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    VI. WHY AN ATONEMENT IS NECESSARY

    1. Future obedience will not justify the guilty. To argue this seems hardly necessary, as it has been shown that justice and mercy meet in no way but by an Atonement. But some deny the use, by which it is presumed they mean the necessity, or justness, of obeying a law which will not justify the guilty. But the deficiency lies only in their own oversight. They make no distinction between justifying the innocent and the guilty. The innocent are justified by law; the guilty cannot be. But the innocent are justified by law only if they remain innocent; that is, if they continue to obey. While the transgressor, already condemned, is not freed from condemnation of past offense by future obedience. In this, no more is claimed than is settled as a principle of action in legal and even in commercial transactions. He who killed, last year, cannot offer in justification that he has not killed, this year. The judge has no right to listen to the plea of the thief, that he has not recently stolen, while the evidence of his past guilt is clear. It does not release a man from a past debt to pay for what he buys to-day. Present justice and present morality simply answer a present demand, leaving the past unsettled. But we have a question to ask to those who think it is not required to keep a law because it will not justify the transgressor. If the law condemns a thief, and he can only be cleared by pardon, does the granting of a pardon release him from obligation to keep the law, and leave him free to steal thereafter?AERS 42.1

    2. We have no ransom to bring. The demand of the Government is obedience; and the duty is perpetual. Any cessation or suspension is a break in the chain that we cannot restore. We cannot on one day perform the duties of another, in such a manner as to suspend obligations on that other day. Presenting this idea on a moral basis purely, we will be better able to appreciate it. The obligation to love God with all our heart binds us every day of our life. Suppose we fail on one day, it would be absurd to say we could make amends by another day’s obedience; for that would be to love God that other day with more than all the heart, so as to apply some of our superabundance of love to the past! Hence the transgressor could not save himself, even though he retained all his original strength to obey; but the following truth is well known:—AERS 43.1

    3. We are incapacitated by immoral practices. In this, appeal is made to the consciousness of every candid, reflecting mind. We all acknowledge ourselves to be subjects of temptation, and often find in ourselves a proneness to do that which our convictions forbid. If we allow ourselves to do wrong, these feelings become still stronger, and we are less able to resist the temptation. Wrong-doing becomes a habit, hard to resist or overcome. Thus, he who has a moderate desire to drink ardent spirits will find that desire greatly strengthened by indulgence and it will finally, if indulged too far, bring him completely under its control. This is the tendency of all wrong-doing. Now we all feel conscious of having done more or less wrong; and it is but reasonable to say we have done more than we are conscious of, inasmuch as we have not been sufficiently tenacious of the right, nor very watchful to observe our own wrongs. And, according to the plain truth herein stated, we have become weak according to the wrong we have done, and so much the more need the assistance of a third party to set us right with the power we have offended.AERS 43.2

    An Atonement must not only unite justice and mercy, and reconcile the transgressor to the law, but the perpetuity and stability of the Government should be the first consideration, as they are first in importance in our relations and duties, because on them the perpetuity of all private relations and rights depends. We all assent to this, that public good should be held paramount to private interest. But these only come in conflict when we place ourselves in opposition to the Government. Hence, if our interest conflicts with the Government, which is the conservator of general rights, it is proved to be a selfish interest. For, had we honored and sustained the Government in our lives or actions, it would justify or sustain us; but if our rights are forfeited by disobedience, wherein is the Government to blame? Because the transgressor has sacrificed his own rights, it is not therefore reasonable to ask that justice be dishonored, and the rights of others be sacrificed for his benefit. As right should be the first consideration in all transactions, the interest of the Government, which is right, should certainly be held paramount to the good of the transgressor, who is wrong. Therefore, in making an Atonement, the upholding of law—the maintaining of governmental authority—should be held as of the first importance. This is the only manner in which an Atonement can honor the Government in behalf of which it is made.AERS 44.1

    By a single violation of law, we forfeit our rights and privileges; but by persisting in such violation, or inducing others so to do, and thus disregarding the authority of law, we take the rank of rebels or traitors against the Government. Our relation to the Government while we are in that position, and our relation to the means of our restoration, should be considered with great carefulness and candor.AERS 45.1

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