This lecture was typed in by Bill Tyler.
EXTENT OF ATONEMENT.
VI. The extent of the atonement.
In discussing this part of the subject, I must inquire briefly into the governmental value and bearings of the atonement.
1. It is valuable only as it tends to promote the glory of God, and the virtue and happiness of the universe.
2. In order to understand, in what the value of the atonement consists, we must understand:--
(1.) That happiness is an ultimate good.
(2.) That virtue is indispensable to happiness.
(3.) That the knowledge of God is indispensable to virtue.
(4.) That Christ, who made the atonement, is God.
(5.) That the work of atonement was the most interesting and impressive exhibition of God that ever was made in this world, and probably in the universe.
(6.) That, therefore, the atonement is the highest means of promoting virtue that exists in this world, and perhaps in the universe. And that it is valuable only, and just so far, as it reveals God, and tends to promote virtue and happiness.
(7.) That the work of atonement was a gratification of the infinite benevolence of God.
(8.) It was a work eternally designed by him, and, therefore, eternally enjoyed.
(9.) The design to make an atonement, together with the foreseen results which were, in an important sense, always present to him, have eternally caused no small part of the happiness of God.
(10.) The developement, or carrying out of this design, in the work of atonement, highly promotes, and will for ever promote, his glory in the universe.
(11.) Its value consists in its adaptedness to promote the virtue and happiness of holy angels, and all moral agents who have never sinned. As it is a new and most stupendous revelation of God, it must of course greatly increase their knowledge of God, and be greatly promotive of their virtue and happiness.
(12.) Its value consists in its adaptedness to prevent further rebellion against God in every part of the universe. The atonement exhibits God in such a light, as must greatly strengthen the confidence of holy beings in his character and government. It is therefore calculated, in the highest degree, to confirm holy beings in their allegiance to God, and thus prevent the further progress of rebellion. Let it be remembered, the value of the atonement consists in its moral power, or tendency, to promote virtue and happiness. Moral power is the power of motive.
The highest moral power is the influence of example. Advice has moral power. Precept has moral power. Sanction has moral power. But example is the highest moral influence that can be exerted by any being. Moral beings are so created as to be naturally influenced by the example of each other. The example of a child, as a moral influence, has power upon other children. The example of an adult, as a moral influence, has power. The example of great men and of angels, has great moral power. But the example of God is the highest moral influence in the universe.
The word of God has power. His commands, threatenings, promises; but his example is a higher moral influence than his precepts or his threatenings.
Virtue consists in benevolence. God requires benevolence; threatens all his subjects with punishment if they are not benevolent, and promises them eternal life if they are. All this has power. But his example, his own benevolence, his own disinterested love, as expressed in the atonement, has a vastly higher moral influence than his word, or any other of his manifestations.
Christ is God. In the atonement, God has given us the influence of his own example, has exhibited his own love, his own compassion, his own self-denial, his own patience, his own long-suffering, under abuse from enemies. In the atonement he has exhibited all the highest and most perfect forms of virtue, has united himself with human nature, has exhibited these forms of virtue to the inspection of our senses, and laboured, wept, suffered, bled, and died for man. This is not only the highest revelation of God that could be given to man; but is giving the whole weight of his own example in favour of all the virtues which he requires of man.
This is the highest possible moral influence. It is properly moral omnipotence; that is, the influence of the atonement, when apprehended by the mind, will accomplish whatever is within the compass of moral power to effect. Moral power cannot compel a moral agent, nor set aside his freedom, for this is not an object of moral power; but it will do all that motive can, in the nature of the case, accomplish. It is the highest and most weighty motive that the mind of a moral being can conceive. It is the most moving, impressive, and influential consideration in the universe.
Its value may be estimated, by its moral influence in the promotion of holiness among all holy beings.
1. Their complacent love to God must depend upon their knowledge of him.
2. As he is infinite, and all creatures are finite, finite beings know him only as he is pleased to reveal himself.
3. The atonement has disclosed or revealed to the universe of holy beings, a class and an order of virtues, as resident in the divine mind, which, but for the atonement, would probably have for ever remained unknown.
4. As the atonement is the most impressive revelation of God of which we have any knowledge, or can form any conception, we have reason to believe, that it has greatly increased the holiness and happiness of all holy creatures, that it has done more than any other, and perhaps every other, revelation of God, to exalt his character, strengthen his government, enlighten the universe, and increase its happiness.
5. The value of the atonement may be estimated by the amount of good it has done, and will do, in this world. The atonement is an exhibition of God suffering as a substitute for his rebellious subjects. His relation to the law and to the universe, is that which gives his sufferings such boundless value. I have said, in a former lecture, that the utility of executing penal sanctions consists in the exhibition it makes of the true character and designs of the lawgiver. It creates public confidence, makes a public impression, and thus strengthens the influence of government, and is in this way promotive of order and happiness. The atonement is the highest testimony that God could give of his holy abhorrence of sin; of his regard to his law; of his determination to support it; and, also, of his great love for his subjects; his great compassion for sinners; and his willingness to suffer himself in their stead; rather, on the one hand, than to punish them, or, on the other, than to set aside the penalty without satisfaction being made to public justice.
6. The atonement may be viewed in either of two points of light.
(1.) Christ may be considered as the lawgiver, and attesting his sincerity, love of holiness, hatred of sin, approbation of the law, and compassion for his subjects, by laying down his life as their substitute.
(2.) Or Christ may be considered as the Son of the Supreme Ruler; and then we have the spectacle of a sovereign, giving his only-begotten and well-beloved Son, his greatest treasure, to die a shameful and agonizing death, in testimony of his great compassion for his rebellious subjects, and of his high regard for public justice.
7. The value of the atonement may be estimated, by considering the fact, that it provides for the pardon of sin, in a way that forbids the hope of impunity in any other case. This, the good of the universe imperiously demanded. If sin is to be forgiven at all under the government of God it should be known to be forgiven upon principles that will by no means encourage rebellion, or hold out the least hope of impunity, should rebellion break out in any other part of the universe.
8. The atonement has settled the question, that sin can never be forgiven, under the government of God, simply on account of the repentance of any being. It has demonstrated, that sin can never be forgiven without full satisfaction being made to public justice, and that public justice can never be satisfied with anything less than an atonement made by God himself. Now, as it can never be expected, that the atonement will be repeated, it is for ever settled, that rebellion in any other world than this, can have no hope of impunity. This answers the question so often asked by infidels, "If God was disposed to be merciful, why could he not forgive without an atonement?" The answer is plain; he could not forgive sin, but upon such principles as would for ever preclude the hope of impunity, should rebellion ever break out among free agents in any other part of the universe.
9. From these considerations it is manifest, that the value of the atonement is infinite. We have reason to believe, that Christ, by his atonement, is not only the Saviour of this world, but the Saviour of the universe in an important sense. Rebellion once broke out in heaven, and upon the rebel angels God executed his law, and sent them down to hell. It next broke out in this world; and as the execution of law was found by experience not to be a sufficient preventive of rebellion, there was no certainty that rebellion would not have spread until it had ruined the universe, but for that revelation of God which Christ has made in the atonement. This exhibition of God has proved itself not merely able to prevent rebellion among holy beings, but to reclaim and reform rebels. Millions of rebels have through it been reclaimed and reformed. This world is to be turned back to its allegiance to God, and the blessed atonement of Christ has so unbosomed God before the universe, as, no doubt, not only to save other worlds from going into rebellion, but to save myriads of our already rebellious race from the depths of an eternal hell.
Let us now inquire for whose benefit the atonement was intended.
1. God does all things for himself; that is, he consults his own glory and happiness, as the supreme and most influential reason for all his conduct. This is wise and right in him, because his own glory and happiness are infinitely the greatest good in and to the universe. He made the atonement to satisfy himself. "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." God himself, then, was greatly benefited by the atonement: in other words, his happiness has in a great measure resulted from its contemplation, execution, and results.
2. He made the atonement for the benefit of the universe. All holy beings are, and must be, benefited by it, from its very nature, as it gives them a higher knowledge of God than ever they had before, or ever could have gained in any other way. The atonement is the greatest work that he could have wrought for them, the most blessed, and excellent, and benevolent thing he could have done for them. For this reason, angels are described as desiring to look into the atonement. The inhabitants of heaven are represented as being deeply interested in the work of atonement, and those displays of the character of God that are made in it. The atonement is then no doubt one of the greatest blessings that ever God conferred upon the universe of holy beings.
3. The atonement was made for the benefit particularly of the inhabitants of this world, from its very nature, as it is calculated to benefit all the inhabitants of this world; as it is a most stupendous revelation of God to man. Its nature is adapted to benefit all mankind. All mankind can be pardoned, if they are rightly affected and brought to repentance by it, as well as any part of mankind.
4. The Bible declares that Christ tasted death for every man.
5. All do certainly receive many blessings on account of it. It is probable that, but for the atonement, none of our race, except the first human pair, would ever have had an existence.
6. But for the atonement, it seems not possible for creatures to conceive how man could have been treated with lenity and forbearance any more than the fallen angels could be.
7. All the blessings which mankind enjoy, are conferred on them on account of the atonement of Christ; that is, God could not consistently wait on sinners, and bless, and do all that the nature of the case admits, to save them, were it not for the fact of atonement.
8. That it was made for all mankind, is evident, from the fact that it is offered to all indiscriminately.
9. Sinners are universally condemned for not receiving it.
10. If the atonement is not intended for all mankind, it is impossible for us not to regard God as insincere, in making them the offer of salvation through the atonement.
11. If the atonement were not intended for all, sinners in hell will see and know that their salvation was never possible; that no atonement was made for them; and that God was insincere in offering them salvation.
12. If the atonement is not for all men, no one can know for whom, in particular, it was intended, without direct revelation. Hence--
13. If the atonement was made only for a part, no man can know whether he has a right to embrace it, until by a direct revelation God has made known to him that he is one of that part.
14. If the atonement was made but for a part of mankind, it is entirely nugatory unless a further revelation make known for whom in particular it was made.
15. If it was not made for all men, ministers do not know to whom they should offer it.
16. If ministers do not believe that it was made for all men, they cannot heartily and honestly press its acceptance upon any individual, or congregation in the world; for they cannot assure any individual, or congregation, that there is any atonement for him or them, any more than there is for Satan.
If to this it should be replied, that for fallen angels no atonement has been made, but for some men an atonement has been made, so that it may be true of any individual that it was made for him, and if he will truly believe, he will thereby have the fact revealed, that it was, in fact, made for him: I reply, What is a sinner to believe, as a condition of salvation? Is it merely that an atonement was made for somebody? Is this saving faith? Must he not embrace it, and personally and individually commit himself to it, and to Christ?--trust in it as made for him? But how is he authorized to do this upon the supposition that the atonement was made for some men only, and perhaps for him? Is it saving faith to believe that it was possibly made for him, and by believing this possibility, will he thereby gain the evidence that it was, in fact, made for him? No, he must have the word of God for it, that it was made for him. Nothing else can warrant the casting of his soul upon it. How then is "he truly to believe," or trust in the atonement, until he has the evidence, not merely that it possibly may have been, but that it actually was, made for him? The mere possibility that an atonement has been made for an individual, is no ground of saving faith. What is he to believe? Why, that of which he has proof. But the supposition is, that he has proof only that it is possible that the atonement was made for him. He has a right, then, to believe it possible that Christ died for him. And is this saving faith? No, it is not. What advantage, then, has he over Satan in this respect. Satan knows that the atonement was not made for him; the sinner upon the supposition knows that, possibly, it may have been made for him; but the latter has really no more ground for trust and reliance than the former. He might hope, but he could not rationally believe.
But upon this subject of the extent of the atonement, let the Bible speak for itself: "The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world, to condemn the world: but that the world through him might be saved." "And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying; for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world."--John i. 29; iii. 16, 17; iv. 42. "Therefore, as by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so, by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life."--Rom. v. 18. "For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again."--2 Cor. v. 14, 15. "Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." "For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, especially of those that believe."--1 Tim. ii. 6; iv. 10. "And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."--1 John ii. 2.
That the atonement is sufficient for all men, and, in that sense, general, as opposed to particular, is also evident from the fact, that the invitations and promises of the gospel are addressed to all men, and all are freely offered salvation through Christ. "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else." "Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David." --Isa. xlv. 22; lv. 1-3. "Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." "Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready; come unto the marriage."--Matt. xi. 28-30; xxii. 4. "And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come, for all things are now ready."--Luke xiv. 17. "In the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink."--John vii. 37. "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come into him, and will sup with him, and he with me." "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."--Rev. xxii. 17.
Again: I infer that the atonement was made, and is sufficient, for all men, from the fact that God not only invites all, but expostulates with them for not accepting his invitations. "Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets: she crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates; in the city she uttereth her words, saying, How long ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn you at my reproof: behold I will pour out my Spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you." --Prov. i. 20-23. "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow, though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."--Isaiah i. 18. "Thus saith the Lord, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, I am the Lord thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go. Oh that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea."--Isaiah xlviii. 17, 18. "Say unto them, as I, live saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?"--Ezek. xxxiii. 11. "Hear ye now what the Lord saith: Arise, contend thou before the mountains, and let the hills hear thy voice. Hear ye, O mountains, the Lord's controversy, and ye strong foundations of the earth; for the Lord hath a controversy with his people, and he will plead with Israel. O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me."--Micah, vi. 1-3. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!"--Matt. xxiii. 37.
Again: the same may be inferred from the professed sincerity of God in his invitations. "O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!"--Deut. v. 39. "O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!"--Deut. xxxii. 29. "For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness; neither shall evil dwell with thee."--Ps. v. 4. "Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways! I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries. The haters of the Lord should have submitted themselves unto him: but their time should have endured for ever." --Ps. lxxxi. 13-15. "O that thou hadst hearkened unto my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea."--Isaiah xlviii. 18. "For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye."--Ezek. xviii. 32. "And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes."--Luke xix. 41, 42. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved."--John iii. 16, 17. "I exhort therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men: for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth."--1. Tim. 1-4. "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."--2 Peter iii. 9.
Again: the same inference is forced upon us by the fact, that God complains of sinners for rejecting his overtures of mercy: "Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded."--Prov. i. 24. "But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of hosts hath sent in his Spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of hosts. Therefore it is come to pass; that, as he cried and they would not hear: so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the Lord of hosts."--Zechariah vii. 11, 12, 13. "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king which made a marriage for his son. And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready; come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: and the remnant took his servants, and treated them spitefully, and slew them."--Matthew xxii. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. "And sent his servant at supper-time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife; and therefore I cannot come."--Luke xiv. 17, 18, 19, 20. "And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life."--John v. 40. "Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye."--Acts vii. 51. "And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season I will call for thee."--Acts xxiv. 25.
Again, the same is inferrible from the fact, that sinners are represented as having no excuse for being lost and for not being saved by Christ. "And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having a wedding-garment? And he was speechless."--Matt. xxii. 12. "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse."--Romans i. 20. "And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life."--John v. 40. "Now, we know, that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God."--Romans iii. 19.
VII. I now proceed to answer objections.
1. Objection to the fact of atonement. It is said, that the doctrine of atonement represents God as unmerciful. To this I answer,
(1.) This objection supposes that the atonement was demanded to satisfy retributive instead of public justice.
(2.) The atonement was the exhibition of a merciful disposition. It was because God was disposed to pardon, that he consented to give his own Son to die as the substitute of sinners.
(3.) The atonement is infinitely the most illustrious exhibition of mercy ever made in the universe. The mere pardon of sin, as an act of sovereign mercy, could not have been compared, had it been possible; with the merciful disposition displayed in the atonement itself.
2. It is objected that the atonement is unnecessary.
The testimony of the world and of the consciences of all men is against this objection. This is universally attested by their expiatory sacrifices. These, as has been said, have been offered by nearly every nation of whose religious history we have any reliable account. This shows that human beings are universally conscious of being sinners, and under the government of a sin-hating God; that their intelligence demands either the punishment of sinners, or that a substitute should be offered to public justice; that they all own and have the idea that substitution is conceivable, and hence they offer their sacrifices as expiatory.
A heathen philosopher can answer this objection, and rebuke the folly of him who makes it.
3. It is objected, that the doctrine of the atonement is inconsistent with the idea of mercy and forgiveness.
(1.) This takes for granted, that the atonement was the literal payment of a debt, and that Christ suffered all that was due to all the sinners for whom he died, so that their discharge or pardon is an act of justice, and not of mercy. But this is by no means the view of God which the nature of the atonement presents. The atonement, as we have seen, had respect simply to public, and not at all to retributive justice. Christ suffered what was necessary, to illustrate the intention of God, in respect to sin, and in respect to his law. But the amount of his sufferings had no respect to the amount of punishment that might have justly been inflicted on the wicked.
(2.) The punishment of sinners is just as much deserved by them, as if Christ had not suffered at all.
(3.) Their forgiveness, therefore, is just as much an act of mercy, as if there had been no atonement.
4. It is objected, that it is unjust to punish an innocent being instead of the guilty.
(1.) Yes, it would not only be unjust, but it is impossible with God to punish an innocent moral agent at all. Punishment implies guilt. An innocent being may suffer, but he cannot be punished. Christ voluntarily "suffered the just for the unjust." He had a right to exercise this self-denial; and as it was by his own voluntary consent, no injustice was done to any one.
(2.) If he had no right to make an atonement, he had no right to consult and promote his own happiness and the happiness of others; for it is said, that "for the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame."
5. It is objected that the doctrine of atonement is utterly incredible.
To this I have replied in a former lecture; but will here again state, that it would be utterly incredible upon any other supposition, than that God is love. But if God is love, as the Bible expressly affirms that he is, the work of atonement is just what might be expected of him, under the circumstances; and the doctrine of atonement is then the most reasonable doctrine in the universe.
6. It is objected to the doctrine of atonement, that it is of a demoralizing tendency.
(1.) There is a broad distinction between the natural tendency of a thing, and such an abuse of a good thing as to make it the instrument of evil. The best things and doctrines may be, and often are, abused, and their natural tendency perverted.
(2.) Although the doctrine of the atonement may be abused, yet its natural tendency is the direct opposite of demoralizing. Is the manifestation of infinitely disinterested love naturally calculated to beget enmity? Who does not know that the natural tendency of manifested love is to excite love in return?
(3.) Those who have the most cordially believed in the atonement, have exhibited the purest morality that has ever been in this world; while the rejectors of the atonement, almost without exception, exhibit a loose morality. This is, as might be expected, from the very nature and moral influence of atonement.
7. To a general atonement, it is objected that the Bible represents Christ as laying down his life for his sheep, or for the elect only, and not for all mankind.
(1.) It does indeed represent Christ as laying down his life for his sheep, and also for all mankind.
1 John ii. 2.--"And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."
John iii. 17.--"For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved."
Heb. ii. 9. "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man."
(2.) Those who object to the general atonement, take substantially the same course to evade this doctrine, that Unitarians do to set aside the doctrine of the Trinity and the Divinity of Christ. They quote those passages that prove the unity of God and the humanity of Christ, and then take it for granted that they have disproved the doctrine of the Trinity and Christ's Divinity. The asserters of limited atonement, in like manner, quote those passages that prove that Christ died for the elect and for his saints, and then take it for granted that he died for none else. To the Unitarian, we reply, we admit the unity of God and the humanity of Christ, and the full meaning of those passages of scripture which you quote in proof of these doctrines; but we insist that this is not the whole truth, but that there are still other passages which prove the doctrine of the Trinity, and the Divinity of Christ. Just so to the asserters of limited atonement, we reply: we believe that Christ laid down his life for his sheep, as well as you; but we also believe that "he tasted death for every man."
John iii. 16.--"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
8. To the doctrine of general atonement it is objected, that it would be folly in God to provide what he knew would be rejected; and that to suffer Christ to die for those who, he foresaw, would not repent, would be a useless expenditure of the blood and suffering of Christ.
(1.) This objection assumes that the atonement was a literal payment of a debt, which we have seen does not consist with the nature of the atonement.
(2.) If sinners do not accept it, in no view can the atonement be useless, as the great compassion of God, in providing an atonement and offering them mercy, will for ever exalt his character, in the estimation of holy beings, greatly strengthen his government, and therefore benefit the whole universe.
(3.) If all men rejected the atonement, it would, nevertheless, be of infinite value to the universe, as the most glorious revelation of God that was ever made.
9. To the general atonement it is objected, that it implies universal salvation.
It would indeed imply this, upon the supposition that the atonement is the literal payment of a debt. It was upon this view of the atonement, that universalism first took its stand. Universalists taking it for granted, that Christ had paid the debt of those for whom he died, and finding it fully revealed in the Bible that he died for all mankind, naturally, and if this were correct, properly, inferred the doctrine of universal salvation. But we have seen, that this is not the nature of atonement. Therefore, this inference falls to the ground.
10. It is objected that, if the atonement was not a payment of the debt of sinners, but general in its nature, as we have mentioned, it secures the salvation of no one.
It is true, that the atonement, of itself, does not secure the salvation of any one; but the promise and oath of God, that Christ shall have a seed to serve him, provide that security.
GENERAL REMARKS ON THE ATONEMENT.
1. The execution of the law of God on rebel angels must have created great awe in heaven.
2. Its action may have tended too much to fear.
3. The forbearance of God toward men previous to the atonement of Christ, may have been designed to counteract the superabundant tendency to fear, as it was the beginning of a revelation of compassion.
4. Sinners will not give up their enmity against God, nor believe that his love is disinterested, until they realize that he actually died as their substitute: the true and heart-belief of this will effectually subdue their enmity.
5. In this is seen the exceeding strength of unbelief, and of prejudice against God.
6. But faith in the atonement of Christ rolls a mountain weight of crushing and melting considerations upon the heart of the sinner.
7. Thus, the blood of Christ, when apprehended and believed in, cleanses from all sin.
8. God's forbearance toward sinners explained by, and consummated in, the atonement, must increase the wonder, admiration, love, and happiness of the universe.
9. The means which he uses to save mankind must produce the same effect.
10. Beyond certain limits, forbearance is no virtue, but would be manifestly injurious, and therefore wrong. A degree of forbearance that might justly create the impression, that God was not infinitely holy and opposed to sin, would work infinite mischief in the universe.
11. When the forbearance of God has fully demonstrated his great love, and done all it can to sustain the moral government of God, without a fresh display of holiness and justice, he will, no doubt, come forth to the consummation of his moral government, and make parallel displays of justice and mercy for ever, by setting heaven and hell in eternal contrast.
12. Then the law and gospel will be seen to be one harmonious system of moral government, developing in the fullest manner the glorious character of God.
13. From this may be seen the indispensable necessity of faith in the atonement of Christ, and the reason why it is, that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation only to every one that believeth. If the atonement is not believed in, it is to that mind no revelation at all, and with such a mind the gospel has no moral power.
14. But the atonement tends, in the highest manner, to produce in the believer the spirit of entire and universal consecration to God.
15. The atonement shows how solid a foundation the saints have for unbroken and eternal repose and confidence in God. If God could make an atonement for men, surely it is infinitely unreasonable to suppose that he will withhold from those that believe anything which could be to them a real good.
16. We see that selfishness is the great hindrance to the exercise of faith. A selfish mind finds it exceedingly difficult to understand the atonement, inasmuch as it is an exhibition of a state of mind which is the direct opposite of all that the sinner has ever experienced. His experience, being wholly selfish, renders it difficult for him to conceive aright what true religion is, and heartily to believe in the infinitely great and disinterested love of God.
17. The atonement renders pardon consistent with the perfect administration of justice.
18. The atonement, as it was made by the lawgiver, magnifies the law, and renders it infinitely more honourable and influential, than the execution of the penalty upon sinners would have done.
19. It is the highest and most glorious expedient of moral government. It is adding to the influence of law the whole weight of the most moving manifestation of God that men or angels ever saw or ever will see.
20. It completes the circle of governmental motives. It is a filling up of the revelation of God. It is a revealing of a department of his character, with which it would seem that nothing else could have made his creatures acquainted. It is, therefore, the highest possible support of moral government.
21. It greatly glorifies God; indeed it does so far above all his other works and ways.
22. It must be to him a source of the purest, most exalted, and eternal happiness.
23. It opens the channels of divine benevolence to state-criminals.
24. It has united God in a new and peculiar way to human nature.
25. It has opened a way of access to God, never opened to any creatures before.
26. It has abolished natural death, by procuring a universal resurrection: "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." 1 Cor. xv. 22.
27. It restores the life of God to the soul, by restoring to man the influence of the Holy Spirit.
28. It has introduced a new method of salvation and of moral renovation, and made Christ the head of the new covenant.
29. It has made Christ our surety: "By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament." Heb. vii. 22.
30. It has arrayed such a public sentiment against rebellion, as to crush it whenever the atonement is fairly understood and applied by the Holy Spirit.
31. It has procured the offer of pardon to all sinners of our race.
32. It has, no doubt, added to the happiness of heaven.
33. It has more fully developed the nature and importance of the government of God.
34. It has more fully developed the nature of sin.
35. It has more fully developed the strength of sin.
36. It has more fully developed the total depravity and utter madness of sinners.
37. It has given scope to the long-suffering and forbearance of God.
38. It has formed a more intimate union between God and man, than between him and any other order of creatures.
39. It has elevated human nature, and the saints of God, into the stations of kings and priests to God.
40. It has opened new fields of usefulness, in which the benevolence of God, angels, and men may luxuriate in doing good.
41. It has developed and fully revealed the doctrine of the Trinity.
42. It has revealed the most influential and only efficacious method of government.
43. It has more fully developed those laws of our being upon which the strength of moral government depends.
44. It has given a standing illustration of the true intent, meaning, and excellency of the law of God. In the atonement God has illustrated the meaning of his law by his own example.
45. The atonement has fully illustrated the nature of virtue, and demonstrated that it consists in disinterested benevolence.
46. It has for ever condemned all selfishness, as entirely and infinitely inconsistent with virtue.