earth and volunteered the cross as a commendation or demonstration of the divine love for man. The authority of law is never associated with the cross or death of Christ. For this great love for man, manifested even in his death, He gained the throne of Lordship, where He exercises himself as the Savior of men and as Lord over all. Will you obey Him and live?
Our sphere of research is simplified by dividing its objects into matter and mind, so as to have but two centers of thought. Many have concluded that the address of matter to our senses has made it easy to pursue knowledge respecting bodies, while the invisibility of mind presents insurmountable difficulties, but this conclusion is scarcely supported by facts. If men have erred with reference to their own intellects, they have also made many and egregious blunders concerning matter and its qualities. We think the study of mind is just as easy as the study of matter. Here a man has nothing to do but look into himself. With my mind I think, reason, reflect, remember, hate, love, grieve, rejoice, imagine, contrive, invent and will, and this very mind is conscious of all these operations; so in this study there ought to be no mistake. We lay it down as a truth of first importance, that all minds are alike. As gold is gold, so mind is mind, throughout the universe. My mind is myself, which I carry with me everywhere; it is my own personality from which I can never part. It is the individual Walker. Individual is defined thus: An object which is, in the strict and primary sense, one, and can not be logically divided.
An individual is not absolutely indivisible, but that which can not be divided without losing its name and distinctive qualities. Individuality, like personal identity, belongs properly to intelligences. Consciousness reveals it to us that no being can be put in our place nor confounded with us, nor we with others. I am one and indivisible. You can not amputate any of the faculties of the mind. It is a mind which no one dissects or divides. We are assured that we are the offspring of God. Paul says this truth had been promulgated by one of the Athenian poets, and it was so correct that Heaven’s seal was placed upon it. Being the offspring of God we are essentially like our Great Father Spirit, for it is one of the laws of God that the child or descendant shall always be like its progenitor; not like him in body, for God is a spirit. A spirit hath not flesh and bone. We are therefore like Him in spirit. Being the offspring of the divine intelligence declares the nature of that intelligence, just as the stream declares the nature of the water in the fountain which feeds it. As the fountain is the antecedent of the stream, so God is the antecedent of life and intelligence, from whom all spirits came, and to whom all spirits must return.
Our studies in respect of mind are wonderfully simplified when we recollect that in ourselves we see all other men, spirit or mind being in its essence and attributes essentially the same; but the fountain is always greater than the stream, so God is more wise and powerful than any of his offspring. But as each perfect sunbeam, however small or weak, has all the essential properties of light, and each grain of pure silver all the properties of that metal, so mind, as the living offspring of the divine mind, is in the “likeness and image of God.” This branch of study becomes remarkably simple when we reflect that in ourselves we see all men and women, angels and demons, and even God himself. The whole universe of mind is reflected in that inner-man mirror which we call ourself. We have guarded this subject by the language, the essential attributes of mind. By this qualifier we wish it understood that mind, like body, has its accidental or acquired qualities. Vice, virtue, folly, wisdom, malignity and benevolence are not essential to mind, but like the accidents of matter known as roughness or smoothness, softness, hardness, blackness, etc., are merely qualities or attributes of its conduct. Vice is vicious action and virtue is virtuous action. But action arises from will and will from thought. All minds are free agents, being vicious or virtuous from their own choice. There is as much piety, morality or immorality in the flowing of the Wabash river as there is in involuntary action. So ability to choose is the great factor of morality, virtue, immorality, and vice.