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THE DOGMA OF THE ATONEMENT
Wherefore bends the Just One, bleeding
Sacrifice the expression of Love-not necessarily involving an idea of pain
- The dogma of original sin signifies the prevalence of opposition and contradiction- The Protestant doctrine, the negation of all good in man; The Catholic doctrine, the opposition of good faculties - The Incarnation the reconciliation of all oppositions-- The Passion its necessary climax-Why suffering was necessary-Descent into the midst of every antagonism, sin and death-The Atonement is the restoration and reconciliation, completing the work of the Incarnation-Suffering touches a chord in man's nature-Justification the restoration of man by his co-operation, The Protestant doctrine different, the imputation of merits- The doctrine of vicarious suffering a Protestant theory-It makes God unjust-Summary.
OVE is unselfish. He who loves another delights in
giving to the object of his love that which has not cost him nothing. Perhaps no more beautiful example of the primitive and true idea of sacrifice exists, than in the mutual oblation of husband and wife. The husband can enjoy no pleasure without desiring to make the wife participate in it. If he leave her for an excursion, his letters home descriptive of what he sees, the flowers he collects for her, the memorials of scenery he purchases to present to her, are all sacrifices. And the wife finds her pleasure in the daily prevision and preparation of surprises for her lord. Every craftily compounded dish, every mended shirt and darned stocking is a holocaust. The joy of married life consists in this mutual sacrifice, this selfabnegation, this seeking satisfaction in the pleasure of the other.
With what singleness of heart will not the mother surrender her time, her rest, her pleasure to her little child ! The father takes no account of the cost to himself of his son in food and clothing.
Parents are for ever performing sacrifice to their children ; and they find their delight in so doing, for sacrifice is the floriation of love.
When love is mutual there is no pain in sacrifice, it is a continued delight; but when one of the hearts is estranged, then anxiety and suffering step in. The husband tries a variety of gifts to please the wayward wife; he descends to great privations if only he may recover her smiles. The wife tries all devices to reclaim the chilled heart of her husband; there is nothing she will not deny herself, the very necessaries of life, to buy back the truant.
When love is unruffled, there is no estimation of cost in the value of the present; the withered forget-me-not is more precious than the pearl necklace. But when there is estrangement it is different. Then the strayed love must be bought back, and bought back at great cost and suffering to the heart that loves still.
If we apply this idea to God and man, and it must be so applied to all personalities which are related to one another, we shall see that to man unfallen, sacrifice and worship would be the joyous expression of adoring love and praise, without any admixture of the ideas of pain and suffering, such as we commonly associate with the term “sacrifice.”
“All devotional feeling,” it has been truly said, “ requires sacrificial expression.” If man had never fallen, the most perfect sacrifice on his part would have been the outpour of his exuberant love in incessant worship, and the most perfect sacrifice on God's part would have been the satisfaction of man's every want by new and newer manifestations of His unfathomable love.
The idea contained in heathen sacrifice has been pointed out in the first volume. It was a compensation for some wrong supposed to have been done to God, or a bribe offered to an unpropitious Deity. The idea of expiatory sacrifice was also heathen. God was regarded as a hard, rigidly just Judge of men, who could not have mercy even if He would without violating His attribute of justice.
None of these views are admissible to a Christian, for they militate against the fundamental dogma of the Incarnation, which is the manifestation of the perfection of Divine Love.
If the idea of pain has tinged the original idea of sacrifice with purple, it is because man does not live in perfect harmony with God, there is discord in his own being and dissonance with others. But this may be regarded as an accident, an alteration of the primary idea, in which there is no pain, but unmixed happiness. And, observe, that in love there must be two personalities, or it is resolved into egoism which is not love, but the shadow of it. There is a constant approach and assimilation of the two individualities, but never a fusion of one in the other. If pain enter into the idea of love and penetrate its expression, sacrifice, the reason is to be found in the contradiction of one personality to the other, which contradiction cannot be rectified without suffering, and which will cease directly it is brought into harmony with the other personality.
It is this contradiction and opposition in man which is called by Christians “sin," original and actual.
Before proceeding further with the consideration of sacrifice, it will be necessary to examine the nature of sin, and especially of original sin.
According to the Christian theory man, when made by God, was perfectly good. He was like God, in that he had a free-will. He used his will awrong, he diverted it from the straight line of obedience, and fell under the power of contradiction, opposition, and negation. Originally man and woman were one--the male and female nature combined into one body; then these were separated, not to be opposed, but that a link of love might be called out to attach the two together, and bring them into one, without for all that abdicating their individualities,-perhaps as a sort of figure to man of the relation in which he stood to God. And man's nature was then in perfect tune. His intellect and affections gave ideas complementary-coloured, and his animal nature did not rebel against his spiritual nature; nor did discord enter into the only social relation that existed, his union with the woman.
But when, by an act of will, he opposed God, all was altered. The harmony was dissolved, the Sabbath was broken; in man the animal nature resisted the mind, the reason opposed the sentiment; egoism and solidarity presented opposite interests, man tyrannized over woman, and woman demoralized man; society rose up against the individual to tread him into a dead level of commonplace, and the individual fought with society and strove to subjugate it to his will
“And storms confused above us lower,
Of hopes and fears, and joy and woe;
And scarcely e'en for one half-hour
Is silence in God's house below." Every evil that the world groans under is caused by this antagonism of interests; the passions binding the strong mind and dragging it from its pinnacle into the mire; the mind battling with its body as with a wild beast, and taming it with wrathful austerities; the intellect casting out the affections into the cold, to the intent that they may die; the feelings overwhelming the mind in flowers, and reason yielding to the lethargy
“Why are we weighed upon with heaviness,
And utterly consumed with sharp distress,
Why should we only toil, the roof and crown of things !”] Nation against nation, peoples against kings, rich against poor, brother against brother, man with a rope round his neck destroying himself, man turning his back on Paradise and denying God.
“From whence come wars and fightings among you ? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not; ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain; ye fight and war, yet ye have not;" or, as Dante says
“ They smite each other not alone with hands,
But with the head and with the breast and feet,
Tearing each other piecemeal with their teeth.”9 All the natural faculties remain, but not united like the cells of the honey bee, but opposed, out of control, thrown into confusion. 1 Tennyson : Lotos Eaters.
2 Dante: Inferno.