If there is a God who created us, if we have all sinned against him, and if there is reason to believe that he will call us to account for our conduct, all which principles are admitted by Mr. Paine,‡ a gloomy prospect must needs present itself, sufficient indeed to render man “the slave of terror.” It is not in the power of this writer, nor of any man living who rejects the Bible, to assure us that pardon will have any place in the Divine government; and however light he may make of the Scripture doctrine of hell, He that calls men to account for their deeds will be at no loss how or where to punish them. But, allowing that God is disposed to show mercy to the guilty, the question is, Whether his doing so by or without a mediator be most consistent with what we know of fitness or propriety?
That pardon is bestowed through a mediator in a vast variety of instances among men cannot be denied; and that it is proper it should be so must be evident to every thinking mind. All who are acquainted with the common affairs of life must be aware of the necessity of such proceedings, and the good effects of them upon society.§
It is far less humbling for an offender to be pardoned at his own request than through the interposition of a third person; for, in the one case, he may be led to think that it was his virtue and penitence which influenced the decision; whereas, in the other, he is compelled to feel his own unworthiness: and this may be one reason why the mediation of Christ is so offensive. It is no wonder, indeed, that those who deny humility to be a virtue* should be disgusted with a doctrine the professed object of which is to abase the pride of man.
As forgiveness without a mediator is less humbling to the offender, so it provides less for the honour of the offended, than a contrary proceeding. Many a compassionate heart has longed to go forth, like David towards Absalom; but, from a just sense of wounded authority, could not tell how to effect it; and has greatly desired that some common friend would interpose, to save his honour. He has wished to remit the sentence, but has felt the want of a mediator, at the instance of whom he might give effect to his desires, and exercise mercy without seeming to be regardless of justice. An offender who should object to a mediator would be justly considered as hardened in impenitence, and regardless of the honour of the offended; and it is difficult to say what other construction can be put upon the objections of sinners to the mediation of Christ.
Again, To exercise pardon without a mediator would be fixing no such stigma upon the evil of the offence as is done by a contrary mode of proceeding. Every man feels that those faults which may be overlooked on a mere acknowledgment are not of a very heinous nature; they are such as arise from inadvertence, rather than from ill design; and include little more than an error of the judgment. On the other hand, every man feels that the calling in of a third person is making much of the offence, treating it as a serious affair, a breach that is not to be lightly passed over. This may be another reason why the mediation of Christ is so offensive to the adversaries of the gospel. It is no wonder that men who are continually speaking of moral evil under the palliating names of error, frailty, imperfection, and the like, should spurn at a doctrine the implication of which condemns it to everlasting infamy.†
Finally, To bestow pardon without a mediator would be treating the offence as private, or passing over it as a matter unknown, an affair which does not affect the well-being of society, and which therefore requires no public manifestation of displeasure against it. Many a notorious offender would, doubtless, wish matters to be thus conducted, and, from an aversion to public exposure, would feel strong objections to the formal interposition of a third person. Whether this may not be another reason of dislike to the mediation of Christ I shall not decide; but of this I am fully satisfied, that the want of a proper sense of the great evil of sin, as it affects the moral government of the universe, is a reason why its adversaries see no necessity for it, nor fitness in it. They prove by all their writings, that they have no delight in the moral excellency of the Divine nature, no just sense of the glory of moral government, and no proper views of the pernicious and widely extended influence of sin upon the moral system: is it any wonder, therefore, that they should be unconcerned about the plague being stayed by a sacrifice? Such views are too enlarged for their selfish and contracted minds. The only object of their care, even in their most serious moments, is to escape punishment; for the honour of God, and the real good of creation, they discover no concern.
The amount is this: If it be indeed improper for a guilty creature to lie low before his Creator, if it be unfit that any regard should be paid to the honour of his character, if the offence committed against him be of so small account that it is unnecessary for him to express any displeasure against it, and if it have been so private and insulated in its operations, as in no way to affect the well-being of the moral system, the doctrine of forgiveness through a mediator is unreasonable. But if the contrary be true—if it be proper for a guilty creature to lie in the dust before his offended Creator, if the honour of the Divine character deserve the first and highest regard, if moral evil be the greatest of all evils, and require, even where it is forgiven, a strong expression of Divine displeasure against it, and if its pernicious influence be such that, if suffered to operate according to its native tendency, it would dethrone the Almighty, and desolate the universe, the doctrine in question must accord with the plainest dictates of reason.
Excerpt from “The Consistency of the Christian Doctrine, Particularly that of Salvation through a Mediator, with Sober Reason,” Chapter IV, in The Gospel Its Own Witness.
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Controversial Publications (J. Belcher, Ed.; Vol. 2, pp. 74–76). Sprinkle Publications.