RELATIONS TO GOD AND MAN
The Rev. NATHAN S. S. BEMAN, D. D.,
PASTOR OF THE FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, TROY, N.Y.
BY SAMUEL HANSON COX, D. D.
CHRISTIANITY is a great circle, including time and eternity, this world and all other worlds, man and God, with the universe of their manifold relations and affinities and wonders, within the sweep of its infinite circumference; while its relative center is Calvary, the scene of the crucifixion, the Son of God dying to make atonement for the sins of men. On this astonishing center that circle of immortality and glory depends; revolving about it, connected with it, tributary to it, and deriving from it, attraction, order, light, verdure, fruit, summer, life, and joy! What the solar system were without the sun, such analogously would be the evangelical system without Christ and his glorious atonement on the cross. How otherwise can we understand, in one grand aspect of the matter, the example of an inspired apostle, or show that the total christian ministry are always and sacredly obligated to imitate it, and are acting totally out of character when they omit it, no matter on what pretence of their own wisdom, that is, their own folly; the example of the blessed Paul, the prince of the apostles of God, when he says, God forbid that I should glory save IN THE CROSS OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, by whom the world crucified unto me and I unto the world; I determined not to know, that is, not to recognize, ANY THING among you, save JESUS CHRIST AND HIM CRUCIFIED: We preach CHRIST CRUCIFIED, to the Jews a stumbling-block and to the Greek foolishness, but to them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, CHRIST THE POWER OF GOD AND THE WISDOM OF GOD.
Hear this, ye baptized infidels of christendom, perishing by thousands without hope! bear it, ye idolatrous Romans, forgetting in your mass of abominations, and your `host' of impiety, that it is not the way of the Lord with repetition and routine, to crucify him afresh and put him to an open shame, systematically and by authority of the church, as if his one offering were not, self-sufficient and alone, the all-accomplished and the all-accomplishing expiation for our sins; bear it, ye subverted and subverting Socinians, who deny the Lord that bought you and bring upon yourselves destruction, while ye propagate your specious but damnable heresies among deluded and misled hundreds of your christless hearers, perishing through the gilded and sweetened poison of your taking ministrations, performed so archly and so deceivingly, in your gorgeous edifices adorned with every thing but the gospel of God our Savior; and hear it, all ye neglecters of so great salvation, since ye too must turn to it cordially, as your refuge and your resource, your all-sufficient and your only one, or, perish forever!
But especially, as the times are, bear it, O ye formalists of Oxford and America, infecting, as your Romanizing errors progressively do, almost all the thousands of your superficial and dreamy clergy and other serfs of the hierarchical despotism in both hemispheres, hear it, read it and inwardly digest, if ye are capable of this, a volume, of whose great theme it is your policy and your way to speak `with great reserve,' and in effect to supersede or obscure it, till another gospel, which is not ANOTHER, and a pseudo-christianity which is not christianity, corrupts your piety, and deludes your hope, and infatuates your silly disciples; ponder a treatise, as well as peruse it, which is eminently adapted to set you right on all the grander radiations of the truth; which is wiser and better on the topic than any or all that has ever emanated from your theologically vile University, since the execrable LAUD corrupted it, two centuries ago, by making it after his own heart, and by infusing into it, `by authority' or mandamus, that old virus of semi-paganism, which has, in its late revival, identified PUSEYISM with Laudean prelacy and priestcraft; here, we say to you, is a Book which you perishingly need, of more importance than all your late inventions, or creations and emissions, of religious fustian and soulless trash, a noble and appropriate TRACT FOR THE TIMES, that may well be recommended to all the patients of your present epidemic, in your large and gorgeous hospital, as an antidote to Puseyism, a catholicon against humanizing, will worship, against human authority in the church of God, and against a new basis of hope and piety--woefully different from that ONLY AND PEERLESS ONE, which God hath laid in Zion, THE ROCK OF AGES, identified in JESUS CHRIST AND HIM CRUCIFIED.
But ye are lern'd! In volumes deep you sit;
In wisdom--shallow. Pompous ignorance!
Learn well to know how much need not be known,
And what that knowledge that impairs your sense.
In him was life, says John, AND THE LIFE was THE LIGHT of men. In this dense passage is taught us that in Christ is salvation and that the salvation is the illumination of men! We infer that he is an unfurnished casuist, a dangerous spiritual guide, and a weak or blind ethical philosopher, who does not; as his chief qualification, understand right the doctrine of salvation in Christ, and no man does this any farther than he is wise in the doctrine of the cross, or, what is the same thing, truly and thoroughly understands the atonement. How vain and vapid then are the pretensions of learned spiritual quackery, the exterior pomp, cathedral, diocesan, liturgical, and ritual, which Chelsea, Oxford, and Rome, Omnes in unum, are devoutly enacting, to elaborate their own greater downfall in the judgment! There is no excuse for them. God has given them fair warnings; and their doom was spoken by the master especially in the these words: "Every plant which my Heavenly father has not planted, shall be rooted up." AMEN, say we!
For proof that there positions and appeals are neither false, nor vain, nor other than the truth as it is in Jesus, we refer you, honest reader, to the following treatise on the great and glorious subject of the atonement. In the form of it, first edition, inferior in several respects to the Present, published about a quarter of a century ago, and now not to be found at the book stores, its ministry was eminently useful, both here and in Europe. We dare almost predict a career of enlarged usefulness and favor for the forth-corning volume, beyond the example of its predecessor. We hail its appearance with devout salutation, commendation, and benediction; as seasonable and serviceable, as suited to our times, and well adapted to do great good to our countrymen--especially those to whom it is in form and in heart solemnly dedicated by our author. To all Americans, who value the fame of the nation, and the church that preserves it, and therefore cherish the Dames of Edwards, Dwight, Griffin, and many living worthies of a faith discriminating, profound, demonstrative, and excellently kindred to theirs, we say, value also, and learn to appreciate, such pure and practical treasures and treatises, on grand theological truth, as you have this for an example; and neither let this go abroad of necessity to find the wise men that first estimate correctly its worth, nor servilely wait till the theological princes of the three parent kingdoms of the British Islands, in their sermons and reviews, have lauded it, or have even felt its excellence, before your own fair sense, and intelligent christian honesty, have dared to pronounce on its merits and to do it justice. We ask for it the attention, the candor, and the well-digested perusal of its pages, by all intelligent Americans--from such honored names as that of JOHN QUINCY ADAMS, to any one more obscure, but scarcely less capable--if his heart is right before God, and his mind gifted with the ordinary intelligence of our honest and respectable farmers, mechanics, merchants, and laborers: and if they are only wise enough to think that the truth--whatever it be--is good enough for any man, and that error is oppositely too bad for any man, we invoke and invite them, to study this precious little manual of principles and illustrations, as no mean or Ordinary Production, on no common or trivial topic, but one with which supremely are identified the duties, the rights and the interests of man, the authority and the glory of God, the good of our beloved country, the hopes of ages, the destiny of salvation, and the bliss of heaven.
Its author is an American, native, educated, characteristic, patriotic, and christian; and his work looks, first, for usefulness and beneficence, second, for appreciation and support, to his own beloved countrymen. Nor can it benefit any who do not appreciate it; nor need we say that it cannot be appreciated, or felt, or known, without perusal! Read it, then. Its writer is at least honest. He devoutly believes what he says as all know who know him. We also believe it; and for its substance, to say or think less about its form, we are not afraid reverently and in the name of God to announce that its theme is divine, its importance is infinite, its arguments are excellent, its method is clear and simple and appropriate, and its relation to human hope of immortal glory is at once essential, fundamental, identical! Its style is easy, demonstrative, agreeable; its logic, honest and sound; and its collective whole, worthy of the confidence and the cordiality, which in the name of souls and their divine Redeemer, we here claim for it.
The body of the work consists of five essays or chapters, On THE ATONEMENT--its necessity--its reality, its nature, its nature continued, its extent. These are plainly the grand affections relations of the atonement; and we rejoice at the masterly, the select, the "metrical, and the straight-forward manner, in which our author has despatched them.
On the necessity of atonement for sin, it seems in some way to be an instinct of the human conscience! Who that knows what sin is, and shudders as he sees it ripe and rampant in our world, and in our times so terribly if not increasingly prevalent, can help a terrified consciousness at the spectacle, around him and within him! We are here reminded of examples among the very heathen to the same effect--and our classic readers will receive and value the citation of one, which to christian scholarship appears equally obvious and affecting and instructive--one that was written just before the Savior was born in the manger, and while the imperial and intellectual glories of the Augustan age were culminating in the early solstice of their sway, by the mighty pen of Horace.
Audiet cives acuisse ferrum,
Quo graves Persae melius perirent;
Audiet pugnas, vitio parentum
Quem vocet Divum populus ruentis
Imperi rebus? prece qua fatigent
Virgines sanctae minus audientem
CUI DABIT PARTES SCELUS EXPIANDI
Jupiter? Tandem venias, precamur,
Nube candentes humeros amictus
A paraphrase of this or brief abstract we subjoin; The sins of our citizens are multiplied. Civil war rages, The sword, that should pierce our enemies, now wastes our countrymen. Parents and children, in vice and suffering, perish together. The state, the very empire is ruinating. There is no help in man. What shall we do? What God can help us? Whom shall we invoke! Alas! our sins have alienated the divine favor. God will not hear our prayers, There must be SOME ADEQUATE EXPIATION for us! But woe to us, where shall it be found? To WHOM shall the Supreme God assign the mighty task of making the requisite atonement? Who is worthy, who is capable, of this? Alas! some deity alone must intervene and save us.
As to the EXTENT of the atonement, we believe that it was for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. Those in general who hold that theological system which is called generically Calvinistic, and who hold it perhaps with equal decision and sincerity in common, though palpably not with equal correctness in degree, are divided here, some holding the fullness of the atonement for all men; others, the limitation of its nature, as atonement, to all the finally saved. The issue is joined and while human imperfection continues in the church, controversy will not cease to be the consequence. Any thing almost is better than stagnation and a dead calm; just as a living dog is better than a dead lion, Besides, if brethren would, as they could and as they ought, debate honestly and in a manly way, without acerbity or impeaching motives, or personalities of unkindness, why should it be deprecated or avoided? Such are the prejudice, the ignorance, the selfishness, and the indolence of poor human nature, and the miserable and guilty remains of these even in the faithful, that controversy often becomes necessary as the alternative of what is infinitely worse--dereliction of duty, truth, and hope! we therefore contend for the fullness of the atonement, and with full conviction of what the truth is, as well as with liberal and kind feelings, but no servility or cowardice, towards those who differ from us. Indifference will not do, nor temporizing, nor ambiguity, nor tameness. Christ expects every one of his ministers to do his duty, and there is no alternative, no succedaneum, no evasion, to be endured. As free, and not using our liberty for A CLOAK OF MALICIOUSNESS, but as the servants of God, let us vindicate the truth, and look to its Great Author for our reward!
The government of God is properly two-fold--moral and providential; the one of duties, the other of events; the one referring to law, to right, to goodness, the other to the economics of the whole; and both ordered with sovereign wisdom and eternal prosperity and glory. In proportion as the partialities of the mind are found to incline more to events than to duties, more to destiny than to accountability, more to our passive than to our active relations, the providential department of God fills the field of vision; and because the event is, that the elect, and they only, are saved, therefore we are apt to think and to favor the theory that the others were in no sense the objects of mediatorial mercy. It suits our wisdom then, to think the atonement as perfectly limited in its nature as it is in its application and we say Christ died for the elect alone. On the contrary, those who make room in their minds for the moral in the providential government of God, and see things as they are, find no difficulty, but the glorious reverse, in accrediting the fullness of the atonement.
Reasoning from facts to theories, and not from theories to facts, we ask, what are the revealed facts in the case? Is salvation in fact offered to the elect alone? or to a part, and not to all? to them that are saved only, or to them also that perish? Is there any offer, not on the basis of atonement? is there any salvation to offer, save that of Christ? Is it not offered to every hearer of the gospel? Is it not commanded to be sped in all the world and to every creature? Are not the neglecters and the rejecters of the gospel, guilty of rejecting or neglecting the great salvation of Christ? is not this their chief sin, and the allied or antecedent cause of all others? Are they not mainly punished for this crime? Is it not here by way of eminence in comparably the greatest of their offenses against God, and so THE condemnation? And if so, then, how much transcendental ingenuity must it require to reconcile these plain facts, with the theory that limits atonement, and all saving provisions in Christ, to the elect alone! Does God offer what has no existence? Or has he another gospel which is not ANOTHER for the non-elect?
The two theories differ also in the order of the divine purposes. The limitarian scheme has it thus apostasy; election; atonement for the elect alone; punish all the others; and accomplish the glorification of the elect. The true plan is apostasy; the mission and the atonement of Christ for the whole world; the offer universal based on the atonement alone; the universal neglect and practical contempt of it on the part of men; election interposed to influence as many millions to accept it, as may consist with the practicabilities of the divine government in the case; their glorification accomplished; and the punishment of eternal justice executed on the others, mainly for the sin and the treason of rejecting Christ and his salvation offered to them.
But we refer to the volume of Dr. Beman for a discussion better suited to enlighten the reader; merely premising here, that, if the Savior died, designedly and in a way peculiar, positively to save his own elect people, the question still remains, as a matter of revealed fact, did he in no sense die to save others also? Are not others Placed by his death in a state or in relations as salvable, that is, in which their salvation is just as practicable, really and absolutely, as were the whole world without such peculiar and positive design? Does saving some through his blood, offered alike to all, prevent the others or any of them, from accepting it to their own salvation? If it includes effectually HIS OWN, does this obstruct the way to others--or shut the ever open door--or hinder, or other than facilitate and attract, the entrance of the others? Atonement is one thing--the providential design to save definite millions by its means is another, The provision is ample, the remedy sufficient; but it is actually apprehending and accepting it, that makes the essential difference: and if the piety of one is no obstacle, but only a facility to the piety of others, then the executed purpose of Christ, living, dying, rising, and reigning forever, to secure their piety and salvation, who are thus saved, is just the reverse of an obstacle, or prohibition, or exclusion, to others; who perish not because some are saved, but because they exclude themselves! He died indeed for his own peculiarly--but this is not the atonement, and not its limitation. The purpose of God is inclusive of his own, rather than exclusive of others. To urge, or influence some to enter an open door, where all are invited, with equal reality and equal sincerity, to enter, is no hindrance to others! it is a facility rather, and an increase of motives and means and helps to be resisted by others who will not come. The true nature of atonement as shown in this treatise, demonstrates this and the Bible shows it so plainly, that it requires something like inquisitorial torture, or the allied tortuous hermeneutics of Socinianism, to make it speak a different language or to mystify its plenary and very intelligible meaning.
The fullness of the atonement is a grand and glorious truth; a rock impregnable, against which the surges of theory, and controversy, and prejudice, and party, have tossed and broke themselves for ages. But it is not so generally known or credited that the fullness of the atonement was held by CALVIN. That great and excellent man , has been abused often, by some who had neither the sense, nor the candor, nor the learning, to understand him.
It is rather surprising to see certain limitarians sometimes arrogate to themselves, at least by implication, the honor of exclusive Calvinism, as well as exclusive orthodoxy. They are certainly in an error there, if what Calvin believed and taught may be viewed as the criterion of what Calvinism says in his INSTITUTES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION, written (when about 25 years of age) in his theological youth, although they were less express on the point than his subsequent writings, I recollect no sentence which determines any thing in favor of restrictive views of the nature of atonement. In his COMMENTARY, Which was his maturer work and the rich mind whence many modern writers have taken their second-hand wisdom, and which has never (so far as I know, been rendered into English and published, his sentiments are full, frequent, conclusive, in favor of a full atonement. It may be well to transcribe a few of these. I could easily give more.
1 John ii. 2, where Christ is said to be "the propitiation for the sins of the whole world." Calvin says indeed, that "he would not stoop to answer the ravings of those who hence declare all the reprobate and even the devil himself to be the ultimate subjects of salvation. A position so monstrous deserves no refutation. But others, who have no such purpose, affirm that Christ suffered sufficiently for all men; but efficiently for the elect alone. And this solution of the matter is commonly received in the schools. I question however its relevancy to the present passage, while I confess its absolute truth." Hence (1) Calvin believed the fullness of the atonement, and made it a part of his christian confession. (2) Just as obviously is it no modern speculation; since it had obtained in the schools of protestant orthodoxy, even commonly, three hundred years ago. I subjoin his own words. Sed hic movetur quaestio, quomodo mundi totius peccata expientur. Omitto phreneticorum deliria, qui hoc praetextu reprobos omnes, adeoque Satanam ipsum in salutem admittunt: tale portentum refutatione indignum est. Qui hanc absurditatem volebant effugere, dixerunt; Sufficienter pro toto mundo passum esse Christum: sed pro electis tantum efficaciter. Vulgo haec solutio in scholis obtinuit. Ego quanquam verum esse illud dictum fateor; nego tamen praesenti loco quadrare.
2 Pet. ii. 1. "Even denying the Lord that bought them." He says, "those therefore who despising restraint, have abandoned themselves to all licentiousness, are deservedly said to deny Christ by whom they were redeemed. Moreover, that the doctrine of the gospel may remain safe and entire in our hands, let us fix it in our minds that we have been redeemed by Christ to this very end--that HE may be at once the Lord of our life and our death; and so let us propose to ourselves this end, that to him we may live, and to him we may die." His words are--Qui igitur excusso freno in omnem licentiam se projicunt, non immerito dicuntur Christum abnegare a quo redempti sunt. Proinde ut salva et integra evangelii doctrina apud nos maneat, hoc animis nostris infixum sit, redemptos esse nos a Christo ut vitae simul et mortis nostrae sit Dominus: itaque nobis hunc finem esse propositum ut illi vivamus ac moriamur.
Rom. v. 18. "Therefore, as by one offence [sentence came] upon all men unto condemnation, so by the righteousness of one [sentence came] upon all men unto justification of life." Stuart's translation. Calvin says, "The apostle here makes it the common grace of all, because to all it is exhibited, though to all it is not realized in eventual fact. For although Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, and to all without discrimination is he offered by the benignity of God, yet all men do not apprehend him." His words are: Communem omuium gratiam facit, quia omnibus exposita est, non quod ad omnes extendatur re ipsa: nam etsi passus est Christus pro peccatis totius mundi, atque omnibus indifferenter Dei benignitate offertur, non tamen omnes apprehendunt.
Matt. xxvi. 28. "For this is my blood of the New Testament, [covenant,] which is shed for many for the remission of sins." He says, "Under the word many Jesus Christ designates not a part of the world only, but the total human race. Therefore, when we approach the table of the Lord, not only should this general thought occur to our mind, that the world has been redeemed by the blood of Christ, but each for himself ought to consider that his own sins have been expiated." I give his words. Sub multorum nomine non partem mundi tantum designat, sed totum humanum genus. Ergo dum ad suam mensam accedimus, non solum haec generalis cogitatio in mentem veniat, redemptum Christi sanguine esse mundum; sed pro se quisque reputet peccata sua expiata esse.
In modern technology, which I approve, they only are said to be redeemed who are actually accepted in Christ: for all, atonement is made; to all it is offered; the Spirit striving through the truth as extensively, as the sufficiency and applicability of the atonement are extensive. Still, to accept the offer and correspond with the offerer, is, in the very mature of things, the only way to be saved. Are all men saved? Yes, if all repent and believe the gospel! Do they this? He that believes men are saved in sin, or that all men renounce it, must have very strong faith! We however do NOT believe that the atonement was INDEFINITE in the sense of the Remontrants of Holland or any other Arminians. God had a design in making it, which no event should frustrate. Christ eternally designed the salvation of the elect; and for these, in this sense exclusively, he gave his precious life. But this makes not the atonement less full, or alters its nature at all. When THE ELECT are all brought to piety and heaven, by supposition, THE OTHERS--whoever they are--have just as good an opportunity every way to realize the same blessedness, as all the world have on the theory that denies election. Election is one thing, atonement another. Election is all gain and no loss--and the reverse precisely is true of the error that denies election. See John vi. 36-40, 44, 65. x. 11, 15, 26-30. xvii. 2. Eph. v. 25-27. Rev. xvii. 8. Matt. xxv. 34. ROM. ix. 29.
The gospel ought to be offered to all, and pressed powerfully on each to accept it. Its offers, though made ministerially by men, are made morally by God himself. And is this a fact? Is it divine reality? What an intrinsic and perfect proof of its consistency, its sincerity, its adaptation, its trust-worthiness, and the infinite obligation there devolved on men to accept it! men are not machines, but moral agents. They are not passive receivers, but active architects, under God, of their own destiny. Till they accept the salvation of Christ, they do nothing acceptable to God, they are not forgiven, they are fit neither to die nor to live--they may enjoy pleasure, but they are strangers to happiness, they are blinded and deceived by their own hearts and the devices of the devil, and they are growing worse and worse, more and more criminal, and with less and less probability that they will ever return and be saved.
The Westminister Assembly of divines are very far from excluding the non-elect, any further than they exclude themselves by their voluntary neglect or rejection of the gospel. In answer to the sixty-seventh question of the Larger Catechism, on EFFECTUAL CALLING, they well and wisely say "All the elect, and they only, are effectually called; although others may be and often are outwardly called by the ministry of the word, and have some common operations of the spirit; who, for THEIR WILFUL NEGLECT AND CONTEMPT OF THE GRACE OFFERED TO THEM, being justly left in their unbelief, DO NEVER TRULY COME TO JESUS CHRIST." Now, we inquire, is this offered grace founded on the atonement, or not? If not, what basis has it, and what kind of `grace' is it? If it is, then there is provision for all men in the atonement--Q.E.D.--or, the offer can be made on another basis, which is not atonement; and if so, how are Socinians so wrong in the matter, who disown and deny all such basis?
If the offer of salvation can be divinely made to sinful man not on the basis of atonement, then why might it not be realized to him in the same way? If the one May consist with the moral government of Jehovah, why not both? The offer implies all, and the reality enjoys no more. Here then we come to the charmed precincts of infidelity and pandemonium, and it is not being farcically quasi baptized that can make such principles sound or safe, for SOCINIANS ex professo, or for us by witless implication. The plain fact is that the atonement is full; that it is the real basis of every offer of God; that every man is supremely bound to accept it; and that the philanthropy of God is none the less full-orbed, luminous, sincere, and rich in glory, because men doubt it, cavil at it, reject it, and so often perish forever.
Nor are we here unmindful of the Spirit's influence, which is always exerted through his own truth, in it, by it, for it; never against it, never without it. We are aiming wisely to subserve that precious influence, in all this volume, and in all our other ministrations, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but, BY MANIFESTATION OF THE TRUTH commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. The views of many preachers touching this influence, and their own way of presenting them, are often most remarkably absurd and technically dark and confounding; away from the wisdom of the spirit, away from the examples of prophets and apostles. Is it not the best way to present the truth, to do it for the substance just as it is done in the volume of inspiration? to view that influence as coincident with the truth, subservient to the truth, potential by the truth, and triumphant in the truth? Only so far as the truth of the Spirit affects the human mind, perceiving, approving, accepting, and loving it, is the mind, or can it be, genuinely under the influence of the spirit. What a powerful motive to preachers, to make full proof of their ministry, to be bold and aggressive, affectionate and earnest, faithful and wise, urgent and patient, in their holy and sublime vocation! Thus their work becomes appropriately, the ministration of righteousness and the ministration of the spirit.
In the conclusion, hoping great things from the career of this little volume, and praying for them, we affectionately implore our brethren of the views here called RESTRICTIVE, in distinction from our own, and for whose great and learned respectability, as well as honesty and piety, we entertain the most cordial and candid regard, we fraternally implore them to read it--not as polemics, not as Partisans, not as prejudiced or committed zealots. The day is coming when all our wood, hay, and stubble, shall be impartially burnt. We have no interest in rearing a combustible pile on the rock of ages.
Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again;
The eternal days of God are hers:
But error, wounded, writhes in pain,
And dies amid her worshippers.