THE ATONEMENT OF CHRIST.
SEVERAL prominent theories have been presented, as to the atoning work of Christ, and the method by which God pardons sin.
1. The lowest of these is the Socinian. This proceeds on the principle that God is pure benevolence, that vindictive justice is incompatible with his character, and that upon mere repentance, God can and will forgive the sinner. The work of Christ, therefore, is regarded as one in which he simply reveals or makes known pardon to man. Nothing that he has done secures it, because he had nothing to do to this end. It was already prepared in the benevolence of God’s nature, and is simply now made known. [Symington on the Atonement, pp. 2 and 3.]
The advocates of this theory explain away all that the Scriptures say on the subject of Christ’s death for us, by maintaining that his life and death were mere examples to us of the manner in which we should live and submit to God. In their view, therefore, Christ is merely a great teacher and a bright example.
Some of these have even gone so far as to speak of the sacrifices of the ancient dispensation as things suitable only to a barbarous age, and so far from regarding them as types of Christ’s sacrificial work, have looked on them as arrangements permitted only from sympathy for the weakness of the people, whom God ordered to offer them. [Nehemiah Adams, Evenings with the Doctrines, p. 197.]
The objections to this theory are:
1. It ill accords with the Scripture description of the nature of sin.
2. It is inconsistent with other attributes of God than mercy.
3. It is at variance with the letter and spirit of divine revelation.
4. It is irreconcilable with the exalted nature of the mediatorial reward conferred on Christ. [Symington, p. 3.]
2. A second theory of the Atonement is that which has commonly been called the Middle Theory. By this is not meant, that there are only these two and one orthodox theory; but, simply, that this stands between the theory of the Socinians and those theories held by persons, who, however, differing from each other, are regarded as Evangelical.
“This theory maintains that in consequence of what Christ did, a certain power to pardon sin was conferred upon him.” [Symington p. 3.
“This system supposes that God may pardon sin without punishment or satisfaction.”
“But that a difference should he made between innocent persons who have never sinned, and those thus pardoned; that the latter may not boastingly suppose themselves on an equality with the former.”
“This is done by the arrangement that, instead of a full pardon, they shall he pardoned on repentance, for the sake of something Christ was to do, because of which he is entitled to intercede for them.”
(1.) “This scheme is only apparently superior to the former, in claiming that this is done, because of what Christ has done.”
(2.) “It gives a defective view of the divine character.”
(3.) “It does not explain the Scripture language as to Christ’s work.”
(4.) “It fails to account for the peculiarity and severity of his sufferings.” [Symington, pp. 3 and 4.]
3. A third theory of the Atonement is that of moral influence. Its most noted advocates in this day have been Horace Bushnell and McLeod Campbell. It is difficult to say whether it, or the one last mentioned, approaches more nearly to that of the Socinians or is more remote from Evangelical ideas.
Like the so-called Middle Theory, it deems repentance alone to be essential for a sinner’s acceptance with God. It maintains that there has never been any obstacle in the nature of God to the granting of full pardon upon mere repentance for sin. The necessity for Christ’s life of suffering and death of agony is to be found only in the need or motives arising from the love thus exhibited to man to induce him to repent. It is for the sinner’s sake that Christ has lived such a life of misery and woe as is incident to man. So far as this theory has been held by Socinians they have recognized the work of Christ simply as that of the exalted man, Christ Jesus. But as presented by Bushnell and Campbell, God in Christ has thus identified himself with man in his misery and sin. Campbell goes so far as to represent Christ as so fully thus made one with man as to have been the representative penitent and confessor of sin. It is the great love thus shown which exerts the strong moral influence which causes man to repent and to be reconciled unto God.
All the objections to the Middle Theory may with equal force he urged against this. To these may be added:
(1.) That, while that theory recognizes the power to forgive sin to have been bestowed upon Christ as the result of something Christ has done, this confines the effect of his work to the production of penitence in the sinner through the influence which the love he has thus displayed exerts in taking away the indifference and enmity of the human heart.
(2.) That, while this theory recognizes the great truth that the love of Christ exhibited in his sufferings and death, has a strong influence in leading men to reconciliation to God, it diminishes the extent to which this love has been manifested by denying that element in those sufferings which arose from their relation to the penalty endured for sin in the satisfaction of the justice of God.
(3.) That, as indeed is true of all schemes which depend entirely upon subjective influences in the sinner, it fails to present any method of salvation available for those who have had no knowledge of these sufferings. Thus are cut off from all the blessings of salvation, not only all infants and idiots, but also the many saints of God who died before the birth of Jesus.
4. A fourth theory of the Atonement is the Ethical one suggested by the Andover divines. It agrees substantially with the theory just considered, but because of the recent prominence of the “New Theology,” of which Andover may be regarded as the most prominent exponent, it deserves especial consideration in the form set forth by that school. It has been most distinctly presented in a series of articles on “Progressive Orthodoxy,” published editorially in the fourth volume (1885) of the Andover Review. The third of this series is on the Atonement. The quotations which follow are from that article.
The specific points of this theory are:
1. That Christ is universal mediator, and as such, must appear for the relief of any portion of the universe which needs his help.
“Christ mediates God to the entire universe. Through Christ the worlds were made, and through him they consist. In him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible. To him ultimately not the earth only, but the whole universe is to be made subject, things in heaven and things in earth and things under the earth, . . . . Not until he is known as Head of the universe do we perceive nor can we well understand, that he is the Life and Light of men. The whole truth, then, is that Christ is the revealing or manifesting principle; or, more exactly, that through the Logos, the Word, the Second Person of the Trinity, that which is absolute fullness and truth in God is communicated into finite existences; that through the Eternal Word the created universe is possible; that therefore the universe is Christ’s, the revolving worlds, and they that dwell therein are his to the glory of God the Father. The created universe and all rational beings are through Christ and in Christ. Therefore he mediates or reveals God to any part of his universe according to the condition or need which may exist in that part. If at any point his world is sick, weary, guilty, hopeless, there Christ is touched and hurt, and there he appears to restore and comfort. This earth is, it may be, the sheep lost in the wilderness, while the ninety and nine are safe in the fold. Christ cannot be indifferent to the least of his creatures in its pain and wickedness, for his universe is not attached to him externally, but vitally. He is not a governor set over it, but is its life everywhere. He feels its every movement, most of all its spiritual life and spiritual feebleness or disease, and appears in his glorious power even at the remotest point. If there were but one sinner, Christ would seek him. If but one planet were invaded by sin, Christ would come to its relief.” p. 57.
2. His incarnation would probably have occurred if there had been no sin, but the existence of sin changes its conditions, but not the power and reality of Christ.
“The opinion has reason in it that there would have been the Incarnation even if there had been no sin,” p. 58. “It is, of course, true that in order to reveal God in a world of sin and guilt the historical conditions, and especially the suffering conditions, of our Lord’s life must have been, in important respects, what they would not otherwise have been. It is also probable that the profoundest disclosure of the love of God in Christ has been made in the redemption of sinful man. But only the conditions, not the power and reality of Christ, are contingent on sin,” p. 57.
3. The effect of Christ’s work has been to change the relations of God to man which secures a change in the relation of man to God. This is the reconciliation effected.
“The very best word the gospel gives to express the complete result of Christ’s work is reconciliation, a word signifying that God is brought into a new relation to man and that man is brought into a new relation with God. The ultimate fact, however, is that God’s relation to man is changed in Christ from what it otherwise could be, and that therefore man’s relation to God is changed. Redemption thus originates with God, who in Christ finds a way through obstacles to the sinner, so that he can righteously forgive and bless. Because God is reconciled in Jesus Christ man repents and begins a new life,” p. 58.
4. In the work of Atonement there is no imputation or transfer of the sin of man to Christ nor of Christ’s righteousness to man.
“It is no longer believed that personal merit and demerit can be transferred from one to another. . . . It is not believed that the consequences of sin can be removed from the transgressor by passing them on to another. Conduct, character, and condition are inseparable. The results of sin are part of the ethical personality, and cannot be detached, nor borne by another,” p. 60.
5. Yet in Christ as the substitute of man the race approaches God representatively suffering for sin and repenting of it.
“He is an individual, but an individual vitally related to every human being. He preferred to be called the Son of Man. Paul sees in him the Head of humanity, the second Adam. He is one who is not himself a sinner, yet is a man who is not himself contending against sinful and corrupt tendencies, yet has so identified himself with humanity that its burden of suffering rested on him, and every man was within his reach of sympathy….
“Humanity may thus be thought of as offering something to God of eminent value. When Christ suffers, the race suffers. When Christ is sorrowful, the race is sorrowful. Christ realizes what humanity could not realize for itself. The race may be conceived as approaching God, and signifying its penitence by pointing to Christ, and by giving expression in him to repentance which no words could utter. Thus we can regard him as our substitute, not because he stands apart, not because he is one and the race another, but because he is so intimately identified with us, and because in essential respects the life of every one is, or may be, locked in with his…. Here is the truth of McLeod Campbell’s view of atonement. The entire race repents or is capable of repenting through Christ. It renders in him a complete repentance… ,” pp. 61, 62.
6. This substitutionary suffering and penitence is not, however, available apart from the power of man to repent, and the attainment in the individual of repentance. It avails only because man, although a sinner, is still, under appropriate influences, capable of repenting, and the suffering of Christ for man, and his sympathy with him are able to awaken man to real repentance which is revolutionary and thorough.
“But Christ’s power to represent or be substituted for man is always to be associated with man’s power to repent. The possibility of redeeming man lies in the fact that although he is by act and inheritance a sinner, yet under the appropriate influence he is capable of repenting. The power of repentance remains, and to this power the gospel addresses itself. Christ suffering and sympathizing with men is able to awaken in them and express for them a real repentance. It is to this power that Christ, the holy and the merciful, attaches himself. Realizing it in some, and being able to realize it in all he represents humanity before God. Now the power of repentance, which so far as it exists, is the power of recuperation, is superior to the necessities of past wrong-doing and of present habit. It is the one fact which can never be estimated for what it may do, which baffles the calculation of the wisest observers. The penitent man, so far as he really repents, is in the exercise of a freedom which resists and almost subjugates the forces of evil. In union with Christ, who brings spiritual truth and power to man, repentance is radical. Man left to himself cannot have a repentance which sets him free from sin and death. But in Christ he is moved to repentance which is revolutionary. . . . It is not true, we admit and insist, that repentance without Christ is availing for redemption, for man of himself cannot repent; but, on the other hand it is not true that Christ’s atonement has value without repentance. Christ’s sacrifice avails with God because it is adapted to bring man to repentance. This gives it ethical meaning and value,” pp. 62, 63.
7. The sufferings and death of Christ can be substituted for the punishment of man, not because the guilt of man was borne by him and was atoned for in the way maintained by the older Calvinistic divines, but because:
(1.) By them, as truly and fully as by such punishment, was expressed the abhorrence of God for sin, and the righteousness of the law.
(2.) Because in this way is revealed the love of God, who so seeks the sinner as to manifest that even his wrath is but his love which, cannot allow the sinner to be blessed in his sin.
(3.) Because thus is an end put to separation from God, which is the first and greatest punishment of sin; and in view of Christ’s death it would be puerile to exact literal punishment of those who are thereby made sorry for sin and brought in penitence to God.
(4.) Because by his knowledge of them man is brought to repentance.
“The punishment and consequences of sin make real God’s abhorrence of sin, and the righteousness of law. The sufferings and death of his only Son also realize God’s hatred of sin, and the righteous authority of law; therefore punishment need not be exacted.”
* * * * * * * * *
“It must be confessed, however, that it is not clear how the sufferings and death of Christ can be substituted for the punishment of sin; how, because Christ made vivid the wickedness of sin and the righteousness of God, man is therefore any the less exposed to the consequences of sin. We must go on to the fact that Christ makes real very much more than God’s righteous indignation against sin. The punishment of sin does not save men. It only vindicates God and his law. Christ, while declaring God’s righteousness, reveals God seeking men, and at the cost of sacrifice. He shows that God loves men, and energizes in Christ to bring them to himself; that really the wrath of God is only a manifestation of the love of God, since God cannot allow the sinner to be blessed in his sin. The very fact, that God’s Son cannot be among men for their redemption except at the cost of suffering from the sin of man and of dying at their bands, shows both the intrinsic badness of sin and the undiscouraged love of God to sinners. What really occurs is the approach of God to men in Christ, who shows by his words and life the Father unto them: who draws them back to God in recoil from sin, and whose sufferings, by reason of sin, condemned sin more unmistakably than the punishment of it could have done.”
Sin is to be looked on not only as an obstacle which keeps man from coming to God, but also as an obstacle which keeps God from coming to man. God loves man, and would bless him. But sin impedes God’s love, sets it back, awakens God’s disapproval, so that instead of blessing he must condemn and punish. The ideal relation of God is love, but the actual relation is wrath. The sin of man prevents God’s love from flowing forth, so that the God of love is in reality hostile to man. In Christ God can come to man in another relation, because Christ is a new divine power in the race to turn it away from sin unto God.”
“God does not become propitious because man repents and amends, for that is beyond man’s power. He becomes propitious because Christ, laying down his life, makes the race to its worst individual capable of repenting, obeying, trusting; and he does this in such a way that God’s abhorrence to sin is realized, the majesty of law honored, the sinner and the universe convinced of the righteousness of the divine judgments.”
“The first and the greatest punishment of sin is separation from God, the withdrawal of those influences from God by which man is blessed. The consequences of sin in body and character are secondary, are only results of separation from God. It is because God is far away that such consequences follow. In Christ, the lowly, the suffering, the triumphant, God can come near to man to bless him. Christ brings God the Person to man the person, and in such manner that God is known as the God of holy love, the loving and holy Father. The goodness of God leads man to repentance. Man is at peace with God, and the worst punishment of sin is righteously removed.”
“It is true, then, that Christ suffered for our sins, and that because he suffered our sins are forgiven. But the suffering was borne because it lay in the path to redemption. The realization of God’s love in Christ was possible only through the suffering and death of Christ; and because he suffered and died in bringing the knowledge and love of God to men it is no longer necessary that men should suffer all the consequences of sin. The ethical ends of punishment are more than realized in the pain and death of the Redeemer, through whom man is brought to repentance. His death is a new fact, an astonishing, revealing, persuasive, melting fact, in view of which it would be puerile to exact literal punishment of those who are thereby made sorry for sin and brought in penitence to God. But it is all inseparable from repentance or appropriation. There is thus a limit to the vicarious principle. It is limited in its application by the personal relation of every man to Christ. He who is not moved to penitence and faith by Christ is under a greater condemnation. If he is incorrigible the condemnation is final and irreversible.” pp. 63-65.
8. The application of the gospel is made by the Spirit who regenerates no one except through that one’s personal knowledge and experience of it.
“It is the function of the Holy Spirit to take the things of Christ, and show them unto men. So far as we know the Holy Spirit does not regenerate men except through the knowledge, motive, and power of the gospel.” p.67.
9. Justice to God’s own love requires that this revelation of himself be made known to every sinner.
“Justice is concerned that every attribute of God should be displayed; is as jealous for the rights of love as for those of holiness. If it is God’s very nature to love, if it is a desire of his to save men from sin, justice sees to it that love is not deprived of its rights, and is not hindered in any of its impulses. We may go so far as to say that it would not be just for God to condemn men hopelessly when they have not known him as he really is, when they have not known him in Jesus Christ. And it is evidently the intent of God that all men should know him through Christ. The judgment does not come till the gospel has been preached to all nations. The gospel is preached to a nation, not when within certain geographical boundaries it has been proclaimed at scattered points, but only when in reality all individuals of all the nations have known it.” pp. 66, 67.
Various objections may be made to the theory thus presented, which are common to it and the theory of Moral Influence.
The following, however, are some of those which are suggested by its distinctive features:
1. Against the idea of universal mediation by Christ.
(1.) That its plausibility arises from an indefinite and mixed idea of mediation, because of which a relation of actual mediation is based upon facts which do not involve such a relation. A mediator is not an agent by which an act is done by one person for another, as would have been the creation of the world had Christ alone accomplished it for God. A mediator is not a medium of communication by which one person conveys information to another. Yet the writer so claims when he says: “Therefore he mediates or reveals God to any part of his universe.” p. 57. A mediator is one who intervenes between two persons to bring them into agreement or accord with each other. It is in this sense only that it is applicable to the position occupied by Christ between God and sinful man. It is not allowable, therefore, to base a theory of the position thus occupied and the work accomplished in it upon any relation occupied by Christ as the agent through whom the worlds were made, or the revealer through whom God makes himself known.
(2) But Christ is not even a universal medium.
(a) He is not so in creation, for creation is not his work alone, but is the work of God, in which each of the Persons of the Trinity co-operated (see chapter xvi on the Outward Relations of the Trinity, pp. 156-159). His work, therefore, could not have been so exclusive as to make allowable the idea that the Father and the Spirit so stood apart from creation, or have, subsequently,been so isolated from the universe as to make Christ the sole medium between God, or between the other Persons of tile Trinity, and that creation. Yet such is manifestly the idea upon which is based the universal unity of Christ with creation and his mediation for it with God.
(b) He is not a universal medium in revealing the nature and glory of God to the whole universe, for the Scripture no where teaches that he has thus revealed God, except in connection with the work of Incarnation and Redemption. But the revelation made in this is only stated to be to men and to heavenly inhabitants. Nowhere is taught either the fact or the possibility that such a revelation is made by him to the Devil and his hosts. It may be that the corruption and blindness caused by their sin denies to them, as these do to unregenerate man, the capacity to receive such truth. But, upon whatever ground we may account for it, or although no reason can he assigned for it, the fact remains that the Scriptures give no hint that devils participate in that knowledge of God’s wondrous excellence which the gospel teaches is made known by Christ to men and angels.
(3) Neither is any foundation given in Scripture or reason for belief that any intermediary is necessary between God and his innocent creatures. The position he occupies towards sinless beings is unquestionably set forth in the language of Gen. 1:31, “And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” The Scriptures in general represent God’s pure and holy angels as in his presence, as receiving communications from him, and as messengers sent forth by him to minister to the heirs of salvation. The only intermediary between God and an innocent being which the Scriptures mention was between God and Christ himself, when, after his temptation “angels came and ministered unto him,” Matt. 4:11, and, when, after his prayer in Gethsemane for the removal of the cup “there appeared unto him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.” Luke 22:43.
(4) But all foundation for a theory of universal mediation is destroyed by the fact that no such mediation has occurred in connection with sinful beings other than man. Especially here has it not been true that “if at any point his world is sick, weary, guilty, hopeless, there Christ is touched and hurt, and there he appears to restore and comfort,” p. 57. Who in all creation have been more guilty, or who more hopeless than the “angels which kept not their own principality, but left their proper habitation,” and whom it is said “he hath kept in everlasting bonds under darkness unto the judgement of the great day?” Jude 6. Neither in times before nor in the work of his incarnation has Christ provided redemption for these as universal Mediator. In the redemptive work of his incarnation we are expressly told that he did this not, for it is said that “verily not of angels did he take hold, but he taketh hold of the seed of Abraham.” Heb. 2:16. Indeed Paul seems to teach that no mediation could have been for any other race than man, when in the context he says, “since then the children are sharers in flesh and blood, he also himself in like manner partook of the same.” (v. 14,) and when he elsewhere asserts that the “one mediator between God and man” is “himself man, Christ Jesus.”
It seems, therefore, that so far as the idea of universal mediatorship by Christ is essential to it, this theory cannot be accepted. Yet the writer in the review puts it forth as the true starting-point of the inquiry for “a doctrinal statement which shall be comprehensive, satisfactory, and, at the same time, free from ethical objections and inconsistencies,” p. 56.
The further objections suggested to the theory itself will test its freedom from these objections and inconsistencies.
2. This theory cannot be an adequate expression of the Scripture teachings about Christ’s sufferings and death, because it sets forth nothing in them, because of which God can justly pardon and accept the sinner. The sinner is recognized as deserving punishment. But that punishment is not borne by Christ. All that Christ does is to suffer, but the sufferings and death are not recognized as punishment endured in the place of the sinner. Neither is there any transfer to Christ of the guilt or of the sin of man. Christ is not a substitute to bear the penalty of sin, but only a substitute who represents the race in its approach to God in the confession of sin and repentance for it. This explanation of his sufferings and death does not, therefore, remove the sin of man, nor make atonement for it.
It is said, however, that thus is taken away the greatest punishment of sin, the separation from God. But no reason is assigned why approach between God and man is thus obtained, except that in the death and sufferings of Christ God expresses his abhorrence of sin and manifests the righteousness of the law. But what is there in these sufferings and that death as expounded by this theory which exhibits God’s feelings in these directions? It is said, because, rather than save man in his sin or leave him to its just punishment, God sent his Son, although he must suffer and die at the hands of men. But this is the rather an exhibition of God’s mercy toward man desiring to avert the sufferings man must endure. There is no evidence of his abhorrence of sin, though he is unwilling that man should continue a sinner. Sin may be looked upon only as great calamity, not as heinous evil. It may be considered only as would be poverty in one of the sons of a rich man, in the deprivations of which the father is unwilling that the son he would restore, should remain in that restoration to his family.
Neither does it appear why these sufferings and death are necessary, because of Christ’s life with man on this earth. It is affirmed that this is so, but no reason is given for such necessity. Christ in his union with the race is said to be the great confessor and penitent. But why also the great sufferer and martyr? Why could he not have appeared among men without suffering at their hands, or being put to death by them? The theory does not represent him as receiving suffering and death from God, except in this providential way. Is it not plain that no explanation of his sufferings and death can be given which does not recognize these as inflicted by God, and however wickedly by man, only by man as the instrument of the suffering, the cause of which is the sin which he bore for man and the ultimate source of which is God, not in his mere providential action, but as the avenger of sin and of the violations of his righteous law? But this theory recognizes no such explanation and so far at least fails to show how, because of Christ’s work, God can “himself be just, and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus.” Rom. 3:26.
3. Neither can this theory find anything in its explanation of the sufferings and death of Christ which enables him to make such a revelation of God as could not have been made without them. When the death of Christ is viewed on the one hand as the result of the inexorable demands of justice, which can only thus be satisfied for sins committed and guilt incurred in the violation of moral law, and, on the other hand, of those of mercy which will offer up all rather than not rescue those whom it would pardon, and additionally of those of truth which cannot swerve from an adequate fulfilment of all that it has threatened, and of those of love which clings with inseparable affection to those whom it deems its own then is made such an exhibition of the attributes of God as no thought can fathom and no words express. Hence in his incarnation and sacrifice Christ has made such a revelation of God as could not otherwise have been attained. But what revelation of what attribute of God is expressed in the sufferings of Christ according to this theory which cannot be uttered in words and taught without those attendant sufferings and death? Yet, if the subjective salvation which this theory presents as wrought out in the sinner could have been accomplished without these sufferings and that death, as it thus appears it could have been if dependent only on the revelation thus pointed out as made, then is it certain that Christ would not have died. It is precisely similar to the supposed case of the possibility of righteousness by law as to which Paul declared that if true then “Christ died for nought” Gal. 2:21.
4. The plan of salvation is represented in Scripture as one of grace without the works of law, but this theory makes it one partly by Christ’s work and partly by that of the sinner. Repentance on the part of the sinner is so absolutely necessary, not as a consequence, but as an effective cause that it is even said that “it is not true that Christ’s atonement has value without repentance,” p. 63.
5. The act of the sinner by which his justification is attained is stated in Scripture to be faith; and as to that justification or righteousness it is said, “For this cause it is of faith, that it may be according to grace; to the end that the promise may be sure to all the seed.” Rom. 4:16. But this theory makes repentance the sole requisite in the sinner, it being left us to infer that faith is not excluded wherever it is necessary to repentance as a subordinate concomitant. This theory would make necessary such a revision of the word of God as would substitute repentance for faith in hundreds of places. It is a singular fact that in this article of about five hundred and fifty lines of a broad octavo page the word “faith” occurs but once, and that in this sentence, “He who is not moved to penitence and faith by Christ is under a greater condemnation,” p. 65. How different from the doctrinal expositions of the work of Christ contained in the word of God. It would have been impossible for Paul to write one-tenth as much on this subject without using the word “faith.” It would have been equally impossible for the Andover editor to have done so had he held the view of Christ’s work taught by the inspired apostle.
6. Another objection to this theory is its teaching about regeneration. If this never occurs, “except through the knowledge, motive and power of the gospel,” in what way can infants be saved? And if by the gospel is meant not merely a promise of salvation, without definite knowledge of the revelations made in the work during the incarnation, how have the saints of old attained salvation? Yet, evidently, such must be the meaning, as this theory declares repentance to be necessary in every sinner, and that “it is only in Christ that he has such knowledge of God and of himself as is necessary to a repentance which is revolutionary,” p. 62. Hence there can be no salvation for any man who has not personally known the gospel as revealed in connection with Christ’s work on earth
7. Still another objectionable feature appears in the necessity asserted for the preaching of the gospel to each individual man before justice pronounces its final word.
(a) This idea is based upon a strained interpretation of Mark 13:10. “The gospel must first be preached unto all the nations.”
(b) It is inconsistent with the statements as to the difference of knowledge possessed by men before the judgement-day and the different action towards them by the judge on that account. Christ spoke of those in that day who shall have known and of those who shall not have known the will of the Lord, and declares that the punishments of these will differ. But according to this theory all men will have known of the gospel. Luke 12:47-48. Paul also taught differences in the judgement of men when he wrote, “For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned under law shall be judged by law.” Rom. 2:12.
(c) The idea is baseless that God is under any obligation to man or to himself to secure this universal announcement.
To man God can be under no obligation. He owes nothing except to himself. Therefore the idea of obligation is most adroitly put by the writer, as one to God himself. “If it is God’s very nature to love, if it is a desire of his to save men from sin, justice sees to it that love is not deprived of its rights, and is not hindered in any of its impulses,” pp. 66, 67. That the language is fallacious may be shown by presenting another proposition, at the basis of which the same necessity in God exists; thus if it is God’s very nature to be just, if it is a desire of his to punish men for their sin, justice sees to it that justice is not deprived of its rights, and is not hindered in any of its impulses. The questions in both cases are what are those rights and what are those desires?
Besides this the language used would be equally appropriate after man has rejected the gospel. It would thus furnish an argument for a constant repetition of the gospel offer to each one that has rejected it, and that indefinitely. Indeed if the benevolent wish of God not to punish offenders is a sure hindrance to that punishment, then could they never be punished, for the benevolent love of God flows forth to all his creatures, even in their sins. He has no delight in the death of the wicked, But with God desire is not purpose any more truly than with man. The purposes of God will certainly be accomplished. They will always be in accordance with his nature. But the Scripture teaches no such purpose as that the gospel will be preached to each individual.
5. A fifth theory is what is commonly called the Governmental Theory of the Atonement.
Those who hold this theory maintain that God cannot consistently forgive sin upon mere repentance and faith; but that the necessity for its punishment does not arise from the nature of God, and his abhorrence of sin; wherefore there is no principle in him which requires all sin to be punished for itself alone; but from the necessity which exists for maintaining his moral government in the universe. “They therefore regard the sufferings of Christ as intended to make a moral impression upon the universe by their display of God’s determination to punish sin, and thus to make the forgiveness of sin consistent with the good government of the universe.” [Hodge’s Outlines, p. 301, 1st Edition.]
The objections to this theory are:
1. The nature which it ascribes to sin. It does not regard it essential that all sin should be punished. Therefore sin does not in itself intrinsically deserve punishment.
2. It places the punishment of sin on a wrong basis, namely, the good of the universe as involved in the moral government God; and not because it deserves punishment as sin.
3. God is here beheld, not as a righteous judge taking vengeance on the violators of his law, nor as a rightful king punishing those who have rejected his authority, but simply as a benevolent being entirely regardless of his own nature, or of the difference between right and wrong, punishing some men for the good of others.
4. According to this theory the necessity for punishing sin rests, not in its own nature, but because there are more created beings in the universe than those who have sinned. Had God created one man, or one angel only, and had that angel sinned, there could have been no reason, either in the broken law, or in the dishonour to God, for his punishment, unless other beings were also to be created.
5. This theory claims no support from Scripture; but is presented simply as a philosophical explanation, to avoid the difficulties supposed to exist in the ordinarily received doctrine of the necessity of punishment by God.
6. It is opposed by Scripture in every particular involved in it; the nature of sin; the desert of punishment; the vengeance of God against the violator of his law; the fact that God acts of his own will, and does not draw the reasons of his action from without; the teaching of Scripture about the priestly office of Christ, the work he has done, the position he bore to us as being made sin for us; the ground of our redemption; the causes of condemnation and a hundred other particulars, which show that the Scriptures are not merely not silent on this subject but that the contrary doctrine lies at the very basis of all its instructions.
6. A sixth theory of the Atonement is that of the Arminians, who hold that Christ died, and that for sin; but only in the sense that makes it consistent for God to offer salvation to men on the ground of evangelical obedience, and not of perfect legal obedience.
This theory teaches a general atonement without any application of it on the part of God. Connected with the doctrine of sufficient grace to each man, it supposes that the individual does, or does not exercise faith, and obedience, and thus secures eternal life or loses it.
The objections to this theory are:
1. “That it gives an indefinite conception of what Christ did. Either it involves no satisfaction to divine justice and to the law, or it implies universal satisfaction. In the first case it dishonours God, in the second it forces us to hold the doctrine of universal salvation.” What is meant by the expression, that “he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” if God is not justly under obligations, for what Christ did, to give salvation to all for whom he died?
2. If it be said that the object was simply to make salvation possible for all, the reply is that this is not what the Scriptures represent. They speak positively of salvation as procured, not the means of salvation; and of certain salvation, not possible salvation. “The effects of Christ’s death are spoken of in Scripture as reconciliation and justification, Rom. 5:10; Eph. 2:16; remission of sins, Eph. 1:7; peace, Eph. 2:14; deliverance from wrath, 1 Thess. 1:10; from death, Heb. 2:14; from the curse of the law, Gal. 3:13; from sin,” 1 Pet. 1:18. [Hodge’s Outlines, p. 314, 1st Edition.] We are spoken of as justified when ungodly.
3. This view of the atonement is utterly incompatible with the Scripture doctrines of Innate Corruption, Regeneration, Election, Justification, Adoption, and Sanctification. Every proof of the true doctrine on these points is an argument against it.
4. This theory makes it possible that Christ should have died in vain.
5. This theory makes salvation partly of God and partly of man, in the most objectionable form. It represents God as permitting Christ to die that the demands of the law may be lowered.
7. A seventh theory is the Lutheran, which teaches that Christ’s death was intended to make such a satisfaction to the justice of God that he could offer salvation to all that believe in him.
The objection to this theory is that by rejecting the doctrine of Election it omits a part of the truth. The statement, as made, is not opposed to the views usually held by the orthodox. Salvation is thus offered to all, and offered because satisfaction for sin has been made to the justice of God. But for whom is this salvation? They say, as we do, for those that shall believe. And hence the question between us is, Who will believe, and how will this faith be effected? The doctrine of Election teaches that they shall believe whom God hath chosen, for whom he sent Christ, for whom Christ died; and shall believe as the result of the gracious influences of the Spirit purchased by Christ’s work.
8. The eighth theory of the Atonement is that which declares it to be general, but asserts that it is limited in its application. According to this theory, the work of atonement was not wrought out by Christ for the elect as such, nor for the church, either as foreseen, or designed to be composed of those to be saved; but for sinners, as sinners. The work of atonement had nothing to do with the persons to whom it was to be applied considered as an atonement, but only had respect to men as guilty sinners in God’s sight. The work to be accomplished was precisely what would have been, had there been no election, no church to be established, no work of grace to be wrought on the heart, but each person left to act in its reception, or rejection, as he should choose.
It is in its application only that it has respect to Election, and thus is it made particular, not because in time it is applied to certain persons, but because it was designed in eternity to be thus applied. The application itself, however, involves the design of the atonement; but, simply, that which is made in respect to each individual, when, by regeneration and faith, he is vitally made partaker of Christ. It does not include the sovereign pleasure of God in the purpose to apply. This is involved in election.
The most distinguished advocate of this theory is Andrew Fuller, a man of the clearest perceptions, and of remarkable power of precise statement. His views on the subject appear in the Conversation on Particular Redemption, Andrew Fuller’s Works, Vol. II, p. 692 to 698. He has here sought to establish a theory not substantially different from that of the older Calvinists, but after all, one which has merely at first sight the appearance of being better. The distinction on which he attempts to establish it, however, appears not to be correct. The following extracts from his discussion will show his position. The disputants are Peter and James; the latter presents the views of Fuller. Peter gives the theory as he understands it thus:
“The particularity of the Atonement consists in the sovereign pleasure of God with regard to its application.”
James replies: I should rather say “the particularity of Redemption consists in the sovereign pleasure of God with regard to the application of the Atonement, that is with regard to the persons to whom it shall be applied.”
Again says James: “You say the position in question places the particularity of Redemption in its application. Whence, if you will recollect yourself, you will find that it places it in the Sovereign pleasure of God with regard to application.”
Again Peter: “But, have you ever made use of the term application so as not to include the divine intention?”
James: “I am not aware of having done so.”
Again: He sums up by saying that his “object in the distinction has been merely to distinguish what the death of Christ is sufficient for, from what it was the design of the Father and Son to effect through it.”
Again: “I do not consider particular redemption as being so much a doctrine of itself as a branch of the great doctrine of Election.”
“Atonement and Redemption are both effects of Christ’s death, but in such order as that one is the consequence of the other.”
Again: In the previous conversation on substitution he says, p. 690: “Concerning the death of Christ, if I speak of it irrespective of the purpose of the Father and the Son, as to the objects who should be saved by it, referring merely to what it is in itself sufficient for, and declared in the gospel to be adapted to, I should think I answered the question in the Scriptural way by saying, it was for sinners as sinners. But if I have respect to the purpose of the Father in giving his Son to die and to the design of Christ in laying down his life, I should answer, it was for the elect only.”
This theory agrees with the ordinary theory in:
1. Regarding satisfaction for sin necessary.
2. Recognizing that this has been made by Christ.
3. Claiming that the value of Christ’s death is sufficient for the world.
4. Declaring that its benefits accrue to some only.
5. Maintaining that this limitation is because of God’s purpose, and not because of action on the part of man.
It differs from it in that it makes Redemption and Atonement two different works, instead of the same work viewed in two different aspects. The older doctrine regards the atonement as a reconciliation of sinners to God, but of sinners, who are thus redeemed from the condition of bondage and misery in which they had been. Atonement, therefore, is reconciliation, Redemption is deliverance; but of the same persons by the same work, and at the same time, each being involved in the same decree. The new theory makes atonement an act of reconciliation by Christ’s death, not of the persons redeemed alone, but of the whole world, and this, as the result of a general decree to send Christ to reconcile the world to God. Redemption comes under the decree of Election which has nothing to do with reconciliation; and, by it, only certain persons have the benefit of the reconciliation thus effected, not because of their own acceptance or faith, but because God gives to them all the advantages of the work of atonement and withholds them from all others.
The objections to this view are:
1. That it represents the whole world as actually reconciled to God by Christ’s death. If so, on what ground is this reconciliation destroyed? The doctrine of universal salvation is therefore involved.
2. If this is not the view, then, when the Scriptures speak of our reconciliation to God, nothing more is meant than that a mere mode of reconciliation has been arranged, so that the divine justice has been simply so satisfied that a medium of acceptance with God has been provided. But, if there is merely a medium of acceptance provided, how can men be spoken of as actually reconciled to God? In what proper sense can Christ be said to have borne our sins, and to have been wounded for our transgressions, if his act was merely the arrangement of a medium for salvation? Christ, to make atonement, must have been substituted in our place, borne our sins, had imputed to him our trespasses, and the chastisement of our peace must have been upon him. But, if so, a true atonement must have been made. It could not have been the mere arrangement of a medium of salvation. It must have been salvation itself. And, if for all, all must be saved.
3. This theory is inconsistent with one of the facts admitted by its advocates; that the death of Christ was a penal sacrifice. Penalty and guilt have no respect to sin in the abstract, but only to it as associated with sinners. If the work of atonement simply wrought out a medium of access, then it was a mere general exhibition of God’s hatred of sin, having no respect to particular persons. On the governmental theory that such an arrangement was necessary simply to display before the universe the evil of sin, this idea of atonement might be allowed. But on the theory of satisfaction to justice, the atonement must be made by a penal sacrifice.
4. This only apparently has any advantage over the usual older Calvinistic theory.
(1.) It confines salvation to the elect.
(2.) It gives salvation as the result of God’s action.
(3.) It ascribes no greater value to Christ’s death. The older theory, except as held by those who gave it a commercial character, taught that what Christ needed to do for one man, would have been sufficient for all.
(4.) It, with that theory, ascribes the limitation to God’s purpose; the one holding the purpose in actual salvation; the other the purpose in the application of salvation.
(5.) God can under either, with equal sincerity, make the gospel offer to all.
(a.) Each holds that a sufficient basis for salvation exists if God had chosen to extend it.
(b.) Each holds that God knows that only those chosen by him will accept.
(c.) Each teaches that this acceptance is due to special grace.
(d.) Each maintains that it was God’s purpose to withhold that special grace from some; a purpose formed in eternity and recognized as existing when the sacrifice was offered, and when the offer of salvation is made.
(6.) This seems at first more in accordance with the expressions of general atonement made in the Scriptures; but it appears on examination that the act there spoken of cannot be limited to the meaning here given, and that either these passages teach universal salvation, or they have a meaning, as used by Christ and his Apostles, which does not involve the idea of such equal universality as includes in the same respect in every way every one of the posterity of Adam.
(7.) This theory, like all others of a general atonement, lies under the difficulty that it extends reconciliation, or a medium of reconciliation, to persons, who by death have been confirmed in destruction, or it shuts off from its benefits all who have died before Christ. The theory of limited atonement recognizes all who are included in it as saved by virtue of it. The virtue secured, therefore, is applied to all to whom it belongs. The fact that the Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world, or, in other words, the certainty of Christ’s death, makes salvation beforehand possible, and permits God to bestow it. The death of Christ only fulfils what has thus been relied on. But in the case of a general atonement made for the whole race, we have Christ dying, not simply for those who shall not be saved, but for those who are already damned.
(8.) This theory is incompatible with those expressions of Scripture which speak of Christ’s death as though it were confined to the elect.
John 10:11, 15, 26-28. “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd layeth down his life for the sheep, . . . and I lay down my life for the sheep, . . . but ye believe not because ye are not of my sheep. . . . My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.”
(a.) The sheep here are those to whom he will give eternal life.
(b) They are those for whom he lays down his life.
(c) They are not all, because he tells those who were rejecting him that they were not his sheep.
(d) The whole language used implies that the salvation of the sheep alone is the object for which his life is laid down.
John 17:9, 19. “I pray not for the world, but for those which thou hast given me. . . . For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in the truth.”
Rom. 5:8, 9. “But God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath of God through him.”
Here those for whom Christ died are plainly declared to be thus justified by his blood, and the certainty of salvation from wrath is maintained.
See also the passage in Rom. 8th chapter, where the Apostle uses the language of exultation. In verse 32. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also with him, freely give us all things?”
(a.) For us all: here is the true extent of the atonement. The all, are those who are truly saved.
(b.) Those for whom he has thus been delivered, feel assured that he will give also all grace, so that their salvation is secure. But this is true only of the elect; therefore, for them alone and not for others, was Christ “not spared.”
Verse 34. “Who is he that shall condemn? It is Christ Jesus that died.” This is the sufficient answer as the apostle teaches; but according to the theory of Fuller it is the application of Christ’s death, and not the death itself, that removes condemnation.
Eph. 5:25. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it.”
Titus 2:14. “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a people for his own possession, zealous of good works.” It is for the “us” who compose this people, that Christ has given “himself.”
1 Peter 1:20. The very manifestation of Christ in the world is said to have taken place for those “who through him are believers in God.”
The arguments in favor of this later theory are (1) that the Scriptures use expressions, which favor a general atonement, at the same time that they speak of a specific object in Christ’s death. It is claimed that both, the general atonement, and the particular application are thus taught.
(2) The second argument is that this will make the specific offer of the gospel to all appear more sincere than the other form.
These arguments will be considered in connection with the last theory of atonement, commonly called the Calvinistic theory. It is that of Calvin and the churches which he established. It is the theory of the Regular Baptists of the past. No other prevailed among those who have held distinctively Calvinistic Baptist sentiments until the days of Andrew Fuller. He, because of his great ability, contributed greatly to the acceptance of the modification which we have just been considering. After stating the older Calvinistic theory it will be shown that it is the Scriptural doctrine of the atonement in each of its particulars. It has been assumed heretofore that the nature of the Atonement is such as is taught by this theory. After this proof inquiry will be made into its extent, whether it is general or particular. In that place will naturally come up the questions as to the true explanation of the passages which have been thought to teach a general atonement.
7. The Calvinistic theory of the atonement is, that in the sufferings and death of Christ, he incurred the penalty of the sins of those whose substitute he was, so that he made a real satisfaction to the justice of God for the law which they had broken. On this account, God now pardons all their sins, and being fully reconciled to them, his electing love flows out freely towards them.
The doctrine as thus taught involves the following points:
I. That the sufferings and death of Christ were a real atonement.
II. That in making it Christ became the substitute of those whom he came to save.
III. That as such he bore the penalty of their transgressions.
IV. That in so doing he made ample satisfaction to the demands of the law, and to the justice of God.
V. That thus an actual reconciliation has been made between them and God.
Each of these will need explanation and amplification, as well as proof, that its precise meaning may be clearly ascertained.
I. The first point to be proved is that the death of Christ was a real atonement.
By this is meant that the death of Christ was not merely a moral example, as say the Socinians; that it was not a mere exhibition of God’s determination to maintain his government for the benefit of his creatures, according to the governmental hypothesis; that it has not only a manifestation of God’s abhorrence of sin by which man could be led to penitence, as held by the New Theology; that it was not merely an arrangement set forth in the universe as the means of lowering the demands of the law, as say the Arminians; but that it was a sacrifice for sin, the great antitype of the Mosaic sacrifices, by which, guilt and condemnation is taken away from those for whom he made it, and they are made at-one with God. The proof that this was the nature of Christ’s act, is:
1. That this is the generally received notion of sacrifice in all nations.
2. That the earliest record of sacrifice, in the history of Cain and Abel, points to the idea that God had appointed a mode of expiation for guilt. The sacrifice of Abel was in one sense no better than that of Cain. Each was a gift; but that of Abel was a sacrifice of blood, in testimony of acknowledged guilt; that of Cain merely a thank offering. The Lord had respect to the offering of Abel, and when Cain was angry, the Lord remonstrated with him, and said: “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin coucheth at the door.” Gen. 4:7. This account establishes the fact that the idea of sacrifice, which thus has prevailed among all men, originated in early instruction by God, beginning from the time of our first parents.
3. When we come, however, to look at the sacrifices of the Mosaic economy, we find still the same idea taught, and even more fully; since the type was now confined to the nation through which the antitype was to appear. That economy shows that the blood of animals was constantly offered to God; that this was done by his command as making reconciliation and atonement; that in these offerings was always involved the idea of sin committed by the people, or the individual, or the priests, or a ceremonial defilement of the nature of sin, which made essential the cleansing of the altar itself or the persons officiating; that, in the act of sacrifice, the hand of the individual, or of the elders, or of the priests was laid upon the head of the animal for the confession of sin upon it, that it might be made a proper sacrifice; that the animal was then slain or sent away; and that, as the result of all these arrangements, the forgiveness of sin followed.
This latter idea may appear too strongly put, but it is owing to our overlooking the fact that the sins thus atoned for were not all the sins of the Israelites, but only the sins which took place in their civil relations as individuals, or as a nation to God. The forgiveness of them involved, therefore, only the temporal blessings thus associated. As they were typical of Christ and of a heavenly Canaan, so those who looked through the type to the antitype received full pardon for all sins, because of the offering that God was to make, and in which they trusted. In either case, however, there was actual remission of sins. For the national or individual sins, for which God had appointed this method of pardon, there was actual remission because of the sacrifice, and, in those who looked forward to Christ, and for whom, therefore, his sacrifice was made, there was also actual remission of the sins thus laid upon him.
Another caution is also suggested here. We speak of the sacrifices of old as the means God appointed for the pardon of sin. And in like manner we speak of God’s method of salvation being by the death of Christ. But, in either case, we do not mean by the expression that the means of salvation alone was in the sacrifice, but salvation itself. The law of sacrifice was the method of God for the remission of sin, but the sacrifice itself secured the actual remission: so, the death of Christ may be contemplated as God’s method of saving sinners so long as we are speaking of it as the arrangement or scheme devised by God to accomplish a certain work; but, as itself a sacrifice, the death of Christ secured salvation, and not the mere means of salvation.
4. Such, now, being the usage of the word sacrifices among all men, and especially in the Jewish nation, did we find merely the word sacrifice used in reference to Christ, we should be justified in believing that there was made by him a real sacrifice or atonement. If the New Testament or the other Scriptures said nothing of the nature of his work or of its effects, we should be fully warranted in saying that, because it was a sacrifice, it secured an actual remission of sins by the shedding of his blood. Were we confined to this argument, therefore, we might simply show that the New Testament does speak of him as the Lamb of God, as our Passover, and as having died for us, and thence we might argue that he has made a real atonement for us. But we may go much farther and show that it actually teaches this fact.
5. It is clearly taught that by Christ’s sacrificial death was made an offering for sin which actually secured the pardon of the sinner.
The prophets of old spake of it in this wise.
Thus in Isaiah 53:6, 10, 11. “All we like sheep have gone astray, . . . and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. . . . Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, . . . He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many: and he shall bear their iniquities.”
The points here are: (1.) Our sins are laid on him. (2.) he is afflicted. (3.) He is made an offering for sin. (4.) Thus he justifies many (not all,–and why these?), because “he shall bear their iniquities.”
Daniel 9:24, 26. “Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish transgression, and to make an end of sin, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in ever-lasting righteousness, . . . And after the threescore and two weeks shall the anointed one be cut off, and shall have nothing.”
The New Testament teaching corresponds with that of the Old.
John 1:29. The announcement of the Messiah by John shows that the sacrifice of Christ was the prominent work of his life. “Behold, the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” The same announcement was made again the next day.
John 6:51. The Saviour says, “the bread which I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.”
The above are positive declarations. We must take them in the fulness of the declaration made. It may be necessary to show how these expressions are applicable only to some and not to every individual in the world, to avoid the error of Universalism, but they distinctly declare of all to whom they may be applied that sin was taken away and life given by the atonement.
Matt. 20:28. “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
Matt. 26:28. “This is my blood of the Covenant which is shed for many unto remission of sins.”
Acts 20:28. “The church of God which he purchased with his own blood.”
Romans 5:10. “We were reconciled to God through the death of his Son.”
2 Cor. 5:18, 19. “But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation; To-wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses, and having committed unto us the word of reconciliation.”
Eph. 5:2. “Christ . . . gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for an odour of a sweet smell.”
Col. 1:14, 19, 22. “In whom we have our redemption, the forgiveness of sins. . . . For it was the good pleasure of the Father that in him should all the fulness dwell; And, through him to reconcile all things unto himself, having made peace through the blood of his cross; through him I say, whether things upon the earth, or things in the heavens. And you being in time past alienated and enemies in your mind in your evil works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and without blemish and unreprovable before him.” This passage includes all the points under the head we are now discussing. We have here a sacrifice by Christ in his death; through his blood peace is effected, and forgiveness of sins; not the means, but the things themselves; actual forgiveness, actual peace.
The whole Epistle to the Hebrews is proof upon this point.
1 Peter 1:18-20. “Knowing that ye were redeemed, not, etc., but with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ.”
1 John 2:2. “He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world.”
1 John 4:10. “God sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
The passages adduced will suffice to show that Christ’s work was a real sacrifice; that by his blood he procured pardon, peace, redemption and remission of sins for those whom he represented. How many or how few these are does not here affect the question. The work here done was a sacrifice and was completely accomplished.
The proof to be given of the other points will add materially to the evidence of the nature of the work of Christ in this respect.
II. In order to make this atonement Christ became the substitute of those whom he came to save.
Here, also, we may refer to the position in this respect occupied by the offering under the Mosaic laws, as well as to the general notion of sacrifice.
The language of Job 1:1-5 indicates that he recognized the fact that substitutes might be put, and would be accepted in the place of those who were guilty of offences to God. And this may be taken as evidence of the usually received opinion before the segregation of Israel, as well as of that among the Gentiles subsequent to that event.
But the declarations of God as to the Levitical sacrifices and the method of their observance exhibit this more clearly.
In the first chapter of Leviticus God gives to Moses directions, as to the offering of sacrifices by the people: among other things he says, verse 4, of the individual making the offering; “He shall lay his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.”
This is the substitution of the victim. We have in Leviticus 10:17, where Moses blames Eleazar and Ithamar, the sons of Aaron, for neglecting to eat the sin offering, the declaration of the substitution which took place in the priest. Christ bore both offices.
“Wherefore have ye not eaten the sin offering in the place of the sanctuary, seeing it is most holy, and He hath given it you to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord?”
Both these cases are mentioned to show that there was a substitution of the priest, and one of the victim. It was in the latter sense that Christ bore the sins of the people and made atonement.
The account of the scape goat, in Leviticus 16:20-22, furnishes another instance of substitution, which, as another use will be made of it, is not referred to here at length. It is, however, a signal example of such a substitution, as put an animal in the place of Israel, and made him, as their substitute, to bear their iniquities.
These declarations of the substitution of the victim are numerous in Exodus and Leviticus, and are referred to in all the Mosaic books. They, therefore, made familiar to the Jewish people the notion of substitution, and impressed upon them the need of a victim, for the making of atonement, who should actually stand in the place of those who were to be atoned for. The language of the Scriptures as to Christ, therefore, could not have been otherwise understood. As used by the Prophets, by John the Baptist, and by the inspired writers of the New Testament it must have been intended to make this impression, which must inevitably have been produced. So much is this so, that the prophetic language of Isaiah, relative to Christ’s sufferings, was felt to be so completely fulfilled in them, that almost all the language in the New Testament, which speaks of his atonement, is tinged by the expressions there used.
Let us look at the 53d chapter of Isaiah, then, as indicative of the teachings of the sacrifices, and of the work foretold to be accomplished.
The whole chapter speaks of substitution and inflicted penalty. The following passages refer to substitution:
Verses 4 and 5. “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
Verse 6. “The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Verse 11. “By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many: and he shall bear their iniquities.”
Verse 12. “He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
The following passages show that the New Testament recognized the fulfilment of these prophecies, and that in Christ was found the antitype of the sacrifices of old in this respect.
Matt. 20:28. “The Son of man came…to give his life a ransom for many.”
Matt. 26:28. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is shed for many unto remission of sins.”
John 11:47-52 gives an account of a council among the Jews, in which a certain remark was made by Caiaphas, which the Evangelist claims as a prophecy and applies to Jesus.
See verses 49-52. “But a certain one of them, Calaphas, being high priest that year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, nor do ye take account that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. Now this he said not of himself: but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation; and not for the nation only, but that he might also gather into one the children of God that were scattered abroad.”
Rom. 5:8. “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”
Rom. 8:32. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all.”
2 Cor. 5:21. “Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our own behalf.”
Gal. 1:3, 4. “Our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins.
Gal. 3:13. “Having become a curse for us.”
Eph. 5:2. “Christ also loved you, and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God, for an odour of a sweet smell.”
1 Thess. 5:9, 10. “For God appointed us not unto wrath, but unto the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.”
1 Tim. 2:5, 6. “For there is one God, one mediator also between God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all; the testimony to be borne in its own times.”
There are several questions which arise in consequence of this substitution on the part of Christ.
One as to the qualifications essential to it which he possessed.
Another as to the manner in which substitution can be effected.
Another as to the justice with which an innocent person can be put in the place of a guilty one.
And yet another, whether Christ, being thus substituted, became personally a sinner.
These questions belong the rather, however, to a discussion of imputation and are only relevant here, because that doctrine is implied in this doctrine of atonement. The only exception is the first. The second and third have already been discussed in treating of the representative relation of Adam and the principle of substitution involved in it, and in the law of sacrifices.
As to the fourth point it may be said that Christ is not represented in Scripture as made personally a sinner by substitution; neither were the sacrifices of old regarded as personally obnoxious to God. But they were so officially; that is, in their positions as substitutes; and Christ became so, being made a curse for us. But this official substitution did not make him a sinner, but only caused him to be treated as such.
The first question may be answered thus:
1. That the possession of a human nature, such as ours, is represented in Scripture as essential to his position as substitute.
2. The possession of a divine nature, in consequence of which he was a divine person, was also requisite to give an infinite value to his work.
3. It seems also essential that he should not have been two persons, a divine person, and a human person; else could not the value of the acts performed in his human nature have been greater than those of any other innocent man. It was, therefore, not the human nature of Christ that was substituted for us, but Christ himself; yet it was not Christ in his divine nature that suffered, but value was given to the suffering from its being the suffering of one who also essentially possessed the divine nature.
The doctrine of the Trinity lies, therefore, at the basis of that of the atonement, and hence the denial of the latter by all those who reject the former.
4. A holy nature; a lamb without spot or blemish.
5. As consequent upon the possession of such a union of natures in himself Christ could make a voluntary offering of himself, by which merit could be procured and penalty endured for others.
6. That he should be designated by the Father to this position, that he might be the legal representative of his people and their covenant head.
III. In so offering himself, Christ actually bore the penalty of the transgressions of those for whom he was substituted.
1. This point is involved in the two that have preceded it, and consequently may be argued from the evidence afforded by them. These points mutually confirm each other. Thus, in bearing the penalty, he appears to have been substituted for us and to have been made a sacrifice. In being made a sacrifice, he has been substituted and has borne the penalty. We may, therefore, present all the proofs that Christ was a sacrifice, and was the substitute for our sins, as so much in favor of the fact that he bore the penalty of transgression.
But we may otherwise learn from the Scriptures themselves that this penalty was actually borne by Christ. It is taught:
2. In those passages in which Christ is represented as having home our iniquities. The meaning of this clause is definitely fixed by the Scripture usage. In the following passages this phrase is applied to Christ:
Isaiah 53:6. “The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Isaiah 53:11. “By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many, and he shall bear their iniquities.”
Isaiah 53:12. “He was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bare the sin of many.”
Heb. 9:28. “Having been once offered to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time apart from sin, to them that wait for him unto salvation.”
1 Peter 2:24. “Who his own self bare our sins in his body upon the tree.”
The following passages show that the phrase “to bear iniquity” means to bear the penalty of iniquity.
Lev. 5:1. “And if any one sin in that he heareth the voice of adjuration, he being a witness, whether he hath seen or known, if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity.”
Lev. 5:17. “And if any one sin and do any of the things which the Lord hath commanded not to be done; though he know it not, yet is he guilty and shall bear his iniquity.”
Lev. 7:18. “If any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings be eaten on the third day, it shall not be accepted, neither shall it be imputed unto him that offereth it: it shall be an abomination, and the soul that eateth of it shall bear his iniquity.”
Lev. 19:8. “But every one that eateth it shall bear his iniquity, because he hath profaned the holy thing of the Lord: and that soul shall be cut off from his people.”
Lev. 24:15. “And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin.”
Numbers 14:34. “After the number of the days in which ye spied out the land, even forty days for every day a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my alienation.”
Ezekiel 18:20. “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.”
Ezekiel 44:10, 12. “But the Levites that went far from me, when Israel went astray, which went astray from me after their idols; they shall bear their iniquity.” “Because they ministered unto them before their idols, and became a stumbling block of iniquity unto the house of Israel; therefore have I lifted up mine hand against them, saith the Lord God, and they shall hear their iniquity.” [See Magee on the Atonement, vol. 1, pp. 200-220, for an able and learned discussion of the meaning of the phrase “bear iniquity.”]
2. Another class of passages shows that Christ bore the penalty of sin by representing him as suffering because of it, and as bearing the penalty attached to it. Such passages used as to an innocent person show that he bore the penalty for others, but in most it is distinctly declared that it was for his people.
Suffering is of three kinds: (1.) Calamity or misfortune, which has no reference to sin. (2.) Chastisement, which is designed for the improvement of the sufferer. (3.) Punishment or penalty, which is designed for satisfaction to justice. The language of Scripture shows that the sufferings of Christ were of the last class.
(1.) That class of passages which represents Christ as suffering because of our sin, or that his sufferings were connected with our sins.
The passage in Isaiah 53:4, 5 is a signal example. “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
In accordance with this vision of the prophet we have the accounts given in the New Testament.
Rom. 4:25. “Who was delivered up for our trespasses.”
Heb. 13:12. “Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people through his own blood, suffered without the gate.”
1 Pet. 2:24. “Who his own self bare our sins in his body upon the tree.”
1 Pet. 3:18. “Because Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.”
More passages might he given were it not that the Scriptures more frequently state the nature of this connection, and they will be quoted in the succeeding class under this head.
(2.) The second class of passages which treats of the connection of Christ’s sufferings with our sins is that which represents those sufferings as the penalty of our sins, or which declares that Christ bore that penalty.
The penalty which Christ bore for us, includes all the suffering which he endured on our behalf. It is not confined to any one act of his life, but, as those sufferings culminated in the agony of the cross, the penalty is spoken of chiefly as borne there. His previous sufferings, the miseries to which he was subjected, and the evils he endured, were but as the beginning, and a small beginning of the penalty which he there completed.
The penalty due for our transgressions was death, the full meaning of which is only foreshadowed to us by the death of the body. Added to this is the separation from God, by reason of the moral death which ensued from sin, and the condition of condemnation for sin. The former must be eternal, unless restoration to God is effected. The latter involves eternal death in its mere execution.
Christ bore the guilt of those for whom he died, and thus it became fit that upon him God should inflict the penalty.
The result has been the removal of condemnation and the reconciliation effected between us and God. In the removal of these evils eternal death is taken away.
As to the death of the body, according to God’s wisdom, and in a manner similar to his course in many other cases, the curse is made no longer a curse, because the sting is removed, and the death of the body, otherwise so intimately connected with eternal death, now introduces the Christian into eternal life.
The death of Christ included the penalty in all its fulness. In it he offered up his body and was laid in the grave. In it the separation from God took place by which he was led to feel himself forsaken. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me,” was his cry of agony. That his death was not eternal, as would ours have been, arose from the fact that in the execution of the sentence of condemnation, God found in him not such a victim as mere man would have been, unable to atone, or render full satisfaction; but one whose glorious nature gave infinite value to suffering, and who could feel most keenly, yet could bear without destruction, the wrath of God.
The Scriptures represent just such a penalty to have been endured by Christ, accompanied by just such agonies. No one can read the accounts given by the evangelists without being impressed by the fact that they ascribe just such a character to his sufferings on Calvary.
But, independently of their general statements, we have the class of passages just referred to, that in which Christ’s suffering is represented as the penalty of our transgressions.
In Zechariah 13:7 we have that remarkable prophecy which can be applied to Christ as it has never been applied to any save Christ. “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts.” The context speaks of a purging of Jerusalem, out of the trial of which a third part shall be brought, and the means by which this is done is the smiting of the shepherd, and the scattering of the sheep, through which action they are refined, and he says, “they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people; and they shall say, The Lord is my God.” Zech. 13:9.
Isaiah 53:5. “The chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” The latter part of this verse is quoted in 1 Peter 2:24.
Isaiah 53:8. “For the transgression of my people was he stricken.”
Verse 9. Declares his perfect innocence and then
Verse 10 says: “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, &c.”
Matt. 20:28. “Even as the Son of man came, . . . to give his life, a ransom for many.”
Rom. 5:10. “For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”
Rom. 6:10. “For the death that he died, he died unto sin once.”
1 Cor. 15:3. “For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.”
2 Cor. 5:14, 15. “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that one died for all, therefore all died; And he died for all, &c.”
2 Cor. 5:21. “Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf.”
Gal. 3:13. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us.”
Col. 1:21, 22. “And you, being in time past alienated . . . yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death.”
Heb. 9:26. “But now once, at the end of the ages, hath he been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”
IV. We have thus seen (1) that the sufferings and death of Christ were a real atonement; (2) that in making it Christ became the substitute of those whom he came to save; (3) that as such he bore the penalty of their transgressions. From these the fourth point follows, that in so doing, he made ample satisfaction to the demands of the law, and to the justice of God.
1. The very fact that he was the substitute of the sinner, and that he bore his penalty shows that the satisfaction he made was ample; Christ could have made none that was not. Anything he could do must be acceptable to God; for God delighteth in him. Any act of his must be of infinite value to accomplish any end for which he designed it. Any penalty borne by him must have found a victim fully sufficient to fulfil every demand. The very fact that he has been substituted and has borne the penalty, shows that he has made ample satisfaction.
2. But this is also seen in the fact that the declaration is made that thus the demands of the law are fulfilled and not lowered. The language of Christ on this point is explicit.
Matt. 5:17. “Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets: I came not to destroy, but to fulfil.”
Rom. 7:1-6. The apostle argues that we are no longer bound to the law, but bound to Christ; that our obligations have been annulled, and that, henceforth, “we have been discharged from the law, having died to that wherein we were holden; so that we serve in newness of the spirit, and not in oldness of the letter.” This whole argument implies and is based upon the idea that the law has been fulfilled for us by Christ, who has thus delivered us from the bondage of obligation, that we might serve with the spirit of love.
Freedom from the law on our part, accompanied by the declaration that Christ came not to lower it, but to fulfil it, shows that in the atonement for us, he has made ample satisfaction for all our sins and failures, as well as secured for us complete righteousness by his perfect obedience.
We may here add also the prophecy of Isaiah 42:21, “It pleased the Lord, for his righteousness sake, to magnify the law and make it honourable,” and the fact that Christ is called “The Lord is our Righteousness,” in Jeremiah 23:6, and also that the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:7-11, renounces his own righteousness of the law that he might have that “which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” This fact implies a conviction of the ample extent of the righteousness which is by Christ.
3. That an ample satisfaction is made to justice is seen also in the fact that mercy and justice are said to be reconciled in Christ. These are represented as antagonistic; mercy pleading for the sinner, and justice demanding his punishment; truth requiring the fulfilment of the threatened penalty, which is consistent with peace, only by the death of Christ.
Psalm 85:10. “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”
Isaiah 45:21. “There is no God else beside me, a just God and a Saviour.”
Isaiah 32:17. “And the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness and confidence forever.” This is a wonder.
The same fact seems to be declared in the song of the angels, on the plain of Bethlehem, Luke 2:14. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men in whom he is well pleased.”
4. This is also seen in the approval which God gave to the work of Christ. Had that work not been satisfactory, we should not have expected the actual declarations of approval of it. That approval is evidenced.
(1) By Christ’s testimony to it. He tells us that he came to do the will of his Father; that his Father sent him not to condemn the world; but gave him, that whosoever believeth, might not perish but have everlasting life.
(2) In the manifested expressions of approbation by God in the miracles by which Christ attested his mission, as well as by the witness of John.
(3) In God’s own words of approval, at his Baptism, at the Transfiguration on the Mount, and at other times.
(4) In the angelic messengers sent to strengthen him in his work, and to minister to him after the temptation in the wilderness, and in the garden.
(5) That most signal evidence, afforded, as is constantly declared, as a seal of approval, which is seen in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
5. The ample character of this satisfaction is further seen in the declarations by the sacred writers of the certainty of the salvation that is based upon it. Every offer of salvation made is a passage in proof of this point. The words of the Commission, “He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved” (Mark 16:16), and the offer of the apostle, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house” (Acts 16:31), are positive affirmations.
6. But it may be said that all of these points only prove God’s approval of whatever was done by Christ, without showing that in that work satisfaction has been made. While this is not admitted, we find further proof in the sixth place in such passages as show that so ample has been the work of Christ that even a sinner is warranted to approach and claim salvation in Christ’s name, and that God gives it as due to the merits and work of Christ.
Heb. 4:16. “Let us therefore draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace to help us in time of need.”
Heb. 10:19, 22. “having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, * * * let us draw near with a true heart in fulness of faith.”
Eph. 3:12. “In whom we have boldness and access, in confidence, through our faith in him.”
1 John 1:9. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
7. The ample satisfaction of the atonement made is also seen in the fact that it is declared perfect for its end in the language of the Apostle in Heb. 9:25-28, where he argues the incompleteness of the Mosaic sacrifices, because they had to be offered more than once, and the perfection of Christ’s, because “now once at the end of the ages, hath he been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”
And again in Chap. 10:10. “We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
1 John 1:7. “The blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
A question arises in view of this ample satisfaction, in what way may it be regarded as gratuitous when it is thus a full recompense for all. This is well answered in Hodge’s Outlines of Theology, p. 308, 1st Edition. The answer includes five points.
(1) Christ did not die to make the Father love the Elect, but was given to die because of that love.
John 3:16. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him might not perish, but have eternal life.”
1 John 4:9, 10. “Herein was the love of God manifested in us, that God hath sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
(2) Christ made full satisfaction to divine justice in order to render the exercise of love consistent with justice.
Rom. 3:26. “For the showing, I say, of his righteousness at this present season: that he might himself be just, and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus.”
Psalm 85:10. “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” The greater the obstacle and the more costly the price demanded of love by justice, the greater the love and the more free.
On this ground God commendeth his love.
Rom. 5:8. “But God commendeth his own love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
(3) God the Father and God the Son are one God, identical in nature, moved by the same love, and exacting the same satisfaction.
(4) Penal satisfaction differs from pecuniary. If a Sovereign appoints or accepts a substitute, it is all of grace.
(5) To Christ as Mediator, the purchased salvation of his people belongs of right from the terms of the eternal covenant, but to us, that salvation is given in all its elements, stages and instrumentalities, only as a free and sovereign favour. The gift is gratuitous, if the beneficiary has no shadow of claim to it, and if no conditions are exacted of him. The less worthy the beneficiary is, and the more difficult the conditions which justice exacts of the giver, the more eminently gratuitous the gift is.
V. The fifth point to be shown, is that by this work an actual reconciliation has been effected.
1. The points already proved show this. If an atonement has been made by one who was actually substituted in the place of the guilty; who, as so substituted, paid the penalty and rendered full satisfaction to the law, so that the law has no longer any claims; then there has been undoubtedly an actual reconciliation. Peace has been made by the cross between God and man.
2. The plain declarations of Scripture are, that God has been reconciled to us by Christ.
Rom. 5:10. “For, if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” Similar declarations are found in 2 Cor. 5:19; Eph. 2:13, 16, 17; Col. 1:20-22. They are not given at length, because they will have to be presented immediately for another purpose.
It may be said that reconciliation is admitted, but that this means only a method of reconciliation.
3. Therefore it must be shown that actual reconciliation has been made, from what the Scriptures say of the purpose had in view in reconciliation, which was actually to save, not to make salvation possible.
Luke 19:10. “For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost.”
2 Cor. 5:21. “Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him.”
Gal. 1:4. “Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us out of this present evil world, according to the will of our God and Father.”
Gal. 4:4, 5. “God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem them which were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”
1 Tim. 1:15. “Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am the chief.”
The purpose of God is thus seen, not to make salvation possible, but actually to save, to redeem, to make righteous, &c.
Still it may be said, that this purpose might be effected by a method of reconciliation.
4. But the Scriptures, in speaking of what is actually effected by Christ’s work for those who are reconciled by it, show that the reconciliation was actually made in that work itself. The time at which it was done, and what was done at that time show this.
Rom. 5:10. “For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled shall we be saved by his life.” The time was, “while we were enemies,” at the time of Christ’s death. The application of salvation follows this reconciliation.
Gal. 3:13. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us.”
Eph. 1:7. “In whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of his grace.”
Eph. 2:14-16. “For he is our peace, who made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that he might create in himself of the twain one new man, so making peace; and might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.”
Col. 1:20. “And through him to reconcile all things unto himself; having made peace through the blood of his cross.
1 Thess. 1:10. “Even Jesus, which delivereth us from the wrath to come.”
1 Peter 1:18, 19. “Knowing that ye were redeemed, not with corruptible things . . . but with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
All these passages speak of these effects, as actually accomplished by Christ, in his death upon the cross. [See Hodge’s Outlines, p. 314, 1st Edition.]
5. The connection between the gift of the Spirit and the work of Christ shows, that there has been actual reconciliation. The promise of the Spirit to us is made, and that Spirit is given, as a reward of Christ’s death. That death is declared to have this gift as one of the purposes to be effected by it.
Acts 2:33. “Being therefore by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath poured forth this, which ye see and hear.” This shows that the gift of the Spirit is the result of Christ’s exaltation, which was also taught by Christ, when he said that, unless he went away, the Spirit could not come.
Gal. 3:13, 14. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, . . . that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
Titus 3:5, 6. “He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.”
These passages show that,
(1) The gift of the Spirit was purchased by Christ’s death.
(2) That that gift secures actual salvation.
(3) That it must be given to all for whom he has died.
(4) That in that death actual reconciliation is consequently secured.
The discussion of the nature of the sacrificial work of Christ has in great part prepared the way for that of the EXTENT OF THE ATONEMENT. But while the previous inquiry has necessarily included some statements as to the limitation which the Scriptures put upon this work, and presented some facts which establish such limitation, a special treatment of this branch of the subject is nevertheless necessary.
Here also we have several theories.
I. The first is that of the Universalist, who connecting the nature which the Scriptures assign to the atonement with some expressions which seem to assert its universal extent, hold the notion of such a universal atonement, as actually secures the salvation of all men.
The objections to this view are:
1. That salvation is confined in the Scriptures to those that believe, and all men are not believers.
2. That the gospel is spoken of as the only means of salvation, and the gospel is not even preached to all.
3. That express threats are uttered in the word of God against those who die in their sins.
4. That at least one sin is expressly mentioned, that shall not be pardoned.
5. That the arrangement of God’s plan of salvation is such as shows that the people of God are saved from their sins, not in them; consequently the unholy are not saved.
6. The descriptions of the judgement day deny universal salvation.
7. The Scripture doctrine of the Hell prepared for the punishment of the wicked shows it to be untrue.
These and many other facts show that the atonement is limited in some way. The question arises in what way.
II. A second theory makes the atonement itself general, but limits its benefits to those who exercise faith.
It is claimed that thus only can be interpreted the passages which speak of a work for the world, consistently with any limitation; that thus only can God justly offer salvation to all; and that this theory fully meets all the conditions on which salvation is offered.
It cannot be denied that salvation is offered and will be given on the condition of faith and repentance; nor that there are general expressions which assert that Christ’s work of atonement has efficacy beyond the limits of the Elect; but these facts must be so explained as to harmonize with the nature of the atonement and its relation to those for whom it was specially made. The following objections, therefore, may be made to this theory:
1. Any atonement, general in any such sense as not to be limited in God’s purpose, is inconsistent with what we have seen to be the nature of the atonement.
2. It does not accord with justice that any should suffer for whom a substitute has actually borne the penalty and made full satisfaction.
3. It makes salvation the result in part of faith; but faith is the result of reconciliation, not its cause; it is the gift of God.
4. It is inconsistent with the many passages which teach the doctrine of an Election of man to salvation not because of foreseen faith.
5. It is inconsistent with those passages which point out the connection of the purpose of God with the salvation of those who are saved.
III. A third theory is that this limitation is one of purpose; that God designed only the actual salvation of some; and that, whatever provision has been made for others, he made this positive arrangement by which the salvation of certain ones is secured. In favor of this theory it may be said:
(1.) That this is in accordance with the doctrine of Election.
(2.) That it explains how it is that such a salvation as the Scriptures represent to have been wrought out by Christ is attained by some, and by some only.
(3.) It alone agrees with the language of limitation used in some Scriptures, as to Christ’s death; either in those passages in which it is specially appropriated to Christians; or those in which he is spoken of as a ransom “for many.” This class of passages is numerous.
The difficulties against this theory are:
(1.) That the offer of salvation is made to all men.
(2.) That the Scriptures speak of Christ’s death as for the world, and in such a way as to contrast the world at large with those who believe.
An explanation of these passages must therefore be given, which, while it retains the full force intended in Scripture of these general expressions, and maintains the sincerity of God’s offer of the gospel to all, shows at the same time its harmony with the doctrine of a definite purpose of God.
1. It was with the intention of doing this that Andrew Fuller suggested his theory of the atonement. But, as has been shown, that theory accomplishes the desired end only by ascribing such a nature to the atonement, as makes it only a method of reconciliation for the people of God, and not actual reconciliation.
2. A far better explanation is given by Dr. A. A. Hodge in the following question and answer:
“Ques. 17. State first negatively, and then positively, the true doctrine as to the design of the Father and the Son in providing satisfaction.”
“I. Negatively–1st. There is no debate among Christians as to the sufficiency of that satisfaction to accomplish the salvation of all men, however vast the number. This is absolutely limitless. 2d. Nor as to its applicability to the case of any and every possible human sinner who will ever exist. The relations of all to the demands of the law are identical. What would save one would save another. 3d. Nor to the bona fide character of the offer which God has made to ‘whomsoever wills’ in the gospel. It is applicable to every one, it will infallibly be applied to every believer. 4th. Nor as to its actual application. Arminians agree with Calvinists that of adults only those who believe are saved, while Calvinists agree with Arminians that all dying in infancy are redeemed and saved. 5th. Nor is there any debate as to the universal reference of some of the benefits purchased by Christ. Calvinists believe that the entire dispensation of forbearance under which the human family rests since the fall, including for the unjust as well as the just temporal mercies and means of grace, is part of the purchase of Christ’s blood. They admit also that Christ did in such a sense die for all men, that he thereby removed all legal obstacles from the salvation of any and every man, and that his satisfaction may be applied to one man as well as to another ‘if God so wills it.'”
“II. But positively the question is what was the design of the Father and Son in the vicarious death of Christ. Did they purpose to make the salvation of the elect certain, or merely to make the salvation of all men possible? Did his satisfaction have reference indifferently as much to one man as to another? Did the satisfaction purchase and secure its own application, and all the means thereof, to all for whom it was specifically rendered? Has the impetration and the application of this atonement the same range of objects? Was it, in the order of the divine purpose, a means to accomplish the purpose of election, or is the election of individuals a means to carry into effect the satisfaction of Christ otherwise inoperative?”
Our Confession (The Westminster) answers:
Ch. viii, SS 5. “The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself, . . . purchased not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven for all those whom the Father hath given unto him.”–Ch. iii, SS 6. “As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath he, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore they that are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed in Christ. . . . Neither are any other redeemed by Christ . . . but the elect only.”
Ch. viii, SS 8. “To ALL those for whom Christ hath purchased redemption, he doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same.”–“Articles of Synod of Dort,” Ch. ii, SS 1, 2, 8.
“The design of Christ in dying was to effect what he actually does effect in the result. 1st. Incidentally to remove the legal pediments out of the way of all men, and render the salvation of every hearer of the gospel objectively possible, so that each one has a right to appropriate it at will, to impetrate temporal blessings for all, and the means of grace for all to whom they are providentially supplied. But, 2d, Specifically his design was to impetrate the actual salvation of his own people, in all the means, conditions, and stages of it, and render it infallibly certain. This last, from the nature of the case, must have been his real motive. After the manner of the Augustinian Schoolmen, Calvin, on 1 John 2:2, says, ‘Christ died sufficiently for all, but efficiently only for the elect.'” [Outlines of Theology, pp. 416 and 417 of the second edition.]
3. Another statement upon this subject may prove more satisfactory, although it embraces no more than is actually implied in the above extract from Dr. Hodge. It has only the advantage of recognizing more explicitly the relation of the atoning work of Christ both to the world and to the elect; a relation clearly indicated to be such that he can be called, in some general sense, the Saviour of all men, though he bears this relation more especially to those who believe. 1 Tim. 4:10. The statement suggested is, that while, for the Elect, he made an actual atonement, by which they were actually reconciled to God, and, because of which, are made the subjects of the special divine grace by which they become believers in Christ and are justified through him; Christ, at the same time, and in the same work, wrought out a means of reconciliation for all men, which removed every legal obstacle to their salvation, upon their acceptance of the same conditions upon which the salvation is given to the Elect. According to this statement:
1. Christ did actually die for the salvation of all, so that he might be called the Saviour of all; because his work is abundantly sufficient to secure the salvation of all who will put their faith in him.
2. Christ died, however, in an especial sense for the Elect; because he procured for them not a possible, but an actual salvation.
3. The death of Christ opens the way for a sincere offer of salvation by God to all who will accept the conditions he has laid down.
4. That same death, however, secures salvation to the Elect, because by it Christ also obtained for them those gracious influences, by which they will be led to comply with those conditions.
5. The work of Christ, contemplated as securing the means of reconciliation, is a full equivalent to all that the advocates of a general atonement claim; for they do not suppose that more than this was done for mankind in general, while Calvinists readily recognize that this much has been done for all.
6. But, while the making of an actual atonement for the Elect is not inconsistent with the securing of a method of atonement for all the assertion that such was the special work done for them complies with the nature of the atonement as heretofore seen and shows how Christ could be especially their Saviour, and also the Saviour of all.