« AnteriorContinua »
(John xviii, 11.) It was, with a full understanding of all the terrors, with which that cloud of Jehovah's wrath was soon to burst in awful vengeance on his head, that he magnanimously exclaimed, I have a baptism to be baptised with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished. (Luke xii, 50.) It was no sudden impulse of enthusiasm which moved the Son of God to undertake the work of our redemption. It was no momentary movement of generous pity, which the experience of difficulties and dangers might cool or extirpate. No. It was a settled and immoveable purpose, which time and obstacles only served to strengthen and confirm. Instead of shrinking from dangers, and seeking excuses for desisting from his undertaking, his fortitude seemed to gather power in proportion as he approached the final scene of complete woe. On representing to his disciples that he must go up to Jerusalem and suffer many things, Peter presumed to expostulate with him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord : this shall not be unto thee;' but he turned and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan; thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.' (Matt. xvi, 22, 23.)
From all this it appears, that the work of Christ, in giving himself up to suffer and die for us, was strictly voluntary. In no step of that glorious undertaking, was he moved by any thing but his own free will and matchless love. It was a high act of sovereign grace; not a boon forcibly wrung from a reluctant benefactor, To deny this, is to destroy altogether its efficacy. It is of the utmost importance for us to know,' as has been beautifully observed, that through every step of the painful process through which he passed, the benefits derived to us by his sufferings, were not by constraint wrung from him, but willingly purchased for us ; that he was not bound to endurance by the iron chain of his own fallen and sinful personal constitution, but by the golden chain of that love to God whose glorious perfections he was manifesting to the universe, and of that love to men through whose salvation he was making the manifestation, which no waters could quench, and no floods could drown.' (Dods,
VI. One ingredient is still necessary, which is of such essential importance as to have been supposed by many to be all that is requisite. In a compensatory arrangement, such as the atonement is, both parties must be voluntary. Not only must the one party be willing to make the compensation; the other must be willing to accept of it when made.
The appointment of the Father is no less important than the voluntary engagement of the Son; and this, we have now to state, is a prerequisite to validity which the work of Christ distinctly possessed.
The necessity of divine appointment will appear, if it is considered, that God, being the party offended by man's sin, had a right to determine whether sin should be pardoned at all, and on what ground. It was not enough, that a person heroic and benevolent enough should be found, to offer himself in the place of the guilty. To the offended sovereign does it belong to determine whether the proposed substitution shall serve all the ends of justice. Of this He is the only judge. And, supposing him satisfied on this point, it is still a part of his sovereign prerogative to determine whether he shall be pleased to accept of this, or shall insist that the penalty be inflicted on the person offending. To say otherwise, is to hold the monstrous opinion, that the Almighty could be compelled to adopt a line of procedure pointed out by another. The power of dispensing, in any particular, with the laws, can reside only in him who has the power of making the laws. Now, in the case before us, there is a dispensing with the letter of the law as far as it requires the personal punishment of the offender. It is thus clear as noon-day that, had not God voluntarily consented to accept of the sufferings of Christ, these sufferings, however otherwise precious, could have been of no avail. No security could have existed for their ever being accepted. Intrinsically valuable though they were, they might have been relatively worthless; and, as regards the grand design of appeasing the wrath of God, the precious blood of Christ might have been as water spilt upon the ground.
The evidence that the sacrifice of Christ was appointed by God is happily as satisfactory, as the necessity for the appointment is indispensable. In giving himself for our sins that he might redeem us from the present evil world, he acted
according to the will of God, even our Father.' (Gal. i, 4.) Jesus died, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.' (Acts ii, 23.) The character in which he suffered was stamped with the authority of a divine delegation—I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.' (Prov. viii, 23.) At the very time that he claims for himself the character of entire selfdevotement, he fails not to point distinctly to his commission from above, I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I receired of my
Father.' (John x, 18.) Just before entering on the final scene of woe to which so much importance is attached, did he say, "As the Father gave me commandment so I do; arise, let us go hence.' (John xiv, 31.) Not less decisive is the testimony of the apostles. Whom,' says Paul, God hath set forth (foreordained, a3060eto) to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.' (Rom. iii, 25.) . For of a truth,' says Peter, against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, which gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.' And again, • Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things as silver and gold—but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world.' (Acts iv. 27, 28; 1 Pet. i. 19, 20.) In beautiful harmony with these testimonies is the descriptive language of the beloved disciple, • The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.' (Rev. xiii, 8.) Thus does it fully appear that, in making atonement for our sins, Jesus acted, not only with the full consent, but under the high commission of God. He it was who awaked the fiery sword of vengeance against the Shepherd, the man that was his fellow, which continued to smite with relentless severity till justice was satisfied, and could not be quiet because the Lord had given it a charge. So true is it that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.'
These are the circumstances, then, which constitute the validity of Christ's atonement. They are all of them necessary; not one can be dispensed with. They resolve themselves into supreme divinity, perfect humanity, and divine appointment. These, not singly but together, are what conferred on the sufferings and death of our Mediator that high character of intrinsic and relative worth which rendered them a complete atonement to the law and justice of God for the sins of men. Without these, the dying conqueror had never given utterance to the expiring shout of exultation, “It is finished:' never had he risen from the grave, and ascended to glory, and sat down at the right hand of God, amid the welcoming shoạts of enraptured seraphim : the mediatorial glory which eclipses the splendours of the shekinah had never thrown around him its celestial radiance: nor had the sceptre of universal empire ever been put into his hand. From the perfection of his atonement, arising out of the circumstances specified above, does it proceed, that he makes intercession
for us within the vail of the upper sanctuary; and dispenses with a munificent hand the gifts of his purchase. And peace, and pardon, and redemption, and holiness, and eternal glory, are among the rich fruits of the royal and triumphant conquests he achieved, when, by his infinitely meritorious death, he spoiled principalities and powers, and made a show of them openly. With the most entire confidence, then, may the needy sinner, smitten with the deepest sense of conscious unworthiness, rely for salvation on this all-sufficient atonement.
EXTENT OF CHRIST'S ATONEMENT.
The point of which we are now to treat has been extensively agitated, as well in ancient as in modern times. very remote period, Faustus, the leader of the Pelagians, and Sirmandus, an acknowledged Semipelagian, advocated the sentiment that Christ died for all men; and were opposed by Augustine, Prosper, Fulgentius, Remigius, and other fearless defenders of the truth. In the Romish Church, this controversy was carried on with no small degree of warmth, the Jesuits espousing the one side, and the Jansenists the other. From the Papists it passed to the Protestants, Lutherans and Arminians advocating the cause of universality, while the Calvinists contended for a definite or restricted extent. The opinion of the Remonstrants on this topic was pointedly condemned by the Synod of Dort. (Turretini Institutio, v. ii. pp. 495, 496.) It still constitutes a prominent feature in the controversy between Arminians and Calvinists ; and even some, who are otherwise free from the Arminian taint, have adopted notions on this point that are at variance with the Calvinistic creed.
1. Before going into any thing like argument, it will be proper to attend to some preliminary EXPLANATIONS.
On the extent of Christ's atonement, the two opinions that have long divided the Church are expressed by the terms
definite and indefinite. The former means that Christ died, satisfied divine justice, and made atonement, only for such as are saved. The latter means that Christ died, satisfied divine justice, or made atonement, for all mankind without exception, as well those who are not saved as those who are. The one regards the death of Christ as a legal satisfaction to the law and justice of God on behalf of elect sinners: the other regards it as a general moral vindication of the divine government, without respect to those to whom it may be rendered effectual, and of course equally applicable to all. The former opinion, or what is called definite atonement is that which we adopt, and which we shall endeavour to explain, prove, and defend, in our subsequent observations. It may be thus stated :-THAT THE LORD JESUS CHRIST MADE ATONEMENT TO GOD BY HIS DEATH, ONLY FOR THE SINS OF THOSE, TO WHOM, IN THE SOVEREIGN GOOD PLEASURE OF THE ALMIGHTY, THE BENEFITS OF HIS DEATH SHALL BE FINALLY APPLIED. By this definition, the extent of Christ's atonement is limited to those who ultimately enjoy its fruits; it is restricted to the elect of God, for whom alone we conceive him to have laid down his life. However, to prevent mistakes, and to give a clear understanding of the point in dispute, it may be necessary to offer a few explanatory remarks.
1. The point in dispute, let it be carefully observed, does not respect the intrinsic worth of Christ's death. This is admitted, on both hands, to be infinite. There is no room for controversy here. As has been shown in the preceding section, the inherent worth of Christ's atonement arises not from the naturė, intensity, or duration of his sufferings, but from his personal dignity and other concurrent circumstances, which stamp a character of infinite value on all that he endured. On this ground we hold that the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ possessed an intrinsic value sufficient for the salvation of the whole world. In this sense it was adequate to the redemption of every human being—able to procure the expiation of every man's sins that ever existed, or ever shall exist to the end of time. Here we feel no hesitation; nor can we qualify these assertions in the slightest degree. We shall yield to none in our estimate of the intrinsic worth of Christ's atonement. That worth we hold to be, in the strictest sense of the term, INFINITE-ABSOLUTE-ALL-SUFFI
If sufficiency were the point on which the controversy turned, it might soon be ended; and we are strongly inclined to believe, that nothing more than this is meant by