THE EXTENT OF THE ATONEMENT
RELATION TO GOD AND THE UNIVERSE.
REV. THOMAS W. JENKYN, D. D.
Including Section 1 and 2
ON THE ATONEMENT IN ITS RELATION TO THE WHOLE SYSTEM OF DIVINE TRUTH.
EVERY DIVINE TRUTH RELATED TO THE ATONEMENT.
The entire collection of doctrines and facts, found in the sacred Scriptures, is called a system of divine truth, not because their contents are given in a systematical arrangement of classes, and orders, and kinds, but because they present a complete and a harmonious body of information, upon all the subjects of faith and practice. We find in the Scripture the truths of theology, as in nature we find the truths of botany, mineralogy, or zoology, wisely strewn in copious and lovely variety. Yet, in both cases, these vast diversities form one complete whole system. Thus the analogy from nature--the reference of Scripture to "first principles," and to "the proportion of faith,"--the abuse of truth when taken out of its connection,--the beauty of truth in its own practical bearing and position, and the consistency of one truth with the entire mass of all truths, warrant us in regarding the Scripture as presenting to us a system of divine truth.
Of this entire system of divine truth, the Lord Jesus Christ is the central orb, in whom are gathered all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He is the very Sun of the system, full of grace and truth;--the Sun which first garnished the dark horizon of Eden with a day-spring from on high. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament present us with the whole "truth, as it is in Jesus," that "in all things he might have the preeminence," and be, as to the whole arrangement, "all in all." The Christian student, therefore, will, as well from cordial inclination as from public profession, be disposed to consider and to view every truth, according to its bearing and relation to the person and the work of Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life, the faithful and the true witness. Christ himself says, "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I might bear witness to the truth." "The truth" is the pure verity and the simple reality of the case, as the state of things exists between God and man. Upon this case every truth bears, and with every such truth the atonement of Christ is connected:--the whole of its undertaking bears witness to it.
I. All the truths contained in the prophecies of the Scriptures are related to the atonement of Christ.
It was prophesied that this world should, in a given time, be favored with the appearance of an extraordinary personage. He was marked out as "the Seed of the woman, the Shiloh, the Prophet, the Wonderful, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Lord our Righteousness, the Desire of all nations, the Messenger of the covenant." The atoning Mediator claimed to himself the honor of being this very personage, to whom all the prophets bore witness.
Prophecy had revealed that this personage was to make his appearance in the character of the Deliverer of man. As the Seed of the woman, he was to bruise the head of the serpent that had enslaved and ruined man. He was to be for a sanctuary, and to come, "bringing salvation." The Lord Christ was born a Saviour, and he came to seek and to save that which was lost. God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. He is the Personage whom the prophets meant, for there is no salvation in any other, nor any other name among men given by which we must be saved. He was made under the law, that he might redeem them who were under the law.
The deliverance which it was prophesied that this personage was to effect was a deliverance from sin. It was prophesied that he should make an end of sin, that is, to open a way for the just God to deal with a sinner as if he had not sinned; in being, as it were, blotted out of the account. He was to effect this deliverance as a priest on his throne, and as a priest after the order of Melchizedek. The Lord Christ took upon him the name of Jesus, because he would deliver his people from their sins. He appeared as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. He has redeemed us from the curse of the law. The Jews misunderstood this class of prophecies, and interpreted them as signifying only deliverance from civil thraldom, and from political evils. Whereas, he himself declares that he came to call sinners; and his gospel assures that there is now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus.
It was predicted that this Personage should effect this deliverance from sin, not by power, but by his own substitutionary and vicarious sufferings. He was to be a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He was to bear our griefs and to carry our sorrows; to be wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities. He was to make his soul an offering for sin and to be numbered among transgressors. He was to be cut off, but not for himself. The meaning of these and the like passages is, that this illustrious Person was to endure the sufferings with which the Father put him to grief, in the stead of our suffering the punishment which was due, to us for our sins. This class of passages is referred to in the New Testament as being accomplished in the death and the atonement of Jesus Christ. He gave his life a vicarious ransom for many. He was made a sin offering for us. He died the Just for the unjust. He was made a curse that the curse of the law might not be inflicted on men.
Hence it was prophesied that this deliverance from sin should be on account, and for the sake, of his sufferings. We were to have peace, through his suffering our chastisement; and by his stripes we were to be healed. To us guilty sinners who had no worthiness, he was to be the Lord our righteousness. It was on account of his intercession that gifts were to be given to men, even to the rebellious. The mediation of Christ fills up these prophecies. It is for Christ's sake that God forgives sin; it is by faith in the name of Christ that pardon is received by the sinner. It is the blood of Jesus Christ--that cleanses from all sin; and every saved man is found not in his own righteousness, but in the righteousness of Jesus Christ only.
All the prophecies of the Scripture form a complete, connected, and harmonious system of truths, in the centre of which is the Lamb, as if it had been slain from the foundation of the world. The doctrine, or the testimony concerning the mediation of Christ is the very spirit and life of prophecy, without which prophecy would be a body without a soul. The atonement of Christ is the central point from which, alone, the eye of faith can command a view of the whole panorama of prophecy. All unfulfilled prophecy, as well as the already accomplished predictions, have their sum and substance in the character and the work of Jesus Christ. To deny the atonement is to take away the lifeblood of prophecy. The Biblical critics who reject the atonement, like the Jews who rejected the Messiahship of Christ, make the whole apparatus of their learning to bear against the prophecies which predict a suffering Saviour and a Vicarious sufferer. This fact shows that the doctrine of the atonement is the heart of Christianity. A Socinian divine puts the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah to critical torture with the same unmercifulness and spleen as a Jewish Rabbi would put it. They both agree, like Herod and Pilate, to do away with the claims of Christ, to sap the foundation of Christianity, to throw away the blood of atonement as an unholy thing.
The New Testament regards the whole system of prophecy as having its scope and meaning, its spirit and truth, its life and glory, in the person and the atonement of Jesus Christ "The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." To him gave all the prophets witness. Paul witnessed, both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come, that Christ should suffer, and that he should he the first that should rise from the dead, and should show light unto the people and to the Gentiles. The apostle Peter describes salvation as being according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ, and then says, "of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you; searching what, or what manner of time, the spirit of Christ which was in them did signify when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow."
Here then, we meet with a complete system of prophecies delivered by various men and in divers ages, and yet pointing to One remarkable Personage of the highest majesty and excellency. These prophecies treat of his person, his name, his character, his work, his life, his death, and his glory; each of them consistent with the others, and one casting light on all the rest. They all meet together and have their full accomplishment in One Person, and in no one else,--but in him most fully and clearly. Though they were delivered in various generations, they have but one object in view; and other events are hinted at only as they are connected with that object, and that object is the work of Christ. He is the true Seed of the woman, the true Prophet, the true Redeemer, the true Immanuel, the true Son of Righteousness.
II. All the truths contained in the ceremonial institutions and sacrificial types are connected with the atonement of Christ.
It is confessedly true that many of the early christian fathers, as well as many of the modern interpreters of types and shadows, have discovered similitudes, drawn parallels, pursued analogies, and pressed out truths which were never designed by such symbols. But such extravagant deductions of undisciplined imaginations supply no fair and valid arguments against a scriptural, sober, and judicious application of the typical character of the Jewish institutions and ceremonies. The sacred Scriptures indisputably assert that there is a designed coincidence and an intended connection between the religious institutions of the Jews and the essential doctrines of Christianity. Indeed, I might argue that of so much importance in the system of divine truth is the symbolical character of the Israelitish ceremonies, that the Holy Spirit has given one entire book--the epistle to the Hebrews,--not only to give a distinct recognition of that principle, as designed by God to prefigure the realities of the gospel--but also to mark out and explain the relation and agreement between that principle, and the events and the doctrines of the mediation of Christ. Hence the Jewish institutions are called, "a shadow of good things to come, but the body [the substance] is of Christ." Col. ii. 16, 17. The gifts and sacrifices of the priest "serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle. Heb. viii. 5. This tabernacle and the vessels of the ministry are called "the patterns of things in the heavens" and "the figures of the true." Heb. ix. 23, 24. The entire constitution of the Levitical law is described as "having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things." Heb. x. 1.
The body, the substance, the filling up, the meaning and truth of all these ceremonial institutions, "is of Christ," and of him only. Extraordinary and illustrious characters were types of his person. Holy offices were shadows of his work and undertaking. The Jewish polity was an outline of his kingdom. The distinguished privileges of the theocracy were figures of his glorious rewards, the vicarious and expiatory sacrifices were representations of his glorious atonement. Various classes of types were employed to shadow forth the great truths of our salvation. Some types shadowed that man was a sinner;--others, that he had forfeited his life ; others, that another life was substituted and accepted instead of it;--and others shadowed that this substitution should take place in the Messiah, who according to Isaiah would "make his soul an offering for sin," and be "led as a Lamb to the slaughter." Exod. xx. 7. Lev. vi. 3, 4. xvii. 11. xxiv. 16. Deut. xxii. 26.
The Jewish institutions taught the Israelites no truth which the gospel has not attached to the atonement of Christ, and revealed it, "the truth as it is in Jesus." The very truths that were obscure in the ceremonial types are now made clear and defined by the gospel. And the truths which appeared defective and imperfect in the Jewish ritual, now, in the light of the christian atonement, stand out in prominent relief, and with a fullness of meaning which they never had before.
The sacred Scriptures regard all symbolical truths as meeting in the atonement of Christ. This is evident from the facts, that sacrificial names and appellations are given to Christ; that Jewish sacrifices are represented as shadows of the satisfaction of Christ; that the value which was but nominal in them, is described as intrinsic in the sacrifice of Christ; that the efficacy which was but ceremonial in them, is declared to be real and actual in the atonement of Christ; that the sacrifice of Christ is pointed out as the last that should be offered for sin; and from the fact that animal victims ceased to be sacrificed, after the Great Propitiation had been publicly offered by Christ. He himself was the truth of them all. He was the true sacrifice, the true priest, the true altar, the true temple, and the true Saviour.
III. All the doctrinal truths of divine revelation are connected with the atonement.
All doctrinal truth is the mind of God, the expression of his thoughts; and all his thoughts have a reference to the atonement. The person of Christ is the centre of every truth, and the Mediation of Christ is the circumference of every truth. In him all truths live, move, and have their being. The atonement magnifies and honors every truth implied in the reality of the exercise of a moral government in the world. It supposes and distinctly recognizes the verity and the reality of the sinfulness and ruin of mankind. It is itself a proof and a specimen of the truth of the introduction, into the divine government, of a compensative scheme for the purpose of restoring sinful man. It exhibits the honest sincerity of the divine invitation addressed to sinners, in the clear light of the "demonstration of the Spirit." It supplies the most splendid evidence of the truth and certainty of the promises of the gospel, and gives the most solemn assurances of the reality of spiritual blessings.
Thus there is no class of truths which may not be either proved or explained by the principles of the atonement. And there is no class of truths which does not lose weight and efficacy by being severed from the person of Christ. Every truth separated from Christ, like a branch lopped from the living tree, loses its freshness and beauty, and languishes and dies. The providence of God has given us melancholy instances of the corruption and unwholesomeness to which any truth tends when apart from Christ. See the high and noble truths of the Old Testament--truths which elevated the minds of Abraham and Moses, which ravished the heart of David, and which tuned Isaiah's harp to the high pitch of even gospel times--look at them, in every age of the Jews, from the time of Malachi to the present day--look at them in the Cabbalistic inanities of the ancient Rabbis, in the turgid puerilities of modern Judaism, and you will perceive how much they have lost of sanctity, dignity, and energy,; and how void, and powerless, and lifeless they have become. "How is the fine gold become dim?" How will you account for this painful circumstance in the history of divine truth? One awful fact explains the whole. The Jews have alienated these glorious truths from their vital connection with the sacrificial atonement of Messiah "the Christ of God."
Look again at the great and mighty truths of the New Testament. See them in their healthiness, vigor, and beauty, in the ministrations of the apostles, in the religious affections of the primitive churches, in the masculine energies of the Reformation, and in the glow and power of modern Revivals. Then look at them in the ice-bound realms of Socinian theology;--and how wan, and cold, and dead, and putrid are they! If they glow, it is not with the charming glow of a healthy life-blood, but with the clammy warmth of controversial heat. If they move, it is not with the vigorous stirrings of an eternal vitality, but with the galvanic convulsions of a fitful elocution. If they preserve their form and fashion, it is because a cold and indurating philosophy has embalmed them. They are the same truths, but they have been separated and banished from Christ, whose person is the Son of Revelation, and whose atonement is the Heaven of Truth.
The Lord Jesus Christ is represented in the Scriptures as the Magazine and Repository of all truth, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. There is not a truth pertaining to God and man, to eternity and time, but is connected with him. To the inquiry of the church and of the world, "What is truth?" the Mediator replies,
"I am THE TRUTH." The truth is in Jesus as it is in no one else. In no one else is the truth perfect, complete, and full. In no other is it clear, unadulterated. In no one else is every truth: every truth in its due proportions; every truth in all its power and bearings; every truth, in full harmony with every other truth. In Christ is the truth, the truth completely, and the truth exclusively. The truth as it is in Jesus is sincere without falsehood, genuine without counterfeit, steady without perfidy, real without fiction, exact without error. In him it is right without any wrong, honest without fraud, perfect without mutilation.
It is this connection of every truth with the mediation of Christ that makes real Christianity to be not afraid of the progress of any class of truths. Sometimes in the infancy of any given Science plausible theories are advanced as having a tone of contradiction to Scriptural verities, but the discipline of a mature philosophy never fails to show that the contradiction is not real. Truth in man is partial, sectarian, and jealous; but Truth in the christian system is full, universal, and free; and no more fears the developments of any truths than the mighty ocean dreads the digging up of new wells, or the Sun the new discoveries of Optics.
IV. The atonement is inseparably connected with all practical truth.
The atonement is the centre of duties, as well as of doctrines. This is clearly proved and illustrated in the Apostolic epistles. The New Testament writers, after laying down the "doctrine of the cross," erect a peerless structure of holy duties and practical truths. They exhibit the atonement as establishing every duty required in the moral law; and they preach the moral law as establishing every duty required in the gospel. The atonement "destroys" no moral command. It "makes void" no moral duty. The gospel of the atonement brings a new class of duties to bear on the sinner, as, believing in Christ, repenting of sin, etc. These are duties which the moral law, as such, never could ask of any man. But now, since the provision of the divine government has annexed these requirements to the atonement, which has answered all the ends of the law unites with the gospel in making them obligatory upon every sinner who hears them.
Some declared foes, and some false friends of the atonement have represented it as destroying all practical truth and duty. The atonement on the contrary distinctly recognizes all the practical truths of the moral law as still binding on all--shows the reasonableness of the demands of those practical truths,--and enforces them with an accumulated amount of arguments and motives.
The gospel connects every practical truth with the atonement of Jesus Christ. Observe how the apostles teach the most plain and common duties of life; such as the duties of husbands and wives, the duties of parents and children, the duties of masters and servants, of kings and subjects, etc. To enforce these duties, they do not go for arguments to the law of nature, to the claims of relationship, or to political economy; nor do they confine themselves to the moral law. No, they go at once to the mediation of Christ; husbands are to love their wives because Christ loved his church; and servants are to obey their masters, that they may adorn the doctrine of God their Saviour in all things.
They teach that these practical truths are to be performed by the assistance of the grace of Christ; that the practice of such truths is to be the effect of faith in Christ; that these duties are to be done in the name of Christ; that they are acceptable to God only through the merits of Christ; and that they will be rewarded by Jesus Christ himself. In duties as well as in doctrines, the apostles knew nothing but Christ, and him crucified. It was the cross of Christ that gave the name and the designation to their system--it was "the preaching of the cross." The opponents of practical truth they called, "the enemies of the cross of Christ;" and the renunciation of holy duties, they regarded as making "the cross of Christ of none effect."
If these hints will be regarded as sufficiently defined to pencil out the lines of connection between the entire circle of truth,--whether in predictions and types, or in doctrines and duties,-and the great atonement of Christ,-their end will be answered.
A LIMITED ATONEMENT INCONSISTENT WITH THE WHOLE SYSTEM OF DIVINE TRUTH.
I. An atonement limited to a certain number of sinners is inconsistent with the truths revealed in the prophecies of the Old Testament. Scriptural prophecy supplies us with the best specimens of the theological principles of the church of God under the patriarchal and Jewish dispensations. It should be borne in mind, that the prophets promulgated their principles and sentiments, "as they were moved by the Holy Ghost;" and that, consequently, their doctrine was "the MIND of the spirit." These holy men of God seem sometimes not to have understood at once the fullness, the extent, and the majesty of the stupendous doctrines which they announced. They therefore investigated, "inquired, and searched diligently what the Spirit of Christ, which was in them, did signify or mean, when it testified about the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow." Such a 'diligent search,' conducted under such auspices, would be likely to terminate in a correct knowledge of the truth of the case. These doctrines of prophecy, Jesus Christ himself opened and expounded, as teaching that he ought to suffer, and enter into his glory. These are the very doctrines which the apostles preached with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; and it is into these doctrines that the angels desire to look. These doctrines, therefore, deserve to be regarded by us, in this inquiry, as legitimate sources of information on the theological creeds of the Jewish prophets.
The true doctrines of the prophets teach us that the benefits of the death of Christ were of universal extent. It was prophesied that in the Seed of Abraham, that is, in Christ, all the nations of the earth should be blessed, Gen. xx. 18. Gal. iii. 16. The meaning of this is, that Jesus Christ in his work and offices, would be a blessing unto all the nations of mankind. In harmony with this are the very numerous prophecies which relate to the call of the Gentiles. Isaiah predicted that God gave his Son to be a Salvation unto the end of the earth, Isa. xlix. 6. Joel prophesied that the influences of the Spirit should be "poured upon all flesh," Joel ii. 28, 29. The aspect of the whole of the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah,--an epitome of the divinity of the prophets,--is unlimited and universal.
The word "ALL" has often been most uncandidly and dishonorably tortured and wrested, to mean a generality of kinds and degrees, and not a universality of the mass of the human race. Prophecy, however supplies us with one text at least, that has bid stubborn defiance to all theological tortures. It is Isa. liii. 6, "ALL we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned EVERY ONE to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us ALL." Some of the advocates of particular atonement have challenged their opponents to present one single text in which the word "all" means indisputably every individual of the human race. Here it is. The word "all" in the last part of the sentence means the "all" mentioned in the first part; and both mean the "every one," in the middle portion of the verse. If you apply the word "all" in the first sentence, the torturous criticisms which are generally employed on the word "all" in the last sentence, you offend equally against sound interpretation, theological fairness, and logical deduction.
Let us now see how these doctrinal prophecies were understood by the apostles who preached with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. Peter, after "inquiring" into the testimony of Moses and "all the prophets from Samuel, and those that follow after," uses these remarkable words: "Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, 'and in thy seed, shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first, God having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless, in turning away EVERY ONE of you from his iniquities,'" Acts iii. 25,26. A preacher, who did not view the mediation of Christ in all its amplitude and extent, would have used a language much more cautious and measured. He again says: "Of a truth I perceive, that God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ, (He is Lord of all)--to him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him, shall receive remission of sins," Acts x. 34, 85, 36, 43. Paul preached to Jews and Gentiles everywhere "that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance;" yet he says that he had learnt this universal call from the doctrines of the prophets. "Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come," Acts xxvi. 20, 22.
Many more passages of this kind might be cited, but these are sufficient to show that, in the judgment of the apostles, the doctrines of the prophets taught a universality of design in the Mediatorial undertaking of the Messiah. It was a leading object of the apostles' ministry to prove, against the sectarian limitations of the Jewish expositors of their day, that the blessings announced in prophecy had a designed relation to all the nations of the earth. The prophecies that predict the final results which the atonement shall infallibly produce, do not weaken the others which describe its universal aspect. The same prophet that asserts that "the Son of God shall see his seed, and that the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hands," takes up the language of blame, and remonstrates with the disobedient: "Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" The Spirit of prophecy plainly foretells that the mediation of Christ will not produce the same effects on all, that is, that it will not have its intended effects upon all to whom it shall be exhibited. It is foretold that Christ and his atonement will be "despised and rejected of men"--be a "stone of stumbling and a rock of offence," and "the stone which the builders refused."
These disastrous effects are not the consequences of a limitation in the design of the atonement, but they result from a deliberate, and an obstinate non-compliance with the great purposes of the atonement. The men who reject Christ, dislike the atonement. They stumble and are offended at the principles involved in it--the principles of the goodness of the law, the wickedness of sin, and salvation by grace,--and, therefore, they reject it and perish.
Hear the apostle Peter's exposition of this prophecy. "A stone of stumbling and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient, whereunto also they, were appointed," 1 Pet. ii. 4--8. God exhibits his Son as the foundation of salvation to men. In this character he is "disallowed of men,"--they will not submit to it, but are "disobedient" to the arrangement. As they will not comply and obey, they "stumble," and fall, and perish, and that, according to the "appointed" order of the provision. Are we from this to infer that they were appointed to disobey and stumble? What?--that they were appointed to "disallow" Christ, and yet be blamed and punished for it? The passage teaches no such thing. It is an "appointment" of the constitution of providence that whosoever will not eat food will die. Will any one argue from this, that there are human beings "appointed" not to eat food? Such an inference would unsettle every wheel in providence.--Is it an "appointment" of the dispensation of the atonement that whosoever will not receive this remedy, will die and perish. Is it therefore sane and logical to argue that there are human beings "appointed" not to take the remedy? Not so did Peter understand it. He says that, "in preaching peace by Jesus Christ, God is no respecter of persons." And again he says, "GOD hath showed me that I should not call any man common or unclean," that is, God has taught me that in my ministry, I should not deem any one man an outcast decretively excluded from the benefits of the atonement of the Gospel. From such premises the inference is fair, that an atonement limited to a certain number, is at variance with the truths in the prophetical doctrines concerning the extent of the Messiah's mediation.
II. A limited atonement is inconsistent with the truths embodied in the typical representations which shadowed forth the character and extent of the redemption of Christ. The divine ordinance of sacrifice revealed to Adam and Eve, was as open and accessible to Cain, and as available for him, as it was in the case of Abel. God himself appealed to Cain's personal knowledge of such an arrangement. "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?" Gen. iv. 7. Doing well, here means doing like Abel, that is, offering a sacrifice for his sins, in obedience to the divine arrangement. In acting thus, he would do well and be accepted. Here was no sovereign limitation, no decretive exclusion.
God acted upon the same general principle towards the antediluvians in the provision of an Ark for their safety. The aspect of this expedient was of a universal character, All were invited to come to the ark: and the rejecters are blamed for not seeking safety in it. The apostle in his epistle to the Hebrews says that Noah's ministry concerning the ark "condemned the world." It is impossible to show how any could be condemned for not being saved in the ark, if the ark was never verily intended for them, and if they were never sincerely invited and pressed to come into it.
The sacrifice which Noah, after the flood, offered to God, presents a distinct and bold outline of many of the great principles of the true Atonement; especially, of its universal extent. The sacrifice of Noah was offered to propitiate the favor of God towards the interests of a ruined world. Through God's satisfaction in this sacrifice, he confers the grant of the whole world upon Noah, and promises blessings to all the unnumbered nations and generations that should occupy the entire world. The world since then has awfully abounded in sins and evils, but still God is distributing the treasures of his goodness with a bountiful hand. All this is to be traced to his infinite pleasure expressed through the "sweet savor" of Noah's sacrifice. It was through this sacrifice that the great promise was given to mankind, that there should be seed-time and harvest, summer and winter to the end of the world. Men may, indeed, neglect both "seed-time and harvest," but they cannot ascribe their conduct to any excluding or limiting decree. The apostle Paul seems to refer to this very sacrifice as an adumbration of the atonement of Jesus Christ, "who gave himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor," Eph. v. 2. It is through this true sacrifice that every blessing comes to our world. It is in Christ that God reconciles the world to himself without dealing with it according to its sins. It is on account of the mediatorial atonement that God gives to his Son the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession.
Take another prefiguration of the unlimited extent of the atonement of Christ in the provision of the Brazen Serpent. The sacred Scriptures inform us of the designed extent, and of the actual result, of this expedient of mercy. "And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole; and it shall come to pass that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when He beheld the serpent of brass he lived." Num. xxi. 8, 9. The design of this expedient was not limited to those who "looked," but it extended to all who were "bitten." If any bitten did not "look," they could not ascribe their death to an exclusiveness in the provision, but to their own conduct. The Lord Jesus Christ considered this provision as an apt illustration of the extent of his atonement. "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have eternal life." John iii. 14, 15. This universality he explains and confirms, by asserting in the 17th verse, that the world through him might be saved."
This universality is further shadowed forth in the sacrifices appointed by the Jewish law, especially by the lamb of the daily offering, and by the sacrifice offered up at the yearly feast of expiation. Num. xxviii. 3, 4. Lev. xvi. 7-34. It is in reference to the lamb of the daily burnt offering that our Lord is more particularly called a Lamb. It is in this character that John the Baptist describes Christ as "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world," plainly implying that there was the same relation between the atonement of Christ and all the inhabitants of the world, as there was between the lamb of the burnt offering and the whole of the Jewish nation. It is in reference to this that the apostle John in his Apocalyptic visions describes the atonement of Christ as "a Lamb in the midst of the throne of God," that is, connected with all the measures appointed by the throne, and with all the services received by the throne.
On the great day of the annual expiation the atonement of the scape-goat was offered unto the Lord. This atonement had a universal influence upon all the interests of all the Jewish tribes The provision runs thus: "And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and ALL their transgressions in all their sins--and the goat. shall bear upon him all their iniquities into a land not inhabited." And again, "The Priest shall make an atonement for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation: and this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year." These sacrifices of the Jews were related to them all, were designedly offered up for all, and were truly available to all. The atonement effected by them was unlimited in design and aspect. This ceremonial atonement did not consist in the sacrificial victim suffering the identical punishment due to the offender, but in substitutionary sufferings: for the blasphemer was to be stoned to death, but the sacrifice for him was not to die by atoning. Lev. xxvi. 16. v. 4-6. Nor did the Jewish atonement consist in inflicting upon the victim a certain amount of torture and pain, in proportion to the number and enormity of the sins to be expiated. The instructions which Moses gave concerning these sacrifices are distinct, minute, and even punctilious; but there is not a jot nor a tittle in them all to warrant an opinion held by some that Christ would have had to suffer more, had there been more to be saved; and less, had the number of the elect been less.
Universal as was the bearing of these sacrifices, yet they were susceptible of failure. They might fail of their design, not through a deficiency of extensiveness in them, but through the voluntary neglect or misimprovement of those for whom they were offered. The atonement offered on the great day of annual expiation was intended to take away "all the iniquities of the children of Israel." Lev. xvi. 22. This, the atonement would effectually accomplish to all those who, according to the arrangements of that atonement, "afflicted the souls, and did no manner of work on that day." If it was offered designedly for all the tribes, will it not infallibly secure all its ends to all the tribes? No; "For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted [in contrition] in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people," and that notwithstanding the atonement offered for him, Lev. xxiii. 27. The Jews, when they saw these persons "cut off," because they neglected the provisions of the atonement, never thought of arguing that the atonement was never designed for them. It seems to me, then, that all the leading principles of the Old Testament types and shadow's are opposed to the doctrine that limits the atonement of Christ to a certain amount of sin, or to a certain number of sinners.
III. The opinion that the atonement was designed for a few only, is opposed to the entire system of doctrinal truths revealed in the Scriptures. A full discussion of this proposition would require a volume, rather than a page or two; my limits therefore will only allow me to supply a few hints of proof and elucidation. Were this opinion consistent with scriptural doctrine, it would be possible to express it in scriptural language. At least the spirit and the animus of the opinion would be found in scriptural statements, if not the letter and the form of it. Let any one find the "holy text" that will justify such language as the following: "Christ died for the elect, and the elect only." "He gave himself a ransom for the sheep only." "Whom he predestinated, them he also purchased, and whom he purchased, them he also called." No; there is no rule in biblical language that will account for such a dialect as this. Let any one find a statement in the Scriptures that Christ did not die for every man. Let some class of sinners be pointed out to us which the Scriptures declare to be unatoned, and unredeemed, or unransomed. Let any abetter of a limited atonement search and try to embody his opinion in some express declaration of Scripture,
"--sudet multum, frustraque laboret,
As this opinion cannot be expressed in scriptural language, as it cannot be pronounced in "words which the Holy Ghost teaches," so likewise it cannot be made to run parallel and to tally with scriptural doctrines. To give an enumeration of the doctrines opposed by this opinion, would be to furnish a catalogue of all the truths of revelation. All the doctrinal truths of the Scriptures may be divided into two classes, viz: truths contained in the principles of divine moral government, and truths revealed in the promises of the gospel: and a limited atonement strikes against them all. Let a few examples suffice. By disputing the reality of the Moral Governor's wish that all men should be saved, come to the knowledge of his truth, and comply with his laws;--by denying that all men are bound, on the principles of individual accountableness, to accept of Jesus Christ as their Saviour,--by pleading that the elect, whose debts are supposed to have been paid, must be saved, as the moral law can never reach them again; and by asserting that a vast number of souls shall be sorely punished for not doing what they had no power to do, and for not accepting what was verily never intended for them--this opinion militates against every truth in the principles of moral government. It clashes equally with all the truths revealed in the gospel. The gospel declares that by the "true" grace of God, Christ tasted death for every man; but by the false grace of this pretended theology, Christ tasted death only for some. The scriptural gospel addresses a message to every creature to believe in Christ, to every man everywhere to repent, but the invitation addressed by this "other gospel," is cramped, partial, and select. It sometimes, indeed, feigns to take up the terms of a general call into its dialect, but its general call is founded not upon the truth of the fact that Christ is a propitiation for all, but, upon a peradventure that perhaps there may be some among the hearers whom God may call. It impeaches the gospel of insincerity, and gives a character of uncertainty to all its offers. It exhibits the grace of God as ostentatiously giving a free and generous invitation to all men, to come and share in the feast of its provisions, while according to the real truth of the case it sincerely intends that only a few should partake. Many a trembling sinner, living under the public ministrations of this theology, has thought that perhaps he was meant in the gracious invitation,--that possibly he might venture to hope that Christ would receive him. Now, in the scriptural doctrine, Christ says "whosoever will, let him come," and "him that cometh I will in nowise cast out;" but the business of the abettors of this other doctrine is to declare that this cheering assurance is not to be received in the latitude and extent expressed
The opinion of a limited atonement is unnecessary either to the support, or to the elucidation, of any Scriptural doctrine. Many, I conceive, have taken up this opinion from an apprehension that it is essentially necessary to the support of such doctrines as the sovereignty of divine grace, the limited intercession of Christ, and the certainty that the Son of God shall not lose his reward. But this opinion is utterly unnecessary to the maintenance of these doctrines. The doctrine of gracious sovereignty is clearly in the Scriptures and daily acted upon in the affairs of providence, and the government of the world, and therefore needs not the hypothesis of limited atonement. Take, for instance, the doctrine of predestination to life. This doctrine derives no support from the opinion that Christ died only for the elect. No one example can be given of the holy Scriptures expressing anything like the sentiment that God predestinated or elected a select number in order that Jesus Christ might die for them, and for them alone. Yet the doctrine of sovereign election is not at all weakened by the absence of such an assertion. It is true that Christ died that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and [in order] to purify unto himself a peculiar people. This expresses only one end, and one result of the atonement. Even this text does not so much as hint that Christ redeemed any because they were a peculiar people. It should also be remembered that the apostle gives this very text as an illustration of the grace that bringeth salvation unto all men. Tit ii. 11-14.
As an instance how easily things are taken for granted, I might mention that thousands have taken the opinion of a limited atonement to be one of the doctrines of Calvinism. But CALVINISM it is not. At least it is not the Calvinism of CALVIN'S Institutes, nor, I believe of CALVIN'S Expositions. I have consulted the Institutes for the very purpose of ascertaining this point, and I could not find one passage that asserted any such doctrine as that Christ died for the elect only, or that he did not die for the reprobates. We might now, then, reverse the advice of HORSLEY and say: "Let those who boast in the name of Calvin know what Calvinism is." Again, by the same process of easy assumption it has been received as a settled point that the doctrine of the universality of the death of Christ is rank PELAGIANISM. Bishop DAVENANT, on the contrary, has shown in his Dissertation on the Extent of the Death of Christ, that so far from this being a doctrine peculiar to Pelagius, it was in fact, the doctrine of the Fathers before the rise of Pelagianism, and the doctrine of even Augustine himself, the masterly champion of predestination against Pelagius. Well then, without enumerating the writers of the New Testament and a goodly company of other names renowned in theology, here we discover that AUGUSTINE and CALVIN, the ablest and the most strenuous advocates of divine sovereignty, thought the doctrine of predestination safe and invulnerable without the abutment of particular atonement.
A limited atonement is as unnecessary to the doctrine of sovereign influences, as it is to the doctrine of predestination. The Scriptures never ascribe the sovereignty of divine influences to the predestinated limitation in the provisions of the atonement. It is never assigned as a reason for the operation of divine influences upon any person, that that person was one of the number for whom Christ died. The absence of divine influences, from nations and individuals, is never accounted for on the ground that Christ had not died for them. Our friends themselves believe that there are instances of the withdrawment of gracious influences from churches and people. How will they account for this? Will they say that divine influences stopped at the boundary which limited the atonement? that they stopped because the merits of the death of Christ stopped? that the current of divine influence could proceed no longer as hitherto the channel of the atonement went, and no further? Will they say that the influences of the Spirit were withdrawn from the churches of Asia minor, because there were no more people there for whom Christ died? No. The Scriptures never teach that divine communications are confined or withdrawn because the atonement is limited or bounded. And it is triumphantly proved by the history of the christian church, that the most powerful defenders of the doctrine of divine influences have been principally found among those divines who were the most pertinacious advocates of universal atonement.
Again. The limitation of the intercession of Christ is not to be ascribed to a limitation in his atonement. The Scriptures nowhere say so. It is never hinted that the persons, for whom Christ does not intercede, are persons for whom he did not die; or that the persons for whom he intercedes are alone the persons for whom he died. The aspect of his intercession is as wide as the aspect of his atonement. He makes intercession for all believers, that through them the WORLD might know that God sent him; and for the world to know Jesus Christ whom God hath sent, is life everlasting. The ability of Christ to intercede for all is limited, in the same manner as God's ability to answer the prayer is all is limited. The atonement limits neither of them. They are limited on other principles. God has never undertaken to answer prayers and requests which are never addressed to him, and Christ has never undertaken to plead causes which have never been committed to him. Nothing can be more unlimited than this declaration: "If any man sin, we have an advocate--who is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world."
Neither is this opinion necessary to prove the certainty that Christ shall not lose his reward. A limited atonement can never prove it. The proofs of this must be sought from other sources, such as the grace, the counsel, and the faithfulness of God. There are many circumstances in this hypothesis which render it too weak to support the glorious doctrine raised on it. 1. It supposes that the reward of Christ consists principally, if not entirely, in a numerical salvation of souls; whereas there are other elements in his reward, e. g., the glory of the divine perfections, the vindication of the eternal law, his infinite joy in all this, etc., etc. 2. It takes for granted. that the atonement has no ends answered in the destruction of those who reject it, whereas it is a sweet savor unto God even in them that perish. 3. It supposes that Christ is sure of his reward only on commercial principles; that as he has paid so much suffering for so many souls, God must in commutative justice recompense him in return "quid pro quo," which entirely destroys the morality of the atonement. Christ is never said to be sure of some, because he has purchased some. The saints in heaven sing the song of truth, when they say, "Thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood", but this does not imply, nor is there any other text that implies the opposite, namely that those who are not in heaven, are not there, because Christ had not redeemed them with his blood.
This train of reasoning convinces my mind, that the hypothesis of particular atonement is a matter foreign to the system of divine doctrines as revealed in the Scriptures.
IV. It remains for me to show, that a limited atonement is inconsistent with the system of practical truth as revealed in the Scriptures. The Scriptures sum up all practical truth in loving God with all the heart, and loving our neighbors as ourselves. No theological system has ever yet said, in express words, that it is not the duty of all men to love God with all the heart. But let any one take his position, within the magic circle of this limited hypothesis, and let him try to inculcate the duty of love to God on all the excluded reprobates. What argument will he use? What motives can he exhibit? He may amuse them with the metaphysical prolusion that men should love God on account of what He is; but he will never teach them the New Testament language, "We love Him because He first loved us." Or, from his position, let him try also to preach that men ought to love their neighbors as themselves, and to do unto others as they would that others should do unto them. In the whole history of theologians, no one has ever yet been found who would have admired particular redemption had be believed himself to be one of the reprobates arbitrarily excluded from atonement.
There are, however, many duties required of all men towards Christ, which could only arise from the fact that Jesus Christ had died for them. I will present a few as samples. "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." This is addressed to everyman who hears the gospel. One man will not be saved by believing that Christ died for another, but for himself. Peter did not call on the sinners of Jerusalem to believe, on the ground that for aught they know, Christ had died for them: but he assures them, that if they believe, there is in Christ a salvation provided for them. "God now commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent." Do the Scriptures anywhere show that God requires a repentance that has no connection with the atonement of his Son? There is no motive for any sinner to repent, unless there be an atonement for him. Yet God commandeth every man, every where, to repent. The repentance of any man will not be available, except through an atonement made for that man; therefore, a call from God to everyman, must be founded on an atonement for every man, in propria persona.
Peter teaches Simon Magus, "Pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee." Prayer, we know, goes to the throne of grace,--but God has no throne of grace except the atonement of his Son. What had Simon Magus to do with the throne of grace and prayer, if Christ did not die for him? Would he not have been a thief and a robber, to go and draw on provisions which had never been intended for him? Yet the doctrine of the apostle teaches him to pray for pardon--though it is a fact that God can grant no pardon, and hear no prayer, but through the death of his Son.
Paul inculcates the duty of love to Christ at the peril of being Anathema Maranatha, in case of neglecting it. My duty to love God arises not from the fact that he made my neighbor, but from the fact that He made me. And my duty to love Christ arises not from the fact that he died for my neighbor, but from the fact that he died for me. Now the apostle uses the terms of a general message--"if any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ." If any man and every man, is to love Christ at all, he is to love him as his Mediator, Redeemer, and Saviour; for the gospel would never pronounce any sinner accursed for not loving Christ as his Redeemer, if the fact were, that Christ never had redeemed that sinner.
The same apostle, in 1 Tim. ii. 1-6, teaches that supplications, prayers, and intercessions, should be made for all men. Why? Because God wills that all men should be saved; and, because Christ gave himself a ransom for all. We cannot pray for devils, because we have no testimony that Christ died for them. But we can pray for all MEN, because we have a clear testimony that Christ tasted death for every man.
This latter class of practical truths are duties--they are duties incumbent upon every man who hears of them; yet they never would have been duties obligatory upon any man, had it not been for the mediation of Christ. The theory of a limited atonement clashes with all these duties ; indeed, it destroys the obligation to observe them, except merely on those who are supposed to be within the enclosures of particular redemption. If all the hearers of the gospel are not under obligations to discharge these New Testament duties, then they do not sin against Christ by neglecting them; for they, according to this hypothesis, actually owe no such duties to him. It is hardly necessary to add another line to say that such an opinion is subversive of all practical truth.Return to Index Page