Copyright (c)1999, 2000. Gospel Truth Ministries








 An attempt was made, in the first chapter of this work to show that the doctrine of the atonement is a fundamental article of the christian system, and an essential pre-requisite--SINE-QUA-NON--to the salvation of fallen man. Such a provision, it would seem, from the course of reasoning there pursued, was necessary in order that God might furnish an expression of his regard for the moral law, evince his determination to punish sin or execute the penalty of the law, and thus vindicate his character and establish his government in the estimation of the rational universe, while he extends pardon and eternal life to the sinner.

That an atonement, embracing and securing these great objects, has been made, it is presumed, is equally clear from the train of thought presented, in the second chapter, in close connection with the sacred volume. It is perfectly safe, in our theological sentiments, to rest on the naked and reiterated declarations of God; and the mind experiences an additional gratification in doing this, when these declarations, on minute and thorough examination, appear entirely accordant with the sound principles of human reason. There should be no shrinking, under the dictation of pride or vain philosophy, from such assertions of the Holy Spirit as these: "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." "But God commendeth his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." "In due time Christ died for the ungodly." "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." "Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood." 

Believing that the necessity of the atonement has been fully established, and relying on the truth of those declarations of the Bible, already considered and explained, in which we are taught, that Jesus Christ has made such an atonement as was demanded by the condition of the sinner, the character of God and the honor of the law, it becomes a matter by no means of trivial importance to ascertain and define the nature of that satisfaction which he has rendered to God on our behalf. Much indistinctness and confusion have existed, and do still exist, in the christian church, in relation to this point. Persons who contend earnestly for the doctrine of the atonement, nevertheless differ as to its nature; and differ so considerably too, that it is far from being a matter of idle speculation to inquire which side of this question, is supported by reason and the word of God. The object of this inquiry is not to excite or gratify the spirit of idle speculation, or of fruitless controversy, but, if possible to elicit truth by candid and christian discussion.

As it respects the nature of the atonement made by Jesus Christ, two opinions deserve our particular notice. One opinion supposes the Redeemer to be in a strict and literal sense the representative of the elect, and to have suffered for them, as their substitute, the penalty of the law and those for whom he thus suffered, are, on legal principles, eventually liberated from the curse, and restored to the favor of God. The other opinion represents the Lord Jesus as suffering, not the literal penalty of the law, but that which would furnish, in the moral government of God, an adequate and practical substitute for the infliction of this penalty upon transgressors, so far as divine mercy, in the administration of the gospel, shall interpose for their salvation; or, in other words so far as they shall welcome, as moral and responsible agents, under the government of God, the provisions of this atonement. The distinctions here made, will be more clearly understood in the progress of the discussion which will be continued in this and the succeeding chapter.

It is supposed by some, that the atonement made by Jesus Christ, consisted in his suffering, in a strict and literal sense, the penalty of the law in the room of his people, or in the place of the elect, or those, and those only, who will be saved. To examine this position, and show its incorrectness, will claim our first attention.

And here it may be proper to premise, that the scriptures frequently describe the atonement in language of a figurative character; and the literal construction which has been put upon this language, has no doubt, sometimes embarrassed the subject and misled the honest inquirer. We are informed by the pen of inspiration, that Christ "hath purchased" the church "with his own blood." Christians are said to be "bought with a price." Christ was "made a curse for us" and "he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin." These and many other passages of similar import, are often pressed into a literal exposition, while their figurative character is entirely overlooked. When the scriptures tell us, that Christ "hath purchased" the church, or that believers, "are bought with a price," they do not intend to teach us, that the salvation of sinners through the atonement, is a pecuniary transaction, and regulated according to the principles of debt and credit; but that their salvation was effected, in the moral government of God, by nothing less than the consideration--the stipulated consideration of the death of his beloved Son. When it is asserted, in our text, that "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us"--we are to understand, that Christ was himself treated as an accursed being, in his death on the cross, that the mercy of God, through this great transaction, might save the sinner from the curse, or the threatened penalty of the law. If he was made "to be sin for us, it was in a sense which consisted with perfect innocence--for he "knew no sin." He was practically treated for our sake, as if he had been 'sin' itself, sin personified; that we might be treated for his sake as the righteousness of God in him. And when he suffered, it was "the just for the unjust." But some of these passages will come under a more critical review in another place.

To these figurative expressions are superadded others of human origin--such as these: "Christ has paid our debt--has answered the demands of the law, and satisfied the justice of God in our behalf." If we say that Christ has paid our debt, it is true only in a figurative sense; and can mean no more nor less than this, that the sufferings of Christ accomplished the same purpose, in the divine administration, which would have been accomplished by our rejection and punishment. If he has answered the demands of the law, or satisfied the justice of God, by the atonement, we cannot mean, that the law has really inflicted the penalty which it threatened against the transgressor, or that the divine justice took its natural course when the innocent suffered, and the guilty were spared. When theological writers use this style, or adopt this mode of representing the matter they set aside all the established notions of men respecting the divine government and moral character; they present a theory which clashes with all settled opinions respected guilt and innocence, and the nature and objects of punishment and pardon. The purpose or intention of the law is, no doubt, answered; and the law-giver who is the inflexible and immaculate guardian of his own statutes, is satisfied by the atonement. He is so well satisfied, that he suspends the penalty of the law which would otherwise fall upon the sinner, and upon no one else--so well satisfied, that he arrests the hand of justice which would consign the rebel to eternal flames, and rescues this same rebel, as a penitent and believing sinner, by the intervention of his sovereign grace, in the gospel of his beloved Son. That Jesus Christ did not die in the strict and literal sense, as the substitute of his people, or in the room of those who will filially be saved, may be established beyond all reasonable doubt--beyond all enlightened controversy. The reader will notice the qualifying phrase here employed, "in the strict and literal sense." 

This idea of the atonement would involve a transfer of moral character, which is repugnant to the principles of reason, and at variance with the disclosures of inspiration. Those who contend, that Christ literally suffered the penalty of the law in the room of his people, in such a sense that justice has no farther demand upon them; that he paid their debt in such a sense, that they must receive a legal discharge, have contrived a kind of commutation of moral character, a sort of spiritual transfer or barter, between Christ and those for whom he died in order to justify and sustain the positions assumed in relation to the atonement. The doctrines of substitution and imputation, as they are sometimes presented in systems of theology, are intimately connected with the present discussion, and should be examined and explained in this connection. In this system, Christ is the legal substitute of the elect, and their sins are so imputed to him, that Christ becomes liable to the penalty of the law, and those for whom he suffers, are, in due time, necessarily and legally exempted from the curse which was inflicted on him. While the doctrines of substitution and imputation are unquestionably taught in the Bible, and are to be received as a part of the evangelical plan, yet they are to be explained in their appropriate relations to other doctrines, and they must not be so understood as to set aside the first principles of reason and common sense. Like all other doctrines and theological terms, they are the proper subjects of exposition, they are to be submitted to the same critical examination and to the same tests of scrutiny as any and all other doctrines of scripture. To the construction of these doctrines alluded to above, it would seem that every mind accustomed to reason, on the system of the gospel, as on other important and weighty matters, would be disposed to enter its entire and unqualified dissent. It is for ever impossible, in the very nature of things, that Christ should become liable to suffer that punishment which the law denounced against the transgressor--and against him alone. The law has no penal demand against Christ, and such a demand it can never establish. The soul that sinneth, IT shall die," is the threatening of the law. Against the innocent it contains no combination, it utters no curse; and, in this case, the law can, in strict propriety, inflict no punishment. The idea, that Christ so took the legal place of the sinner, and that the iniquities of his people were so imputed to him, that the law required his death and justice demanded the release of those for whom lie died, is at once, a perversion and a blunder, unscriptural and absurd. The law can have no penal demand except against the offender. With a substitute it has no concern; and though a thousand substitutes should die, the law, in itself considered, and left to its own natural operation, would have the same demand on the transgressor which it always had. This claim can never be invalidated. This penal demand can never be extinguished. Fully aware of the truth of these positions, some have pushed the theory of substitution so far as thoroughly to meet the exigencies of the case. The sins of his people, say they, were so laid upon Christ, that he became, in the eye of the law, the sinner, and was legally punished to the full amount of all that demerit which was attached to the sins of those who will finally be saved by his blood. This is a common idea of substitution. But this idea involves a literal transfer of characters. On this scheme Christ, and not man, is the sinner. But Christ and man cannot exchange characters, because sin and holiness are personal, and cannot be transferred from one moral being to another. The sinful or holy act of one person, may, in a thousand ways, affect another, exert an influence upon his happiness or misery, but it can never be so transferred as to cease to be the act of the person who performed it, and become the act of some other person who did not perform it. The Bible always represents Christ as holy, and men as unholy; and the children of God, while they have felt themselves vitally interested in the atonement made by Jesus Christ, have confessed their own sins, and relied for pardon and acceptance upon the mercy of God alone. Certainly this looks very little like having so obeyed the law and suffered its penalty, in the person of a substitute, as to be discharged, on legal principles from all guilt, and from the liability to punishment. 

In what sense Christ was the sinner's substitute, and in what sense sin was imputed to Christ, will more fully appear in the progress of this discussion. Let it suffice, for the present, to remark, that whatever Christ suffered, he suffered as an innocent being--not on legal principles, but by express stipulation or covenant with the Father. He did not assume the character of the sinner, and could not, in a literal sense, endure that curse which the law pronounces alone upon the guilty. He suffered and died, "the just for the unjust" and those sufferings which he endured as a holy being, were intended, in the case of all those who are finally saved, as a substitute for the infliction of the penalty of the law. We say a substitute for the infliction of the penalty; for the penalty itself, if it be executed at all, must fall upon the sinner, and upon no one else. He is the only being known by the law. 

To the considerations already stated it should be added, that an atonement for sin which supposes that Christ literally suffered the penalty of the law for those who will finally be saved, destroys all mercy in the Godhead. According to this system, the persons of the Trinity are not perfectly harmonious in their feelings respecting man's salvation. The eternal Father, as the guardian of the law and the governor of the universe, it would seem, has no pity for sinners and no disposition to save them, aside from the atonement; and this atonement which procures his assent to the salvation of fallen man, involves a full and literal infliction of the penalty of the law. At least, something like this representation of the affair, is given by many who have spoken and written on this subject. It is true, that their notions are not always clearly expressed, and less frequently are they traced out in all their relations, and contemplated in all their logical conclusions if they were, they would seldom stop short of the positions here stated. As a sufficient answer to this mere human theory,--this refined speculation, let it be remembered, that if the penal denunciation of the law has been fully executed on Jesus Christ, then justice can have no additional claim upon the sinner. By one act of his literal and legal substitute every demand upon him has been extinguished. The justice of God must let him go free, for justice has had its last claim.

Where then is the mercy of God, where that rich and sovereign grace, whose praises have been sung on earth, and whose triumphs will be for ever celebrated in heaven? Certainly, if justice has had its full demand, if its last uncompromising claim has been extinguished, there can be no room for the exercise of mercy.

But it may be said, in reply to all this, that the mercy to the sinner is just the same whether he be saved with or without an atonement; whether this atonement involved a literal infliction of the penalty of the law, or whether it embraced sufferings which were accepted in the place of that curse which was denounced against him as a transgressor. Be it so, that the mercy to redeemed man is the same; but by whom is this mercy exercised? Surely not by the Father of mercies. It is a vital principle of that scheme now under examination, to represent God the Father as rigidly insisting on the infliction of the whole penalty of the law, before he consents to the offer of salvation to a rebellious world. Every particle of this curse must be inflicted. Every jot and tittle of the law must be executed, and then the thoughts of mercy and pardon may begin to be entertained.

Now, if, when the penalty of the law was about to fall on sinners, the Son of God came forward and endured the exact amount of that suffering, due, on legal principles, to these sinners, be the number great or small, then the whole mercy involved in their redemption is expressed by Christ alone. The Father as one of the persons of the Godhead, is inflexibly just without any inclination to the exercise of mercy; while the Son is so merciful, that he has suffered the most rigid demand of the law, in order to obtain the consent of the Father to the salvation of his people. This representation appears to us and plainly is derogatory to the character of God. It annihilates the attribute of mercy, and represents the Son as a kind of milder Deity who has interposed and answered the stern demands of the Father, in behalf of his people, or of a select and definite number of our race, and, in this way, has literally purchased them from perdition by enduring that identical perdition in their stead. The death he died was the very death threatened against them, by the law; the pains he bore were the literal pains of their damnation. The only difference was, that he bore them in their stead.

This view of the case does not correspond with the teachings of Jesus Christ himself respecting the tender mercies and the beneficent acts of the Father. "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life." The love of God to our world, to a world of sinners as such, was the cause, and not the effect, of the atonement. The mercy of God needed no sacrifice in order to bring it into being, or to excite it to action. The atonement made by Christ, was not necessary for this purpose. This attribute had already fixed upon its sublime and grand design--the salvation of sinners. The penalty of the law, in the case of those who believe and are saved, is not to be inflicted. This may be looked on as the settled purpose of the God of mercy. And now the great question is, what expedient shall be adopted--what expression of the divine feelings shall be made before the eyes of the universe, in order to guard the throne of God from encroachment, and to secure the same objects which would have been secured by the execution of the law itself? This expedient is to be found in the atonement made by Jesus Christ, the peculiar and intrinsic nature of which will be more fully illustrated in the following chapter of this work.

If Jesus Christ literally endured the penalty of the law, in the room of his people, or those who will finally be saved, then there could be no grace in their pardon and restoration to the favor of God. The notion of debt and credit furnishes a favorite mode of illustrating the doctrine of the atonement, with those who hold the system of literal and legal substitution. Christ is said to have paid the debt for his chosen people; and, in consequence of this act of Christ, they are, on legal principles, released from future punishment. As this representation of the great work of man's recovery from sin is entirely discarded in the view of the atonement presented in this treatise, it may be proper to examine, for a moment, the figure itself, and then its application to the case in hand.

This whole matter of debt and credit is of a pecuniary or commercial character, and may be easily understood. Your neighbor becomes indebted to you in a large amount, which he is utterly unable to pay. You resort to legal coercion-institute a prosecution, and eventually lodge him in prison. A third person, actuated by benevolence, inquires into the affair--is touched with pity for the tenant of the jail--becomes his legal surety--pays the whole demand--and restores him to personal freedom. Now on what principle is that man permitted to cross the threshold of his prison? Must he come to your feet, and beg to be released or may he boldly demand liberation on the principles of law? And when he again rejoices in the light of heaven, to whom shall he express his gratitude; to his benefactor who paid the debt, or to you who set him at liberty when the last jot and tittle of your demand was extinguished? It is manifest that you have no farther claim upon this man, because the debt is paid. The law has lost its hold upon him. He has a legal right to a discharge? and, on the score of gratitude, he is indebted to that benefactor alone who cancelled the demand by paying the debt, and not to yourself, who exacted, as the condition of his release, the lost jot and tittle that the law could give you. In the whole matter of prosecution and imprisonment, you did all that the law would permit you against him; and in his enlargement from bonds, and his restoration to pardon and happiness, you did no more than you was compelled, by simple justice, to do. There is no mercy In the case, for the debt, let it be remembered, is paid. No part of it, in any sense, remains uncancelled. If it is justice, this is one thing--and grace is grandly another!

Apply this illustration to the doctrine of the atonement. Man had violated the law of God, and, as a transgressor, was exposed to the penalty. This penalty, according to the scheme now under consideration, the lawgiver is determined to enforce. The whole race are about to perish, when Christ suffers the exact penalty of the law for a certain part of these offenders; discharges the whole moral demand against them; and those for whom he thus suffered, are liberated from the curse, and restored to the favor and affection of God. This representation of the atonement is noticed by THOMAS ERSKINE, Esq., of Scotland, an acute and discriminating writer "On the Internal Evidences for the truth of revealed religion." Speaking of the doctrine of the atonement, he remarks, "It has been sometimes so incautiously stated, as to give ground to cavillers for the charge that the christian scheme represents God's attribute of justice as utterly at variance with every moral principle. The allegation has assumed a form somewhat resembling this, that, according to christianity, God indeed apportions to every instance and degree of transgression its proper punishment; but that, while he rigidly exacts this punishment, he is not much concerned whether the person who pays it be the real criminal or an innocent being, provided only that it is a full equivalent; nay, that he is under a strange necessity to cancel guilt whenever this equivalent of punishment is tendered to him by whatever hand. This perversion has arisen from the habit among some writers on religion of pressing too far the analogy between a crime and a pecuniary debt."

If this commercial scheme be a true and literal representation of the affair, on what principle are those persons for whom such an atonement has been made, discharged from the penalty of the law? That very threatening which the law uttered against these sinners, has been inflicted on Christ, and, by this act, the whole demand of this Father was extinguished. The law has no farther claim, and is forever satisfied. Justice has no farther claim. The whole amount of penal suffering has been endured by Jesus Christ in the character of a legal substitute; and how can law and justice open their lips against those sinners for whom Christ died? If such an atonement as this had been made, on what principle, it might be asked, would these persons be released from future punishment? Must they beg of God to spare them from the curse of the law, and gave them from going down to the prison of despair? This would be unnecessary, because it is the vital principle of this scheme, that the whole penal demand has been answered. Jesus Christ is represented as having suffered the identical amount which their sins deserved, and as the law cannot punish twice for one and the same offence, they can sustain no liability to punishment. Shall they bless God, that their sins are pardoned by his rich and abounding grace? How can grace or pardon consist with such an atonement as is here described? What grace or favor did you grant your debtor, when you released him from prison, after his surety had paid all the demand?--None at all. You did only that which the law would compel you to do. You liberated the debtor when the whole amount was discharged, and when he was no longer a debtor, in the judgment of the law. And if Christ has suffered that very penalty involved in the eternal condemnation of his people, as some contend, then they ought to be liberated on the principles of law. Their debt is paid. The law has no farther demand; and grace and pardon are out of the question. There is but one being in the universe to whom these persons would be indebted for their release; and that is the friend who paid their debt, or suffered the penalty of the law in their stead. Christ, in distinction from the Father, is their only gracious Benefactor.

A moment's reflection will teach us, that this is not the representation of the atonement given in the Bible. Notwithstanding what Christ has done, in order to prepare the way for man's salvation, we are every where taught, that we are saved by grace, and that a free pardon is consistent with full atonement for sin. "Being justified freely BY HIS GRACE through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus." We need no other proof than that suggested in this passage, that Christ did not pay the debt, or literally suffer the penalty of the law for his people. He prepared the way for our debt to be emitted; or in plain language, dispensing with all metaphor, he made it consistent and proper and honorable for sin to he forgiven according to the prescribed terms of the gospel. The objection against the scheme that Christ literally endured the penalty of the law in the room of his people, that it precludes the idea of grace in their restoration to the favor of God, is answered in something like the following manner by those who hold to this doctrine. The grace consisted in providing an atonement and in Christ's suffering the punishment due to his people as sinners. The reward was due to Christ, and this reward is made over to his people by an act of grace.

The great objection against this theory is, that it does not correspond with the Bible. The gift of Christ as Mediator, it is true, was the unspeakable gift; and the sufferings of Christ for men, were the effect of sovereign love; but all this does not save the sinner. The way is only prepared. The door is open. Mercy can now operate. But the sinner is still under condemnation: and if he is saved at all, he must be saved as much by an act of free grace as if no atonement had been made. "In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins." Sinners, that is, penitent and believing sinners, are "justified freely by his grace," and they receive "the forgiveness of sins" through the atonement. And these acts of acquittal and forgiveness, are subsequent to, and distinct from, the atonement itself. On the principle of a legal substitution and a literal infliction of the penalty of the law, the atonement would bring no accession of happiness to the universe. The system which is now under consideration represents the Lord Jesus Christ in the work of redemption, as making an atonement for a definite number of our race. These persons are the elect, or those who will finally be saved. This atonement by which they are to be saved, consisted in Christ's taking on himself their personal guilt, and thus enduring the penalty of the law in their stead. It is not considered enough, on this plan, for him to suffer what would answer in the place of the infliction of the penalty; but he must receive, in his own person, the identical curse which they deserved, and which they had incurred by their sins. The amount of Christ's sufferings must consequently be the same as the aggregate sufferings included in the eternal condemnation of all those who are saved by his merit. There was first a literal transfer of all their sins to Christ which rendered him legally bound to suffer their punishment, and then each and all of these sins were expiated upon the cross by his enduring the original penalty which was threatened in the law. The agonies which he suffered were equal to the endless misery of all those, who will be saved by his interposition in their behalf. To this view of the atonement, it may be farther objected, that it annihilates the last particle of benevolence in the gospel. If Christ suffered the same misery in kind and degree that was due to the whole number who will finally be saved, and which they must have suffered, in their future and eternal condemnation where are the indications of that wisdom and goodness which have ever been considered prominent features it, the system of the gospel? It has generally been supposed, that the gospel is the grand device of heaven for preventing misery and for increasing happiness among the rational creatures of God. But if Christ suffered all that the law would inflict to eternity upon the vessels of mercy, then there is no gain on the principles of general benevolence. The same misery is endured, in the rational system, which would have been endured, had the whole race of Adam perished without the provisions of the gospel. Satan has met with no signal defeat. If he has not literally accomplished the ruin of the whole family of man, he has accomplished that which amounts to the same thing, and his purposes are substantially answered. He has secured a part of the human race, as the victims of despair, and for those who are rescued from his grasp, he has received a full equivalent. In the place of the eternal misery of each redeemed soul, he has seen the same amount of suffering, both in nature and degree, inflicted on the Son of God.-This is by no means such a triumph over Satan as the Bible describes. This is not such a gospel as inspiration reveals. A system which prevents no misery, and which brings no accession to the happiness of the universe--a system whose grand and distinctive characteristic is that it devises a way in which the innocent may suffer a certain amount of misery which was due to the guilty, would hardly excite, so the gospel does, the wonder and admiration of the angels in heaven. Read the parable of the lost sheep, and you will learn, that the plan of redemption will increase, as it was designed to do, the happiness of the universe. Read almost any page of the New Testament, and you may infer the same truth which the apostle Paul distinctly expresses, in his Epistle to the Ephesians, that "the principalities and powers in heavenly places" learn "by the church the MANIFOLD WISDOM of God." And who can believe that this "wisdom," in its highest aspirations, has aimed at nothing more sublime, and, in its most holy and happy achievement, has accomplished nothing more benevolent, than to transfer an amazing amount of divine wrath from the guilty to the innocent? Would such a plan, and its accomplishment, impart new rapture to the songs, and sweeter melody to the harps of heaven? Would such a work, when projected, be pronounced the masterpiece of the great moral architect, and, at the crisis of its consummation, inspire a shout of triumph which shall roll through the length and breadth of the universe? These things the gospel has done and will do; and we may confidently infer that it is something more elevated in its aims, and more beneficent in its results, than the mere commercial transaction here described. The true plan is discernibly full of grace and glory.

But this point ought not to be dismissed here. Can the scheme adverted to above, be indeed the gospel scheme? Are these, then, the boasted triumphs of divine grace, that it has devised a way in which divine grace is vacated, as the innocent may sustain a certain amount of suffering due to the guilty, and the guilty escape merited punishment? Let the question be fairly met. If Jesus Christ has endured, in his own person, the pains of damnation awarded by the decisions of law to those who will finally be redeemed, or if he has endured an amount of misery equal to those pains, it would seem to be a clear case, that not one particle of penal evil is prevented. A mere commutation is all that has been effected. Those sufferings have been inflicted on Jesus Christ, in making the atonement, which would otherwise have been endured by his people in perdition. The amount of suffering, let it be remembered, is the same. In what then consists the benevolence of this grand device of heaven? Certainly not in the diminution of misery in the universe! Not one grain is abated or annihilated. Sinners who will finally be lost, will endure, in their own persons, the full penalty of the law; and the full penalty of the same law due to those who are saved, was sustained by Jesus Christ in their stead. Will it be replied, that those who are saved, will be more happy, possibly, than they would have been if they had never sinned and had never been redeemed? This may be granted, but it is equally true, that many sinners will be more miserable in eternity, than they would have been, had there been no atonement, and no gospel. Should it be still farther asserted, that the gospel scheme, and especially the grand feature of the gospel, the atonement, will augment the happiness of all holy beings, this too, may be cheerfully conceded. This effect will be produced, however, by the contemplation of its benevolent features. The moral power of the gospel to diminish sin and misery, and not the fact, that it is a device for the infliction of the same amount on the innocent which was due to the guilty, is what strings the harps, and swells the songs of heaven! Every good being in the universe, is, no doubt, made more and more happy as he witnesses the benevolent disclosures of this system. God and angels and saints rejoice together in its progress and in its triumphs. But it may admit of a doubt whether this would be the case, if the gospel could establish no higher claim to admiration, than, that it had transferred a definite portion of penal evil from one part of the universe to another, from the unjust to the just--from sinners to their substitute. A mere quid-pro-quo transaction! It may be objected to the general course of reasoning adopted in this discussion, and particularly, to the argument distinctly stated under the present head, that it is not contended, that the penalty of the law was, in a strict and literal sense, inflicted on Christ. To this objection it may be replied, that the doctrine is thus stated and defended by many speakers and writers. It is frequently proclaimed from the pulpit, and the sentiment may be found distinctly expressed in a great variety of publications both of ancient and modern date, that Christ sustained the exact amount of misery due to those who are to be saved by his blood. It is true, that men who have candidly examined the objections which are urged against this scheme, have, particularly of late, adopted a qualified mode of expression in relation to this point. They contend, that the real penalty of the law was inflicted on Christ; and, at the same time, acknowledge, that the sufferings of Christ were not the same, either in nature or degree, as those sufferings which were threatened against the transgressor. The declaration of Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians, that "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law being made a curse for us," is considered by some as furnishing unequivocal proof of the fact, that he endured the full and identical penalty of the law in the room of his people. But it is, in no shape or manner, asserted here, that the Son of God suffered the penalty of the law. The apostle is vary particular to tell us in what sense he was "made a curse for us;" "cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." Was this the penalty of the law, or a substituted suffering as well as a substituted sufferer? Does the law say, "the soul that sinneth, it shall hang on a tree?" or is this plainly, and palpably, and immensely, ANOTHER KIND OF DEATH, in form, duration, and circumstances? If so, it is not the penalty of the law. It is A curse, but not THE CURSE of the law. Believers are saved from the curse or penalty of the law by the consideration that Christ was "made a curse" for them, in another and a very different sense, He was "made a curse" inasmuch as he suffered, in order to open the door of hope to man, the pains and shame, and ignominy of crucifixion. He hung upon tree. He died as a malefactor. He expired as one accursed. In the last dark hour of mortal agony he appeared abandoned, not only of man, but of God. If the declaration, that Christ was "made a curse for us," proves, that he suffered the penalty of the law, then it must, at the same time, prove, by the principles of legitimate exposition, that the penalty of the law was crucifixion; for it is written, in the same connection, "cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." But the penalty of the law was damnation, or eternal death; and this was threatened against the transgressor alone, and could, in justice, be inflicted on no one else certainly not on celestial innocence in human form!

As to the declaration, that Christ actually suffered the penalty of the law, in the place of his people, and yet did not sustain, either in nature or degree, that misery which the law denounced and their sins deserved, it appears a direct contradiction in terms. The penalty of the law was something definite. It embraced sufferings of a certain kind, and it extended those sufferings to certain fixed and settled limits. Now if, while Christ was suffering, he endured a misery essentially different, in its character, from that which was threatened in the penalty of the law, and if it differed no less in its degree than its nature, how could it be, in any sense, an infliction of the threatened curse? The thing is impossible. If God had threatened to inflict a certain kind and a certain degree of penal evil upon the transgressor, can we say that this identical curse was executed because an innocent being sustained a different kind and a different degree of suffering? The position is utterly absurd, and it is abandoned in the very terms in which it is expressed. How can we affirm that it is the same penalty, when it is acknowledged that both its character and quantity are different, and the subject upon whom it is inflicted is not only a different one from that contemplated in the law, or known to the law, but sustaining a moral character directly the reverse of that against which the penalty is uttered. There is inherent contradiction in such a scheme, and it hardly seems possible, that a well trained and logical mind should entertain it for a moment. There are but two theories respecting the nature of the atonement, which have any claim to self-consistency. One is, that Christ suffered, in the most strict and literal sense, the penalty of the law for his people, and the other, that his sufferings were a substitute for the penalty of the law, which, if executed, would have been the measure of their punishment, and the perdition of mankind.

The first of these theories we have seen is utterly at war with the Bible and common sense. And yet it is far more consistent with itself, than that mixed theory which many have been compelled of late to adopt in order to shield themselves from the arguments of their opponents. We mean that sentiment which declares that Christ suffered the penalty of the law for his people, and yet he did not suffer it in nature or degree. That is, he suffered something essentially different from the penalty, and yet this was the penalty itself!

In a sermon by Dr. Dana, of Londonderry, We find this sentiment. "In as much as the Scripture expressly declares that, in redeeming us from the law, he was made a curse for us, we are constrained to conclude, that his sufferings were a substantial execution of the law; a real endurance of the penalty, so far as the nature of the case admitted, or required." In another place he says, "We contend not that the Redeemer endured precisely the same misery in kind and degree to which the sinner was exposed."

The penalty of the law either was or was not inflicted on the Lord Jesus Christ. If it was inflicted, then it must have been inflicted in kind and degree. If not, then his sufferings were something specifically different from the penalty. To talk of "a real endurance of the penalty, so far as the nature of the case admitted, or required," is to say that it was not "a REAL endurance of the penalty," because "the nature of the case" did not admit or require it.

But why is it necessary to support the position, that the curse of the law was inflicted on Christ? If it should be said, that the divine veracity was pledged to execute the law--we reply, that the divine veracity can find no support in that kind of infliction of the curse which is here supposed. "A substantial execution of the law"--an "endurance of the penalty, so far as the nature of the case admitted, or required"--an infliction of suffering and punishment, not upon the transgressor, but upon a surety, when the law had not made the most distant allusion to a surety, certainly has much more the appearance of an evasion of the law, than the execution of it. If both the nature and degree of sufferings involved in the penalty of the law, may be dispensed with, on the same principle, the penalty itself may be set aside, provided the glory of the law-giver and the happiness of the universe can be secured in some other way. The moment a man admits, that Christ did not suffer, in the most rigid sense, the penalty of the law that his misery was not the same in nature and degree which the law had threatened-that he did not suffer the same punishment which would have been inflicted upon those who will finally be saved, and that the atonement was not, in every feature of it, a "quid pro quo" transaction--a commercial transaction--a transaction for value received--that moment he admits a principle which is utterly at war with the theory of legal substitution and the literal infliction of penalty; and he will never be able to make his system correspond each and every part with the whole till he adopts that view of the mediation of Christ which will be drawn out in detail, and fully discussed, in the next chapter.

It may not be improper to remark, in this connection, that incorrect views of the nature of the atonement, have frequently led to deep and fundamental errors in religion. A denial of the fact of a propitiation for sin is commonly the first step towards the rejection of the Bible as containing a revelation from God. The admission or denial of this cardinal sentiment, will give form and feature to our whole system of theological views. The same remark will apply, with some qualification, to the opinions which we entertain respecting the nature of the atonement. If for instance, we adopt the sentiment of legal substitution, and say, that Christ literally sustained the penalty of the law, in the room of a precise and definite number of our race, how perfectly easy and natural it is to adopt the deduction, that these persons are saved by an act of justice? Each and all of their sins, to the full extent of their demerit, have been punished in the person of a legal sponsor, and now the law has no farther demand. Indeed, in these circumstances, justice calls for the release of those who have been punished in the person of their accepted substitute, because her last claim against them was extinguished when Christ expired on the cross. To condemn these persons now would be an act of injustice. Whether such a sentiment as this, or a sentiment leading to such conclusions, is calculated to excite humility in the bosom, of the sinner, let the considerate and candid judge for themselves.

But transitions, in theology, from one kindred error to another, are imperceptible and easy. And so it happens in the case before us. This system supposes not only a spiritual identity, but certainly, as held and taught by many, an eternal union between the Savior and those for whom he died. What he did, they themselves have performed; what he suffered under the penal exactions of the law, they also suffered. In consequence of a legal oneness, they are not only released from punishment by an act of law, but in Christ Jesus they are literally justified, not merely pardoned, and graciously restored to favor, but LEGALLY acquitted and saved. We have now arrived within the precincts of antinomianism, than which a sorer evil or a grosser error has rarely ever afflicted the church of God. A few lines more will finish the picture. Only let it be understood, that Christ has so obeyed the law, in the place of his people, that they are released from legal obligation and so suffered its penalty, in their stead, that they are legally exempted from punishment and have a legal claim to eternal life, and you have presented before you a full length figure embracing outline and filling up, form and feature, of that production upon whose forehead ORTHODOXY is inscribed, in broad capitals, and which carries in its bosom a proud and unsanctified and impious heart. This is the enemy of God under the specious garb of peculiar zeal for "the faith once delivered to the saints;" but so little accordant is its spirit with the meekness and gentleness of Christ, that it can hardly, like another grand enemy of God, claim the merit of being arrayed in the imposing robes of "an angel of light."

We may learn, likewise, from this discussion, in what sense we are to understand substitution and imputation. It may be objected by some that the positions taken above involve the denial of both of these doctrines. But the correctness of this assertion cannot be admitted. Substitution is an essential part of that scheme of man's recovery maintained in this treatise. The true view of it is our glory and our hope. The atonement was a substitute for the infliction of the penalty of the law, or the sufferings of Christ were a substitute for the punishment of sinners. In the case of all believers, and such and such only will be saved, the misery which Christ endured, is the real and only ground of their release, because without these sufferings, or the atonement, there could have been no pardon or grace for sinners. He suffered what was necessary to be endured, in order to bring a rebellious world within the reach of mercy. Thus, in the administration of the divine government, the sufferings of Christ occupy the place of the eternal condemnation of every ransomed soul; that is, of every penitent and believing sinner-of every child of Adam who accepts of proffered mercy. This is vicarious suffering. It is the suffering of Christ in the place of the endless punishment of the sinner. Here, then, is substitution in the true and full scriptural sense; and it is an essential part of the doctrine of the atonement, the outline of which has been already presented, but the distinctive features of which will be described hereafter. "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." Here is substitution in a two-fold sense. In the first place, Jesus Christ is a substituted person. He stood in the sinner's place; and it was in this new relation to God and man and the universe, that he made an atonement for sin. He was himself a substituter-the sinner's substitute. In the second place, his sufferings were substituted sufferings. In that plan of moral government by which sinners are saved from death, they took the place of the eternal punishment of these sinners. In one word suffering is substituted for punishment. We have a substituted person, and substituted suffering; and the doctrine of substitution is not given up, but established, and that in its true nature and on its own impregnable foundation.

As to imputation, it is denied, in this treatise, that the sins of man, or of any part of our race, were so transferred to Christ, that they became his sins, or were so reckoned to him that he sustained their legal responsibilities, or suffered their legal punishment. But does this involve the denial-or only the illustration or the doctrine of imputation? Jesus Christ, in order to save men, suffered without having sinned; and as his sufferings answered all the practical purposes of the sinner's punishment, and are the sole ground of his pardon, and acceptance with God, it may be said in relation to all believers, that their sins were imputed or reckoned to Christ, and that his righteousness is imputed or reckoned to them. In other words, the sufferings of Christ form the basis of the sinner's salvation. He endured all that was necessary to answer and honor the spirit and demands of the law; and the penitent, believing and pardoned sinner reaps the joyful harvest, the salvation of his soul. In this sense, imputation is the doctrine of the Bible. As it respects the results, Christ was treated as a sinner, that is, he suffered being innocent, and the sinner is treated as if he were holy, that is, he is freely pardoned in connection with what Christ has done. And to this effect are the words of the apostle, "He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."

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