Page images

§ 90.

The atonement is the immediate cause of the remission of sins,

and is not dependant on our reformation for its efficacy.

The instructions of Jesus and his apostles, must not be explained so as to mean that the death of Christ may be a motive to induce us to obey his injunctions and fulfil our duties, in short, may be a motive to such a habit of thought and course of conduct as will procure the remission of our sins. Such an explanation is altogether groundless, inasmuch as no such representation of the influence of Christ's death is expressly given in a single text of the New Testament (1). On the contrary, our obligation to piety is derived as a consequence (2) from the antecedent blessing. But this representation, moreover, expressly contradicts the doctrines of Christianity. For the writers of the New Testament declare most explicitly, that the good works of men have not the least meritorious influence in procuring the remission of our sins (3). Nay, so emphatic is the language used by the inspired penmen on this subject, that they declare that if our own works were the meritorious cause of our salvation, then was the death of Christ superfluous. Gal. 2: 21, ει δια νομου δικαιοσυνη, αρα Χριστος δωρεαν απεFavɛ (4). Moreover, the New Testament teaches us that Christ, by his death, purchased the right of the remission of sins, and eternal felicity for all men (§ 66 &c.), even for those who do not reform, and for those who in this world have not enjoyed the knowledge of a Saviour, and to whom, therefore, the death of Christ could not be a motive to

virtue (5).


The atonement is the immediate cause of the remission of our sins.-If the writers of the New Testament had regarded the death of Christ merely as a motive to reformation, and that as the cause of remission; they would rather, in this mediate sense, have derived our salvation from the resurrection than from the death of Christ. There is, indeed, a connexion between the death of Jesus and our reformation. It affords us an example of obedience to God, of faith, of patience, of confidence in the divine preservation, and of the most exalted love. It proves to us, moreover, his firm conviction of the truth of his doctrines, and thus affords us a confirmation of them, and a motive to their reception, and a consequent reformation. But it is the resurrection of Jesus, in which we see the happy reward of his obedience unto death, which possesses peculiar power (compare \ 83. III. 6). This also affords us the most decided evidence of the truth of those views with which Jesus died. Hence, it would have been natural for the writers of the New Testament to represent the resurrection, rather than the death of Jesus, as a motive to reformation, as the mediate cause of remission of sins and of eternal life ; especially as the resurrection of Christ necessarily presupposes his death, but his death by no means implies his resurrection. But Jesus and his apostles, when speaking of the ground or cause of pardon and of future blessedness, either mention the death of Christ alone, or they connect the death and resurrection together, but never do they mention the resurrection alone.1

II. Same subject continuedIn § 4 of the work just cited in the margin, it is proved that all the passages in the New Testament which belong to this subject, either represent pardon, and not reformation, as the immediate object of the death of Christ, or they derived the obligation to reformation and to a christian life from the pardon which the death of Christ procured. To the first class belong the following passages, in which, according to the more correct explanation, pardon, and not a change of life, is represented as the object of Christ's death. 2 Cor. 5: 19, θεος ην εν Χριστώ κοσμον καταλλασσων εαυτω God was, in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself (comp. v. 18). The clause “not imputing their trespasses unto them” proves the signification of the passage to be “God graciously restored the world to his favour.” This interpretation is just as much authorized on philological grounds (Matth. 5:24. 1 Sam. 29: 4; see LXX), as the explanation, “God reconciled the affections and dispositions of the world to himself,” which is, moreover, not true in fact. In Rom. 5: 10, the words xatnilaγημεν τω θεώ δια του θανάτου του νέου αυτου

1 On the Design of Christ's death, $ 5.

υ-καταλλαγέντες we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, correspond to v. 9, δικαιωθεντες εν τω αιματι αυτου being justifed by his blood; and therefore, like the latter words, they refer to pardon, and not to reformation. And in Eph. 2: 16, the same expression anoxatadašn ta few reconcile unto God, is explained by the words " through him we have access unto the Father;" and therefore refers to our restoration to the favour of God, to our pardon.

In the following passages, reformation is derived from pardon, and consequently represented as a mediate object of the death of Christ. Tit. 2: 14, that he might purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works. (Comp. v. 11, the grace of God which bringeth salvation, i. e. the saving grace of God hath appeared to all men, teaching &c. Comp. also the words immediately preceding ένα λυτρωσηται ήμας απο πασης

1 See Schwartz on the death of Christ, p. 28 &c.


[ocr errors]


avoulas that he might redeem us from all iniquity ; by which words remission of sins is expressed in the 130th Psalm Sth verse). 2 Cor. 5: 14, 15. 1 Cor. 6: 20. Ephes. 2: 10, XTloθεντες εν Χριστώ Ιησου, επι εργοις αγαθοις “we are made new creatures through Christ (§ 73. m. 1), that we should live in accordance with this new and exalted destination." 1 Pet. 1: 17, pass the time of your sojourning, in the fear of the Lord, knowing that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things &c. Heb. 9: 14, how much more shall the blood of Christ-purge your conscience from dead works, to serve the living God. A reception among the people of God, ought to excite christians to live in a manner worthy of the privileges of this people of God.

III. See the work on the Design of Christ's death, 93. Comp. $ 73 supra.

Explanation of Gal. 2: 21.-In the work on the Design of Christ's death, $ 6, the context of this passage is examined, and the sense of the words ει δια νομου δικαιοσυνη (1. δικαιωσις εξ εργων νομου) « If righteousness is by the law,” is proved to be this: “If the fulfilment of the expectations which the law authorizes those to entertain, who fulfil all its requisitions (3: 10), could be expected from the law, i, e. from our own performance of the condition prescribed by the law, then did Christ die in vain.” (p. 440—450).

V. The atonement is general.—The passages which prove this, are stated in 66. Ill. 2. “ The atonement or reconciliation effected by the death of Christ is universal, although the reformation which is effected by the Gospel and doctrine of atonement is by no means general.” See the work on the Design of Christ's death, $ 2.

In refutation of the position, that "the death of Christ makes reconciliation between God and us, only through the interven

tion of our own reformation,” Schwartz, in addition to the arguments adduced in $ 90, appeals to the general usage of language, which forbids the idea that a mediate cause should be meant in the proposition, “this was done for the remission of sins.” He appeals also to other forms of expression in the New Testament, by which the same idea is expressed, and refers to the fact that the death of Christ is compared to a sin-offering, 2 See g 91. Ill. 6. Kant has proved that it is inconsistent with the principles of reason, to suppose that our own reformation and good works are the active or efficient cause of the pardon of our sins. He says, “Whatever may have been the circumstances under which the sinner began his course of piety, and however uniformly correct his deportment may be, still, previously to his change he lived in sin, and the guilt then contracted he cannot possibly ever wash away. The fact, that he, after his change of heart, contracts no new debts, will never pay off the old ones.

Nor can he, however holy his walk, ever do more than he is bound to do; for he is under constant obligation to exert himself to the utmost of his ability in the service of his God.”3

[ocr errors]

1 Schwartz On the Atonement, p. 20-47.

2 Staüdlin on the design and influence of the Atonement; and Ewald's Monthly Magazine for 1802, No. 4. p. 241–249.

3 Religionslehre, S. 78. Compare Tieftrunk's Censur des protestantischen Lehrbegriffs, Th. II, S. 161. See also bis Dissertation, in Staüdlin's Beiträgen, Vol. III. p. 121, 139, 151. and Ewald sup. cit. p. 242.

« PreviousContinue »