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sent Christ as offering himself to God for man and as interceding with him in behalf of his rebellious offspring.
This view is farther supported by Rom. iii. 25. “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” On this text we remark,
1. That to propitiate is to conciliate or to appease one offended and render him favorable. In this sense Christ is our propitiation, turning away from us the wrath of God.
2. That God is the offended party with whom Christ propitiates for us to turn away his displeasure from us, is evident from the fact that the object of his propitiation is the remission of our sins; he “is set forth to be a propitiation to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” Now, as the remission or pardon of sin is the act of God, and as this is the object of Christ's propitiation, it is clear that God is the offended party and that he is rendered propitious, even to the remission of our sins, by the interposition of his son Jesus Christ.
3. That this interposition of Jesus Christ, in our behalf, is on the ground of his having died for us, appears from the fact that it is through faith in his blood that the blessing sought for us,
is received. “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood for the remission of sins.”
This shows that the whole rests upon his having shed his blood for us, or upon the merits of his death.
To this we may add the testimony of St. John.
1 John ii. 1, 2. “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”
1. This text speaks of our sinning against God by which we most certainly incur the divine displeasure. Rom. i. 18. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.”
2. The text declares that Christ is the propitiation, hilasmos, atoning sacrifice, for our sins.
3. That Christ as our propitiation or sacrifice for sin renders God propitious, or reconciles him to us, is clearly shown
by his being our advocate with the Father ; “ If
any man sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” If it is not the office of Christ, as mediator between God and man, to reconcile God to us as well as to reconcile us to God, if God requires no sacrifice for sin to render him propitious to sinners, and if he is never unreconciled to us we need no advocate with the Father; the pleadings, in such case, should all be on the other side to persuade men to be reconciled to God. If the case of a master and servant should be presented to the reader, the master always kind and propitious, never unreconciled to his servant; the servant rebellious, manifesting the blackest ingratitude and the most inveterate enmity towards his master; but notwithstanding all this the master still smiles and asks for no redress of wrongs only that his rebellious servant should return to his duty and to his arms that are extended to embrace him: now, should the
of the kind master undertake the work of mediation, to effect a reconciliation between them, what would the reader think to see him undertake to effect a reconciliation by making an offering to the master on the part of the servant, and by turning advocate for the rebellious servant and pleading in his behalf with the kind master, who was never unrecon'ciled, instead of spending all his energies to bring the rebellious servant to his duty ? As much as such a procedure would shock the common sense of every beholder, yet this is the very point of light in which Jesus Christ is presented, in view of the the above text, by those who deny the necessity of Christ's atonement and intercession for us in order to render God propitious.
Before we close our remarks on this subject, it may be well to offer a few observations, in answer to some of the principal objections which are urged against the preceding views of a vicarious atonement.
1. It has been objected to the doctrine of a vicarious atonement that it would be unjust for the innocent to suffer in the place of the guilty. To this objection we reply,
1. To suffer, endure privation or inconvenience for the good of others, is uniformly represented as virtuous and benevolent. Cat I could wish,” said Paul, “that myself were accursed from
Christ, for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh." Rom. ix. 3.°“ I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” John X. 11. To endure a smaller evil to save others from a greater one, or to secure to them a greater good, is certainly an act of benevolence; it is beneyolence in the light of the Bible, it is benevolence in the sight of the world; such conduct has been made the subject of eulogy by orators and the matter of song by bards. It is worthy of remark, that it is not pretended that Christ suffered as much in quantity as sinners would have suffered, through coming ages, had they been left unredeemed; his sufferings, therefore, save men from a greater amount of evil than he endured for them, while, on the other hand, it brings to them a greater amount of good than he had to forego in accomplishing the work of their redemption. Thus, it is clear, that to suffer for others under the circumstances in which Christ suffered, is an act of virtue and benevolence, unless it can be shown that such sufferings are an infringement upon the prior claims of a superior. When it can be shown that by such sufferings some just claim, some paramount obligation is violated, then, and not till then, will such sufferings appear unjust. Now, we maintain that this is not true of the offering which Jesus Christ made of himself once for all; no prior claim or law, by which the act could be determined an unjust one, was violated. Let it be particularly noted, that Jesus Christ suffered voluntarily on his own part, and in accordance with the will of the Father at the same time. Nothing is more clear than that the father and the Son both willed the offering which Christ made “of himself once for all.” This being understood, we say, if, as those who hold the doctrine of vicarious atonement believe, Christ was God as well as man, equal with the Father, he must have been the source of all law, so that no law could be of higher authority than that of his own will; hence, as he willed to suffer, he suffered under the highest authority, and, therefore, the act cannot be determined to be unjust by a paramount law. But if, as Socinians contend, Christ was a mere created being, bound by the law of his Creator, then, there could be nothing unjust in the offering, since, he suffered in accordance with the will of the Father, the act being sanctioned by the highest au
thority in the universe, while he voluntarily suffered on his own part, for the good of others, delivering them from a greater evil than he endured, and bringing to them a greater amount of good than he sacrificed; which we have shown to be an act of virtue and benevolence, provided no law or prior claim is thereby violated. View the subject in this light and the charge of injustice on the doctrine of vicarious atonement dieappears.
2. While our theory of vicarious atonement is thus vindicated from the charge of injustice, the charge returns upon those who have originated it with a force beyond the power of their theory to resist.
That Jesus Christ did suffer and die voluntarily, and at the same time in accordance with the will of the Father, cannot be denied. This has been sufficiently shown in the preceding arguments, to which we will here add, John x. 17, 18. “ Therefore doth my father love me, because I lay down
my life for the sheep that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself : I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again : this commandment have I received of
Father." It is clear then that Christ did lay down his own life in which he had the sanction of the Father. Now suppose the act was unjust, on the supposition that his death was vicarious, i. e. in the place of the sinner's death, we ask in what respect it would be less unjust on the supposition that it was not vicarious ? Is it unjust for Christ to die to redeem the world, by giving his life a ransom for the forfeited lives of sinners, while it is just for him to die under circumstances in every respect similar, with the exception that his death is not a ransom for the lives of sinners?' If Christ suffered vicariously for sinners, his death contemplated a greater amount of good than it could have done had he died merely as a martyr for the truth ; hence, if our opponents prefer the charge of injustice against the doctrine of Christ's vicarious death, they aggravate the circumstance of injustice in proportion as they lessen the amount of good to be secured by it, by denying its atoning merits.
Should it be said that the injustice consists not in the death of Christ, but in the salvation of sinners on the ground of the
suffering of the innocent, which salvation could not have taken place, consistently with justice, without such atonement, we reply, that God does save sinners either with or without a vicarious atonement. If he saves them without such atonement, consistenly with justice, (and no one will contend that he saves them unjustly,) justice cannot object to the salvation of the sinner after such atonement has been made ; therefore, there can be no injustice in the salvation of sinners on the ground of the merits of Christ's death.
II. It has sometimes been objected to the doctrine of the vicarious sufferings and death of Christ, that if Christ made a full atonement for the sinner, as his substitute, then the sinner cannot be held responsible to the law, his substitute having satisfied its claims. This ground has been taken by antinomian limitarians to prove the absurdity of a general atone-, ment, and by universalists to prove that universal salvation must follow from a universal atonement; both of which positions are equally absurd.
The fallacy of this argument appears to consist in blending the atonement itself with the conditional benefits which flow from it; or, in overlooking the conditions on which men, as moral agents, are made the partakers of the benefits of the atonement. The atonement was unconditionally made ; i.e. no condition was required of man in order that the atonement might be made, for when we consider man as a fallen being, it is clear that the atonement must first be made, and man become a partaker of its benefits to some extent, before he can be capable of complying with any condition; it must, therefore, appear that the atonement is not only unconditional, but that some of its benefits must be unconditional also. But while we admit that the atonement, and even some of its benefits, are unconditional, we deny that all its benefits are unconditional; it therefore becomes necessary to distinguish between its conditional and unconditional benefits. We shall not attempt, here, to point out all the benefits of the atonement, separating the conditional from the unconditional, but will simply remark, with reference to adults, leaving infants entirely out of the question, that the atonement is unconditionally applied, so far as to restore man to a state of moral agency and to render him capable of complying with