Chapter 35: The Nature of Christ's Sacrifice
Syllabus for Lecs. 42 & 43:
1. What analogies to redemption in the course of Nature and Providence? Why is not vicarious satisfaction more admitted among men?
Butlerís Analogy, pt. 2, ch. 5. Hill, bk. 4, ch. 3, 1. Watsonís Theo. Inst.
2. Define the terms, satisfaction, expiation, vicarious, atonement, used of the doctrine.
Turrettin, Qu. 10, of Loc. 14., 1to16 Hodgeís Theol. pt. i2, ch. 6, a 3. A. A. Hodge, on Atonement, pt. 1., ch. 3 Lexicons. Knapp, 110.
3. Give the direct refutation of the Socinian theory of Christís death, and of the Moral Influence, and Governmental theories.
Turretin, Loc. 14., Qu. I 50. I fill bk. iv ch. a, 1, 2. Dr. Ch. Hodge, Review of Beman. Dick, Lect 57. A. A. Hodge on Atonement, pt. 1. ch. 21.
4 Prove Christís proper substitution and vicarious sacrifice. (a) From the phraseology of Scripture. (b) From His personal innocence. (c) From the import of the Gentile sacrifices. (d) From the import of the Levitical sacrifices. (e) From the Bible terms describing Christís death.
Turrettin, Loc. 14., ch, 11. Hodgeís Theol. pt. i2, ch. 7. Hill, bk. 4, ch. 3 2, 3, 5. Dick, Lect. 57, 58. A. A. Hodge on Atonement, pt. 1., ch. 8Ė12. Ridgeley Qu. 44, 4 and 5. Watsonís Theo. Inst. ch. 20. Knapp, 111.
5 On what features do the value and efficacy of Christís satisfaction depend?
Symington on Atonement, 2. Turrettin, Qu. 10, 6Ė16. Hill, bk. 4, c ∑ 3, 1.
6. Refute the Socinian and Semi Pelagian Objections to the Doctrine of vicarious satisfaction, viz.
(a). That Satisfaction and Remission are inconsistent.
(b). That our theory makes out the Father a vindictive being.
(c). That the only clanks are due to Christ.
(d). That either the divine Nature must have been the specific seat of the suffering, or it else must have been eternal.
(e). That Imputation is immoral and a legal fiction.
See Turrettin, Loc. 14., Qu. 11, and Vol. 4. Disputationes 20, 21, de satisfac. Chr. A. A. Hodge on Atonement, ch. 20, pt. 1. Dr Ch. Hodge, Theo. . iii ch. 7, 7. Dick, Lect. 58. Ridgley, Qu. 44, & 5. Watsonís Theo. nst. ch. 20.
7. What was the Design of God in Christís satisfaction, and the extent of that design? State hereon, (a). The Pelagian (b). The Wesleyan. (c). The Hypothetic Universalist, or "Armyraut View." (d). The Calvinist.
Turretin Qu. 14. Hodge on Atonement, pt. 2. Hill, bk. 4. ch. 6. Whitbyís Five Points. Hodgeís Theo. pt. iii ch. 8. Cunninghamís Hist. Theol. ch. 20 & 4. Watsonís Theo. Inst. especially; ch. 25Ė38. Bellamy Works, Vol. 1.pp. 3827, etc. Baxterís Works.
1. Redemption Foreshadowed In Providence.
the question, How shall man be just with God, natural theology gives no certain answer. It seems, if we do not deceive ourselves by attributing to its light discoveries really borrowed from inspiration, to inform us very clearly that God is just, and man therefore condemned. Having thus shut us up under wrath, its light deserts us, leaving only an uncertain twilight shining towards the gate of mercy and hope. When reason looks into the analogies presented by that course of nature, as unbelief terms it, which is, in reality, nothing else than the course of Providence, she sees that there are certain evils consequent upon certain faults, e. g., sickness on intemperance, want on idleness, bodily death on reckless imprudence; but she also sees that there are certain remedial provisions made in nature, by availing themselves of which men may sever the connection between the fault and the natural penalty. This fact would seem to hint that in Godís eternal government there may be a way of mercy provided. But then, the analogical evidence is made very faint by this fact: that these natural reliefs for the natural evils incurred here by our misconduct, are rather postponements than acquittals. After all, inexorable death comes to sinful man, in spite of all expedients.
Intervention Usually Costs A Penalty.
But the most interesting fact to be noticed in this feeble analogy is, that these partial releases from the natural consequences of our faults, are most often received through a mediatorial agency, and that this agency is usually exerted for us by our friends at some cost to themselves, often at the cost of suffering the whole or a part of the very evils our faults naturally incurred. A man is guilty of intemperance; its natural consequence is sickness and death, and without mediatorial intervention this consequence would become certain, for the foolish wretch is too sick to minister to himself. But providence permits a faithful wife, or parent, or friend, to intervene with those remedies and cares which save his life. Now, at what cost does this friendly mediator save it? Obviously, at the cost of many of the very pains which the sick man had brought upon himself: the confinement, the watching, the loss of time, the anxieties of the sick room. Or, a prodigal wastes his substance, and the result is want, a result, so far as his means are concerned, inevitable. But his friend steps in with his wealth, pays his debts and relieves his necessities. Yet the cost at which he does it is in part the very same incurred by the guilty manís prodigality: decrease of his substance and consequent want. We may say, yet more generally, that the larger part of all the relief which providence administers to the miseries of manís sinful condition, from the cradle to the grave, from the maternal love which shields and blesses his infancy, down to the friendship which receives his dying sighs, are administered through others, and that at the cost of sacrifice or effort on their part for him. Here, then, we have a general analogy pointing to a vicarious method of rescuing man from his guilt, and to sacrifice by a Mediator for him. We have called the evils adverted to in our illustrations, natural consequences of our faults, but they are not therefore any the less ordained of God, and penal; for what is the course of nature, but God ordering? And does not our natural conscience show that suffering can only occur under the almighty providence of a just and good God as the penal consequences of ill desert?
The revealed idea of a satisfaction for sin, or vicarious arrangement to deliver man from guilt, has been made the butt of rationalistic objections. The value of this analogy is to silence these objections, by showing that the idea, however mysterious, is not unnatural.
Substitution Unusual In CIVIL Law, For Reasons.
It has been objected by rationalists, that vicarious punishments are not admitted in the penal legislation of just and civilized men, and if introduced, would strike our moral judgments as wrong and unreasonable. It may be remarked, that among the ancients these arrangements frequently appeared, in the cases of hostages, and antiyucoi . In modern legislation they appear at least in the case of suretyships debt. But there are four very good reasons which distinguish between human governments and Godís.
Because God Is A Sovereign Legislator.
First, it seems rather irrational and detrimental to reply to objections against the morality of substitution (whether Christís or Adamís) by a reference to God sovereignty that tends to represent it as irresponsible, not only to manís imperfect conceptions of rectitude, but to the inherent principles thereof. What is this but saying that because God is omnipotent Owner, therefore, He may properly be unjust. Does might make right?
But it is a very different (and proper) thing to say that, while God as Sovereign, regulates His every act by the same general principles of rectitude, which He enjoins on His creatures, yet He very justly exercises a width of discretion, for Himself, in His application of those principles, which He does not allow to human magistrates, in delegating them a little portion of His power. Deut. 24:16. This is made proper by His sovereignty (I may righteously do with my horse what would be cruel in him to whom I had hired him for a dayís ordinary journeyóe.g. ride him to extremity, or even to death, to rescue the life of my child). And by Godís infinite knowledge and wisdom, judging the whole results of a substitution as a creature cannot. Hence, the impropriety of vicarious arrangements among men may be compatible with their admission between God and man, and yet no contrariety of moral principles in the two governments is involved, e. g., I delegate to a teacher, at a distance, a portion of my parental power over my child. I tell him he is to consider himself, as to this extent, loco parentis , and govern my boy on strictly parental principles; yet he would be very unreasonable if he assumed power to exercise every kind of discretion as to him, which I might properly exercise.
His Object In Punishing Vindicatory.
Second, when men inflict penalties less than capital, one object of the infliction is the reform of the offender; for which a personal endurance of the pain is necessary. But when God inflicts the eternal penalty of sin, He has no intention of reforming the sufferer thereby.
No Substitute Among Men, sui juris.
Third, in those cases where human tribunals punish by the loss of life or liberty, the vicarious arrangement cannot be adopted, because no one can be found who is owner of his own life and well being. But he cannot pay away, in ransom of another, what he has no right to part with.
CIVIL Magistrate Cannot Sanctify.
Fourth, we found that one of the elements of offense contracted by wrong doing was the moral turpitude; that and the removal of this by genuine repentance is one of the necessary conditions for pardoning the wrong doer. Now, a vicarious satisfaction is inapplicable in human governments, because the human magistrate would have no means to work genuine repentance in the criminal, though an atonement were offered. But without such repentance, guilt could not be properly pardoned, by God or man, however adequate the satisfaction to justice. Now, God can work and insure genuine repentance in His pardoned criminals, through the Holy Spirit. See Acts 5:31. Hence, He can properly avail Himself of the principle of vicarious penalty. Even supposing a man could be found who had autocracy of his own life, time, and social relations, and who was willing to die for a murderer, when slain, he could not rise again; he would be a final loss to society, and society would gain, in exchange, the life of the murderer, now penitent and reformed, (supposing the magistrate, like God, had regenerating power over him). So, all the result would be, that society would lose a citizen who always had been good, and gain one who was about to become good. The magistrate would not feel himself justified in admitting the substitution, for such results, however it might be generous in the friend to propose it.
Word atonement is used often in the Old Testament, once in the New, Rom. 5:11. The Hebrew is usually rP, ūi literally, "covering," because that which atones is conceived as covering guilt from the eye of justice. The Greek is katallagh óreconciliation as it and its cognates are elsewhere translated. It is plausibly supposed that "atonement" is "atonement," ói.e., reconciliation. These words, then, are generic, and not specific of the particular means of reconciliation, according to etymology. The word which I should prefer to use, is one sanctioned by the constant usage of the Reformed theologians, "satisfaction." This expresses truly and specifically what Christ did for believers. It points explicitly to the divine law and perfection, whose demand for satisfaction constitute the great obstacles to pardon. It includes also, Christís perceptive, as well as His penal, compensation for our debt. We shall see that both Christís obedience to the perceptive law and His voluntary endurance of the penal sanction enter into His satisfaction, paid as our substitute. The established word, which has been deliberately attested and approved by the Church, is by all means to be retained. Atonement, or reconciliation is related to satisfaction, as effect to cause.
Satisfaction not Commercial.
The Reformed divines are also accustomed to make a distinction between penal and moral satisfaction, on the one hand, and pecuniary payment, on the other. In a mere pecuniary debt, the claim is on the money owed, not on the person owing. The amount is numerically estimated. Hence, the surety, in making vicarious payment, must pay the exact number of coins due. And when he has done that, he has, ipso facto, satisfied the debt. His offer of such payment in full is a legal tender which leaves the creditor no discretion of assent or refusal. If he refuses, his claim is canceled for once and all. But the legal claim on us for obedience and penalty is personal. It regards not only the quid solvatur , but the quis solvat . The satisfaction of Christ is not idem facere ; to do the identical thing required of the sinner, but satis facere ; to do enough to be a just moral equivalent for what is due from the sinner. Hence, two consequences. Christís satisfaction cannot be forced on the divine Creditor as a legal tender; it does not free us ipso facto. And God, the Creditor, has an optional discretion to decline the proffer, if He chooses (before He is bound by His own covenant), or to accept it. Hence, the extent to which, and the terms on which Christís vicarious actions shall actually satisfy the law, depend simply on the stipulations made between Father and Son, in the covenant of redemption.
Yet Not per acceptilationem.
Yet, we shall by no means agree with the Scotists, and the early Remonstrants, that Christ did not make a real, and equivalent satisfaction for sinners debts. They say, that His sacrifice was not such, because He did not suffer really what sinners owed. He did not feel remorse, nor absolute despair, He did not suffer eternally; only His humanity suffered. But they suppose that the inadequate sufferings were taken as a ransom price, per account by a gracious waiver of Godís real claims of right. And they hold that any sacrifice, which God may please thus to receive, would be thereby made adequate. The difference between their view and the Reformed may be roughly, but fairly defined, by an illustration drawn from pecuniary obligations. A mechanic is justly indebted to a land owner in the sum of one hundred pounds and has no money wherewith to pay. Now, should a rich brother offer the landlord the full hundred pounds, in coin of the realm, this would be a legal tender. It would, ipso facto cancel the debt, even though the creditor captiously rejected it. Christís satisfaction is not ipso facto in this commercial sense. There is a second supposition, that the kind brother is not rich, but is himself an able mechanic, and seeing that the landlord is engaged in building, he proposes that he will work as a builder for him two hundred days, at ten shillings per diem(which is a fair price), to cancel his poor brotherís debt. This proposal, on the one hand, is not a "legal tender," and does not compel the creditor. He may say that he has already enough mechanics, who are paid in advance, so that he cannot take the proposal. But, if he judges it convenient to accept it, although he does not get the coin, he gets an actual equivalent for his claim, and a fair one. This is satisfact . The debtor may thus get a valid release on the terms freely covenanted between the surety and creditor. But there is a third plan. The kind brother has some "script" of the capital stock of some company, which, "by its face" amounts nominally to one hundred pounds, but all know that it is worth but little. Yet he goes to the creditor saying, "My brother and I have a pride about bearing the name of full payment of our debt. We propose that you take this "script" as one hundred pounds (which is its nominal amount), and give us a discharge, which shall state that you have payment in full." Now, if the creditor assents, this is payment per acceptilationem . Does Christís satisfaction amount to no more than this? We answer emphatically, it does amount to more. This disparaging conception is refuted by many scriptures, such as Isa. 13:21; 53:6. It is dishonorable to God, representing Him as conniving at a "legal fiction," and surrendering all standard of truth and justice to confusion. On this low scheme, it is impossible to see how any real necessity for satisfaction could exist.
Christ Suffered the Very Penalty.
The Reformed assert then, that Christ made penal satisfaction by suffering the very penalty demanded by the law of sinners. In this sense, we say even idem fecit . The identity we assert is, of course, not a numerical one, but a generic one. If we are asked, how this could be, when Christ was not holder forever of death, and experienced none of the remorse, wicked despair, and subjective pollution, attending a lost sinnerís second death? We reply, the same penalty, when poured out on Him, could not work all the detailed results, because of His divine nature and immutable holiness. A stick of wood, and an ingot of gold are subjected to the same fire. The wood is permanently consumed, the gold is only melted, because it is a precious metal, incapable of natural oxidation, and it is gathered, undiminished, from the ashes of the furnace. But the fire was the same! And then, the infinite dignity of Christís person gives to His temporal sufferings a moral value equal to the weight of all the guilt of the world.
Christ, or His work, is also called lutron , ransom price; and the transaction an apolutrwsi" or redeeming. The obvious idea here, is that of purchase, by a price, or equivalent, out of bondage. He is also our ilasmo" , or exilasmo" , making for us propitiation, ilasthrion . Expiation is the sacrificial and satisfactory action, making the offended Judge propitious to the transgressor. These terms applied to Christís suffering work, justify us in describing His sacrifice, as His vicarious suffering of the penalties due our sins, to satisfy Godís justice and thus reconcile Him to us.
3. Socinian Theory Stated.
Before proceeding to refute the Socinian theory of the atonement, let us briefly restate it. The sufferings of Jesus, they suppose, were not penal; but only natural, such as would have been incurred by Adam in Paradise, had he not fallen. Yet God permitted and ordained them: First, as an example to teach us patience, fortitude, and submission. Second, as an attestation of the honesty and truth of His teachings concerning the way of life through imitation of Him. Third, to make Him a compassionate Teacher, Friend, and Patron to His brethren. Fourth, to make way for His resurrection, which was the all important evidence and warrant to us that eternal life may be hoped for, through repentance and reform. Thus, He died, suffered for usói. e., pro bono nostrum in a general sense. Thus, He is the Savior and Redeemer of menói. e., the Agent of their salvation in a sense. But He made no penal satisfaction for sin.
Now, an overwhelming indirect refutation of this theory has already been given, in our argument for the necessity of a proper vicarious penalty. Another will be presented under the succeeding head, when we prove that Christís sufferings were vicarious. But for direct refutation, note.
Theory Inconsistent. 1St. Because A Guiltless Sufferer Suggest An Unjust God.
There can be little reasonable encouragement in the example of one who suffered so bitterly without deserving anything. Such a spectacle, instead of shedding light, hope and patience on the sorrows of believers, could only deepen the darkness and anguish; for it could only suggest difficulties concerning the justice and benevolence of God, and raise the torturing doubt. "Can any one be secure of blessedness, any angel or saint in heaven, or is there any justice and benevolence in God, in which I may hope for release from present sufferings; seeing a creature so holy as Jesus suffered thus? He was enabled to triumph over them at last. Yea, but why did God make Him suffer at all, when He was entirely innocent? I, who am not innocent, may not be thus released after suffering!"
2Nd. Martyrdom Only Demonstrates Martyrís Sincerity.
To represent His death as of such importance as the attestation of the truthfulness of His teachings, contradicts good sense and Scripture. All that the death of a martyr can prove is, that he sincerely believes the creed for which he dies. False creeds have had their martyrs. The Scriptures nowhere refer to Christís death as the evidence of His truth but uniformly to His works. See John 14:11; 5:36; 10:25Ė38; 15:24.
3Rd. Christís Death Purchases Salvation, Not His Resurrection.
The Socinian scheme gives the chief importance to Christís resurrection, rather than His death, as the means whereby "life and immortality were brought to light." His death was then rather the necessary preliminary step, to make His resurrection possible; that the latter might be, to our faith, the splendid and crowning evidence of a future life for us. Did God, then, kill Jesus, to have the opportunity of raising Him? Since a resurrection is but the repairing of a death, it seems to me that the whole transaction inspires at least as much terror as hope. He ordained the death of Him who deserved to live, so there is an instance of severity, if not injustice, fully counterpoising the instance of goodness in raising Him. Again, the Scriptures do not agree to the Socinian view, for they everywhere represent the benefit we derive from Christ as chiefly flowing from Christís death. Heb. 2:14. His resurrection was indeed a glorious attestation; but it was an attestation of the sufficiency of that death, as a satisfaction to law, and an adequate purchase of our relief.
He Pre Existent.
Again, the whole plausibility of the Socinianís account of Christís death and resurrection is ruined by the fact of His preexistence. For a mere man to rise again after dying, like Lazarus, is an encouraging instance, but the rising again of a Being who possessed a previous and glorious life besides that of His humanity, presents on the Socinian view, no analogy to encourage mortal man to hope for a resurrection. The answer is too obvious, that the strange anomaly of a resurrection in Jesusí case was most probably the result of His glorious, pre existent nature. Man has no such nature and therefore should not expect, from such an instance, to imitate Him. As well might a log of wood infer that because a living creature is seen to rise erect when laid on its back, therefore logs of wood may hope to rise, when laid on their backs. Fourthm the Socinian scheme utterly fails to account for Christís royal exaltation. We do not allude now to the fact that those regal functions (Matt. 28:18; 25:31, 32; Eph. 1:22) could only be fulfilled by proper divinity. On the Socinian scheme, He ought not to have any regal functions. He has not earned them. He does not need them. Sinners regenerate themselves, and their own repentance and reform are their righteousness, so that the tasks of the royal priest, interceding and ruling on His throne, are useless and groundless.
5Th. Christ, On This Scheme, Did Not Redeem Old Testament Saints.
Last, on the Socinian theory, Christ could not have been in any sense the Mediator or Redeemer of Old Testament saints. Their sins could not have been remitted on the ground of Christís prospective satisfaction for sin; for according to Socinians, there was none in prospect. Those saints could not have profited by Christís example, teachings and resurrection, because they were in heaven long before Christ existed. But see Heb. 9:15; Rom. 3:25; John 8:56.
The Middle Scheme.
Against the scheme of Dr. Price, called by Hill the MidScheme (see Hill, p. 422), these objections obviously lie that it represents Christ as acquiring His title to forgive sin only by His death. But Matt. 9:6, says that the Son of Man had power on earth to forgive sins before. It speaks splendidly of Christís suffering in order to acquire this title to pardon, but it gives no intelligible account of how these sufferings acquired that title. It is, in this, as vague as Socinianism.
Governmental Influence Scheme.
The scheme of atonement with which we have now most concern, as defenders of truth, is that usually known as the governmental schemeói. e., that which resolves the sufferings and death of Christ into a mere moral expedient of God, to connect such a display of His justice and hatred of sin, with His acts of pardon, as will prevent bad effects from the failure to punish strictly according to law. This view proceeds from that theory of ethics which resolves all virtue into benevolence, teaching that an act is right or virtuous only because it tends on the whole most to promote the welfare of Beings (and the contrary). (We cannot pause here to debate this theory, but only note how intimately ethics and metaphysics affect Theology). Hence, these divines hold God has no intrinsic, essential justice, other than His benevolenceói. e., , that the whole amount of His motive for punishing sin is to preserve His moral empire from the mischief which sin unchecked would produce. Hence, the only necessity for an atonement which they recognize, is the necessity of repairing that defense against disorder in Godís government, which the dispensing with the penalty would break down. They, consequently, deny that Christ was properly substituted under the believerís guilt, that He bore any imputation, that He made a real satisfaction to Godís justice, and that the justifying virtue of His righteousness is imputed to men. The author of this system in New England seems to have been the younger Pres. Edwards, son of Jonathan, and its great propagator, Dr. Taylor, of New Haven. This is the system known as the New School, in the North, and advocated by Barnes and Beman on the atonement. It is a striking matter of history, that nearly all the arguments by which Edwards, Jr., sought to remove the old Calvinistic theory, to substitute his, were unconsciously Socinian.
If the necessity of satisfaction is proved from Godís essential justice, as we have attempted, this view of the atonement is proved false. Again, if we shall succeed in proving that Christís was a proper, vicarious sacrifice, this, also, overthrows it. Third, we have seen that this New England plan rests on this proposition, that a governmental policy of repressing sin, is the only ground of Godís justice, resolving all right into mere utility. The abominable consequences of this ethical principle have been shown; they are such that the principle cannot be true. We might add that manís intuitive moral judgments pronounce that sin is wrong, not merely because it tends to injure well being, but wrong in itself, and that the very wording of such a statement, implies a standard of wrong and right other than that of mere utility. This ethical principle being untrue, the plan falls with it.
It Gives Us No Righteousness Imputed.
But further, for direct refutations. This plan of atonement leaves us practically on Socinian ground, as to manís justifying righteousness. If imputation is denied, and if Christ wrought out no proper satisfaction to justice for the believerís sin, to be set over to the believerís account for his justification, there is no alternative left; the advocates of this plan are shut up to the Arminian definition of justification, as an imputing of the believerís own faith (along with the repentance and holy living flowing therefrom) as the ground of the sinnerís repentance; as his righteousness. Accordingly, Messrs. Barnes, do explicitly accept this. But we shall show, in the proper place, that such a justification is unscriptural. Justification is no longer properly through Christ, saving faith would no longer be such a coming to Christ directly, as the Scriptures describe it, and the whole tenour of Bible language concerning His divine righteousness, concerning His being the immediate object of faith would be violated.
It Is False On Its Own Showing.
Last, the overwhelming objection to this plan is, that according to its definition, the sufferings of Christ would be no governmental display whatever of the evils of sin, or of Godís determination to punish. These divines avow that Christ is a Person possessed of a preexistent, divine, holy and supreme nature, not only guiltless, but above law; and of a pure and sinless humanity, the voluntary assumption of which only placed Him, by His own consent, under law, for a particular atoning purpose. His mediatorial person stood forth as the exemplar of sinless purity and perfection, to all creatures, in both its natures, and in every relation attested; by holy writ, by the voice of God speaking His divine approval from heaven in tones of thunder, by the reluctant tribute of His enemies, by the haughty Pagan who condemned Him, by the very traitor who betrayed Him, as he appears scathed with the fires of his own remorse, before his plunge into hell, and confesses that he had "betrayed the innocent blood." All heaven and all earth testified to the Son of Man, that He was "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners," testified to the universe. And yet, the universe is invited to come and behold this Being, the only innocent Man who had appeared since Adam, delivered to torments more cruel than any of Adamís guilty sons had ever endured, "delivered by the determinate counsel" of His Father, while without guilt, either personal or imputed! Is this a glorious display of justice? Does this illustrate the evil of sin, and the inexorable connection which Godís benevolence requires Him to maintain between sin and punishment? Does it not rather confound all moral distinctions, and illustrate the evils of holiness, the cruelty and injustice of the Hand that rules the world? There is no explanation of Christís suffering innocence, which does not involve an insuperable contradiction, except the orthodo10, and that, we admit, involves a great mystery.
Orthodox View Includes All the Others.
Each of the false schemes attempts to express what is true. But ours really includes all that theirs claim, while it embraces the vital element which they omit, vicarious penal satisfaction. And note. It is only by predicating the latter, that the moral influences claimed by the inadequate schemes really have place. Says the Socinian, Christís suffering work is not vicarious, but only exemplary, instructive, and confirmatory. Says the modern "Liberal Christian," it was intended only for that, and to present a spectacle of infinite tenderness and mercy, to melt the hearts of transgressors. Says the New Haven doctor, it was intended for those ends, and also to make a dramatic display of Godís opposition to sin, and of its evils. But we reply. If it was not a vicarious satisfaction for imputed guilt, then it was not consistently either of the others. But if it is vicarious satisfaction for guilt, then it also subserves, and admirably subserves, all these minor ends.
4. Bible Proofs of True Theory.
We now proceed to the center of the subject to establish what has been several times anticipatedóChristís proper vicarious suffering for imputed guilt.
First, from various sets of Bible phrases, exceedingly numerous and varied, of which we only present specimens.
Christ Died For Us, Etc.
He is said to have suffered and died "for us," "for the ungodly." Rom. 5:6, 8; and "for our sins." 1 Pet. 3:18. peri amartiwn . Socinians say, "True, He died in a general sense for us, inasmuch as His death is a part of the agency for our rescue. He did die to do us good, not for Himself only." The answer is that in nearly every case, the context proves it a vicarious dying, for our guilt. Rom. 5. "We are justified by His blood." 1 Pet. 3:18. "The just for the unjust." uper adikwn Then, also, He is said to be a lutron antipollwn Matt. 20:28. This proposition properly signifies substitution. See Matt. 2:22 for instance.
Again, he is said to bear our sins, and equivalent expressions. 1 Pet. 2:24; Heb. 9:28; Is. 53:6. And these words are abundantly defined in our sense by Old Testament usage (cf.) Num. 9:13. An evasion is again attempted by pointing to Matt. 8:17, and saying that there, this bearing of manís sorrows was not an enduring of them in His person, but a bearing of them away, a removal of them. We reply, the Evangelist refers to Is. 53:4, not to 53:6. And Peter says. "He bore our sins in His body on the tree." The language is unique.
Christ Made Sin For Us.
Another unmistakable class of texts, is those in which He is said to be made sin for us; while we are made righteousness in Him. See 1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21. A still more indisputable place is where He is said to be made a curse for us, Gal. 3:13. The orthodox meaning, considering the context, is unavoidable.
Christ Our Ransom.
Again, He is said in many places to be our Redeemerói. e., Ransomeróand His death or He, is our Ransom, Matt. 20:28; 1 Pet. 1:19; 1 Tim. 2:6; 1 Cor. 6:20. It is vain to reply that God is said to redeem His people in many places, when the only meaning is, that He delivered them, and that Moses is called the redeemer of Israel out of Egypt, who certainly did not do this by a vicarious penalty. Christís death is a proper ransom, because the very price is mentioned.
2Nd. Christ Bore Imputed Guilt Because Personally Innocent.
Christís work is shown to be properly vicarious, from His personal innocence. This argument has been anticipated. We shall, therefore, only tarry to clear it from the Pelagian evasion, and to carry it further. Pelagians, seeing that Christ, an innocent being, must have suffered vicarious punishment, if He suffered any punishment, deny that the providential evils of life are penal at all, and assert that they are only natural, so that Adam would have borne them in Paradise; the innocent Christ bore them as a natural matter of course. But what is the course of nature, except the will of God? Reason says that if God is good and just, He will only impose suffering where there is guilt. And this is the scriptural account, "death by sin."Further, Christ suffered far otherwise than is natural to good men. We do not allude so much to the peculiar severity of that combination of poverty, malice, treachery, destitution, slander, reproach and murder, visited on Christ; but to the sense of spiritual death, the horror, the fear, the pressure of Godís wrath and desertion, and the satanic buffeting let loose against Him, (Luke 22:53; Matt. 26:38; 27:46). See how manfully Christ approaches His martyrdom, and how sadly He sinks under it when it comes! Had He borne nothing more than natural evil, He would have been inferior to other merely human heroes, and instead of recognizing the exclamation of Rousseau as just. "Socrates died like a philosopher; but Jesus Christ as a God," we must give the palm of superior fortitude to the Grecian sage. Christís crushing agonies must be accounted for by His bearing the wrath of God for the sins of the world.
3D. Christ A Sacrifice. Pagan Sense of Word.
Another just argument for Christís proper vicarious sacrifice is brought from the acknowledged belief of the whole Pagan world, at the Christian era especially, concerning the meaning and intent of their bloody sacrifices. No one doubts that, however mistaken the Pagans are, they have always regarded their bloody sacrifices as proper offerings for guilt. Now, we use this fact in two ways. First, here is the great testimony of manís universal conscience to the necessity of satisfaction for human guilt. Second, the sacred writers knew that this was what the whole world understood by "sacrifice." Why, then, did they call Jesus Christ, in so many phrases, a sacrifice? Did they wish to deceive?
4Th. Jewish Sense.
We find another powerful Bible proof, in the import of the Levitical sacrifices. This argument is contained in two propositions. First, the theological idea designed to be symbolized in the Levitical sacrifices, was a substitution of a victim, and the vicarious suffering of it in the room of the offerer, for his guilt (See Lev. 17:11; 1:4, et passim ; 16:21). Second, Christ is the antitype, of which all these ceremonies were shadows (See John 1:29; 1 Cor. 15:3; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 8:3; 9:11Ė14). Now, surely the great idea and meaning of the types is not lacking in the antitype! Surely the body is not more insubstantial than the shadow! This important argument may be seen elaborated with great learning and justice, in the standard works on Theology, as Dick or Ridgley, in works on Atonement, such, especially, as Magee, and in works on the sacred archeology of the Hebrews, such as Outram, Fairbairn. Hence few words about it.
5. Conditions of Efficacy of Christian Atonement.
The value of Christís work may be said to depend on the following circumstances.
1. The infinite dignity of His person.
2. The possession of the nature of His redeemed people.
3. His freedom from all prior personal obligation to obey and suffer.
4. His authority over His own life, to lay it down as He pleased.
5. His voluntariness in undertaking the task.
6. His explicit acceptance by the Father as our Priest.
7. [These have been already expounded].
8. His union with His people.
OBJECTIONS to our view of vicarious Atonement are chiefly of Socinian and Pelagian origin. It is objected that we represent the Father in an odious light, as refusing to remit anything till His vindictiveness is satiated, and that to suppose full satisfaction made to the penal demands of law, leaves no grace in the remission of sin. It is not of grace, but of debt.
Satisfaction Consistent With Grace In Remission.
The answer to the former part of this objection is suggested in the lecture on Necessity of Atonement. And, that Christís atoning work did not dispose the Father to be merciful, but the Father sent Him to make it, because He was eternally disposed to be merciful. The objection is Tritheistic. There is no mercifulness in the Son that was not equally in the Father.
To the latter part of the objection the answer is plain. Satisfaction to Law is not incompatible with gracious remission unless the same person pays the debt who receives the grace. Does the Socinian rejoin that still, the debt is paid, (we Calvinists say, fully) and no matter by whom paid, it can not be remitted? The answer is three fold. (a) There is grace on the Fatherís part, because He mercifully sent His Son to make the Satisfaction. (b) The distinctions made in the last lecture, in defining Satisfaction, answer the whole cavil. As Satisfaction does not release facto , the creditorís grace appears also, in his optional assent.
In fine, the Fatherís grace on our scheme is infinitely higher than on Socinian or semi Pelagian. According to them, redemption only opens the door for the sinner to work out his own salvation. He may thank God and Christ somewhat, for being so kind as to open the door, and himself more for doing the work! But on our scheme, God, moved a priori by His own infinite mercy, gives us Christ, to reconcile vicariously the divine attributes with our pardon, and gives us in Him, a complete justification, new heart, sanctification, perseverance, resurrection, and eternal life.
(2). Fatherís Grace To Be Praised.
The Socinians object that, on our scheme, since Christ fully pays the Father, and He remits nothing, the redeemed have only Christ to thank. The answer to this is contained in the preceding.
(3). Does Christ Placate Himself?
The Socinians often object that if Christ is God we Calvinists represent Him as placating or satisfying Himself through His own vicarious offering, a notion that seems absurd in the sense that it involves the supposition that God is so angry as to demand penalty, and so merciful as to pay it, all in one breath. The answer is: (a) This difficulty concerning Godís wrath only exists, when we view it anthropopathically. (b) Such a state of mind, though contradictory in a private person, who had nothing but personal considerations to govern him, is not inconsistent in a public Person, who has government interests to reconcile in pardoning. (c) It is His humanity which suffers the penal satisfaction, His divinity which demands it. (d) The objection is an argument ab ignoratia We do not know all the mystery of the persons in the Trinity, but have good reason to believe that the Son acts economically in the Covenant of Grace, as manís representative, and the Father as that of all three persons.
Fourth, Socinians object, that since an infinite number of sins are to be atoned, Christ must have paid an infinite penalty, and therefore you must either make His humanity suffer forever, or else make His proper divinity suffer. If the latter alternative is taken, there are two absurdities. God is impassable. But second, if He can suffer at all, one single pang of pain was of infinite value (according to Calvinistic principles), and hence all the rest was superfluous cruelty in God.
How Could Temporal Suffering Satisfy For Infinite Guilt.
The answers are: First, infinite guilt demands an infinite punishment, but not therefore an everlasting one; provided the sufferer could suffer an infinite one in a limited time. We do not view the atoning value of Christís sacrifice, as a quantity, to be divided out by poundís weight, like some material commodity. We do not hold that there must be an arithmetical relation between the quantity of sacrifice, and the number and size of the sins to be satisfied for, nor do we admit that, had the sins of the whole body of elect believers been greater, the sufferings of the substitute must also have been increased; as when the merchant buys more pounds of the commodity, he must pay more money for his purchase. The compensation made to justice is not commercial, but moral. A piece of money in the hand of a king is worth no more than in the hands of a servant, but the penal sufferings of a king are. One king captive would exchange for many captive soldiers. Hence, Christ paid, not the very total of sufferings we owed, but like sufferings, not of infinite amount, but of infinite dignity.
Christís sufferings were vast, and the capacity for feeling and enduring conferred on His humanity by the united divinity enabled Him to bear, in one life time, great wrath. Second, it is the great doctrine of hypostatical union, according to Heb. 9:14, which grounds the infinite value of Christís sufferings (See that doctrine, Lect. 38). As the infinite nature of the God, against whom sin is committed, makes it an infinite evil, although the act of finite creature, so the acts of Christís human nature in suffering have infinite value, because of the dignity of His person. As to the latter part of the Socinian objection, the answer is, that one pang, or one drop of blood, would not suffice, because the law demanded a penalty of similar kind to that incurred by man; a bodily death and a spiritual death.
Imputation Not Unjust.
The fifth, and most radical objection is, that imputation is eat best a legal fiction and vicarious punishment intrinsically immoral. They say, God has pronounced it so, (Deut. 24:16; Ezek. 18:4, 20) and the moral sense of civilized commonwealths, banishing laws about hostages and antiyucoi . They argue that the immorality of the act is nothing but that of the agent; that desert of punishment is nothing but this intuitive judgment of immorality in the agent, when brought into relation with law; and therefore when penalty is separated from personal immorality, it loses its moral propriety wholly. Hence guilt must be as untransferable as immorality.
God Not To Be Measured Here By Men.
To the scriptural arguments we answer. God forbids imputation of capital guilt by human magistrates, or on special occasion (Ezek. 18) foregoes the exercise of it for a time Himself, but that He customarily claims the exercise of it in His own government, See in Josh. 7:15; Matt. 23:35. The differences between Godís government and manís, fully explain this. Human magistrates are themselves under law, in common with those they rule. God is above law, and His will is law. They shortsighted; He infinitely wise. They cannot find one who is entitled to offer his life for his neighbor, it is not his property; Godís substitute could dispose of His own life (John 10:18). They, if the antiyukco" were found, could not ensure the repentance and reform of the released criminal; without which his enlargement is improper; God does (Acts 5:31). The human antiyuco" , having sacrificed his life could never resume it, and his loss to the community would be irreparable, so that the transaction would give to society an injurious member, at the expense of taking from it a righteous and useful one. But Christ resumes the life laid down, and His useful position in the universe. For such reasons as these, it may be improper to have substitutes for capital guilt in manís government, and yet very proper in Godís.This, of course, implies that it is only made with the free consent of the substitute. This Christ gave.
If the Objection Be True, Then Pardon Is Immoral.
To the rational argument I reply:
(a.) It proves too much, viz. that there can be no remission in Godís government at all. For, when pardon is asserted on the general plan of the Socinian and rationalist, the elements of guilt and immorality are distinguished and separated. i. e., the guilt is alienated from the sinning agent, while the bad character remains his, so far as the pardoning act is concerned. Is not his own compunction the same as before? Hence his repentance and the human reason apprehends that no state of soul is so appropriate to the pardoned man as one that abounds in the heartfelt confessions of his ill desert. But we have proved irrefutably that Godís rhetorical justice includes the disposition to give appropriate penalty to sin, as truly, and in the same way, as His disposition to bestow appropriate reward on obedience. The two are correlative. If the one sort of legal sanction is not righteously separable from the personal attribute of the agent, even with his own consent, then the other sort (the penal) is not. But when God treats the holy Surety as guilty, (not immoral) He makes the same separation of elements, which is made, if He should, (without vicarious satisfaction, as the rationalists say He does) treat the guilty sinner as guiltless (not holy) by remitting a penalty of which he continues to confess himself personally deserving (as God knows very well he is).
(b.) If imputation of guilt (without personal immorality) to Christ is unjust, even with His own consent, then a fortiori laying of sufferings upon Him without even imputed guilt, is still more unjust. This for the Socinian.
(C.) Penal Consequences Transferred By Providence and Society.
God, in His providential rule over mankind, often makes this separation between the personal bad character and penal consequences. For the punishments incurred in the course of nature by vice, descend to posterity; while so far is He from imputing the personal unworthiness always along with the penalty, the patient and holy enduring of it is counted by Him an excellent virtue. So, too, the whole law of sympathy (Rom. 11:15; Gal. 6:2) makes the sympathizer suffer the penalty along with the sufferer, and yet, so far from treating him as personally defiled with him, regards it as an excellent virtue.
(d.) Manís own practical judgment habitually makes the separation of elements, which the rationalistic objection declares impossible, and we feel that the separation is right. Thus, when the voluntary security relieves the bankrupt debtor, it is only at the cost of what is to him a true mulct (precisely the penalty of the debtorís prodigality), and we feel the security is rightly made to pay. But so far is this from being due to his personal demerit in the transaction, we feel that he is acting generously and nobly. So, we feel that we justly insist on maintaining certain social disabilities against children, incurred by parents crimes, at the very time we approve the former, as personally, deserving people.
Thus, by indirect refutation, we prove that the objection of the rationalist to imputation, and the analysis on which he founds it, cannot be true, whether we are able to specify its error or not.
(E.) Potential and Actual Guilt.
But I think we can specify it. It is in ignoring the broad distinction which divines make between potential and actual guiltói. e., between the quality of ill desert, and the obligation to punishment. Consider the objectorís process (fairly stated above), and it will be seen that it is this. Because the judgment we have of the ill desert of the bad agent is nothing else than the judgment we had of his badness, viewed in its relation to law, therefore his guilt (obligation to penalty) is as personal and inseparable to him, as his quality of badness. This is sophism. The true analysis is this.
The badness of the act is nothing else than the badness of the agent and is his personal quality or attribute. The judgment of ill desert arises immediately therefrom, when his quality is viewed in relation to law. True. But what is law? Religionís law is nothing else than Godís will, which is its source and measure. So that, as our judgment of the attribute of badness takes the form of a judgment of ill desert, it passes into a judgment of relationói. e., between two persons, the sinner and God. So that even potential guilt is rather a relation than an attribute. But when we pass to actual guilt (which is merely obligation to penalty, a moral obligation, as I grant, and not one of force only), this is not the sinnerís attribute at all, but purely a relation. And although its rise was mediated by the personal attribute of badness, expressed in the guilty acts, it is not a relation of that attribute, abstracted, to something else, but of his person to the will of Godói. e., to God willing. And in this obligation to penalty, this sovereign will is obligator. It is Godís sovereignty, which, though moral, is absolute, that imposes it. Now, without teaching that Godís will is the sole source of moral distinctions, or retracting anything that I have said against that error, I remark that far too little weight is attached in the objection to this great fact that this obligation to penalty, which we denominate guilt, is one imposed by the sovereign and omnipotent will of our Maker and Proprietor. Let the mind take in this fact properly, and it will appear how rash is the assertion that even He may not, without immorality, separate from the person qualified by the attribute of badness this relation to penalty, which His own holy will imposes, even though the party to whom the guilt is transferred freely assents, and the divine ends in the transaction are those of holiness.
But to return, it appears that the agentís badness is his attribute, his guilt is his relation, and that a relation to another Person and will. The two elements belong to different categories in logic! But did any sound mind ever admit this as a universal and necessary law of logic (which it must be, to make the objection conclusive), that relations are as untransferable as attributes; as inseparable from the things related? Is it so in geometry? But it is better to show, in analogous cases that it is not so in metaphysics; e. g., A. expresses, by acts of beneficence towards me, his quality of benevolence, which institutes between us, as persons, the relation of an obligation to gratitude from me to him. A. is succeeded by his son, and this obligation, in some degree, transfers itself and attaches itself to that son, irrespective of, and in advance of, his exhibiting the quality of benevolence for me, in his own personal acts. I present another illustration which is also an argument, because it presents an exact analogyóthe obligation to recompenseóresting on me by reason of Aís benefactions to me. I say we have here a true, complete analogy, because this title to recompense from the object of beneficent acts is a fair counterpart to the obligation to bear a penalty from the ruler, who is the object (or injured party) of the bad act. Now, I ask e, g. in 2 Sam. 19:31Ė38, was it incompetent for Barzillai, the Gileadite, to ask the transfer of King Davidís obligation to recompense to his son Chimham, on the ground of his own loyalty? Did not Davidís conscience recognize his moral right to make the transfer? But it is made irrespective of the transfer of Barzillaiís attribute of loyalty to his son, which, indeed, was out of the question. Here, then, is the very separation which I claim, as made, in the case of imputation, between the sinnerís personal attribute (badness), and his personal relation to Godís sovereign will, arising upon his badness (guilt).
This discussion is of fundamental importance also, in the doctrines of original sin and justification.
7. The Design of God In Christís Death: Different Theories.
The question of the "extent of the atonement," as it has been awkwardly called, is one of the most difficult in the whole range of Calvinistic Theology. That man who should profess to see no force in the objections to our views, would only betray the shallowness of his mind and knowledge. There are three grades of opinion on this subject.
1St. Semi Pelagian. Refuted.
The theory of the Semi Pelagian denies any proper imputation of any oneís sins to Christ makes His suffering a mere general exhibition of Godís wrath against sin, having no relation to one personís sin in particular, and of course it consistently makes the atonement perfectly general and indefinite.
The refutation of this view is found in the facts already argued; that there was a substitution, a vicarious suffering of penalty, and a purchasing of the gracious gifts for the redeemed which make up the application of redemption.
The Wesleyan view is that there was a substitution and an imputation, and that Christ provided a penal satisfaction for every individual of the human race, making His sins remissible, provided he believes in Christ; and that He also purchased for every man the remission of original sin, and the gift of common grace, which confers a self determining power of will, and enables any one to believe and repent, provided he chooses to use the free will thus graciously repaired aright; Godís purpose of election being conditioned on His foresight of how each sinner would improve it.
The fatal objections to this scheme are, particularly, that it is utterly overthrown by unconditional election, which we have proved, and that the Scriptures and experience both contradict this common grace. But of this, more hereafter.
The view of the Hypothetical Universalists was professedly Calvinistic, and was doubtless, and is, sincerely held in substance by many honest and intelligent Calvinists, (e. g., Richard Baxter, R. Hall, Bellamy) although Turrettin and Dr. Hodge condemn it as little better than Arminianism in disguise. It presents the divine plan in redemption thus. God decreed from eternity, to create the human race, to permit the fall; then in His infinite compassion, to send Christ to atone for every human beingís sins, (conditioned on his believing); but also foreseeing that all, in consequence of total depravity and the bondage of their will, would inevitably reject this mercy if left to themselves, He selected out of the whole a definite number of elect, to whom He also gave, in His sovereign love, grace to "make them willing in the day of His power." The non elect, never enjoying this persuasive grace, infallibly choose to reject the provided atonement, and so, as its application is suspended on faith, they fail to receive the benefit of it, and perish.
This theory, if amended so as to say that God sent His Son to provide a vicarious satisfaction for the sin of all whom His Providence intended to place under the Gospel offers, would be liable to less objection than the others. But several objections lie against it. In the first place, the advantage proposed to be gained by it appears illusory. It was hoped that this view would meet the cavils urged by Arminians against the seeming lack of candor in offering Christís sacrifice for reconciliation to those for whom God never designed it. But I submit that this cavil is not in the least dissolved by saying that God designed Christís sacrifice to provide satisfaction for every non elect manís guilt, which would avail for his atonement only on condition of his true faith, while the omniscience of God showed him that this sinner would certainly refuse this faith, in consequence of his total depravity, and Godís purpose was distinctly formed not to remove that depravity by His effectual grace. To say that God purposed, even conditionally, the reconciliation of that sinner by Christís sacrifice, while also distinctly proposing to do nothing effectual to bring about the fulfillment of the condition He knew the man would surely refuse, is contradictory. It is hard to see how, on this scheme, the sacrifice is related more beneficially to the non elect sinner, than on the strict Calvinistís plan. Second, the statement of Amyraut involves the same vice of arrangement pointed out in the supralapsarian and sublapsarian plans. It tends towards assigning a sequence to the parts of the decree, as it subsists in Godís mind. He thinks and purposes it as one contemporaneous, mutually connected whole. The student is referred to the remarks already made upon this error. Third, and chiefly, Armyraut has to represent the graces which work effectual calling, while free and unmerited indeed, as yet the free gift of the Fatherís electing love, irrespective of Christís purchase, (for that is represented as made in common for all) and not mediated to the elect sinner through Christís sacrifice. Since Christís intercession is expressly grounded in His sacrifice, we shall have to conceive of the benefit of effectual calling as also not mediated to the sinner by Christís intercession. But this is all contrary to Scripture, which represents Christ as the channel through which all saving benefits come, and the very graces which fulfill the instrumental conditions of salvation as a part of His purchase for His people. See, for instance, Acts 5:31; Rom. 8:32; Eph. 1:3, 4; 2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 2:14; 2 Pet. 1:2, 3.
4. Strict Calvinistic.
The view of the strict Calvinist is as follows. God decreed to create the race, to permit the fall and then, in His infinite compassion, He elected out of the fallen an innumerable multitude, chosen in Christ, to be delivered from this ruin; and for them Christ was sent, to make full penal satisfaction for their unrighteousness, and purchase for them all graces of effectual calling and spiritual life and bodily resurrection, which make up a complete redemption, by His righteousness and intercession founded thereon. It represents the Atonement as limited only by the secret intention of God as to its application, and not in its own sufficiency for, or adaptation to all. Symmetrical theory, but attended with some difficulties.
In proof of the general correctness of this theory of the extent of the Atonement, we should attach but partial force to some of the arguments advanced by Symington and others, or even by Turrettinóe. g., That Christ says, He died "for His sheep," for "His Church," for "His friends," is not of itself conclusive. The proof of a proposition does not disprove its converse. All the force which we could properly attach to this class of passages is the probability arising from the frequent and emphatic repetition of this affirmative statement as to a definite object. Nor would we attach any force to the argument, that if Christ made penal satisfaction for the sins of all, justice would forbid any to be punished. To urge this argument surrenders virtually the very ground on which the first Socinian objection was refuted, and is incompatible with the facts that God chastises justified believers, and holds elect unbelievers subject to wrath till they believe. Christís satisfaction is not a pecuniary equivalent, but only such a one as enables the Father, consistently with His attributes, to pardon, if in His mercy He sees fit. The whole avails of the satisfaction to a given man is suspended on His belief. There would be no injustice to the man, if he remaining an unbeliever, his guilt were punished twice over, first in his Savior, and then in Him. See Hodge on Atonement, page 369.
Real Proofs of Calvinistic Theory.
But the irrefutable grounds on which we prove that the redemption is particular are these:
(a) From the doctrines of unconditional election, and the Covenant of Grace (Argument is one, for Covenant of Grace is but one aspect of election). The Scriptures tell us that those who are to be saved in Christ are a number definitely elected and given to Him from eternity, to be redeemed by His mediation. How can anything be plainer from this than that there was a purpose in Godís atonement, as to them, other than that it had as to the rest of mankind? See Scriptures.
From Godís Immutability and Power.
(b) The immutability of Godís purposes. (Is. 46:10; 2 Tim. 2:19). If God ever intended to save any soul in Christ, [and He has a definite intention to save or not to save towards every soul], that soul will certainly be saved. John 10:27, 28; 6:37Ė40. Hence, all whom God ever intended to save in Christ will be saved. But some souls will never be saved, therefore some souls God never intended to be saved by Christís atonement. The strength of this argument can scarcely be overrated. Here it is seen that a limit as to the intention of the atonement must be asserted to rescue Godís power, purpose and wisdom.
Christís Intercession Limited.
(c) The same fact is proved by this, that Christís intercession is limited (See John 17:9, 20). We know that Christís intercession is always prevalent (Rom. 8:34; John 11:42). If He interceded for all, all would be saved. But all will not be saved. Hence there are some for whom He does not plead the merit of His atonement. But He is the "same yesterday, today and forever." Hence there were some for whom, when He made atonement, He did not intend to plead it.
(d) Some sinners (i. e., elect), receive from God gifts of conviction, regeneration, faith, persuading and enabling them to embrace Christ, and thus make His atonement effectual to themselves, while other sinners do not. But these graces are a part of the purchased redemption, and bestowed through Christ. Hence His redemption was intended to affect some as it did not others. (See above).
(e) Experience proves the same. A large part of the human race were already in hell before the atonement was made. Another large part never hear of it. But "faith cometh by hearing" (Rom. x), and faith is the condition of its application. Since their condition is determined intentionally by Godís providence, it could not be His intention that the atonement should avail for them equally with those who hear and believe. This view is destructive, particularly, of the Arminian scheme.
From Greatness of Christís Love.
(f) "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." But the greater includes the less; whence it follows, that if God the Father and Christ cherished for a given soul the definite electing love which was strong enough to pay for him the sacrifice of Calvary, it is not credible that this love would then refuse the less costly gifts of effectual calling and sustaining grace. This is the very argument of Rom. 5:10 and 8 to the end. This inference would not be conclusive, if drawn merely from the benevolence of Godís nature, sometimes called in Scripture, "his love," but in every case of his definite electing love, it is demonstrative.
Hence, it is absolutely impossible for us to retain the dogma, that Christ, in design, died equally for all. We are compelled to hold that He died for Peter and Paul in some sense in which He did not for Judas. No consistent mind can hold the Calvinistic creed, as to manís total depravity towards God, his inability of will, Godís decree, Godís immutable attributes of sovereignty and omnipotence over free agents, omniscience and wisdom, and stop short of this conclusion. So much every intelligent opponent admits, and in disputing particular redemption to this extent, at least, he always attacks these connected truths as falling along with the other.
In a word, Christís work for the elect does not merely put them in a salvable state, but purchases for them a complete and assured salvation. To him who knows the depravity and bondage of his own heart, any less redemption than this would bring no comfort.
But the Subject Difficult. (A) From Universal Offer of Atonement.
But the difficulties which beset the subject are great, and unless you differ from me, you will feel that the manner in which they are dealt with by some Calvinistic writers, is unsatisfactory. The objections are of two classes. From the universal offer of atonement through Christ, and from Scripture. The fact that God makes this offer literally universal, cannot be doubted, nor must we venture to insinuate that He is not sincere therein. (Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:16, 17). The usual answer given by Calvinists of the rigid school to this objection is that God may sincerely offer this salvation to every creature, because, although not designed for all, it is in its nature sufficient for, and adapted to all. They say that since Christís sacrifice is of infinite value, and as adequate for covering all the sins of every sinner in the universe, as of one; and since Christ bears the common nature of all sinners, and Godís revealed, and not His secret, decretive, will is the proper rule of manís conduct, this satisfaction may be candidly offered to all. Arminians rejoin, that this implies an adoption of their conception of the nature of the atonement, as a general satisfaction for human guilt as a mass and whole; that the punishment of gospel hardened sinners for unbelief (which we admit will occur), would be unjust on our scheme, since by it they would be punished for not believing what would not be true, if they had believed it; and that since, on our scheme the believing of a non elect sinner is not naturally, but only morally impossible, it is a supposible case for argumentís sake, and this case supposed, God could not be sincere, unless such a sinner should be saved in Christ, supposing He came. The honest mind will feel these objections to be attended with real difficulty. Thus, in defining the nature of Christ vicarious work, Calvinists assert a proper substitution and imputation of individualsí sins. On the strict view, the sins of the non elect were never imputed to Christ. The fact, then, that an infinite satisfaction was made for imputed guilt does not seem to be a sufficient ground for offering the benefits thereof to those whose sins were never imputed.
The student should understand fully the ingenious pertinacity with which this line of objection is urged, and reinforced; from the command which makes it all sinners duty to believe on Christ for their own salvation; from the alleged impossibility of their reaching any appropriating faith by the Calvinistic view, and from the various warnings of Scripture, which clearly contemplate the possible destruction of one for whom Christ died. Our opponents proceed thus. God commands every man to believe on Christ. But since only an appropriating faith saves, and since God of course calls for a saving faith, and not the faith of Devils. God commands every man to appropriate Christ by his faith. But the man for whom Christ did not die has no right to appropriate Him. it would be erroneous presumption, and not faith. Again, both Roman Catholics and Arminians object that the strict Calvinistic scheme would make it necessary for a manís mind to pass through and accept a paralogism, in order to believe unto salvation. This point may be found stated with the utmost adroitness, in the works of Bellamy, (loco citato ). He argues, if I know that Christ died only for the elect, then I must know whether I am elect, in order to be sure that He died for me. But Godís election is secret, and it is mere fanaticism to pretend that I know my own election by direct revelation. My name is nowhere set down specifically in the Bible. That book directs me to find out my election a posteriori by finding in my own graces the results of the secret decree towards me. Thus I am shut up to this sophism, in order to obey Godís command to believe. I must assume, in advance of proof, that I am elected in order to attain through faith the Christian traits, by which alone I can infer that I am elected. The third argument is that founded on the warnings against apostasy. In Rom. 14:15, for instance, the Apostle cautions strong Christians "not to destroy, with their meat, those for whom Christ died." Hebrews 10:29, the apostate "counts the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing." 2 Peter 2:1, heretics "even deny the Lord that bought them." Here, it is urged, Calvinists must either hold that some of the elect perish, or that Christ died for others than the elect.
(B) From Texts Teaching A Seeming Universality.
The other class of objections is from the Scriptures; e. g., Those which speak of Christ as having compassion for, or dying for, "the whole world," "all," "all men," "every man," John 1:29; John 3:16; 4:42; 6:51; 2 Cor. 5:19; 1 John 1; John 12:32; 1 Cor. 15:22; 2 Cor. 5:14, 15; 1 Tim. 2:6; 1 Tim. 4:10; Heb. 2:9. The usual explanation, offered by the strict Calvinists, of these texts is this, that terms seemingly universal often have to be limited to a universality within certain bounds by the context, as in Matt. 3:5; that in New Testament times, especially when the gospel was receiving its grand extension from one little nation to all nations, it is reasonable to expect that strong affirmatives would be used as to its extent, which yet should be strained to mean nothing more than this, that persons of every nation in the world were given to Christ. Hence, "the world," "all the world," should be taken to mean no more than people of every nation in the world, without distinction. There is a certain amount of justice in these views, and many of these passages, as 1 Cor. 15:22; John 1:29, and 12:32, may be adequately explained by them. The explanation is also greatly strengthened by this fact too little pressed by Calvinists, that ultimately, the vast majority of the whole mass of humanity, including all generations, will be actually redeemed by Christ. There is to be a time, blessed be God, when literally all the then world will be saved by Christ, when the world will be finally, completely, and wholly lifted by Christ out of the gulf, and sink no more. So that there is a sense, most legitimate, in which Christ is the prospective Savior of the world.
But there are others of these passages, to which I think, the candid mind will admit, this sort of explanation is inapplicable. In John 3:16, make "the world" which Christ loved, to mean "the elect world," and we reach the absurdity that some of the elect may not believe, and perish. In 2 Cor. 5:15, if we make the all for whom Christ died, mean only the all who live unto Himói. e., the elect it would seem to be implied that of those elect for whom Christ died, only a part will live to Christ. In 1 John 2:2, it is at least doubtful whether the express phrase, "whole world," can be restrained to the world of elect as including other than Jews. For it is indisputable, that the Apostle extends the propitiation of Christ beyond those whom he speaks of as "we," in verse first. The interpretation described obviously proceeds on the assumption that these are only Jewish believers. Can this be substantiated? Is this catholic epistle addressed only to Jews? This is more than doubtful. It would seem then, that the Apostleís scope is to console and encourage sinning believers with the thought that since Christ made expiation for every man, there is no danger that He will not be found a propitiation for them who, having already believed, now sincerely turn to him from recent sins.
Having made these candid admissions, I now return to test the opposing points above recited. I take them in reversed order. The language of Peter, and that of Hebrews 10:24, may receive an entirely adequate solution, without teaching that Christ actually "bought," or "sanctified" any apostate, by saying that the Apostles speak there "ad hominem ." The crime of the heretic is justly enhanced by the fact, that the Christ, whose truth he is now outtaging, is claimed by him as gracious Redeemer. It is always fair to hold a man to the results of his own assertions. This heretic says Christ has laid him under this vast debt of gratitude, so much the worse then, that he should injure his asserted benefactor. But there is another view. The addressing of hypothetical warnings of apostasy or destruction to believers is wholly compatible with the efficacy of Christís work, and the immutability of Godís counsel for them. For that counsel is executed in them, by moral and rational means, among which the force of truth holds the prime place. And among these truths, the fact that if they are not watchful and obedient, professed believers may fall, is most reasonably calculated to produce watchfulness. But naturally speaking, they may fall, for the impossibility of destroying the elect is only moral, proceeding from the secret purpose of God. This important view will be further illustrated and defended when we argue the perseverance of the saints, where it will be found to have a similar application.
The second and first objections really receive the same solution. That the process described by Dr. Bellamy is a paralogism, we freely admit. But Calvinists do not consider it as a fair statement of the mode in which the mind of a believer moves. Turrettin (Loc. 14. Qu. 14, 45), has given an exhaustive analysis of this difficulty, as well as of its kindred one. He had distinguished the reflex from the direct actings of faith. He now reminds the objector that the assurance of our own individual interest in Godís purposes of mercy is reached only a posterior , and by this reflex element of faith. The reflex element cannot logically arise until the direct has scriptural place in the soul. What then is the objective proposition, on which every sinner is commanded to believe? It is not that "Christ designed His death expressly for me." But it is, "whosoever believeth shall be saved." This warrant is both general and specific enough to authorize any man to venture on Christ. The very act of venturing on Him brings that soul within the whosoever. It is only voluntary unbelief which can ground an exclusion of any man from that invitation, so that it is impossible that any man, who wishes to come to Christ, can be embarrassed by any lack of warrant to come. But now, the soul, having believed seen the warrant, "whosoever believeth shall be saved," and becoming conscious of its own hearty faith, draws, by a reflex act, the legitimate deduction, "Since I believe, I am saved." Unless he has first trusted in the general invitation, we deny that he has any right, or that God makes it his duty, to draw that inference. Hence, we deny that God commands the sinner to believe himself elected, or to believe himself saved, by the primary act of his faith. The Arminian asks. Does not God, in requiring him to believe, require him to exercise all the parts of a saving faith? I reply. He does, but not out of their proper order. He requires the lost sinner first to accept the general warrant, "whosoever will," in order that he may, thereby, proceed to the deduction, "Since I have accepted it I am saved." Thus it appears, that in order for the sinner to see his warrant for coming to Christ, it is not necessary for him presumptuously to assume his own election; but after he embraces Christ, he learns his election, in the scriptural way pointed out by Peter, from his calling.
This seems, then, to be the candid conclusion, that there is no passage the Bible which asserts an intention to apply redemption to any others than the elect, on the part of God and Christ, but that there are passages which imply that Christ died for all sinners in some sense, as Dr. Ch. Hodge has so expressly admitted. Certainly the expiation made by Christ is so related to all, irrespective of election, that God can sincerely invite all to enjoy its benefits, that every soul in the world who desires salvation is warranted to appropriate it, and that even a Judas, had he come in earnest, would not have been cast out.
But the arguments which we adduced on the affirmative side of the question demonstrate that Christís redeeming work was limited in intention to the elect. The Arminian dogma that He did the same redeeming work in every respect for all is preposterous and unscriptural. But at the same time, if the Calvinistic scheme be strained as high as some are inclined, a certain amount of justice will be found against them in the Arminian objections. Therefore, in mediis tutissime ibis . The well known Calvinistic formula, that "Christ died sufficiently for all, efficaciously for the Elect," must be taken in a sense consistent with all the passages of Scripture which are cited above.
8. The Relation of Limited Redemption To the Universal Call.
I will endeavor to contribute what I can to the adjustment of this intricate subject in the form of a series of remarks.
(1). The Difficulty the Same As In the Decree, To Be Resolved In the Same Way.
The difficulty which besets this solemn subject is no doubt in part overwhelming and insurmountable for finite minds. Indeed, it is the same difficulty which besets the relation of Godís election to manís free agency, tend not a new one, reappearing in a new phase; for redemption is limited precisely by the decree, and by nothing else. We shall approximate a solution as nearly as is perhaps practicable for man, by considering the same truths to which we resort in the seeming paradox arising from election. There are in the Bible two classes of truths: those which are the practical rule of exertion for man in his own free agency, and those which are the recondite and non practical explanations of Godís action towards usóe. g., in John 5:40 is the one; in John 6:44 is the other; In John 1:36 is one; in 2 Thess. 2:13 is the other; In Rev. 22:17 is one; In Rom. 9:16 is the other. These classes of truths, when drawn face to face, often seem paradoxical, but when we remember that Godís sovereignty is no revealed rule for our action, and that our inability to do our duty without sovereign grace arises only from our voluntary depravity, we see that there is no real collision.
(2). Christís Satisfaction Not Commercial.
Now Christ is a true substitute. His sufferings were penal and vicarious, and made a true satisfaction for all those who actually embrace them by faith. But the conception charged on us seems to be, as though Christís expiation were a web of the garment of righteousness to be cut into definite pieces and distributed out, so much to each person of the elect, whence, of course, it must have a definite aggregate length, and had God seen fit to add any to the number of elect, He must have had an additional extent of web woven. This is all incorrect. Satisfaction was Christís indivisible act, and inseparable vicarious merit, infinite in moral value, the whole in its unity and completeness, imputed to every believing elect man, without numerical division, subtraction or exhaustion. Had there been but one elect man, his vicarious satisfaction had been just what it is in its essential nature. Had God elected all sinners, there would have been no necessity to make Christís atoning sufferings essentially different. Remember, the limitation is precisely in the decree, and no where else. It seems plain that the vagueness and ambiguity of the modern term "atonement," has very much complicated the debate. This word, not classical in the Reformed theology, is used sometimes for satisfaction for guilt, sometimes for the reconciliation ensuing thereon; until men on both sides of the debate have forgotten the distinction. The one is cause, the other effect. The only New Testament sense the word atonement has is that of katallagh , reconciliation. But expiation is another idea. Katallagh is personal. Exilasmo" is impersonal. Katallagh is multiplied, being repeated as often as a sinner comes to the expiatory blood. exilasmo" is single, unique, complete; and, in itself considered, has no more relation to one manís sins than another. As it is applied in effectual calling, it becomes personal, and receives a limitation. But in itself, limitation is irrelevant to it. Hence, when men use the word atonement, as they so often do, in the sense of expiation, the phrases, "limited atonement," "particular atonement," have no meaning. Redemption is limited, i. e., to true believers, and is particular. Expiation is not limited.
(3). Godís Design and Result Exactly Co Extensive.
There is no safer clue for the student through this perplexed subject, than, to take this proposition; which, to every Cavanist, is nearly as indisputable as a truism; Christís design in His vicarious work was to effectuate exactly what it does effectuate, and all that it effectuates, in its subsequent proclamation. This is but saying that Christís purpose is unchangeable and omnipotent. Now, what does it actually effectuate? "We know only in part," but so much is certain.
(a.) The purchase of the full and assured redemption of all the elect, or of all believers.
(b.) A reprieve of doom for every sinner of Adamís race who does not die at his birth (For these we believe it has purchased heaven). And this reprieve gains for all, many substantial, though temporal benefits, such as unbelievers, of all men, will be the last to account no benefits. Among these are postponement of death and perdition, secular well being, and the bounties of life.
(c.) A manifestation of Godís mercy to many of the non elect, to all those, namely, who live under the Gospel, in sincere offers of a salvation on terms of faith. And a sincere offer is a real and not a delusive benefaction; because it is only the recipients contumacy which disappoints it.
(d.) A justly enhanced condemnation of those who reject the Gospel, and thereby a clearer display of Godís righteousness and reasonableness in condemning, to all the worlds.
(e.) A disclosure of the infinite tenderness and glory of Godís compassion, with purity, truth and justice, to all rational creatures.
Had there been no mediation of Christ, we have not a particle of reason to suppose that the doom of our sinning race would have been delayed one hour longer than that of the fallen angels. Hence, it follows, that it is Christ who procures for non elect sinners all that they temporarily enjoy, which is more than their personal deserts, including the sincere offer of mercy. In view of this fact, the scorn which Dr. William Cunningham heaps on the distinction of a special, and general design in Christís satisfaction, is thoroughly shortsighted. All wise beings (unless God be the exception), at times frame their plans so as to secure a combination of results from the same means. This is the very way they display their ability and wisdom. Why should God be supposed incapable of this wise and fruitful acting? I repeat, the design of Christís sacrifice must have been to effectuate just what it does effectuate. And we see, that, along with the actual redemption of the elect, it works out several other subordinate ends. There is then a sense, in which Christ "died for" all those ends, and for the persons affected by them.
(4). Godís Volitions Arise Out of A Complex of Motive.
The manner in which a volition which dates from eternity, subsists in the infinite mind, is doubtless, in many respects, inscrutable to us. But since God has told us that we are made in His image, we may safely follow the Scriptural representations, which describe Godís volition as having their rational relation to subjective motive; somewhat as in man, when he wills aright. For, a motiveless volition cannot but appear to us as devoid both of character and of wisdom. We add, that while God "has no parts nor passions," He has told us that He has active principles, which, while free from all agitation, ebb and flow, and mutation, are related in their superior measure to manís rational affections. These active principles in God, or passionless affections, are all absolutely holy and good. Last, Godís will is also regulated by infinite wisdom. Now, in man, every rational volition is prompted by a motive, which is in every case, complex to this degree, at least that it involves some active appetency of the will and some prevalent judgment of the intelligence. And every wise volition is the result of virtual or formal deliberation, in which one element of motive is weighed in relation to another, and the elements which appear superior in the judgment of the intelligence, preponderate and regulate the volition. Hence, the wise manís volition is often far from being the expression of every conception and affection present in his consciousness at the time, but it is often reached by holding one of these elements of possible motive in check, at the dictate of a more controlling one. For instance a philanthropic man meets a distressed and destitute person. The good man is distinctly conscious in himself of a movement of sympathy tending towards a volition to give the sufferer money. But he remembers that he has expressly promised all the money now in his possession, to be paid this very day to a just creditor. The good man bethinks himself, that he "ought to be just before he is generous," and conscience and wisdom counterpoise the impulse of sympathy; so that it does not form the deliberate volition to give alms. But the sympathy exists, and it is not inconsistent to give other expression to it. We must not ascribe to that God whose omniscience is, from eternity, one infinite, all embracing intuition, and whose volition is as eternal as His being, any expenditure of time in any process of deliberation, nor any temporary hesitancy or uncertainty, nor any agitating struggle of feeling against feeling. But there must be a residuum of meaning in the Scripture representations of His affections, after we have guarded ourselves duly against the anthropopathic forms of their expression. Hence, we ought to believe, that in some ineffable way, Godís volition, seeing they are supremely wise, and profound, and right, do have that relation to all His subjective motives, digested by wisdom and holiness into the consistent combination, the finite counterpart of which constitutes the rightness and wisdom of human volition. I claim, while exercising the diffidence proper to so sacred a matter, that this conclusion bears us out at least so far. That, as in a wise man, so much more in a wise God, His volition, or express purpose, is the result of a digest, not of one, but of all the principles and considerations bearing on the case. Hence it follows, that there may be in God an active principle felt by Him and yet not expressed in His executive volition in a given case, because counterpoised by other elements of motive, which His holy omniscience judges ought to be prevalent. Now, I urge the practical question. Why may not God consistently give Some other expression to this active principle, really and sincerely felt towards the object, though His sovereign wisdom judges it not proper to express it in volition? To return to the instance from which we set out. I assert that it is entirely natural and reasonable for the benevolent man to say to the destitute person."I am sorry for you, though I give you no alms." The ready objection will be, "that my parallel does not hold, because the kind man is not omnipotent, while God is. God could not consistently speak thus, while withholding alms, because he could create the additional money at will." This is more ready than solid. It assumes that Godís omniscience cannot see any ground, save the lack of physical ability or power, why it may not be best to refrain from creating the additional money. Let the student search and see, he will find that this preposterous and presumptuous assumption is the implied premise of the objection. In fact, my parallel is a fair one in the main point. This benevolent man is not prevented from giving the alms by any physical compulsion. If he diverts a part of the money in hand from the creditor to the destitute man, the creditor will visit no penalty on him. He simply feels bound by his conscience. That is, the superior principles of reason and morality are regulative of his action, counterpoising the amiable but less imperative principle of sympathy, in this case. Yet the verbal expression of sympathy in this case may be natural, sincere, and proper. God is not restrained by lack of physical omnipotence from creating on the spot the additional money for the alms, but He may be actually restrained by some consideration known to His omniscience which shows that it is not on the whole best to resort to the expedient of creating the money for the alms, and that rational consideration may be just as decisive in an all wise mind, and properly as decisive as a conscious impotency to create money in a manís.
The Motive Not Executed May Be Expressed.
Let me emphasize the profound importance of this view through another illustration.. We are told that the great Washington declared his own deep grief and sympathy when he signed the death warrant of the amiable but misguided Andre. . Let us suppose a critical invader present, and that he felt free to sardonically criticize Washingtonís declaration by saying, "You are by law of the rebel congress, commander in chief. You have absolute power here. If you felt any of the generous sorrow you pretend, you would have thrown that pen into the fire, instead of using it to write the fatal words. The fact you do the latter proves that you have not a shade of sympathy, and those declarations are sheer hypocrisy." It is easy to see how impudent and absurd this charge would be. Physically, Washington had full license, and muscular power, to throw the pen into the fire. But he was rationally restrained from doing so by motives of righteousness and patriotism, which were properly as decisive as any physical cause. Now, will the objector still urge that with God it would have been different in this case, because His omnipotence might have enabled Him to overrule, in all souls, British and Americans, all inconvenient results that could flow from the impunity of a spy caught in flagrante delicto ; and that so, God could not give any expression to the infinite benevolence of His nature, and yet sign the death warranty without hypocrisy? The audacity of this sophism is little less than the other. How obvious is the reply. That as in the one case, though Washington was in possession of the muscular ability, and also of an absolute license to burn the death warrant, if he chose; and yet his wisdom and virtue showed him decisive motives which rationally restrained him from it. So God may have full sovereignty and omnipotence to change the heart of the sinner whose ruin He compassionately, and yet be rationally restrained from doing it, by some decisive motives seen in His omniscience. What is it but logical arrogance run mad for a puny creature to assume to say that the infinite intelligence of God may not see, amidst the innumerable affairs and relations of a universal government stretching from creation to eternity, such decisive considerations?
Scriptures Ascribe To God Pity Towards Lost.
This view has a great advantage in that it reveals and enables us to receive those precious declarations of Scripture which declare the compassion of God towards even lost sinners. The glory of these representations is that they show us Godís benevolence as an infinite attribute, like all His other perfectionís. Even where it is rationally restrained, it exists. The fact that there is a lost order of angels, and that there are persons in our guilty race, who are objects of Godís decree of preterition, does not arise from any stint or failure of this infinite benevolence. It is as infinite, viewed as it qualifies Godís nature only as though He had given expression to it in the salvation of all the devils and lost men. We can now receive, without any abatement, such blessed declarations as Ps. 81:13; Ezek. 18:32; Luke 19:41, 42. We have no occasion for such questionable, and even perilous exegesis, as even Calvin and Turrettin feel themselves constrained to apply to the last. Afraid lest Godís principle of compassion (not purpose of rescue), towards sinners non elect, should find any expression, and thus mar the symmetry of their logic, they say that it was not Messiah the God man and Mediator, who wept over reprobate Jerusalem; but only the humanity of Jesus, our pattern. I ask. Is it competent to a mere humanity to say, "How often would I have gathered your children?" And to pronounce a final doom, "Your house is left unto you desolate?" The Calvinist should have paused, when he found himself wresting these Scriptures from the same point of view adopted by the ultra Arminian. But this is not the first time we have seen "extremes meet." Thus argues the Arminian, " Since God is sovereign and omnipotent, if He has a propension, He indulges it, of course, in volition and action. Therefore, as He declares He had a propension of pity towards contumacious Israel, I conclude that He also had a volition to redeem them, and that He did whatever omnipotence could do against the obstinate contingency of their wills. Here then, I find the bulwark of my doctrine, that even omnipotence cannot certainly determine a free will." And thus argues the ultra Calvinist. "Since God is sovereign and omnipotent, if He has any propension, He indulges it, of course, in volition and action. But if He had willed to convert reprobate Israel, He would infallibly have succeeded. Therefore He never had any propension of pity at all towards them." And so this reasoner sets himself to explain away, by unscrupulous exegesis, the most precious revelations of Godís nature! Should not this fact, that two opposite conclusions are thus drawn from the same premises have suggested error in the premises? And the error of both extremists is just here. It is not true that if God has an active principle looking towards a given object, He will always express it in volition and action. This, as I have shown, is no more true of God than of a righteous and wise man. And as the good man, who was touched with a case of destitution, and yet determined that it was his duty not to use the money he had in giving alms, might consistently express what he truly felt of pity, by a kind word; so God consistently reveals the principle of compassion as to those whom, for wise reasons, He is determined not to save. We know that Godís omnipotence surely accomplishes every purpose of His grace. Hence, we know that He did not purposely design Christís sacrifice to effect the redemption of any others than the elect. But we hold it perfectly consistent with this truth, that the expiation of Christ for sin expiation of infinite value and universal fitness should be held forth to the whole world, elect and non elect, as a manifestation of the benevolence of Godís nature. God here exhibits a provision which is so related to the sin of the race, that by it, all those obstacles to every sinnerísreturn to his love, which his guilt and the law presents, are ready to be taken out of the way. But in every sinner, another class of obstacles exists; those, namely, arising out of the sinnerís own depraved will. As to the elect, God takes these obstacles also out of the way, by His omnipotent calling, in pursuance of the covenant of redemption made with, and fulfilled for them by their Mediator. As to the non elect, God has judged it best not to take this class of obstacles out of the way, the men therefore go on to indulge their own will in neglecting or rejecting Christ.
But it will be objected. If God foreknew that non elect men would do this, and also knew that their neglect of gospel mercy would infal libly aggravate their doom in the end, (all of which I admit), then that gospel was no expression of benevolence to them at all. I reply, first, the offer was a blessing in itself, these sinners felt it so in their serious moments, and surely its nature as a kindness is not reversed by the circumstance that they pervert it; though that be foreseen. Second, God accompanies the offer with hearty entreaties to them not thus to abuse it. Third, His benevolence is cleared in the view of all other beings, though the perverse objects do rob themselves of the permanent benefit. And this introduces the other cavil. That such a dispensation towards non elect sinners is utterly futile, and so, unworthy of Godís wisdom. I reply. It is not futile because it secures actual results both to non elect men, to God and to the saved. To the first, it secures many temporal restraints and blessings in this life, the secular ones of which, at least, the sinner esteems as very solid benefits; and also a sincere offer of eternal life, which he, and not God, disappoints. To God, this dispensation secures great revenue of glory, both for His kindness towards contumacious enemies, and His clear justice in the final punishment. To other holy creatures it brings not only this new revelation of Godís glory, but a new apprehension of the obstinacy and malignity of sin as a spiritual evil.
Some seem to recoil from the natural view which presents God, like other wise Agents, as planning to gain several ends, one primary and others subordinate, by the same set of actions. They fear that if they admit this, they will be entrapped into an ascription of uncertainty, vacillation and change to Godís purpose. This consequence does not at all follow as to Him. It might follow as to a finite man pursuing alternative purposes. For instance, a general might order his subordinate to make a seeming attack in force on a given point of his enemyís position. The general might say to himself. "I will make this attack either a feint, (while I make my real attack elsewhere), or, if the enemy seem weak there, my real, main attack." This, of course, implies some uncertainty in his foreknowledge, and if the feint is turned into his main attack, the last purpose must date in his mind from some moment after the feint began. Such doubt and mutation must not be imputed to God. Hence I do not employ the phrase "alternative objects" of His planning; as it might be misunderstood. We "cannot find out the Almighty unto perfection." But it is certain, that He, when acting on finite creatures, and for the instruction of finite minds, may and does pursue, in one train of His dealings, a plurality of ends, of which one is subordinated to another. Thus God consistently makes the same dispensation first a manifestation of the glory of His goodness, and then, when the sinner has perverted it, of the glory of His justice. He is not disappointed, nor does He change His secret purpose. The mutation is in the relation of the creature to His providence. His glory is, that seeing the end from the beginning, He brings good even out of the perverse sinnerís evil.
This Christís Own Explanation.
There is, perhaps, no Scripture which gives so thorough and comprehensive an explanation of the design and results of Christís sacrifice, as John 3:16Ė19. It may receive important illustration from Matt. 22:4. In this last parable, the king sends this message to invited guests who, he foresees, would reject and never partake the feast. "My oxen and my fatlings are killed, come, for all things are now ready." They alone were unready. I have already stated one ground for rejecting that interpretation of John 3:16, which makes "the world" which God so loved, the elect world, I would now, in conclusion, simply indicate, in the form of a free paraphrase, the line of thought developed by our Redeemer, trusting that the ideas already expounded will suffice, with the coherency and consistency of the exposition to prove its correctness.
Verse 16. Christís mission to make expiation for sin is a manifestation of unspeakable benevolence to the whole world, to man as man and a sinner, yet designed specifically to result in the actual salvation of believers. Does not this imply that this very mission, rejected by others, will become the occasion (not cause) of perishing even more surely to them? It does. Yet, (verse 17) it is denied that this vindicatory result was the primary design of Christís mission, and the initial assertion is again repeated, that this primary design was to manifest God, in Christís sacrifice, as compassionate to all. How then is the seeming paradox to be reconciled? Not by retracting either statement. The solution, (verse 18) is in the fact, that men, in the exercise of their free agency, give opposite receptions to this mission. To those who accept it as it is offered, it brings life. To those who choose to reject it, it is the occasion (not cause) of condemnation. For, (verse 19) the true cause of this perverted result is the evil choice of the unbelievers, who reject the provision offered in the divine benevolence, from a wicked motive; unwillingness to confess and forsake their sins. The sum of the matter is then. That Christís mission is, to the whole race, a manifestation of Godís mercy. To believers it is means of salvation by reason of that effectual calling which Christ had expounded in the previous verses. To unbelievers it becomes a subsequent and secondary occasion of aggravated doom. This melancholy perversion, while embraced in Godís permissive decree, is caused by their own contumacy. The efficient in the happy result is effectual calling; the efficient in the unhappy result is manís own evil will. Yet Godís benevolence is cleared, in both results. Both were, of course, foreseen by Him, and included in His purpose.